Monday, November 24, 2014

D2G2: Dover Dirt Gravel Grinder

The premier and most centrally located Gravel Grinder in the North East is D2R2 and the next up and coming Gravel Grinder is F2G2 but now there is a new event on the horizon, the Dover Dirt Gravel Grinder, D2G2. 

I got the idea for a ride in this part of NY when I found there were a few dirt road climbs heading west from Dover Plains so I dug a little deeper using Bing Maps (great source for finding the dirt) and discovered there were quite a few dirt roads between RT 22 and the Taconic Parkway!

Friday, November 14, 2014

This Week in Bike Commuting: 2000 miles!

I rode to work both Thursday and Friday, which were equally as cold but Friday had one little wrinkle, it snowed the night before.  Nothing major like the polar vortex gripping the rest of the nation and the roads riding to work in the morning were sandy and salty but not at all slippery.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Serfas HTK Vida Hybrid Tire: Good for the Gravel?

I have two commutes on these tires in which I rode at full PSI and also a diminished PSI and both rides were great.  I even rode them in wet conditions and I have no complaints. However, the other use for my Surly Cross Check is dirt road riding, aka Gravel Grinders, so I took the opportunity last Sunday (see my post:  Sunday Gravle) to try the tires on the dirt roads and trails in Roxbury and Washington, Connecticut.

I rode at 80 PSI in the rear and 75 PSI in the front.  Riding to the trails, the tires were great, it was like riding my road bike, but on singletrack it was an entirely different story.  The high pressure made the ride very bouncy but it worked. No trouble getting over roots and rocks, in fact keeping the pressure up seemed to help a bit because it felt like I was bouncing over the obstacles more. The only trouble that I had was climbing on the leaf covered trails because there was absolutely no traction. Then again, I don't think it would have mattered if I was on a mountain bike because fall line trails are bad no matter what you are riding.  

I kept looking for the tell tale sign of having a less aggressive tread pattern was going to have an impact on climbing steep, dirt roads, because we are not in Iowa and ride Gravle around here, that's what you do. On the first major climb, Judds Bridge, I had no trouble and in fact it seemed like the tires helped me get up the hill faster than usual, I hit a PR on Strava for this climb. From Walker Brook Rd to Mine Hill Rd it's an average 6% grade with some steep sections around 16%. The next climb was on Shinar Mountain Road with an average 7% grade and a few sections that are 19% and 21% and tires worked great, however, I did notice a little slippage in the real steep stuff but surface was loose as if it had been recently graded.

No trouble in Steep Rock Reservation but that's just flat railroad bed.  Another thing that stood out is that the tighter tread pattern doesn't really pick up any debris that I had read about on other people's reviews. I did loose traction, however, on the opening section of Battle Swamp but I don't think it was the tires. This section is an average 30% grade for 20 yards and it was just regraded and the dirt was really loose. You might have been able to up it with some really fat tires, running low PSI, and granny gears.

The last steep hill was Moosehorn with an average 11% grade and a section that tops out at 17% and the tires did great!  On the way home, I even road through some broken glass on the side of the road that I couldn't avoid and bunch of thorn bushes on the old railroad bed near my house and upon checking the tires the next day they are still hard as a rock.

I am going to a similar ride in the coming weeks only with lower PSI and see how the tires handle dirt roads and see if there is any difference in the ride quality.  However, at this point, I would think that if you are looking for good all rounder for commuting, gravel grinders, touring and randoneering; and don't mind the extra weight these tires have, this is a great tire!

To see additional posts on this tire:  Serfas HTK Vida Hybrid Tire Review

Sunday, November 09, 2014

Sunday Gravle

I headed out to ride the dirt roads in Roxbury and Washington Sunday morning.  I wanted to see how the new tires handle singletrack and the gravle.  I went out at full PSI and that was a mistake.  The other mistake was to actually ride singletrack in the fall because there was absolutely no traction in the leaves.  Another mistake I made was a bit of an overreach on the distance, especially after a week of no riding.  Yet it was still a great ride as I tried different and new roads in Roxbury.

I have ridden the preserve off of Minors Bridge once before on my mountain bike and it was easy but on the Cross Check, it was a lot tougher and I ended up walking a few times.

Monday, November 03, 2014

Serfas HTK Vida Hybrid Tire: First Blush

My experience with bike commuting tires has focused primarily on touring tires because I want the smoothness down the middle for riding the pave but some grip on the edges for the dirt.  The Serfas HTK Vida Hybrid Tire will be my first dedicated commuter tire.  A couple of things attracted me to theses tire right off the bat:  low rolling resistance; inflation to 80 psi; and really stiff sidewalls.  The combination of these three features means these tires are going to fly!

