Capped off a fine birthday week by joining about a 100 new and old
randonneurs on the 2013 SF Randonneurs Fall Populaire. Starting in San
Fransisco’s Crissy Field, we headed north over the Golden Gate Bridge,
hopped over a hill or two and looped out around China Camp Village
before heading westward (back into a mild headwind and increasing fog)
to the most distant control at Nicasio. Then headed back through the
San Geronimo Valley to Fairfax and the obscure but direct route back to
San Francisco. Course was about 70 miles, punctuated by appropriate
stops for controls and caloric intake.
Had spent a too-long
chunk of Friday running down some technical anomalies on the Quickbeam.
The chain was too worn to trust for the course and after removing it, I
realized what a thought was a bent guard ring proved to be a more
ingrained issue. I’m still not completely sure of the cause, but the
whole arm/spider has a bit of a wobble to it. The working theory had
been a bent BB spindle, found that the same arm wiggled no matter which
bicycle it was mounted on (had stripped off the cranks from the
Hilsen, assuming I’d be swapping the BB over). Cursed and pondered and
decided to clean up the Hilsen and swap over the saddle from the QB.
And the Hilsen ended up in a nicely stripped down mode - with the
recently cleaned and rewaxed Baggins Banana Bag attached, it would hold
my ritual two-tubes-two-patch-kits offering for any brevet ride, as well
as appropriate gear for a mild, mid-September ride. So, all that
remained was getting up, getting the dogs walked and fed, and
hightailing it into the city for the ride.
Which pretty much is
where I started - sipping strong coffee from a thermos cup as riders
gathered in the fog on the generally unpopulated East Beach at Crissy
Field. I’d arrived past some significant parking infrastructure -
mobile gates and grates and cones and hi-viz folks with flags and
flashlights. No, the Populaire does not typically generate that much
traffic, but they’ve been racing these sail-driven projectiles within
yards of the shore over the past couple weeks, and in another few hours,
parking would become absolutely nonexistent.
Signed in and got
my card. Realized I had absoutely nothing to write with - DOH! - so I
would be relying on the kindness of others to supply a pen at the
Nicasio Info Control. After returning the coffee rental, I saw that a
larger pack had amassed, and RBA (Regional Brevet Administrator) Rob
Hawks welcomed the new riders (about half the group) and led us in our
pledge “not to do anything stupid” before sending us out on the course.
Just about that time, I darned near stepped on ride buddy JimG
(yojimg.net) and we greeted one another warmly. He was anticpating the
inaugural ride on his Box Dog Bikes Pelican.
Of course, we
immediately got separated as everyone picked up their bikes and wove
their way to the road. I had decided to under-do things for the first
bits, as I wasn’t sure how I’d feel. For some reason, the switch from
fixed-gear (the Quickbeam) to a many-geared-coastable setup can mean a
very clunky first ride, as I overdo it in the big gears and feel a loss
of momentum when climbing. And I also realized it was probably my
longest ride of the year so far. At least I’d managed a couple of 50+
rides on the QB, even though some of the steeper climbs were prone to
cussing and stopping.
Rolled up to the bridge with a variety of
SF Jerseyed folks and well-appointed rigs. Counted at least 3 or 4
Hilsens without even looking for them. Coughed and woke up and worked
my way over the span and down into Sausalito with a minimum of extra
Seemed to just make every yellow light on Bridgeway, which put
me alone along the Mill Valley Bike Path to the base of the first hill.
But as the light turned green JimG and a gang of folks joined me. The
Camino Alto hill kind of worked out the kinks, and I found some comfort
climbing seated, which is not generally an option afforded by riding
fixed. Then buzzed down the descent while thanking the density of my
bones. Caught up to the JimG group and promptly lost them on the climb
to San Rafael, but by then I was feeling pretty good on the bike, almost
like someone had flipped a switch. As we headed around China Camp to
the first control, I managed to tack onto a triplet-led (y’know, like a
tandem but built for three) train and boogied along happily. Fell back
in with JimG and we found a mutually compatible pace, so we rolled to
the first control, had RBA Rob sign/timestamp our cards and headed
As we pressed slightly uphill and upwind in Lucas
Valley, JimG admitted he hadn’t eaten anything for a while (turned out
to be dinner or breakfast, so… yeah.) We deli-stopped and stretched
out, chatted with a rider (whose name I forgot) on a custom ~75 cm frame
and watched a few pods of riders work their way up the valley. The
chairs were in the warm sun, blocked from the cool wind by the building,
and it was tempting just to enjoy the warm offerings of the morning.
But, we figured the miles wouldn’t ride themselves, and remounted after a
15 minute break for food and drink.
Climbed to Big Rock Ridge
and collected a couple of other riders, then spread out once again on
the long steady down valley run to Nicasio. At the store, the
randonneurs had arrived, ordering sandwiches, buying drinks and seeking
the answer to the Information Control question. Yes. I did have to
borrow a pen.
Since the weather was still overcast and windily
cool, we set off again. JimG still seemed at a bit of caloric deficit
but we plugged along, picking up a few riders and benefitting from the
energy as our group swelled and other riders joined us from behind. The
climb out of Nicasio to the San Geronimo valley spread us out again,
but we swelled back up to 8-10 riders as we enjoyed the now-tailwind
towards the White’s Hill descent to Fairfax.
The sun greeted us
in town, and JimG and I peeled off to honor the siren song of Java
Hut. Strong coffee and gooey pastries awaited. But, even better, they
had broadened their offerings of late to include breakfast burritos.
Mmmmmm. Potato, egg, black beans for me and the simple cheese/egg
muffin for JimG. Such caloric density perked him up (as did the iced
coffee) and we hummed our way back to the start. Got to help with a
small roadside repair (rattling fender) for another SFR member. Met a
few new randonneurs on the final miles to the last climb up from
Sausalito and then went by everyone in the world who seemed to have
shoehorned themselves to a vantage point to watch the sailboat race.
Dodging a few errant pedestrians and the expected rental bike
erraticness, we dropped to the final control, were greeted with cheers
and had always-smiling Carlos D. log in our return and verify our
Done, we found plates of food and fine camaraderie! And I was happy to feel much better than I thought I would.
