Saturday, September 27, 2014

Channeling Goran Kropp

For most of this week, we had planned to hit the rocks outside of Lone Pine, the famed Alabama Hills, one of our favorite destinations.  But as the hour for departure drew near, some sort of purely human powered lunacy seemed the better choice.  Jodi to the rescue:  Let's pedal from home as high up our local mountain as we can get then hike to the summit and back to the trikes and ride home!  We'd done this only once before, years before Django.  And the year before he dropped into our lives, we pedaled the road but went no further.  The distances are not great, but steepness and elevation gain make up for it.  All told we did maybe six miles of hiking with 2,000 feet of climbing and 17 miles of pedaling with 2,300 ft. of climbing.  The cycling involved some ouch! factor as grades close to the mountain topped 10% frequently, stretches of 13%, and one sustained pitch at 17--18%.  Ugh.  All praise Florian Schlumpf and his Mountain Drive.  That 2.5:1 bottom range made all the difference.  For those who know such things, my bottom gear is about 10 gear inches, Jodi's about 8.

The post title is inspired by my ultimate adventure hero, the super adventurer Goran Kropp, a man who pedaled a bike from Stockholm, Sweden, to Katmandu, Nepal, carrying all his high-altitude camping and climbing gear.  Once he'd pedaled as far as he could, he loaded up a pack with 150 lbs. of food and gear, slogged up to Everest and climbed it solo, without oxygen.  Then he hiked out and rode his bike home to Sweden.  Yeah, he was the baddest badass that ever wore the badge. That psycho Viking died too young on a fairly short rock climb in eastern Washington.  May the great Goran Kropp rest in peace.  Now only a handful of intrepid nutcases try similar outings, the goal being totally human powered for every phase of the journey.  Kropp went so far as to attempt to carry all his food from Katmandu into Everest for the climb, too, although he needed some extra calories when a first summit bid didn't work out.  I'll give him a pass on taking food offered by other teams on the mountain.  In our own VERY little way, we tasted a little Goran soup today.  No internal combustion engines were abused, used, or otherwise touched in today's little adventure.

We're safe back at home, worked but doing surprisingly well.  This bodes well for the coming Death Valley tour, Lone Pine to Vegas, in December.  More pics from the ride--hike--ride:

Me and my buddy and the mountain in the background just touching the clouds--what a great grand wonderful day!

Django:  Always the winner!

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Gear Talk: TerraCycle chain tube

My Lightning Phantom is now my daily commuter, which makes Scotty one happy rider.  Our county transit service eliminated my usual bus stop, so now my run is almost 5 miles each way, hills in both directions, usually headwinds coming home, and these can occasionally be severe as I live in a mountain pass at the southern tip of California's Sierra Nevada range.  So my commute in the morning runs about 20 mins., and in the afternoon can easily reach 30 min.  That's enough saddle time for me to justify using the bent, my preferred pedal transport mode.  I bought a very heavy chain and beefy lock, which I double up on with a U-lock and heavy cable, and leave my rig in front of a store with the seat and handlebars covered to protect from UV damage and, later in the season, rain.

Currently the days have been running pretty hot, with my short days giving me riding temps in the low to mid 80's.  I'm sweating hard by the time I get home.  So these days, it's shorts, even at school where the dress code is casual.  But once the temps start to drop--quite soon, I hope!--I'll be in long pants.  The Phantom has a fully exposed chain line, which means it's easy to get the dreaded "weenie" marks or chain lube tats.  If it's a smudge on my calf, no biggie, but getting that on street pants?  Not so much.  So how to attach a chain tube, a common feature on so many recumbents?

Enter TerraCycle from Portland, Oregon, to the rescue.  Pretty much all recumbent enthusiasts are familiar with the company's exquisitely engineered and manufactured accessories, which I believe started with idlers (the rollers used for recumbents' complicated chain lines), but the line of offerings has exploded.  Now the company sells fairings, bags, and all manner of truly excellent bike gear, most of it targeting the nerdy world of recumbents, although many products have a more universal cycling application.

For my problem, Pat Franz, the owner and chief engineer/fabricator, developed a brilliant solution: A floating chain tube mount constructed of two small aluminum brackets and a short length of bike chain between, which is flexible for up and down + in and out movement (exactly what's needed to follow the chain line) but move very little fore and aft.  Fabulous!

Here is a closeup of the unit mounted on the Phantom.  Cool weather commuting, here we come!

In all, I'm out about $26 + shipping for this mod.  The chain tube was about $8 for this length, but that includes pre-flared ends for smooth running.  I had it installed in about 10 minutes.

That's all for Gear Talk today.  Now get out and ride!