Archive for the ‘News’ Category

Jobst Brandt leaves behind memories to last a lifetime

May 6, 2015

Jobst Brandt riding up Gavia Pass, Italy. Made into a poster.

Jobst Brandt riding up Gavia Pass, Italy. Made into a poster.


Behold the wise Jobst Rider,
Whose unfettered mind
Sees God in dirt
And hears him in the spokes.

(Adapted from a quote by Alexander Pope)

Jobst Brandt, a cyclist who in so many ways influenced the bicycle industry during its glory days of the 1980s, died on Tuesday, May 5, 2015, after a long illness. He was 80.

On his 76th birthday, Jobst crashed his bike at the Sand Hill Road and Whiskey Hill Road intersection near Woodside during an early morning ride in a dense fog. It was his last bike ride. His serious injuries added to the burden of other health liabilities.

Jobst exerted considerable influence over those he knew in the bike industry, but he was not an industry insider. Because he never worked in the bike business, he could offer his opinions about the industry without reservation.

His passing is a personal loss for me. I met Jobst in 1979 while working at Palo Alto Bicycles. I’ll never forget seeing Jobst wheel into the store on his huge bike, which he always rode into the shop while deftly opening the door.

He immediately bound upstairs to the Avocet headquarters where he would engage owner Bud Hoffacker in lively discussions (browbeat) about everything under the sun involving bike technology.

Jobst was like that. He believed with 100 percent certainty that his way was the right way. If you disagreed and didn’t have the facts to support your argument, you were just another crackpot.

Consummate engineer
Most of the time Jobst was right. He had that rare skill in a mechanical engineer — he not only understood engineering principles, he could translate theory into meaningful product improvements, whether it be a bicycle shoe, a floor pump or a cyclometer.

Jobst received seven patents (3 cycling), testimony to his abilities.

1 – 6,583,524 Micro-mover with balanced dynamics (Hewlett Packard)
2 – 6,134,508 Simplified system for displaying user-selected functions in a bicycle computer or similar device (for Avocet)
3 – 5,834,864 Magnetic micro-mover (Hewlett Packard, and Bob Walmsley, Victor Hesterman)
4 – 5,058,427 Accumulating altimeter with ascent/descent accumulation thresholds (for Avocet)
5 – 4,547,983 Bicycle shoe (for Avocet)
6 – 4,369,453 Plotter having a concave platen (Hewlett Packard)
7 – 3,317,186 Alignment and support hydraulic jack (SLAC)

He received his first U.S. patent while working at the two-mile long Stanford Linear Accelerator in 1966; he was recognized for his work on suspension for the particle accelerator. There’s a plaque with his name on it in one of the lobbies.

At Porsche he designed race-car suspensions, after quickly moving through the ranks. The way he got his job is classic Jobst. The young Stanford University graduate (his father was an economics professor at Stanford), who spent time in the U.S. Army in Germany as a lieutenant, approached Porsche and told them that their English translations lacked polish. Porsche agreed and he was hired.

Cycling legacy
Jobst blazed trails beyond bike product development. His freewheeling way of thinking led him to do things most people would never dream of — like riding a racing bike with tubular tires on rugged trails in the Santa Cruz Mountains.

It’s not that big a deal, but other cyclists thought it was, so Jobst quickly gained a reputation that drew elite cyclists from the Bay Area to join him on his Sunday rides, starting promptly at 8 a.m. from his house on Middlefield Road in Palo Alto.

By the mid-1970s, Jobst had such a large following that some rides counted up to 20 riders. Most would not complete the ride, mainly because it lasted all day and went through creeks, over rocky trails lined with poison oak (Jobst was immune) and through private property.

While Jobst had an entourage of bike racers, he never had anything kind to say about the sport. I think the only good he saw in it was a test of a person’s mettle (a bike’s metal too) and the ability to overcome obstacles. That’s what Jobst was all about.

He never showed fear or got rattled in difficult situations. These Übermensch qualities came to the forefront when he fell and broke his leg at the hip in 1986 on the rain-slick pavement of Col de Tende. He got up, cursed himself for not recognizing the foam on the road, and ordered me to lift his leg over the top tube so he could coast to the next town.

In Tende, Jobst dismounted and crawled on hands and knees up the steps to the doctor’s office.

