Posts Tagged ‘Surly’

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Testing Driving A New Brooks Flyer Saddle

April 10, 2010

I got a nice Brooks saddle off ebay, and Penny gave it a 15 mile test ride while I tweaked the adjustments. Plan B was to put it on my mountain bike… I don’t think she’s going to give it up though…. LOL… Now she has a shiny black Brooks Flyer saddle and she was loving the springs when riding over the bumps.

Absolutely gorgeous day for a ride.  Outbound, we intentionally kept the speed below 10mph and gawked around at the scenery.  We even got passed by a Dad with two kids on their own bikes…. I tried to convince Penny that it was absolutely empowering to not react to that and lay the hammer down…. LOL.

We turned around in Morrow, but not before I tweaked the nose down on Penny’s new seat.  She immediately felt the positive effect of that change.

On the way back we started off relatively slowly, and at one of the stop signs got passed by three guys on mountain bikes, one of them with full suspension and large knobby tires, no less!  I commented to Penny that the guy with the full suspension was expending lots of energy.  Sure enough, he dropped back to the point where we were nearly drafting off of him.  I felt kinda bad because we were hardly putting any effort into it at all despite having our heavy steel touring bikes.  We kept creeping up on him and finally I told Penny to drop in behind me as I decided to pick ’em up and put ’em down.  We quickly passed all three and Penny caught the “speed fever” and bumped our speed to almost  18mph…. nice cruising speed, but not sustainable for our unseasoned legs.  Despite that, by the time we reached South Lebanon and looked back, the 3 guys on MTB’s were no where to be seen.  I could tell she enjoyed that! 🙂

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Dropped the Jeep off for Service and Cycled Home

October 21, 2009

Dropped the Jeep off for service at the dealership and rode my Touring bike home (Surly Long Haul Trucker).  I had mapped out some relatively easy routes to keep me off the high traffic roads.  However, there was one spot that was unavoidable, and quite possibly, one of the highest traffic spots in my neck of the woods, and one that I hate to go in a vehicle.  For those in the know, it’s the intersection of Mason-Montgomery and Fields-Ertel Roads, right where many suburbanites get off and on Interstate 71 for their commutes into Cincinnati.  I now have a better understanding why the Regional Bike Consortium (OKI) has these roads marked red (not recommended) and a big red dot at this intersection.

I did chose a way through that was right hand turns though, and wisely, I chose to wait until near the end of rush hour to ride home.  Even so, it was quite intense and adrenaline packed.  In fact, just getting through the one high traffic choke point left me so stoked with adrenaline, that I threw out my original “lower traffic” route and just rode all the way down Mason-Montgomery.  Actually, it was a combination of “I forgot” and “how bad can it be from here… I’m through the worst of it”…. or it could have been that semi-truck that was barreling down on me near I-71 that kept me intensely pedaling for all it’s worth.  Seemed like every time I looked down I was over 20 mph and 100rpm cadence.

It was a bit surprising to me that I could consistently out-accelerate cars from a stop at a red light…. on my steel bike, no less!  My other “take-away”… I’m much more confident about “taking” the lane at a stop light or stop sign (there were many opportunities for practice!)

So… 8 miles; 30 minutes; 28mph max; 16mph average.

What’s slightly embarrassing is that this was better than what I did on my road bike last night sitting on the trainer watching a Race DVD… LOL

I hope I get Green “karma” points for this!  A few more trips like this and casual cross-country touring on low traffic roads will be a cinch by comparison.

This was also a good opportunity to test a couple of new accessories.   My new Sunlite Trunk bag is a nice intermediate step between a seat bag and a pannier, mounting on the top of my rear rack.  It has two small rollup integrated panniers and 5 compartments built into it.  All I needed to store in it today was my bike tools/supplies, tennis shoes, fingerless gloves, and use the top bungee to hold a fleece vest.

My other goodies were a new flashing front and rear light.  I was glad I had the Cannondale bright rear flashing LED (Hindsite Plus).  One of the blink choices is a chaotic pattern that grabs your attention.  For the front light (Topeak LED), I actually clamped it onto my front fork, just below my brake.  I used this as a white flasher to grab the attention of oncoming traffic or those that might try to turn in front of me from a side rode.

Great morning for a ride!  It was crisp in the upper 30’s/lower 40’s, so I layered accordingly: Unpadded cycling shorts, unpadded cycling tights, workout sweats (loose enough to not bind my knees and not too tight to get in the chain); long sleeve wool cycling shirt, Cycling windbreaker, and full fingered gloves.  I thought I was dressed a bit light on top (so I packed a sleeveless vest), but my wool shirt was drenched when I got home.

