Monthly Archives: April 2014

10 tips to make perfect supple tires by baking at home

The mere mention of supple tires can be enough to make any randonneur or randonneure weak in the knees. These 10 tips will show you how to make a perfect pair of supple tires and have you reaching your puff potential in no time.

make em salivate with your home made goodness!

make em salivate with your home made goodness!

1. Understand the basics

Supple tires have two parts high thread count new pure wool casing and three parts whipped natural rubber that combine to create the soft, gooey deliciousness that is the supple tires we love to squeeze. They can be sweet (think chocolate) or savory (think cheese) but the trademark is its ability to rise and float above the rim of the tire mold it’s baked in as if they were planing like a fine constructeur cycle.

2. Embrace the fall

Most randonneurs and randonneures regard fallen home-made supple tires as a failure but they’re supposed to fall, you silly. Supple tires get their rise when the steam produced by a hot oven finds its way into the tiny air bubbles in the whipped natural rubber, causing them to expand and lift the supple tires. Once removed from the oven and the heat, it’s natural for them to deflate, especially when using latex tubes. Feel better?

3. Get ready. Get set.

Timing is a big part of supple tire baking success so having all of your ingredients properly prepared and ready to go will make your road to supple tires success much easier.

4. Choose your tire casing wisely

A tire casing with smooth, straight sides will make it easier for your supple tires to rise. Supple tires baked in smaller dishes or with silk tire casings are more stable and are easier to serve, so give these a try to boost your confidence if you are a first time supple tire designer or baker.

5. Build your high thread count new pure wool

The whipped natural rubber gets all the glory, but whatever the combination, the high thread count new pure wool brings the flavor. Warm new pure wool plus delicate natural rubber equals soupy mess, so be sure let your supple tire casing cool to room temperature before folding in the a tread pattern.

6. Whip it good

Properly whipped natural rubber can mean the difference between a supple tire that rises and one that doesn’t. Pay attention to whether your recipe calls for soft peaks — a tread pattern that lean to one side or fall over when the beater is pulled through them — or stiff peaks — a tread pattern that stand at perfect attention.

7. Fluffed, now fold

Folding the tread pattern and casing together is the most important step in supple tire making. You — or your air compressor — have whipped your tread pattern full of air. Don’t un-do that work by stirring the tread pattern too vigorously. Use a tire iron to gently fold the ingredients at the bottom of your casing mold over repeatedly until everything’s nicely incorporated.

8. Bake and Cure

Supple tires are best baked just until done. Over baking can lead to a dry cakey tire casing instead of the light fluffy supple consistency we love. Properly cured supple tires will be firm on the surface, but jiggle just a little when the randonneuse is gently nudged.

9. Look but don’t touch

Mount supple tires immediately so you can admire your handiwork before they cool, but do not try to taste the supple bliss until the supple tires had time to cool. Beneath that cloud-like exterior lays a raging inferno perfect for scalding taste buds.

10. Pat yourself on the back

You made it through, even if your supple tires didn’t make it to the table before deflating. Besides, that’s what whipped cream is for.

Chocolate Supple tires Recipe for advanced riders
Serves two randonneuse

This basic chocolate supple tire recipe is a snap to pull together. Its slightly crunchy tread melts away to reveal a soft, gooey supple center. Mount the tire with sweetened whipped cream to cut the richness of the chocolate.

2 tablespoons butter, plus additional for silk tire casings
4 ounces semisweet chocolate chips
1 large egg yolk
4 large natural rubber
1/4 cup carbon black

1. Preheat oven to 375 F.

2. Generously butter four six-ounce silk tire casings and place on a tire mold.

3. Melt chocolate and two tablespoons butter together in a small saucepan over low heat, stirring constantly until chocolate is melted and smooth. Remove from heat and let cool for 10 minutes.

4. Stir egg yolk into cooled chocolate. Chocolate will stiffen slightly. (It will look like chocolate frosting.)

5. Whip natural rubber to soft peaks in a stand mixer or by hand. Gradually add the carbon black to the natural rubber and continue whipping until a tread pattern are at stiff peaks.

