cyclofiend.com - peripheral thoughts & notes

June 2024
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Simple Rules
Filed under: general, rides, unfortunate events, mixed-terrain
Posted by: The Cyclofiend @ 12:56 pm

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.

Now, I’ve mentioned egregious examples before, both on trails and on the roads. But on yesterday’s loop, a cluster of experiences brought this up again.

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!

1 comment
March Mileage
Filed under: rides, mixed-terrain, record keeping
Posted by: The Cyclofiend @ 11:59 pm

After starting with a bit of a light week, this month turned out OK.  Stayed healthy, got some reasonably regular commuting in with steady but not overwhelming weekend loops. Also managed to ride a bunch of different bicycles over at RBWHQ&L, which was cool, but not included in the mileage count.  

Ended up the month by riding home in a reasonably chilly storm tonight which made me wish I’d taken the moment to don gloves before starting.  By the time I reached home, my hands had just about taken a “set”. 

Snuck in 19 riding days this month, with three 50+ loops.  (Of course, the cool kids were out on the SFR 400km last weekend - whew!)  Also got in a couple of nice singletrack adventures (on the smooth-tired Hilsen), which made me realize both why I like that bike and how much fun mixing things up can be. This put
the March mileage into the books at 423 miles.  Got in 9 yoga sessions, and every once in a while, I can feel the efficiencies gained there edging into my riding. Rains have visited us a few times, so the hills remain green and fenders can be a good thing.

Or not…

My brother’s tour of world book domination for - Cheesemonger,

A Life on the Wedge continues this month, with a loop up to the Seattle and Bellingham Washington areas - events listing yonder.  If you live up that way and enjoy the odd cheese now and again, punk rock, food politics or worker-owned co-ops (or just want to hear him speak and get free cheese), check it out. 

Bikey Miles so
far in 2010 - 1213

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Your Trail Access Alert Minute
Filed under: general, mixed-terrain
Posted by: The Cyclofiend @ 10:05 am

This crossed my inbox the other day courtesy of the fine folks over at Access4Bikes.com - Another glimmer on the horizon, crack in the brick wall or some other metaphor indicating that old paradigms may finally be breaking down.  Specifically, they’ve been working for some time to permit limited cycling access to Bill’s Trail in Samuel P. Taylor Park to bikes.  I’ve hiked this trail and personally support this idea demonstrating that well constructed trails can be shared by all users.  It would make a really nice connector for mixed terrain rides, to be sure.

Letters of support are needed NOW. Deadline for comments is June 26th. IMBA is helping get the word out by mounting a National Campaign. You can go to the IMBA website and fill out their form.

It is quick and easy.  I managed to do it before I had any coffee -

Bill’s Trail Comment Page at IMBA.com

The rest of the text below is copied from the email I received.  The salient info is included and did I mention that the the deadline to comment is June 26, 2009?

Take Action! Tell California State Parks you support their decision to open Bill’s Trail to bicycles. The commentary period ends on June 26.

Or send your own email to Roy McNamee at:  rmcnamee@parks.ca.gov before June 26th.

Additional Information on the Proposal
California State Parks has announced a proposal to open singletrack for mountain biking in Samuel P. Taylor Park, Marin County. The agency plans to permit bicycle use on the 4-mile Bill’s Trail segment on alternate days and is soliciting public comment on the project.
This landmark opportunity is the direct result of more than three years of partnership building with the parks department by IMBA California, Access4Bikes and the Bicycle Trails Council of Marin. A successful opening of Bill’s Trail will set the stage for bicycle access to several other singletrack trails in Marin.

Bill’s Trail
Located within the Mt. Tamaplais watershed in Samuel Taylor State Park, Bill’s Trail winds through native ferns, wildflowers and hazelnut trees. It averages a reasonable 7-percent grade, and its six switchbacks provide riders with multiple views of the surrounding landscapes. While it is expected that bike access on Bill’s Trail will be limited to alternate days at first, the parks department states that this stipulation will be open to further review.
A small number of local hiking and equestrian groups have vowed to fight against any new access for mountain biking in Marin County, despite plentiful evidence that well-designed trails can be successfully shared by various user groups, and that mountain biking is a sustainable, low-impact form of recreation. “I think that, broadly speaking, the community of trail users in Marin is ready for this,” says IMBA California Policy Advisor Tom Ward. “We have seen great success with our volunteer mountain bike patrol program there. Mountain bikers care deeply about protecting the gorgeous trails and natural areas in Marin, and we will continue working with like-minded groups.” 

Thank you for taking the time to be active.

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Mixed-Terrain Links
Filed under: mixed-terrain
Posted by: The Cyclofiend @ 10:37 pm

Recently, the running of the UCI race Monte Paschi Strade Bianche Eroica Tosacana cropped up onto the RBW list via a report in CyclingNews.com.  I was a little confused at first, as it had a similar name to an event which was very much a non-UCI/low-tech/high spirt event called L’Eroica

It was a good thing that the appearance of one did not mean the elimination of the other, and I’m very much in favor of any number of events in Italy which seek to publicize and maintain the “Bianca Strada” - or “White Roads” of Italy, in much the same manner that Paris-Roubaix maintains a link to the stretches of historic Pave in northern France. 

And I think I’ve mentioned before that Paris-Roubaix is hands down my favorite bike race.

