Sunday, January 2, 2011

Ride report: Dip into Pennsylvania

"Visit PA" is what is written on Pennsylvania license plates, and last Wednesday I was ready to heed that call and do a bike ride into the Northern Tier of the Quaker State.
As per usual, I had a late start due to complete lack of preparation on the previous evening. The planned route was about 130 km and I didn't mind the fact that I would have to do parts of the ride in the dark. The weather forecast predicted temperatures around and slightly above freezing and possibly even some sunshine in the afternoon.

The plan for the ride was to get out to Spencer, head towards Waverly and then turn around, taking a different route. Since NY-34 between Ithaca and Spencer is somewhat annoying to ride on when you go towards Spencer (traffic, narrow shoulders, constant uphill), I decided to take a longer, more strenous, but also much more scenic way to Spencer and then take 34 on the way back. On my newly installed Vittoria tires, I headed out of town towards Buttermilk Falls State Park and then up Sandbank Road. From there I took the very quiet country roads towards Danby, from where I followed NY-96B for a few kilometers. Had it been summer I probably would've taken Michigan Hollow Road but I knew that it was a dirt road and I was worried that it might be too snowy. Instead I turned right onto S Danby and the continued on Fisher Settlement Rd. It turned out that most of Fisher Settlement Road is also a dirt road, and a pretty hilly one at that. The road surface was mix of snow and wet dirt but aside from slowing me down it was okay. Just outside of Spencer, Fisher Settlement Road merges with NY-34 and in Spencer Downtown I turned left onto NY-96 towards Candor.

On an FLCC Sunday ride earlier this year, I had ridden on Halsey Valley Road, but going the opposite direction. Today I followed Halsey Valley Rd South and then continued on Oak Hill Rd. Oak Hill Road leads all the way into the Susquehanna Valley. On small roads running parallel to the river and NY-17C I finally got into Waverly and after crossing the Southern Tier Expressway I was in Pennsylvania. The part of Pennsylvania I ended up in turned out to be a rather unexciting mix of warehouses, strip malls and lots of scary sounding warning sign about dangerous drivers. I took a longer rest stop at the Sayre McDonalds and refueled with a large coke and fries. I knew that the way back would be shorter, but I still had about 50 km to go. I followed NY-34 out of Waverly, heading north, until after 10 km I turned right unto Dean Creek Road. This turned out to be a very quiet country road, gradually climbing and then descending towards Spencer. In the meantime the sun had set and because the moon wasn't visible, I rode in almost complete darkness. I've really come to enjoy riding in the dark a lot -- at least as long as it is on quiet roads.

Once in Spencer I quickly contemplated stopping for a cup of coffee at the gas station but the prospect of the rest of the ride being almost all downhill made me continue. Traffic on NY-34 was light but still too much to make the ride in a starry night as pleasant as it could've been. After a quick stop at Taste of Thai Express in Ithaca to pick up dinner, I finally arrived back home after seven hours of riding time. A strenous but very enjoyable seven hours.

First Impressions: Vittoria Randonneur Pro 700x35c

I picked up my new tires last Tuesday and already put almost 200 km on them. Tueoo early for a comprehensive review, but not too early for some first impressions.

Sizing and weight

Dishonesty in tire sizing is a well-known phenomenon in the bike world. In order to be able their tires as especially light-weight manufacturers make them narrower than their designation implies, so your 700x28 c tire might be only 26 mm wide.1 This is definitely true for the Randonneurs. Their measured width on a 19.6 mm Mavic Open Pro rim  is only about 32 mm.

The tires' weight as measured on my kitchen scale is fortunately closer to the manufacturer's claim: 472 g vs. 460 g advertised.

Rubber and Tread

The rubber is definitely softer than my Michelin Krylions and also a bit softer than my Continental Gatorskins. Tread is rather minimal, as you can see in the picture.

Mounting the tires

The Randonneur Pro is a folding tire and was reasonable easy to mount. Folding tires tend to be a bit more difficult to mount than wire bead tires because they don't stay in place by themselves. The trick thus is to fix them on the rim in one spot with a zip tie. From there I could easily mount them with two tire levers.

Ride quality

I took the tires on a 130 km ride, mostly on the typical wintry salt-water-grime pavement, but also several miles of partly snowy, partly muddy gravel roads. For pressure I followed the Bicycling Quarterly guidelines, i.e. 60 psi in the front and 70 psi in the back. The tires had a surprising amount of traction and the ride quality was nice. The rolling resistance is hard to assess: The moving average on this ride was only 19 km/h, which is fairly slow for me. But if that's due to the tires is unclear. The dirt roads, the hills and my general lack of energy on that day probably contributed more than the tires. But I will keep an eye olin that.


So far I'm happy with the tires. I'm annoyed that they are narrower than advertised but since I'm riding mostly on snow-free asphalt roads it probably doesn't matter too much. The main question is how puncture proof the tires will be. Updated will follow.

1 The whole issue gets complicated because of the various tire sizing systems. I have a rough understanding of how they work, but I, for example, still don't understand why 622-35 is the same size as 700x37C, and I have no idea if said tires are 35 or 37 mm wide.

December Summary and 2010 Recap

The final numbers for a successful 2010 are in and it time for both the regular monthly and the first annual summary
The larger goal of getting to 6000 km by the end of 2010 motivated me to keep my riding up in December, despite increasingly adverse weather. 6000 was still 491 km away at the beginning of the month, and only by December 30th had I reached the magical 6000 km. Most of December's riding was done on Wolfgang (494 km vs. only 15 km on Gunnar) and the average 16.4 km/day totaled at 509 km -- exactly the same value as last month.
For the whole year, I rode a total of 6018 km, at an average of 501 km/month or 16.5 km/day. I'm pretty impressed! The only months during which I rode less than 500 km were the wintry ones and July, during which I was traveling. I don't want to make any predictions for next year, as there are too many life changes ahead. But it's safe to say that 2010 was an awesome cycling year. I did my first 200 km ride, I rode more than ever, I did my first real road race (and probably my last one, too), I built up and rode the lovely Gunnar, I went on a nice bike weekend in the Adirondacks, and, most importantly, I had loads of fun and no crashes at all!
Happy 2011!