Now don’t forget to “Share the Road”!!

Share the Road

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Ft Ancient to Xenia Station and Back

September 19, 2009

Today we made some adjustments on the Surly Long Haul Truckers (LHT).  I put Penny’s seat from her road bike on the LHT to see if it would suit her better, then also tried to put an adjustable handlebar stem on my bike.  Unfortunately, the stem was designed for the oversized handlebar used on my Cannondale, not the thinner bar on the Surly, so I just lowered the existing stem a couple of spacers.

We parked over at Ft Ancient parking area near the Little Miami Trail next to the the Canoe Livery and headed up toward Xenia.  We loaded up the panniers for plenty of extra “practice” weight and used the first couple of miles for adjusting seat angles, heights and forward/back positions.  After that we settled into a nice rhythm up to Xenia.  After a sitting a short spell at the Xenia Station, where I also raised my handle bars back up, we headed back south.

It didn’t seem like much of an incline on the way up, but after averaging about 10mph on the to Xenia, it was kinda surprising to easily reach 16-17mph on the way back south toward Spring Valley.  The mostly “downhill” ride back to Ft Ancient made the trip much faster.  Also, I think we were spunkier knowing we were on the return leg of the trip.  After a brief stop in Corwin for an ice cream, we sailed the remaining miles back, and even took turns out-sprinting each other, reaching the vehicle as the sun was setting.  A Fun 50 mile ride!!

Once home, we loaded back up on carbs with some Skyline Chili to top off the evening.

I think we have a few more tweaks on the LHT’s.  I’d like to try a shorter stem, and Penny wants to try a Brooks Saddle at some point.  Even so, I’m about ready to try a 100 mile ride on the LHT if the timing works out yet this year.

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Beautifully Cool Day for a 4 Hour Ride

August 30, 2009

We’ve made some tweaks and modifications to our Surly Long Haul Truckers, so it was time for an extended test ride.

I’d gotten in the new Velo Orange seat posts that allow our saddles to move back a few additional centimeters, had raised my handle bars one spacer, trued Penny’s rear tire (the best I could), and replaced a stripped seat post bolt on Penny’s bike, so her seat should stop sinking now… lol!

We made it a good ride too…  Starting at the Kingsview Industrial Park, we rode all the way down to the Little Miami Golf Center in Newtown, then back.

The weather was pretty cool, so we layered shorts and tights, as well as 3 or so shirts (sleeveless, short sleeve, and long).  Although it remained cool most of the day, I shed the bike tights after about 10 miles, then had my long sleeve shirt on and off a couple of times for regulation.  I finally just gave up and left my outer shirt on to keep my arms warm.

At the start, I’d discussed with Penny that we wanted a nice “touring pace”, and even chose the southern route to encounter more traffic (and there was lots and lots of pedestrians/dogs/kids-on-bikes)… mission accomplished!!

All told, we pedaled for 4 hours and although getting a bit tired from not spacing our eating well… we still felt pretty decent at the end…. I think we were easily good for 15-20 miles more without pushing too hard…. but Jess called while we were on the bike and wanted to get together, so we didn’t head north of our parking spot and called it a day.

Despite having to go slow with trail congestion, it was a relaxing 45 mile ride!

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More Road Miles on the Surly LHT

August 24, 2009

In order to keep practicing rolling hills and shifting on the Surly Long Haul Trucker, we took the Little Miami trail up to Stubb Mills Rd and used Mason-Morrow Rd to parallel the river on the opposite side as the trail.  We only spent just over 5 of the 20 miles on the rolling hills but it was a good variation from the flat trail.

What’s even more surprising is our average speeds are higher, even when climbing.  I’m not sure exactly why that is, but my theory is the roads are smoother, the rolling hills make you push harder.  Another possibility is that on the LHT, the heavier Surly has good momentum, and the bar end shifters force you to shift less and push harder in a gear before you finally change.

We seemed to find we push ourselves a bit harder with the LHT’s than we did with our lighter “go-fast” bikes.  It even gives us the confidence to try more road work with the potential of hills, especially after handling our local “hill of death”.

