Category Archives: cycling

MTBing the Glen

My buddy O’Malley and I got up early Saturday morning, strapped our bikes onto the back of my family’s van and drove up to East Duffins Headwaters for a few solid hours of biking. This fairily well-kept secret of the GTA is a hiking and mountain biking park located in Glen Major forest. The park is owned by the Toronto Regional Conservation Authority (TRCA) and, although not fitted out with large berms, beams or MTB-specific structures, it is spectacular for its single track and quite a few good hills. Not to mention the *huge* length of its trails – there are enough winds, forks, and parallel paths that you wouldn’t have seen them all in one full day of riding. Its on Sideline 4, a few kilometers north of Concession Road 9.

Here a map of the place:

Lots of multi-use, and MTB-oriented, trails.
I fooled about with my phone and set it up so that GPS was on, and tracked the expedition:

View MTBing the Glen in a larger map –> There are some more routes on the page 2 of the map

What a great park – but shhhh! Don’t let the word spread about this well-hidden treasure just outside of Toronto.  

Presta? No Problem / R.I.P. Old Wheelset

My new Shimano-hubbed Sunrim Cr-18 wheelset arrived the other day, and to my chagrin – it’s not drilled for Schrader valves, but presta valves (those tall, thin metal ones with threads). Nothing is wrong with presta valves – in fact they actually retain air better at high pressures – but the availability of tubes for wider tires is somewhat limited.

So what does one do to remedy this problem, short of replacing the rims? Well, you drill the valve holes out, of course. Presta valves are 6mm wide, with a 6.4mm (1/4in) valve hole. In contrast, Schrader valves are 8mm wide, and have an 8.3mm (21/64in) valve hole. Luckily for me, the Cr-18 rims are wide enough to accommodate this wider hole; don’t try drilling out thin rims, or those rims with a strongly arched profile, or you may end up weakening the rim significantly.

Flat profile rims; its easily drillable. 

 Select a few dill bit sizes for stepped drilling – this will prevent the bits from binding and ruining the rim. I chose 3 bits: a 7/64in bit, a 9/32in bit, and of course the 21/64in bit.

If there is already rim tape, peel it back with a tire lever and commence drilling. Once done, it should be noticeably larger:

 File off the burrs in the metal to prevent punctures, and the job is done.

Then try fitting in a Schrader valve tip, just to check to see if it all fits in neatly. If you have trouble getting in the valve, try making sure the hole was drilled straight, or possibly go for the slightly larger 11/32in bit.

 Now that I’ve drilled out these new rims, I’m all set to replace the old wheelset. The old Shimano/Araya combo has conducted me very “wheel” over the past 5000km and 5 years, and supported another 5000km or so for the 13years before that. 10 000kms and 18 years later, though, it is time to move, lest something *does* in fact break during our Italian trip.

R.I.P.

Araya Wheelset: 1994-2012 
$10 Craigslist sale, anybody?

Here are the new beauties: I’ve finally made the switch over to 8 speeds and double walls.

Revised Italian Itinerary

*Watch for updates on this page.

The Italian cycling trip has changed quite significantly in the second rendition. Now, we will be avoiding the western oceanfront and heading through the heartland of Italy: Central Tuscany. The stops include  Firenze (Florence), where we’ll be flying in, followed by cycling through the great Italian hill towns of San Gimignano,  Volterra, Siena, Montalcino, Montepulciano, Orvieto and Viterbo. From Viterbo, the rest of the inter-city transit will be done by train; we head to Rome through the Ferrovie Regionale (regional railway), then Pompei and Napoli (Naples).

