Power Pod Junk

I have ridden twice with power pod and the readings didn’t feel to me as if they were stacking up with my other power meters. On one interval it looked spot on to me but over the complete ride the data just didn’t look good.  I also experienced the thing draining the battery away in storage so twice I ended up doing rides with no power.

When  the manufacturers announced a firmware upgrade with better accuracy I felt compelled to try it out (6.2.1). The first ride out after selecting the better accuracy is supposed to be a cal ride but no matter what I tried the pod just wouldn’t work. It just flashed green and red and sat at 50W no matter what I did. In the end I left it until the battery died and tried to upload the software again.

The next ride the calibration process actually worked.  You ride out until the power meter reads 50 then stop. You then turn round and ride until the meter reads 100 and the cal is supposedly complete. Unfortunately the data I got after this calibration was total junk and the power was over reading considerably. I saw over 600W when I was probably around 250W.  I rode around for over an hour like this in the hope that it would sort itself out but it never did.

I plan to try to load in the software again and have one more attempt but I so regret buying this lump of junk.







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Challenge Gravel Grinders

I have to say that I absolutely love the way these tires ride on both dirt and and tarmac but I do not know if I would ever buy them again. We have had a very wet January/February and I have done a lot of miles in the wet on these tires.  I have done 1200 miles on them since installation and suffered five flats.  I have had more flats on these tires than I have had in the past 5 years. On the other hand I have ridden in the rain more than I have since moving to California.

Bike Tires direct have this to say about the tires:

“While many of Challenge’s previous tires are right at home on gravel, they wanted this one to be specially tailored for longer, more demanding rides where tire width and flat protection are at a premium. To this end, they gave the Gravel Grinder Race their Double Puncture Protection System (PPS2) and spec’ed it with a generous 38mm width, resulting in great durability and dependability with comfort and stability on uneven and loose terrain. With file tread in the center, the Gravel Grinder roles smoothly, but still grips turns thanks to its more aggressive shoulder knobs.”

I am afraid I see no evidence of an effective double puncture protection system.  I think the tread wear on the back tire after 1200 miles  is pretty significant.


Tread wear after 1200 mostly road miles.


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California Aqueduct

The Bethany to O’ Neil Forebay aqueduct trail is a path near Patterson that is extremely lightly used. The surface is generally rough chip seal but there are some sections of pristine tarmac. Although the route is road bike friendly there are regular sections where you have to get off to walk to transverse gates.  For this reason, I recommend MTB shoes.  There are also a few rough and gravely sections where CX tires make things a lot more pleasurable.  The worst sections of the course are some beat up old cattle guards where you really have to be careful.cop

There is virtually no climbing on the route but wind can be a significant factor. The route is also very exposed so in the summer the heat can be brutal. You see very few humans on the route with only the occasional fisherman for company. I have ridden one mid week in the morning and seen perhaps 3 people all day.  The only down sides to the route is that there can be a lot of broken glass near the gated areas (even with chunky CX tires I have flatted) and one section goes by a massive bee community (seasonal).

 At the time of writing I have not yet managed to do the whole course.  WORK IN PRORESS

Bethany To Patterson Section – 35.6 miles


Bethany To Patterson Section – 35.6 miles

Segment Length Time Speed KOM
Bethany to Patterson 35.6 2:19:46 15.3 Mark KIng
Bethany Reservoir along aqueduct to Grantline 3.5 9:50 21.7 Alan Nevin
Aqueduct Bikeway 3.4 8:58 23 Mark King
Aqueduct : Mountain House To Hansen 1.3 3:43 21.1 Mark King
Aqueduct : Hansen to Corral 4 9:59 24.2 Mark King
Aqueduct : Corral to S.Tracy 1.6 3:55 24.9 Mark King
Aqueduct : S.Tracy to Chrisman 2.3 5:46 24.1 Mark King
Aqueduct : Chrisman to S.Bird 2.3 5:50 24.7 Dave Simons
Aqueduct :  S.Bird to Blewett 0.9 2:25 23 Mark King
Aqueduct : Blewitt to Gaffery 2.5 9:55 15.7 George Crawford
Aqueduct : Gaffery to Khalsa 3.1 8:03 23.8 Inez Ramirez
Aqueduct : Khalsa to McCraken 1.4 3:59 22 Inez Ramirez
Aqueduct : McCraken to Howard 1 2:45 23.2 Inez Ramirez
Aqueduct : Howard to Needham 1.7 5:10 20.7 George Crawford
Aqueduct : Needham to Patterson 4.9 13.51 21.4 Joel Luna