I’m beginning to wonder if I shouldn’t list my Cannondale Synapse 2 on Craiglist… lol

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Conquered My Personal “Hill of Death” with the Surly LHT

August 21, 2009

Penny got her new touring bike today, a Surly Long Haul Trucker. It’s very similar to mine, with slightly different components. I bought the complete unit ordered from Surly, whereas she got hers from a bike shop that bought the frame and added miscellaneous components from their own stock.

As a trial run on her new bike, we started out from our typical Kingsview Industrial Park starting location, but rather than head straight toward the Little Miami Trail, I suggested we head toward the Hill of Death and see if she needed any bike adjustments before we got miles away from the vehicle. We made a quick adjustment to her seat and it made a huge difference in her stroke and stability…. no more rocking side to side, but quiet on the saddle instead.

As we approached the base of the hill, I told Penny I wanted to give the hill a shot since I’d never tried it on the Surly LHT before. The hill climbs approx 125ft in a 1/4 mile. I forget exactly what grade that is, but it has kicked my butt for the past 14 months. I knew the LHT had low gearing for touring, but I had no idea just how capable it was. More out of curiosity, I put it in the lowest gear and pretended I was a hamster on a wheel. With my legs churning and making slow progress, the crest of the hill kept getting closer and closer. When I reached about 3/4 of the way up the hill, a place where I normally see purple spots and feel ready to slip into a coma, my breathing rate had increased, but mentally I’d crossed a boundary…. one where I knew this time the hill was mine!! I quickened my pace, which caused me to double time my breathing… so I relaxed again and slowed my pace, knowing the surest way to the top was a steady and maintainable pace. As I reached the top, the Rocky theme began playing in my head and I lifted both hands off the bars and shook them in success! After today, I’d never consider this the Hill of Death.

I was surprised that I was able to do this without warming up first, but the high cadence rate did a good job of cranking my cardio without toasting my legs.  I can see trying to do this in a higher gear in the future!

We rode back toward the vehicle, then toward the Little Miami Trail, basking in our hill summit!  Penny was pleasantly surprised by the stability and handling of the LHT.  The steel frame and larger tires provides good bump mitigation, making the ride more comfortable… keeping the fatigue down.

When we reached Morrow, I did a bit more tweaking on her bike, then on the way back home, we laid the hammer down a bit.  It was the first time that I’d really stood on it in the large chain ring.  Keeping the acceleration gradual, Penny was keeping pace nicely until I started muscling it more.  She said to take off because she wanted to see how it felt out of the draft, so I went to almost the highest gear and stood on it.  The acceleration is slower than our Cannondale Road Bikes, but the LHT is still quite capable.  I wish I had a computer setup on this bike, because my speed was in the high 20’s, but not sure how close to 30mph I was.

The Surly LHT could easily become my favorite bike.  It has the smoothness for long rides, but also is heavy enough that strong exertions make for a good workout.  With the way it handles even the steepest of hills, it will handle rolling hills nicely even with a touring load, and could open up some of the more scenic less travel roads in our area for some exploration!

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Getting Some Miles on the Long Haul Trucker touring bike

July 30, 2009

Next week is vacation in Southern Florida, but before leaving, I burned a couple of vacation days to get out and ride a bit.  Since I just picked up the Surly Long Haul Trucker touring bike yesterday, it only seemed natural to take it out for an extended test.  Prior to leaving, I had to make some additions first.

I don’t feel that I’ll really need the pannier rack on the back of my Cannondale Road bike anymore, so I removed it and placed in on the LHT.  Not given to a lot of mechanical work, it seems I never quite have the right tool or part for the job however, so it took me a bit to get the mounting sorted.  I finally bit the bullet and re-bent the top bracket to make it work around the brake system on the LHT.  I’m not real good at thinking outside the box mechanically, like I do electrically or with computers.  Guess I didn’t get the mechanical aptitude gene from my father.  It was pretty satisfying though when it all came together!

What I really like about the way the pannier rack fits on the LHT is there is plenty of room behind the pedals without hitting the bags.  This is due primarily to the much longer chainstay on the LHT.  I think it’s something like 2″ longer on the chainstay and about 3″ overall on the wheelbase.

After I mounted the water bottle cages on, I loaded up the panniers and headed out for a ride.  The only problem… a train of storm cells would be racing through the area all day.  Well… it’s not like riding in the rain is new to me… lol!  Considering the possibility that I might ride from Morrow all the way up to Xenia and back, I packed lots of food, changes of clothes, large bottle of Hammer Gel, and 3 bottles of water.  In addition to the various tools and supplies that I threw in for “kicks and grins”, the extra weight was in the neighborhood of 30#.  I mean… what good is a test ride on a touring bike if you don’t load it down a bit, right?!?  In actuality, it was still way short of the self-supporting touring riders we’ve met that were carrying 85-100# of gear around, but I had to start somewhere.