Some Sights:

Map

View Cycling Italy in a larger map

Itinerary

May:
     31. Depart from Toronto, Flight to Firenze (Florence)
June

  1. Arrive Firenze –> A few sights, then sleep off the jet-lag
  2. All Day Firenze
  3. More Firenze
  4. To San Gimignano (47km)
  5. To Volterra (27.5km)
  6. To Siena (48.5km)
  7. All Day Siena 
  8. To Montalcino (36km)
  9. To Montepulciano (37km)
  10. To Orvieto (64.6km)
  11. To Viterbo (42km)
  12. To Roma (Morning Train)
  13. Roma
  14. Roma
  15. To Pompei (Morning Train)
  16. Pompei
  17. To Napoli (Afternoon Train)
  18. Napoli, Flight to Toronto

More Trip Deliberations

It looks as if the entire itinerary  of the Italy Trip may be changed. I’m one who loves the countryside, but a trip with few sights won’t be that exciting. The cycling portion of the trip I had planned skirts the seaside of Tuscany and a bit of Lazio, hitting the small towns and countryside. No big sights to see, aside from San Gimignano, and Pisa, in the first 150km of the trip. It would have been primarily about enjoying the Italian countryside – which is admittedly far more beautiful, hilly and varied than most of Southern Ontario.

My fears of less-than-optimal trip planning were confirmed when I pulled some Rick Steves guidebooks off the shelves of my local library.

I was expecting the small towns to at least have a few sights, but apart from 2 or 3 Etruscan tomb museums, there aren`t too many impressive sights to see. I’m sad at learning that my many hours of meticulous kilometer-by-kilometer trip planning hadn’t taken into account the other sights of Tuscany; Hill towns of Tuscany are apparently overlooked often enough, but are beautiful, and seem to have more than enough enchanting history and architecture to be great places to visit. The only hill town currently on the itinerary is the medieval fortified settlement of San Gimignano. Maybe a few more towns will make their way on to the trip list, as I re-route the planned trip. But although I may be making changes, it all comes down to elevation – if the hills are too steep, the route may remain the same, and skip over these areas (sadly). 

Italy Trip: Itinerary in Brief

The planning continues, and now I’ve managed to figure out all the stops, the route and where we will camp on our journey from Florence to Rome, Naples, Pompeii and the Amalfi coast. The aeroplane has been booked – leaving May 31 from Toronto Pearson, to arrive June 1 in Florence. We will be returning almost 3 weeks later, flying out on June 18th with 2 layovers (Frankfurt, Germany, and Washington, D.C.) before we arrive back in Toronto.

The Itinerary in Brief:


5/31 –  18:40 departure from Toronto
6/1 – 14:00 arrival in Florence! —-> Rest-up day.
6/2 – Touring Florence, seeing the sights.
6/3 – Florence to San Gimignano: 74km
       – 8:00 departure by bike
       – ETA 17:00
       – 17:00 – 20:00; dinner + evening in town
       – 21:00; Lodging – arrival @ Camping Baschetto di Piemma
6/4 – San Gimignano to Colleoli: 53km
       – 8:00 -13:00; breakfast/tour/lunch
       – 13:00 Depart
       – ETA 19:30 Colleoli
       – Lodging: Local Agriturismo
6/5 – Colleoli to Pisa: 43km
       – 8:00 Depart
       – ETA 13:00 Pisa
       – 13:00-17:00; Visit Leaning tour + duomo, museums, and explore town + got to market for food
       – 17:00; Lodging @ Camping Torre Pendente + Dinner
6/6 – Pisa to Orciano Pisano: 43km
       – 8:00-11:00; breakfast, early morning exploring town
       – 11:30 Depart, after lunch
       – ETA 17:30 Orciano
       – Lodging @ Camping Elena Country House
6/7 –  Orciano Pisano to Castagneto Carducci: 49km
       – 9:00 Depart
       – 13:00-14:30 Stop @ Rosignano Marittimo for sights, lunch
       – ETA 18:00 Castagneto
       – Lodging @ Camping Belmare
6/8 – Castagneto Carducci to Scarlino: 57km
       – 9:00 Depart
       – ETA 17:00
       – Lodging @  Camping Baia dei Gabbiani
6/9 – Scarlino to Grossetto: 40km
       -8:00 Depart
       – ETA 16:00
       – Lodging @ Agriturismo Il Querciolo
       – 16:30–21:00 Ride into town, Dinner, explore sights.
6/10 – Grossetto to Montalto di Castro: 73km

