A nightmare come to life — classic Nishiki stolen

February 11, 2016

Be on the lookout for a stolen Nishiki, vintage 1980. (Sourav Das photos)

Be on the lookout for a stolen Nishiki, vintage 1980. (Sourav Das photos)


Sourav Das had his 1980 Nishiki International, Serial #KJ 05449,stolen a few days ago in north San Jose and while it’s unlikely he will recover his bike, he’s doing all the right things to try to get it back.

Most bike thieves are opportunists, but in Sourav’s case, I’m not so sure. Sourav worked late, rolling up to his house, located on a quiet residential street, around midnight.

He walked it through the side gate and leaned it against the entry door to his garage, then walked back around the front of the house to enter. Unfortunately, he got a phone call and an hour passed before he thought to put his bike in the garage. Gone! (Not the first time I’ve heard this story)

There’s nothing more depressing than looking where you put your bike and seeing it gone. Happened to me, twice.

Here’s what Sourav is doing to try to retrieve his bike. That Nishiki is a unique, quality bike, so there’s a better chance it might be recovered. Nishiki made some nice bikes in Japan, importing through West Coast Cycles (WCC) distributor. The Cohen family, which owned WCC, had its pulse on the bike industry for decades.

Dia-Compe brakes. They rivaled Campy, almost.

Dia-Compe brakes. They rivaled Campy, almost.

1. File a police report. The San Jose police are completely overwhelmed, so go online and fill out the form. At least there’s a record. If your bike is stolen, don’t bother calling the SJPD police. They won’t respond, unless you have the thief in a half-nelson.

Sourav’s bike probably qualifies for grand theft ($950 value), but while that sounds impressive, it doesn’t mean much these days.

2. Alert bike shops. Sourav did that, even providing photos.

3. Check Craigslist. I’ve read of many accounts where thieves list stolen merchandise on Craigslist and get nabbed.

4. Tell your friends. Especially if they have a blog. :) Now there’s four of us who know about it.

5. Return to the scene of the crime. In Sourav’s case, that wouldn’t work, but that’s how I got my Ritchey back. I went back a few hours later. The thief lived in Alviso and was tooling around town. He’s behind bars now (for another offense).

All that’s left now are the nightmares. I can’t say I’ve gotten used to those.

If you see this stolen bike, contact Sourav Das souravdas@gmail.com

If you see this stolen bike, contact Sourav Das souravdas@gmail.com

Far from the Madden crowd

February 7, 2016

Tailgate party on Mt. Hamilton summit, Super Bowl Sunday.

Tailgate party on Mt. Hamilton summit, Super Bowl Sunday.


I had the bright idea to ride up Mt. Hamilton on Super Bowl Sunday because, you know, everyone and their brother would be glued to their TV set eating ten pounds of Doritos, each.

Turns out there was an unannounced tailgate party at the Lick Observatory parking lot that nobody told me about, but it was all over the Innernet on one of those ride group postings we call Social Media.

As I churned my way up the 19-mile climb under clear skies and gentle breezes, I noticed a heck of a lot of riders flying by. So while I did avoid the Madden crowd, I ran smack dab into the madding crowd. They no doubt, in addition to blood doping, are mechanical doping. I felt like a dope as I had to rely on my own two aging legs, capable of generating about 60 watts, enough to power our feeble kitchen light bulb.

I had a long conversation with the owner of a new carbon-fiber Colnago. Of course, I had to tell him how I bought a new Colnago frame off Greg LeMond back in 1980. He won it in a race and already had a half-dozen new bikes, so he gave it to Palo Alto Bicycles for safe keeping. Paid $400.

Mostly when you’re riding up Mt. Hamilton people are in a big hurry, like they’re late for the train or something, and don’t want to slow down and have a conversation. It’s not that way with the slower riders, who seem more willing to exchange pleasantries beyond “on your left.”

With 3 million, 218 thousand millimeters to go before the summit, give or take a millimeter, I passed a young woman who was being so nice to everyone as they passed that they had to slow down and be nice back. She just bubbled with enthusiasm, the kind of chipper attitude that makes life a little more tolerable.

That kept me in a good mood until I reached the summit and saw a mob of cyclists. There must have been a thousand, maybe more. They stood around jawing about everything under the sun, some recounting their near-death encounters with cars.

