Archive for the ‘News’ Category

100 Years and Still Pushing Gears

September 29, 2012

Stevens Creek Trail is accessible from Sunnyvale now that the Hwy 85 overpass is complete. It’s a nice design and came in at a reasonable $4.2 million.

Where do I begin? So much is happening in the cycling world. Let’s start with the centenarian who set a record on the bike, 100 km in 4h 17m 27s. Robert Marchand rode around the velodrome at Lyon, France. This guy also put the hammer down on his hour-ride record in Switzerland. When today’s cycling greats turn 100 they’ll be shattering records left and right.

Hwy 85 bike overpass

Finally. Hwy 85 has its bike overpass so now you can link up to the recreation trails at Shoreline Park coming from Sunnyvale. Thanks goes to Charlie Gibson, who managed the Mountain View parks and recreation department for decades. I remember checking out the area in the early 1980s. One idea was to have the path go under the freeway, but that proved impractical, so now we have the overpass, which has a nice long ramp for easy access and climbing.

Note that this gorgeous overpass cost $4.2 million. The Taj Mahal overpass at 280 cost $14 million, but it sure is pretty at night.

Road-rage driver cited

Two cyclists riding east of Boulder, Colorado, recorded an outraged motorist laying on the horn for five minutes as he drove behind them! What a jerk. Police tracked down the driver (you could clearly see the license plate) and cited him for a raft of infractions. That’s quick thinking by the riders to catch it all on video.

Guadalupe River path paving
Patience. In just a month or so the newly paved Guadalupe River path between Hwy 880 and Montague Expressway will open. There’s pavement in place most of the way, but road crews still need to do some touch-up. You can find the details on the Guadalupe River path construction update page. The most awful stretch of trail near the new airport economy parking area will no longer be a mud hole during winter rains.

Critical Mass 20-year ride goes off peacefully
Has it been 20 years? San Francisco’s Critical Mass “protest” ride held Friday nights monthly rolled off to a peaceful start with thousands of riders turning out, some coming from remote corners of the world just to enjoy the experience of blocking traffic (did I say that?). I’ve never done the ride and I have no plans to do so, but I support any activity that makes people think about the alternatives to the car for getting around, ESPECIALLY in San Francisco.

Rather than hating cyclists, drivers should embrace them, because that’s one less car they have to contend with.

Green bike lanes
San Jose has plans for green bike lanes, but I haven’t seen them yet. I don’t think they’ve been painted, although you can check out Cyclelicious to see how they’d look. Will they be effective? You bet. After a green lane was installed on Washington D.C.’s Pennsylvania Avenue, bicycling increased 200 percent and 90 percent of users said they felt safer.

Best cycling cities: Boulder, Davis, Portland
The League of American Bicyclists ranked these three cities as tops in cycling amenities, and if you’ve ever been there, you’ll know why. They got the platinum ranking. Our fair state of California ranked 12th, moving up from 20th in 2011.

Around the Bay, other notable cities include Palo Alto, San Francisco, Stanford (gold); Santa Cruz (silver); San Jose, Menlo Park, Sunnyvale, Santa Clara, Oakland (bronze).

The Guys on the Bikes

September 26, 2012

Bicycle Outfitter hosted an evening with RAAM competitors Jonathan Boyer, Michael Secrest, and Chris Kostman. They showed their 1985 duel as recorded by the Wide World of Sports.

Bicycle Outfitter arranged for a rare reunion of Race Across America (RAAM) competitors from the 1980s on Tuesday night and those who attended left with a new appreciation for the world’s most difficult bike race.

Chris Kostman was 18 when he served as a referee assigned to keep an eye on Jonathan “Jacques” Boyer at the 1985 RAAM. He went on to complete the RAAM and helped officiate for a dozen or so years. He had the pleasure of introducing Boyer, 1985 winner, and 1985 second-place finisher Michael Secrest. Boyer was making a rare visit home to Monterey from Rwanda where he spends most of his time coaching bike racers. Secrest lives in Scottsdale, Arizona.

Kostman showed Wide World of Sports excerpts from the 1985 race when Boyer and Secrest battled it out most of the way. I had never seen ABC’s coverage with announcer Jim Lampley. I got tired just watching the riders suffer through the endless hours of riding without sleep. It takes a special dedication to do this race. Secrest finished RAAM five times, won in 1987, and went on to do a solo cross-country ride in 1990 in 7 days 23 hours, a record that still stands. Boyer rode RAAM in 2006 in a category that required 4 hours sleep per day.

These guys aren’t young in years, but they look like they could go out and complete RAAM tomorrow. I rode with Boyer and other hard-core racers on a super-hot day back in 2003 through the Santa Cruz Mountains and I don’t think Boyer broke a sweat.

Boyer has made a decent living from his professional racing career, as the first American to compete in the Tour de France. He didn’t do RAAM to make money. Quite the opposite. Secrest spent his last dime racing RAAM and going after 24-hour track records. He’s a purist athlete to the core, emphasizing on more than one occasion that he never did drugs, other than the allowed asthma medication.