On another occasion he was trying to help a snake off Calaveras Road; it bit him and only then did he realize the young reptile was a rattlesnake. He didn’t panic, but rode back to his car in Milpitas and drove to Stanford Hospital for the antidote. The venom mangled his thumb.

One beautiful spring day in 1982 we were bound for Gazos Creek Road when we came upon a scene of absolute devastation. The road had been obliterated by torrential rains that downed redwoods and dislodged boulders the size of cars. Instead of turning around, Jobst urged us on.

So we clambered over trees and followed the creek downhill, eventually reaching a recognizable road after a mile of walking.

The Bicycle Wheel
Jobst wrote a lot (check out rec.bike or Sheldon Brown’s website), but nothing was more important to him than his book on the bicycle wheel. He spent more than a decade writing the book with the intention of producing a tome that would stand the test of time.

I learned to build my first set of wheels using his book when it was still in manuscript form. It was the first time I read a description so well done that I could follow along and build wheels that would last for many years.

Jobst let many people edit the manuscript, but it was Jim Westby, Jobst’s friend and manager of the Palo Alto Bicycles mail order catalog, who did the heavy lifting. Jobst also published a German edition.

The book has sold well since being published by Avocet and is still in print. It could be in print 100 years from now because the principles of wheel building are never going to change. Sure, thanks to new materials we now have 16-spoke wheels, but it’s a number that made Jobst cringe.

Love for the Alps
Although Jobst rode most of his miles in the U.S., he always made time for the Alps. For 50 years he rode there annually, riding many of the same passes year after year, with some variation. He almost always went with another rider.

Riding with Jobst in the Alps tested friendships. He became obsessive about riding all day, every day, and I don’t mean until 5 p.m. He liked to ride until 8 p.m. after starting around 8 a.m., when he could coax the hotel owner to get up that early.

If you rode in the Alps with Jobst, you knew you were going to cover a lot of ground and you could expect some adventure riding, sometimes sliding down snow-covered slopes when crossing high passes on hiking trails. Of course, Jobst rode all but the rockiest trails.

Jobst took many photos of his exploits over the decades, probably more than 10,000 slides. He had a unique ability to capture great photos with his Rollei 35. A few of his photos were made into posters and sold by Palo Alto Bicycles.

He could be obsessive about getting just the right shot, as when we were on the section of road supported by concrete beams looming over Bedretto Valley, Switzerland. Given the right cropping, the road appears to be suspended in mid-air, the village of Fontana 1,000 feet below. Possessed with taking the perfect photo, Jobst hacked away, limb for limb, at a sapling growing next to the road.

Wheel suckers
Although Jobst sometimes had a harsh demeanor, he had his fun side too. He loved to pull pranks and make puns while out on the road. We passed the day telling stories, jokes, and commenting on world affairs.

That was when we weren’t struggling to stay on Jobst’s wheel in his younger days. It was especially true with Tom Ritchey along for the ride. The accomplished racer and frame builder had a way about him that caused Jobst to push the pace; maybe Jobst did it to prove a point or just because he knew he could have some serious competition with Tom.

Whatever the reason, we had some hard and fast riding ahead of us on many a Sunday. It got even worse when other racers showed up, like Keith Vierra, Sterling McBride, Dave McLaughlin, Peter Johnson, Bill Robertson, the list is lengthy.

It got so competitive that we sprinted for city limits signs.

I could go on about Jobst, but it would require a book-length blog. I’ve published some accounts of past rides here (Once Upon a Ride) and they’ll have to do for now.

As Jobst was always fond of saying, “Ride bike!”

Excellent read: The Force Who Rides by Laurence Malone.

Silicon Valley Bike Festival celebrates local cycling

May 4, 2015

Tom Ritchey gives insights on Bay Area cycling and how it influenced his life.

Tom Ritchey gives insights on Bay Area cycling and how it influenced his life.


Sometimes I need to remind myself I’m part of a community, so during my Sunday ride I stopped by for the 1st annual Silicon Valley Bikes! festival in San Jose’s Kelley Park.

History San Jose hosted the bicycle show, where cyclists checked out bikes, listened to some local history and learned about what’s ahead for Santa Clara County transportation.