I edged closer as one guy described being run over by a Chevy Suburban, which is only slightly smaller than a bus. The driver admitted he had been drinking and, amazingly, stopped to check to see what that object was caught under his wheels. Turns out he ran over the cyclist, who broke a bunch of bones and now has so much metal in him he sets off the airport metal detectors every time he flies.

After downing a Clif Bar product, I headed back down Mt. Hamilton and noticed that all the riders who blasted by me on the way up, also blasted by me on the way down. I even got passed by guys riding mountain bikes with those enormous tires that look like they belong on a monster truck.

I’m now in the market for one of those motors you stick in your seat tube and churns out 150 watts without anyone being the wiser.

Just don’t tell anyone.

Smoky clouds grace Skyline overlook

February 2, 2016

Wisps of clouds look just like smoke from Alpine Road at Skyline Boulevard.

Wisps of clouds look just like smoke from Alpine Road at Skyline Boulevard.


There’s always something new to see on Skyline Boulevard, even when it’s a cold gloomy day. Sometimes when the weather conditions are right, wisps of clouds hang over the mountains, looking for all the world like smoke.

Aside: Found out guy who stole my Ritchey last year got nabbed in December stealing packages from people’s doorsteps. In jail. Justice served.

Airport frontage road closed for Super Bowl

February 2, 2016

Airport frontage road is closed until Feb. 10.

Airport frontage road is closed until Feb. 10. (Google Maps)


Holy roadblock Batman! Ewert Road is closed starting Wednesday, Feb. 3, through the 10th, no doubt for the Super Bowl. In case you had never heard of that road, it’s what we all know as the frontage road around Mineta San Jose International Airport.

I noticed the sign on my Monday ride, after I checked out the Super Bowl 50 venue via San Tomas Aquino Creek Trail. Needless to say, I was being watched the entire time as two helicopters chopped the air overhead.

Don’t even think about going near the stadium the rest of this week. Only way to get a bike through is if you’re an undercover FBI agent. All routes are blocked. I used Lafayette to reach Alviso.

I remember riding through Palo Alto during Super Bowl XIX back in 1985. It was a nice day, high of 59. The game didn’t start until late in the day, so I had no issues with traffic to speak of. How times have changed.

Accidents accumulate with time

February 1, 2016

Painful to look at even after 35 years. I healed and so did the bike after Dr. Peter Johnson operated.

Painful to look at even after 35 years. I healed and so did the bike after Dr. Peter Johnson operated.


I’ve ridden at least 200,000 miles since starting in 1969 on a ten-speed. In that time I’ve had quite a few accidents. For the record, in reverse chronological order. I know a few people who have never crashed. They might not have ridden this many miles, but they’re still lucky.

December 2015: A thin layer of mud in the bike lane caused me to fall and hit my head, Tantau Avenue in Cupertino. Bad concussion, ambulance to hospital, then a month to feel back to normal. Giro helmet destroyed. Bike undamaged.

November 2008: Campagnolo Super Record left crank (4 years in use) broke at the pedal eye as I hammered up Scott Boulevard in Santa Clara on the railroad overpass. I flipped onto my back, where I hit the thickest part of my helmet. Helmet destroyed. Uninjured. Bike undamaged.

December 2004: Campagnolo Record left crank (16 years in use) broke at the pedal eye as I took a left turn from Pomeroy onto Pruneridge Avenue while commuting home from work at night. Hit my head. 3 stitches. Bike undamaged. No helmet. No concussion.

October 1995: Collided head-on with a descending mountain biker on Aptos Creek Fire Road. Concussion for 10 minutes. Rode home 35 miles. Front wheel bent and some brake components damaged. No helmet. No residual effects from concussion.

September 1993: Car making an illegal right turn from Homestead onto Hollenbeck in Cupertino cuts me off while driving at slow speed, causing me to grab onto its right rear fender and fall to the ground. Unhurt. Bike undamaged. No helmet. Car did not stop. Probably a teen driving.

May 1993: Campagnolo front brake cable snapped while crossing a pedestrian bridge over a creek, causing me to hit a Cyclone fence head-on and flip over. Uninjured. Front fork replaced and top tube slightly crumpled. No helmet.

December 1982: Hit oil on a curve while descending Hwy 84. Slid out. Banged elbow. No helmet. Checked at emergency room for possible injury, but OK. Bike undamaged.

