Tuesday, February 5, 2008

HAWAII-2008-Double Metric & Around Oahu

Started off like a good idea that just mushroomed and took on a sense of urgency while everything got delayed. Didn't have a real vacation last year while wife went to Mexico, oldest daughter to Europe (a few times) and youngest to Hawaii. Wanted to have a bike ready to go off and travel--Western Canada?, Flanders?, Maui?, back to Italy? but availability of a bike renting is always spotty, and don't want to lug around a huge bike box--which gets $$surcharged by the airlines$$ and is difficult to get to and from the airport. The Bike Friday mini wheeled bikes look goofy, but are seemingly easy to use--and while our woman long distance champ and boyfriend like their Bike Friday's, the did say at the club xmas party that they are squirley, especially on the descent. Great. Ritchey was another option but their bike now fits in a 64" suitcase, 2" over what you get surcharged with, and though suitcase is free it is soft sided.

Another idiosyncratic option, S&S Couplings that split the frame in half and then fit in a regular (albeit the LARGEST regular) suitcase. Couplings invented by a machine shop in Sacramento, and one of the few handfuls of builders who uses it, Rex Cycling, is also in Sacramento; Rex was one of the first builders to use them and he is on of the few that will retrofit an existing steel bike with S&S Couplings. .

Getting a custom steel bike (S&S Couplings mostly for steel bikes) with S&S Couplings is $$expensive$$, and while Rex Bikes look great--I didn't want to spend $$$ on a travel bike. Shit--for 1/2 a day I had a delusion that I should get a Colnago Master Light and retrofit it with S&S Couplings. No, if I get either bike I don't want it chopped up. Actually the best option would have been to retrofit my GT but the seat stays that join the top tube IN FRONT of the seat tube prevent it from being retrofitted--the S&S coupling on the seat tube goes right where the seat stays come in.

Meanwhile CA Mike, who finished building Kaiser Modesto last year and then ran out of projects suddenly had an opportunity to work in Hawaii--and started wondering if I'd come over and we could climb the largest mountain on Maui.

Started thinking about where I could get a moderately priced bike to retrofit. Most companies have gone to Carbon and Aluminum--I was really surprised when Bianchi no longer made a steel bike Other companies made steel bikes but had pipe tubing frames and lousy components that weighted 25 lbs.

Good steel bikes are now the province of small framebuilders, but getting one from them entailed a wait, and costly components rapidly escalating the cost of a frame. Wheres the big companies buy components en masse and basically give them away on their frame. And as stated before--chopping a great bike in half to stuff in a suitcase isn't what I would want to do with a great bike.

As luck would have it a Sports Basement store (mostly camping, biking, running, swimming) opened next to where we start our club rides from--and I love Sports Basement. Previously, going to it with its collection of camping, cycling and running gear entailed a special trip to San Francisco. Doubly lucky as the guy who built my American Classic wheels (great rear wheel), Ryan, turned up as the manager of their bike shop. Meanwhile they were blowing out last year's Jamis' which make a mid level bike with decent components, at a $$$ near an entry level bike, and I really like my Jamis fixed gear and how it fit (sizing similar.).

Only trouble--NO closeout bikes in my size--the hunt went on for a month as manager searched in the system. No luck. So we had to jump on a 2008 model, which differed with a compact frameset (more room for sizing error) and blue instead of red. Both changes I like. But the bike was slow to arrive.

Meanwhile Super Bowl weekend, which was first brought up as the time to go to Hawaii, quickly passed. I kept putting trip back later and later--and once bike came in it would take 1/2 a week to strip, 3 weeks to get retrofitted by Rex Cycling, 1/2 a week to be put back together, and 1 week for me to feel comfortable taking apart the bike and packing it and then putting it back together. As it turned out I only had one week where I stayed up to 2am each night figuring out what to do--wish I had 3 weeks, but...

Rex Cycling in downtown Sacramento in the building that time forgot (no doubt the train right behind it saved it from modern redevelopment)

at Sports Basement after frame was retrofitted with S&S Couplings--check out the nifty paint job around the couplings (couplings came out great--I went low budget)

it takes time but it all goes in a suitcase-honest

As it turned out, when finally found a good week to go to Hawaii with new S&S Coupling bike, my friend California Mike had to go on a business trip in India for half the time. He graciously let me use his oceanside condo and touted a really great cycling club-race team, Tradewind Cyling Club, to ride with on the weekend, and usually start nearby in Waikiki. Of course day before I left Tradewind indicates that they are going on one of their longest rides of the year, a 95 miler up and back on the east coast (windward side) of Oahu. BUT, they are not starting in Honolulu but at a college 15-20 miles away which is OVER the hills surrounding the North of Honolulu. And the ride starts at 7:00 AM.

I really want to do this ride but how the F am I going to find the start the morning after I come in. As I'd find out not many usable road options in Hawaii. I could either go around Diamondhead and hug the Coast--but that would be a 30-35 mile ride to the start. Or I could climb over the Northern Honolulu Hills on the Pali Highway which has a bypass detour and necessitates riding through some tunnels. Additionally I could count on getting lost, with me being phonetically challenged (and lazy) and most of the streets and roads are long K--- words, Kalakaua to Kapahula to Kalanianaole to Kahekili. Good times. Yeah--leaving at 5:30 in the dark in a strange place--didn't think I had a chance but had to try as sounded like a good ride and I'd be missing our clubs 120 miler on mines Road--which traditionally starts the new cycling season..