Wide World of Sports stopped following the race after 1986 and since then it has continued in obscurity. Wikipedia has good coverage of the event. If you’re interested in entering, just go to the RAAM website. Average cost – $20,000.

On my next 100-mile ride I’ll think about this memorable evening and tell myself 100 miles is a walk in the park compared to RAAM.

A Cinelli Frame with Stories to Tell

September 19, 2012

Ray Keener holds his frame, built by Cinelli and ridden by Jobst Brandt back in the 1970s. Behind him is his Peter Johnson frame, built in 1980.

While visiting Ray Keener in Boulder, Colorado, I had a chance to see Jobst Brandt’s last Cinelli, the one ridden before he switched to Tom Ritchey and Peter Johnson frames.

Ray is lovingly restoring the Cinelli with a new paint job and no doubt some good components. While Cinelli made excellent frames, they had one design limitation (in hindsight) — lugs. That meant the tube diameter had to be one-inch or one-and-an-eighth for the down tube. Ray says the bike has a lot of flex, although it never seemed to affect Jobst.

By contrast, also shown in the photo, is a frame built for Ray by the Bay Area’s Peter Johnson in 1980. It’s fillet brazed, has no lugs, and that meant Peter could build bikes with larger diameter tubes.

Fillet brazing offered a big advantage when Tom Ritchey started building mountain bike frames starting in 1979. He used larger diameter tubes for more durable bikes.

Jobst started riding Cinelli frames sometime in the late 1950s or early 1960s. He purchased his first one from Spence Wolf, owner of Cupertino Bike Shop, which Spence ran out of his house. Jobst showed me the receipt and I think the entire bike cost something like $157.

Ray still rides Peter’s bike day in and day out after all these years.

Jobst Brandt rides his Cinelli (circa 1977) in a field of poppies just off Mines Road after the long descent. Photo by Peter Johnson.

Bike Lanes or Oil Refineries: What’ll it be?

August 12, 2012

Hedding Street just beyond First heading west. A bike lane on Hedding would be a good thing.

I for one am a big supporter of San Jose’s city government and the actions it’s taking to plan the city’s future. Bicycles are front and center in the transportation plan, which you can read about in the San Jose Bike Plan 2020 – all 20 megabytes.

One small step to a sustainable transportation future calls for bike lanes crisscrossing the city. By sustainable, I mean fewer oil refineries and I think we can all agree we don’t want one of those in our back yard! A little white paint for a bike lane doesn’t sound so bad.

Bike lanes are nothing more than white stripes on the side of the road. However, they can include parking restrictions and that’s the sticking point with a few residents on Hedding Street where a bike lane is planned.

Some 20 street parking spaces in a four-block stretch could be eliminated as the street is reconfigured from four lanes to two, with a center turn lane.

I rode Hedding today going southwest from First Street, not to check it out, but because it’s a route I often take when returning from a ride to the Mt. Hamilton summit. Hedding is a wide boulevard with not much traffic and that’s why I like it. I wrote about crossing Santa Clara Valley east to west in a previous column. Today I prefer Hedding (right on First Street) over Taylor.

As far as I’m concerned the residents can keep their street parking, but let’s stripe the bike lanes. This street should have had bike lanes long ago. As for going from four lanes to three, I’ve seen it done on a short stretch of Pruneridge Avenue and I have no complaints both as a motorist and a cyclist.

As I read the Mercury News editorial column and the Hedding Street hullabaloo, it’s pretty clear that the bicycle remains the whipping boy of transportation. It’s nothing new. Even when bicycles became the king of the road around 1895, we had to fight for our rights.

Whether or not people will take up cycling on safer roads remains to be seen. Sadly, many people stigmatize cycling as degrading, especially for getting around town or commuting. Cycling is the most efficient means of transportation. It’s good for your health and it’s good for planet Earth. Everyone may not agree, but what’ll it be: more bike lanes or more oil refineries?

Ride bike.

Mabury Road approaching King Road in San Jose. Nice street design. Everyone is happy.

Curiosity Robot Arm Built by Litespeed

August 6, 2012

Curiosity Mars rover arms were built by Litespeed (NASA photo).

Remember Litespeed? They started building titanium bikes about a million years ago. They also made the robotic arm of the Curiosity Mars rover, which made a successful landing on the red planet last night.

ABC News showed workers in the Tennessee factory during their prime time news segment Monday night. Out of this world.

Rumble on the Coast

April 11, 2012

Rumble strips on Hwy 1 between Santa Cruz and Davenport add another obstacle for cyclists to overcome.

A proposal to add rumble strips on a 10-mile stretch of Hwy 1 from Davenport to Santa Cruz has cyclists up in arms, and I can’t blame them.

Rumble strips make cycling hazardous. They reduce your options when maneuvering around road debris and parked cars. This stretch of highway has plenty of parked cars whose drivers use nearby beaches.

