McKenzie Reservoir drinks in the sunshine

August 14, 2015

Two deer ambled down to the lake for a drink as I snapped the photo.

Two deer ambled down to the lake for a drink as I snapped the photo.

I’ve been riding past McKenzie Reservoir on Lake Ranch Road since 1980, but the good news now is that it’s sanctioned by the county.

In May 1984 Jobst and friends rode by here and stopped to drink from a stream that runs by a big redwood next to the road. I’m not so inclined to drink from local streams these days with the drought and increased pollution making it less appetizing.

As happened in 1984, I saw a gaggle of kids riding by, part of a commercial business catering to youth summer camps, Bike Dojo.

While that’s all well and good, when I was a kid we explored our local parks and trails unsupervised, something that would be unthinkable in today’s world. How times have changed.

Freehub upkeep needed for Ultegra FH-6700

August 10, 2015

A new Shimano freehub includes a ring spacer, body and threaded barrel where the Allen key fits. Lower race with rubber O-ring shown.

A new Shimano freehub includes a ring spacer, body and threaded barrel where the Allen key fits. Lower race with rubber O-ring shown.

Anything with ball bearings needs maintenance, so don’t forget your Shimano freehub.

The freehub, as it’s called to distinguish it from the traditional freewheel that threads onto the hub, has a total of 50 1/8″ bearings on two races, upper and lower.

The upper race is unavailable for maintenance (bearing replacement) unless you take apart the entire freehub, which is no easy task. RJ the Bike Guy shows you how to do it, if you’re interested. You’ll need a special tool, which he shows you how to make. RJ couldn’t find the specialty removal tool online, nor could I.

Personally, I wouldn’t bother. A new freehub costs about $32.

However, cleaning the freehub can add to its lifespan. That’s an assumption. I can’t prove it, but based on experience with similar situations, I suspect it’s true.

That means removing the freehub from the wheel. You’ll need a 10 mm Allen key. I recommend a socket wrench with a 10 mm fitting because the freehub is usually on tight and you’ll need leverage.

RJ the Bike Guy takes you through the process in his video.

I’m not a fan of using solvents for cleaning, so I use Simple Green, an alkaline aqueous solution that does a great job. Just let it sit for a while, rinse the freehub with water and then dry thoroughly.

Note that while Simple Green is more environmentally friendly than solvents, it should still be disposed of according to hazardous waste rules in your area. Don’t dump used Simple Green filled with bike grease sludge down the drain.

I added some car oil to soak onto the top bearing race and car grease in the lower bearing race before putting back the lower race’s rubber O-ring. Be sure to install the O-ring the way it came out. Instructions show the correct orientation.

My freehub is four years old and has about 24,000 miles. I haven’t noticed any problems and the bearings look fine.

As an aside, I wonder why Shimano would say “Fabrique au Japon” on its packaging? I can only speculate it has to do with France’s law mandating the use of French under the Toubon law passed in 1994.

Instructions include English, Japanese, German, French, Dutch, Spanish, Italian, Swedish. Speak some other language? You’re out of luck.

Once Upon a Ride: Last Chance to turn back

August 2, 2015

Peter Johnson crosses to the south side of Waddell Creek on Last Chance Road.

Peter Johnson crosses to the south side of Waddell Creek on Last Chance Road.

Oct. 12, 1986
Riders: Jobst Brandt, Ray Hosler, Peter Johnson, Mike and Jean Higgins, Charlie Kempner
Route: Alpine Road to Skyline, Hwy 9, 236, Last Chance Road, Swanton Road, Hwy 1, Gazos Creek Road, Cloverdale Road, Pescadero Road, Alpine Road, Page Mill Road
Tire/Mechanical Failure: None

This was the first ride I had been on with Jobst since his accident in France on July 11. Jobst has already gone on three Sunday rides, including trails. He appears to be as strong as ever after breaking his leg.

We headed out on Alma Street in Palo Alto, our usual route, and crossed El Camino Real. Charlie and I peeled off onto El Camino going north because we saw a cop turning left onto Alma from El Camino. Jobst and Peter charged ahead across El Camino, ignoring the cop. It’s illegal to cross here [that has changed].

The cop turned on his lights and stopped Peter, but Jobst rode on. Charlie and I caught up with Peter and listened in.
Cop: “You know you’re not supposed to do what you did. I’m not going to give you a ticket but I am going to give you a lecture.”
Peter: “Yeah, but officer how would you take that intersection? I’ve been doing it this way for 20 years. What did we do wrong?”
Cop: “What did you do wrong?! You should know! You crossed a divided road, ran a stop light and…”

The conversation carried on way too long.