Patterson to Bethany

Segment Length Time Speed KOM
Aqueduct : Patterson to Needham 4.9 15:50 18.6 Jim Silk
Aqueduct: Needham to Howard 1.7 6:19 16.9 George Crawford
Aqueduct : Howard to McCraken 1.1 3:09 21 Jim Silk
Aqueduct : McCraken to Khalsa 1.4 4:12 21.3 Jim Silk
Aqueduct : Khalsa to Gaffery 3.1 8:59 21.1 Jim Silk
Aqueduct : Gaffery to Blewitt 2.5 10:27 14.9 George Crawford
Aqueduct : Blewett to S.Bird 0.9 2:51 19.1 Jim Silk
Aqueduct : S.Bird to Chrisman 2.4 7:16 19.9 Dave Simons
Aqueduct : Chrisman to S.Tracy 2.3 7:22 18.9 Jim Silk
Aqueduct : S.Tracy to Corral 1.5 4:51 19.3 Jim Silk
Aqueduct : Corral to Hansen 4 13:31 17.8 Bao T
Aqueduct : Hansen to Mountain 1.3 5:08 15.3 Mark King
Aqueduct : Mountain to Grant 3.4 8:37 23.9 Mark King
Bethany Bike Trail: Grant Line to Bethany 3.3 9:25 21.6 Bao T

Patterson to O’ Neil Forebay (approx. 28  miles)

Segment Length Time Speed KOM
Aqueduct : Sperry to Oak Flat 3.3 8:21 23.7 Collen Sibanda
Aqueduct :  Oak Flat to Ward Ave 0.8 2:19 21.7 Collen Sibanda
Aqueduct : Ward Ave to Fink Road 1.2 3:05 24.4 Collen Sibanda
Aqueduct : Fink to Davis 1.0 2:40 22.7 Collen Sibanda
Aqueduct : Davis to Orestimba 4.9 12:45 23.2 Collen Sibanda
Oreistimba to Sullivan South 5.4 13:42 23.9 Johnny R
Aqueduct : Orestimba to Shiells 1.4 3:38 23.9 Bob Novoa
Aqueduct :  Shiells to Pete Miller 3.1 7:24 25.6 Johnny R
Aqueduct : Pete Miller to Sullivan 0.7 1:41 24.9 Johnny R
Aqueduct :Sullivan to Sparks 2.3 6:28 21.9 George Crawford
Aqueduct : Sparks to Cottonwood 2.0 5:13 23.1 George Crawford
 Cottonwood to Butts  1.9  4:21  26.3  George Crawford
 Butts road to Mcabee  2.5  6:17  25.7  George Crawford
Mcabee to O’ Neil  ?  ?  ?  ?

O’ Neil Forebay to Patterson

Segment Length Time Speed KOM
O Neil to Mcabe ? ? ? ?
Mcabe to Butts 2.6 7:38 20.8 Brent Chipponeri
Butts to Cottonwood 2.1 5:46 22.4 Brent Chipponeri
Aqueduct : Cottonwood to Spark 1.9 6:11 19 Eric Foltz
Aqueduct : Sparks to Sullivan 2.3 6:21 22.4 Bob Novoa
Aqueduct : Sullivan to Pete Miller 0.6 1:42 24.6 Bob Novoa
Pete Miller to Oriestimba Creek 4.6 10:13 27.1 Bob Novoa
Aqueduct : Pete Miller to Shiells 3.1 7:16 26.1 Bob Novoa
Aqueduct: Shiells to Orestimba 1.4 3:08 28 Bob Novoa
Aqueduct: Orestimba to Davis 4.9 15.41 18.9 Eric Foltz
Aqueduct: Davis to Fink 1 3:12 19 Danny Souza
Aqueduct : Fink to Ward 1.3 4:18 18.1 Mark King
Aqueduct : Ward to Oak 0.8 2:53 17.3 Mark King
Aqueduct : Oak to Sperry 3.2 11:32 17.1 Mark King




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Challenge Gravel Grinders

I was so impressed with the Challenge Gravel Grinders on my Volagi that I fitted a pair on my wifes bike too. I hope she like them as much.