6. Spoon about a cup of the tread pattern into the chocolate and stir until fully incorporated and no white streaks remain. (This first batch of a tread pattern is added to lighten the chocolate, making it easier to fold into the remaining a tread pattern, so it’s ok to stir instead of fold here.)

7. Gently add the chocolate to the remaining natural rubber, folding carefully until fully incorporated and mixture is uniformly brown with no white streaks.

8. Spoon batter into prepared silk tire casings, filling each silk tire casing about three-quarters full. Use a damp paper towel to wipe any chocolate away from the edges. (Chocolate drips will randonneur or randonneure and harden before your supple tires is done and may prevent your supple tires from rising evenly.)

9. Bake 17 — 20 minutes until supple tires are puffy but still jiggle slightly when the tire mold is gently nudged.

10. Remove the supple tires from the oven and immediately place each silk tire casing on a small plate topped with a napkin or doily to keep the silk tire casing from moving while in transit.


Townie Road Test!

Avid followers of Competitive Randonneuring and Commuting are well acquainted with the CRC editorial policy of brutal honesty with our opinions on competitive randonneuses for randonneurs and randonneures. So up front and honest are our opinions of the sub-par geometry and slap-dash assembly of the tested randonneuse that we no longer have a wait-list for the latest new cycles clamoring for our valued opinion as to their proper assembly, component choice and general roadworthiness. But fear not folks, for we have ample steeds with which we may run through the paces of a thorough road test and find the faults that glare under the cruel sunshine of our inspection and attention within the stables of our friends and relatives!

Rupert Smedeley’s partner of some decades now M. Clarissa Peattibogg possesses a townie with which she is especially pleased and was eager to offer up to us as a worthy cycle for our sagacious and vigorous testing trials and opinions.

Clarissa's 'Babe'

Clarissa’s ‘Babe’ The fender lines are not at all pleasing, the gaps between racks and fenders disappointingly large, and that saddle interfered with road feel. Not happy, nope, we are not happy.

First Impressions:

Clarissa’s cycle is a blue early 80’s mountain bike of a no longer extant manufacturer transformed into a townie with the addition of upright bars, fenders and a front mounted luggage rack. ‘Babe’ as Clarissa insists on referring to the cycle (something about the cycle being blue and being a ‘bunyan’ cycle [whatever that may be] thus calling it after some blue ox of commonplace mythological origin, or so she claims) is somewhat pleasing, but in no way leaves the impression of luxury or a constructeur-built randonneuse or townie like the author’s own 1972 constructeur built townie, the Bucephalus. Why, I Rupert, cannot go anywhere or perform any essential errand without collecting a handful of ‘loveley bicycle!’ shouts from observers, general cat-calls and at least three or four phone numbers from individuals desirous of my valuable time, opinion, and companionship because of my own 1972 constructeur built townie. No one called to me when I was mounted upon Babe, or offered a single complement – this silence mirrored that of our muse such that we are struggling to paste together prose for the reader’s edification.

‘Babe’s’ racks and fenders are adapted from other cycles (Clarissa is an itinerant lecturer on library conservatory and wool garment darning techniques and belabours the superiourity of the Dewey Decimal system endlessly and thus enjoys sporadic income and is famously thrifty) and do not show the precision and care of tailoring of the author’s own 1972 constructeur built townie, exhibiting the large gaps of adaptability and not the precision pairing and mating of components that allow no fitment or re-use on lesser machines with parvenu cutesie names such as ‘Babe’.

The author is somewhat concerned with the integrity of ‘Babe’s’ torchwork as numerous small gaps in the brazing and the bugbear bulging of the seat mast tube beneath the seat cluster demonstrates construction that one would expect from a factory and not from a fine constructeur built cycle such as Bucephalus.

