Archive for the ‘News’ Category

Bicycle tires have “r-evolved”

June 25, 2022

Two new tires for my mountain bike. Tired of riding nobbies on pavement. Schwalbe (394 gm) is smooth! Protek heavy at 686 gm, for rear wheel to reduce chance of flat.

There’s nothing sexy about a bicycle tire, as much as the manufacturers would like you to think so.

They make the tread with flashy bumps and dimples, for what? Better traction? No, looks matter even when it comes to tires. At least that was the opinion of one cyclist in 1985. Jobst Brandt had the ear of Avocet and they listened to his argument for a smooth tire, or a “slick.”

What got Jobst going on this rant was the early 80s Specialized touring tire with a raised center ridge. He hated the ridge.

The U.S. bicycle company enlisted the Japanese to build FasGrip tires in 1985. Jobst posed for an advertising photo — riding down Pescadero Creek Road (Haskins Hill) doing 35 mph, his six-foot-five body and massive yellow frame banked over at a perilous angle.

The howls of protest and arguments in the cycling community against treadless tires could not be quelled by Jobst, no matter how logical or scientific his answers. People like to believe myths: “slick tires reduce traction, especially in the wet.”

Here are two exchanges Jobst had on Bike.rec:

From: (Jobst Brandt)
Subject: Re: “Slicks” tyres advice needed
Date: Mon, 22 Jan 1996

Roger Marquis writes:

There is really only one drawback to slick tires on pavement and that’s
wet traction. Even fat slicks can be very slippery compared to treaded
tires on wet roads. Knobby tires on the other hand have little
traction on wet or dry pavement.

“Unless the words “can be very slippery” are a dodge, this statement is
without foundation and reeks of bicycling myth and lore. It took
decades for smooth tires to migrate from dragsters to racing cars, and
more decades after that to make the transition to motorcycles. Today,
bicycles are the last holdout even though theirs are the least water
affected tire of the vehicles mentioned.

“For the bicycle, the width of the contact patch, its shape, and the
inflation pressure, combined with the bicycle’s relatively low speed,
make water on the road no more a hazard than a light film of moisture.
All the water that can be made to escape from between tire and road,
does this better without tread features than with. Water on slick
surfaces, such as paint stripes, manhole covers, or railway tracks
cannot be removed by tread patterns, just as a sharp-edged squeegee
glides over a wet window.

“The contact patch of a bicycle tire is a sharply pointed canoe-shape
that first makes contact in the center and spreads as the contact area
increases toward the center of pressure. Similar to aircraft tires
that are also smooth except for tread-depth gauging grooves, the round
cross section prevents water entrapment as that makes hydroplaning
possible with automobile tires with their rectangular contact patch
having a broad front. Road bicycles need tread about as much as a
garden wheelbarrow. Of course the wheelbarrow has tread for the same
spurious reasons.

“It is evident that the tread on current motorcycles is essentially
smooth except for some widely spaced artistic lines. The flat and
smooth areas between them are many times as large as bicycle tire
contact patches. These tires are neither directional nor do they have
micro sipes or any “drainage” grooves. When I read bicycle tire
advertisements today, they remind me of motorcycle tire ads from
magazines of 40 years ago. I think that is the fare to which Roger is
treating us.”

From: (Jobst Brandt)
Subject: Re: bicycle tire science (was “Re: drifting”)
Date: Wed, 20 Mar 1996

Matt O’Toole writes:

This has been conclusively established on tire testing equipment
both at the joint tire testing facility in Japan (IRC) and on
equipment that I designed for Avocet to measure rolling resistance (RR) and breakout
lean angle of various tire designs.

“If such testing facilities actually exist, why do they keep selling
tires that go against all common sense design principles? Why does
IRC keep selling road racing tires with tread, and mountain bike
tires with squishy, useless knobs?

“It is easier to pander to the fears of the customer than to try to
reverse commonly held beliefs. Since cornering is not a primary demand
in racing, and most racers are not ones to press that facet of racing,
tires with fine profiles will continue to be the choice of riders.
Motorcycles, until recently, had deep tread patterns on road machines.
Today, from imitating racing tires, they generally ride slicks that
have enough tread lines in them to pass the law that states that motor
vehicles shall not operate with slick tires, a law based on automobile
tires that have a cylindrical surface instead of a toroid.”

Bicycle tire technology has improved over the decades, no doubt about it. Better materials and rubber types and combinations speak to the enhancements, not tread type.