I was in a funk after watching Manny Pacquiao lose his fight to Floyd Mayweather. It was a subpar effort by both boxers, whose best days are behind them. I don’t expect a rematch because Mayweather knows it won’t bring in the big bucks.

Fans of Pacquiao gathered around the world to watch the boxing spectacle.

Fans of Pacquiao gathered around the world to watch the boxing spectacle.

VTA transportation plans
But I digress. The bike gathering offered something for everyone. I stopped by the Valley Transportation Authority (VTA) booth to express my thoughts on what’s needed for Santa Clara Valley to enhance public transportation and cycling.

That’s the kind of outreach that helps our government agencies respond to the public’s view on how to get around.

The good news is that BART is going to be in San Jose by late 2017 (or 2018) with the Berryessa Station off Mabury Road (for unknown reasons Google Maps shows it at Piedmont and Sierra Road). This stretch is VTA funded, not BART.

Even better, the VTA supports building a recreation path along Coyote Creek under Highway 101, greatly improving access to the Berryessa BART station for cyclists and pedestrians.

Viva Calle San Jose
Here’s something that looks fun and good for a community like San Jose where cars rule the day: Viva Calle on Sunday, October 11.

It’s an open-street event where city streets — Story Road/Keyes Street/First Street/Market Street to St. James Park — will be closed to cars.

Organized by the Parks and Recreation Department, the event takes after a global movement to take back streets for public use — cycling, walking, strolling, roller skating, etc.

It’s a great way to give people a chance to explore San Jose without car traffic.

Bay Area Ridge Trail expanding
The Bay Area Ridge Trail is making progress, most recently with a six-mile extension planned south from Hwy 92 along Skyline Boulevard. At the event booth, Joel Gartland said it should be open in a year or two along with the Fifield-Cahill Ridge Trail through the San Francisco Watershed.

Some 350 miles of the 550-mile trail have been built, extending from Napa and Sonoma counties south to Santa Clara County.

Look for one of these on the Bay Area Ridge Trail.

Look for one of these on the Bay Area Ridge Trail.

Tom Ritchey, George Mount and others
Along with agencies and companies showing their products, some local luminaries showed up to talk about their early days of racing and cycling.

George Mount, former Olympic cyclist and professional racer, rode from his home in Livermore over Mt. Hamilton to give his talk.

Tom Ritchey, frame builder and owner of Ritchey Bicycle Components USA, talked about innovation and how Santa Clara Valley has been a hotbed for all kinds of technology developments over the decades, including cycling.

He said his father, who was an engineer, encouraged him to build his own bike as a young teen. Tom, who knew nothing about frame building, learned everything on his own, building his own bike, one for Don McBride, and more for fellow bike racers.

Before long Tom had become a master frame builder, and branched out to building high-end mountain bikes when that era started in the early 1980s.

While the mountain bike is believed to have been invented in Marin County, Tom said it’s always dangerous to say you’re the first at just about anything. He gave an example in the Morrow Dirt Riders, a loosely knit group of riders from Cupertino who rode bikes that looked for all the world like mountain bikes back in 1973-74.

First bike to ride on the concrete (originally asphalt) Hellyer Park track.

First bike to ride on the concrete (originally asphalt) Hellyer Park track.

Tom explained that the group got its name from the Morrow coaster brake, the best product of its kind back in the day.

After riding his bike all over the world, Tom said that nothing beats the Bay Area, which he believes is still not appreciated for all it has to offer. “Nothing beats riding up west Alpine Road on a spring day with the great views and wildflowers in bloom,” Tom said.

I’ll second that.

Bicycle helmet bill – further study needed

April 11, 2015

Eastern descent of Mt. Hamilton, April 12, 1981. No helmets here. (Jobst Brandt photo)

Eastern descent of Mt. Hamilton, April 12, 1981. No helmets here (Jobst Brandt photo).


California SB-192, sponsored by 25th District Senator Carol Liu, has been sent back to committee for further study, according to the California Bicycle Coalition.

Liu’s office released a statement, first reported by former Streetsblog San Francisco editor Bryan Goebel, explaining the decision:

“The bill was amended to create a comprehensive study of bicycle helmet use in California and evaluate the potential safety benefits of a mandatory helmet law. Carol believes in consensus-driven policy, and there were too many conflicting opinions about helmet use. A study will provide the data needed to guide us to the next step.”