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Power Pod for 2017

I have planned to do the majority of racing in 2017 on my fixed gear Wabi but was a little down on not having any sort of power monitoring. I didn’t want to spend a fortune on a power solution (many of which don’t work on fixed gear) and I had read a good review on the “Powerpod” on DCRainmaker so I decided to give it a go. It comes with it’s own software but I plan to use it with the Garmin and Strava.




I have to be honest in that I am very skeptical that the system can work but It should be ideal for comparative work on the fixed gear Merckx style TT  bike. My first riding impressions was that the numbers were all wrong but after about 15 minutes the device seemed to settle down. I did a few efforts and the numbers seemed to be correct by the seat of my pants. It still seemed to under read compared  to my other power meters on tailwind sections as I saw some very low numbers.

I put in a proper TT effort on the Dagnino Dead End Strava segment and did 311W. This number felt just about right but only got me my 86th best effort for this segment. My pulse average was 164bpm which shows I was at race pace (based on my new 10bpm lower maximum pulse).  I am shocked just how slow I got.




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2017 Cycling Season

I didn’t think I would ever race again after my stroke but I have found the urge to do something competitive in 2017. I don’t feel up to competing in road races but I have a plan to have a go at a few TT’s.  My other issue is my balance and as such I don’t think I will be able to ride on tri-bars so I will TT on my Merckx style fixed gear bike


A goal would be to try to beat the hour for a 25 Mile TT in this 1970’s style setup.  This is very much a stretch goal as I am probably only 2/3 fitness nowadays and my previous best on the Wabi for 25 miles was 1:02:36.  I think beating 1h10 would be a major achievement. I am planning to have some sort of power meter setup on the fixed for next season.  I had an FTP of around 340W when I did that time but no power meter so no way of knowing exactly what the power was.  I estimate my current FTP is approx 240W so I have a lot of work to do.

My max pulse has also dropped by 10bpm so I will need to adjust my TT pacing.  I  plan on attempting the hour on the Loyalton TT course which is pretty flat but I dont think it is as fast as Putah Creek. I have only ridden the course once on my TT bike and found it was horrible but I think it suits fixed (providing the wind isn’t too strong).

Next year I will be back riding for IC3.

There are hardly any suitable events in California anymore but here is my provisional list:

March 26th: Tempus Fugit Individual TT (Spring)


 May 29th : RKO#7 – Memorial Day Classic Stage Race and Omnium – Calaveras Time Trial


 June 11th : Loyalton Time Trial (State Champs ???????)


 July 22 : RKO#11 – Crossfire Hurricane Hill Climb Challenge


 Aug 20 : RKO#15 – Tempus Fugit Individual TT 


 Sep 9th : Mt Diablo Hill Climb TT


 Sep 16th : Esparto Time Trial – VP#20 CC#9




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New Tire Impressions


And a Marky in a pear Tree (Prickly)…..

I have about 100 miles on the Challenge Gravel Grinders now (80% road/ 20% dirt) and I have to say I am impressed.  The tires roll very fast on roads and hard packed dirt and they give a silky smooth ride.  I am running them at 45psi and that doesn’t give a hint of sluggishness but it smooths out road imperfections extremely well.  Their performance on hard packed dirt is also really good.  The Vijae feels like it was built for these tires and it does wonders at taming the overly stiff front end.

From the seat of the pants I would say these tires roll as fast as a 23-25 road tire but I have noticed that my wife pulls away from me on every down hill on her road bike.  There must be some drag but when riding you really don’t notice it.

It has not all been good news as I got a flat after only 60 miles from a darn goats head. One of the dangers at riding off piste at this time of the year.

Review of the Tires on “Riding The Gravel”

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New Tires For The Volagi and Stroke

Since I last posted here over a year a go I have not been a well man.  I had a stroke after the Mt Tam hill climb and ended up in hospital for 7 months.  I  am back riding now but I am very slow and don’t push myself too hard.  I am doing around 150 miles per week but I am riding rather than training and take a massive kicking whenever the road points up. My wife has been a treasure and for that I forgive her for all the half wheeling since I got back on the bike. I don’t know if I ever will race again and I have vowed not to shave my legs until I can hang on on the climb on the IC3 Sunday morning run.

