Way Back Machine and New Idria Ride

March 30, 2014
Portola Valley glamour shot of a 1987 Saso.

Portola Valley glamour shot of a 1987 Saso.

Today I rode my Way Back Machine around Portola Valley and all in all it’s not much different riding compared to my Ritchey Break Away. Both are nice.

However, I have to admit downtube shifting leaves something to be desired compared to brake-lever shifting.

While I’m on the topic of “way back,” last Thursday I rode the New Idria loop with some friends, a 115-mile adventure ride in the wilds of San Benito County.

We were the first cyclists to ride on the disputed Clear Creek Road since it was closed in 2008 by the Bureau of Land Management, which claimed we were breathing in asbestos dust on our way to the New Idria mine.

Now it has re-opened, but with a list of prohibitions a mile long that essentially bans off-road motor bike riding and just about every other recreational activity that might stir up dust.

Photos, story and a video are on my personal website.

Bridges Connect Bay Area

March 23, 2014

Interstate 280 spans Crystal Springs canyon.

Interstate 280 spans Crystal Springs canyon.

On my ride to San Francisco I stopped to admire two bridges — Eugene Moran Memorial Bridge in San Mateo County and, of course, the Golden Gate Bridge.

Eugene Moran bridge spans the canyon created by San Mateo Creek, and a big canyon it is. It’s all the more impressive because Crystal Spring Reservoir’s dam is right there. It’s still undergoing an earthquake retrofit but one of these days it will be finished and we can resume our rides on Skyline Boulevard.

That’s a good things because riding on the bike bridge over Interstate 280 at Highway 92 is a pain. How many bike bridges do you know of with an 11 percent grade? Who approved such a plan?

Crossing the Golden Gate Bridge on a busy Sunday tested my patience. Hundreds of cyclists formed a rumba line going across the span. Pseudo racers jockeyed for position with road boulder cyclists. It was quite the scene.

Clear skies made the ride up to 820 feet and the Marin Headlands overlook worth the effort.

I finally had a chance to ride through the Fort Baker tunnel, and fortunately I took the downhill route. It’s about a half-mile and speeds of 25 mph on a bike are typical. The wet, muddy stuff in the bike lane made for some interesting riding.

The tunnel is fairly well lit. You don’t need a light. The bike lane is wide. Wait at the tunnel entrance for a green light before proceeding.

One of these day they ought to close several lanes of the Golden Gate Bridge for bikes. That will be the day.

On a side note. My novel, Skidders, a story about autonomous cars making cycling safer, is moving along. It will be posted on my website a week before Christmas. Free. I’ll also post it on Kindle.

Golden Gate Bridge from the Marin Headlands. Nice day for riding.

Golden Gate Bridge from the Marin Headlands. Nice day for riding.

San Tomas Falls shows its splendor

March 2, 2014

San Tomas Falls on the creek trail finally had more than a trickle on Feb. 28.

San Tomas Falls on the creek trail finally had more than a trickle on Feb. 28.

We finally had some rain. It was enough to put some life into San Tomas Falls on my ride home from work.

It might even turn the grass green on Mt. Hamilton. Last week’s Mt. Hamilton loop revealed one wildflower until Livermore. I’m not exaggerating.

Uvas Reservoir reveals old road

February 20, 2014

The pre-1957 Uvas Road is visible from the current road.

The pre-1957 Uvas Road is visible from the current road.

Imagine that, the old Uvas Road, buried in 1957 with the creation of Uvas Reservoir, has revealed itself.

It was much closer to the creek than it is today. Some of the old, narrow bridges are also visible.

The reservoir is essentially empty. Water from the reservoir recharges the area’s aquifers.

Handlebar sprouts doodads

February 15, 2014

My handlebar can't handle another doodad.

My handlebar can’t handle another doodad.

With the latest addition of an action cam and bike bell on my handlebar, I’m tapped out.

Here’s the list:
VDO bike computer
LED flashlight
Mobius action cam
Spurcycle bicycle bell

More information:

The VDO bike computer has been working perfectly for five years. It records elevation and has an inclinometer.

