Newspaper article gives balanced report on mountain biking

July 16, 2016

Henry Coe is one of the best state parks for wild and scenic riding.

Henry Coe is one of the best state parks for wild and scenic riding.

I read the San Jose Mercury News daily and I was pleased to see today’s article about mountain bikes because it gave a balanced view of the pastime some 40 years after it got its start in the Bay Area.

The headline “Bay Area lays out welcome mat to once-shunned mountain bikers,” pretty much sums up the article. We’re told that some parks are making accommodations for mountain bikes, especially new riders who want to learn more in a safe environment.

The sentiment expressed in the article mirrors what I’ve been noticing over the years. I’ve followed the mountain bike boom since the early 1980s when Tom Ritchey started building top-of-the-line frames out of his garage. The sport, if you can call it that, was born out of a desire to ride bikes off-road.

That’s a wonderful attitude to have because riding a bike off-road allows you to see miles and miles of open terrain, far more compared to hiking. It can also be mixed with road riding, giving a healthy individual the ability to ride from home in Santa Clara Valley into the mountains and back in a matter of hours.

The only downside is that off-road cycling has a kinship to off-road motorcycling. All that’s missing from today’s mountain bikes is the motor. They have suspension, beefy brakes, strong frames, wide, sturdy tires. Great for speeding down hills.

That was the rub in the beginning and it’s still the rub today, only most of the young Turks who rode like Yahoos back then have aged and saw the error of their ways, or just chalked it up to youth.

Nothing wrong with that. Young people like to have a little excitement and the mountain bike is a better option than a lot of other risky outdoor activities.

While I believe things will improve for mountain bikes, we still need to remember that the bike is the “car” on the trails. That means yielding to other trail users and slowing down to a crawl to pass.

With the mountain bike comes responsibility, no different from driving a car. I always keep that in mind while I’m riding trails in the Santa Cruz Mountains.

PodRide a look at the future

July 13, 2016

It’s so darn cute. For that reason alone, PodRide should be a popular choice for the day when we rely more on human-powered hybrid transportation.

Best route to traverse Santa Clara Valley

July 5, 2016
Here's the route traced in red, shown on Google Maps. Click on map for large size.

Here’s the route traced in red, shown on Google Maps. Click on map for large size.

Probably one of the worst rides in Santa Clara Valley is riding across the valley itself. You’ll encounter dozens of lights and stop signs, not to mention plenty of traffic. You can check the route in Google Maps view.

After 25 years trying, I think I’ve come up with the best route. It’s not perfect and it’s not the shortest or fastest, but it avoids most traffic without going more than a half-mile total out of your way.

There are a few tweaks I didn’t show here, but this is close enough. The Hwy 85 bike overpass is problematic, because it can’t be ridden without a dismount, so if you’re willing to put up with a tricky intersection at Fremont and S. Bernardo Avenue, take that route instead.

My advice at this intersection, when there’s traffic, is to go straight instead of turning left and pull over to the right side of Fremont or do a U turn on Bernardo once across Fremont.

Inverness, The Dalles and Fremont through Sunnyvale are far superior to Homestead Road’s heavy traffic and frequent lights.

Once Upon a Ride…available now

June 29, 2016

Once Upon a Ride... a compendium of Jobst Rides, available now.

Once Upon a Ride… a compendium of Jobst Rides, available now.

Thirty-six years in the making, Once Upon a Ride… offers the reader the most complete complete account of Jobst Rides ever. Even if you own the other three magazines, Adventure Rides in the Santa Cruz Mountains, High Sierra and Mount Hamilton by Bike, there’s something new here.

Over the years I’ve posted past ride reports, based on my personal journal, on Magcloud, WordPress blog and a personal website. All of those articles, including 60 new ones about rides with Jobst Brandt and/or his friends, are included here.

It’s a lot: 100,000 words, 169 photos, with almost all photos matched to the report. Now you don’t have to search all over the place for Jobst Ride stories, most of which are no longer posted.

All for the price of an inner tube, $5.99, PDF.

You can view it on your computer, laptop or tablet. Smartphones not recommended. The file download is 33 Mb, so give it some time to download. A nice feature is searchability. It’s also 12-point type — easy on the eyes.

If you want a keepsake, buy a print copy for $45.80, not including shipping. It’s printed in the U.S. using HP high-speed printers, a nice touch since Jobst helped develop HP printer technology at HP Labs.

Available on

These are your options: print, notebook/chromebook or tablet.

These are your options: print, notebook/chromebook or tablet.

Bay Trail has a new surface

June 2, 2016
Bay Trail between Sunnyvale and Mountain View has a new surface, thanks to Google.

Bay Trail between Sunnyvale and Mountain View has a new surface, thanks to Google.

What will $2.9 million buy you in Palo Alto? Other than a modest three-bedroom house, it gets you four miles of smooth dirt trail between Mountain View and Sunnyvale.

That’s what Google is spending on trail improvements for the Bay Trail, out of their own pocket. I took a spin on part of the trail starting from the Sunnyvale Water Treatment plant, and it’s a big improvement over what was there. The bumps, ruts and gravel have been replaced by smooth dirt and fine quarry sand. Can’t complain.