Looking at my power meter data since I got back on the bike for the last 3 months I have lost over 100W of ftp.  It feels worse that that and I really suffer on hills although I never feel well enough to give it 10/10.

I decided to try some challenge tires out on the Volagi. They were on awesome sale online so how could I resist.  I have been running Vittoria Open Pave for the last 1000 miles and they are looking pretty cut up so it is time for a change. I have’nt ridden them yet but hope they wont be too sluggish on the road. Riding Impressions to follow.


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EROICA California April 8th-10th 2016

Registration has opened up for the Eroica California and I plan to sign up for the 123mile route which I believe is supposed to be very difficult (I love a challenge). I have already started searching for a suitable mount for the event but I know exactly what I am looking for. I want to ride the event on a 1930’s pathracer style machine and for a suitable donor bike I have been scouring Craigs List for a Raleigh Tourist DL-1. This bike has exactly the long laid back look I am after. It seems to me that most of the DL-1’s that appear on CL get bought by restoration shops that buy them cheap, tart them up and sell them for 2 to 3 times the original price. Considering I am planning on gutting the bike to make it into a pathracer this seems an awful waste to me. In the last 3 weeks I haven’t seen a single suitable donor bike for sale for a reasonable price.

Challenges for the DL-1 build would include how to integrate the rod style brakes with some Major Taylor bars and the Cottered cranks that I absolutely hated as a child but are period correct.  The other problem i have with the rod brakes is how they would cope with the very hilly 123 mile course.  I don’t expect to have modern braking performance but they have to be good enough that the bike can actually stop on some steep gravel descent.

Option 2 is to go out and buy a Pashley Guvnor where all the hard work has already been done for me and I would have a bike that is much more suitable for the 123mile route. It has better brakes and a much nicer frame in glorious 531. They are rare as hens teeth in Northern California but I am keeping my eyes open for a 22.5″ 3 spd model coming up for sale. Downsides to the Guvnor is the steep price and a few items that are not so period correct. I think the stock crankset looks particularly out of place and I would want to run Major Taylor bars which would create it’s own challenge in terms of brake lever and shifter setup. The bike below has a different crankset and the major Taylor bars which would be absolutely spot on for me.

Looking to create something like this but with hub brakes and 3 speeds.

My final challenge is to go back to having a brooks saddle.  In my teens I rode Brooks saddles and found them to be the most uncomfortable things ever created. After switching to a San Marco Turbo saddle I vowed never to let my cheeks touch a Brooks ever again. I hope the saddles have improved as they are essential for the period correct look.  Another thing I cant understand with Brooks saddles is why so many people run them with the nose pointing upwards which must surely be absolute hell on your family allowance. As I said earlier in this blog post….I like a challenge.

If anyone out there has a Guvnor or DL-1 for sale please let me know.

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Low Key Hill Climbs 2015

The events have been announced for the 2015 Low Key Hill climb season and there is an unprecedented number of them that I have never ridden before.

  1. 3rd October – Montebello
  2. 10th October – Page Mill (Never Ridden Before)
  3. 17th October – Alba Road (Never Ridden Before)
  4. 24th October – Mill Creek (Never Ridden Before)
  5. 31st October – Purisima Creek Trail (Never Ridden Before)
  6. 7th November – Bohlman (Never Ridden Before)
  7. 14th November – OLH (Never Ridden Before)
  8. 21st November – Mount Charlie
  9. 26th November – Mount Hamilton

I plan on racing 1, 2, 3, 4, 6 and 7 on my Wabi Classic All Steel Single Speed. I also plan on pre-riding all the “Never Ridden” climbs just to figure out an appropriate gear,

Some New Wheels From Wabi have shed some weight from the Classic

Round 5 is off road and i may ride it on my single speed CX commute bike but I am undecided on this. Also thinking I could convert an old MTB to single speed.

Picture from Low Key Website

Round 9 is totally unsuitable for single speed and I would be so slow that my time would be a joke. There are some significant flat and fast sections and two big down hills. If i geared up for the flats I would destroy me knees on the final 6 miles of 6.0%. Undecided about this one.

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