In a recent interview with Liu on KQED public radio (I listened to it but can’t find the recording), the senator was asked why she sponsored the bill. She replied that two close relatives (nephew, one killed while wearing a helmet) had been in serious bike accidents.

Far more effective would be banning people from driving. That’s coming. Elon Musk, Tesla CEO, said as much. While he later retracted his words, he meant what he said. It’s only a matter of time before the autonomous car eliminates the need for car ownership. My novel Skidders, published last year, goes into all that.

People need the “Freedom to Roam”

April 4, 2015

Gate 12 at China Grade in 2015. We get the message.

Gate 12 at China Grade in 2015. We get the message.


Gate 12 circa 1983. Out having fun. How times have changed. (Jobst Brandt photo)

Gate 12 circa 1983. Out having fun. How times have changed. (Jobst Brandt photo)

In my travels around the world, I’ve noticed that nowhere else is the concept of “private property” so zealously defended by landowners than the US of A.

I attribute some of that, especially in the Western U.S., to the persistent Old West mentality where a man defends his homestead from real threats with his trusty gun.

Times have changed and I wish our laws would change to keep up with the times.

In Europe the “Freedom to Roam” operates in many jurisdictions when it comes to allowing people to use others’ lands. As long as you’re just passing through, say on foot or on bike, not hunting, fishing or in any way defacing the land, public access is granted.

Civilized Europe has been around for millennia, which I believe is the reason for this enlightened approach. Likewise, some areas in Asia follow the same “Freedom to Roam” principle. For example, on Malaysia’s millions of acres of rubber tree farms, mountain bikes are allowed in many sections.

In the Western U.S., native Americans did nothing but roam, but this way of life came to a screeching halt with the arrival of settlers from back East and the introduction of barbed wire in the 1870s.

In the Santa Cruz Mountains, the Freedom to Roam principle could be applied in many locations, especially private logging roads. I’ve ridden these private roads, and others, for decades and never had any issues. It’s a different story today. Back in the early 1980s we didn’t have many mountain bikes, so seeing a bike was an oddity.

Lumber companies will claim liability issues, but the “Freedom to Roam” takes that into account. The land user accepts liability, not the landowner.

Public parks and agencies need to be more proactive about gaining easements on these roads, which often border their parks.

I’m not optimistic such an enlightened approach will happen in my lifetime, but it will happen, eventually.

Cyclists rattle the fence for opening the San Francisco Watershed

April 3, 2015

Charlie Krenz, Los Trancos Water Board member and active mountain biker supports opening the SF watershed.

Charlie Krenz, Los Trancos Water Board member and active mountain biker supports opening the SF watershed.


Imagine hundreds of people rattling that chain-link fence surrounding the San Francisco Watershed, demanding that we stop treating it like Area 51.

That was the impression I left with after attending a San Francisco Board of Supervisors meeting on Thursday, which discussed opening the Public Utilities Commission’s San Francisco watershed, a measure sponsored by supervisors John Avalos and Scott Wiener.

More than a dozen speakers, mostly cyclists, lined up to weigh in on the issue, thankfully keeping comments to two minutes or less. The supervisors had a full schedule with many important matters to attend to.

The naysayers came from the Sierra Club, Committee for Green Foothills and California Native Plant Society. The plant society doesn’t want to see non-native invasive species introduced to the watershed (although they’re already there), while the Sierra Club flat out believes humankind is the invasive species. There might be some agreement on that point from Native Americans.

A host of bureaucrats representing the public agencies tasked with managing the watershed laid out the issues and opportunities for granting increased access. Currently there’s a docent-led bicycle ride offered three days a week starting from the south end of the 23,000-acre watershed on Hwy 92. The complaint heard time again is that it’s inconvenient, especially for people living at the north end of the watershed, which would be all of San Francisco.

Steven Ritchie, SF PUC Assistant General Manager of the Water Enterprise, and Tim Ramirez, SF PUC Manager, Natural Resources Division, went into detail on a potential next step — allowing public access with only the requirement of online registration. It could happen within a year, as long as the other agencies involved buy into the plan, including the Golden Gate National Recreation Area (GGNRA), San Mateo County, and probably a half-dozen other agencies I’m not aware of.

