I had a nice ride up in Wisconsin on Sunday doing the Harmon Hundred. It was a beautiful day, a little cool but only a 9 mph wind. The hills were tough at times but only one that was a real killer. I am looking forward to the North Shore Century next weekend.
Ever since I purchased a Campagnolo Athena group for the Serotta it has been NOTHING but problems. It is a triple set, and I picked it up a little over 3 years ago because the chrome matched the Serotta perfectly. It was installed and I put about 120 miles on it before putting the bike away. It was nothing but a mess, the front derailleur would bind and lock up constantly. Finally this year I wanted to ride the bike so the first thing I did was take it to Spokes out in Wheaton because they are a Campy Pro shop. Its a long story, but they refused to service the set under warranty because it was not purchased from them. A call to Campagnolo North America confirmed that it WAS under warranty but that it might take 2 months for the part I needed to be shipped from Italy. So I bought new levers, had them installed and took it for a test ride.
The first very short ride was fine, so I waited until this week to really start shaking it down for the North Shore Century next Sunday. Bad decision. It shifts like crap, binding if there is even the slightest load on the chain. And the best part is they decided to use Shimano SIS cables instead of either proper Campagnolo cables or the matching silver Jag Wire cables that I had put on for the brakes. Here is a pic of how the binding happens when it is at its worst. This causes a complete lock up of the chain and mashes the piss out of the FD.
Some more shots of the FD setup. The chain came back from them unbelievably cruddy.
While I was in China the roof over the garage developed a leak near the chimney and leaked water over the lathe. Removing rust from a lathe bed is tricky because you cannot remove any metal or the lathe is no longer accurate. What I chose to use was phosphoric acid and a white scotch pad. Paper towels were cut to match the ways and then phosphoric acid was dripped onto them and allowed to set for 60 minutes. Then the paper towels were removed and the white scotch pad was used gently. It worked out well and between that and the bottoms of the tail piece, tool stay etc the lathe was fixed in less than a day. Fixing the ceiling took quite a bit longer and I did a temporary caulk job to hold until the roofer can come out for a permanent repair.
I stayed in China all the way until the first of July and the yard suffered. My house is taken care of by a neighbor and he only mows the yard. I had planned on being back at the end of May, but I stayed on in Beijing through the beginning of the summer. The gardens that I built are completely over-run with weeds and bushes. At this point there is nothing to do but clear all the beds, gardens and everything. Even the grapes are overgrown. It is a mess.
A better title might be craft beer in Beijing, but many of my friends who are involved in craft beer are spread out across multiple Chinese cities. I am very lucky to have been involved in the Chinese craft beer scene since almost the beginning because now I have so many friends, so many great people -- that I can always visit and talk with about what is going on in China. Things are changing quickly as with almost everything else in China (other than the laws regulating beer) so it should not have surprised me to see how well many of the operations are doing. But still, I was not only surprised but really happy to see how well business is doing and how much better our choices are with regards to both drinking and producing beer in China.
On the import side of things we have multiple new choices for American craft beers, including Dogfish, Great Divide, Firestone Walker and Founders. The picture below shows the cooler at NBeer's location out by PingAn'Li and as you can see it is packed with great choices. It is expensive ($10+) for a bottle but at least you can get it. Finally Chinese enthusiasts can taste a great beer and have something to compare other beers too. When you drink a Double Jack then you know what to shoot for when brewing your own IPA's or what to expect from other local brewers who are presenting double IPA's to you as examples of the style. Not to say there aren't other great double IPA's out there, but you have to admit they are a leading example of the style.
One of the other fascinating developments is NBeer's Sabco Brew Magic that they use to produce beers for sale as well as "rent" to local home brewers. Yes - you can actually go in and talk to Yin Hai or the other guys there and set up a time to brew on their Sabco system. Then use one of their small conicals to ferment and BAM! you have beer to take home. It is a great concept that I have to admit I was totally skeptical about when they first explained it to me 2 years ago, but it seems to work out well for them. There are 3 Sabco Brew Magics in China that I know of, the first one I helped a friend ship into Beijing (which was a nightmare) and then the two that NBeer/Tipsy Face brought in shortly afterwards.