The trail is still closed behind Moffett Field, opening on June 4, according to the sign.

Google hopes that an improved trail will encourage more employees to ride bikes to work. I’m all for that.

What I don’t know is how the trail will hold up in the rain. I’m guessing it will be much better than what was there, but it may still be muddy in spots.

San Jose Airport has a New Fence

May 24, 2016

A new perimeter fence at the north end of the San Jose Airport is in place.

A new perimeter fence at the north end of the San Jose Airport is in place.

What will $3.4 million buy you in the Bay Area, besides a modest house in Palo Alto? How about a new fence around the San Jose Airport.

Work is finishing up now. I noticed it on my morning ride. Ewert Road, as it’s called (now there’s a trivia question), used to be the main route for the long-term parking lot on the west side of the airport.

But as we all know, that parking lot was shut down several years ago and moved closer to the airport on the east side of the Guadalupe River.

Based on the new layout — the road was split in two — the interior will be used by patrol vehicles, the exterior for bikes and the occasional patrol vehicle.

Follow up: The fence shown here is temporary. A permanent fence is being built behind this one.

Mt. Hamilton a Cool Way to Go

May 23, 2016

The spring on the Mt. Hamilton backside is running nicely.

The spring on the Mt. Hamilton backside is running nicely.

I put off riding over Mt. Hamilton several times due to weather, so even though it wasn’t all that nice Sunday morning, I headed out bright and early.

The temperature hovered in the low 50s much of the way to the summit as the sun struggled to shine through the high cloud cover. It finally came out after noon and things warmed up nicely.

I saw a few riders on the way up, but things were mostly quiet with the exception of the car rally that went by.

I headed down the backside and made a point to stop at the spring to see how it was doing. The water is flowing nicely. It’s good to drink, but I didn’t need water since it was so cool.

On my way down a Sheriff passed by, which is a rarity. I haven’t seen one up here in years.

Near Arnold Ranch several riders came by me and we rode together off and on. I stopped in San Antonio Valley to see if I could find my glove dropped a month ago. No luck. I was amazed by how tall the grass had grown and now it’s all brown, fuel for a fire. That’s a downside of plentiful rain.

The refurbished Junction store is open for business and the food looks good.

The refurbished Junction store is open for business and the food looks good.

I stopped at The Junction bar and grill to see the refurbish. It’s clean and efficient, but gone is the taxidermy nailed to the wall, the ancient National Geographic magazines, old photos of Jot ‘Em Down Store, the giant tortoise out back, and the people who ran the place. The new management does a good job tending to customers and their prices are reasonable.

Outside, the tables are still there and they even added patio umbrellas. But what I really miss is Car Man. Bring him back, please.

I wasn’t in the mood for the loop, so I turned around and headed back up Mt. Hamilton. It’s about 8,300 feet of climbing to do the traditional loop through Livermore and Calaveras Road, while it’s 9,100 feet going out and back. Still, I enjoy the quiet of Mt. Hamilton Road.

Besides, I wanted to check out the world’s smallest concrete dam just off the road. It holds quite a bit of water. I’m guessing it was built in the 1940s.

As I struggled up the steep backside of Mt. Hamilton, I took comfort in knowing the wind was at my back most of the way and that the temperature was nice for climbing.

This is the world's smallest concrete dam just off Mt. Hamilton Road.

This is the world’s smallest concrete dam just off Mt. Hamilton Road.

Steel-belted tires a source for flats

May 15, 2016

Steel-belt wire, a sure way to get a tire flat.

Steel-belt wire, a sure way to get a tire flat.

Third in line after glass and puncture vine, I claim wire from steel-belted tires to be a source for bike tire flats. I had one of those a few weeks ago and it’s a hassle to remove the tiny wire. I had to add a boot and extract it at home.

I used to think the wires came from street sweepers, but someone told me it was car tires. It’s hard to believe, but I told myself I’d stop and take a photo if I came across a tire shred. Sure enough on Saturday I found some on Summit Road just south of Gist Road. How it got there is a mystery. Maybe it fell off a truck carrying junk.

I checked out those little-ridden roads nearby, Schulties, Redwood Lodge, Morrill Cutoff to see if they survived the winter; they did, with a couple of minor mudslides and downed trees, since cleared.

Finally, Sempervirens Fund celebrated its 116th anniversary Saturday at the new parking lot for Castle Rock State Park. I was passed by a phalanx of cars heading up Hwy 9. I figured some event must be underway because traffic was far worse than normal.

When I mentioned this to a woman at the parking lot entrance she claimed it was just weekend traffic. We should all be thankful that so few people recreate in the Santa Cruz Mountains. Even a minor increase in traffic triggered by a special event overloads mountain roads.

Pedale Alpini gang resurrects a Jobst Ride in all its muddy glory

May 9, 2016

Here's why you want lots of brake clearance.

Here’s why you want lots of brake clearance.