I’ve written about the EagleTac D25LC2 CREE XM-L2 LED flashlight. It’s a joy to use. The rubber band mount works well.

The Mobius action cam takes 1080p video and, as you can see, is tiny. It records up to 90 minutes of video on battery power and uses microSD cards. The price is about $80 and it’s easy to use.

A drawback is that it’s not even water-resistant and it’s somewhat fragile. There’s a smaller V mount that uses pull ties, but it’s only sold with the Pro kit. I rate the video quality close to the GoPro.

Last, there’s the new Spurcycle bicycle bell. I wrote about the bell in a past entry. It’s everything the company owners promised from their Kickstarter promotion. It’s impressively well made in San Francisco. The bell ships with two wire handlebar clasps adjustable with a 1(?)-mm hex key screw head. Nice design.

Mt. Hamilton’s weird wacky weather

January 21, 2014

Livermore Fire Station 6 houses a century-old light bulb that still works.

Livermore Fire Station 6 houses a century-old light bulb that still works.

There’s a warm winter’s day and there’s a freakish warm winter like the one we’re having. For weeks the daily low on Mt. Hamilton summit has been in the high 50s to low 60s. What better time to do the Mt. Hamilton loop to Livermore and back?

I figured I could do the entire ride in shorts and maybe even a short-sleeve jersey. Starting Sunday at the base of Mt. Hamilton, the temperature was in the mid-40s at 7:30. Within 15 minutes I had climbed above 1,000 feet where it was already in the low 50s. By the time I reached Halls Valley (Grant Ranch Park) it was in the mid-60s and it stayed that way to the summit.

The land is parched on the backside of Mt. Hamilton. No flowers. Not a blade of grass. There’s only one pond with water near the road, where there are usually a dozen.

As I passed Arnold Ranch, the flower bed so painstakingly maintained along the road dried up. I’d be surprised if we saw a single daffodil this year.

I pulled into the Junction Store and fortunately it has re-opened, under new ownership. I jokingly told the owners I would try JotEmDown store if they were still closed. Another benefit about this day’s weather was the lack of wind. It’s usually a slog riding on Mines Road with a steady headwind. It got so warm I had to shed my long-sleeve jersey.

In Livermore I checked out the centennial incandescent light bulb inside Fire Station 6 on East Avenue that has burned for more than a century. However, as expected, the station wasn’t open. You’ll need to plan your visit on a special day to get a look.

With a nice tailwind, I took Stanley Boulevard to Pleasanton, a pleasant-on experience now that the bike lane is complete.

Riding by Calaveras Reservoir, which is receiving a stronger dam, I noted a fair amount of water.

Time for a new tire

January 21, 2014

This Continental GatorHardshell stayed on my rear wheel a little too long.

This Continental GatorHardshell stayed on my rear wheel a little too long.

Now this is what I call a worn tire. The Continental GatorHardshell can take a beating. It lasted 6,000 miles, which includes a fair amount of dirt. Costs about $50 online.

I’ve gone from buying affordable tires to buying pricier tires in recent years. I think it’s a wash when it comes to getting the best value.

I don’t care much about rolling resistance. I just want a light tire that lasts forever. Is that too much to ask? Of course. The GatorHardshell was heavier than I’d prefer. My bias is toward folding tires and a bit lighter, but still strong. Continental works for me.

Jobst Brandt, who helped usher in the smooth Avocet tire, once went with the Continental Ultra, an economy tire. He paid for it with a horrific crash on the backside of Mt. Hamilton when the tire casing blew. It turns out that tire’s bead-casing joint isn’t reinforced to the degree found with the more expensive Continental tires.

Jobst is not light. That and his propensity to ride tires until the casing shown through, turned against him.

On the other hand, you could be riding a brand new $70 tire and slash it with a shard of glass. Ka-ching.

Wall of Shame

January 15, 2014

Sometimes we do silly things we later regret and we’re none the worse off for it. However, other times we do dumb things and pay a price.