My photos here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/cyclofiend/sets/72157635540840952/
More photos of pretty much everyone on course - courtesy of Deb Ford - http://goo.gl/H8UBBL
Rough Route Map - http://ridewithgps.com/routes/1798411
StreetFilms continues its Streetfacts series by looking at the data
on driving in the U.S. Beginning in 2005, per-capita driving has
declined every year. As curious as that may strike you, data suggests it is now an 8-year trend.
These are all good things, as more folks realize that walkable, rideable, “human-sized” environments are the right choice, it is important that we follow through with city planners and show up at the boring meetings where these things tend to be discussed.
Hot off the MCBC email newsletter - Are you one of the folks who drives to Fairfax to start your bike rides? No judgement from this corner, to be sure (though there are certainly a number of very direct bike-only routes if you live in marin.) If so, please take a moment to read this request from the fine folks at Good Earth Natural Foods.
4. Parking recommendations for Fairfax rides
Parking at Fairfax PlazaThe Good Earth grocery store in Fairfax has
asked MCBC to spread the word about their parking request.
Before the store moved to its new Center Blvd. location in 2012, the
lot was a launch spot for many road and mountain bike rides. This
tradition has continued, but added pressures to keep parking spaces
available for Good Earth customers has led the store management to
post a notice (see below) on parked cars.
Please use their suggested other parking locations to reduce the
pressure on the store’s immediate parking lots when you anticipate
taking a multi-hour ride.
Parking here in the West lot of the Fairfax Plaza has changed
dramatically from its many years of previous uses. We ask you politely
and with much consideration to respect the business needs of all of
our approximately 35 local businesses here at the Fairfax Plaza.
All Fairfax Plaza surface lots are to be used by customers of our
The option to “park & go off” to other areas, is NO LONGER allowed
in any of the lots here at Fairfax Plaza, regardless of the time away
from your car.
The 90 minute and 120 minute time zones are in place for
patrons/clients of the businesses; whether stopping for lunch or
dinner, massage, a workout at health club, a tax consultation, etc.
all of us need all of the spaces.
Hey Biking Community: Many of the businesses have flourished here
because of your ability to park and ride off and then return as
patrons to our businesses; whether it’s The Java Hut, Iron Springs
Pub, Good Earth, etc., there is certainly appreciation for your past
and continued business. We want you to know we DO APPRECIATE your
choice to spend with all of us.
Other extended parking outlets nearby:
We, as Good Earth, are at least temporarily, offering up our old
locations (1966 & 2000 Sir Francis Drake Blvd) for you to continue to
park and ride off to those treasured biking areas and trails. Please
feel free to use those two properties just west of here to park and
Al Baylacq, Good Earth Partner
Rich Hall, Fairfax Plaza Property Owner
I’m rewriting this a day later. Mostly, because I really don’t want it to sound like a rant. The simple truth is that etiquette is a slippery topic in this world today, and it tends to slide like a frozen salmon off to the side of things.
The problem is that etiquette itself can be way overdone, and leads to things like 17 utensils for the 6 courses of an aristocratic meal at the estate. In other words, it tends to be a self-reinforcing prison itself.
What I’m really speaking about is trail etiquette. Manners. Awareness of other users. Being able to place oneself in the shoes of another. See the world through their eyes.
Not saying we all have to agree, but it’s helpful to realize ours is not the only boat on the water.
I’d been riding east for a while, into a cooling headwind. Both to regain a little core heat and the fact that I seldom miss an opportunity to divert onto trails, I nudged the Quickbeam onto the lower trails at China Camp, much against my better judgement. You see, it was about 11 am, and that has always been dead center in the “magic hours”.
This is something I’m not sure I’ve written about before, but my long-held belief is that on Saturday/Sunday between the hours of 10 am and noon, on any trail system in general and the China Camp State Park trails in particular is high tide for bad behaviour. It’s best to avoid things during this time. Something about how long it takes everyone to descend from out of the area via auto combined with the need for blowing out the workweek.
I’d much rather roll the trails at daybreak or sunset midweek, when you can find turkeys and stunning displays of light and shadow. But, here I was and the trails did call. So, diverting past a few groups of Mountain Dewbies and folks tinkering with heavy hinged bicycles, I ambled onto the dirt.
Now, even on the weekends, trail users do disperse onto the options pretty well, and though I did hear some chatter there weren’t any clusters. I chatted with a couple hikers. Enjoyed the carpets of deep red Indian Paintbrush which had bloomed everywhere the sun reached. Meandered and passed a couple single riders.
Then the onslaught began. Couple of brisk pass-bys from the other direction with nary an acknowledgement of my existence. Adults who didn’t even say “hey” back. Followed by a few kids - who were actually very well mannered, both announcing my appearance (”rider up!”) and mitigating their speed and direction. Then the wagon train hit - easily 20-plus riders in nose-to-tail position, cruising my way and having no intention of yielding trail. Many jerseys from a well-rostered “Trails Coalition” were in evidence, but manners, not so much.
It didn’t really bug me too much. I know the dynamics of groups and when you are rolling in a pack, it can be dangerous to suddenly slow or stop. And they weren’t at race pace to be sure. It’s also easy to feel safe and protected, trusting the rider in front of you to pass back info about trail conditions and other users.
Except this group was as mute as they come. And I could see on the other side of the horseshoe-shaped bit of trail that some hikers had been similarly pinned down. The express train passed and I rolled back onto the trail. Jockeyed past a couple more 5-10 rider oncoming groups and eased up to the hikers. We would be be spilled out onto a wide, open parking lot area in another 30 meters, so I eased up and followed them. We all made it to the bridge which ends the trail, where one rider patiently waited for our exit and a couple others trails-ed a bit in the parking lot so as not to create a bottleneck.
I have no idea why the fourth guy decided that was a perfect time to roll onto the bridge and pass us. The bridge is reasonably narrow - though enough room to pass two bikes if both pay attention. But it was a stupid, needless breach of trail etiquette. More so since it was obvious that the two hikers in front of me were a little older. Even more so since there were three riders waiting for us to exit. Which took all of another second.
So, yes. I did ask him the general question, “What the HELL?” and pointed out he could have shown a little courtesy and waited a second. Since I tend to ask questions in three, I may have also asked him what the heck he was in such a hurry for.
Generally disgusted, I rolled over to the restroom and upon my egress there found the hikers in close proximity. Took a moment to apologize for the behaviour of that fellow and we chatted a bit - since they’d been speaking Danish on the trail and I’m always on the prowl looking to hone my accents. We had a nice little chat, enjoyed the excitement of a small girl who was riding for the first time without training wheels. Had the opportunity to assure them that, yes, you could ride the trails with smooth, small-seeming (i.e. not monster-truck) tires. We all agreed that we were dead-center in the worst possible time to enjoy these trails.