The tread pattern is definitely more conducive to  road riding than I would imagine for dirt and the gravle but then again for all the dirt roads I have ridden with tires having a more aggressive tread pattern it never seemed like there was an actual benefit.  A post Gravel Grinder review will definitely be necessary. It will also be interesting to see how these tires handle some of the dual and singletrack I usually find myself riding from time to time.

I was a little nervous at getting wire bead tires because my past experiences have included a lot pain and frustration getting them on the rims, often resulting in broken levers and snake bite. Throwing these tires on to my Salsa Delgado rims was unbelievably fast and easy.  In fact, I went back to the label in disbelief to make sure I read it correctly because they were so easy to slip on!  I pumped up the tires to 75 psi in the front and 80 psi in the rear because when I ride to work I ride dirt roads, older paved roads with crappy surfaces and with lower front psi softens the initial bump along the way.

My first commute on the new tires was awesome.  I flew down my road a lot faster which was pretty much as I expected would happen with the higher PSI tires.  Once on the dirt road is when I noticed that a higher psi is great for pave but not so much on the gravle.  The bike seemed to bounce around a little more than usual, so much in fact, that my pannier came off the rack but I had noticed that it was loose and was in the middle of stopping so there was no harm to the contents.

Still, my two commutes this week were a great mix of conditions, cold in the morning and warm in the afternoon on Tuesday.  Warmer on Wednesday in the morning but cold and rainy Wednesday evening.  Despite the bounciness on the gravle road, the tires felt very durable and strong.  On the bumpy roads, again really strong and durable.  The one thing I noticed while riding on smoother pavement was road noise coming from the tires.  I don't know if that's good or bad, but what I do know is these tires felt great and definitely worth the money so far.

To see additional posts on this tire:  Serfas HTK Vida Hybrid Tire Review

Sunday, November 02, 2014

New Meats: Serfas HTK Vida Hybrid Tire

I stopped in at The Bicycle Center the other day because I wanted to get Shawn's opinion on some Schwalbe tires that I was thinking of ordering.  After almost 3000 miles on my Continental Tour Ride tires and two catastrophic failures with their Flat Protection System, I figured it was time for a change.  Shawn suggested that I check out these tires from Serfas, the HTK Vida Hybrid Tire.  In fact, he offered them to me at a price that I couldn't refuse provided that I write up a review on them. The one caveat is my review could be either negative or positive.   

But how do you write a tire review and make it worth while?  A tire such as this is, I would expect to last quite a long time and I don't think anyone can write a review after a couple of rides and truly opine on whether these are good tires or not.  I think what is needed is a couple of reviews after some milestones are achieved while riding them.

To see all posts I make on this tire:  Serfas HTK Vida Hybrid Tire Review

Saturday, November 01, 2014

This week in Bike Commuting: Riding with a small Laptop!

My new laptop came in at work and I was quick to transition over to it. Riding with it was fantastic. It fit nicely in my pannier and I can now close it up.  This will keep it nice and dry in wet weather!  I did, however, have one little mishap on the ride in to work Tuesday morning.

On the dirt section of Pond Brook Rd, the road seemed a bit more bumpier than usual, and my have been caused by my new commuting tires running at 80 psi, the pannier sounded like it was rattling more than usual so I quickly looked back to check on it an found that it wasn't secure on the rack but before I hit the brakes it fell off!  Fortunately the laptop was inside another bag with padding.  So this doesn't happen again, I am securing the pannier with a pedal strap so that it can't come off the rack.

On Wednesday morning I rode to work with the laptop in a new messenger bag from Patagonia.  I have retired my Timbuk2 messenger bag for one that my father gave me that he'll never use since he is retired.  It's got everything I wished my Timbukt2 bag had; like a reflector on the outside cover, blinky strap, and a waist strap.  It never shifted riding with it! Can't wait to try it on the Singlespeed! 

Wednesday night was another great test because it just started raining when I left the office. I thought of riding without my rain jacket but realized it was raining a lot harder than I first thought. By the time I was at the back of the office park, I also needed to switch from my fingerless gloves to my neoprene wet weather riding gloves.  I wasn't a total sniveling idiot, though, because I didn't put my pants on and rode the whole way in shorts. Rule #5 & 9