What’s involved, exactly, took us down a rabbit hole of bureaucratic red tape, while Supervisor Avalos attempted to pin down a date for an opening while being careful to understand what measures would be necessary to mitigate potential environmental issues and protection for native species. The watershed has done its own environmental impact report, but it was not clear how that would play out with other agencies.

The area under discussion is mostly the north-south Fifield-Cahill Ridge Trail that bisects the watershed. Avalos urged the PUC to work with other agencies to create an east-west trail to link up with open space areas on the Pacific Coast.

The PUC made it clear during its presentation that their first priority is to ensure water quality, which we can all agree is paramount. Let’s just hope there’s water to manage in the years ahead.

As I pointed out, Marin Municipal Water District allows public access and I haven’t heard about any water issues there. East Bay Municipal Utility District allows access on some of its land with paid permits ($10 for a year) and it’s one of the more conservative agencies. The Bureau of Land Management – Clear Creek area in San Benito County – also instituted an online permit to use its land. Bicycle access is free.

In his closing remarks Wiener said he believes there needs to be a balance protecting the watershed and allowing public access, while noting that an informed public with access to these areas can go a long way toward helping with the protection part.

Kudos to the San Francisco Board of Supervisors. They handle their meetings efficiently and give everyone a chance to be heard. Avalos and Wiener have excellent credentials. I think the agencies and supervisors will do the right thing, no matter what the outcome.

For more about the watershed visit the Facebook site, “Open the SF Watershed.”

Squeaky wheels of democracy turning at the Santa Clara Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Committee

March 23, 2015

Bike and pedestrian committee information is found on the Santa Clara website.

Bike and pedestrian committee information is found on the Santa Clara website.


I’ve attended a couple meetings of the Santa Clara Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Committee and witnessed the democratic process in action. Meetings are open to the public.

What I like about democracy is that everyone has a voice , even if you’re a tiny minority, which is true for bicycle commuters, who make up only about 2 percent of the population.

As I sat through the meetings, I remembered why I left the committee as a member back in the early 1990s. Government moves at its own pace.

I’m not complaining. It’s just the way things are. There needs to be consensus and that takes time.

Back in the early 1990s the grand plan in Santa Clara was to build a recreation path along San Tomas Aquino Creek. I’m happy to say that reach 3 to Monroe Street opened in 2009. That’s about a 20-year wait.

There’s more coming as the path inches its way south on San Tomas Expressway, ending at Stevens Creek Boulevard. It’s a huge improvement for pedestrians who live near the expressway and useful for cyclists who don’t want to ride on the expressway.

I’m not seeing any grand plans on par with San Tomas, but there’s only so much you can do in a city filled with cars.

Now here’s the rub. We all can agree on one thing: traffic gets worse every year and something needs to be done about it. Assuming we continue to see growth — that’s always the plan — something has to give.

Try finding a parking spot at Valley Fair on the weekend, any weekend. Apple is building a massive office in Cupertino right next to Santa Clara. I’m seeing office complexes mushrooming everywhere in Santa Clara, mostly north of Central Expressway.

Bicycle organizations are trying their best to work with local governments to develop a network of bicycle-friendly streets. They call it a “road diet” or “traffic calming” but the bottom line is that it means restricting the flow of traffic, typically from two lanes one direction to one lane and the addition of bike lanes with restricted parking.

Gary Richards, Mr. Roadshow, wrote about the trend in the San Jose Mercury News in 2011, about the time Santa Clara re-striped Pruneridge Avenue for a short distance either side of Lawrence Expressway.

Councilmember Teresa O’Neill, who chairs the committee (and who actually commuted to work by bike), said the Pruneridge re-striping brought a wave of complaints to the city.

I’ve driven that section of Pruneridge numerous times at rush hour and I’m not seeing any change in traffic patterns. If anything, the Lawrence/Pruneridge intersection is less chaotic.

I think the city should take all of Pruneridge from four lanes to two because it’s really just a continuation of Hedding Street in San Jose, and Hedding was changed from four lanes to two in 2013. It’s a great start to having a bike-friendly boulevard across Santa Clara Valley. The obvious continuation would be Homestead Road.