But, I really didn’t think I should have to play ombudsman for the bicycle users on those trails. Problem is that I have a bit of a proprietary feeling for the park. It’s close enough that I ride there a lot, throughout the year, for many years. I’ve broken down the edges of water-filled potholes in the winter to let them drain and put branches over inopportune
short cuts to discourage further use. It has been great to see the FOCC group come together to insure funding for this special resource. What’s funny is that it seems that this interlude took place during a “Gala” ride for a trails coalition.
Easily 98% of the time, things are good and users are aware and attentive. The very small percentage of times is what becomes the bad press and tools to close things down. This is as important to solo riders So, if you are planning a group outing - anything more than you and (s)he and thee - think about these guidelines:
Know Your Rights! (which suddenly brought this into my brain - not really the most memorable Clash song.)
Bikes yield to Hikers
Bikes yield to Horses
Uphill traffic has the right of way.
So, if you see hikers coming towards you. Slow. Be ready to stop. Make eye contact and pay attention to body language. Most hikers do not understand that we may have the balance and skill to remain motionless if our feet aren’t on the ground. If the hiker yields their right of way to you, thank them. Because they yielded their right-of-way to you.
The uphill thing - c’mon, it’s common sense. It’s harder for me to regain momentum as an uphill rider than it is for you to access gravity on a restart.
Spread Out! (with a tip o’ the voice to Moe Howard)
Three is good. Five is a lot. More is a train. If you have a group of 20 riders, break it up. Let different groups lead a section. But, particularly to hikers, any large group of riders on tight trails is like standing on the edge of the station platform while the express train screams past.
Make Some Noise! (No. There will not be a Quiet Riot link here.)
Here’s something to try. Next time you go out with a friend on the trails, start walking your bike on a narrow trail while they wait. Have them shove off a couple minutes later and roll up on you (without coasting) without announcing their presence until they are a couple feet behind you. Yes, I’ll wait while you clean your shorts. Bikes are quiet, eh? (Well, it is one of really good public services provided by squeaky full-suspension bikes with squawky disc brakes…extremely audible trail announcements.)
Now, put two hikers talking loudly together, or a runner with a set of headphones and what little chance they had of noticing your arrival is totally gone.
Whistle. Use a bell. Sing. Snap your brake levers. Particularly at blind corners. Let the world know you are there.
This is different than general announcement noise making. Talk to people. Let them know you are really a human in there. It’s harder to hold a grudge against someone who lets you know they love the weather, or saw a wild turkey, or are enjoying the wildflowers. Be a human. To me when I’m riding - especially if I say “hey there!” to you - and to other trail users. If you have to wait at the side of a trail for a human centipede of hikers to amble past, see if you can make a few of them laugh.
I get it on the roadways, where you can’t always be heard over traffic and there’s still the stigma of roadie-ism, where for some stick up the chamois reason it’s uncool to wave. But, if you and I are the only people on a trail, you really have to try to ignore me. Makes me wonder why you want to put so much effort into that act.
That’s it for now. Enjoy the ride!
That worked ok, y’know? One of those spur-o-the-moment thoughts that I just had to honor. Ride every day in February. No mileage goal. Just the promise of putting the butt on the saddle every day - even if it was 11:45 pm and I twiddled around the block. Lots of specific, internal reasons for that, but mostly to break some habits of inaction which were hardening and regain facility with going from work to ride within 10 minutes.
Getting back to the practice.
February Mileage: 358 miles
Bike Mileage through February: 554 miles
We’re about 2/3rds of the way through the month, and as the sunlight grows stronger, so to does the sound of rain on the roof. Been a dry month, which seems to have become the pattern the past couple years - Jan/Feb crop up rainless and clear, followed by a three to four week block of rain. We’ll have to see if that comes to pass, but in the meantime, there are 18 ride notches for 18 days this month, and I’m pretty pleased about that.
Yep, some of them are the after-dinner-after-dishes-”are you really going to go ride?” neighborhood loops of a few miles. But, those add up too. And count. Butt on the saddle is all we are asking this month.
That’s put me ahead of last month already, both in number of rides and the distance traveled. It’s focused my “exit vector” momentum, so that the pre-ride dawdles have faded into memory. It’s reminded me that the Dawes’ pedals still need to be replaced, that the Hilsen really does deserve a new cogset, and the 40 year old drivetrain on the Zeus does have to be accounted for in manner and deed.
The many-geared coastable setups of the Zeus and Hilsen have only had a couple uses each - I’ve tended to favor the simplicity of the fixed gear setups on the Dawes and Quickbeam. And the Quickbeam - as I knew it would - has ended up being both the inspiration and the reference point for this month’s endeavour. The fixed drivetrain does not lie. You go only as quickly and smoothly as you can.
Back in January, when it felt a bit like I was reminding myself how to ride again, I’d wind up the pedals to a speed which felt comfortable. 14 - 15 mph on a long flat stretch worked OK. Folks in team kit passed me reasonably regularly and when I encountered inclines, cadence dropped to a slow trudge designed to keep momentum intact.
Slowly, over the same roads, the spin came up a bit and breath became a bit more relaxed. A haggard 15 became a smooth 16, then 17. Began rolling over certain inclines in the saddle, kicked back and pushing through. The fixed drivetrain is patient. It also invites comparison, as the only variables are wind, weather and power.
Over the weekend, on a a ridiculously gorgeous February Saturday afternoon, I felt something which I hadn’t realized I’d lost - comfort, cadence and a certain sound of fat smooth tires rolling over asphalt. Speed nudging 19/20 on the flat and feeling good about it. Maybe another month or so before it becomes a given, but the legs notching into that ~90 rpm range without feeling klunky or stressed.
There’s been a lot so far this year. My mother in law passed away the day before Christmas, and we celebrated her life a week ago last Saturday. It was another wondrous day, both in the weather provided and the emotion, wishes, recollections and love of those who showed up. You don’t easily let go someone who you’ve known for most of your life. But, I think we were very lucky in that nothing was left unsaid. The grief was pure, and not mixed with regret.
And there’s no direct way to vector those thoughts back to cycling. But when I find wildflowers on the side of trail, small birds flitting between trees and manage to experience the stillness of a moment or two, I know that she was one who helped me learn such things.