Rumble strips have been gouged into the middle of Hwy 9 between Saratoga and Skyline Boulevard. These strips haven’t changed driving habits all that much, from my experience. Because they’re in the middle of the road, they don’t affect cyclists.

There’s one stretch of Hwy 108 east of Sonora that has a long rumble strip. On the steep descent to Sonora on many a Sierra ride I’ve cursed these strips up and down. They’re positioned in a such a way that if you ride to the left you’re in traffic, but if you ride to the right you’re in a ton of debris and glass. At 40 mph there is little room for error.

I’m also wondering just what kind of rumble strips are proposed. There are quite a few different arrangements, some worse than others for cyclists.

On stretches of Hwy 1 with 5-foot shoulders and no parking, rumble strips might not be so bad. That’s not always the case on this stretch of road as it passes beaches and state parks with parked cars.

Caltrans generally does a good job maintaining our roads and making them safe. I hope they listen and take cyclists’ needs into consideration. Hwy 1 is one of the best places for cycling in all of California. Let’s not ruin it.

Distracted Driving (Cell Phones) Kills Cyclists

April 10, 2012

Channel 5 TV news photo

Have you had a close call as a result of a motorist using his cell phone — texting, talking, etc? I have, more than once.

The latest incident came last week on Monroe Avenue at the San Tomas Aquino recreation path. I stopped, punched the bike light button and waited to cross.

With a green light I started across when to my left comes a car going about 5 mph. A woman driver stopped only feet in front of me. The stop line was about 20 feet back. She was on the phone, of course, peering up at the stop light, a dumbfounded look on her face.

Her window was down. I felt like ripping the phone from her hands and tossing it into the creek. I would never do that, but it would have been justice served.

I did a quick check to find cyclists killed by cell phones. There are plenty. It’s too early to tell what happened in Concord last week when a man and his daughter riding along were mowed down by a 17-year-old driver. He was speeding is all that’s certain.

Recent deaths:

Bend, Ore. 2011

Kirkland, Wash., 2011

Compton, Calif., 2010

Harrisonburg, Va., 2009

Scottsboro, Ala., 2009

But the most egregious of all accidents and one that took the lives of two people I knew, occurred in 1986 when an 18-year-old driving a Chevy Blazer reached down to fetch a cassette tape. She veered into the bike lane and took the lives of four cyclists enjoying a Sunday ride, just like that.

Trail Work Moves Ahead in South Bay

January 12, 2012

A dodgy section of trail from Zanker Road to Coyote Creek next to Hwy 237 is being paved in 2012. The sheep stay.

We have lots of good trail news in the South Bay to start the new year. First, the unpaved portion of the Guadalupe River Trail from I-880 at the San Jose airport extending to Alviso at Gold Avenue will be paved starting later this year.

The bad news is the trail will be closed for up to a year.

On another bright note, the notoriously bad section of trail (0.6 miles) paralleling the north side of Hwy 237 from Zanker Road to Coyote Creek will be paved in 2012. It’s actually not bad if you like a funky mix of old pavement and firm gravel. I will miss it in a way.

Now if only we could see the Coyote Creek Trail opened under Hwy 237. That one has always been a mystery to me.

Finally, it took millions of dollars to buy the land from Union Pacific, but we now have the land needed to build a trail linking Los Gatos Creek Trail with Guadalupe River Trail. It’s called the 3 Creeks Trail extension.

I didn’t see any projected opening dates, so I imagine it will be a few more years before we have a place to ride.

Niles Canyon Widening Project Has Opposition

January 8, 2012

Many sections of Niles Canyon Road (Hwy 84) have good shoulder, but not here. (Google Maps photo)

OK, raise your hand if you think riding a bike through Niles Canyon is hazardous to your health. Just as I thought. Lots of hands went up.

There’s a three-year $60 million plan by Caltrans to widen the road, but that doesn’t include widening the bridges, which is too bad. The bridges are no fun crossing because they’re so narrow.

However, the plan is in jeopardy because a lot of people — mostly people living in the area — oppose the project: they don’t want to see hundreds of trees cut down and possibly upset fish habitats in Alameda Creek.

East Bay Bicycle Coalition supports the road improvements, although opponents argue (rightly so in my mind) it won’t make things safer. More people will use the road and they’ll just drive faster.

I’ve ridden through Niles Canyon dozens of times and never had any issues, unless you consider the many close calls that are part of the cyclist’s life. I would welcome shoulders, but not rumble strips, which are already in place down the middle of the road. All in all, I think the plan is a mixed bag, same as the canyon road. Some parts are nice with good shoulder, but other parts have no shoulder. The only thing that’s clear-cut is the trees.

Smug Cyclists? No Way!

January 7, 2012

Smug cyclist sends a clear message.

Cyclelicious posted this funny video and it sends an interesting message. “We are the cyclists, the intermediate stage between humans and pure energy.” Right.

I like the part about cycling being so natural, although they’re riding carbon-fiber tungsten bikes that required 14,000 metric tons of C02 to build.


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