Archive for the ‘News’ Category

A Free Adventure Ride Around the World

December 24, 2011

A book written by Thomas Stevens about his around-the-world ride is available online for free.

Thomas Stevens has to be the ultimate adventure rider and one of the most interesting characters in cycling. Since I’ve been on my share of adventure rides, I can relate. He rode his 50-inch highwheeler around the world starting April 22, 1884, in San Francisco. His journey took him across the U.S. to Europe, the Middle East, Africa, China, and Japan.

Now you can read his two-volume book — Around the World on a Bicycle — and it won’t cost you a penny-farthing. Here’s how. Just download a Kindle application for the PC, available online. Then download volume 1 and volume 2 online, no charge.

I advise doing this sooner than later because who knows how long it will be before Amazon starts charging.

Tom was British so the language of the time was a bit stilted, but it gets better as you read along. It’s a fascinating read. I was disappointed he didn’t offer much detail on the U.S. leg as compared to the European tour a year later. You can probably piece together a fairly close approximation of the roads he traveled just by reading.

Tom rode through Wyoming along what is today Interstate 80. It must have been a lonely ride. What’s amazing though is to read about how many people he did meet back then in the Wild West. The West had pretty much been settled with the railroad going through. He spent a lot of nights at housing used by the railroad workers.

Reading about the adventures of Thomas Stevens is a great way to enjoy the holidays.

Stocking Stuffer: Adventure Rides in the High Sierra

December 17, 2011

Available now on Magcloud.com. For anyone interested in riding through the Sierra.

Looking for a memorable Christmas gift, I managed to finish Adventure Rides in the High Sierra in time for the holidays. Anyone who has been on a Sierra ride with Jobst Brandt will want to check it out on Magcloud.com.

But there’s more. I included some history of the passes and a little about the amazing Super Tour, multi-day journey that has been alive and well since 1976! The tour often goes through the Sierra, and takes in other venues out West.

The maps and profiles of five major passes will give some insight into how steep the passes can be in places. Thanks to John Woodfill and Vance Sprock, Cupertino Bike Shop owner, for photos; and Perry Stout for Super Tour information. Enjoy.

New Bike Physics Blows Away Myths

December 11, 2011

New studies show how bikes stay upright.


OK, this happened in April but I’m just learning about it. Scientists have discovered that everything we believed about why bikes stay upright is totally wrong. It has nothing to do with the gyroscopic effect of wheels turning or with bike trail, the caster effect.

Turns out it’s all about a moving object turning to the direction it’s leaning in an attempt to stay upright. Duh. We do the same thing when we’re running.

Now there’s a chance we’ll see even crazier bike designs in the future. I’m not sure that’s possible.

http://www.sciencefriday.com/embed/video/10376.swf

Not All Bike Shops are Alike

November 20, 2011

This Singapore bike shop with its jeweled interior catered to the high-end crowd. (Ray Hosler photo)


As much as I like Yelp, it leads me to a topic that calls for a discussion – choosing a bike shop. Don’t always believe what you read in Yelp, and that includes comments about bike shops.

I’m pretty sure every bike shop with a Yelp review has multiple dings (low star ratings) from upset shoppers. I’m not surprised. Bike shops run the gamut from mom and pop hole in the wall to big business, like Performance.

A big disconnect here circles back to the reviewer. For some reason they go in with blinders on. Would they do that at a car repair shop? No way. I’d never take my beat up Mazda 323 to a high-end Mercedes shop for a repair. I wouldn’t shop for an affordable car at the Jaguar dealership.

Casual cyclists who walk into any bike shop somehow expect they’ll receive the same level of service and the same products being offered. Take a look at the bikes. Do you see rows and rows of bikes that look like yours? If not, you’re in the wrong shop.

That’s not to say a high-end shop will refuse service to repair a junker (although some do), or that a low-end shop will ignore a performance cyclist, although performance cyclists are more likely to know where to go.

While the biggest oversight is between what the shop sells and what the buyer needs, next in importance is sales support. Let’s face it, bike shops don’t cater to the Saks Fifth Avenue or Nordstrom crowd.

Nobody in the bike shop business is getting rich. They can’t hire lots of sales people. On Saturdays when shops are busiest, don’t expect instant service. If that’s what you want, go on a weekday morning after the shop opens.

Most bike shops operate one step away from chaos. Handling a million different requests and trying to support the myriad bikes in the market is a big reason why shops specialize.

Remember, look around at the bikes being sold and compare them to what you ride. If they match, the shop is probably for you. Get to know the people who work in the shop by first name and you’ll get their attention. It’s human nature.

