Dirty Jobs — Cyclists signing up to clean their streets

July 3, 2020

Bicyclean! crew of Rick and Genny working away on Foothill Expressway on Friday.


Rick Denman and an army of volunteers are doing their part to keep our South Bay streets clean — free of charge.

I knew it was only a matter of time before I pedaled by Rick. I first saw him on Highway 9 while driving by to go for a ride. This time I was on my bike on Foothill Expressway, so I stopped and thanked Rick and Genevieve Fire-Halvorsen for tidying up all the litter.

Denman, who is no stranger to cycling, has a passion for seeing clean roads. He joined a group in Southern California called Topanga Trash Warriors and quickly learned he could cover more ground by bike. He started using a trailer so he could haul even more garbage.

Now the Los Altos resident can be seen between Highway 9 and Woodside gathering trash on our favorite bike routes.

The work of Bicyclean! has not gone unnoticed. Ned Fluet, Woodside mayor, thanked Rick and the Bicyclean! group (on Facebook) for their efforts.

We all can do our part. Adopt a stretch of road, or a bus stop, a pedestrian overpass. Keep it clean.

I started cleaning up after homeless people at the 280 pedestrian overpass (Cypress). At times I had to go get the car to haul away all the trash. However, the situation improved and now I rarely see litter.

Back when I commuted by bus between Menlo Park and Cupertino, I made it a point to clean up around the bus stop while waiting. Every little bit helps.

You’d be amazed what you’ll find on our roads. In my 40 years of bike commuting I found dozens of work gloves, tools, and coins. One year I collected $6.80 in small coins.

It’s a dirty job, but Mike Rowe, TV host of “Dirty Jobs” will tell you there’s a nobility in doing hard manual labor. He’s right.

Skyline Boulevard on a Friday afternoon

June 27, 2020

Skyline Boulevard on Friday greeted me with mild temps and clear skies.


If you don’t mind cars racing by you at 70-80 mph, Skyline Boulevard on a Friday afternoon has a lot going for it.

I rode at noon along the spine of the Santa Cruz Mountains. Far better at noon than around 4 p.m. when mountain commuters fill the road.

I’m exaggerating of course. There were spans of up to two minutes when I didn’t hear the sound of tires on pavement.

In my previous life, today’s circuit of Old La Honda Road (36-minute climb this time), Skyline, Page Mill Road would have been a short ride. Now it’s a long ride.

The view of Old La Honda Road to the coast never grows old.

Messenger boys and girls from the early 1900s

June 15, 2020

Messenger boy in Shreveport, Louisiana. Been there.


Beautiful black and white images of children working as bike messengers.

They all look like they could ride out to the coast and back, just as Gary Fisher did when he was 14 years old.

Fantastic.

Santa Clara could have a bike boulevard

June 4, 2020

Make Los Padres a through street at Benton for bikes only.


I’m a dreamer, so my suggestion for a “bike boulevard” in Santa Clara fits the bill.

Palo Alto City Council member Ellen Fletcher championed the concept back in the 1980s, and with support of Palo Alto’s pro bicycling residents, made it reality.

It’s no big deal, but every little bit helps. Bryant Avenue in Palo Alto runs northwest-southeast and most stop signs are on cross streets. I’ve ridden it dozens of times and it’s always a pleasure. It helps when the houses are multi-million-dollar mansions.

So here’s my vision for a Santa Clara bike boulevard — Los Padres Boulevard.

I chose this street because: 1) It’s already a bike lane; 2) It leads to the San Tomas Aquino / Saratoga Creek Trail, the city’s fabulous recreation path that connects to the Bay Trail; 3) It passes by several schools and there are hardly any commercial businesses.

These are the changes I would make:
Saratoga Ave. – Give Los Padres traffic light priority. No more than 15 second wait.
Forbes Ave. – Install roundabout. Add yield signs on Forbes.
Homestead Rd. – Give Los Padres traffic light priority. No more than 15 second wait.
Benton St. – Block off Los Padres on both sides. Los Padres only a through road for bikes.
Anna Dr. – Install roundabout. Add yield signs on Anna.
Highway 82 – El Camino Real – Signal reduced to 30 seconds maximum wait time.
Graham Lane/Bray Ave. – Install roundabout. Yield signs on Bray/Graham.
(Graham is actually a better through route for bikes, followed by left on Warburton. The only negative is having to turn left from Los Padres, as it stands today.
Warburton Ave. – Remove stop signs on Los Padres and add roundabout.
Cabrillo Ave. – Install roundabout. Stop signs on Cabrillo.
Monroe St. – No through southbound traffic onto Los Padres. Right or left only.

