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.

Pedestrian lights are for pedestrians

January 1, 2014

Don't go punching pedestrian lights while on a bike, unless you're walking or it's designated for bikes. (Google maps photo)

Don’t go punching pedestrian lights while on a bike, unless you’re walking or it’s designated for bikes. (Google maps photo)


Being predictable on a bike could save your life and being unpredictable could cost you your life.

Recently I saw one of the most bizarre cycling behaviors, one that could have easily caused an accident. Fortunately it didn’t, but the cyclist should know why his action was so dangerous. Unfortunately he’ll probably never read this.

I was driving south on Saratoga Avenue in the right-turn only lane to enter the Interstate 280 on-ramp around 6 p.m. A cyclist was ahead with lights on and wearing a helmet. He looked like he knew what he was doing. I stayed behind him because the intersection was only 50 yards ahead. What really ticks me off is when a right-turning motorist pulls in front then stops so you can pass. I make a point of going left when I can. Treat bikes as you would a car and everything will be fine.

The light was green. The rider then slowed and pulled off the road. He punched the pedestrian light to make the orange hand turn white for go! At this point I slowed, not knowing his intentions. It’s a good thing I wasn’t rear-ended.

All he had to do was keep straight and everything would have been fine. Even if the light were red, he shouldn’t have pulled off the road to punch the light. In some situations where the button is within arm’s reach, that’s OK, but not when you have to pull off the road.

If you’re going to push a pedestrian light like that, you’d best be off your bike walking.

Ride like a motorist and you’ll be treated like one (usually).

Predictable riding, and traffic planning, essential for safety

December 29, 2013

Confusion on Calabazas. Do we want bike lanes crossing traffic lanes?

Confusion on Calabazas. Do we want bike lanes crossing traffic lanes?


A co-worker complained about the bike lanes on Calabazas Boulevard, Santa Clara, so I checked it out, and he was right.

I’m not a traffic engineer, but one of the cardinal rules of road design has been violated here: bikes keep right. Why oh why were the bike lanes put on the far left? Confusion reigns.

As I was stopped at Calabazas northbound at the El Camino Real light a motorist pulled up next to me in his convertible and engaged me in a conversation. He said I was the first rider he had seen using the bike lane on the left. I told him this was an unusual setup, to be sure.

I proceeded on Calabazas, a tree-lined one-way road divided by Calabazas Creek. It felt weird riding on the far left. At intersections I felt uncomfortable, wondering if cars on my left crossing Calabazas would be looking for bikes in this location. On top of this, there’s a weird sign with a car and a red-stripe through it. No cars in this lane. What’s that all about?

The El Camino Real intersections are equally confusing. The green paint shows up in two locations. Am I supposed to be in the far left lane when turning left or the one farther right? And where do cars go?

I made the mistake of being in the left side going south crossing El Camino. The small sign said “bikes left on green only.” I was kind of taking a left to get across to Calabazas, but when the car turning left from Calabazas nearly ran me over, I realized my mistake. Could have been fatal. This is an unusual left turn to begin with. Now it’s downright confusing.

Another oddity is the bike lane crossing Calabazas at an angle as it approaches Pomeroy. What if I’m turning left? It’s all wrong.

The old road alignment (two lanes one way both directions) was fine. The bike lanes were on the right. Now technically they weren’t perfect bike lanes because cars parked on the street take up too much of the lane (open door a hazard), but they could easily have taken out a lane and had parking as well as a bike lane.

Unfortunately the vehicle code (21208) says bikes must use the bike lane, with a few exceptions.

No doubt this street has a fair amount of traffic on weekdays with Wilcox High School nearby.

The city of Santa Clara, which has a bike committee, needs to revisit this road design and get it right: bikes keep right.

Swimming with the sharks

December 29, 2013

Excellent surf in Santa Cruz on Saturday.

Excellent surf in Santa Cruz on Saturday.


With so little rain, winter rides have taken me to places I wouldn’t normally go this time of year.

