COC Tour Preparations

Well, I’ve been home 3 weeks now; it actually seems longer than that. Anyhoo, as some of you know, we are in the process of selling our house. While I was on the Pacific Coast tour Saree moved most of our household stuff into a storage unit, and got rid of what she didn’t move. Then she got the house on the market and started open houses on the weekends. She’s amazing!

So my job when I got home was to clean out my garage, full of bikes and stuff. Lots of stuff. Actually Saree had already cleaned out some of the stuff, but still there was lots of stuff. Now all my bikes (okay, they’re not all MY bikes) are in a storage unit of their own, along with lots of my stuff. I threw away a lot of stuff, and I gave away some bikes and more stuff. So I’ve been busy.

My Garage in a Storage Unit

I’ve also been thinking about the ride. I do plan to do a post with a review of my equipment. But last week I got an email from the Adventure Cycling Association, who produced the maps I was using on the tour, and also lead guided tours. They listed their guided tours that still have slots available, and one of them was what they call the California-Oregon Cascades Van-Supported tour.

An ACA van-supported tour is a bike tour with a couple of leaders and up to 13 participants who follow a set itinerary, with the participants (and one of the leaders) riding their bikes, but with a van carrying all the gear. The group camps together and take turns performing cooking duties. Most days on this tour are in the 50-60 mile range, comparable to what I did on the Pacific Coast.

So after a quick discussion with my wife, I signed up! The tour leaves South Lake Tahoe on June 27, and arrives in Portland on July 14. We’ll have two rest days, one in Ashland, and one in Bend. The route will take us through Lassen and Crater Lake National Parks. Basically it covers the northern half of the return route from San Diego I had planned on doing. And it finishes about the time I expected to complete my original plan.

I’ve been busy the last week getting my stuff together for the tour. I’ll be using my Ritchey BreakAway Cross bike. This bike was my “retirement” gift. The frame breaks into two sections so it can be packed into a case that you can check on the airlines without extra fees. I’ve made a few trips with it and ridden it in Houston, Seattle, and Wickenburg, AZ.

Since I won’t be needing to carry panniers with all my gear, I can use the Ritchey which is much lighter than the Surly LHT I used for the Pacific Coast. In fact, as pictured below, with the handlebar bag and saddlebag attached, and loaded with the basics (tools, tubes, rain jacket, sunscreen, etc.) it weighs about 30 lbs. That’s less than the Surly weighed with just the bare bike and racks.

Ritchey Ti Breakaway Cross

Ritchey Ready to Travel

It’s a tight fit

I outfitted the Ritchey with a Campagnolo Chorus 11 drivetrain (shifters, derailleurs, 34-50 crankset), but with a Shimano Ultegra 11 speed 11-32 cassette. This gives me lower gears than Campagnolo currently offers. With the advent of 11 speed cassettes, Campy and Shimano are essentially interchangeable. The Campy rear derailleur is only rated up to a 29 rear cog, but it handles the 32 just fine. The derailleur has just enough capacity to handle the 12-32 cassette. It’s pretty tight in the big-big combo, and just barely takes up the slack in the small-small gears. All in all I’m real pleased with it.

Campagnolo 11s Rear Derailleur, Shimano 11s 11-32 cassette

I’m using TRP CX8.4 mini V-brakes (rather than cantilever brakes) and am real happy with them. The only down side is that the pads do need to be adjusted pretty close to the rim. But I think the modulation is great with minimal force required.

Oh, and I got big fat Compass Bon Jon Pass tires on it, 35mm of plush fast rolling goodness. And I moved the Brooks saddle from our tandem over to the Ritchey. I don’t have a lot of miles on this Brooks (400 or so), but it is the same model as the one on the Surly that served me well.

For this tour I’m taking my Ortlieb handlebar bag. I don’t like how it looks on the Ritchey, but I can’t imagine touring without a handlebar bag. Once on tour, the handlebar bag contains everything important in your life – your wallet, money, phone, glasses, maps, notebook, sunscreen, spare gloves, food, whatever. You take it with you wherever you go. I carried mine around with me for several days after I got home. So it’s going with me. Between the handlebar bag and the saddle bag, I can carry everything I need to be self sufficient while riding. Although the van carries all our camping gear (tent, sleeping bag, extra clothing, food), we are still expected to take care of ourselves while on the days ride. They aren’t there to provide Sag support.