There were lots of new brewing operations to visit, but one of the coolest stories was the third Great Leap location. Here I found a friend who started brewing with the Beijing Homebrew Society and is now one of the main brewers at Great Leap. I can remember when Enda was homebrewing at the embassy apartment and trying to deal with keeping the kitchen clean and finding a place to store all the fermenters. Now he is working commercially on a modern ten barrel system and they are producing top quality beer. He is totally enthused about it and in my opinion this guy was born to brew.
It was a shocker to see the kitchen when I arrived in Beijing. I built up a nice kitchen over the last few years in Beijing and even though Annie doesn't cook, she still has a housekeeper who comes 4 days a week to cook and clean for her. But the housekeeper apparently wasn't very good at the cleaning part. There were lots of things that had not been cleaned since my last visit. First off, I had to clean out the air conditioner as summer was here and the AC doesn't work at all when its dirty. I have some tools I made from the local hardware store so we don't have to pay anyone to clean this, I just have to open up the window and use a hose and brush. It takes an hour or so and it is good as new. I usually have to do this every two weeks, and this shows you how dirty the air is in Beijing.
The kitchen was just awful, with grease and oil on everything. These drawers had not been cleaned since the last time I was in the apartment. This is still the paper I put down! Cleaning the kitchen took about a week. It was filthy. I do a lot of cooking for Annie's friends and clients so the kitchen has to be spotless.
And the refrigerator is not an automatic defrost model, so I defrost it twice a year. Nobody had defrosted the fridge in 18 months! But I finished this up and threw out all of the old food that was in the freezer.
I broke a Wellgo pedal during my mountain ride, and weirdly enough on the descent. Each section broke one at a time over about an hour period during the ride back. At least I got home. No more cheap pedals in my future.
I met a new riding friend on this trip. His name was Tito, and we met while riding down Chang'An avenue. He was a taller guy, with a larger frame bike similar to my own so it was natural that I tried to strike up a conversation with him. He doesn't speak much English, but he is a strong rider. We did a great ride that day, and then followed that up with a big ride up into the mountains north of Beijing. We ran into some fun people, and I clocked 55 mph on the downhill! Not bad for a 72 mile day.
I have come to enjoy bike riding as much in China as the US. It is true that it can be a little dangerous, but I feel much safer than in the US. Bike lanes are very large and as long as you keep your eyes open and don't act stupid everything should be ok. The entire city is huge and almost completely flat. I once did a full century (100m, 160km) and only had a total elevation change of 900 feet (300m). I see exciting and strange things every time I ride and it really helps me to understand the city and how people live.
The bike lanes are shared with 3 wheel vehicles, electric scooters, pedestrians, taxis dropping people off and the occasional parked car. So it is a challenge, but that is part of the fun.
In what almost seems a lifetime ago I was lucky enough to meet Li Lei who owned True North Cabin in the Jianwai Soho area. He had a small shop at the bottom of Building 17 where he kept some wonderful fresh water aquariums. It was there that I helped him create a cocktail menu and develop a fusion liquor program. I was able to go back and see my friend and wow - times have changed in only 20 months. Now he has an extensive collection of Japanese whiskey. Like everything else, he was obsessed with serving it perfectly. So now the tables were turned and he taught me much about not only the Japanese whiskey, but also some very interesting methods for serving ice.
For my birthday he poured me some Yamazaki 18 year, and it was unlike anything else I have ever tried.
If you want to visit somewhere off the beaten path in Beijing where you can be treated well by a very smart host, True North Cabin, Building 17, Jianwai SOHO is the place to try. Li Lei is a great guy and he is fluent in Chinese, English and Japanese. The cocktails are very good, and the company can't be beat.