We rode 9.5 miles of dirt to reach Hwy 1 and then headed to Santa Cruz for more spectacular weather and surfers enjoying their sport. Nice waves.

San Tomas Aquino Creek Trail extension opens in January 2014

December 24, 2013

San Tomas Aquino Creek  Trail reach 4 (part one) will open in a couple of weeks.

San Tomas Aquino Creek Trail reach 4 (part one) will open in a couple of weeks.


For those who ride by the San Tomas Aquino Creek Trail extension from Cabrillo Avenue, there’s finally some progress to report. The contractor provided its plan to complete all the outstanding items needed to finalize the project.

According to the city of Santa Clara, work will be completed within 15-working days starting on January 2, 2014. The trail would be open shortly after the work is completed once the city has inspected and accepted the work.

So many ways…to mess up a hub

December 23, 2013

Over-tightened hubs will bind and cause pitting in the race. This is a  Shimano 6700 hub with dimpling from being too tight.

Over-tightened hubs will bind and cause pitting in the race. This is a Shimano 6700 hub with dimpling from being too tight.


Well, it has happened again. I messed up a hub, and it can’t be fixed.

It’s one of those lessons learned when switching components. For decades I used Campagnolo. You learn the ins and outs of parts and everything is wonderful.

New parts have new problems and quirks you need to learn. Take the Shimano Ultegra 6700 front hub. I had a squeak that I couldn’t identify, which turned out to be a loose front quick-release. So I cranked it down, hard.

I also repacked the loose-bearing hub (11 3/16″ balls by the way according to Shimano) and when I did so, I may have adjusted it a bit too tight. It’s one of those adjustments that requires finesse and an awareness of what’s right for a particular hub. You want a small amount of play. That’s because when you clamp the quick release, there’s more compression of the threaded bearing race on the clamp side.

All it takes is a bit too much pressure for the bearings to bind. That binding caused the dimples in the hub race. Back in the days of Campagnolo, races were replaceable, but not Shimano’s. I don’t think this hub is toast. It’s probably going to last quite a while, but not as long as it might last with proper treatment.

Service sealed headsets and bottom brackets
While you’re servicing your hubs, note that just because you have a sealed-bearing headset doesn’t mean it needs no maintenance. The bearing cartridges ride on races and they need grease. If not greased, they’ll start making noise or, worse, wear out the headset prematurely. I didn’t service mine for two years and that was probably a year too long.

I took off the bottom bracket on the Shimano 6700 and while it doesn’t look like it needs any maintenance, it’s always a good idea to grease the threads and clean the parts. Sealed-bearings are designed to emit a bit of grease. They’ll dry out, eventually, and need replacing.

Addendum: As I look at the photo, it occurs to me that the dimples are low on the race. I’m wondering how it could dimple so low? Are the bearings really riding there? Odd.

Addendum 2: I was using 7/32″ bearings (Campy on my mind) rather than 6/32,” and that could explain why the bearings rode low in the hub. I’ll replace them with the correct count and size and see what happens.

Take short showers, and pray for rain

December 22, 2013

A winter's day in the Santa Cruz Mountains. The stuff of dreams.

A winter’s day in the Santa Cruz Mountains. The stuff of dreams.

Today could be described as one of those event-filled rides you dream about. Under clear skies that included, for the first weekend in a while, clean air, I headed up Hwy 9 from Saratoga.

Right off the bat I was pleased to see road crews have widened the shoulder in many locations. Or am I just imagining? They also put up the new “bikes can use full roadway” signs.

I’m so accustomed to riding here that I don’t pay much attention to the road. Anyway, they put out some straw-filled dividers and sprayed green stuff. I think it’s all about erosion control, but feel free to chime in.

Someone at Caltrans has a benevolent view of bikes on Hwy 9. Nice widening and greatly appreciated.

Someone at Caltrans has a benevolent view of bikes on Hwy 9. Nice widening and greatly appreciated.