After the lecture, we continued on our way up Sand Hill Road. We caught up with Jobst, and Mike and Jean riding their tandem on Alpine Road.

On dirt Alpine the bridge is still missing, but we managed to ride down into the creek and out without stopping [turns out it was just buried in debris]. There’s still a washout farther up.

At Skyline Charlie peeled off and went down Alpine while we continued south on Skyline into the fog, stopping for water at the fire station before Hwy 9.

In Big Basin state park we stopped to eat and discussed the road ahead. Jobst suggested Last Chance Road. After some protest from Jean about riding on dirt, she finally agreed and we were on our way. During their husband-wife discussion, Jobst burst out laughing at the familiar dialogue.

Last Chance had been graded all the way and was in better shape than I’ve seen it in a long time [it’s a trail now, but at least maintained.

I had to walk down the bad stretch that parallels Waddell Creek where we went for a swim a few years back, but Jobst and Peter charged ahead through the loose dirt and rocks. Mike and Jean walked down the hill.

We bumped along over the washboard on Last Chance Road out to the coast and then headed north without a headwind, so we made good time.

This was our first ride on Cloverdale Road since it was oiled and graveled.

At Loma Mar Store we stopped for a bite to eat and to talk with the owner, Roger. He told us about the time he stopped thieves and held them at gunpoint until the sheriff arrived.

We headed back up Alpine Road where Jobst caught up with Palo Alto photographer Bill Ziegler riding his bike. It was a lovely fall day in the late afternoon, a great way to end a 93-mile ride.

East Ridge Trail where have you been?

August 1, 2015

Anybody missing a toy? They're at the Big Basin Park maintenance yard.

Anybody missing a toy? They’re at the Big Basin Park maintenance yard.

As I look around for the remaining trails I haven’t ridden (filling my bucket list), I stumbled across East Ridge Trail in Big Basin Redwoods State Park.

I’m told Jobst had ridden it, but I imagine not often. I headed out today to see what I was missing. As it turns out, not much.

East Ridge Trail is an old logging road, I’m guessing (aren’t they all?), not really a trail, which is why it’s open for bikes. No single-track is open in Big Basin Redwoods State Park.

I picked it up on the right a few hundred yards down China Grade after turning left at Hwy 236. You can’t miss the trail. There’s a big iron gate and a sign that says authorized vehicles only.

After a brief climb, the road starts a short descent into a saddle and at the low point there’s a dirt road off to the right that descends fairly steeply. That goes to Rogers Road and the state parks maintenance area. It’s open for bikes.

I continued on East Ridge Trail uphill. The 1.1-mile road, as you might imagine, follows a ridge and that means plenty of up and down. There’s one climb that’s impossible to ride because it’s about 35 percent and loose. But try anyway.

The road dumps out onto the little-used Lodge Road. I’m betting Lodge sees fewer cars than any road in the Santa Cruz Mountains. It’s a goat trail and doesn’t really go anywhere special.

I headed right because I wanted to check out Rogers Road and the trail I chose not to take.

After two miles I came to a junction and headed straight into more “authorized vehicles only” territory, the park maintenance yard. While there I got into a conversation with one of the park workers. That’s when I noticed a tree stump covered with all kinds of toys, left behind by park users over the years.

Anyway, the road I didn’t take comes into Rogers Road. Check it out. It’s all downhill, as opposed to East Ridge. There’s another trail that comes into the park maintenance area, but that’s one of those Once Upon a Ride reports.

East Ridge Trail where it crosses Lodge Road in Big Basin State Park.

East Ridge Trail where it crosses Lodge Road in Big Basin State Park.

Mammoth display trumpets bone discovery

July 28, 2015
Mammoth artwork at Trimble Road and Guadalupe River trail.

Mammoth artwork at Trimble Road and Guadalupe River trail.

Mammoth bones were removed for study.

Mammoth bones were removed for study.

Remember 2005 when they found the mammoth bones in the Guadalupe River next to Trimble Road? Who can forget?

Now there’s a life-size mammoth artwork on display next to the discovery site. It looks much better than that coiled snake in downtown San Jose.

With my life back in order, I toured the Alviso Slough/Guadalupe Slough levy, which is in great shape now that the gravel put down in the first mile has settled.

It’s pretty amazing that gravel sinks into the ground the way it does. It just seems to disappear.