Just one of those stupid spur of the moment ideas. One of those choices of chance designed to spur not a specific outcome but a change of habit. Maybe a change of base assumptions or a re-approach to a way of working. You have to trust impulses now and again. Give into chance and honor slightly harebrained schemes or you sink into a slightly musty and dour sameness.
I’ve mentioned before that the body is lazy. Works just enough to make itself strong enough to deal with the daily stress it encounters. You dig ditches? You push paper? You make verbal sense of things over a microphone? You do 6 sets of free weight bench presses every other day. If the stress remains the same on a consistent basis, you form against it and the unneeded bits wither and die.
Basically, you take a “set”. Strong and resilient in one direction only, while that which supports you becomes a bit frail.
I think the brain is the same way buoy get lulled into a way of approaching things. The rote approach. So how do you shake tho be up enough to keep it vital. To keep your brain engaged and always asking “what’s next?”
It’s why we take a trail we’ve never ridden, or put together a bike in a different way. Deep down we know that we remain alive and vibrant only when we shake things up a bit.
Which is more or less why, on the second of this month, as I rode for the second day straight, it seemed obvious to pull a 28-dayer. Ride once each day for every day in February. No mileage goal. Just on a bike for a bit, with any distance acceptable. (Though since the levee gate is a mile away, and that’s always been my de facto log-a-ride ride, let’s say two miles on a ride will be the minimum…)
There’s certainly precedent for this - the whole April = 30DaysOfBiking meme which popped up a few years ago. I did it then and it’s a nice excuse to get out and ride when things are warming up and spring is in the air. Maybe it is cheating to use a shorter month, but then again, February weather can be varied.
But, that is really starting to parse the whole idea a little too much.
Fact: I have not been riding enough. Fact: I’m out of the habit of daily commuting/riding (being as my commute is generally under the roof of the same structure), and as I mentioned recently, this is forcing me to relearn the habit of how to get out of the house quickly.
It’s probably just the way my brain folds, but that’s what I’m doing this month.
A more elegant solution has been teed up by MG o’er at Chasing Mailboxes D.C. She has opened up the 2013 Errandonee, beginning this weekend on Saturday, February 9th. Wander yonder to get more info, but with a bit more panache and formality than my little endeavour, MG has tasks and destinations to be covered and logged, along with a small bit of paperwork to include.
First off, let me say that it’s nice to have a January with mileage. Last year was zero nada zilch bupkiss zippo for me. And I’ll just bypass the whole issue of what weather wimps we in California actually are.
Since I’m actually posting this on February 1st, I can at least state that I’m one-for-one in my suddenly determined quest to ride 28 days in February. A short errand for the first time in about a week, and it would seem that I didn’t forget how to ride a bicycle in the meantime.
Actually, January was going well, but we had a short, sharp little bug rumble through the house last week. Enough to keep me reasonably horizontal when I wasn’t on task with projects, which seemed to suck all of the excess energy up for last weekend and this week. Ahhh well, back on the bike just in time for a warming trend.
Anyway - didn’t quite notch 200, and only was on the bike 11 times. But, that’s out of a “true” 21 possible, so was within the one-outta-three days warning range.
11 ride days
Longest ride: 38 miles
YTD = 196
All sorts of big and small cycling things occurred this past weekend, and I missed every one of them. Alas. Sometimes the best laid plans and all that….
The big-ticket event was the San Francisco Randonneurs’ Lighthouse 200K - a magnificent and reasonably challenging route which kicks off the brevet season each year (yep, January!) The weather is always the big question on everyone’s mind - it can be gloriously clear and sunny or intensely nasty. Winds can certainly be a factor, but the common direction is a WNW direction, which mostly blows you home. I’ve completed the ride three times, but didn’t really have the mileage base to consider it this season.
A number of ride buddies and internet cycling denizens shared their images - Estaban (up from San Diego), Manny (who broke a shifter and finished the ride short a few gears), D Yu G, Campy Only Guy, and One Happy Cog all have photos to enjoy. PlattyJo has a ride report here. Franklyn has his here.
There was also a Populaire along a portion of the same course. This is a lower mileage (114 km) “intro to randonneurring” designed to introduce newcomers to the conventions and quirks of brevet style rides. Briefly thought about engaging in this, but after a ride the previous weekend which covered ~40 miles, decided that adding the White’s Hill climb in addition to the mileage was also not in the cards.
What was looking good was the potential Bay Area arrival of David “Cyclotourist” - who had similar goals and realizations to me regarding the 200K and the Populaire. Still was part of a rideshare, he had plans to ramble up Mt. Tam in mixed-terrain mode. BikeTinker Philip had planned on connecting, and I threw my iron in the fire to join up. Alas, Friday’s stomach cramps made it pretty clear that the bug which bit my wife had gotten some talons into me as well. So, I sat at the computer and napped my way through the weekend. Gino managed to connect with them, and they managed an excellent day in the windy sunshine, capped off with one of Avatar’s punjabi Burritos.
I rode and enjoyed vicariously. Ahh well… next time gentlemen!
Two news items also cropped up in the local cycling news - one is the continued hashing out of the proposed Corte Madera Creek overpass project. It’s a potentially massive project on one of the remaining confusing bits of Highway 101 in marin county. The full project involves fixes and corrections from the Paradise Drive exit to north of the Sir Francis Drake exit.
There have been a succession of minor changes and tweaks, most of which seem only to confuse things more. The suggestions ranged broadly, dating back to some public meetings in probably 2007 or so which I attended. At the time, it was clear that the various forces of homeowners, city managers and developers were going to hash things out for some time , so it was hard to react to anything directly.
Since that time, they’ve more or less focused on the solution that is now being presented. One outcome is the demolition and elimination of the Hwy 101 pedestrian overcrossing structure which has been around since I was in high school (used to ride over it to get to crew practice, in fact). It’s a nasty, generally glass-strewn structure with a ridiculously dated “round about” approach (I thought I’d snapped a photo of it at some point in my Commute Bits set, but cannot find it…though here I do make reference to it as “The World’s Stupidest Overcrossing”). Ah - here:
aerial view via the MCBC website
And yes, that is a full 2 1/2 times around on the entrance/egress, with no line of sight to speak of.
