Been mulling getting more seriously (back) into cycling and decided that a road bike (as opposed to my ATB/Utility/Hybrid/Commuter) would be a good idea.  I haven’t had a decent road bike in quite a few years, but all my recent riding has rekindled my interest.

After consulting with a few friends who were like minded souls but also more serious riders, they suggested something like a Specialized Allez or a mid range Trek.  Something comfortable, not too expensive but still a nice bike for some more serious riding.  They strongly suggested a carbon front fork at a minimum.

After looking at a bunch of models and reading lots of reviews, I started to be drawn toward the Specialized Roubaix.  Unfortunately, it was a bit out of my price range– especially the all carbon version.

I tried a few bikes and had a local specialized dealer fit me for a bike.  I tried a couple and a 54cm felt comfortable.  I was actually expecting something more like a 56, so I was a little surprised.

After I got home, I did some eBay surfing and lo and behold– a Specialized Roubaix Comp double (all carbon) in my size was at auction which was closing in about 24 hours.  The bidding was still very low, so i thought, well, the auction ends Sunday morning, so I’ll check in on it then and decide whether to bid on it then.

A number of friends have purchased nice bikes off of eBay and had nothing but good experiences, so I wasn’t particularly concerned about the transaction.  Long story short, I was able to sneak in at the end of the auction and get the bike for what was if not a a steal, at least a very good bargain.  All carbon goodness, and Shimano 105/Ultegra components.

I paid right away and the wonderful seller had the tracking number to me that night.  By Thursday, it had arrived.

Not a picture of the actual bike, but other than the bar tape, its identical.  What a ride.  I’ve got to get pedals and probably a new seat, but I’m looking forward to giving it a shakedown this weekend.


Ride: Putah Creek Bikeway to Farmer’s Market.  Able to convince M&M with little B to join us and have dinner at the market.

Mileage:  About 8-9 miles.

Time: Didn’t time it.

Weather: Mild temps (88 F ish) and not too much wind.

Comments: Lazy pace.

Ride: Davis Loop.  Decided to double the Davis Loop.  One lap with the Mrs., one solo.  Felt very good.

Mileage:  About 25 miles.

Time: Didn’t time the first.  Second was about 50 minutes or about 14.5 mph avg.

Weather: Mild temps (88 F ish) and not too much wind.

Comments: Felt very good.  Lazy first loop, reversed the second and pushed a bit but not hard.  Felt faster than it was.

Weather was hot 100+ and wasn’t feeling 100% so I passed on the commute today.

Ride: 1/2 ish Davis loop to the arboretum.

Mileage:  About 8 miles.

Time: Didn’t time it.

Weather: Mild temps (90F ish) and not too much wind.

Comments: Dragged M and little B with Mrs. along.  Lazy pace, fed the ducks.

Ride: Davis Loop.

Mileage:  About 12+ miles.

Time: Slightly more than an hour.

Weather: Warm temps (95 F ish) and not too much wind.

Comments: Felt good.  Easy pace with the Mrs.  A bit warm.

Ride: Work Commute.

Mileage: About 13 miles each way (26 miles total).

Time: About 50 minutes each way (15.5 mph avg).

Weather: Pretty warm (95+ F on the return); intermittent SW headwind on return.

Comments: First Ride with the new Topeak MTX TrunkBag DXP.  Much more stable than the townie shopping folding panniers I share with the Mrs. and much easier to get on and off for the work/shower routine.  Very stable.

I was able to get pants, shoes, undies, belts, shirt and toiletries in the main compartment without having to deploy the side bags.

I came to the conclusion after my last round of bread baking that our ancient oven just wasn’t doing the trick.  With so many variables in baking good bread, its hard enough without having to constantly wrestle with what should be the most dependable element of the process.

While an upgrade is in the future, its not immediately on the horizon.  So, I let my bread making lapse while I considered alternatives.

Then a friend passed me the Cook’s Illustrated Almost No Knead bread recipe.  This recipe is a superior variation on the NY Times No Knead recipe.  There is a good discussion and video on Breadtopia.