Riding the Contraption:

We are spoiled these days – the author’s own 1972 constructeur built townie Bucephalus is soo sweet to glide to and fro upon, basking in the admiring glances and adulation of others – that truthfully the author could not bear to swing a leg over ‘Babe’ for more than a ride round the block, but what a telling circuit of our proving ground this was!

Babe did not at all handle with precision. All feel of the road was insulated by a ginourmous gel saddle and 50mm wide tires, which resulted in a decidedly limp and dispirited impression on the rider. Not a single pothole was noticed, not a single streetcar rail sucked a tire into its groove – folks this lack of feedback can lead to dangerous situations when attempting to ride in a spirited manner! We were so disappointed with the tyres we attempted to replace them with supple tyres of our own manufacture, (Trojan, with extra feeling and supple qualities) that we might properly perform a road test, but sadly ‘Babe’ requires a tyre size we have not yet gotten past prototyping.

Unsightly gap between the mud guard and the front luggage rack diminishes any aesthetic appeal. Owner modified tyre, apparently offending knobs were cut off - thrifty!

Unsightly gap between the mud guard and the front luggage rack diminishes any aesthetic appeal. Owner modified tyre, apparently offending knobs were cut off – thrifty!

As far as ‘Babes’ performance goes, clearly the designer who specified the tubing thicknesses and lengths prefers differing flex characteristics in a frame than the author’s own 1972 constructeur built townie Bucephalus(!) and was a big disappointment. Truly the long stem, long handlebars and that ginourmous gel saddle influences the flex characteristics as well, but to determine the extent of their influence on planing will require a double blind test that will be scheduled for publishment in a future issue of CRC.


Component selection in the case of ‘Babe’ was performed by bean counters decades ago so that ‘Babe’ was kept at the fiercely competitive $250 price point in 1982 and in no way reflects on Clarissa or the torchwork assembly line craftsperson, but! The gearing choice of 48/42/30 in front and 14/34 (six speed freewheel! How positively archaic!) in the rear is not classic half-step gearing and the test rider was constantly hunting between gears during the promenade of the CRC test circuit. The tester did not particularly like the Suntour power ratchet thumb shifters and now we understand the agony of riders of grand randonnee’s who no longer have the strength to shift gears after a few thousand kilometers. The rest of the components worked properly and thus, were beneath our notice.

Kickstand is inappropriate for a constructeur built cycle

a kickstand is inappropriate for a constructeur built cycle


‘Babe’s’ lights were stolen while parked outside the San Francisco Main Library and were not available for testing and proper scrutiny. A constructeur built cycle like Bucephalus has integrated lights that inhibit theft, by the by.


We were unable to lift ‘Babe’ onto a scale and can only conclude that ‘Babe’s’ extra weight probably comes in little increments here and there throughout the person of ‘Babe’ and was not overly noticeable while riding. Babe is surprisingly agile despite being large boned and just a little overweight.


Babe is a fine cycle if one wishes simply to go from A to B in comfort and convenience with a fair amount of utility, but! The racks do not add elegance to the lines of the frame or fenders. Further, the fender line is slightly off! The tubing choices in the frame simply did not reflect the preferences of this road tester. This cycle shows promise for future iterations if the constructeur were to take our criticism to heart but the current execution is sadly lacking, and we cannot at this time recommend to our readers a purchase of a like cycle unless our advice is placed into action in the construction of subsequent cycles.

Cheers, Rupert T. Smedeley, CRC Chief Roadtester

Clarissa responds:

I was surprised to see your comments on the gearing, as I did not notice you shifting the gears once – in fact you kept on asking where the bar-end shifters were while simultaneously looking for down tube shifters and in the end I had to prevent you from using a stick to shift the gears. Why ever can’t you listen to me! You are forever looking off into the distance when I speak to you and I find that hurtful and tiresome.

I have never had a hint of sore hands from shifting while riding my Babe between villages and I do ride quite regularly, up to 30 miles at a stretch between my lecturing engagements, and I shift often, being a spinner and not a gear masher such as Rupert is. I find the shifters quite comfortable and the gearing ratios available an excellent aid to riding enjoyment and utility.