Lots of lone white pelicans, egrets, cormorants swimming around. Even a couple of night herons made a showing.

Alviso levy on a warm morning.

Alviso levy on a warm morning.

Ritchey Break-Away retrieved!

July 27, 2015

Enjoying my time at Lisa's Hot Dog stand waiting for a ride home from Alviso after retrieving my stolen bike.

Enjoying my time at Lisa’s Hot Dog stand waiting for a ride home from Alviso after retrieving my stolen bike.

I headed back to the scene of the crime a couple hours later on my other bike and what do I see on Gold Street but a guy riding my Ritchey!

I confronted him and it quickly became apparent he was harmless and had mental issues. He tried to claim he bought it off someone. Fat chance.

I had seen him at the bathroom earlier. He turned over the bike and we talked a bit. It’s really sad to know people like that are out there.

He removed the stuff in my seat bag, bike camera and bike computer, but I may still get them back because I met some nice folks who own a hot dog stand on Gold Street and know the thief well.

It’s Lisa’s Hot Dogs. She sells excellent tamales.


I can’t bear to think about it — another bike stolen.

It happened this morning while I was in the Santa Clara Valley Water District bathroom in Alviso next to the Guadalupe River trail.

Somebody just walked up and rode off or put it in their car.


Last photo. I added a new front rim, black Mavic Open Pro.

Last photo. I added a new front rim, black Mavic Open Pro.

Redwood roads always in-Spiring

July 18, 2015

Giant redwood stump fading away in the Santa Cruz Mountains.

Giant redwood stump fading away in the Santa Cruz Mountains.

I hadn’t visited the giant redwood stump in eons, so I stopped by for a look. It’s showing its age and starting to fade away.

Back in the late 1800s that stump was a giant redwood, cut down to make shingles for homes in the Bay Area.

Out on Hwy 1, I noticed some feisty winds, thanks to Hurricane Dolores stirring things up out in the Pacific.

On the way back I took Fremont Avenue and noticed that the ancient bridge over Permanente Creek is finally being replaced. Road closed, but bikes can use the recreation bridge. So there’s almost no car traffic on Fremont through Los Altos.

Endura gloves fit for a long ride

July 16, 2015

Endura Hyperon glove wears well, but be careful with the size.

Endura Hyperon glove wears well, but be careful with the size.

After my less than satisfactory experience with Pearl Izumi gloves, I went to my local bike shop to try another brand and settled on Endura, a Scottish company in business since 1992.

I had never heard of Endura, but I’m not buying bike gloves every day. I liked the amount of gel padding and it seemed to be strategically placed, so I tried them on. Much to my surprise M felt too small. I tried L and even they felt a bit tight, but I bought L anyway because I’ve always worn M and there’s no way XL would be correct.

I knew they would stretch and sure enough they did. Now they’re a good fit if a tiny bit on the loose side, but the last thing I want is a tight glove.

I’ve worn them on some long rides and I can say they’re not causing any problems. They don’t get in the way of the ride or cause discomfort. I could use a bit more gel, but only if added in a certain way. Back in the day, Gant gloves were the best brand out there. They had good padding that covered the entire palm. If more padding is added, the entire palm must be covered like the Gant, otherwise the padding will have the “pebble” effect.

Removal is problematic with these gloves, as it is for others. They have reinforced fingers for easier removal though.

There’s a “terry sweat wipe,” which I never use, but it’s there if you sweat a lot. I only realized it existed after reading the literature.

Endura has lots of models for cyclists who have specific needs. Cost is on the high end for a bike glove, but that may be because these glove are, much to my surprise, made in Scotland. Build quality looks to be top-notch.

I don’t care where a product is made, as long as it’s good quality. In our global economy, that can be a hard pill to swallow. It certainly ratchets up competition. But I digress. Global economics is best left for other blogs.

I'm told this is how to size for gloves. I'm 8 cm, clearly a M.

I’m told this is how to size for gloves. I’m 8 cm, clearly a M.

Garmin 500 GPS bike computer has a lot to like

July 9, 2015

Garmin 500 uses GPS to record your ride with amazing accuracy.

Garmin 500 uses GPS to record your ride with amazing accuracy.

I’ve been avoiding writing about the Garmin GPS 500 bike computer because there’s so much ground to cover and so many features to learn.

After seven months of regular use, it’s time to weigh in on GPS bike computers. It’s hard not to be impressed with the technology, but don’t feel bad if it seems a little overwhelming.

