Moulton TSR-30 Update

I’ve been back on the bike again now for almost a month, following a couple week medical ‘leave of absence’ of sorts, and have been riding the Moulton almost exclusively.  New toys always seem to get all the love.

Any minor teething issues that one inevitably has with a new machine  have been worked out, and that has allowed me to just focus on how it rides / performs, so at this point, I now feel like I have a more balanced / nuanced opinion to share.  And I’ll take the opportunity to point out a few mods and accessories I’ve added, too.

I have to eliminate one thought from your mind, just in case it’s there, before you read onward.  A Moulton is NOT a folding bike.  Not so much because it simply doesn’t fold, but because it doesn’t have even remotely the same design goals as a folder, and doesn’t really meet the same needs as a folder, either.  This is a real bike, for real rides, and seeks to be an ideal machine for the task of riding as much as possible.  It may happen to have small wheels, but that’s not so it will pack up small and be as transportable as possible.  The small wheels of the Moulton do offer some of the same benefits as they do on true folding bikes, but I think of that as mostly coincidental, if you will.  None of this is to say that folding bikes aren’t ‘real’ and that you can’t do significant rides with them, it’s just that they present some compromises in that field which are acceptable because you subsequently need to pack one away into a duffel bag or hallway closet in about 20 seconds.

Ok…..with that said, let’s interrupt the flow of the text even more, and skip to the last chapter (….then I’ll elaborate a bit on some of these points further……).


  • Lively ride and acceleration
  • Superb handling at all speeds
  • Quality construction and finish
  • Effective suspension on medium and large road imperfections
  • Quite versatile
  • No discernible BB flex under hard pedaling
  • Easy to separate, store, and transport (certainly not like having a folder; but still better than a conventional bike)
  • Small wheels allow for slightly closer drafting and following


  • A few odd parts specs (1″ fork steerer, 31.8 mm seatpost, minimum BCD of 110mm, and proprietary BB+crank system that apparently nobody imports into the USA)
  • Highest gear is too low
  • Hard to fit water bottle cages
  • Suspenson has no adjustability in the rear and is only minimally effective on chipseal
  • Kinda heavy-ish (26lbs stock and unadorned, but with A-520 pedals)
  • Kinda expensive (about $3,200 USD)
  • Gateway Moulton drugs such as the TSR series only lead to the harder stuff later on, like the roughly £16,250.00 or $25,000 USD it costs for the for the top of the line stainless steel Double Pylon New Series model

Notable Neutrals:

  • AFAICT, not significantly faster (or slower, for that matter) than a conventional 700c road bike.  But I need to do some more back to back rides with the Moulton and the  Spectrum, as well as do some CdA and Crr testing, before we have a true verdict.  I should note that my position on each bike is very very close (within 5mm on all fit dimenions except bar width).
  • Quirky, attention-grabbing aesthetics
  • High bottom bracket (about 11.25″) for no apparent reason
  • Built by Pashley (for Moulton) in Stratford Upon Avon

Ride Quality , Handling, and Suspension:  Okay, this is it.  This is the main reason to buy a Moulton, at least in my mind.  There is a lot going on here, and there are some interesting synergies at work.  I’ll do my best to explain….

The Moulton TSR combines several unique elements – small wheels, suspension, and space frame construction (along with smart steering geometry) – that each add their own part to the overall ride experience, but a few of them work in combination to deliver a unique riding experience.

Firstly, the rims are ISO 406 (not your typical road bike 622).  So, depending on the exact tire chosen, the wheel diameter is somewhere between 18.25 and 18.75 inches.  These small wheels improve acceleration and decrease gyroscopic forces making the bike very easy to steer and lay it over for fast corners.  In addition, the typical Moulton experience ‘recipe’ calls for pumping up those tires pretty damn hard.  All of this makes for a very light and lively ride, and one that is never ponderous, heavy, or sloppy feeling.

However, those small wheels are going to dive further into potholes and manhole lids and have a harder time ‘climbing’ up pavement seams and patches, and the ride will be even worse if you are running narrow-ish, high pressure tires.  So the logical response was to  add in some suspension.

The suspension system on the Moulton TSR is not very complicated.  (The suspensions are a little more involved on some of more expensive models, but that’s another review.)  Actually, in certain respects, its primitive.  For instance, the rear suspension is completely non-adjustable and consists of a single pivot swing arm.  Modern mountain bikes, by comparison have hydraulic damped shocks and complicated geometries, and all sorts of other things I don’t know much about.  But, I do know enough to point out that mountain bikes have very different design goals than a Moulton.  The latter were designed as road going machines and their suspensions are geared around those short-travel requirements, while keeping weight, maintenance requirements, and general kludgery / ugliness to a modest level.  And with that in mind, the suspension design doesn’t seem so much ‘primitive’ as it does ‘appropriate’.