I do plan to continue to blog about the tour. There will be limited connectivity over much of the route, but I’ll do the best I can.

I fly down Reno tomorrow afternoon, and then take a shuttle to Tahoe on Saturday. I’ll meet the group on Sunday afternoon, and we head out on Monday morning.

Thanks for reading!

PCS Tour – Bike

Ok, here’s some info on my bike, if you care. But, fair warning, it is boring technical stuff.

I’ll be riding my 2008 Surly Long Haul Trucker, or LHT. The LHT is ubiquitous among the bike touring crowd for being a solid bike that doesn’t break the bank. Lots of people love them, and of course there are some haters out there. They are heavy. But the complete bikes (as opposed to the bare frameset that can be had) are sensibly spec’d with reliable components and reasonable gearing for touring.

I bought the complete bike back in 2008, but I can’t leave my bikes alone. So, the only original components left on the LHT now are the rear wheel, the crank arms, and bottom bracket.

In preparation for this trip I replaced the drivetrain, including a new 12-36 9 speed cassette, 24-36-46 Stronglight chain rings, and a fresh chain. I also went to downtube shifters, which, I think I like.

The 12-36 cassette required some tweaking to the rear derailleur which is rated by Shimano for only a 34T cog. I flipped the B-screw around to better ingage the tang on the derailleur hanger as it has to be adjusted pretty much all the way out so the derailleur doesn’t rub against the 36T cog. Once set it works fine.

12-36 Rear Cassette

I also replaced the stock Tiagra front derailleur with an IRD Alpina triple unit specifically designed for compact triples. I didn’t actually try it, but I think the Tiagra may have had issues with the 36-46 chain rings. It is rated by Shimano for at least a 12T difference in the middle-outer rings, and with only a 10T difference I think the inner cage would have conflicted with the middle ring when shifting to the big ring. 

IRD Alpina Front Derailleur

The point of all the drivetrain changes was to lower the gearing a bit, as there are a lot of long climbs in the Sierras. I like my low gears.

I’ve got Nitto Big racks on the LHT. I think they look nice. I did have to fabricate some brackets to securely mount the front rack where I wanted it, namely lower, and back a bit. I think if I was starting over I would use Tubus racks. They don’t make one with a front platform like the Nitto, but I don’t really need the platform. The Tubus racks aren’t as pretty, but I think they’re a bit lighter and probably more rigid.

One other mod I made is to add a second stem to mount the handlebar bag on. I dislike how high the Ortlieb Bar Bag sits when mounted conventionally. I think the second stem looks goofy, but that’s what it takes to lower the bag.

Goofy 2nd Stem

I like fenders. I have fenders on most of my bikes. I’ve had several different sets of fenders on the LHT. The ones on now are 48 mm wide Velo Orange aluminum units. They were actually 700c fenders, which I spread slightly to fit them to the 26″ profile, making them about 52mm wide now. They work well with Schwalbe 26X1.75 tires. I’ve since switched to Compass Slumgullion Pass tires, which are also listed at 26X1.75, but are notably smaller. Therefore I have even extra clearance to the fenders, which is a good thing. The Slumgullions are more than 1-1/2 lbs lighter than the Schwalbe Marathons, and they’re very supple, giving a nice plush ride. They won’t be as flat resistant as the Marathons, so we’ll see how they work. I don’t generally have issues with flats, and run Compass tires on my other road bikes with great results.

I built a new front wheel using a Shimano Dynamo Hub (DH-3N72) that generates power for a Schmidt EDelux headlight and a Sinewave Reactor USB charger. I got a good deal on the EDelux headlight, as they now have a newer, better version out. But I’ve rode quite a bit on my randonneuring bike with the old model and it is more than adequate. After much internal debate I bit the bullet and spent $220 on the Sinewave charger. It fits into the steerer tube and replaces the stem cap so that it is barely noticeable. Anyway, pretty slick and it appears to work well. It will keep my iPhone charged, as well as a small USB battery I can use to top off my iPad when I don’t have access to power.

Shimano DH-3N72 Dynamo Hub

The bike as pictured below (but with the Slumgullion tires) including the small seat bag (tube, tools, and patch kit), pump, racks, water bottle cages, lights, etc., weighs 36 lbs. A beast for sure. But I’m not in a hurry. In fact the more the thing weighs the less distance I need to cover to justify the next meal, right?