On Skyline the wind picked up and so did the temperature (mid-50s). I met Brian and we headed off on our ride. Trail conditions couldn’t be much better, although they might benefit from a little more rain.

As part of our volunteer trail maintenance duties, we removed a downed tree. It was decidedly bigger than the photo indicates. It took us a good 20 minutes to muscle it off the trail. Brian hacked away with his portable hand saw, having forgotten once again to bring his Oregon 40V PowerNow CS250E chainsaw.

Doing our part to keep trails open and safe.

Doing our part to keep trails open and safe.


On the way home I checked out Stevens Creek Reservoir to see what happens when it doesn’t rain for two years in a row. It’s pretty much a mud puddle.

I think Jerry will be declaring a water emergency after the Chistmas holidays. I hope you don’t mind a dead lawn and 5-minute showers. Lawns should only be allowed in England.

Maybe we don't get drinking water from Stevens Creek Reservoir, but it tells the story. Mega-drought.

Maybe we don’t get drinking water from Stevens Creek Reservoir, but it tells the story. Mega-drought.


Finally, I stopped by to see the new Cupertino Bike Shop at McClellan Road and Stevens Canyon Road. It looks like it’s still weeks away from completion, but be sure to visit Vance Sprock and dog Daisy when the shop opens. Local residents are fortunate to have three outstanding pro shops within three miles of one another: Cupertino Bike Shop, Chain Reaction Bicycles, Bicycle Outfitter.
Cupertino Bike Shop's new home on Stevens Canyon Road at McClellan, opening soon.

Cupertino Bike Shop’s new home on Stevens Canyon Road at McClellan, opening soon.

Upper Alpine Road repaired

December 15, 2013

Upper Alpine Road (dirt) has been repaired.

Upper Alpine Road (dirt) has been repaired.

A friend told me the upper section of Alpine Road that had a washout has been repaired, so I checked it out. It’s about a half-mile down from Page Mill Road in the “freeway” section.

Eons ago there was probably a washout in this same location and San Mateo County repaired it by widening the road. The culvert plugged up again and washed out a year or so ago. In wet years this ravine has a decent flow, but since the Great Drought it hasn’t seen much water.

I’m told Midpeninsula Regional Open Space District made the repair, even though the road is still under the jurisdiction of San Mateo County. But don’t hold your breath that the county would do anything to fix Alpine Road.

The “road” is in the best shape I’ve seen it, all things considered. It’s a far cry from what it was in the late 1980s when it was graded for the last time and there weren’t any washouts. The bypass trail is still an insult to cyclists. Elite mountain bikers and hikers (not than anyone hikes here) wouldn’t think so though.

Flashlight or bike light?

December 8, 2013

EagleTac flashlight at 548 lumens.

EagleTac flashlight at 548 lumens.


Just about every year I buy a bike light, mainly because technology keeps getting better. Today’s LED lights offer the best lighting ever.

Three technologies account for the improvement: better batteries (lithium ion), power management ICs (mostly analog) and light emitting diodes (LEDs).

The ICs have been shrunk to incredibly small sizes (2mm x 2mm) and they have plenty of intelligence, allowing various light settings (high, medium low), flashing, etc.

Lithium-ion batteries have been around a while, but it’s only recently they’ve become common in bike lights. I’m impressed with the advances over just the past three years.

Most cyclists will go with a traditional bike light. It has the mounting equipment and that’s huge.

However, I opted for a flashlight and rubber band for handlebar mounting. After a couple of months use, I like my choice. It’s an incredibly small light, but puts out 548 lumens and the rechargeable Li-ion battery lasts at least a week of daily use (about 40 minutes a day). It can flash and has a half-dozen different light settings.

The brand is EagleTac, model D25LC2 Clicky, and sells for about $62. An equivalent bike light, such as NiteRider Lumina 550, sells for about $82 online. The difference is that you get the bike mount hardware. If you’re using rechargeable batteries, be sure to charge them at least once a month, otherwise they’ll lose their ability to recharge.

MTBR has an extensive 2014 light comparison on its website.


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