Planet Damian

September 21, 2016

Christof Damian

Solo cycling weekend in Ripoll

Amazingly this is the first multiple day cycling trip that I have done alone so far. I had the weekend for myself and decided to use it to explore some new roads in Catalonia.

After asking my cycling friends for some tips I decided on using Ripoll as a base. It is a two hours and €8 train ride from Barcelona and surrounded by nature parks and nice mountains.

I found a reasonably cheap Airbnb, which I booked from Friday evening to Monday.
I had been warned by the host that the stairs are steep, many and without much room to move a bicycle. And she was absolutely right. I still managed though and otherwise the flat was really nice, with a washing machine (!) and fully equipped kitchen. I cooked every day and basically lived on pasta.

I had picked some routes before, but decided on the day which one to pick. The weather turned for the worse and it was a bit colder than I expected. I am not an early riser anyway, but in this case I waited until 10:00 to start each ride so that it could warm up a bit. In the end I only got into the rain once though.
Many thanks have to go to Mauro to helping me with the routes and suggesting the area in the first place.


Ripoll - Olot - Oix - Beget - Camprodon - Ripoll  relive movie

I decided to this ride first, because it was relatively flat and I was expecting rain. It started to reain just after Olot and continued for another two hours. I was glad that I had bought some of the gear that kept me warm (see below).
A very nice ride on mostly quiet roads, lot of nature and nice climbs. In Olot I also climbed the volcano, which has a little church on top.


Ripoll - Montgrony - Castellar de n'Hug - La Molina - Toses - Planoles - Ribes de Freser - Ripoll
relive movie

It warmed up a bit so I went a bit higher and to the west. The main goal was La Molina, but the highlight was Montgrony, with basically no cars and great views. The climb was also nice and the only place where I saw some other cyclists.
In Catellar de n'Hug they do gigantic croissants, but they were a bit big for just one person. Maybe a nice snack in a group.
The return via Toses was equally nice, small single lane road winding down back to Ripoll.


Ripoll - Santa Maria de Besora - Vidra - Ciuret - Olot - Banyoles - Girona relive movie

I packed up and made myself on the way to Girona to take the train from there. I expected it to get a lot warmer, the forecast was 28C for Girona, while it was only 10C in Ripoll in the morning.
I picked a tiny agricultural road that winded its way to Olot. I had checked some of it on Streetview before, just to make sure it was really a road. It was quite rough, most of it was concrete and not asphalt, which made it slow.
But the nature was nice, lots of cows, sheep, horses and birds of prey. No traffic at all.
I had to stop for water in Vidra, which was the first fountain I saw.
There might be a nicer way from Olot to Girona, but this was OK and for a Monday the cars were not too annoying.

I might be imagining it, but the drivers around this area seem to be especially nice to cyclists. And they are already pretty nice in the Barcelona countryside. In Girona they are as bad as in all the cities though.


I kind of went the bike-packing route again. I used a large waterproof Ortlieb saddle bag, a small Decathlon 13€ handlebar bag and a small sports bag on my back.
I had a set of cheap clothes for walking around in town that I disposed of in Ripoll (Our cycling group calls it "Decathlon gift bag"). With all the other things that I used up on the trip, like energy food and sun screen I was able to also leave the sports bag.
For the first two days I used my small saddle bag, which I had brought in the Ortlieb one. And on the last day going to Girona just saddle and handlebar bag. I can't stand cycling longer distances with something on my back.


For this trip I also used some new gear, which turned out to be great.

Oakley Radar EV Path Photochromic - my first photocromatic glasses. I mainly bought them for the autumn and spring where I tend to cycle to work in the sun and home in the sunset or night. Until now I had another pair of Oakleys with a few sets of lenses and I swapped them during the day. This is obviously not ideal.
This pair also only has a half frame, which helps with ventilation and makes it easier to look down, for example at the GPS.
I still have to get used to how light they are, sometimes they feel like they are slipping up because there is not enough weight on my nose.

Sportful Fiandre Light NoRain Arm Warmers - arm warmers, you can't really go wrong, they are all more or less the same. These ones are in neon yellow, windproof and a bit rain resistant.