So, can you still buy smooth tires today? I was asked by a reader. I knew there were a handful of models, so I searched the Web and came up with this list. To be considered, the tire must have no bumps, ridges, or lines of any size anywhere on the rubber. Clincher tire unless noted otherwise:

ContinentalSprinter (tubular), Podium (tubular), Grand Prix TT, Tempo II19, 25, 22 mm
GoodyearEagle F1 Supersport23, 25, 28
IRCNone (have chevrons)
MaxxisHigh Road SL23, 25, 28
MichelinTime Trial, Power Cup (tubular and clincher), Lithion2, Dynamic Sport Access25 mm; 23, 25, 28; 23, 25; 23, 25, 28
PanaracerAgilest, Duro, Closer Plus23, 25, 28 (2); 20, 23, 25
RitcheyRace Slick21, 23, 25
SchwalbeKojak 26 x 1.35, 2.0
Veloflex*Corsa Evo (minor pebble pattern)23, 25, 28
WTBThickslick Comp, Flat Guard23, 25, 28

There are quite a few more brands, but they’re niche or would not have what I’m looking for. Road Bike Rider has a list.

I found one affordable, smooth tire for everyday road riding. I’m giving the WTB Thickslick a try. Most everything here is for time trials, track, racing, and expensive.

Schwalbe has a nice smooth tire for 26 inch wheels, oddly enough, given that this size is for the mountain bike crowd.

Without a durable, long-lasting smooth tire in the lineup, I favor the Continental Gatorskin. It lasts longer than other brands, it’s affordable, and it’s reliable. I can live with their silly dimples.

WTB Thickslick 28 mm. Nice looking tire.
I’ll give it a try.

The Alpine Road story

June 20, 2022

Charlie Krenz, a local mountain biker, has created an excellent video about the history of Alpine Road. It’s must-see viewing.

I guarantee you’ll learn a thing or two about the road’s long history.

Alpine Road repairs start in June!

May 20, 2022

Alpine Road at the green gate in March 2022.

After 32 years of neglect, Alpine Road/trail is headed for a makeover! From June through October the trail will be closed. MROSD story.

I’ve read several official Midpeninsula Regional Open Space District (MROSD) reports on what’s in store, but they’re conflicting, so it’s going to be “wait and see.”

My expectation is that the entire trail will be improved (ruts removed, culverts repaired, brush cut back), but that’s not certain. The original plan was to do sections at a time. Now it reads like the entire trail from the green gate to Page Mill Road will be worked on.

However, work may not be finished until 2023, says MROSD.

The road was, according to MROSD, closed to cars in 1979. I thought it was earlier in the 1970s. It was definitely closed in 1979 though, based on my experience. I suspect it was closed during the winter for some years due to muddy conditions, so maybe 1979 was the year-round closure date.

That steep section about a mile up from the green gate will be redesigned for an easier grade, according to the plan.

I may live to see the day, and even ride on it. Now that would be nice.

Repair stand on Stevens Creek Trail

March 30, 2022

Repair stand on Stevens Creek Trail in Mountain View

Thanks to the city of Mountain View for installing the Dero Fixit stand on Stevens Creek Trail at the overpass for Evelyn Avenue, Central Expressway, and the Caltrain tracks.

I understand there’s another stand somewhere on the trail, which follows the creek and goes from south Mountain View to the Baylands.

The stand has a pump (schrader and presta), flat-head screwdriver, phillips head screwdriver, 2.5, 3, 4, 5, 6, 8 mm allen keys, pedal wrench, tire irons, box wrenches.

Dero Fixit stand website

License plate readers installed

March 22, 2022

License plate reader on Elena Road in Los Altos Hills

Just when thieves in South America are booking flights to come here and steal from Bay Area homes (I’m not kidding), the city of Los Altos Hills has installed license plate readers to deter crime.

Crime tourism sounds like something out of The Onion, but these are the times we’re living in.

I don’t know what good license plate readers will do for preventing crime, but we’ll see.

Automatic License Plate Readers

While you’re out riding through the LA Hills, try Concepcion Road. It’s my favorite descent. Wide. Long. Fast. Great sight lines.

Peter Johnson had a machinist’s soul

January 17, 2022

Jobst Brandt, Olaf Brandt, Peter Johnson, Jan Causey Johnson in Switzerland, 1984. Jobst Brandt photo

When it came to having someone mend my smashed frame in 1981, I immediately thought of Peter Johnson.