So, how did Dr. Alex Moulton do?  How’s the ride quality?  Excellent, actually.  I’d say that the front suspension makes up for the small wheel size in spades when it comes to bumps.  Comfort up front is actually a lot better than it would be with a large wheel and the same tire width and inflation pressure.  (Keep in mind that my main point of comparison is my Spectrum, with lightweight skinny steel tubes and shod with 28mm tires – equal width as on the Moulton.)  At the rear of the bike, the suspension makes up for the small wheel size there too, but with only a modest amount of extra softness to spare.  There is no doubt that the rear suspension is firmer than the front can be.  Can be?  I say that because you can adjust the pre-load of the front suspension, making it feel firmer or softer, and the damping is also adjustable, as your weight, road conditions, and preferences will dictate.  If the pre-load adjustment isn’t sufficient there is both a softer and firmer (aka ‘race’) spring available.  By contrast, the rear suspension lacks any adjustment whatsoever, and the Moulton literature says it’s “correct for all riders”.  (Huh.  Why did they do that / say that?  I have a half-baked theory that I will get to in a moment…..)

Critics of bike suspensions often like to point out that they are generally only effective on large imperfections,  and things like cracked pavement and chipseal get through.  Yes, to be sure, the suspension does not shine on those things, but it does seem to dampen it a bit.  It’s notable that the small wheel diameter is not really a liability in this case, but high pressure tires sure are.  While Moultoneers typically have used very high pressure tires, the TSR does have clearance for 33 mm tires without fenders (and V-brake models like the TSR-27 have room for even bigger, approaching 40mm I beleive), and that is wide enough to allow the use of an air pressure that helps soak up chipseal and the like.  You really can have your Perpetuem and slurp it too – suspension for larger bumps, and fatter tires / moderate air pressure for the small stuff.

Is life really that perfect?  No.  In case you were wondering, there are some down sides to the suspension, and that bad action is all up front.   The front suspension doesn’t only move in response to bumps, but to any forward weight shift.   Bobbing and brake dive are the often mentioned ones.  Brake dive happens, but I can honestly say that I have not found it problematic.  I haven’t done any true panic stops yet, so perhaps my opinion will change at some point, but in an effort to brake as hard as I dared in a controlled situation (the road in front of my house), I barely noticed the diving.  So far, I’d say it’s a non-issue.  Bobbing is a little different.  It’s not so great.  As I mentioned before in another post, you can minimize it through a combination of suspension tuning and technique, and you also simply get used to it.  But I won’t lie, I wish it didn’t do it.  I would welcome some sort of simple way to lock out the suspension from the saddle, and would happily engage it on long or very steep hills.  I should note that the bobbing is only a problem out of the saddle.  It is possible to illicit a small amount whilst seated, but only when using very hard and choppy pedaling efforts.  Furthermore, in this particular context, it’s not even that annoying like it is when standing.

So, does the front suspension bob actually slow you down?  Maybe a tiny bit.  I am not sure, but my hunch is yes.  Mostly, I think it does this by messing with the rider’s rhythm.  If you are one who rides out of the saddle a whole lot, then perhaps a Moulton is not the bike for you.

How about the rear?  Does it soak up any energy?  No.  Amazingly, it doesn’t seem to do that all, no matter how hard you mash the pedals.  The secret is in the fact that the entire rear triangle of the bike, including the bottom bracket, is a single, rigid piece, and there is actually no way for chain tension to actuate the suspension, short of the chainstays or seat stay flexing (which they don’t appreciably do).  Under hard pedaling, the bike feels like a panel.  Very solid.  This unified rear triangle is connected to the main frame at a pivot at the bottom of the seat tube.

Ok, but does it move in response to anything else (other than bumps)?  Well, yes, it moves in response to acceleration of the rider’s center of gravity produced by the rider’s legs going up and down as the pedals turn during seated riding.  Riding along, if I contort myself a bit to take a look at the rubber cone, you can see a rhythmic flexing of the suspension.  But unlike the front, this is not bothersome, and strangely enough, actually seems to impart a lively, energetic feel to the bike.   The sensation is what I imagine the mythical ‘planing’ effect to be like.  (For more on planing, read some of the links at the bottom of this post.)

I have noticed this effect comes and goes, and sorted out that it is highly cadence dependent.  Too fast or too slow and it doesn’t show up, and I miss it.  Cadences in the 75 to 100 rpm range seem to do the trick.   This sympathetic movement of the suspension *seems* to add something to my ability to put down power.  As if my legs feel fresher, with more snap.  Riding along recently I have devoted uncountable moments to unlocking the mechanism of it’s benefits, and I have come up with the following half-assed theory:   So, on a normal bike, the rider’s center of mass oscillates back and forth and from side to side as the legs do their thing.  The energy required to accelerate the COM does not efficiently come from the energy of deceleration, so this energy is lost to the rider’s body, to friction between the seat and the rider, into flexing the seat, manufacture of pixie dust, etc.  This may explain why overall cycling economy goes to hell as cadence goes way too high. Anyways, with a rear suspension available, some of that energy of deceleration is able to be rebounded by the suspension providing the acceleration of the next pedal stroke.  There is minimal damping in the suspension, so energy stored into the compression is, more or less, the same energy liberated on the extension.  Instead of the rider providing all the acceleration energy of each stroke, some of it is recycled from the previous one.