Now, I certainly get that it is desirable to provide direct access. I’m an absolute proponent of that. But, it seems to make more sense to develop a viable bicycle route using the Wornum undercrossing. Right now, it’s OK, but lacks night time lighting and the section which runs in front of the Cost Plus shopping center is generally pretty hairball. But, in terms of battles for the MCBC to pick, I have to hope this is only a initial position so they can regroup to a stronger focus on developing a more sensible connector from the Redwood Hwy frontage road to Wornum Undercrossing to connect to the High Street Bridge path (the one which uses the old railroad right of way to connect to Corte Madera / Magnolia Ave.)
That whole discussion is going on here:
The one which surprised me was the nascent beginning of a Marin County Bike Share program.
If you will permit me a moment of snark, I’d say that there are a whole bunch of “Team Postal” Treks, neglected Lightspeeds and forgotten Serottas hanging in carports and garages throughout the county. I say “FREE THE BIKES, MAN!” Collect those things and distribute them around the county or to county-based employers who can assist their workforce in riding.
ahem…. sorrry about that. I watched a bit of Portlandia last night…
But, you have to admit, a whole rack of “need a ride?” steeds like that might actually induce some folks to give up their car. Yeah, I know, they’d end up chopped and stripped and sold, but it would be a glorious day and a half.
The one error the article makes though is the idea that marin is “hilly”, precluding most people from riding. There is a great deal left to improve, but the MCBC projects have helped a great deal already. With the Cal Park Hill tunnel project, you can ride from Larkspur to downtown San Rafael without significant elevation change, for example. The new connection between Ignacio and Novato has dramatically changed the nasty climb which used to be required. The routes are there. They just continually need to be cited and explained.
Evening. Monday. The time of night that has always been my favorite. Riding out in the dusk on the Dawes for an easy errand that got lost in the day. Started by vectoring exactly the opposite direction, after spending 15 minutes or so dinking around with a flat tire change. Took the longer route because I wanted to remind myself about this bike and the way it handles, as well as watch the blue skies fade to deep grey and then black.
As I’ve said before, every bicycle you own increases exponentially the possibility that none of them will work correctly. Of late, I’ve been trying to recover from that a bit - making sure that I roll out the less-used bike earlier than I need it, so I can knock some of the crud off of it and have it reasonably ready to ride. This last week, I’d untangled the Dawes from the wall and found the tires soft. Pumped them up and loaded in the lights, reflective bits and stuff I needed to run out. By the time I’d gone inside and put on a sweater, the back wheel had sunk back to the rim, and the tire was thin and useless. Something more than underinflation to be sure and I’d burned through the spare time already - had to run, so switched over to the Zeus, which had been reinvigorated a bit the week before. Which was too bad, because I really couldn’t recall the last time the Dawes got out on the road.
The tube change had been a bit unsettling, as it was clear that the venerable Conti 28’s were getting to their last gasps. A couple of nasty cuts into the rubber from a few winter’s worth of night time commutes. Star-shaped gashes. Goodly chunks missing here and there. A preponderance of threads sneaking out of the rim after remounting the tire. Still decent meat on them, though definitely thinner where it matters. I had actually thought these were 25’s, so it was encouraging to realize that the Dawes could probably take some larger tires. It has gotten to the point where anything smaller than the round profile of the Jack Brown 33 1/3 seems skinny. Will probably try the Rolly-Pollys, as I know the profile is a bit rounder than the Continental Ultras.
I actually could not recall the last time I’d ridden the Dawes. I suppose it’s possible that it has been a year, but that just doesn’t quite sound correct. (Thank goodness for the internet brain - according to my BikeJournal.com entries, it would appear to have been June of last year…probably back when I looked down at the tires and thought “dang! I need some new tires!”) It has a stately grace which I appreciate. That has been enhanced by the fixed drivetrain, and we scooted through the near-vacant neighborhood streets. Dipping into a few turns, I did notice that there was a hesitation - almost an unease with which it cornered. Definitely a difference from the Hilsen and Quickbeam, which have been my main rides of late.
It makes it a bit easier to understand bike reviews and opinions when you jump back on a bike for the first time in a while. Everything is a bit different from everything else, and it can be almost shocking when you make a change. But, the ride skills, the body, the reactions all adapt fairly quickly. I guess I’ve ridden enough in my life to have a decent skill set which allows me to be aware of the corrections I’m making. And the bicycle cornered just fine. It just entered and exited the turns with a slightly different personality than what I’d been used to. Maybe it’s a little skittish generally speaking. But nothing you can’t handle it. You can
ride such a variety of angles and tubes. And they have pluses and
minuses. All have quirks and personality. The stem a trifle longer. The bars a little thinner in the hand with a different bend. Certainly different tires and fork and front end dimensions.
But, we’re adaptable folks, us humans.
With reasonably cold thumbs. I mean, since I hadn’t bothered to put any gloves on.
A bit later I found myself parked in a Peet’s, catching up on some email while sipping a gloriously strong “free” cup of coffee and half-listening to a curious conversation at the next table. It was a little unsettlingly paranoid and depressive. But the peace of the evening hovered above that and seemed to take it away like waves clear a sand castle. What’s weird is that I thought of a similar scenario as I was prepping to out. And then it manifested. Whether its always out there happening but it’s only when you tune your receiver that you notice it.
I had noticed that a clumsiness remains in getting out the door. Back to the other closet to find the heavy sweater. Rooting around a bit to find the gloves (which I never put on). Better than the last few times, but aggravating in the need for searching things out rather than just moving out the door and onto the bike. So, still seeking the flow.
The flow. The ability to cruise through the room picking up all the those things you need quickly. Get on the road. That’s a flow born from habit. No. “Habit” is too much of a mindless process.
Better yet from “practice”. That’s transferable. Bike riding. Yoga. Playing with your dogs. Voice acting, when the scripts flow and the work comes out with passion and truth.
So how do you maintain that flow?
Small definite acts. A little hard work every day. Moments to drift and think.
And how does that all reflect to riding? Probably doesn’t in a direct way, but every part of the practice must fold in and reinforce itself. The intention of yoga. The repetitive practice of the mileage. The crux moments of the creative process.
Riding under a clear crisp January night just to get a couple pounds of coffee.
Numbers don’t lie:
2009 mileage - 4131
2010 mileage - 3868
2111 mileage - 3107
2012 mileage - 2273
Clearly, a downward trend is involved in that data.
But, I’m OK with that.
