...this is the kind of stuff I'd post on it.

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Quick trip to Cougar Mountain, and some equipment tweaks

Last weekend, I was invited to ride a 200K permanent down near Olympia with a few other randos.  Unfortunately, I had some stuff do to that day, and couldn't really afford to be gone all day riding.  The day ended up being unseasonably warm and nice, and I didn't let the entire day get away from me without sneaking in a ride.

I rode out over I-90 for a trip up the side of Cougar Mountain, doing the infamous "Zoo Climb" that so many Seattle-area cyclists know/fear.  It's actually a pretty brutal climb, considering how short it is.  I don't have a GPS or anything, but the internet estimate is that it's around 1400 feet of elevation gain in a little over 2 miles.

The ride out to Cougar Mountain is a pretty nice trip, consisting mostly of bike trails, and wide-shouldered roads.  You also get the chance to ride up and over I-90 on the weird "tube" pedestrian overpass:

Once you hit the hill, it's 2 miles of heads-down, heart-pounding, climbing:

Once you reach SE Cougar Mountain Drive, you continue on up to the park that occupies the top of the "mountain", where you can find hiking trails and the like.  If you're the curious type, I mapped out the route here. I took a little break near the top, taking the opportunity to take a few vanity shots of the velo:

I've made a few changes to the Mercian since I last posted anything about it.  Namely:
  • Swapped the -17 degree stem for a -6, and lowered the stem on the steerer.  Once I get the front end totally dialed in, I'll cut the steerer to length.
  • Swapped the 53-39 crankset for a compact 50-34.  I'm no He-Man, and I have no idea why I thought I could get by on the type of riding I plan on doing with a 53-39 double. Actually, now I remember: I got a screaming deal on the crankset, and I thought I'd make it work.  Pretty silly, in retrospect.  Thanks to the power of Ebay, I scored a Veloce compact double and made the switch.  My legs immediately thanked me, and I'm now much happier with the overall gear range I've got.
  • Got rid of the kludgy (not to mention uuuuugggly) front derailleur adapter I'd been using to mount my braze-on on front derailleur.  I threw on an Ultegra front derailleur that I took off of my 1x8 cyclocross bike, and I'm much happier with it.  BTW, what's up with the lack of decent-looking 28.6 diameter derailleur clamps?  Is "standard diameter" tubing so far behind the times that no one wants to make compatible parts for it?
  • Put on a pair of the Grand Bois 28mm Cerf tires that I'd been wanting to try out.  All I can say it "wow".  These tires deserve much more praise than I can give them here.  They're muuuuch smoother and "cushier" than their 28mm width suggests, most likely due to their supple and flexible sidewalls.  They also have a noticeable amount of "adhesion" to the road.  You can actually feel the difference in rubber compound as compared to some other, more popular tires that I've been running lately.  Coupled with the proper tire pressure, these babies are sure to make my long rides that much more comfortable.  I'm going to stick with my hard, bulletproof, non-folding bead tires for commuting duties, but these tires get my vote for everything else.
Now that the bike's getting more and more dialed, and the days are getting a little longer, I'm looking forward to my next long ride:  



  1. I've been riding the Cerfs for about a year now and I can't get over how cushy and fast they are for 28mm tires. I'm normally a 32-35mm (minimum) kind of guy -- but one of my bikes just tops out at 28mm with fenders. can you imagine what a 33-ish mm Cerf would be like? Yow!

  2. Is that going to be an official SIR ride on that Hood Canal loop or are you just setting out for a long day on your own? I've been eyeing that route for a little bit and I'm hoping to do it sometime this spring.

  3. Just a thought:
    If you anticipate riding a longer 'longish' ride (400K or more) in the future that might have you riding through the night or on multiple days, consider postponing cutting that steerer tube. I have found that a slightly more upright position produces as much improvement in comfort as going from 23mm Michelins to 32mm Gran Bois!

    As you know the 'fix' for a too short steerer tube is either expensive, or ugly and well, with that beauty .... I'm just sayin'.

    Yr Pal, Dr C

  4. John - Not sure what the difference is between the GB Cerf(comes in 26,28mm) and the GB Cypress (comes in 30,32mm). If this ride could fit the 32s, I'd be all over them.

    Josh - I'm doing the Hood Canal loop as part of an SIR permanent, but depending on which day I do it, it might just end up being a long day on my own. Hopefully I'll have a blog post about it once I ride it.

    Dr. C - Thanks for the advice. I agree that too short a steerer would be a bad thing indeed. I used Alex Wetmore's handy online stem calculator to make sure that my new bar position was no lower overall than my original, even with the steam angle swap from -17 to -6. If I do want to go higher in the future, I can flip it and go from -6 to +6, which gives about 18mm more height. But still, I'm not ready to cut it just yet.