Is there any merit to this at all?  I have no idea.  Probably not, but it does remind me of the idea and practice behind the ERB, Energy Return Bicycle.  Check out the video in the link provided here and think on it.  Let me know what you think….

Ok, let’s get back on solid ground now, shall we?  The steering geometry includes a 70.5 degree head angle and, normally, this would makes for a pretty slow steering bike that isn’t much fun to ride and turns like a cargo ship, but that’s definitely not how the Moulton feels in practice.  I suspect the small wheels and a reasonable 55 mm of trail make the difference.  At low speed, there is no wheel flop or ‘hunting’ whatsoever, not even when climbing grades of the ‘friggin steep’ variety (18%+) .

However, that shallow steering angle along with a long-ish 42.5″ wheelbase (and amazing lateral and torsional rigidity of the space frame design, which keeps the wheels rigidly parallel) combine in a very good way to produce amazing stability at speed.  I haven’t experienced any shimmy yet either, something I cannot say about any bike I’ve ever spent significant time on.  I have even actively tried to induce it on a couple occasions and the bike seemed to say to me “what sort of stupid thing are you doing up there, fella!?” – it just wasn’t going to cooperate.

Similarly, when cornering at speed, the bike feels supremely solid.  I suspect the lateral rigidity of the frame and the suspension combine to produce this confident feeling by keep the wheels planted on the pavement and tracking in the exact same direction (hopefully one’s intended direction).

Versatility:   This is a bike that can be used for rando, general road riding, and loading touring.. so pretty much any paved road use except for racing.  It’s not really any good for non-pavement a beyond a smooth dirt road or rail trail, and the small wheels violate racing regulations, so that’s out anyways.

Moulton’s marketing puffery says the following about the TSR-30:

Perfect for day rides, audax and touring and excellent for fast road commuting. Available with carrier racks, bags and mudguards. Ride into the city, or load up and go wherever the road takes you.

This may be ad copy, but it’s pretty accurate (helps that’s it’s not overly flashy; it was probably written by the guy who brazes the bikes together or builds wheels all day long, not by a marketing department….).  Regarding loaded touring, you can get a rack from Moulton for both rear and front panniers, and the frame design pretty much invites things like strapping dry sacks directly to it.  And the massive clearance between saddle and rear wheel allows for even the most ginormous of seat bags.  Small wheels are very durable and reliable.  The bike comes with low gearing sufficient for riding fully laden in most terrain (about 25″; with it easily lowered to about 21″ with a cassette swap to a 29T large cog).

Aesthetics:  This is in the optical cortex of the beholder, but I think space frame Moultons are attractive.  They are unconventional, of course, but I think that’s what I like.  The bike does get noticed, particularly by kids, who seem to love the thing.  Adults probably notice it too, but they are too cool doing adult things and thinking adult thoughts to be mentally distracted by a primitive veloicpede-like object that happens to cross their field of vision.

Annoyances:  The TSR comes with two sets of water bottle cage bosses.  The one on the underside of the frame actually works, because you CAN get to it while riding (much to my surprise), but it’s too inconvenient to be the one you reach for repeatedly (I only use it when one bottle empties and I switch to the 2nd).  The set on the seat tube is very accessible, but I couldn’t get the inside of my knees to stop hitting it, and this was causing my knee pain as I would move my legs unnaturally to avoid it, so I had to punt, and figure something else out.  I ended up using a piece of rectangular aluminum bar to mount a cage off of the front rack frame mounts.  This works well, but sticks the bottle out in the wind.  I have a couple other ideas, but this will suffice for now.  I should note that if I ever want to use a front rack I won’t lose my bottle because there is a bottle cage mount integrated into the front pannier rack itself.  Pretty nifty.

The high gear is only about 98″.  I am happy with the 110-120″ high gear I have on most of my other bikes.  The consequence is that I don’t pedal above 30 mph or so.  Not a big deal, but I wouldn’t mind a higher gear.   The bike can’t accept much bigger chainrings than it has now  (58T), so if I want to change this, the only real solution would be something like a dual drive rear hub (which would be compatible with the Campag shifter or derailleur, and has high losses in the under- and over-drive modes)  OR a Capreo rear hub/cassette with a 9T small cog (but again, not compatible), OR a Schlumpf Speed Drive crank (which I don’t favor due to the losses in the over-drive mode, and wide Q factor).

Other Mods I’ve Made and Accessories:  I ditched the stock Schwalbe Durano tires after only a half dozen rides, since they ride like rocks.  The bike currently has some Panaracer Minit Lite PT’s.  These ride a lot nicer but they aren’t as puncture resistant, it seems  (got my first flat of the year a couple weeks ago with a bit of glass in the rear tire).  The manufacturer also did a terribly odd thing and put the logo and such on the tread of the tire.  Surprise!?!, it wears off quickly.  Why did they do that?

Since this bike will see nighttime riding duty in fall, winter, and spring, it’s been festooned it with Fiks reflective tape, and fitted with my B+M Ixon IQ headlight, and Dinotte 300R taillight.

Pics were taken with my Acorn medium saddlebag.  This bag is usually unnecessary during the summer, but for cold weather, and riding that transitions in or out of darkness requires a place to store reflective stuff, supplemental clothes, and spare batteries.

