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 to sync, in my opinion, 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 will probably only lose distance until it’s re-established. I found that it now reconnects, which was not my experience earlier. Other electronic devices within an inch or so of the unit may disrupt the satellite signal.

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.

Bohlman Road a good test for Sierra Rides

July 5, 2015

View from Quickert Road overlooking Saratoga.

View from Quickert Road overlooking Saratoga.

If you can ride up Bohlman Road in Saratoga, you can probably make it over Sonora Pass. They’re both painfully steep.

I couldn’t find out how the road got its name, but no doubt it was named for a Bohlman or Bollman. Road was paved in the early 1950s.

Interestingly, John Brown’s (the abolitionist) second wife, Mary, lived on Bohlman Road for a time in the late 1800s.

The grade is steep for all except the last mile. I saw a maximum 23 percent on my cyclometer and that matches closely with what was recorded by Lucas on his website measuring grades of local roads.

I turned left on On Orbit Drive and descended Quickert, Kittridge Roads, fortunately with no traffic as the roads are barely wider than a large SUV.

It was a muggy, warm day with a fair amount of smog. Imagine what it would be like today if we hadn’t enacted smog regulations, Clean Air Act, EPA, etc.

A fair wind blows

June 27, 2015

Windsock says ride north young man. So I did.

Windsock says ride north young man. So I did.

Note the windsock located on Hwy 1 near Waddell Beach. Winds are from the south. Huh?

Yes, winds do come from the south on the coast, especially when a tropical storm moves in from the Gulf of Mexico.

You can be sure I knew in advance which way to ride today. I motored on the flats and downhills as fast at 30 mph. Not bad for a geezer.

Meanwhile, during my brief stop for victuals, a local resident of Davenport bemoaned the potential naming of the Coast Dairies as a national monument. He sees it as a magnet for more crowding in the form of traffic.

On the bright side, more government money may be shaken out for buying land as open space and that’s always a good thing. I’d rather see our money go here than being spent on needless high-tech weaponry like the F35. Cyber security, now that’s another matter. But I digress.

Jobst Brandt Memorial Ride brings back memories

June 20, 2015

Jobst Riders prepare to set off on the celebratory ride from Palo Alto. (Chuck Morehouse photo)

Jobst Riders prepare to set off on the celebratory ride from Palo Alto. (Chuck Morehouse photo)

On Saturday we gathered at the hallowed steps of the house of Jobst on Middlefield Road in Palo Alto for a tribute ride and gathering to celebrate our friend’s adventuresome life.

I can’t begin to identify everyone in the photo, but we had Jobst Riders there going back to the 1960s!

Many riders braved dirt Alpine Road, Jobst’s favorite route to Skyline Boulevard, even though they hadn’t ridden there in decades.

Everyone managed to make it up the narrow, bumpy trail with plenty of time to spare for the celebration.

The big yellow bike in the front is Jobst’s old one with a repaired rear stay, owned now by Richard Mlynarik.

So now it’s time for everyone who isn’t riding to get back on and pick up the pace. Jobst wouldn’t have it any other way.

PRODUCT REVIEW: Blackburn’s Atom SL cyclometer an affordable electronic marvel

June 16, 2015

Cyclometers I've owned over the years compared to the Blackburn Atom SL.

Cyclometers I’ve owned over the years compared to the Blackburn Atom SL.

As I begin this review of the Blackburn Atom SL 5.0 cyclometer, let me take you for a quick trip down Memory Lane.

I worked for Palo Alto Bicycles mail order in 1984 and we were the first to ship the groundbreaking Avocet cyclometer. After clearing up some early problems with the gate array chip, it went on to be a huge success and was the cyclometer of choice in the Tour de France peloton in the late 1980s.

Since then, cyclometers have matured and we have at least a dozen models and brands. Still, I’m seeing innovation in the Blackburn Atom SL cyclometer.

I bought my first full-featured wireless cyclometer similar to the Atom in 2003 — the Specialized Speedzone Pro. The Atom SL 5.0 (6.0 has cadence) follows that kind of cyclometer, where altitude is measured.

One selling point stands out about the Atom SL 5.0 — price. It’s about $60, 70 percent less than what I paid for the Specialized cyclometer and the VDO. A great value!

Atom SL 5.0 features: Speed – current, average (up/down arrows), maximum; Odometer; Trip distance; Ride time; Time of day; Wheel size; Estimated Time of Arrival (ETA); Temperature; Altimeter; Slope; Total Altitude gain; Maximum altitude gain; 2nd bike setting.

Materials that come with the Atom SL cyclometer.

Materials that come with the Atom SL cyclometer.


Distance: We expect an accurate cyclometer and Atom SL 5.0 does not disappoint. It recorded exactly the same distance — 62.5 miles — as my Garmin 500 on a ride. The altimeter is also precise, within 10 feet of a climb to 2,625 feet on Hwy 9.

Slope is accurate as well, but as with all cyclometers measuring gradient on a steady climb, your numbers will shift as you climb. It’s a quirk that I don’t fully understand, but after a while you’ll know which number is accurate: usually the first one or two results.

Accuracy greatly depends on wheel/tire measurement. This measurement varies with body weight, tire pressure and tire wear.