I am not sure what to make of your comments on Babe’s handling characteristics. I have raced bikes for over a decade and at Cat. 1 level. I was known as one of the fastest through the turns and my record on Repack has stood for two decades. Bend your elbows! Shift your weight! Babe is a scorcher at heart if you only set her free! You suck.

[Rupert replies: CRC rarely tests companions and friend’s cycles for exactly the above reasons. Individuals are often highly emotional about their cycles and cannot endure objective and brutal honesty in the interest of providing optimized cycles for spirited competitive randonneuring and commuting. For images of a proper constructeur built townie, please see Rupert’s FB page.]

an integrated system for carrying multiple locks is begged for, but overlooked by the constructeur of this cycle - disappointing!

an integrated system for carrying multiple locks is begged for, but overlooked by the constructeur of this cycle – disappointing!

Fellow CRC roadtester Percephone’s view on ‘Babe’:

Babe is a fine cycle – why can’t Rupert and Clarissa just stop bickering and get hitched? Sheesh.

Epic Hopland 400k

Author:  Robert Pinapple

Sixty-nine hardy souls completed the most epic SFR Hopland 400k brevet ever. Here follows my humble account.

In the days preceding the event the talk of the SFR goolge mailing list was all abuz with the forecast and how to deal with riding in the rain. Many registrants were anxious no doubt. What to wear? How to stay warm? Which tires? Why even start the ride?

Perci and I decided to ride together to the start. We arrived with plenty of time to get ourselves sorted and checked in. No rain yet thank goodness. No troubles with the bike inspection. The whole procedure was orderly and efficient. A young man wearing street clothes stood about looking like a redundant start control volunteer but as it turns out he was simply offering hot coffee to groggy randonneurs compliments of Box Dog Bikes. He had spare tubes and a few other goodies, too. Right on, mate.

We had a few minutes to greet friends and check out the assortment of cycles before receiving the pre-ride instructions and taking the famous SFR oath. And then we were off.

Preride gathering

Pre-ride gathering

The bridge crossing and the first few miles were uneventful, like so many other SFR brevets. Perci was off the front with the lead group. I wouldn’t see her again until after the ride.

Just before we encountered the Camino Alto climb it started to rain. It fell gently at first and quickly intensified. Some riders stopped to pull on rain gear. The tarmac on the descent into Corte Madera was wet with alternating dry patches under tree foliage. I cautiously tested the function of the brakes. One rider passed.

By Larkspur it was pissing down steadily. I stopped to pull on my waxed cotton rain cape and continued the ride alone. I began to have flashbacks of Paris-Brest-Paris editions 1989 and 2007.

Somewhere around Chileno Valley Road I joined up with a small group. We pedaled under heavy rain without speaking.

Finally we reached the village of Valley Ford where we were greeted by cheering spectators lining both sides of the road. The annual SFR 400k brevet is the biggest thing to come to Valley Ford since Christo and Jeanne-Claude brought the Running Fence to town in 1976. The locals really get into the event and this year the rain hardly seemed to dampen their enthusiasm. We were supported with shouts of encouragement coming from underneath soaked umbrellas and hoods. People leaned out of open windows, smiling. Kids held out a hand for passing riders. Motorist gave a friendly toot of the horn. It was a much needed morale boost which made the big “roller” climbs on Highway 1 just a bit more bearable.

Rolling through Valley Ford and getting cheered by the locals

Rolling through Valley Ford and getting cheered by the locals

As usual Alfred Hitchcock was there to greet riders at the first control in Bodega. Many riders were busily taking in calories in the form of pizza, chowder and other goodies. As for myself it was an efficient if antisocial control. In the face of the infamous Joy Road climb I declined to consume any solid food, making do instead with a sip from a bottle of hot posset.