One modification I plan to make soon is to ditch the adjustable stem (actually good thing for Moulton to provide as original equipment) and get a fixed stem, along with a pair of Nitto Mod 177 Noodle bars in 44cm width. I don’t care for the modern compact drop Deda bars that came with the bike  (just a personal preference), and most adjustable stems are heavy and ugly (as this one kinda is).

Final Words:  Overall, this is a great bike.  It’s been worth every  penny.  The TSR series may not have the cache of one of the similar Bradford on Avon-built Moultons (like an AM), or the fancier front and/or rear suspension systems of a Jubilee or New Series, but I still think it’s pretty hot shit.  Hot shit that I can’t actually afford is cold shit to me.  Enough potty mouthing…. Look at some pictures, ok….

The TSR working on its tan.

Stronglight crank and BB.  Nice, but imagine my surprise when I found that it is proprietary in two (2!) senses ( first, the middle ring is a unique 130-110 BCD triplizer, and BB/crank interface, while ISIS type, has the left crankarm fixed to the spindle.  Where can I find a axle-less ISIS BB?  Nowhere.)  WTF.   Note: King Cage Iris on the underside of the frame and is super secure.  This is a top shelf product.

Italian Road Bike Mirror. This gets my seal of approval.

Fiks stickers on the head tube.  Homebrewed water bottle cage mount.  Moulton offers a beautifully fabricated version of this that costs over 100 USD.  My version cost 4 USD + 15 minutes of time.   Also note the carbon seatpost.  Imagine my surprise when I found it was a very obscure size – 31.6mm (not the semi-normal 31.8mm).  WTF.

Rear suspension elastomer  (sorry it’s out of focus).  Moulton refers to this as the ‘Monosphere’ rear suspension, which is a simple rubber spring, although quite cleverly, the cone shape provides for a rising rate.  On pricier Moultons, the rear suspension is their ‘Hydrolastic’ system, which is a combination of a rubber elastomer spring and hydraulic fluid damping.

Panaracer Minits Lite PT, with the tread-printed(!) logo half scrubbed.  More Fiks stickers on the fork.

Clearance for 33mm up front w/o fenders OR 28mm with fenders. (Rear is about the same).

View of handlebar with very clunky adjustable stem (I don’t like the use of the word ‘cockpit’ in this instance).  Imagine my surprise when I found the steerer is 1″ (not the modern standard of 1-1/8″). WTF.

One more glamour shot.



Moulton Bicycle Club’s summary of the TSR:


Fiks Reflective:

King Cage:

Italian RB Mirror:

Acorn Bags:



(…cork in handlebar…) Unibroue:

Energy Return Bicycle (ERB):

Double Pylon Review:

Jan Heine’s planing theories ‘explained’:



JH’s ‘work’ on suspension losses (replete with a some misguided Moulton bashing in the comments):

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TAB 206K Ride Report

Eric K., Reddan, Steph, and Bill joined me last Sunday for a first running of the Turn-a-Breeze Perm route.

As I think I mentioned before here, I have never ridden all this route in one shot, so even though it is well known to me, I was interested (and slightly concerned) about what it would be like to ride it.   It’s really not the same to ride it in pieces on different days than to do it as a permanent.

While the route is designed to maximize safety and scenery, it does have a few unavoidable warts.  Would the 5% unpleasant overshadow the 95% pleasant?  Possibly.

The first 1/3rd of the route is flat-like (about 40 feet of up per mile), as is the final 1/3rd.  But the middle section has about 90 feet of UP per mile.  I was worried that the climbing was too poorly distributed.  Would the bookends feel a little too boring, and the middle would feel like a deathmarch?

I have been doing the least amount of riding I have in the last 6 or 7 years, since before I started riding again (after a decade off the bike back in the lat 90’s / early 2000’s), so my weight is up and my fitness is down.  I had a number of upper back and shoulder problems this past winter and spring, and only in the last 6 weeks or so have they not impeded my riding significantly.

So I started this ride fearfully.  None of my companions have been so stationary this spring and summer, so this ride was no big deal for them.

Steph and Bill took off on their own about 10 miles into the ride, shortly after we passed through the first road closure of the day.  Dan, Eric, and I stayed together the whole day.  So did Bill and Steph.

Everyone had a few words of encouragement  (ahem, complaints) about the info controle question in Bedford.  Ok, yeah, it’s not supposed to be a scavenger hunt, is it?  I personally think it’s cool to have to hunt for a minute or two.  Yeah, I know it’s about proof of passage, but tough noogies.  Acceptable alternate controles are any local businesses nearby, so the hunt is optional.  I prolly should warn future riders though (or change the question, of course).

The route from Bedford to Breezewood is well known to CTC anciens, and is absurdly hilly.  On the ride, we pondered why on earth some of these roads are even there at all, or why did anyone want to pave them, as they serve very few houses and farms.

Breezewood was a total cluster-____, what with the 4th of July holiday traffic.  We filtered through it like a….um…breeze, and then found ourselves unable to filter through the chaos at Sheetz.  I had been looking forward to a freshly made sub, but had to settle for a really lousy pre-made one.  Such is life.

