Archive for the ‘Ride reports’ Category

Montebello Road burns in the October sun

October 18, 2020

Looking west from Black Mountain.


Even though I was miles from the CZU fire, I could see the damage it caused from Montebello Road.

Butano Ridge stood out in the distance, an off-brown color that told me this was a burn area.

The hills are tinder dry this time of year, and these days that means I live in fear of what might happen on pastoral Montebello Road.

Fortunately I beat the baking heat by leaving early, so it was just toasty warm by the time I reached the Black Mountain summit.

The final approach of a 15 percent climb was graded and hardpacked several years ago, much to my enjoyment.

But this was the worst time of year for taking a road bike as I fishtailed through deep gravel and dust all the way to Page Mill Road.

I thought back to another ride in late November when it was so cold my water bottle shattered as I went for a drink. Times are changing.

Montebello Road approach to Black Mountain. It doesn’t get any better.

Longest dirt roads in the South and North Bay

October 7, 2020

Duck hunting, and viewing, season is underway in the Baylands.


Nowadays my adventure rides on dirt roads have come down to tooling around on the Bay Trail.

Back in the days of Jobst Rides we almost always found some dirt to keep our attention, but the distances weren’t that far.

Today I can ride a nine-mile loop, all on dirt, starting in Alviso. Finding a route that long in the Santa Cruz Mountains is a challenge. Point to point that is.

The longest Santa Cruz Mountains route — uninterrupted by pavement — we did was Buzzard Lagoon Road / Aptos Creek Fire Road, a total of 12.3 miles.

The only rides longer would be any number of routes in Henry W. Coe State Park.

The Haul Road, if open its entire length, would be 9.5 miles point to point. The possibility of riding from Hwy 9 to Pescadero Creek Road remains a tantalizing dream.

One other ride worthy of mention is our epic journey through Point Reyes National Seashore. It totaled 17 miles all on dirt starting from Bear Valley Visitor Center, up Mt. Wittenberg (didn’t do it on coast ride), down Bear Valley Trail to the coast and then to Bolinas. Of course, we started from the Golden Gate Bridge on that ride, heading up the Mt. Tamalpais railroad grade.

That Point Reyes ride remains a dream for cyclists as well. Those were the days…

Nearby Bolinas Ridge Trail deserves mention, all 11.3 legal miles.

Welcome to “The Burning World”

September 9, 2020

Looking at the Santa Cruz Mountains from the San Jose airport.


When I was young I read a lot of “science fiction,” which was way more fiction than science, but you get the idea.

I read all of the apocalpyse novels by J.G. BallardThe Burning World, The Drowned World, The Wind from Nowhere, The Crystal World.

I don’t rate him as highly as I do Ray Bradbury, but he offered up some insightful thoughts about our planet, our environment, and how it shapes us.

His most famous work, made into a movie, is Empire of the Sun, easily his best writing and most evocative imagery. He survived wretched conditions in a Japanese prison camp in WW II, so there’s a lot of pathos here.

J.G. Ballard left us in 2009. He won’t have to see the worlds he conjured up. Today I can see The Burning World and it’s not a pretty sight. The sky is dark in mid-morning. I’m wearing a mask, although the particulate count isn’t all that high. There’s a lot of moisture and fog in the air.

I’m no believer in end times, but I do think global warming is here, and we need to do something about it.

Ending on a bright note, The Junction bar and grill in San Antonio Valley survived the fires. It’s the only food stop on the backside of Mt. Hamilton.

J.G. Ballard was a post-apocalyptic novelist who saw the future.

Nothing but garbage rides these days

July 31, 2020

Clean-up at Wolfe and El Camino Real. Lots of masks and gloves. Two bike racks at this location!


Swept up by the Bicyclean! movement, I’ve taken to the streets in a hopeless attempt to keep Silicon Valley clear of trash.

My trashcycle is a 20-year-old Trek 6500. It sports a rear rack and basket. My trash picker is folding, bought from Amazon.

You have to pick your battles. I’m not going to pick up trash along Guadalupe River near downtown. There’s no point with so many homeless people living there.

Right now the trashcycle is in the shop (my garage) waiting for parts. It had those garbage Shimano axles, the black ones that I see on the cheapest of bikes.

The bearing races are as soft as butter and after a few thousand miles they start pitting. My Campagnolo NR hubs are 40 years old and have never had pitted races.

While I’m griping, Cristo Rey Drive has got to be the most unfriendly road around as an approach to a popular county park. I’m referring to Rancho San Antonio. It’s narrow and has heavy traffic. Not very inviting for a bike.

Dumbarton Bridge path gets trashed

July 19, 2020

Bulky car body parts from a wreck obstruct the Dumbarton Bridge bike path.


Now this is annoying. Debris from a horrific crash on Dumbarton Bridge gets dumped into the bike path. Convenient for the people cleaning up the accident, but not so good for cyclists.

I would have moved it, but it’s bulky and it’s a half mile to the end of the path. Dumping it into the bay was another option. I’d never do that.

Things are worse at the west approach to Dumbarton. A low cyclone fence catches debris before it can reach the bay. It’s off-fence-ive.

I’d ride out and clean it up, but 20 miles is a hike just to clean garbage. Maybe some local riders and hikers will take it on.

While I’m here, a Jobst Ride memory is called for. Shortly after the bridge opened to car traffic, Jobst led us over the bridge but — of course — not on the path. We took the main road!

Welcome to the scenic South Bay. You’d never see this in Switzerland.

Charcoal Road stirs recollections of a gnarly gnightmare

July 7, 2020

Charcoal Road at Skyline Boulevard. Three miles of dirt and hard climbing from Stevens Creek.


On my Skyline Boulevard ride from home — a rare event — I stopped at Charcoal Road and thought back on my previous life when I could actually ride it, up or down.

But first a traffic count on Hwy 9. From Hakone Gardens to the summit 67 motorized vehicles passed me, and four cyclists. At least 120 cars headed downhill. I’ve had as few as 25 cars pass me on cold Sundays, but that was years ago.

Bicyclean! has done great work on Hwy 9. There’s no garbage visible from Saratoga Springs event center to the summit. However, the span between Saratoga and Pierce Road needs another cleaning.

At Skyline I headed north, stopping at Charcoal Road to snap a photo and think back on those crazy hard rides in the 1980s.

One ride took place on April 12, 1987 with Jobst Brandt. As I look at my notes, I’m amazed that we didn’t let a little dirt slow us down. That day we rode to Big Basin State Park and then headed to Whitehouse Canyon Road for an incredibly bumpy dirt descent to Hwy 1.

How did we get home? Last Chance Road! We weren’t done yet. We decided to drop down into Stevens Canyon via Charcoal Road. I’m glad it was downhill because it’s three miles of hard climbing (13-20 percent sections). There’s a nice single-track at the end, but this trail is one-way only uphill. We didn’t worry about it back then.

We weren’t the only ones riding Charcoal Road back in the 1980s. On May 31, 1987, I had one of the more bizarre small-world encounters, on Alpine Road. It had been a decade, but I noticed Rich Karlgaard when I saw him. As I started working at Runner’s World magazine, he was exiting to go on to much bigger publishing gigs.

Like publisher of Forbes magazine after co-founding Upside magazine.

We exchanged words briefly. Rich told me he had ridden UP Charcoal Road!

It’s best ridden in the winter after poison oak leaves have fallen. The narrow section used to have its share of the nasty plant. Enjoy your ride.

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.

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.