Castelli Perfetto Light Short Sleeve Jersey - I have been looking for something like this for ages. A jersey you can wear directly on the skin, with the usual back pockets, usable in warm conditions, windproof and reasonable water resistant. 
The most know option is the Castelli Gabba, but from what people say it is really for colder weather and when it is really cold I wear a long sleeve anyway. 
The Perfetto worked perfectly. I used in in temperatures between 10C and 25C, in the dry and in torrential rain. It did keep me dry all the time, it didn't feel to warm and on the long and cold descents it kept me comfortable. 

by Christof Damian ( at September 21, 2016 08:59 PM

August 24, 2016

Christof Damian

What is in my bag. Part 1: Small Saddlebag

I wanted to this for a while, but it came up again recently, so here it goes.

This is my small saddle bag, that I use daily and in group rides. For sportives or Gran Fondos I use a slightly bigger bag, which I will come to in a different post.

I don't really like to have too much stuff in the jersey pockets. On the usual rides I just carry my phone, cash, credit card and keys and maybe one gel. When it is colder or changing also a wind jacket.
  • mini tool
  • chain tool
  • the silver tools, where I have no idea what they are for
  • tire levers
  • CO2 cartridge and valve
  • spare tube, this is a pretty big and robust one for 28mm tires 
  • chain pins
  • tube valve extenders, in case I have to borrow a tube
  • tube valve tool
  • presta adapter, to use petrol station compressors
  • patches
  • spare contact lens

All of this fits into a Lezyne Roll Caddy, which looks nice and fits to the saddle easily. 

In case you are wondering where my pump is: it is a small Topeak pump fitted to one of the bottle holders.

Use the comments for any tips or questions.

by Christof Damian ( at August 24, 2016 03:22 PM

July 21, 2016

Christof Damian

La Ruta Minera

Mauro talked me into taking part in the La Ruta Minera sportive, conveniently he broke his collarbone before and didn't join.

On paper this looked like a lot of fun. It is a bit shorter than Gran Fondo La Mussara and a "bit" more climbing.

The event starts and finishes in Berga, which is an hour away with the car. There is no good rail connection, so I rented a car for the long weekend.
I booked a hotel through the sportive organisation from Friday to Sunday, with the race being on Sunday. The Hotel HCC Ciutat de Berga was nothing special, but the front desk was very friendly and he did the sportive last year. He even checked out my gears to make sure I was not trying with a 11-25 cassette. They allowed bikes in the rooms for this weekend and also provided extra early breakfast and late checkout on Sunday.

Saturday was for relaxing and sight seeing. The old town of Berga is pretty and for the nerds they have the only Free Software Street in the world.

Sunday the race. I felt good. I had stuffed myself with pasta the previous days. I had water and gels. The bicycle was mostly OK (some problems with the bearings in the front wheel). All systems go.

Maybe the uphill start should have given me a clue, but the temperature was nice and so was the landscape. The first climb was easy to manage around 600m of climbing. But the second one already took most out of me, 1000m of climbing with one ramp of 23% gradient.
Distance wise this was only the halfway point and lots of climbing remained.

Before the next big climb the temperature went up to 37C with nearly no tree coverage. On the last hill the heat took everything out of me. I stopped a few times in the shadow just to cool down again.

The finish line obviously was also a climb. Overall there were only two sections that were flat and allowed me to slipstream a bit.
That my descending sucks also didn't really help.

But ... I did finish and it is a beautiful area of Catalunya. The organisation was also lovely, it felt like a big family. There were less than 600 cyclists taking part, which is a lot less than my previous sportives.

I am probably not going to try this again, but will visit the area when it is a bit cooler :-)

Some more photos in my google photo album.

by Christof Damian ( at July 21, 2016 06:53 PM

July 01, 2016

Christof Damian

Half Time for New Year Resolutions

Half a year is over and it is time to see how my New Year Resolutions are going.

Yoga Everyday

Pretty well I would say. Since I started tracking it with HabitBull I have done it in three of four days. I found it harder when traveling or with days where I have work and evening events. But I am happy with this so far.