The 15 miles after Breezewood keeps up the pressure, and the climb up French Creek road was worse than I thought it would be.  This was one of the few parts of the route I had never actually ridden my bike on before, only drove in a car.  It sucked.  Dan, following close behind me on the climb, began to hallucinate, and saw a neon yellow muppet shark on the back of my bike as he ascended.  He afterwards showed me the pic he took – yep, he’s right – a  Yellow Shark.

The Yellow Shark.  RIP.

The Yellow Shark. RIP.

The descent off that climb is a hoot.  Worth it.  Totally worth it.

Anyways….. We finished the rest of the ride without incident.  Some other interesting notes:

We had a headwind in the afternoon coming north through the Cove, even though we had a headwind heading south that morning through Imler Valley.  Screwed, I tell ya.

The section of road through the narrows on Rt. 36 near Loysburg that I thought would be dangerous was fine.  We did it on a Sunday when truck traffic is low, and there is a bit more of a berm there than I remembered, so it was manageable.  Not fun, but manageable.  I can tolerate almost anything for a mile or two (and that’s all this is).

I felt like crap at the end of the ride. Like I had a fever, along with heartburn and nausea.  I relied on sugar and caffeine to see me through the last 40 miles and that was a mistake.  One I know better regarding, but I was being stupid, I admit.

Oh, by the way, total climbing per RWGPS is 7,200 feet, but my Garmin said over 8,400 by the time we finished.  Who is correct?  Beats me.  It sure felt more like the 8,400 but that could be my lack of fitness doing the perceiving.

Reports from all participants were that this is a great route.  I am glad they liked it.  I liked it too.

In the end it seems my fears about the route were not well founded.  I guess I was just being paranoid since it’s the first RUSA route with my name on it.

After doing this break out 200K, I felt really jazzed about riding again, and was looking for a good end of season.  However, I am typing this with a 3″ long stitch in my face, recovering after skin cancer surgery.  No more riding for at least 2 more weeks, I figure.  Oh well.  I will recover and have a good fall.  In the meantime, wear your sunscreen, folks!

Heading south in the morning through Imler Valley

Heading south in the morning through Imler Valley

Eric cresting the top of the day's first steepie.

Eric cresting the top of the day’s first steepie.

TAB follows PA Bike Route 'S' from Bedford to Breezewood, save for a silly loop de loop in Everett.

TAB follows PA Bike Route ‘S’ from Bedford to Breezewood, save for a silly loop de loop in Everett.

Ahh, such a calming and relaxing atmosphere at the Sheetz in Breezewood....

Ahh, such a calming and relaxing atmosphere at the Sheetz in Breezewood….

Coming down off the roller coaster descent on French Creek Rd.

Coming down off the roller coaster descent on French Creek Rd.

Muddy river.  Lots of rain around here lately...

Muddy river. Lots of rain around here lately…

Chillin on the bridge.  I stopped, so Dan and Eric obliged.  We were only at mile 70 or so, but I certainly was feeling the route.

Chillin’ on the bridge. I stopped, so Dan and Eric obliged. We were only at mile 70 or so, but I certainly was feeling the route.

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The Moulton Has Landed

Well, the Moulton finally showed up about a month ago.  What should have a been a 6 week wait became nearly 6 months.   I won’t go into the details except to say it wasn’t the fault of the dealer I bought it from.

Anyways, this post is sort of a ‘first impressions’ review….

I got the bike through Bruce Metras, a Moulton dealer in the SF area. Bruce is very well versed in these bikes, and has the little bit of specialized knowledge these bikes occasionally demand.  Upon un-boxing my first impression was that it’s quite a lovely machine and very well made.

First ride impressions were great. It actually fits and feels like a regular bike in a lot of respects. I have the fit adjusted to nearly exactly match my steel Spectrum road bike (within about +/- about 5 mm on setback and reach).

Further comparing those two on the road, I found the Moulton climbs seated as well as my Spectrum. Standing is slightly annoying because of suspension bob. You have to modify your riding technique slightly to minimize the bobbing. Lower cadence and rocking the bike a little bit more. Between that and getting the spring rate and damping adjusted right, it’s now mostly a non-issue. The TSR has the ‘unified rear triangle’ design that prevents any pedaling force from actuating the rear suspension, but even when pedaling over bumps I don’t really notice the BB moving back and forth (although it is).

The Moulton feels great at high speed. Very stable and secure. I wasn’t really expecting that. I’ve had it up to about 45 mph so far.

The most notable thing about the bike is that it’s just simply a fun bike to ride. It sure feels different than a big wheeled bike. Not recumbent level different, but perhaps splitting that difference.

The suspension is quite effective. I am genuinely surprised that it more than makes up for the 28-406 Duranos pumped up to 100 psi. The Moulton rides softer than my 28-622 wheeled Spectrum (with Clement LLG tires) over the same roads. On chipseal, specifically, there is not as much difference in ride quality, but over potholes, manhole lids and the like, the Moulton is much softer. Where I need to lighten up on the saddle on the Spectrum, I can stay fully planted on the Moulton and just ride it out. It’s way cool.