Unlike Saks or Amazon, a bike shop is still a place where you can get to know people and make a connection. It’s those customer friendships that make owning and patronizing a bike shop a worthwhile endeavor.

Wacked Out Wireless World

November 12, 2011

When on, LED lights may generate weird errors on some bike computers. Welcome to the wacky world of wireless.

What’s wrong with the above photo? Note the speed – 59 mph. The bike isn’t even moving. It’s not trickery, but I wish it were. It’s the result of radio frequency interference (RFI), also called electromagnetic interference (EMI) between the light and bike computer.

My bike computer is wireless. The light has light emitting diodes (LEDs), which are tiny die cut from a semiconductor wafer. Apply a small current and they light up. And therein lies the problem. These highly efficient LEDs need power for an integrated circuit (IC) to make the LED light up. In addition to batteries, the light’s power module needs an inductor, basically a small wound copper coil.

This coil creates a magnetic field and you know that means. Magnetic fields generate electric currents that oscillate at radio frequencies. The printed circuit board design and the kind of power IC (switching regulator) can also come into play generating more errant signals.

The bike computer relies on a radio frequency that’s generated by the small magnet attached to the front wheel spoke and transmitted to the unit on my handlebar.

We experience EMI interference all the time, especially noticeable with cell phones as they encounter radio frequencies generated by our TVs, toasters, computers, most anything electronic, Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) included.

Unfortunately, my bike computer is low frequency analog. Some bike computers are digital and digital signals typically transmit at higher frequencies where there’s less interference.

I can’t give advice on which devices have conflicts. You have to find out for yourself. Short of moving the devices farther away from one another, or wrapping them in lead, there’s nothing you can do. (I moved the computer onto the handlebar but it didn’t fix the issue entirely.) Some cyclists choose to run wired computers to avoid this issue.

I’ve used wired bike computers and they have their own problems. Technology rules, but not without some minor inconveniences.

Bike Gathering Supports Silicon Valley Advocacy

November 2, 2011

Bruce Hildenbrand and Andy Hampsten have been cycling friends for more than 30 years! They lead rides through France and Italy.


Now in its fourth year, the Silicon Valley Bicycle Coalition’s (SVBC) annual dinner is quickly becoming THE event of the year to celebrate an activity we’re all passionate about. It’s a great time to see cycling buddies and swap stories in a relaxed atmosphere. The open bar helped.

We met at the swank Palo Alto Golf and Country Club in the hills overlooking Arastradero Preserve. Talk about pampered. Valet parking!

I saw lots of familiar faces — bike shop owners and local luminaries. But there was also a strong showing of government agencies with a vested interest in cycling (Association of Bay Area Governments (ABAG) air quality watchdogs aka, Spare the Air), corporations, and bike racing team sponsors such as Webcor’s Andy Ball.

Fresh off a nasty bike crash (too many broken bones to mention here), the silver-tongued race announcer Bruce Hildenbrand livened the proceedings with an insightful interview of 1988 Giro d’Italia winner Andy Hampsten; then he had the dinner crowd in stitches and spending money like there was no tomorrow. Money raised from the live auction of expensive bikes, vacation getaways, and high-tech wheels helps fund the SVBC.

Giro victory
Andy’s accounts of winning the Giro, racing with Greg LeMond, and his legendary race over Gavia Pass in a blinding snowstorm were nothing less than uplifting. How could anyone maintain such a positive attitude with so much suffering? It’s no doubt why Andy still loves to ride and leads annual tours through the Alps.

Corinne Winter, President and Executive Director of SVBC, recognized the volunteer heroes of Silicon Valley over the past year. High-flying data storage company NetApp took home the award for corporate support.

Bike charity
Dave Fork, who has turned the Bike Exchange in Mountain View into an institution, won the 2011 Ellen Fletcher Volunteer Award, and deservedly so. His leadership has resulted in more than 500 bikes a year being donated to people who could never afford one. Dozens of cyclists volunteer their time restoring bikes that would otherwise wind up in the landfill.

Corinne concluded the evening with a “Vision Zero: Silicon Valley” plan for 2012. SVBC will continue efforts to address unsafe intersections and dangerous roadways, all with the goal of zero fatalities and injuries. SVBC works hand in hand with local governments to find project funding.

Some 300 people turned out for the fourth annual SVBC dinner.

Adventure Rides Available in PDF Format

October 30, 2011

Adventure Rides magazines are available online in PDF format

I’ve made available Adventure Rides in the Santa Cruz Mountains and Mt. Hamilton by Bike in PDF format on Magcloud, for $2 each.