       -8:00 Depart
       – ETA 18:00
       – Lodging @ Camping Pionier Etrusco

6/11 – Montalto di Castro to Civitavecchia: 43km
       – 9:00 Depart
       – ETA 14:00 Civitavecchia
       – 15:30; FR5 Commuter ‘Ferrovie Regionale’ into Rome
       – ETA 16:00 Roma
       – Lodging @ Cheap B&B near Termini Station
6/12-13 – ROMA!
       – Two full days of exploration, sights, rome.
       – Lodging @ Cheap B&B near Termini Station
6/14 – Rome to Amalfi (by Train)
       – 8:00 Breakfast/ Packup
       -9:40 Train form Termini Stn. to Vietri-Amalfi
       – ETA 13:10 Amalfi
       – 13:30; Hotel check-in/drop off bikes, lunch
       – 14:30-21:00; Explore area/sights + market for groceries
       – Lodging @ Hotel
6/15 – Amalfi Coast!
       – More exploration & sight-seeing
6/16 – Amalfi to Pompei (by Train)
       – 8:00-12:00; Morning in Amalfi, breakfast
       – 12:00 Hotel checkout/ pack-up + lunch
       – 13:15; Depart from Vietri-Amalfi Stn.
       – ETA 14:05 Pompei Stn.
       – Explore the scenery/countryside by bicycle until evening
       – Lodging @ Hotel
6/17 – Pompei to Napoli (by Train)
        – 7:30; Early breakfast
        – 9:00-15:00 Explore Pompeii Ruins + On-The-Go lunch
        – 16:00; Depart Pompei Stn.
        – ETA 16:30 Napoli Centrale Stn.
        – 16:50; hotel check in, lock up bikes in room
        – Dinner, Exploration & Night on the Town
6/18 – Napoli/ Last-day Packup + Flight
        – 9:00 wakeup + breakfast
        – 10:30 Head to Naples Airport
        – 13:10 Departing flight
        – ETA 23:10 Toronto Pearson

Most of the beginning of the jorney is by bicycle, is the far-less-crowded Tuscant leg of the journey. Shortly after Civitavecchia, the only direct-route roads become crowded, fast-traffic Via Regionale (Regional Highways) – not nice for cycling. Therefore, for the rest of the trip, we will be bring our bicycles on the train with us as we travel which adds ~5.00 to each train ticket), and use them for sight-seeing and local rides in town. The economic and short 30 minute and 1hr Ferrovie Regionale (Regional Train) rides will allow us to see the Bay of Naples, Pompei and the Amalfi Coast without taking a longer trip, and without risking our necks on the hillier/more crowded roadways of south-western Italy. 

FSA "The Hammer" Headset Review

Update 13/05/13: After one bicycle trip abroad and probably 2500km more, I have not developed any issues with this headset. Nor have I disassembled it for maintenance – the seals have held up and it has been a solid performer through-and-through.

After a little more than 1000km, I thought I’d start doing a follow-up on some components. Full Speed Ahead’s (FSA) The Hammer headset is the first up for review.

The FSA “The Hammer” headset is a cheap/economical loose-ball headset for threadless systems, and I managed to purchase mine for $16 + ~$2 shipping. Not bad for any headset, especially one billed as “Heavy Duty”.

But how has it fared? Well, when I bought it, the box had opened during shipping, and the bottom bearing seal had fallen out. Disappointing, but no fault of FSA. So, in order to use it right away after installation, I used to top seal on the bottom – not a great seal, but more protection that none at all. Later, the seller sent me a replacement bottom seal after contacting them, and I switched the seals around again.

I installed the headset myself to save on installation fees, so in it went not with a headset press, but with a few whacks from a hammer on a wooden block. Despite this… traumatizing installation experience, it hasn’t shown it to be any worse for the wear.

The top seal, in its proper location.
As can be seen, using the top seal on the bottom
meant it has been stretched, and the seal is slightly compromised now. 

Despite being a loose ball headset, it has not developed any symptoms of indexing, or rough rolling when spun. Unlike other headsets I’ve owned on other bikes, this one does not exhibit any tendency to ‘prefer’, or index to, the straight-forward position, even after 1000km. Only 200kms ago did I add a front fender, so mud, dust, dirt and water have splashed against the bottom seal without much of an impact. That’s pretty impressive, in my opinion. The top seal, however, isn’t as great, and its design leaves a little to be desired, since it is essentially a plastic cap with little else to stop dust. Rain probably won’t get in, and hasn’t ever posed a problem, but if you plant on leaving this exposed often, it may become a sticking point (literally!).