Among the great improvements in this technique is the use of the dutch oven as a cooking vessel.  In combination with increasing the hydration of the dough, it solves both the temperature and humidity control problems I’ve had with other attempts.

The increased hydration with the long autolysis takes the place of much of the kneading required in other recipes.  With the other minor tweaks in the CI recipe, the results have been dramatic.

I’m on loaf #3 and #4 of the method (one rising and one cooking) and so far I’m batting 1000.  Throw in a few more kneads at the end of the first process and the product is consistently excellent.  Not home baked bread decent but can’t tell its not an artisan loaf excellent.

The other great aspect of this recipe and its variants is how it can very easily fit into a busy schedule.  While the CI recipe suggests that you could end the first rise in as little as eight hours, the dough greatly benefits from a more extended period.

This works out wonderfully.  I can get a batch made in about 15 minutes.  Wait for about 24 hours and do the brief knead and 2 hour second rise.  That’s a schedule that is easy to manage.  I can make a batch after work and bake it the next evening without any hassle.

The first few attempts were so successful, I’m expanding the technique to try whole wheat sandwich bread and a recipe based on my sourdough starter that’s been languishing in the back of the fridge.

I can’t over emphasize how excellent and consistent and forgiving this method is.

More results in just a short while!


The latest results are in.  First my results with the whole wheat sandwich loaf.  Pretty much by the book and here is what it looked like coming out and then sliced.

The whole wheat looks, feels and smells like the real deal.  Unlike regular bread, the crust is chewy (as is the crumb) but it has a very satisfying texture.  I sliced to sandwich width with an electric knife to try to maintain as much consistency between slices as possible.  I’m not 200% sure about using Molasses as the sweetener.  I may try honey next time to brighten it up a bit.  Basically this is a great base upon which to build a more complex sandwich loaf.  I can see adding seeds, wheat berries etc. to enhance it with great effect.

And here is the sourdough.  Basically, I used the stock almost no knead recipe and substituted a 1/4 cup of my starter (dissolved in the water portion) instead of the yeast.  I retained the beer and the tbl of vinegar to see how it came out.  To my taste, it could have been more sour (and I can stand it really sour) and I think the crust, though blistered and reasonably complex, could probably have benefited from some retardation in the fridge for another day to develop it.  Still, far and away the best pure sourdough loaf I’ve made to date.

As you can see with both recipes, unlike the NY Times recipe, this doesn’t have the pure “rustic” texture which I think must be the result of slightly less hydration and the additional kneading.  Note the slightly more uniform appearance of the crumb in this loaf.  That could be in part because the starter which I only recently revived was not the most vigorous, or as a result of the few extra kneads I gave the loaf after the first rise.  Still the crust is both crunchy and chewy and the crumb is shiny and stretchy.  Far better results than I’ve obtained before.

Ride: Work Commute.  Davis to Downtown Sacto.

Mileage:  About 13 miles each way, 26 miles round trip.

Time: About 55 minutes each way.  14 mph avg.

Weather: Warm temps (95 F ish) and not too much wind.

Comments: Felt good.  Pretty hot on the return, hydrated before and during the return ride.  Rather than the townie panniers, went with a bag bungied to the rack.  Easier to deal with than multiple open panniers but a bit constrained for space.  Nice to have one centered payload on the back rack.

Ride: Work Commute. Davis to Downtown Sacto.

Mileage: About 13 miles each way (26 miles total).

Time: About 60 minutes each way (13 mph avg).

Weather: Pretty warm (90-95 F on the return); intermittent SW headwind on return.

Comments: First Ride doing the commute.  Ride seems to break itself up into nice 20 minute intervals– town to causeway, causeway, West Sac/Downtown.  Makes it more bearable.  Will use iPod next trip.

Used townie panniers because I had brought my laptop home the night before (oops).  Extra weight.  Forgot to refill water bottle on the return so I ran a bit light on H20.  No big whoop, but a rookie move.

Multiple panniers with bag and laptop was a bit too much to handle.  Need to simplify.  Otherwise felt pretty good for the first trip.

June 2018
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