In fact, it was a good year. I knew it was going to be a tricky one - relentlessly long hours in January prevented any riding - my first “ride free” month in memory. It took a couple weeks after that before I even had the gumption to be active again. As spring arrived, the highest goal was to stay healthy so I could be available for voice work. Since that directive was not in keeping with any kind of Belgian Spring Mileage, long rides in the rains were not really in the cards. Lower general mileage meant that I was not really in any kind of shape for Brevets, Fondo riding, Centuries or even Populaires - all of which tend to drop a decent chunk of distance into any type of ride log. Lastly, I couldn’t rely upon the cheap mileage of a commute to work - since my commute no longer included any “outside” distance. (And while voice acting tends to emphasize a certain amount of personality, that wouldn’t necessarily include showing up hot, sweaty and out of breath to a gig.)
All of which probably sound like rationalizations and excuses.
One thing I needed to relearn was how to commit the act of riding - since I didn’t just automatically log some back and forth to work miles every day, I needed to realize when I had the gap to go - send off the auditions and log off the computer and be on the bike in 5 minutes. It’s certainly a skill set which I used to possess - there were times when I had to drive 45 minutes each way to work, and was one of “those guys” whose bike was locked to the roof rack in the parking lot, bag o’ bike gear in the back seat, with plans to be late one the way home after a road loop or a little trail work.
It was also a little easier when my work environment had more infrastructure. I could hide in the office after a weekend of long, hard mileage, limping through orders and inventory reports, doing my job but not having to find new clients, think about marketing, continue to develop and refine my brand, chase down overdue accounts and some of the things which being a self-employed creative “solo-preneur” demand on a daily basis.
But, I did end up with 104 separate rides last year. About one every three days. More if you figure that I didn’t ride for two out of twelve months (September was kind of lost when I took a tumble and tweaked my ribs). I find that a decent average for maintenance level riding. I know I lost some oomph here and there, but things basically feel pretty good when I get out. Well, now anyway…
Post-September was the roughest. Low miles. Injury. General life stuff which drags you down. The first few rides at that point of this year, things just felt bad. Then worse. Then even worse. I was riding just enough so that each ride felt harder and more labored than the last. But, you just keep pulling back on the controls and know that you can come out of the dive.
The Quickbeam was both tough and kind at this point. A fixed gear setup will not lead you on with false hopes or pretense. Cruising the flats a 16 mph one week, then 17, then 18, then finally feeling a bit lively here and there. Finding enough moxie to accelerate into a short climb. Starting to be comfortable with two hours of spinning.
Yep. I’m still very much finding the need to work my way up pitches and bits that easily sailed past a year or so ago. But, I’m out, cleaning the muck out of the foundation. Signed up for the Fondo a couple days ago, so optimism is not my issue.
Got out last Saturday for a nice loop in ridiculously fine October weather. As you may have divined by a lack of ride reports and images, this has been a reasonably low mileage year. Which happens. And this year, some of why it’s happening is for good reasons - big change in work situation, trying to make things go - and some bad - family member health issues.
But, the ride heals. The ride is always the key. The ride sets things right. Doesn’t always directly fix them, but resets things in a way which few other things seem to be able.
Last month was a bit tough because I just didn’t really want to get on the bike. Yeah, I had an excuse. As I mentioned to a few people already, I took a tumble when trying to guide another rider through the maze of local streets. He had nipped ahead of me, then thought he was supposed to turn left when he wasn’t. From my perspective, I thought he was just slowing for some steel construction plates. A perspective that was shown to be incorrect, when I suddenly realized that I was looking a full side image of his bike. So, hands on brakes too late. Nose wheelie and evasive techniques while the reptilian brain invoked all my tight race-pack-learned skills. I missed him cleanly but felt myself separating from the bike. Had a long look at it below me as it vectored away.
Released, relaxed and rolled. Thought about the survival rates of cats. But, I do generally fall well.
Came up on my feet, and looked for the bike, which is always a good indicator of lack of serious injury. Got it off the road as the horrified other rider caught up and tried to offer help.
Then I felt it. Ribs. A bit hard to get a deep breath. Probed a bit against my jersey, but nothing stuck out or felt obviously ickyk. Poked a little bit and found the spot, back to the side, on line between the armpit and the hip, which disliked being prodded. Crud.
Sent the other rider on his way after he made sure I knew where we were and what day it was. Sat for a bit. Realized I’d nicked one knuckle, but otherwise had no serious abrasions. Thanks to adrenalin, brain-released injury-opiates and a certain inherent bullheadedness, I rode to my next two errands and got home. Even went to yoga that night.
Those of you who have thumped their rib cage know what happens. Endorphins subside and things tighten up. Ribs are all about waiting, and there was really no comfortable position to be found for the next couple weeks. Any vibration from riding was not in the cards, certainly, and September joined The Ranks of This Year’s Low Mileage Months. In a low mileage year.
Things have perked up a bit, and when Tuuli jumped on my chest one recent afternoon when we were wrestling, it was pretty obvious that most of the tenderness is brain-based. Which more or less brings us back to last Saturday.
Out in multi-geared coastable mode on the Hilsen. Vectored onto the lower trails at China Camp and enjoyed the challenge. Found no turkeys but did go nose to nose with a well-fatted deer.
Bumped back to the roads at the far end, and came upon a rider enjoying the lateral stiffness and vertical compliance of curvy aluminum seatstays. And a big honkin’ downtube. I could see him vibrating above the rig.
Nevertheless, he seemed pleasant, and we chatted briefly and then I eased past. A bit of a downhill and I was pedaling along easily in a moderate gear. Then I heard the breathing.
He’d probably punched it on the descent and was rolling up on me. I eased up and looked back obviously, as I edged a bit out from the curb.
“That’s really a nice retro rig you’ve got” said he.
It was unclear exactly where he was going with all of that. If he had only asked what year it had been made, so I could use the “Aught Eight” ploy. But, thwarted with my ready comeback I muttered something about it being pretty new when I bought it.
“You roll pretty good on those big tires!” he observed. “And they look like they’re on normal rims. “
Now, it’s hard to know how to address this. Decided to use it as a teachable moment. But, didn’t want to dis his choice of ride. Tricky balance.
“They’re amazing - of course, you need to have the frame clearance to run them. But, they are smooth. Just got tired of getting beaten up by the narrow tires.”
“Yeah - I just get rattled on these rough roads.”