Supposedly the construction uses oversized ball-bearings in the races, so this may be why it has been so trouble free. The races are full steel, black powder-coated inside and out, so I expected worn-off paint chips to cause grinding in the headset, but this hasn’t been the case either. It continues its smooth performance, even off-road with a lot of stress load. What is noticeable somewhat is the light friction the headset has on road when turning. It may be smooth, but it has a slight grease-like internal resistance for rotation, which is noticeable when comparing more expensive headsets to this one.

Certainly, this headset won’t be as durable as any Chris King would be, but I give it a 4/5 star rating, because of its smoothness and durability. It loses the 1 star because despite smoothness, the headset isn’t the most freely moving, and the design of the top seal means that dirt and contaminants can easily enter.

Toronto International Bike Show – Spring 2012

Got up early this past Saturday morning at the behest of my pal, who reminded me that the Toronto Int’l Bike Show was on this weekend, March 2-4. It’s a place where all of the big names in cycling in Toronto (plus a few other major brands) meet to strut their stuff, and where a few bargains can be found for those so inclined – such as myself. This time it was held in the Better Living Centre of Exhibition Place, as opposed to the Fall “Blowout” show, which is much smaller, and held elsewhere at Exhibition Place.

Here are some shots of the show:

From Entrance

Trek Bike store’s display

And of course, there are a buncha bikes to drool over. Lots of carbon, whether road or MTB. The bike show seems to cater to “what’s new”, of course, so there were tons of fancy lightweight components on the road bikes, and 29er bikes galore!

Enough carbon here to solve China’s energy problems…
…with more carbon!

Argon’s display
All-carbon rigid 29er. Nice!
Surly Pugsley Alert! Now available with BionX power assist:
Talking with the fellow from the BionX stand there, the BionX/Pugsley combo is his personal set-up, and rocks with about a ~100km range, with a top speed of ~40kmph. Would love to do that offroad!

The white hub is the BionX’s hub motor. You too can own
one for $1200 CAD
The huuuge tires still amaze me!

Lots of more typically-equipped bikes on sale as well; commuters, MTBs, and tourers and especially aluminum road bikes were abundant….

 Even managed to score some deals:

Regularly $25ea!

Booty!
– 2 Knog “Ringmaster” cable locks
– 2 sets of KMC x.8 chains
– 1 Alivio 9-Speed Alum. body Derailleur
Bought for $20, regular price of $50, and MSRP of $35;
it should be a significant upgrade to current system.

My friend bought the tires, a new 26in wheelset, a new derailleur also, and an SRAM 7 speed cassette, for a total of $126.75. My total was about half that, all told, including the $13 admission price.  

All-Rounder: 9-Month/1000km Follow-Up

UPDATED 07/03/12: Now with pictures!

I’ve had the O8 CX700 for nearly 9 months now, and so have put it through its paces by now. That’s about 1000kms of mixed onroad/offorad/singletrack with tweaking, tuning, and general fettling in appropriate proportions.

The Good:

1. Big Wonkin’ Tires. There are quite a few things this bike has going for it, not least of which includes the capacity for large tires. I’ve concluded that you can shoehorn a 29×2.3 with fenders in there if you wanted.

The 51mm (2.1in nominal) wide CST Critters have been a good fit so far.
There is room for maybe 2.3in tires w/fenders, or 2.4 without.  

2. A Nice Fork Design. I have had a good experience with the straight bladed fork that came standard with the frame. I know many people dislike them, because of the ‘harsher ride’ they supposedly give, or for their non-traditional look. Well, I can say that the ride certainly didn’t feel “harsh” when riding road with 23mm tires @ 110psi. It was easier on my wrists than other bikes I have used, absorbing the cracks and bumps in the road surface very easily, albeit with a little additional road noise feel than my other bikes. For offroad use, the fork is superb, with enough spring to make the bike forgiving on rougher terrain, without compromising the strength that has given me confidence to shoot some trails faster than might advisable. Oh, and did I mention the fork has double eyelets standard?

All the mounts you need: the double-eyelets here
are supporting both highrider and lowrider racks,
as well as fenders!