My first task when I hit the road was to ride on a particularly hilly portion of Mason-Morrow Road that parallels the Little Miami Trail just prior to Morgan’s Canoe Livery.  I wasn’t warmed up yet, but wanted to see what the low range was capable of doing.  While I got my heart rate moving a smidge, I also had plenty of high RPM spinning without feeling any strain on my cold muscles what-so-ever.  I wasn’t breaking any speed records, but I didn’t have to walk the bike uphill either!.  Definitely a nice piece of kit!

I was surprise how much flexing in the frame that I could perceive when I hit bumps.  Between steel frame and the 37 mm wide tires, I wasn’t getting those butt and wristing numbing shots up into my body.  However, the balance and nimbleness still require some getting used to.  I’m still familiar with riding a “twitchy” road bike that darts and turns on a dime.  Between the loaded panniers and the longer wheel base, I had to be more cautious on the leans into the turns or turning my body to look backwards.

My overall average speed seemed to be down considerably.  While I didn’t have the computer hooked on the bike yet, the trail is clearly marked in half mile increments and I had the time on my cell phone.  My average was around 10mph, but it felt very steady, and a pace that I could pedal all day if need be.

Due to my later than expected start, I opted to turn around in Spring Valley, just 7 miles short of Xenia… so no Metric Century (62mile) rides today.  It didn’t seem prudent with the expected afternoon storms and the time I would be getting back to lengthen the ride at all.  So far, the ride was providing me with plenty of feedback, most of it quite positive.

I did have one small self-induced problem…. damned testosterone anyway… where I wanted to get back on the trail from a rest stop.  There was a short steep incline that was hard pack and cinder.  I looked at my tires, that aren’t smooth by any stretch, and figured I could “mountain bike” up the short incline to the trail…. well… that was the intention anyway… forget the fact that I was on a heavy bike… one that I couldn’t shift quickly.. and with loaded panniers… well… I didn’t really build up an adequate head of steam (although on my road or mountain bike it would have been plenty of room)… and just as I reached the apex, almost up to the grass next to the trail… I stalled… since the trail was a bit of a “cut” up the hill (or it would have been impossibly steep to consider), I did a slow motion fall into the side of the cut.  My bottom foot came out of the clipless pedals, but my top foot stayed.  So I pushed back up with my right arm and right foot into an upright position… did a quick look around to see if I’d embarrassed myself or gone undetected… and quietly headed back down trail and regained my composure… lol.

By the time I got back to Corwin, the rain was just starting to come down, so I stopped for a bite to eat.  Apparently I’d been eating enough on the trail from supplies that I had a hard time getting all the food down, but by the time I was finished, the rain was done for the moment.  However, not more than 3 miles underway, and the rain proved to be a bit more of an annoyance, so I donned my rain jacket.

Despite the rain, I took a detour off the trail to check out the Corwin Nixon covered bridge near Caesar’s Creek (across the Little Miami River).  The stop was also a nice respite from the rain.

As I got back near the vehicle, I had a nasty little surprise on the trail.  Just as I passed underneath a tree, there was a tremendously loud crack/snap like an extended rifle shot echoing through a valley.  Jerking to my left to look around, I watched a rotten tree fall down across the trail just 1-2 seconds after I passed… dang… that was close!!  Was really glad I’d put a plastic bag over my leather seat so that the “stuff” that was scared out of me didn’t ruin the seat… lol!

Getting back to the car in Morrow, I REALLY felt like continuing down the trail, perhaps to South Lebanon or Kings Mills, but looking at the time decided not to.  This was all good and well because just as I got everything loaded back into the vehicle, the skies opened back up and the rain came down with a vengeance.

I’ve gotta say… this was an excellent first serious ride on this bike, and the Surly Long Haul Trucker is looking to be everything that the reviews led me to expect.  With the addition of the Brooks saddle that I’m still breaking in, I logged about 50 miles today.  I could just as easily see doing 70-100 miles on this bike, especially after I get used to it.  Today I had several miles left in me, and it was nice to get off the bike still wanting more, compared to most of my 30-40 mile rides this year on the Cannondale road bike where I agonized some of the last miles and almost felt like walking the final distance to the end.  I expect that Penny will start getting jealous in pretty short order and want one of her own before long!

To the journey!!