Also, in the handling department, this bike corners with notable enthusiasm. The bike seems to want to take every corner all out, with confidence. The only thing about the bike that does NOT inspire confidence in the ride is any loose gravel you might expect. The small wheels definitely do not feel as secure in those conditions.

Overall, I am really happy with the bike. Time will tell if it becomes my preferred ride or not.

I am already well on my way into doing mods and upgrades.  I just can’t leave well enough alone.  The Durano’s have been shelved in favor of some Panaracer Minit Lites.  The adjustable stem is going soon.  And I’ve discovered I don’t like compact bars and some Noodles are in my future  (to match the Spectrum too).

Here are some pics from what I think was the 2nd or 3rd ride.

Nice color in the sunshine. Officially it’s called ‘Burgundy’ but I think of it as ‘California zinfandel’.

Parked by the Curve.

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T-A-B 200K

Sorry for the long gap between posts.  Sometimes life is more important than riding your bike.

What:  First running of the Turn A Breeze perm….

When:  Sunday, July 5th.  8 a.m.

Who (tentative):  Dan B, Steph B, Bill H, me.  Maybe E.K.

Why:  Why not?

How:  By two wheeled human powered contrivance.

If yer interested in joining us, email me a couple days ahead of time.  Don’t just show up that morning.  You have to be a RUSA member, BTW.


Random Image:

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Bear Gap in Winter

EK’s bike enjoying the view from the top of Bear Gap.

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Why Do I Do This?

My wife asks me this all the time.  Well, occasionally, at least.  I think it’s because invariably when I get home from a long ride, and I tell her how the ride went, I tend to focus on the material aspects of the ride.  How I did physically, what the weather was like, what problems I had, etc.   So, to her, it often sounds like a bunch of pointless suffering.  That doesn’t mean there wasn’t an upside to the whole affair, it’s just that those upsides are harder to talk about – they are less concrete, and much more touchy-feely.  Dare I say, philosophical, or even spiritual?  And unless I feel like getting into an existential discussion, I don’t go there.

You can see it here on this blog too.  I am not dishing out a lot of deep thoughts, clearly.  But, you know, that’s not what this thing is for.  This is the modern equivalent of a diary for me, but only as it concerns the easily-relatable.  Sometimes I will read something I posted a while ago and I get a kick out of it.  That’s enough for me.  And if a few of you folks enjoy a photo or a ride report now and again, then hey, that’s all the better.  The other types of thoughts swimming around up there that I keep private, well that’s not because they are all that private, really, its mostly because I am too lazy to try to articulate them.  Articulatin’ is hard!

But still, something is compelling me to answer the question:  Why do I do this?

Because I enjoy the challenge?  Seek to test my abilities as a ‘complete’ cyclist?  Is this that whole ‘Type II fun’ thing, again?  It’s nice to look back at something I did that was hard.  Something I could have definitely failed at, but didn’t.  Is this a self-indulgent, ego-driven thing?  Sorta.  Maybe.  I’m not sure, really.  But in any case, it’s an bad explanation, because even when it’s not hard, I still find the ride rewarding.

Because I just simply enjoy riding my bike?  Well, it’s true.  I do.  BUT, I can get my ya-ya’s out in 2 or 3 hours.  I really don’t need to ride for 10+ hours.  Truth is, the physical enjoyment of simply riding starts to fade after 3 or 4 hours, more or less.  So no, that’s not really it, either.

Is it about communing with the natural world?  Yeah, it sort of is.  I, like most people, spend most of my time indoors.  Riding my bike is one of my few times to spend time outside, far afield.  Extended time.  Like all day.  That creates a different feeling than spending a few hours here and there.  Or spending all day in your back yard.   We may be on roads, but many of  them are remote.   And rando in Rothrock and Bald Eagle SPs  (that what this blog started out being about, after all) is even better.  There is a smell and feeling out there in the woods that’s somehow good for the soul.  But I could get that from hiking, or camping.  Something more civilized than riding a bike all day long.  Then getting up the next morning and doing it again….

Camaraderie?  A shared travail is always a positive thing, as it breeds goodwill.  Friends in rando are good friends indeed.  Hmmm.  Maybe this is the key.  I don’t really get this any other way.  Perhaps it is telling that I have never done a perm or brevet solo.  Not interested.

Well, perhaps it’s a combination of all of these things.  Not all of these are at work at the same time, or all on the same ride.  But collectively they provide enough motivation to get out there and do something audacious every once and a while.  And it feels right.  So I’ll keep doing it as long as I am able and willing.

Oh, as another form of explanation, this song captures a bit of the indescribable sentiment that I feel about riding my bike a long time.  Riding a bike up and over the road’s obstacles then coasting down the flipside is a little bit metaphoric for life itself, I suppose.  Is that deep?

You can do a lot in a lifetime, if you don’t burn out too fast. You can make the most of the distance, but first you need endurance, first you got to last….