3. Great Frame Geometry, due to the cyclo-cross heritage of the frame, makes the CX700 especially versatile. It bridges the area between mountain bikes and road bicycles, which makes this a veritable monstercrosser. Therefore, the geometry of the frame makes it a perfect trail runner for anything from light gravel to muddy dirt single track, and even manages to cope with the occasional root or rock. I’ve had no end of pleasure to riding around the many winding forest trails near my home. It’s head tube angle makes it easy to direct on trails, but also seems to naturally follow the flow of the trail. More than this,  it works well on the road. It has lively-enough handling and corners well onroad – better than most mountain bikes.  The BB drop is well-calibrated, so that standover is easily achievable with hybrid and road tires, but that it is also still comfortable enough to dismount/mount with the wider-diameter 29″ rubber. The slight slant of the TT improves groin clearance and standover height, but be forewarned; wiping out in technical terrain still won’t be pretty (get a true MTB for this!).

I think the paint job and decals are top-rate as well.
Lay of black primer, then powder-coated, then clear-coat.
Nice. 

4. The Cockpit of the bike has been custom-tailored to be the near-epitome of cycling comfort and performance for my needs and tastes. A 40cm Nitto B-115, which I had thought would be too narrow, is comfortably spaced in the drops, with a very nice Maes bend. Many day-long ride on road have convinced me of this bar’s comfort.

Cross levers and 8-speed ‘Brifters on a Nitto 115 bar.’ 

Coupled with an Avenir-branded alloy adjustable stem, I have the ability to raise the bars far above the seat for cruising the trails or lazily pedaling around town, or drop them below for a little better speed performance. If you have a threadless fork, I cannot recommend strongly enough that you buy your own adjustable stem – the ability to tune it to fit your mood, or your exact riding style, allows superior comfort. I also have only good things to say about Tektro’s cross levers, and Shimano’s STI road levers, which have made it easy to brake no matter the hand position, and caused shifting to be precise and easily achieved every time.

Adjustable stem allows a lot of fine-tuning for one,
or multiple, riding styles. 

5. Gearing. This is important on any bike, but I have been fiddling with the setup for a while, and am pretty happy with it. The old alivio 22-32-42 crankset with a 12-32t SRAM casette, although only 7 speeds, has offered a reliable and generally trouble-free setup. With a low gear of 18in, and a top of 94in, I am able to power through mud and fly down roadways.

The drivetrain

6. New Fenders! Enough is enough – a set of 29er Cascadia Fenders from Planet Bike (the full wheel-covering design) have finally been added. The cheapest full 29er funders I’ve seen, and lets hope, most effective I will own. Even though a recent addition, I can easily say they will be staying. They have cut down on the mud splatter and prevented the ‘skunk stripe’ many MTBers are familiar with. The design is great:

They come with REALLY nice/useful rubber mudflaps.
Derailleur clearance is a *bit* tight,
to make room for the large tires.
A small gap had to be cut into the front fender to fit in
the relatively-tight front fork.

The Bad:

A few things have made this otherwise near-perfect bike frame less than spectacular.

1. Rear-triangle Alignment. First of all, this is the issue which I thought I had resolved, but has actually been continuing. With vengeance. It appeared as though the spacing was off, which was tilting the rear wheel to one brake stud. Not so – measuring shows that one chain stay was incorrectly welded slightly off, and that  the right rear canti stud (viewed from back) was welded too far up (!). Not unusably so – but just noticeably. The only way I was able to fix the brake issue was to reduce wheel/tire clearance, and move the rear hub farther forward in the dropout, to gain rim space. To correct for the crooked wheel, I had to re-align the rear of the bike, along with the dropouts. The frame was usable before, it just sucks that Quality Control from Origin 8 did not catch this.

As the red lines show, because of the frame being off-kilter,
so are the angles of the brakes at rest. Performance isn’t harmed,
though a bit of brake clearance is lost. 

2. Track-Ends do not a great friend make. They are easy to set up on single-speed bikes, and I recognize that this frame was designed to allow derailluer, fixed or SS set ups, but track ends make removing/re-installing the wheel messier. I don’t want to have to pick up the chain to wrap around the cogs with my bare hands. This wheel-changing inconvenience can be avoided if a front-facing dropout were used.