In addition, put every road next to a school on a road diet where bicycle traffic is heaviest.

I’m not under any illusions about the bicycle and its popularity as a transportation option. It will never be as popular as other transportation methods because it requires physical skills and some level of fitness.

However, when it comes to finding ways to reduce traffic, accommodating bicycles by creating a network of bike-friendly streets will increase the number of people who choose to bike commute.

That’s good for the environment and good for transportation in the Valley. With fewer people driving, the road diet won’t be such a bad idea after all.

I’ll share more about what’s happening with the committee down the road. Basically, this is where the cyclist’s agenda meets political reality, but at least our voice is being heard.

Personal freedom vs. safety obsession

February 26, 2015

A broken crank sent me head-first onto the pavement.

A broken crank sent me head-first onto the pavement.


On the face of it, the bicycle helmet law is a no-brainer. Helmets have saved many lives and prevented concussions, myself included.

I almost always wear a helmet. I say almost because once in a while I like to ride without one, like when I ride a few blocks to the barber shop for a haircut or on an all-day ride over Mt. Hamilton.

There was a time when we didn’t have helmets and those we did have were a joke — the leather hairnets that provided zero protection. Modern materials changed all that in the 1980s.

But it was Jim Gentes and his Giro that really made the helmet “cool” in 1985.

Pretty soon the elite riders started wearing his lightweight, stylish helmet and now the only people who don’t wear helmets are casual cyclists or those who can’t afford them. And…friends of Jobst Brandt.

Jobst famously never wore a helmet and lucky for him he never will. He hated helmets and swore he would never wear one. He didn’t care what others did for their safety. He wanted no part of it.

Jobst argued that helmets make cyclists think they can’t be hurt and thus more prone to taking chances. I’m not sure I buy that notion. He stubbornly believed that his riding skills would keep him safe.

For the most part he was right. It was only later in life when those skills had degraded that Jobst fell and hit his head on Mt. Hamilton (tire blowout). He had other incidents, but they were never serious.

It was Jobst’s choice to not wear a helmet.

Those choices are narrowing. In today’s world the bicycle helmet is one more indication that we have become obsessed with safety. In one Wyoming school an innocent outdoor activity of tag was banned for fear that students would harm themselves. Four-square and tetherball have been eliminated in most school yards.

I can’t tell you how many times people have told me riding a bike is dangerous and I should always wear a helmet. Sure it has its hazards, but so does all outdoor activity. I’m not any more fearful of cycling than I am driving a car, probably less.

While nobody can argue against taking safety precautions, there has to be a limit. Life cannot be lived free of risk.

Yet another bicycle helmet law heads our way

February 20, 2015

Sen. Bill 192 takes away personal choice.

Sen. Bill 192 takes away personal choice.


California Senate Bill 192, submitted on Feb. 10 by Carol Liu (D, 25th District Southern California), amends the California vehicle code to make it mandatory that everyone riding a bicycle wear a helmet, as well as reflective clothing when riding at night.

As it stands now, anyone under age 18 must wear a helmet when riding a bike on public roads. So this bill extends the law to include adults. There is currently no law about wearing reflective clothing while riding a bike at night.

Require helmets while driving
The senator, who happens to be the wife of Michael Peevey, recently retired president of the Public Utilities Commission, mentions safety as the main reason for the law in her press release.

If she’s so concerned about bicycle safety, why not ban cars? In the U.S. they kill more than 30,000 people annually, about 3.5 million people in total.

While we’re at it, let’s have a law requiring drivers wear helmets, as NASCAR racers do. Consider the facts: Among all age groups, motor vehicle crashes were the third overall leading cause of traumatic brain injury (TBI) (14%). When looking at just TBI-related deaths, motor vehicle crashes were the second leading cause of TBI-related deaths (26%) for 2006–2010. CDC

Of course we won’t see any such laws. Why? Because it would inconvenience millions of people who drive to get around.

Bicycles. That’s a different story. They’re toys and they can be regulated with little opposition. The bike lobby, after all, has almost no visibility. How much does the bike industry donate to political coffers? Don’t forget: We have the best government money can buy.

Meanwhile, Sen. Liu comes across as a politician who’s only concerned about the public safety. “Motherhood and apple pie” is hard to oppose.