I’m recording what I see on my daily commute. I’ll call out cars, bikes and peds.

Mar. 6, 7:15 a.m., San Tomas Expwy northbound before El Camino Real. Cyclist texting while riding no-hands. It was no fun passing him.

Feb. 14, 7:05 a.m., Forbes Ave. and San Tomas Expwy. Cyclist runs red light westbound on Forbes. He takes his time about it.

Feb. 12, 4:45 p.m., Monroe Street near San Tomas Expwy. Bike crossing. Car runs red light. I’ve seen this 4 times now. It’s a confusing place for cars.

Feb. 10, 7:05 a.m. Forbes Ave. and San Tomas Expwy. Cyclist riding south on San Tomas runs red light.

Jan. 30, 7:20 a.m. Walsh Ave. and Bowers Ave., W on Walsh. Cyclist runs red light. Same rider as Jan. 14-15, so I won’t mention again. Free-radical cycling make sense for one person, but falls apart when every commuter tries it. Pavement sensor detects bikes fine here.

Jan. 17, 4:45 p.m., San Tomas Expwy and El Camino Real. The San Tomas Expwy multi-use path between Cabrillo Ave. and El Camino Real is open. I rode it and enjoyed the experience. Southbound on the path, a polite driver yielded so I could take the right-turn crosswalk at El Camino. I would have done the same as a driver. If you don’t have eye contact with the driver, assume he won’t stop.

Jan 16, 7:25 a.m. Benton St. and San Tomas Expwy. Five boys on BMX bikes race across San Tomas westbound on Benton, several taking the pedestrian crosswalk against traffic, no helmets. The ones going with traffic sprint across Benton in front of approaching cars, joining the wrong-way riders continuing to school. I don’t mind the lack of helmets, but who taught them to ride against traffic and dodge in front of cars? I see them daily, so this will be my last mention.

Riding against traffic can be fatal.

Jan. 30, 7:20 a.m., Walsh Ave. and Bowers Ave., W on Walsh. Cyclist runs red light. Same rider as Jan. 14, 15. I won’t mention this one anymore. The pavement sensor detects bikes fine at this intersection. Free-radical cycling can make sense to an individual, but falls apart when every commuter adopts the same philosophy.

Jan. 16, 7:15 a.m. Forbes Ave. and San Tomas Expwy. A youth about age 10 rides his BMX bike west on Forbes across San Tomas running a red light. No lights, no helmet, dark clothes in the pre-dawn light. Did his parents teach that behavior?

Jan. 15, 7:30 a.m. Walsh Ave. and Bowers Ave., W on Walsh. Cyclist runs red light. Same cyclist as Jan. 14. He REALLY knows what he’s doing.

Jan. 14, 7:30 a.m., Walsh Ave. and Bowers Ave., W on Walsh. Cyclist runs red light. Aren’t bikes supposed to stop at red lights? This cyclist had other ideas as he slowly worked his way across the busy intersection. He looks like a highly skilled rider.

Jan. 14, 7:40 a.m., Kifer Rd. and Semiconductor Drive. Riding while on phone. The cyclist gets a call, pulls onto the side walk while riding, wobbles around and takes a call as he rides back into the street. Unbelievable.

Visiting the innovation vortex: Google

January 12, 2014

Google campus. Picture taking encouraged.

Google campus. Picture taking encouraged.

I used to ride on Charleston Road, about a million years ago, where pheasant and burrowing owls roamed the undeveloped marshland. Now it’s Google land. I checked it out today and my otherwise mundane ride turned into something whimsical.

When I lived in Mountain View and commuted to work on Shoreline Boulevard, I had to ride over Hwy 101 on a narrow two-lane road. That’s one nightmare I’m happy to put behind me.

Google encourages bike riding around campus. Way to go. Google bikes.

Google encourages bike riding around campus. Way to go. Google bikes.