I added a second adjustment screw to the rear dropouts.
Now the wheel stays straight all the time.

3. Rear rack and fender mounts aren’t in the best place with this frame. Putting them up so high on the chainstay certainly removes any possible interference with disk brakes, but makes the centre of gravity quite high. And it also means that there is less room on top to pile on gear before it hits your saddle. Traditional-style fenders also don’t bolt on there (don’t even try) – you MUST mount them using washers and bolts onto the holes in the dropout.

The fender is mounted with rubber grommets
sandwiched between washers high in the dropout.

4. Saddle Position for my Brooks hasn’t been ideal. There really isn’t anything wrong with the B17 saddle that I own ( its downright comfortable, in fact)- it is simply that the old design used for the metal rails doesn’t allow much forward/aft adjustment. Right now, with my 20mm setback seat-post, it always seems as if I am too close to the handlebars. This is especially annoying on long road rides.

5. Derailleurs. —-> FIXED (see below)! As always, finicky at the best of times. The front derailleur, because it is a mountain style mated to road-style levers, doesn’t move 100% of the proper length needed for shifting. Downshifting to the granny is mainly the problem. The rear, OTOH, has generally been worry-free.

6. Brakes are a must have for any bike, but the power of this bike’s Tektro CR720 cantis has been less than inspiring. Partly resolved due to repairing frame alignment, the rear brakes continue to be particularly weak. They only grab in dry weather, and locking a wheel in the wet required me to whale on the brake levers. The front brakes stop effectively enough, but lack the ‘ooph’ to lock up the wheel in anything but loose gravel. Needless to say, stopping from the brake hoods requires a lot of force to do. See the picture in #1 for the minor brake crookedness. 


The Future! – What’s in Store:

1. Derailleur Tweaking. Not really an upgrade, but maybe some derailleur mods are in order? The front derailleur will most likely be bent to better facilitate shifting, and the rear one may eventually be replace by a shiny new Deore unit    —–> DONE! I swapped on a new Alivio RD-M430 9-speed unit to replace its ageing 7-speed counterpart. Shimano has really upped the quality for Alivio, since adding a few extra lower tiers. I’d say that today’s Alivio components are equivalent in quality to Deore of 5 years ago (and, of course, now Deore has moved up accordingly). I’m really happy with it – smoooth shifts, and quickly too, with much better chainwrap capacity (it has a longer arm).

New Alivio RD-M430 R. Derailleur

2. New Seatpost to solve the setback issue of the saddle. The VO Grand Cru or Nitto with similarly large setback are likely to replace the MEC/Kalloy affair currently affixed to the bike.

Holy Setback, Batman: VO’s Grand Cru Seatpost

3. New Rims – mine are getting old. They haven’t failed me yet, but the scratches in the concave rim are warning me that retirement is in short order. A new set of 700c Sun CR-18s will replace my aging Araya PX-35s, and because they have similar rim dimensions (equivalent E.R.D., for those who must know), they can be swapped onto the same hub and spokes in short order.

4. New Tires, because who doesn’t love riding around on Fat Franks? These tires are made specifically for those who want the plush, cushy ride of wide tires, but with the rolling resistance of street tires. Despite this, the tread pattern is apparently well-suited to light MTB trails. Me Gusta.

Final Verdict – Yay or Nay?:


It’s kinda hard to to make this kind of decision, especially considering my bias. However, even taking this into account I will still say….

yay!
I recommend this bike frame because of its excellent overall value, weight and versatility (and I love the paint job too). Not many frames out that with that kinda bang-for-your buck, and especially in one that is so all-rounded. Despite me receiving a defective model, I cannot let this be my sole judging point – after all, I’m certain only a small minority are improperly made. If you do buy this frame, as with any other, check it for defects with a plumb line before assembling it, so that you don’t get stuck in a point like I was where I couldn’t return it. This bike *is* the one I am bringing to Italy for a two week cycle tour, so I do trust that it is well-enough assembled by me and those at the O8 factory to carry 220-230lbs of weight all told, and love the overall build quality; the one-off imperfect rear alignment is the only major sticking point. 