Cycling Mini Adventures 

I didn't put a number on this, but I was imagining something like about once a month. I had to cancel the Velothon Berlin because of work. But I did some other stuff.

This month a trip to Andorra and Berga.

Draw something every day

90% success in drawing something, the number for recognizable things is lower.

Blog once a month

If you count this one for last month I am fine.

12 Books

This was ambitious, it it got worse before it got better.

  • The Girl on the Train - very nice, I read this very fast
  • Remote - rubbish, a string of fortune cookie texts
  • Ordinary Thunderstorms, good start - bad middle - no end
  • Seveneves - I gave up, this must be the most boring book in the world. It is like watching the paint dry, where you already know which part drys first.
  • The Expanse 1-5 - I found this through goodreads, it is a very simple space opera with some nice ideas and characters. Now I have to wait until the author writes more books.

So I am doing good so far, it can only get worse...

by Christof Damian ( at July 01, 2016 10:43 PM

May 23, 2016

Christof Damian

Gran Fondo La Mussara 2016 Report

Last year I attended the the Gran Fondo La Mussara, it is a great event, well organized and with a beautiful route.
Sadly I was not able to finish it. I had to give up after 110 of the 189 km. I was not properly prepared due to various injuries and illnesses in the beginning of the year. And I got another injury during the ride.
But I decided to give it another try this year, so I registered early as this event sells out pretty fast.

Registering early including an hotel turned out to be a problem. The hotel forgot all registrations and notified the organizers with one week to spare. Luckily I found another hotel, which turned out to be a bit more expensive, but much better. It is just one kilometre from the start, has really big rooms, you are allowed to take your bike to the room and they organized a special early breakfast for the riders. So if you are in the area I can highly recommend Brea's Hotel, maybe not for a romantic weekend, but for riding or doing anything at the Fira it works out brilliantly.

Another fun bit this year was the panic about disc brakes at sportives in Spain. Luckily this got sorted out beforehand and doesn't affect my events this year. But I won't be registering for any others until this is settled for good.

The Gran Fondo is a very well organized event. The start and finish line is at the Fira Reus. This is also where you pick up your race pack, jersey and the pasta party after the event is held.
The race pack contains your start number with timer chip, a booklet with all kind of information about the race, one very useful sticker for your top bar with the food stop locations, one sticker with the height profile and some energy food.

The jersey was the one let-down. I generally don't like to be forced to use the jerseys provided by the sportive, and this time it really showed why. It was much too small for everyone and the quality was really bad. The zip didn't work well and got stuck all the time. As this was probably the cheapest version of Santini jerseys it also only had three smallish pockets. I can't see anyone of the 5000 participants buying from Santini in the future.

The problems I identified last year were:
  • injuries before the race
  • injuries during the race
  • running out of energy early (bonking)
  • and then overeating at the food stops  
I avoided injuries before the race this time and whenever something did hurt I made sure I rested enough and left the bike at home.
My strategy for avoiding the bonk in this year was to start with enough energy. This meant mainly eating lots of pasta in the three days before the event. Maybe twice as much as would typically eat. 
For food during the race I packed 10 of my preferred energy gel and four packs of power for energy drinks to avoid the food station food. I only stopped to stock up on water. 
I also set the alarm on my Garmin to 20 minutes and 300 kcal to remind me to eat and drinks.
To avoid injuries during the race I stayed in the saddle most of the time, which is easier on the knees and tendons and I set a heart rate maximum alarm on the Garmin too. 
All of this worked out pretty well. I arrived at the finish line with energy left and without pain. Very tired though.

After the race I had my protein shakes prepared and in the evening I was fit enough to check out Reus and have dinner there.

We spend the night in Reus and went back late Sunday, after checking out a village food and wine fair that I noticed them setting up on the day before. Very typical Spanish with a monster Paella dish.

I am probably not doing this Gran Fondo again, as the route seems to be the same every year. But I can highly recommend it. Even the small one with 89 km is a very nice route and gives you most of the experience without killing yourself.

by Christof Damian ( at May 23, 2016 12:14 PM