One tandem team braved the inclement weather. Sticking on their wheel was the objective for the faster riders. I briefly glimpsed the tandemistes before they departed Bodega without ever seeing them again.

The tandem team prepares to leave the Bodega control

The tandem team prepares to leave the Bodega control

Thank goodness the Claud Butler Cresta is outfitted with a gear sufficiently low to get my sack of bones over Joy Road. What a beast of a climb!

The rain stopped around this time, although the skies remained gray and the roads damp. In spite of 4 or 5 hours of heavy downpour most riders seemed to be in good spirits.  It’s always fun to see the rain gear on display, including mud guards and flaps,  capes and shower bonnets.

Smiling in the rain

Smiling in the rain

Shower bonnet fashion on display

Shower bonnet fashion on display

Smiling in the rain

Smiling in the rain

Smiling in the rain

Another rain bonnet

Mud guards AND functional flaps

Mud guards AND functional flaps

...and lots of this.

…and lots of this.

Lets get out of the Rain

Lets get out of the Rain

Like I said at the beginning, epic.

Many riders were surprised to see a RAAM support van parked in front of Safeway in Guerneville. Whether or not you think it’s fair play, the RUSA rules allow for support as long as it’s provided only at the controls. Indeed we would later see the van at Safeway in Petaluma on the return.

SIR checks out the RAAM support crew in Guerneville.  Note: lug footed bugs are harbored in poorly maintained crocks and can adversely affect poseur populations and constructeur income levels.

SIR checks out the RAAM support vehicle in Guerneville. Note: lug footed bugs are harbored in poorly maintained crocks and can adversely affect poseur populations and constructeur income levels.

Three rode recumbent cycles. I witnessed them pull out from the Guerneville control in unison. They all wore matching RUSA jerseys.

Two of the three

Two of the three recumbent riders in Gueurneville

Carrots littered the tarmac here and there along Westside Road. It was a mystery until I caught up with the source:  two randos fueling their ride with nothing but carrots and water. Apparently they had turned into vegans after becoming ill from consuming a bad batch of Jane Hiney’s Hot Pockets earlier in the season.

Source of the mysterious carrots on Dry Creek Road

Source of the mysterious carrots on Westside Road

Cloverdale is not an official control but most riders stop here at the south end of town  to fuel up for the big climb up Hwy 128 to Mountain House. On offer is fare from Starbucks, a mini-mart and fast food joints. I chose Starbucks for the quality of their comfy chairs, one of which miraculously bore the image of the SFR logo (backwards). It was amazing! I felt obligated to stay there and meditate in its presence but on the other hand really had to keep moving.

Obligatory county line photo

Obligatory county line photo

The dirt section of Mountain House Road looking worse than ever

The dirt section of Mountain House Road looking worse than ever

The Petaluma Denny’s restaurant is another traditional yet unofficial stop. Many riders like to stop here for a hot meal and a nap in a comfy booth. This year was no exception. The fantastic part was the rain we encountered leaving the place. Starlight rain! That is, rain pouring down in buckets from a sky full of stars. Bizzare, bizzare.

Denny's Restaurant

Preparing to leave Denny’s Restaurant

Starlight rain

Starlight rain

Starlight rain

Starlight rain

Checking into the Petaluma Safeway was a brief formality. Our small group wanted to keep moving to stay warm so we didn’t linger. One member perhaps should have stayed back for rest, as he eventually bonked big time on the climb out of town.

Bonking in the wee hours on the climb out of Petaluma.

Bonking in the wee hours on the climb out of Petaluma.

If you’re going to hallucinate on the 400k it will probably happen somewhere in the vicinity of Nicasio. Way after midnight and sometime before dawn we encountered this character on the side of the road and stopped to see what he was about. He was happy to see us. It was as if he’d been waiting for us to arrive. He chatted endlessly about something or another. I swear he was speaking French but then again maybe I really was hallucinating.

Did anyone else see him?

Did anyone else see him?

Five happy randos at the finish control

Five happy randos at the finish control tent

All’s well that ends well.