Archive for the ‘Ride reports’ Category

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.

“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.

Park closures reduce traffic

May 5, 2020

Blue Lupine at Quail Hollow Ranch county park.

Enjoy it while you can. With state parks closed in the Santa Cruz Mountains, this is the best riding since 1983 when many roads were washed out.

I rode from Saratoga Gap, heading southeast on Skyline Boulevard toward the first park closed — Castle Rock. Still, some rock climbers’ cars lined the road. With temps in the high 50s and clear skies, this was one of those early May days you dream about.

I saw only the occasional car as I continued on a downhill slope. At Bear Creek Road I noticed that the next mile is Highway 35. Huh? This tiny appendage reminds us of highway builders’ dreams to extend Skyline Boulevard/Highway 35 all the way to Mt. Madonna Road. Today we still have Summit Road.

I’ve only ridden down Zayante Road a few times. I much prefer the climb through the dark, silent redwoods, but age convinced me to go down and not up. Mostly it’s a bumpy ride and not so fun.

There’s only one short climb all the way to Zayante Creek Market & Deli. Sadly, it was closed. I’m not sure why. There was a nice Asian lady running the store. I haven’t been by in several years though.

So I headed on to Quail Hollow Road. This stretch of Zayante Road is my least favorite with all the traffic, but there is no alternative.

Quail Hollow had a lot of traffic too. My bike got tired and took a rest at Quail Hollow Ranch, a county park, which has a nice bloom of blue lupine.

Another unfriendly stretch of road remained — Hwy 9 from Ben Lomond to Boulder Creek. Even with Covid, lots of cars.

I stopped at the Redwood Keg Mini Mart and made a purchase, dressed as a masked robber. But I still had to pay.

Big Basin Way, Hwy 236, is another unfriendly stretch of road until the golf course, but once past that traffic evaporated and I rode alone under the sun and mild temps.

Once in Big Basin Redwoods State Park I didn’t see a single car. All the parking lots are roped off, including every turnout for several miles along Hwy 236. I wasn’t complaining.

Back on Hwy 9, the last 10 kilometers is a grind. I have a few memories of blasting up to Saratoga Gap, but mostly it was a slog after those long rides to the coast.

There has been some paving at mile 22.9 and culvert improvements, but the road’s overall complexion hasn’t changed since I rode here at least two years ago. Time flies. I’d prefer that they widen mile 24. Maybe someday, but that will be for future generations to appreciate.

After forty years these roads never grow old, but I do. It has been a blast.