June 1981: Head-on collision with a car on Portola Valley Road. Right arm compound fracture, artery damage, left kneecap cracked, neck wrenched. 3 months recovering. Fork and front triangle replaced. No helmet.

April 1980: Crashed on dirt road in Pinkies Road Race. Road rash otherwise OK. Finished race. Bike OK. Leather helmet.

April 1980: Front wheel hit by cyclist during a criterium, causing me to crash. Raspberry on right hip became infected. Leather helmet. Bike undamaged.

October 1979: Rocks across road caused me to lock up my brakes and fall while descending Mt. Hamilton. My head came to rest next to a car’s left tire as it stopped when it saw me coming. Left wrist fractured in three places. 8 weeks in cast. Bike OK. No helmet.

I’ve had a few other minor falls, like the one on Page Mill when I hit black ice while climbing a steep section at 3 mph, but not worthy of reporting.

So you might be wondering, how about while driving? I’ve had one, a fender-bender in 1976 when an old lady’s Buick slid into my VW during a blizzard as I approached a stop sign.

So you think riding a bike is easy?

January 27, 2016

Here’s an interesting experiment that demonstrates learning how to ride a bike is not trivial.

The author was challenged to ride a bike with reverse steering, built by a machinist. He had to re-learn how to ride. It took him eight months; the author’s young son re-learned in six weeks.

The implications of this experiment extend well beyond the bicycle.

Here's how the machinist changed the steering.

Here’s how the machinist changed the steering.

When to replace a helmet?

December 30, 2015

There are reasons to replace your helmet, but simple age is not one of them. That’s according to an independent helmet testing agency.

Extensive testing of used (but not crashed) bicycle helmets shows that the foam liners retain their performance over many years. MEA Forensic announced at a May ASTM F08.53 technical meeting the results of their testing of 675 bicycle helmets, some as old as 26 years.

“There is no justification for two to ten year replacement recommendations based on impact performance,” said MEA’s Alyssa DeMarco.

Taken from Helmets.org.

Slippery paint lines can cause a fall

December 21, 2015

Time for a new helmet after this one served its purpose.

Time for a new helmet after this one served its purpose.


While we all know rain, painted lines and bicycles don’t mix, I found out the hard way on Sunday during a ride.

I’m not the most aware person, as Jobst Brandt once showed me on a ride up Page Mill Road. He said, “Watch out for the black ice.” Two seconds later I was down.

Jobst never let me forget that. So I probably had it coming when I fell on the paint lines on Tantau Avenue in Cupertino next to the fabulous new Apple headquarters under construction.

It was the perfect mix of wetness and bad luck as I moved left to enter a left turn lane at Pruneridge. Both wheels must have been on the bike lane as I looked back.

The bike went out from under me in an instant. Then I got a ride to the same hospital where Jobst once stayed after his fateful accident in 2011.

I won’t say the helmet saved my life, but you won’t see me riding without one. I’ve had too many incidents — broken cranks, slippery roads.

After checking the paint lines, I think they’re old enough to have been put down before better paint-grit combinations came along.

As for the green paint swathes, I think they’re safer when wet because they have grit in them, or they conform better to the pavement. They’re an issue in Australia though.

The slippery white lines were a problem in Portland, Oregon, and had to be re-striped.

Finally, if you’re seriously hurt by a white paint line, there’s always someone willing to represent you in court.

Follow-up: After talking with the eyewitness and carefully reviewing the scene of the accident, here’s what happened. I was riding southbound on Tantau in the bike lane prior to moving left to turn onto Pruneridge. At the location I was observed falling there are patches of green paint designating a bike lane. These have become worn from constant sweeping by a street sweeper assigned to keep dust down where the Apple campus is being built. The combination of light rain, dust and finely polished green paint made this surface an extreme hazard.

I reported the accident to the city of Cupertino via email and letter.

After this incident, I believe the green paint swathes constitute a hazard once they become worn. Not good.

Follow-up 2: I took my wheel and some water to test my theory about the slippery green paint. After testing, I found the issue to most likely be one of a slurry of mud accumulating on a white paint line, not green.

The green paint is a lot like sandpaper in consistency. Although it loses some traction when worn, it didn’t seem any worse than regular pavement.