So Friday night was 2 hours of setting up the bike, studying some maps, and then 4 hours of sleep.
(March 2008) Oahu Double Metric

Going through Honolulu at 5:30 was surreal--riding soon to be busy streets that were now deserted. In the dark I really had no idea where I was. Some streets were one way so I had to circle around to the Pali Highway, which took me through hotpants (hooker) row." Finally on the Pali, which climbs right away but has a nice shoulder,. Unfortunately my shifting was off and my chain kept slipping gears---not the greatest for a nighttime climb. At one point I got off the relatively well lit Pali Highway and took the bypass--which was perfectly DARK as I creeped uphill through houses while hearing strange animal noises. This was spooky--luckily I had a 1 watt helmet light. Finally back on the Pali and at the top--and I wasn't going downhill in the dark-so hung out at the lookout.

Jamis S&S bike ready for Oahu overlooking the Ala Moana marina.

To the deserted Pali Lookout right before dawn--I hung around as wasn't going downhill until the sun came out

Oh yeah--at 6:30 AM the Hawaii weather is so comfortable that I didn't feel a bit cold in just a jersey and vest--no arm warmers needed. That's 6:30 AM.

Sun peaks out and fast downhill through some tunnels that would prevent me from coming back this way (uphill through a road tunnel with no shoulder not a great idea)

Met up with Tradewind Cycling Team and glad I rode with them as we went down the Oahu East Coast before doing a nice inland Pineapple Hill loop. Some riders didn't plan to do the whole loop, so they could go swimming instead, and after 115 miles I was pleasantly surprised that the group leader hung around for me so he could drive me back to Honolulu--thus my avoiding a 30+ mile trip along the ocean. Group leader could have been DC's Jack long lost brother--only 3 scheduled stops and for less than 10 minutes each time.

Learned alot quickly about Oahu cycling. Not too many road alternatives to cycle on and the roads are heavy with traffic. (one of the reasons for Tradewinds 7:00 start) Roads have shoulders that quickly disappear when one of the plentiful bridges over canals appear. Extra hazard when passing many of the small beaches--with bikini clad surfers flipping their boards out of their vehicles and/or doing u-turns on the road where they are parked. Plenty of glass on the shoulders. Was told that over the years road biking had lost its popularity and is a poor cousin to swimming and running--jeeze, it seems like everyone runs on Oahu. On the other hand weather, while it got warm which I wasn't used to (first time with no tee shirt-knee warmers all year), always stayed very comfortable, passed loads of scenic spots, and traffic lessened on Pineapple Hill away from the water. Only thing that marred the ride was my gear kept slipping (jolt through the legs) when on a climb--but luckily not many climbs.l
I'm at Tradewind turn around on Wayward Coast.

Next day did a 55 miler with Tradewinds Cycling Team past Diamonhead and onto the circular coast route I would have needed to take the day before if I didn't get a lift back. Club knew where all the traffic hot spots/ disappearing shoulders were--so took many detours/ back roads that I tried to remember. Lowlight was when I was b.s'ing with a rider who used to live in Walnut Creek and a chicken came flying out of the brush-slammed into his handlebars, then ricochets into my leg and then into my wheel. No accident but guys in the back kept telling me I need to look at my wheel, which I didn't want to do--afraid to see the blood and guts. Finally looked--there was just a huge clump of feathers in my axle. Coffee with Club afterwards-feels weird I wouldn't ride with them again.

When weekend was over I did a couple of solo rides. I kept hearing about this hard a Tantalus Climb in a rain forest overlooking Honolulu--and that 30 minutes was a good benchmark for climbing the 4.5 miles. First time I went around a took loads of photos; while we have many much steeper grades we regularly ride on in NorCal, my gears are still slipping despite many barrel adjustments by the shifters. I figured if I did the loop again I'd try to time trial, and despite a heavy bike (+5 lbs than my Litespeed), with excess crap needed for when I tour, and with slipping gears, I was happily surprised when I finished in 24:55.
View of Honolulu from Tantalus rainforest

Then I made sure my average speed would be about 8mph as I cycled up to the Punchbowl Military Cemetery and walked the bike around the crater while thinking about my dad. After that it was cycling down to the unique Hawaii State Capitol building and Iolani Palace where the kings and queens of Hawaii lived until the United States helped get rid of them on behalf of "economic" (rich) interests.

Next day I went back along the oceanfront along the eastern coast trying to remember the Tradewinds route/ detours--wanting to do at least a metric century. I wound up in nondescript Kailua which had a nice health shake shop and small public beach I relaxed under a palm tree on. But WOW--they had a Long's Drugs that almost had normal prices--items in Waikiki were 2-3x what I usually expected..

Me climbing up to Makapuu Overlook Cruddy photo taken with Mike's I phone

Came back from metric and pleasantly surprised as Mike back a little early from his trip to the land of dirt--India. So next day we went did half of the metric Coast route to Makapuu Point so he could get a warmed up ride for our Haleakala adventure.

Mike at Makapuu Point. Mini photos from around Honolulu and Ohau.

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