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 The bumps, ruts and gravel have been replaced by smooth dirt and fine quarry sand.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.

Electric Bike Expo in Palo Alto

April 24, 2016

People try out ebikes at the Expo held in Palo Alto.

People try out ebikes at the Expo held in Palo Alto.

There’s still time to stop by the Electric Bike Expo in Palo Alto today and test ride a wide variety of bikes.

I helped out at the raffle for a Tempo bike, a joint effort by the San Jose Earthquakes Community Fund, Branham Hills Little League, Silicon Valley Humane Society, and the California Bicycle Coalition.

Bosch and other sponsors set up the booths and test area in the Stanford Shopping Center next to Macy’s.

I’m encouraged to see the number of different ebikes and their increasing sophistication. As Marc Brandt said while visiting the expo, “Electric bikes are empowering.”

One guy who stopped by the raffle area said the ebike allows him to commute to work on his bad knees. It beats driving.

A Tempo ebike is being raffled off. It's $5 a ticket.

A Tempo ebike is being raffled off. It’s $5 a ticket.

Quarry Park discovery in Saratoga

April 21, 2016

Quarry Park is a mile outside Saratoga on Hwy 9.

Quarry Park is a mile outside Saratoga on Hwy 9.

There’s a welcome addition on Hwy 9 just one mile outside Saratoga, Quarry Park, which opened last October. I hadn’t noticed it until a week ago, so I decided to check it out.

Starting around the 1870s this site has been host to a copper mine, lime and rock quarry. Santa Clara County operated the site as a rock quarry from 1921 to 1967. However, they kept using the location as a place for private picnics and parties.

The city of Saratoga purchased the land in 2011 with the intention of turning it into a park, working with Santa Clara County and the Midpeninsula Regional Open Space District.

Trucks drove inside here to load up on gravel.

Trucks drove inside here to load up on gravel.

Here's what the quarry looked like when in operation. Hiking trails above here now.

Here’s what the quarry looked like when in operation. Hiking trails above here now.

Cyclists will enjoy it for its modern bathrooms with running water and flush toilets.

But I had other designs, to ride down John Nicholas Trail starting on Skyline Boulevard. Fortunately Hwy 9 and Skyline had only a thin veneer of wetness in isolated locations, not enough to slow me down.

Nice view from higher up on the trail.

Nice view from higher up on the trail.

I entered the trail from the Sunnyvale Mountain parking area, about 4.5 miles south of Saratoga Gap, Hwy 9 and Skyline. It’s only 0.2 miles on the Skyline Trial to reach John Nicholas. I was the only person using the trail.

I stopped to take a photo at the scenic overlook before plunging down through the redwoods following the man-made trail that keeps a steady grade all the way down to Lake Ranch Road. It’s a popular trail on weekends.

I rode to Black Road, skirting the shores of McKenzie Reservoir, which looks like it’s less than one-third full. I’m not sure why it’s so low after a decent winter’s rains.

Upon reaching Los Gatos Creek Trail at Lexington Dam I was surprised to see a sign that said the trail was closed due to down power lines from a car wreck on Hwy 17. I suspected that the trail was open and someone forgot to remove the sign but I wasn’t going to take any chances, so I hoofed it up and over St. Joseph’s Trail.

That trail has an ugly climb of about 0.3 miles but then it’s easy going back to downtown Los Gatos on a rocky road.

No name creek bridge near where the trail meets Lake Ranch Road.

No name creek bridge near where the trail meets Lake Ranch Road.

Disc brakes slice and dice the peleton

April 18, 2016

Disc brakes have become an issue in the pro peleton.

Disc brakes have become an issue in the pro peleton.

I’ve heard about some strange accidents in my day, but now there’s one more to add to the list — disc brakes slicing into legs.

Fran Ventoso abandoned Sunday’s Paris-Roubaix with a serious cut on his lower leg, now confirmed by multiple sources. He wasn’t the only rider injured by a disc brake. His open letter is posted on Velonews.

The photos are the kind best viewed by medical personnel used to seeing ugly injuries.

I’ve never used disc brakes, but people who do swear by them. They stop better in wet weather, no argument there. They’re becoming the norm on mountain bikes and now the pro peleton is using them.

The peleton will quickly decide whether or not they continue using disc brakes. So far the warning signs are dire. Not only are cyclist being cut, they’re being burned. In a crash, and there are more than a handful in races, riders have touched the hot rotors.

Another concern was pointed out by Jobst Brandt years ago — wheel separation. The front caliper is behind the fork, not in front as with all side-pull caliper brakes. It is not unheard of for a disc brake quick release, left loose, to loosen to the point that it doesn’t hold the wheel in place. When that happens, the wheel goes flying as the brake is applied.

Another potential drawback of disc brakes is hydraulic failure.

So why do disc brakes continue to gain in popularity? Some of it is marketing inertia. All industries are looking for the next big thing and disc brakes have sex appeal. They’re high-tech and they work better in the rain.

Another advantage is that now rims can be made lighter and will last longer since pad wear has been transferred from the rim to the rotor. Rim wear is a concern for people who ride lots of miles in the mountains. A rim can be worn to the point of failure. Jobst Brandt could attest to that.

I’m not interested in having disc brakes because I like to maintain my bike and dealing with hydraulics is just one more complication.

Disc brakes can be made safer and I’m sure they will now that the word is out. This injury reminds of the squirrel-caught-in-wheel stories that sprang up about a decade ago, around the time 16-spoke wheels became popular (Google it).

Yes, squirrels can become lodged in the front fork as they try to leap through the wheel. It has happened to more than one cyclist. It’s an ongoing concern for anyone riding 16-spoke wheels.

Santa Cruz ride a breeze

April 17, 2016

Wave action damage on West Cliff Drive in Santa Cruz.

Wave action damage on West Cliff Drive in Santa Cruz.

This ride was almost a duplicate of the one on March 17. I cut off two miles by riding down Hwy 17 a short distance instead of taking Alma Bridge Road.

The plan was to ride Mt. Hamilton but the high pressure system moving in created sustained winds of 30 mph winds at the summit. By noon things calmed down, but I decided to stay away.

I came across the Los Gatos bike racing club at Skyline after a climb up Page Mill Road. They left me in the dust before the Alpine Road descent.

The house across from Sam McDonald park that had a redwood tree fall into it lies empty.

In Loma Mar, after the Ferraris passed me, I saw the store in the same condition it has been for the past month. I wonder when it will open?

On Cloverdale Road I didn’t have much of a tailwind, a sign of things to come. Riding down the coast I had only the slightest tailwind, but it was lovely watching the big waves crash ashore.

In Santa Cruz I took a photo of the wave damage on W. Cliff Dr., which has been repaired. It’s never-ending.

It was survival mode on the Mtn. Charlie Road climb, with one cyclist blowing by me near the start of the climb. Nice day for riding.