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Long Springtime Ride Plan #3: Gravity Hill 200K

I’ve got another 200K permanent route in the works:  Gravity Hill 200K.    So named because the route goes right by (and optionally on as a side detour) Gravity Hill.

There are a couple other points of interest too:  Blue Knob, and the Flight 93 Memorial.  The former is very much on the route  (you climb up to the summit, where the ski area is located, and then you descend down through the State Park), but the latter is about a 5 mile out-and-back side trip.

There are even a few covered bridges along the route (well about 300 feet off the route).  One is in New Baltimore, and another in New Paris, and other in Ryot  (which was burned down, but was was rebuilt).  Then there is the Dr. Knisley bridge, and the Snooks Bridge, which you will need to travel over.  Visible in this linked photo of the N. Baltimore bridge is the “Church of the Turnpike“.  Bedford county is rife with covered bridges, reportedly 14 of them.

Here is the RWGPS plot:

Oh, a mildly interesting snippet about Gravity Hill:

I’ll be scouting this sometime in the next month by car, and by bike by the end of spring.

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Long Springtime Ride Plan #2

I recently had my first permanent approved.  I started working on it (very casually) over a year ago.  I first mentioned it here.  I finally got my act together this late fall / early winter.

RUSA Permanent Route #2567:


It’s officially named the Turn-a-Breeze 206K.  It starts in Altoona, a place name with a second syllable that sounds like tuna.  And then, at the halfway point, you find yourself in Breezewood.  So, I almost named it Tuna Breeze, but that seemed slightly too indelicate (or something) for a sensitive and serious rando crowd.  And so it became Turn-a-Breeze.  As in, you Turn a-round in Breezewood.  Well,  you sorta do anyways…

As the RUSA site ‘official’ description implies…  you start along the Allegheny Front in Altoona, and then the route takes you on a quiet and intricately scenic ramble through the rugged forests and rolling farmlands of the ridge and valley region of south-central Pennsylvania.


quiet:  yeah, lots of the route is on farm roads; not many people or cars around.

intricately scenic:  there are lots of turns, and the route is quite pretty in most spots.

rugged forests:  there are a few Deliverance-esque locations here and there.  Nothing to get too worried about though.

ridge and valley region:  really, I personally think this is among the best places to ride in PA.  The topography is distinct and beautiful, with plenty of climbing and scenic vista opportunity, but with the ability to stick to rolling valley roads to keep some sense of humanity if you wish  to / need to (i.e. let’s keep  the climbing below 80 feet per mile, thank you very much…..).

If we ever break out of the snow, ice, and polar vortex weather mode that we seem to be in right now, I will get an inaugural ride report posted.

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Long Springtime Ride Plan #1: Trans PA

Hey folks, Crush the Commonwealth is on April 24th.  I know you all were dying to know that.  What is it, you ask?  Just google it, m’kay?

My feelings about CTC are a bit mixed.

In my opinion, the highlights are:  The abandoned turnpike at night. The route between Somerset and Cowans Gap is pretty great. Hilly as hell, but beautiful and fun. Ohiopyle is a treat too, as is the feeling of finishing at a notable place, after completing a fairly hard 620K-ish ride in April…in PA – this is not a minor feat.

….but the lowlights are:  Much of the route is on busy state roads, and the traffic light homicidal motorist laden route through Chambersburg, York, and Lancaster sucks pretty bad.  Riding on the GAP sucks, if the surface well, sucks. As in sucks out your will to live as it sucks your tires deeper into the trail….  (but the GAP is hard to avoid… so we live with it, and try to admire the semi-beauty of a still-bare springtime forest….)

Oh, speaking of York:

Really though, the lowlights mentioned above, combined with typically terrible weather  (craptastic is the word Dan B. invented to describe it….), makes for an annually iffy proposition.  I developed an alternate route, that keeps the good stuff, and removes most of the above mentioned suckdom. But its not the official route, so therefore is meaningless. I may fully scout and cue this and submit it as a RUSA permanent one of these days.  If I did, I could crush the commonweath on a nice route, on a spring weekend of my choosing.  Wouldn’t that be nice?

Naturally, I’d pick a weekend with reasonable weather.  I’d argue the only reason to put up with total crap weather-wise is if the official event still holds a large degree of magic for you.  It still has some magic for me, but not enough to endure 20 hours or more of 30 mph headwinds and/or a 40 deg F + rain.

So, anyways, here is the alternative route (still being worked on):

Code name:  Trans PA.  (yeah, name concept shamelessly copied from Trans Iowa)

Anyone game to scout this thing come April?  I would anticipate an overnight in Shippensburg, by the way.