Coming early next year — Adventure Rides in the High Sierra. I’ll have ride reports from the old days, newer rides, photos old and new, and lots of neat maps with elevation profiles. I’ve found some interesting history of the high passes: Ebbetts, Monitor, Sonora, and Tioga.

Bay Area Ridge Trail Expands Near Alum Rock Park

October 22, 2011

The Bay Area Ridge Trail has expanded above Alum Rock Park in the Sierra Vista Open Space Preserve. Google Maps image.


If you read the San Jose Mercury News, you know that the Bay Area Ridge Trail celebrated another addition to the ambitious trail network ringing the bay area.

It’s located in Sierra Vista Open Space Preserve, next to Alum Rock Park, extending to Sierra Road. There’s also a new segment to the south that climbs to a vista point.

I ride in Alum Rock Park a fair amount, and I’ve ridden up and down Sierra Road a half-dozen times. This new trail is going to be a challenge, even for experienced riders. There’s no easy way to make it up the ridge overlooking Alum Rock Park.

I’ll probably try it out by riding/walking up Boccardo Trail one of these days. I’m not sure I’d want to ride down it.

Bike Friendly Cities Named in the San Francisco Bay Area

October 16, 2011

Bike friendly underpasses in Palo Alto are one reason why the city received a Gold Award from the League of American Bicyclists.


Advocacy group League of American Bicyclists released its Bicycle Friendly Community list and several bay area communities made the cut. But first, the best of the best (Platinum Award): Boulder, Colorado; Davis, California; and Portland, Oregon.

For sure these are three of the most bike friendly communities in the U.S. and it goes without saying many cyclists live there.

Now for the bay area. The results are not so impressive, but at least they rated:

Gold Award
Palo Alto
San Francisco
Stanford University

Silver Award
Presidio of San Francisco

Bronze Award
Cupertino
Los Altos
Menlo Park
Mountain View
Oakland
San Jose
Sunnyvale

It’s hard to find fault here. San Jose’s city employees and leaders deserve recognition for trying hard, but it’s an uphill battle. Still, they’re making progress.

I just finished a ride including Bryant Street (Ellen Fletcher Bicycle Boulevard) in Palo Alto and this route is one reason why the city received a gold award. I’ve heard rumors that other communities are considering similar routes. Good idea.

Steve Jobs Greased the Wheels of Progress

October 5, 2011

My Macintosh SE today, still working. It made Bay Area Bike Rides become a reality.


Steve Jobs had a profound influence on my life and with his passing I will share a few memories of the long and winding road that is Apple.

I’ll never forget buying my first computer, an Apple IIe. It was 1983 and I was working at Runner’s World in the book department. That first day using a computer has to be one of the more stressful memories. I sat there in fear of deleting the operating system and ruining a $3,000 investment at the stroke of a key.

I bought the IIe in downtown Palo Alto, not far from Steve’s home. I also worked at Palo Alto Bicycles part-time. Steve rode a bike and was seen on occasion in the shop, although I never saw him riding.

Once I got the hang of it, I showed my boss the IIe and he went out and bought one as well. Pretty soon I was talking to a manager in the typesetting area and he told me he could take my floppy disk and feed the stories directly into his typesetting machine.

When publisher Bob Anderson found out he could save a buck, he bought Apple IIes for the entire editorial staff! Wise investment.

Bay Area Bike Rides takes shape
But the Macintosh SE was the game-changer. I had just accepted an advance to write Bay Area Bike Rides for Chronicle Books in early 1988 and I boldly told the publisher I could also produce the maps. I had no idea how, but I figured the Macintosh SE would be my savior. I went out and bought one the next day.

I had watched Jim Westby produce the highly acclaimed Palo Alto Bicycles mail-order catalog on a Macintosh (it literally went up in smoke!) and I was confident I could do the maps with the right software.

Once again, there was that moment of dread when I wondered what I had gotten myself into. I had MacDraw II, but no scanner. Scanners back then were extremely expensive. After a while it came to me: I would draw half-inch cross-hatch lines on a map and replicate the roads in each of the small squares to the Macintosh. MacDraw had half-inch hatched lines as well. It was painstaking, slow work, but with time I got faster.

Bay Area Bike Rides came out in 1990 and four editions later it’s still in print.

Finally, when I worked at Tandem Computers in the early 1990s I had the opportunity to tour the Macintosh assembly line on Warm Springs Boulevard in Fremont. A Tandem CLX system managed logistics in the factory. Today the former Tandem headquarters is an Apple building.

I ride by there often and it always brings back memories. Thanks Steve.


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