Now, I would just like to say that these roads, while having some patches which weren’t pristine, were not something I would describe under any circumstances as “rough”. This was an opening. I nattered on for a bit about no loss in speed when you use higher quality, larger volume tires. Let him get a good look at the frame clearance. We hit a patch of road with a little bit of surface wear. He dropped back like he’d tossed out an anchor.
When he caught back up, I talked about 33’s (which I wasn’t sure would fit) at reasonable pressure. Mentioned how hard tires deflected off obstacles. That sort of thing. I could see the wheels turning a bit.
“I’m going to take a look at that for my next set….”
My job here was done.
Excuse the double-barrel blog posting of this, but for some reason, I’d thought it was the 23rd. Since I think I told a couple people that incorrect date, I wanted to make sure the word got out correctly!
Wow! Where did the time go? This Saturday, June 2nd is the (hopefully rain-free) running of the San Francisco Randonneurs’ Summer Populaire.
Owing to rain, the March 31st Populaire had a small, but very enthusiastic group of riders. To share the enthusiasm under potentially better weather, the SF Randonneurs added another Populaire on June 2nd.
consider joining SFR for the Populaire on Saturday, June 2nd. If you
haven’t ridden with us in a while, this is the perfect opportunity to
rejoin us. If you are looking for a ride to keep your momentum going
between longer rides, this ride is perfect and will still leave you most
of the afternoon for other events. Come on out and join us, and bring a
friend or two.
Newcomers to brevets and randonneuring
more than welcome as well! You’ll seldom find a nicer group of folks
with whom to while away the time. It’s a great way to learn about
brevet cards and controlles and route finding/following.
Registration can be done here: http://sfrandonneurs.org/registration.htm#
And this time, in the late afternoon a gap in the schedule presented itself. As has been the case this spring, the winds were again up, and somehow Friday afternoon traffic always makes me a bit wary to be on the roadways. We were already firmly into the commute period of the day, and I was feeling another ride opportunity sliding past.
But then, it occurred to my habitual-choice-oriented brain that there was another option. I do live ridiculously close to that rare trail condition known as “Legal Singletrack” and I do have these funy bikes with small wheels and grippy, knobby tires. A plan was indeed hatched.
Though the tires were floppy from disuse, and the dust on the drivetrain dated to last year, the Bridgestone was readied and prepped.
Bicycles are gloriously patient, but knowingly aware. I swear I could hear it chuckling as the buzzing knobbies sounded over the pavement.
The beauty of the singlespeed is no need for tweaking - air it up, knock the dirt off and make sure the chain isn’t chunky. Before I knew it, the direct and personal pain of climbing paid the penance of disuse. The 26″ wheels made it feel like a toy at times, but the skill set of mtb-on-trail finally made itself known
Tiring. Challenging. Fun.
An hour later, showering the trail dust off my ankles, I found myself marveling at how easy it is to miss the ease of a simple solution. How quickly we develop habits which don’t always serve us well. And realizing that the muscles required of a fast-paced trail ride on a rigid singlespeed are different than those of a regular road ride.
Which is to say, specifically, the first ride this year that felt like a “ride”.
Which is vaguely frustrating. The frustration of which dissipated by the act of the ride.
It’s been an interesting year so far. As I’ve kinda/sorta mentioned, a long work project ended this January. Which meant (after a bit of a rest period - as the last 8 weeks were pretty much sans days off) my new boss and my staff is pretty much me. Which is equally frightening and invigorating. And exciting.
The first thing I noticed though was that having an off-site job did make it easy to have a simple excuse to get up and get out and ride back and forth to work. Now, in the scheme of bike-to-work options, I had a wonderful commute - an MDR (most direct route) under 10 miles, so if I needed to get there fast, it wasn’t noticeably longer to drive. And the area I’m lucky enough to live in gives enough options that I could easily double that distance for the ride home. Plus the fact that my work position allowed me the ability to show up a bit sweaty, or at least breeze buffeted.
But all of that gets you awful spoiled, and the ability to have regular, cheap miles in the bank gives you a nice base for distant weekend adventures. 80 - 90 miles/week in just commuting is a nice step up, and with a decent loop on the weekend, mileage stays nice and constant. The odd have-to-drive week or day works just fine when you have a setup like that.
Now, my commute is pretty minimal, and the easy miles must be seized when the opportunity provides them. And therein lies the rub. At your own desk/studio, projects have deadlines which must be honored, and time slips away. If you are hustling ’til it hurts, that downtime gets repurposed into action - billing, letters, contacts, etc. - until it’s the end of the day, the winds are up and the dog is angling for a walk.
Thus my walking has expanded significantly. Tuuli loves a good promenade, and honestly, I’d rather have a hiking adventure with her than push on the pedals and roll off into the headwinds which have been the hallmark of this daffy spring weather we’ve had. So, my shoes are worn, but the tires are softening…
Oh that pesky, pesky balance.
This last week things seemed to fall into place a bit better. Morning auditions and project recordings, then desk stuff, then that glorious midday that I managed to turn into an errand loop on the bike. Which kind of reset the ride momentum. By the end of the week, I’d found a few places in the schedule which lent themselves to a head-clearing ride between tasks. Some short rides and focused efforts.
When Gino texted me Friday night, all the excuses roiled up - not enough mileage to go with the big kids, etc… Luckily, he’s a ride buddy who focuses on the ride part of the equation, and we realized we were both looking for a nice ramble to remind ourselves of good company and easy miles.
The Earth Day Weekend Weather assisted our efforts, and by the time we were over White’s Hill, things seemed to be firing the right way. Oh, yeah, we overdid it a little - at 61 miles it was the longest ride of the year for me, and the high 80 degrees of the day were a bit excessive over the last few miles to home.
But, it was a reminder of why The Ride - the act of rolling out with friends - covering the miles with easy conversation and deep topics - is so important.
Here’s to maintaining that momentum.
With a fair degree of trepidation - potentially challenging weather is not a problem, but I’m definitely still a bit under-miled… Ahh well, how can you not get excited about a ride when it has such great artwork?
The artwork is by Alice Stribling, which can be viewed in its original form (but seemingly not linked to or downloaded) here.
Anyway, the San Francisco Populaire rolls north from the Golden Gate Bridge at 7 am this Saturday - check in and/or sign up is required, so don’t show up at 6:59 - the hearty band of randonneurs will be rolling north to Pt. Reyes Station for the first controlle, then heading back down to Crissy Field for a triumphant finish. The SF Randonneurs website has more info.