Italian Trip in the Planning

From early June this year, for two weeks, I’ll be in Europe. Mostly Tuscany, to be more specific – since my dad and I are planning to do little father-son bike trip in Italy this summer. Italy isn’t quite the most cycling friendly nation out there, I will admit (the Netherlands, Germany or France would be much better choices), but the Mediterranean climate, Roman ruins and picturesque scenes wherever one goes have swayed us.  That, and I kinda want to say “Hi!” to the pope.

Pisa’s Leaning Tower. I bet you a nickel this is
the image that appeared in your brain when you read “Italy.”
As a veteran map-reader (from my boy-scouting days), I have been assigned the somewhat-daunting task of planning the cycling route, and all of our destinations. With a guidebook or two, and tips from friends, I’ve got the basic event agenda structured. But, what is really difficult however is the route forming; Italian roads are notoriously narrow (no shoulders!) and the drivers frequenting them are just as notorious for their high speeds and impatience. 
Google Maps is a wonderful tool for this, and I have been using its full potential to see possible routes, right down to the elevation, and (thanks to street view) whether or not there are provisions for cyclists. Street view certainly also helps when trying to determine the road’s traffic volume. 
Check out the Route:
View Cycling Italy in a larger map
Itinerary (So Far):
Day 1: Arrive by plane in Florence. Tour the city for the day, then sleep off the jet-lag.
Day 2: Cycle from Florence to the historic San Gimigiano. 
3: San Gimigiano to Pisa
Days 4-10: Pisa, south along the Italian west cost, arriving in Rome. (The route has been mapped, but not the stops)
Day 11: Rome!!
Days 12-14ish: Train south to Naples, visiting Pompeii and the Amaplhi coast. 
If you have any suggestions/tips, feel free to leave some below in comments. 

Rotation, Rotation, Rotation!

Don’t the size of the tires, on some degree, define what bicycle you have and who you are? Bikes such as monstercrossers aren’t that different than a regular cyclocross bike – just with wider rubber. And what about the veritable 29er? Not so different than a hard-tail 26in-wheel mountain bike in everything except wheel size! As it stands right now, there are four well-known sizes for bicycle wheels: 26in, 700c, 29in, and 650b.  Yes, 700c and 29in wheels and tires are technically the same, but for the purposes of everyday cyclists (and morover, the cycling industry), 29in is a buzzword for width.

26in is by far the most common – the VW Beetle of bike wheels if you will. Ubiquitous all around the world (especially the 3rd world, as the Beetle used to be!), and often easy to find cheap replacements, it is loved for its smaller size as this increases its durability. If you ride this size, you are a no-nonsense, function-over-form kinda cyclist. 

36er?!? Now you’re just showboating!

700c is for those who love the open road, and speed – the sports cars of bike wheels. The large diameter wheel and thinner profile tires make them roll over road bumps more easily, and have low rolling resistance. Often a little harder to find and slightly more expensive, the can be slightly more delicate as their larger diameter makes them less forgiving to rough treatment. If you roll on 700c, you are concerned about speed, and love the cruising on the roadways.

29in tires and wheels can be likened to SUVs in the car world – requiring a lot of energy to roll fast, but  fun when off road or in the gritty stuff. Also like SUVs, they can have a bit of a “status factor”. They can be a little more delicate the their 26in cousins, but that special ability to roll over all obstacles often makes them desirable for the offroading crowd. If you have a 29er, you like to be proud of what you ride, but you are willing to have fun along the way.

And of course, how can we forget 650b? They are the Austin Mini of the cycling industry, in that they once were very popular, but fell out of favour and production was stopped. With a ‘rebirth’ into the nostalgic minds it was launched, so just as new Mini Cooper, the 650b tire is making a come-back in popularity. An odd size in-between 26in and 700c, but with a 29er’s thickness, it is the French tire size from a bygone era. If your bike is equipped with 650b wheels, you may just be a “Retro-Grouch, loving the “tried and true” of yesteryear. That or, you are a hipster trying to keep up with the latest, if not most functional, cycling trend.


Of course, these are stereotypes – but I think from the websites of Velo Orange and TwentyNineInches and the endless personal and forum experiences we’ve all had, we can say they are often true!