The inconvenience of wearing a helmet is not an issue for most well-to-do cyclists, who only ride for sport.

It’s a different story for minimum-wage workers who only ride a bike because it’s all they can afford. Reflective jackets? How about a jacket that doesn’t have holes in it.

I for one look forward to the day when we legislate private car ownership out of existence. Believe me that day is coming. The autonomous car will change our lives, for the better.

If you don’t believe it, read my novel, Skidders.

Sign the petition opposing Sen. Bill 192.

Note: Today I rode in “God is my helmet” mode, and will continue to do so until the bill is withdrawn.

Electric bicycles, mushrooms and solid tires

December 7, 2014

Skyline Boulevard looking at Old La Honda Road.

Skyline Boulevard looking at Old La Honda Road.


Saturday I tried out an electric bicycle at Bicycle Outfitter (BO) and had a chance to discuss its prospects with the staff.

At BO, as with most bike shops, electric bikes are greeted with mixed feelings. I can relate to that. When a rider goes blasting by on an electric bike, I’m none to happy, then wish I had one.

However, electric bikes are already well established in China and are gaining a following in Europe. They have their place for commuting, the market they’re going after.

The bike I rode Saturday is a commuter with a top speed of 20 mph, if you’re just running on battery power and not pedaling. It looks like the typical commuter bike with a long wheel base, solid frame, motor in the rear hub. The battery is removable and sits over the rear wheel.

While the bike had heavy, durable tires, I wouldn’t ever want to have a rear flat. Were I to own one, I’d mount the new Tannus solid tire out of Korea. Solid tires have been around for decades, but this latest version looks promising. (One user’s experience.)

Tannus solid tires eliminate flats. (Tannus photo)

Tannus solid tires eliminate flats. (Tannus photo)


It’s lightweight and has decent rolling resistance, not as good as a pneumatic tire of course, but close enough. From what I’ve read, the only drawback is that it’s a bear to mount on a standard rim. It’s rated for 6,000 miles. That means it will probably last at least several years for a commuter.

So what about the performance rider who still wants go to electric? I’ve found two wheels that hold promise — the FlyKly and the Copenhagen. They’re similar in design and both have something else in common that has many buyers frustrated. The wheels were supposed to be available months ago.

As with any new product, production delays can be expected, and because there’s electronics involved, it gets more complicated. The product has to work flawlessly. If it doesn’t, someone could be injured and lawsuits would quickly shut down the companies.

While I won’t go into the details, I would be torn between which one to buy. The FlyKly appeals to the minimalist in me. It’s unobtrusive and weighs only 6.6 pounds. The drawback is that it only works with a single speed.

The Copenhagen is painted a garish red, weighs 13 pounds, but works with any standard road bike. Just swap wheels and you’re all set. Both wheels are wireless and require an app running on a smartphone, iOS or Android.

Once they come out, I’ll be interested to read the reviews. At about $700, they’re relatively affordable. For someone who commutes longer distances, they could pay for themselves in short order.

Meanwhile, with the recent rains my chanterelle friends have finally returned after a two-year absence. They’ll join me and spaghetti for dinner in the coming days.

Chanterelles are back after a long absence. They like rain.

Chanterelles are back after a long absence. They like rain.

Wurr Road bridge a sign of the times

November 18, 2014

Wurr Road's Pescadero Creek bridge makes it pretty clear you need to cross with caution.

Wurr Road’s Pescadero Creek bridge makes it pretty clear you need to cross with caution.


While I can’t deny Pescadero Creek bridge on Wurr Road in San Mateo County has seen its share of bike crashes, do we really need a sign suggesting that we walk our bikes across?

I first rode over the bridge with Jobst Brandt in 1980. He occasionally spoke of a huge crash here in the mid-1970s. Jobst and friends came flying down the road one frigid winter morning and the result was chaos as they skidded on the icy bridge.

Several riders crashed, broke bones, or were knocked out.

Today the bridge could use a little work, but better yet, replace it with something modern.

The good news is that few cyclists venture onto Wurr Road near the sleepy town of Loma Mar. Instead they stay on the busy Pescadero Road.

The fact that these signs just went up makes me wonder if there wasn’t another bike wreck here recently.


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