Military madness
GPS stands for Global Positioning System and we have the Cold War to thank for its existence. The U.S. military has invested billions of dollars in GPS all for the sake of accuracy — ballistic missile accuracy.

Our government made it available for the world over in the 1990s, with few restrictions. The military, I imagine, has ways to shut it down should we become involved in a confrontation.

Your Garmin relies on 32 satellites circling the Earth in such a way that anywhere on the planet your GPS receiver can lock in on four satellites to obtain a fix accurate to within about 12 feet. Your results will vary depending on location.

If you’re at the bottom of a deep canyon in the Santa Cruz Mountains obscured by trees on a cloudy day, your signal may be degraded.

I’ve lost a signal that way once and I’ve had a couple of other unexplainable glitches that caused a signal loss. I imagine some are due to software errors and not the GPS itself.

But enough with the technology: is a GPS computer worth the price (at least $120, and about $180 for the Edge 500)?

Yes, if you’re willing to learn how to use it and put up with its quirks. GPS computers need a fair amount of care and feeding. It’s like owning a highly tuned musical instrument. Sounds great with constant tuning.

Pros and cons
For starters, the battery only lasts about 18 hours in use. So you’re good for about 8 or 9 two-hour rides before recharging, which takes at least an hour.

You don’t mind software upgrades and occasional problems uploading your data. Let’s face it, the reason most people own a GPS computer is to upload their rides for analysis. You can spend hours reviewing the ride — speed, altitude, temperature, cadence, etc., from the convenience of your computer.

It took months before my Garmin 500 synced well with Garmin Express, the software you’ll need to upload your data. I went to Garmin forums to learn what was up with issues I had using Windows 7. You get the picture.

Those problems appear to have been sorted out and now I can sync reliably. It still takes way too long, in my opinion, to sync, but at least it works.

Programming the Garmin 500 is straightforward. The challenge is sorting through all the features to figure out what you want. There’s so much to go over that it would take an hour just to cover everything.

Helpful advice
A few pointers will have to do:

1) Take your Garmin outside when locking onto the satellite signal. It may lock on indoors but accuracy is reduced.

2) Many settings can be made visible on a single screen, but I found that five is about the most you can have and still maintain legibility.

3) You can auto-cycle through all your data pages. Turn off the pages you don’t need, especially if you don’t have cadence.

4) Be sure to apply privacy settings to your uploads on sites like Garmin Connect, Strava, and others, if you don’t want people to see where you live. There are settings that cut off your route within a half-mile of your start point. You can upload a Garmin file to Strava with no issues.

5) Altitude is determined by a built-in barometer, not map. Set the gauge to your home altitude for better accuracy.

6) As with all bike computer thermometers, the Garmin 500 reads high when in direct sun.

7) If your Garmin loses the signal, you’re out of luck. You’ll have to start a new ride from where the signal was lost. It does not reconnect.

8) The Garmin 500 does not store maps for navigation. It can record a route, but it’s pretty lame if you’re trying to use it for guidance. Not recommended if it’s your only means of following a route.

9) Mounting is a breeze. You can even carry it in your back pocket and capture a signal.

10) Comes with a standard Type-B USB cable, and compatible with Windows or Apple OS (Garmin does not support Linux, officially).

11) Remember to turn it off when done with your ride. If it detects movement, it will keep working when, for example, you’re driving home from a ride.

So which is better, a non GPS or GPS bike computer? That depends on what you want in life. If you’re into recording your route and capturing the data, GPS is the way to go. If you don’t want the accompanying hassles, use a non-GPS bike computer.

Of course, neither is necessary to enjoy a bike ride.

Shimano PD M540 creak an easy fix

July 7, 2015

Shimano PD M540 will creak after about a year of use. Here's how to fix it.

Shimano PD M540 will creak after about a year of use. Here’s how to fix it.

I didn’t realize it the first time I heard creaking sounds coming from my Shimano PD M540 pedals nine months into ownership, but it’s an easy fix.

I’m not accustomed to pedals creaking so quickly, but I guess it’s a feature of this particular pedal.

All you have to do is add grease, and clean out the old grease while you’re at it. That’s what I did and now the pedals are silent.

Clint Gibbs does an excellent job describing how it’s done. I recorded a video about the PD M520 pedal, which requires the special removal tool. The M540 does not need that tool.

You don’t need to unpack the bearings, which I showed in my video. That’s only necessary if the bearings are shot.

I’m disappointed that these pedals creak so quickly, but at least it’s easy to eliminate the annoying noise.


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