The main change is closing off Los Padres at Benton, eliminating through traffic. Local residents would be mildly inconvenienced, but they would benefit by not having cars going by. Schools along Los Padres could encourage bike riding.

I have mixed feelings for roundabouts. On the one hand they slow traffic, but they also cause car-bike conflicts. In a world with autonomous cars it wouldn’t be an issue, but humans have little patience for obstacles like bikes.

I’ve ridden Eden Avenue in Campbell dozens of times and it has roundabouts. I’ve had issues with impatient drivers cutting me off on rare occasions.

The other bike boulevard Santa Clara could create is on Forbes Avenue. That way we would have a north-south and east-west route through the city.

I’ve lived in Santa Clara since 1991 and served on the bike committee.

New handlebar fixes problems

June 2, 2020

New handlebar makes riding much more enjoyable.

Today for my early morning ride, to beat the heat, I headed into Los Altos Hills “Prospect-ing” for new roads to ride.

I struck it rich so much so that even Huckleberry “Finn” would have been delighted by my success.

LAH has many trails, some even open for bikes, that are little noticed. The one I found today made my ride all the better because it eliminates the annoying El Monte Road – Elena Road – Moody Road intersection.

I also struck it rich with the new Dimension riser handlebar. It’s the more traditional straight bar, but it has a 100 mm rise to bring me about as upright as I was with my previous 3-speed handlebar.

The change came about to fix problems I have with my hands. The 3-speed bar put my hands directly onto sore spots. It’s a good thing because it was none too good for descending at speed.

The Dimension bar fixes my hand problem, keeps me upright to eliminate neck pain, improves descending, and I can even climb out of the saddle again, although not quite as good as a drop bar.

Secret path in Los Altos Hills.

Tunitas Creek Road leaves my worries behind

May 31, 2020

The light! There’s something magical about the redwoods when sunlight filters through.


As our country confronts yet another social meltdown triggered by simmering social inequities, and Covid-19, I rode to the Pacific Ocean on Friday and put my troubles behind me.

On the bright side, bicycle sales are booming. Everything below $1,000 is sold out. Can you believe it? It’s not just bikes and toilet paper in short supply. It’s everything!

Meanwhile, life goes on and nature welcomes us to enjoy its marvelous display.

I climbed Old La Honda Road as one rider after another passed me by. I made it up in a blistering-fast 43 minutes.

Fortunately, my descending hasn’t decayed as much as my climbing.

I rode through fog and low clouds, but temps hovered at a comfortable 62 degrees.

There’s some road work with a stop light about a mile past the red barn on Hwy 84, where Caltrans is shoring up a hillside. Farther down I encountered another set of orange cones and road crews but there were no obvious signs of construction.

No parking on the sidewalk when people are around.

I stopped at San Gregorio Store to lament its closure, a lonely place indeed compared to days before Covid.

Badges! We don’t need no stinking badges!


At Hwy 1, I enjoyed the views of Tunitas Creek Beach, its brown cliffs glowing in the morning sunlight.

Tunitas Creek Road brought back memories. In the 1980s a woman owned a large bird “sanctuary” a few miles up from the coast. I enjoyed hearing the songbirds chirping away. Today the eucalyptus grove still stands, but there’s only a broken down camper where there had once been a house. It burned down and that was the end of the birds.

The exquisite light filtering through redwoods inspired me during the two-mile climb of 7-10 percent. Nothing beats the climb up Tunitas Creek Road for scenic redwood splendor.

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.

Note: I recommend checking Molten Speed Wax for more details. They mention 300 miles between cleanings of “training” chains, which I think is about right. They also recommend changing the wax after 8 to 16 cleanings. I agree. The wax gets dirty.

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.