The manual describes how to get the best measurement by rolling out the wheel for one circumference, but you can do more. Sit on the bike while doing the roll-out. Body weight reduces the rolling distance by 0.5 to 1 inch. Measure several times for the best accuracy.

Entering the measurement in millimeters calls for closely following manual instructions. Note that if you reset the cyclometer, you reset the wheel size to its default of 2150. (My tire setting came in at 2115 mm for a 700×28 tire while seated.)

Altitude: Don’t expect accurate readings at high altitudes. I’ve seen variances of 1,000 feet and more in cyclometers, which I call a “feature.” However, the Atom SL altimeter is 99 percent accurate at lower altitudes (up to 5,000 feet or so), remarkable considering it’s an affordable consumer device.

Bike cyclometers use a tiny built-in barometer where the analog reading is converted to a digital electronic signal. It’s incredibly complicated stuff.

Meanwhile, atmospheric pressure changes by the hour, even minute. Set your altitude before a ride to ensure the best accuracy. Even then, if there’s a change in the weather during your ride, the altitude will be off. However, the number we care about most — cumulative altitude — will be mostly accurate.

Temperature: All cyclometers heat up when exposed to direct sunlight and hot plastic invariably affects the reading by up to 10 degrees. In cool weather or shade, the Blackburn Atom SL temp gauge is as accurate as any cyclometer I’ve used. It displays temperature to tenths of a degree.

User interface
Font size is great for speed and satisfactory for other readings, even for my aging eyes. The displays are appropriately spaced. What stands out about this unit, over other cyclometers I’ve used, is Scan mode. In scan mode all of the cyclometer’s readings cycle through in about 25 seconds. You will still manually push the Set button for each reading to cycle through those readings listed in the manual under Bike mode and Altimeter mode.

Scan mode is an improvement in usability because there’s no constant button pressing to see a particular reading, or squinting to read tiny type. If you think the Atom SL’s text is small, some other brands have even smaller text.

The manual describes cyclometer settings, but as with any electronic device, it takes practice to master (remember) the functions. Some cyclometer owners express frustration over changing settings. That frustration is common to all electronic devices, not just cyclometers. Be patient and take time to understand how the settings work. Most importantly, remember that “Set” is the left button and “Mode” is the right button.

The manual’s type is small, typical for most bike cyclometer manuals, but at least there’s a printed manual! When was the last time you saw a smartphone come with a printed manual? If you’re having difficulty reading the manual, go online to see it in a large-font PDF.

The batteries last about a year, typical for CR2016 (wireless transmitter)/2032 (wireless receiver) 3-volt lithium. Four Phillips-head screws must be removed to access the receiver’s battery compartment.

Mounting is a breeze and you have options. It can be mounted on the stem or the handlebar. I like the mount because it uses a convenient Velcro strap that holds securely. While not explained, the strap goes on a certain way. My photo shows how it mounts.

A close-up showing how the strap mounts to the handlebar.

A close-up showing how the strap mounts to the handlebar.

The transmitter takes two pull ties that wrap around the fork, while the magnet screws onto a spoke. Be sure the transmitter is no more than 22 inches from the cyclometer (receiver) for the best accuracy.

If you’re someone who will be riding in hills and don’t want the hassle of constantly charging batteries, the Blackburn Atom SL 5.0 is an outstanding value.

PROS: Best value for the price, every function you could ever want, excellent mount, accurate, scrolls through features, small.

CONS: Lacks explanation for mounting the Velcro strap, small type in instruction manual, prefer showing trip mileage instead of altitude on the main screen.

Check the Blackburn website for shops selling the Atom SL:

Addendum: (7/21/2015) The speedometer function stopped working, probably from a bad transmitter. Disappointed. If it happens to you, be sure to return under the lifetime warranty.

Once Upon a Ride: Crested Butte 1985

June 13, 2015

Only known photo of my Ritchey mountain bike in 1985.

Only known photo of my Ritchey mountain bike in 1985.

When the mountain bike craze took root, Crested Butte, Colorado, became a focal point. It wasn’t long before riders from all over the country gathered in September for a bike-fest.

The big ride called for a day-trip over Pearl Pass to Aspen on a gnarly road. It was more than I could handle, but many do it annually.

I ventured out there in spanking-new Amtrak cars in September 1985 and had a great time with photographer David Epperson (Mountain Bike Hall of Fame) and friends of triathlete Sally Edwards.

It was a chance to ride my new Ritchey mountain bike, one of the most advanced at the time. While I enjoyed the experience, it didn’t take me long to realize mountain biking wasn’t my strong suit and I sold the bike shortly thereafter.

While the event has been moved to June, the Rockies in September can’t be beat for scenic beauty with the turning aspen.

David Epperson, an outstanding action photographer, rides in Crested Butte, 1985.

David Epperson, an outstanding action photographer, rides in Crested Butte, 1985.

Now that’s a motor-bike

June 9, 2015

A motor-bike literally.

A motor-bike literally.

It’s blasphemy. How can you do this to a perfectly good bike? If it were electric, I wouldn’t mind. I do admire the owner’s ability.


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