However, the white lines definitely had less traction when wet, especially with a slurry of mud, which you can see below. A thin layer of mud is deadly for bike wheels. Because this street is in a construction area, there’s a lot of dust being generated. Sweeping helps, but there’s still a layer of fine dust.

I also tested some concrete next to the curb. Surprisingly, even when wet it seemed to have better traction compared to the white paint line. It may be that sweeper does a better job of removing dust from concrete compared to the white paint.

Conclusion:
My front wheel went out from under me on a white “paint” section, not green, although I can’t say for sure since I don’t know the precise location.

Wet mud on this white arrow can cause a fall .

Wet mud on this white arrow can cause a fall .

Bikes vs. Cars plays on emotions

December 15, 2015

Bikes vs. Cars is available on Vimeo.

Bikes vs. Cars is available on Vimeo.


During the hour and a half you’ll spend watching Bikes vs. Cars you’ll be given a tour of big cities where transportation has become a daily struggle, and you’ll see how a handful of cyclists like Aline Cavalcante in Sao Paulo are fighting for their cause. It can be watched on Vimeo for $10.

You can’t help but feel sympathy for these mostly disenfranchised cyclists, especially when one of them loses an arm while riding and the offending driver speeds away, arm still in the car, then throws it into a nearby creek. True story.

It’s a well done film by Director Fredrik Gertten, who specializes in documentaries, typically standing up for the little guy who has no voice against big, heartless companies. He’s very good at what he does, knows how to set a mood and develop characters, turn dry facts into an emotional rollercoaster.

All of that works in Bikes vs. Cars, but I was left wishing for something more: the solution to the transportation dilemma. Gertten’s film clearly shows us that staying with the car is the road to ruin, but he doesn’t convince me that the bike is remotely the solution. It comes across as more of a sideshow, which is what the bicycle has always been even when it was the dominant form of mechanized transportation versus horses.

The exception, where Gertten’s camera takes us, is Copenhagen, a European city where four out of five residents own a bike and, I would wager, about that many use them for riding to work and around the city on a daily basis. Instead of delving into its transportation infrastructure, the camera turns on a hapless cab driver who expresses frustration about driving around with so many bikes.

An advocacy documentary like Bikes vs. Cars is supposed to motivate us to take some action. I Bought a Rain Forest (Gertten Executive Producer), a well-done documentary about a Swede’s quest to find out where his grade school’s donations to a rain forest fund wound up, did that for me. I donated money to a rain forest conservancy in Costa Rica.

With Bikes vs. Cars I felt no motivation to do much of anything. I rode my bike to work for 45 years daily, but I still own a car, drive to the store to buy groceries, for long trips, etc.

Something more needs to be done about our transportation system than making way for bikes. It’s coming soon to an Uber franchise near you — autonomous cars. But that’s another documentary and one that maybe Gertten should consider filming. One of the ironies about autonomous cars is that they’ll do more to make cycling safer than any safety law, bike lane or piece of equipment could ever hope to achieve.

All that aside, you should watch the movie. It’s entertaining and you’ll be moved by the people who are highlighted by the director.

Signs and expressions stating the obvious

December 12, 2015

A sign just for bicyclists on Page Mill Road. How patronizing.

A sign just for bicyclists on Page Mill Road. How patronizing.


Have you seen the signs on Page Mill Road warning about water tank work about a quarter-mile up from Moody Road?

I wonder who made them because they sure don’t adhere to any highway sign standards I’m aware of. They call out cyclists, which I find curious.

Here’s what it says:

Attention Bicyclists
Construction Zone
Ahead Loose Gravel
Please Slow Down
Have a Safe Ride

It’s commendable that the local water agency, my guess, went to such effort to create a sign, but it’s not necessary. The work affects all traffic and poses a similar hazard to motorcycles, cars, trucks, anyone using the road. Let’s use the proper signs, ones that we’re all accustomed to seeing.

We’re all guilty of stating the obvious. As I was riding slowly up Page Mill Road, I heard a voice pipe up behind me as a car drove by: “Car back!”

I quickly checked my hearing aid to see if it was working. Working fine, that really was the noise of a car approaching; I heard it for quite some distance before it passed.

There’s only one expression more annoying: “Car up!” On those I have to check both my hearing aid and my prescription glasses to see that they’re working. Let’s not forget “On your left.”

Come to think of it, when passing it might be better to say, “Have a Safe Ride!”


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