Archive for the ‘News’ Category

Rumble on the Coast

April 11, 2012

Rumble strips on Hwy 1 between Santa Cruz and Davenport add another obstacle for cyclists to overcome.

A proposal to add rumble strips on a 10-mile stretch of Hwy 1 from Davenport to Santa Cruz has cyclists up in arms, and I can’t blame them.

Rumble strips make cycling hazardous. They reduce your options when maneuvering around road debris and parked cars. This stretch of highway has plenty of parked cars whose drivers use nearby beaches.

Rumble strips have been gouged into the middle of Hwy 9 between Saratoga and Skyline Boulevard. These strips haven’t changed driving habits all that much, from my experience. Because they’re in the middle of the road, they don’t affect cyclists.

There’s one stretch of Hwy 108 east of Sonora that has a long rumble strip. On the steep descent to Sonora on many a Sierra ride I’ve cursed these strips up and down. They’re positioned in a such a way that if you ride to the left you’re in traffic, but if you ride to the right you’re in a ton of debris and glass. At 40 mph there is little room for error.

I’m also wondering just what kind of rumble strips are proposed. There are quite a few different arrangements, some worse than others for cyclists.

On stretches of Hwy 1 with 5-foot shoulders and no parking, rumble strips might not be so bad. That’s not always the case on this stretch of road as it passes beaches and state parks with parked cars.

Caltrans generally does a good job maintaining our roads and making them safe. I hope they listen and take cyclists’ needs into consideration. Hwy 1 is one of the best places for cycling in all of California. Let’s not ruin it.

Distracted Driving (Cell Phones) Kills Cyclists

April 10, 2012

Channel 5 TV news photo

Have you had a close call as a result of a motorist using his cell phone — texting, talking, etc? I have, more than once.

The latest incident came last week on Monroe Avenue at the San Tomas Aquino recreation path. I stopped, punched the bike light button and waited to cross.

With a green light I started across when to my left comes a car going about 5 mph. A woman driver stopped only feet in front of me. The stop line was about 20 feet back. She was on the phone, of course, peering up at the stop light, a dumbfounded look on her face.

Her window was down. I felt like ripping the phone from her hands and tossing it into the creek. I would never do that, but it would have been justice served.

I did a quick check to find cyclists killed by cell phones. There are plenty. It’s too early to tell what happened in Concord last week when a man and his daughter riding along were mowed down by a 17-year-old driver. He was speeding is all that’s certain.

Recent deaths:

Bend, Ore. 2011

Kirkland, Wash., 2011

Compton, Calif., 2010

Harrisonburg, Va., 2009

Scottsboro, Ala., 2009

But the most egregious of all accidents and one that took the lives of two people I knew, occurred in 1986 when an 18-year-old driving a Chevy Blazer reached down to fetch a cassette tape. She veered into the bike lane and took the lives of four cyclists enjoying a Sunday ride, just like that.

Trail Work Moves Ahead in South Bay

January 12, 2012

A dodgy section of trail from Zanker Road to Coyote Creek next to Hwy 237 is being paved in 2012. The sheep stay.

We have lots of good trail news in the South Bay to start the new year. First, the unpaved portion of the Guadalupe River Trail from I-880 at the San Jose airport extending to Alviso at Gold Avenue will be paved starting later this year.

The bad news is the trail will be closed for up to a year.

On another bright note, the notoriously bad section of trail (0.6 miles) paralleling the north side of Hwy 237 from Zanker Road to Coyote Creek will be paved in 2012. It’s actually not bad if you like a funky mix of old pavement and firm gravel. I will miss it in a way.

Now if only we could see the Coyote Creek Trail opened under Hwy 237. That one has always been a mystery to me.

Finally, it took millions of dollars to buy the land from Union Pacific, but we now have the land needed to build a trail linking Los Gatos Creek Trail with Guadalupe River Trail. It’s called the 3 Creeks Trail extension.

I didn’t see any projected opening dates, so I imagine it will be a few more years before we have a place to ride.

Niles Canyon Widening Project Has Opposition

January 8, 2012

Many sections of Niles Canyon Road (Hwy 84) have good shoulder, but not here. (Google Maps photo)

OK, raise your hand if you think riding a bike through Niles Canyon is hazardous to your health. Just as I thought. Lots of hands went up.

There’s a three-year $60 million plan by Caltrans to widen the road, but that doesn’t include widening the bridges, which is too bad. The bridges are no fun crossing because they’re so narrow.

However, the plan is in jeopardy because a lot of people — mostly people living in the area — oppose the project: they don’t want to see hundreds of trees cut down and possibly upset fish habitats in Alameda Creek.

East Bay Bicycle Coalition supports the road improvements, although opponents argue (rightly so in my mind) it won’t make things safer. More people will use the road and they’ll just drive faster.

I’ve ridden through Niles Canyon dozens of times and never had any issues, unless you consider the many close calls that are part of the cyclist’s life. I would welcome shoulders, but not rumble strips, which are already in place down the middle of the road. All in all, I think the plan is a mixed bag, same as the canyon road. Some parts are nice with good shoulder, but other parts have no shoulder. The only thing that’s clear-cut is the trees.

Smug Cyclists? No Way!

January 7, 2012

Smug cyclist sends a clear message.

Cyclelicious posted this funny video and it sends an interesting message. “We are the cyclists, the intermediate stage between humans and pure energy.” Right.

I like the part about cycling being so natural, although they’re riding carbon-fiber tungsten bikes that required 14,000 metric tons of C02 to build.

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 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

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.

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.


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