As I am told, the “bike club” name Pedali(e) Alpini was coined when three of its principles — George Koenig, Rick Bronson and Jobst Brandt — got to talking. They all met each other on or near Alpine Road, so they wanted to use the road name in the club title. Someone suggested “Alpini” to give it an Italian flair, which made a lot of sense considering the Italians were going crazy for bike racing back in the 1950s.

Peter Locke, another Pedali Alpini (Pedale is not exactly a complimentary word in French, and the source of some angst among the Pedale Alpini cadre) member said there were no meetings other than conversations they had out on a ride. Quite a few of these riders had successful racing seasons and Koenig went on to compete in the 1960 Olympics.

But I digress. One John Woodfill keeps the club name alive, buying authentic wool jerseys with the same pocket arrangement, colors, and name. He called for a ride starting at the house of Jobst Brandt, Sunday, 8 a.m. Olaf Brandt, Millo Fenzi, Steve Lubin, and Matt Forrester joined John.

While it had rained the past several days, we weren’t going to let that stop us and, besides, it wasn’t much rain, or so we thought.

In keeping with tradition, we headed up Alpine Road. At the green gate the riders waited patiently for my arrival, confident that the road ahead would be dry. It sure looked dry. That would be true for, say, 400 yards.

The farther we rode, the muddier it got. At the bypass trail I wasn’t about to try riding steep sections where a fall might break my precious aging bones. Dodging poison oak growing next to the trail, we made our way uphill, all of us remembering this used to be a pleasant road for cycling, 30 years ago. By the time we got to Page Mill Road, my brakes carried with them what seemed like a pound of Alpine Road.

We headed on to Alpine Road and descended into Portola State Park. None of us believed the Haul Road could possibly be muddy like Alpine. It’s about a 2,000 foot descent to the park where things never dry out in the bowels of the redwoods, including the Haul Road after several days of rain. On the ride over the swank new Pescadero Creek bridge, we looked dutifully for trout, saw none. Jobst always complained that when he was young the place had five-pounders begging to be caught.

Pescadero Creek Bridge. From left, Steve Lubin, John Woodfill, Millo Fenzi, Matt Forrester.

Pescadero Creek Bridge. From left, Steve Lubin, John Woodfill, Millo Fenzi, Matt Forrester.

Our ride turned into a cyclocross event as we hiked up to the Haul Road. Still, it didn’t look all that bad. We headed north and I quickly realized this would be a ride that brought back memories of the winters of 1982-83. It was muddy, pig heaven. A grader had recently done its job on the road, making matters worse.

However, in the majestic redwoods with light poking through the clouds, the scenery made things more bearable as we slogged our way up and down the gentle climbs. Some of us had cyclocross bikes or machines with good brake clearance. That made the ride not so bad.

After more brake clearing with the help of redwood sticks, I managed to reach Wurr Road, where we continued to our next obstacle, the ancient wooden bridge where dozens of cyclists have crashed, some breaking bones. We took it easy crossing, but things were dry. It can be a challenge on icy mornings.

Sadly, Loma Mar Store remains closed, covered with tarp, a remodel taking way too long. The traditional food stop would wait until Pescadero. We had a bite to eat at the main store where tourists mingle with locals preparing for the 116th annual Pescadero IDES Holy Ghost Celebration. As I sat their watching life go by, I wondered how in the world Gordon Moore, co-founder of Fairchild Semiconductor, went from here to Silicon Valley fame and fortune. Moore’s Law has its roots in sleepy Pescadero.

The plan was to ride up Gazos Creek Road into Big Basin State Park and home via Hwy 9. I had enough mud for the day and took the speedy route home via Stage Road and Hwy 84. I saw Gazos Creek last year. It can wait a little longer until things dry out. (Jobst and I rode up Gazos Creek Road on May 18, 1986.)

Ultegra Cassette lasts 25,000 miles

May 2, 2016

Cassettes wear out eventually. Small cogs go first.

Cassettes wear out eventually. Small cogs go first.

Inquiring minds want to know: How long will my freewheel cassette last? How about 25,000 miles?

That’s what I got from my Ultegra 6700. Here are some caveats:

1. Cleaned the chain regularly, like every 500 miles.

2. Rode mostly on pavement, only about 2 percent off-road.

3. Replaced the chains between 0.5 and 0.75 on the Park chain-wear measurement tool.

So how do you know when your cassette sprockets are worn? The chain skips or catches sometimes; you feel the occasional slip when starting up. Note that when a chain is worn, front chainwheel shifting degrades.

Track your miles. I can’t imagine a cassette lasting more miles than what I got from mine.

Once again, I got about 6,500 miles from Ultegra 6600/6701 chains. I could not detect any difference between the models in terms of longevity or shifting.

Unless you break a sprocket, I wouldn’t bother trying to save money by swapping out the smaller or worn cogs. I replaced only the sprockets, not the body. It’s running smoothly.

Finally, my Ultegra brake pads lasted about 25,000 miles as well. I moved the back to the front to extend life. I still have the originals on the back, so more than 25,000 miles with careful management. Of course, I ride where there are a lot of hills, so these pads could last longer.