With waxed chains I’m Mr. Clean

May 28, 2020

Cassette running a waxed chain.


After a couple of months running waxed chain, I can say it’s worth the extra effort.

I got 350 miles on a single waxing with a 7-speed chain. Your mileage will vary, but no doubt the larger chain, which can hold more wax, accounts for some of the longevity. I’m not seeing the same results for a 10-speed chain. I’ve gone 230 miles and could have gone longer, but the chain was making a little more noise than normal.

The payoff is a clean drivetrain. I’m impressed with how clean the cassette and freewheel are running. The chains are not as clean as I’d like, but they have 80-90 percent less black gunk, a huge improvement.

It’s hard to say how much more life I’ll get from components, but from what I’ve read, it’s significant.

Now that I have a routine, I can clean a chain in about 35-40 minutes.

Dirty waxed chain with 240 miles before cleaning.

Battery-free lights use eddy currents for power

May 27, 2020

I’m a sucker for high-tech lighting solutions so I spent some time studying the new Magnic Lights out of Germany. Ironically, these lights are illegal in that country. Doh!

I don’t see that they’re readily available after a Kickstarter campaign. You never know how those are going to pan out.

These lights promise battery-free, non-resisting energy generated by the moving rim. Strong batteries are required to generate an eddy current.

They don’t say how much resistance is created but I can’t imagine it’s much, and it doesn’t take lots of power to drive an LED light.

I don’t ride at night anymore, so I’m not highly motivated to own one, but it looks like promising technology.

Here’s another similar product, Reelight, with traditional dynamo-magnet technology. It’s clunkier, but available now.

“Now and Then” on Stevens Canyon Trail

May 25, 2020

Stevens Canyon slide in December 1980 and present day. About a quarter mile past the end of Stevens Canyon Road. (Jobst Brandt photo 1980)

Stevens Canyon Trail has held up well over the past four decades, but there were a few times when cyclists had issues getting past slides.

I don’t know the year, but in the early 1980s there was a slide about halfway down from Page Mill Road that caused a dismount, but was repaired in short order.

The single-track section that goes down to the creek after the long descent has been there as long as I’ve been riding. I’m guessing a big slide blocked the road. I don’t recall Jobst Brandt mentioning a time when it wasn’t there, so it may date back to before the 1950s. It was a through road way back when.

Then there’s the big slide a short distance from the access point of paved lower Stevens Canyon Road. This slide happened in the early 1980s or late 1970s — 1980 if I had to pick a year.

I clambered down it a time or two but later a cut made through the slide could be ridden with difficulty. Today it’s improved and rideable.

The Canyon Trail as a whole is definitely rockier than it was when I first started riding it in 1980. Mostly the scree comes from natural erosion of steep, rocky walls made of shale along the trail. I don’t think mountain bikes make much of a contribution here. They probably do more for smoothing the trail than making it worse.

I don’t recall the 1989 Loma Prieta Earthquake having much of an effect on the trail.

Social distancing on the Alviso levees

May 11, 2020

Alviso baylands offer the best chance to practice social distance on a Sunday morning.


There’s no better place to practice social distancing than on the Alviso levees.

Sunday morning the marina had its fair share of walkers, but they thinned out on the nine-mile loop.

The only negative was the last two miles of the loop. I think trucks used the levee to shore up the road, and now it’s as bumpy as hell.

That’s the best way to reduce speeds for bikes and cars.

Park closures reduce traffic

May 5, 2020

Blue Lupine at Quail Hollow Ranch county park.

Enjoy it while you can. With state parks closed in the Santa Cruz Mountains, this is the best riding since 1983 when many roads were washed out.

I rode from Saratoga Gap, heading southeast on Skyline Boulevard toward the first park closed — Castle Rock. Still, some rock climbers’ cars lined the road. With temps in the high 50s and clear skies, this was one of those early May days you dream about.

I saw only the occasional car as I continued on a downhill slope. At Bear Creek Road I noticed that the next mile is Highway 35. Huh? This tiny appendage reminds us of highway builders’ dreams to extend Skyline Boulevard/Highway 35 all the way to Mt. Madonna Road. Today we still have Summit Road.

I’ve only ridden down Zayante Road a few times. I much prefer the climb through the dark, silent redwoods, but age convinced me to go down and not up. Mostly it’s a bumpy ride and not so fun.

There’s only one short climb all the way to Zayante Creek Market & Deli. Sadly, it was closed. I’m not sure why. There was a nice Asian lady running the store. I haven’t been by in several years though.

So I headed on to Quail Hollow Road. This stretch of Zayante Road is my least favorite with all the traffic, but there is no alternative.

Quail Hollow had a lot of traffic too. My bike got tired and took a rest at Quail Hollow Ranch, a county park, which has a nice bloom of blue lupine.

Another unfriendly stretch of road remained — Hwy 9 from Ben Lomond to Boulder Creek. Even with Covid, lots of cars.

I stopped at the Redwood Keg Mini Mart and made a purchase, dressed as a masked robber. But I still had to pay.

Big Basin Way, Hwy 236, is another unfriendly stretch of road until the golf course, but once past that traffic evaporated and I rode alone under the sun and mild temps.

Once in Big Basin Redwoods State Park I didn’t see a single car. All the parking lots are roped off, including every turnout for several miles along Hwy 236. I wasn’t complaining.

Back on Hwy 9, the last 10 kilometers is a grind. I have a few memories of blasting up to Saratoga Gap, but mostly it was a slog after those long rides to the coast.