I got to know him on Sunday rides with Jobst Brandt, and sharing that kind of toil and strife gave me confidence that he’d do a good job.

Peter warned me that I shouldn’t expect the bike to last forever. When tubes have to be reheated they become more brittle and joints are prone to failure.

I was a starving cyclists at the time and needed a quick fix. So Peter built a new fork, and replaced the toptube, downtube, and headtube.

The bike lasted five more years and got me through a three-week ride in the Alps. I couldn’t complain.

Peter and Jobst complemented each other, like wheels on pavement. Peter the machinist built and maintained Jobst’s bike for more than 25 years.

Peter Johnson negotiates Engsteln Trail near Melchtal, Switzerland, in 1985. Jobst Brandt photo
Peter on Gavia Pass in 1984. Jobst Brandt photo

They toured the Alps six times, 1982-85, 1989, and 1990. That’s a lot of miles and climbing.

Now Peter is gone. I last saw him a few years ago, in the hospital after heart surgery. He died in Bern, Switzerland, a place he loved to visit.

Peter was a regular on Sunday rides well into the 1990s, and his wife Jan joined him on many occasions. Our Wool Jersey Gang had some fun adventures exploring the Santa Cruz Mountains.

I’ll never forget my last visit to Peter’s machine shop in 2006. He owned enough tools and machines to build a car from scratch. Not to mention spare bike equipment.

Peter built obscure parts in his job, things you’ll never see but find their way into vital machinery.

Jobst asked Peter to machine special washers that lodged between a Shimano SPD clipless pedal and a Campagnolo or Shimano crank arm. I had already broken two cranks at the pedal eye, so I jumped at the opportunity to have Peter build me some washers and mill in the crank’s pedal hole opening.

While the washers were tiny and didn’t look like they could do much to prevent a failure, they have worked perfectly for years. The snug fit keeps the pedal from moving.

Machine shop in 2006

Finally, Peter could invent. He built a threadless headset in the early 1970s, well before they were “invented.” It was used by Marc Brandt and Grant Handley in 1976.

Parts wear out with use, and we’re no exception. Now there’s one less machinist to keep the wheels turning. We had some good Sunday rides together, memories that last a lifetime.

Mobile book marketing

January 13, 2022

Custom jersey made by Owayo.

Look for me in the months ahead wearing my book jersey.

Maybe I’ll bring a copy or two so I can sell them out on the road.

Jersey is sold by Owayo, manufactured in Germany.

Superb quality and perfect fit. I recommend this company for custom jerseys.

I paid full price for it.

Wet weather finally

December 14, 2021

This round of stormy weather gave our Santa Clara home 2.87 inches of badly needed rain, and a total of 7.08 inches since September. And snow on Mt. Hamilton.

Guadalupe River running strong at San Jose airport

Guadalupe River is raging and the often flooded underpass at Hwy 101 is flooded once again.

Flooding at Hwy 101 and Guadalupe River underpass
San Tomas Aquino Creek Trail waterfall

San Tomas Aquino Creek’s “Niagara Falls” is flowing nicely.

Even more good news, construction is underway at the De La Cruz Blvd./Trimble Rd. and Hwy 101 overpass. The road will be widened with a bike lane.

Trimble Road and Hwy 101 overpass construction

It comes too late for me, as I stopped daily commuting here in 2010.

Today I’d probably take the paved Guadalupe River path, although not on days like today when it’s flooded.

I had a few close calls here as huge trucks squeezed by me on the overpass, and I dodged cars taking the Hwy 101 south on-ramp.

I enjoyed the ride, except for this short stretch.

Airport parking structure never fails to impress.

Sky Lane Cycling Track in Bangkok

December 5, 2021

Wow, how times have changed since my visit in 1989. This recreation gem is located near the Bangkok airport.

I suspect the airport has moved to a new location farther from the city. (Yes, 2006.)


Palo Alto opens Hwy 101 pedestrian/bike bridge

November 22, 2021

Palo Alto’s new recreation overcrossing improves baylands access.

After years of work and millions of dollars, cyclists finally have a better way to reach the Palo Alto Baylands.

The wide overcrossing includes interpretive signage and a place to sit.

The trail continues to E. Meadow Drive, which has a bike lane and continues into Palo Alto. Or you can take the lightly traveled Bayshore Road paralleling highway 101.

Judging by the traffic this morning, the bridge will see plenty of wheels for recreation and commuting.