The Populaire is a great way to feel out the idiosyncrasies of brevets and randonneuring. It introduces the format of non-competitive self-sufficient distance riding, and uses control cards and time limits like the longer rides. For more general information, see the RUSA.org website.
Hope to see you there! Please mock me gently as I suffer up the hills.
Awoke to the tailings of rain today and had to dig out the Grundens for the morning dog walk. But, by midday, sunlight seriously poked its way through and the ground had mostly dried. So, I chanced it and rolled out on the only non-mtb bike that I own which is currently rigged fenderless, the A. Homer Hilsen, to claim the second Utilitaire 12 Controlle Stamp of this week.
Within a mile of home, I was seriously doubting my choice - a couple heavy clouds loomed over the hills and the wind was picking up in a way that foretold more rain. But, the Zeus has some invisible foreign object stuck in the front tire and had come up lame, and it felt good to utilize the invention which allowed me to cease pedaling when I felt like it. The other two options - the Dawes which I’d used for the first Controlle Stamp, and the Quickbeam - are both fixed.
Of course as I turned on the first leg of the route, it became clear that the whole “coastable” thing was going to be largely unused. The winds continued to pick up and any attempt to stop pedaling seemed to result in a seriously sharp decline in speed. The good news being that the darkish clouds were quickly dissipating. By the time I got to the Post Office, it was clear that my only issue would be winds. The winds did sharpen further, but it also scrubbed the sky of clouds. It did seem a wee brisk, but one thing you don’t really get to do in California is complain about the cold.
Now, the sharp-eyed among you probably have noticed that “Post Office” is not on the Utilitaire 12 Control Card. In fact, I was angling for Controlle #6 - “Any Store That Is Not The Grocery Store” (I mean, since “drop in on your cool guitar-making woodworker friend and catch up a bit” is also not on the Control Card…). 14 cheap miles on the route.
Of course, up until now, I have complied with the rules of the Utilitaire 12. In order to maintain the Spirit of the Utilitaire 12, however, there may be some deviation ahead… we shall see.
Today’s lesson is the observation of how much my cycling aesthetic has changed. It was briefly ponder-inducing that I was riding a bicycle with no fenders. Seemed odd and wrong.
About a month ago, MG over at ChasingMailboxes outlined a fun early season challenge - the Utilitaire 12. Unfortunately, that was in the final days of my all-encompassing work project, and the energy/time for reading anything outside of the immediate scope of “need-to’s” was nonexistent.
As I’ve slowly righted myself and trimmed the sails this month, the hash tag #Utilitaire kept popping up, and I finally got around to catching up on the excellent writing which MG shares on her blog. If you work the math and follow the instructions, you’ll realize that I have about two weeks to do 12 rides at the rate of 2 per week. I’ll admit, I was not a math major, but I’m pretty sure that’s a tough trick to pull off using standard numbers.
Which means the gang is well up the road and I’m just rolling away from the start. Nothing to do but smile and wave, smell the flowers, lean into the headwind and see what comes of it.
Anyway, here’s my first official Utilitaire 12 Controlle Stop:
According to the rules of the Utilitaire 12, I need to document the ride with a photograph (above) and confirm with an informational/observational insight:
Mmmmm…. a whole massive midden of thoughts and notes. That’s what sparse writing and little time will do to you. Feel like I’ve flung open the back door and found one heckuva large lump of congealed detritus - everything all interlocked and wedged together so that you don’t know where to begin.
Luckily, there are a couple of threads to tug at. Pulling at that should get the fabric to unravel a bit. Then, I’ll just pull at something that looks promising and see what pops out into the light.
And this intro probably doesn’t make much sense to anyone. ‘Cept those folks who know a little more about my life in the past 18 months or so. Honestly, most of that isn’t all that interesting. Not to mention that there are many more people who have acted more honorably under greater pressure and higher stakes. The interesting thing is that as I’d cut back writing here and actively updating the Galleries, a lot of people sent emails asking if things were OK.
I think I thanked everyone directly. But, if not, please know how much that meant. It’s funny to think how words tapped out onto a keyboard, or a web project that grew from frustration at not being able to track down a photo online can actually migrate into so many places in the world. Thank you all for taking the time to read this, or poking through any of the bike geek photos.
I’ve mentioned it a few times here and there, but my “day job” project for the last bit involved an exponentially-increasing number of hours. That culminated in January of this year. While that was expanding in momentum and deed, the other plate I was spinning involved auditions and recording sessions for my VO work. All work has its idiosyncrasies to be sure, but one of the quirks of VO is that you end up recording and submitting many, many auditions for each job you get. And those auditions must be submitted in a timely manner. And after riding home from the day job and then analyzing scripts and producing auditions for a couple hours, the choice was whether to stay on the computer or remind my wife and dog what I looked like.
Fact is, though I love writing about cycling and the bicycle world in general, when push comes to shove, I’d rather ride. Oh, I suppose it’s possible to punch up Dragon Dictation and ramble forth about stuff while riding. But, there’s something about riding that pushes me away from tech gadgetry. There’s intrinsically something about the ride which makes me realize the moments, see the subtle contrasts around me helps to balance everything.
One pedal goes down, the other comes up. On a flat stretch, the rhythm of breathing becomes a metronome. The horizon remains far distant as the pavement hisses quickly beneath the frame. Expansive moment.
The Quickbeam is bringing me back. It’s a simple, honest system. Patient and direct.
A hill that once sang by under the momentum now is cause for a bit of bar-wrestling and heavy breathing. A steeper climb demands a rest. The bicycle is the same. The gearing is the same. The weaker variable is me. Even without the complete cycling layoff of the final six weeks at work, this past year consisted of regular rides, but markedly shorter distances.
But, it’s all relative of course. I’ve been in worse shape than now, and the toughest part stems from my brain recalling how easy it was and not quite believing the feedback it receives from the various appendages and contact points. I did manage to keep fairly consistent with yoga, so there remains some surprisingly tenacious bits of strength here and there. And I did roll over a 40 mile loop last weekend which did not send me immediately to the couch for a nap.
So, like the writing, it’ll be a diet of small bites and thoroughly chewing.
Little segment from the pre-history days of mountain biking. I’ve never seen this bit of journalism before, but there are a number of recognizable characters in the footage -