There has been some paving at mile 22.9 and culvert improvements, but the road’s overall complexion hasn’t changed since I rode here at least two years ago. Time flies. I’d prefer that they widen mile 24. Maybe someday, but that will be for future generations to appreciate.

After forty years these roads never grow old, but I do. It has been a blast.

Last chance to see the green hillsides

April 26, 2020

Beautiful view at Oak Glen Avenue and Sycamore Drive near Morgan Hill.


After this week, the hillsides will change from brilliant green to drab brown, so it was time for a ride into the South Bay to check up on our reservoirs.

They’re nowhere near as good looking as last year, but the reservoirs have some water after the mid-April rains. I recorded nine inches where I live, nothing to get excited about.

It felt like rush-hour traffic on Almaden Expressway this Sunday morning as dozens of hikers drove to nearby county parks and put those limited parking spaces to use.

Many cyclists also turned out as I headed south on McKean Road with a gentle tailwind. Calero Reservoir has its maximum allowable water, reduced for fear that it can’t withstand an earthquake.

Chesbro Reservoir, built in 1955, looked to be half full. Fisherman lined the shore hoping to make a catch. Not sure I’d want to eat anything caught here, given the amount of mercury circulating.

I struggled up the tough climb that I call Chicken Coop Hill on Sycamore Drive, a 15-percent grade.

Uvas Reservoir, for some strange reason, is at 80 percent capacity, and it looks it. The Santa Cruz Mountains, rest assured, received a lot more than 9 inches this winter.

Nice thing about riding a bike, I can forget about the coronavirus. No better way to make my day.

“Rad” ride into the land of slides

April 23, 2020

Radonich Ranch is known for its marsh at the start of Highland Way.


One of the funny things about cycling is that no matter how old you are, you can feel young — while descending.

Climbing, that’s a different story.

I headed out on a brilliant, warm day into the Santa Cruz Mountains to relive the days of my youth when a ride to Santa Cruz and Corralitos was a lark.

Now it’s an activity where I reduce the miles and hope I can finish in one piece without leg cramps.

The ride up Lexington Reservoir’s 14 percent grade had my heart redlining, but after that things went more smoothly.

There has been a lot of misery associated with the Los Gatos Creek Trail, like when it was closed for years so a large pipe could be added next to the trail. And that short 20 percent grade hasn’t been kind to aging legs.

On Summit Road I ran the car gauntlet, traffic hardly any less with the coronavirus19 shelter in place.

Once past Summit Store life improves. Radonich Ranch marks the beginning of Highland Way and some bumpy, but not so steep riding.

Every time I see the sign I’m reminded of the silver-tongued radio and TV sports commentator Gary Radnich. I figured out soon enough that his name is missing the “O” and that this could not be his property.

Last time I heard Gary’s voice, I was driving home from Mendocino last June, tuned into his final show on KNBR. Always the professional, Gary didn’t let it turn into an emotional tribute. It was business as usual.

But I digress. About two miles down Highland is a mile stretch of “Landslide Alley.” There have been too many slides here to count. The worst happened in 2000 when we had to walk our bikes over a perilous section where one slip meant a fall into the abyss.

This year the road is intact, just bumpier than hell.

Ten cars lined the road at the entrance to Demonstration Forest where mountain bikers gather to enjoy the trails.

I soldiered on and began a 9-mile descent starting from Buzzard Lagoon Road, which would be a blast if not so bumpy.

At Corralitos Store I put on my mask so I could buy a Bavarian sausage sandwich ($6.99), a treat not to be missed. That IS why we ride to Corralitos.

Once Upon a Ride… and Adventure Rides available in PDF directly from me

April 17, 2020

I’m unable to provide Once Upon a Ride… or Adventure Rides in the Santa Cruz Mountains, Mt. Hamilton, Sierra in hi-res Kindle on Amazon, so I added them to my long-dormant Selz.com account.

This way you can purchase files that do justice to the images. It’s best viewed on a large screen like a laptop or large tablet. If you’re using a phone, buy the Amazon Kindle offerings.

These files are 184 MB each, so it will take a while to download. Be patient.

Selz download site.

Enjoy.

Mt. Hamilton puts coronavirus fears to rest

April 14, 2020

Halls Valley can’t be beat in the spring. Valley haze didn’t clear out until the afternoon.


Nothing beats a ride up Mt. Hamilton to take worldly concerns off your mind.

I celebrated my 41st anniversary riding to the summit — about 100 times.

The first year didn’t go according to plan, which resulted in a fall on the way down. The broken wrist healed well.

On the way up I heard and saw lots of wild turkeys. They disappear during Thanksgiving though.

A rider on an ebike buzzed by. One of these days I’ll buy one.

At the summit four or five riders milled about, but the last stretch to the observatory is closed due to the coronavirus.

I practiced social distancing and headed home.

Note: I haven’t seen any ads on my site, but that makes sense now that I think about it. This site has such low traffic, there’s no interest in advertising. It’s a blessing.

Looking west from the summit. Lots of wind up there.

Peach Hill Road in all its glory

April 4, 2020

Nice landscaping on Peach Hill Road in Saratoga.


Nature teases us with rain today, but so far it’s a bust where I live. We’re at just under 8 inches, when we should have 14-15 inches.

So instead of a photo of today’s ride in the neighborhood, I found this one from October 2010, just before I bought my Ritchey.

Peach Hill Road in Saratoga is the first right turn after exiting Villa Montalvo. It starts out with a 16 percent grade that eases up to 10 percent and then a few percent.

Worth the effort.