I don’t know why, but Mountain View has long been a vortex for innovation, and not just technology. Runner’s World magazine occupied the present-day Togo’s sandwich shop (Togo’s launched in San Jose in 1967) and Gold’s Gym at the intersection of Shoreline and 101.

I couldn’t have arrived at a more opportune time in 1977. Frank Shorter triggered the marathon boom when he won at Munich in 1976, but that was just the icing on the cake. It gave the baby boomers something to aim for — running a marathon — as they embraced health and fitness.

Runner’s World publisher Bob Anderson moved his fledgling long-distance running newsletter from Kansas to Mountain View in the early 1970s. In large part it was because the long-running magazine Track and Field News is based in Mountain View. When I arrived in 1977 the running boom shifted into high gear. The magazine grew to become a household name. After the 1984 Olympics the bloom was off the boom. A few years later Anderson sold the magazine and it found a new home in Pennsylvania, where it still thrives.

Meanwhile, Google occupies the exalted role as Oracle for the World Wide Web, the best search engine for humankind’s vast treasure of knowledge and daily life. In the scheme of things, Google is the most relevant company in our lives. Right here in Mountain View.

Newark community center, Maybury Road, has an absolutely brilliant bronze baseball diorama. Made my day.

Newark community center, Maybury Road, has an absolutely brilliant bronze baseball diorama. Made my day.

Hedding Street bike lanes a symptom of class warfare

January 5, 2014

Hedding Street bike lanes are a symptom of class warfare. I think they're just fine.

Hedding Street bike lanes are a symptom of class warfare. I think they’re just fine.

As I checked out Hedding Street bike lanes today to see what all the fuss is about, I reflected on a recent editorial by Jordan Michael Smith for the Boston Globe called
“Conservatives’ new enemy: Bikes”. I’d throw in more than a few so-called liberals as well.

Smith’s article is a must read for anyone who cares about bikes because he raises issues that go well beyond Hedding’s seemingly harmless bike lanes and a dash of green paint. Some Americans don’t like having their roads taken over, even if it is for a greater good. They see anything that disrupts their commute as downright evil.

Smith puts disgraced Toronto Mayor Robert Ford front and center as someone capitalizing on hatred of cyclists. That’s how an admitted crack cocaine user got elected mayor. He had support from commuters living in the suburbs. Ford doesn’t restrict his hatred to bikes. He also thinks public transit’s light rail is a “pain in the ass.”

Bikes have been hated by a vocal segment of the public ever since they became popular in the late 1800s. It’s a good thing the Wright brothers didn’t let that get in the way of their inventing air travel, using bike parts.

The battle is happening here: On Sunday, Gary Richards, Mr. Roadshow, of the San Jose Mercury news issued the top 10 hot spots for Bay Area commuters and Hedding Street bike lanes made the bad list at number five.

But back to Hedding Street and those hated bike lanes. They go from Guadalupe River to Hwy 101. The rub is that a lane of traffic had to be removed both directions and in place a turn lane was added. I think center turn lanes are safer, although when two cars going opposite directions want to turn left at the same location, it’s not so good. What bothers me about two-lane roads is when a car turns left and has to wait. Traffic stacks up and anyone stuck behind the turning car knows how dangerous pulling into the right lane can be.

I don’t ride on Hedding daily, so I’m not one to comment on the problems it has created for commuters. I have to believe what they tell the Mercury News though. It stinks.

In a year the San Jose City Council will revisit the Hedding bike lanes. Maybe by then commuters will have found better ways to get to work.

Hedding offers a convenient east-west corridor for bicycle traffic. The decision to choose Hedding for a bike corridor was not haphazard. I use it whenever I ride through San Jose, along with Taylor Street. While I can live with or without bike lanes, in the scheme of things they’re a minor annoyance for even the most ardent car commuter.

Not everyone has a fancy job and can afford to drive a fancy car. There are those whose only transportation is by bike or bus or light rail. They’re that class of people who do the dirty work that nobody else wants to do. Or they’re starving students. No, they don’t fill our city streets, but they’re out there using those bike lanes. Let’s give them a break.


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