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Unsolicited Advice

Even though nobody here asked, the following is a random list of randonneuring advice, based on my own experiences and personal opinions, that I’ve dispensed at various times:

  • Ride a reasonably fast / efficient bike.  Rando is hard enough without additionally burdening yourself with a slow machine.
  • That said, you should probably start doing rando on whatever bike you currently have now, then upgrade later if you feel like it, instead of starting off by buying a new bike for this use.  Think about it – how are you going to really know what bike you’d like to use for rando if you have never actually done any randonnees before?  Get a few permanents, populaires, brevets, etc. under your belt first. Then you’ll be in a much better position to know which bike and accessories to invest in.
  • Practice the skills that are unique to rando.  Long rides in training are for testing out fueling and pacing and bike fit, not really for developing endurance, per se.  Learn night riding skills.  Learn cue sheet and/or Garmin route following skills. Learn by doing.
  • If you doubt your endurance for long rides, don’t train long and slow, also train short and fast.  The latter builds fundamental cardiovascular / aerobic fitness that is absolutely key for having endurance.
  • Maintain your bike in good working order. Start long rides with everything checked over and adjusted.
  • Become a complete cyclist – this means riding in all weather, day and night, and knowing all of the techniques of cycling in all terrain, traffic conditions, etc.
  • Know how to work on your bike.  Have the ability to fix your bike when it breaks.  Can you fix a flat tire in cold weather in the dark?  Can you improvise a bit, if necessary?
  • Learn what foods work for you on the bike, especially on long rides. Stuff that works on fast, 2 hour rides may not be what you can tolerate eating after 6 or 8 or 10 hours. Don’t ride an hour or two before you start eating. You should be eating in the first half hour.
  • Learn what ultra-endurance pace feels like and have the discipline to ride at that pace for the majority of the ride. This is a pace that allows you to carry on a conversation without gasping. It’s a pace that allows you to breathe through your nose and still be able to get enough air.
  • Ride on reasonably reliable equipment. Stuff you can trust. Don’t ride the lightest, thinnest tires or low spoke count / delicate wheels that are scared of a little gravel or potholes.
  • Don’t make a bunch of changes to your equipment, position on the bike, etc. right before a brevet. Everything needs to be tested, proven, and gone through at least a few dry runs first.
  • Figure out how you are going to carry the stuff you will need to see you through reasonably foreseeable weather changes and problems with your bike. On the other hand, don’t let paranoia lead you down the path of carrying a bike shop worth of tools and parts and a full wardrobe of clothes. Find a reasonable balance.
  • Figure how you are going to ride at night safely. Early season 200Ks will either start or end in the dark, unless you are pretty fast. Looking to longer brevets, you need lights with sufficient run time, or the ability to charge them.  Have both a backup headlight and backup taillight.  Consider a small light on your helmet for looking at cue sheets, digging stuff out of bags, fixing a flat, etc.  Is your bike festooned with supplemental reflectives?  Do you have ankle bands?  A good reflective vest meeting current RUSA requirements?
  • Know the course you are going to ride before your ride it. Study it on mapping sites (ridewithgps is my favorite). Learn how to navigate by cue sheet. Learn how to read one produced by the RBA in your area. Don’t let others navigate for you. This is a learned skill so you have to practice. Don’t do this for the first time on your first brevet. If you are using a GPS, thoroughly learn how to use that device ahead of time.
  • Always ride your own ride. Don’t foolishly chase others down who are stronger than you. This sometimes ends people’s rides. Not immediately, but a few hours later after they have blown up / bonked spectacularly.
  • Realize that on any long ride, you will have some ups and downs. The downs will not last forever. When you feel like giving up, realize that it’s entirely possible to totally turn things around, and after a surprisingly brief period of slow riding and eating / drinking, you’ll wonder why you ever felt like quitting.
  • During a randonee, be aware of your time cushion.  The number of hours you have to ride in order to get a hour of rest, and still meet a 9.3 mph overall average is found by the following formula:    # of hours riding at X mph = 9.3/(X-9.3)   So, if you have a moving average of 13 mph, then you only need to ride at that speed for 2 hrs and 31 minutes before you have built up a 1 hour time cushion.   Another way to look at things is to calculate your estimated moving time and stopping time. I find that routine refueling stops are about 25-30 minutes long (and a lot of randos are more efficient than I am), and I need one of those about every 45 to 60 miles. When controles are closer together than that, the stops can be a bit shorter.
  • For tires, I recommend not going with something super bulletproof.   The assumption there is that you aren’t a physical suffering type of masochist.  I wouldn’t go superlight either.  The assumption there is that you aren’t a flat fixing type of masochist.  Where you fall in the wide middle depends on your personal feelings about flat changing vs. speed potential.
  • Tire recommendations?  In 559, I like 1.35″ wide Shawalbe Kojaks. In wide 622, I like Vittoria Voyager Hypers (32, 35, and 38 widths available). They are reasonably efficient tires that are also pretty flat resistant.  A spare tire is rarely necessary, so carrying one is probably a waste. Do carry some boots, though.  Similarly, its probably not necessary to worry about broken spokes.  Although a fiberfix spoke doesn’t cost or weigh much. Also, if you don’t go below 32 spokes, you can usually keep riding with a broken spoke, especially if you run disc brakes and have good clearances in your bike frame.  A chain tool and spare link is probably more likely to be used. But a lot of folks don’t bother to carry one. I usually do. Maybe I will bail someone else out someday.
  • When trying to optimize your gear setups or clothing, don’t ignore aerodynamics.  Even on slow, hilly routes, aero drag is the single biggest consumer of energy.

What’s your advice, folks?  Please share your hard-earned pearls of wisdom.

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