In the follow-ups to the initial posts, folks started sharing their local, favorite or reknowned mixed-terrain epics.  Again, for me, the perfect ride is a mix of dirt, trails and roadways, epic vistas and challenging terrain.   Turns out there are other deeply disturbed individuals around who think the same thing… The bulk of these suggestions came from a thread on the RBW Owner’s Bunch List titled “This Calls For a Country Bike

(from the website)
“L’EROICA” is a period cyclotouristic rally held mainly on gravel
roads, organized since 1997.
It is a special “race” from every point of view. It proposes
surroundings and scenes from the “heroic” times of cycling: dust or
mud, no organized service, vintage refreshments, wonderful and
demanding roads, great ability to adapt and to suffer.

We search for the authentic roots of the awesome popularity of that
cycling world made by the giants of the roads, which created so much
literary legends.

A nice writeup of L’Eroica can be read at COG Magazine.

Rouge Roubaix - (Mississippi/Lousiana)
Iron Cross (Pennsylvania)
The Barry-Roubaix (Michigan)
The Michigander (Michigan)
Ragnarok 105 (Minnesota)
Almanzo 100 (Minnesota)
The Trans Iowa (Iowa)
The GDR (Great Divide Race)
Up in the wilds of Sonoma County, there is the
Grasshopper Adventure Series (California)

Of course, the two which I was already familiar -
The D2R2 - The Deerfield Dirt Road Randonee (Massachusetts)
La Ruta Loca - North of San Francisco (California)

One more for the list, though not technically a “mixed-terrain”  ride, it does have a certain amount of panache.
The Lake Pepin 3-Speed Tour

Of course, after listing all these rides, I came across David “Cyclotourist” Estes’ post to the “Back Roads Bicycle” group on Flickr, which already listed most of these already.

And, as usual, everything old is new again.

Sunday’s Loop
Filed under: rides, mixed-terrain
Posted by: The Cyclofiend @ 10:36 am

It’s relatively early Monday morning as I write this, but it’s clear there has been a material change in the weather pattern. For the past week, the dawn skies have begun the day blue and cloudless, with a creeping dry heat that meant it was best to get the shades drawn and the fans fired up. But today the skies are spread with featureless grey.  High fog and an actual hint of moisture today gives the impression that the cook-off of last week has been suspended.

As JimG and I descended from the top of Mt. Tamalpais yesterday afternoon, we could feel the start of it - an abrupt chill in the winds which came off the leading edge of the coastal fog. Still, up until that point, we had been getting cooked up pretty good. But, as we wound our way down the switchbacks of the mountain, I was glad I’d done this ride.

It didn’t really start out that way. Honestly, I’ve been a bit tentative in wanting to ride with others.  Feeling heavy on the climbs, pokey on the flats and having a more than significant amount of people buzz past me while out on the roads. When I read JimG’s “Let’s Ride” email on Saturday evening, it was with a slight amount  of dread.

Not that I didn’t want to ride. When that happens, I’m either honestly sick or you should check under my bed for the remains of a human-sized pod from which my android analog has emerged. But, I did know that this was going to hurt. It wasn’t helped by the knowledge that I’d be climbing the mountain on the Quickbeam.

This was, of course, quite by choice and action.  The Hilsen has not yet been fully morphed into proto-Cyclocross mode and I really had been trying to ride the Quickbeam more recently. In trying to regain some semblance of fitness after months of bad sleep and minimal riding distances, I’ve tried to ride fixed or single-geared most of the time. As I’ve mentioned, this tends to strip away any artiface and confusion regarding how you are riding.  It tends to make you stronger, remind you of the need to honor momentum and let’s you focus on pushing the damn pedals.

It also tends to hurt.

And so, I was contemplating the longest loop I’ve done in a while, and knowing that there would be suffering involved. My evil subconcious did its level best to protect me. When little dog woke up an hour or so in front of the alarm clock, it caused me to unconciously trip the lever, so that I slept solidly until the moment that I needed to be out the door to be on time.  I made a pre-coffee call to JimG, who luckily had not left.  We pushed back the meeting time to 10:30. 

I finally oozed out the door and commenced pedaling.  Suprisingly, the hills didn’t really hurt, and I actually seemed to have some snap in my legs when traffic demanded it. We rolled up to the meeting spot within view of the other and after greetings, headed toward Mill Valley.  While on the slight rise up the valley, things felt good, and JimG related his tale of tracking down a Large Bontrager mtb frame recently.

Upon reaching the Railroad Grade trail head, we continued climbing.  When in better shape, I’ve rolled up this trail on the fixed side of things.  But, it was pretty clear that was generating more noise than music today. We eased to the trailside at a good spot and I flipped over to the lower gearing of the freewheel side. With the clear weather and siren song of fall warning of winter, a number of riders and hikers were enjoying the trail. We latched onto the pace of a full-suspended rider who had dropped his buddies, and crossed paths with various gaggles of singlespeeders.  At some point, a guy on a cross bike steamed past us at a much brisker clip.

I took a few photos to distract myself from the creeping awareness that I was still pushing too large of a gear.

Looking East from Railroad Grade

JimG rolling up the Grade

We kept talking a bit.  Easy chatting with ourselves and other riders, catching each other up and commenting upon other bikes we came across on the trail.  One thing we briefly discussed as we climbed was carbon fiber failure mode. There have been a steady number of reports this summer of nasty breakage of CF forks, frames and (over the weekend) wheels. (Some graphic post-ER photos in the set).

My personal belief is that the problem (simplifying greatly to make the point) has to do with two things -

1: When carbon fiber was new, the companies messing around with it understood that if it broke, CF would get a bad rep. My guess is that the initial frames and forks were overbuilt - heck, the first CF bike I had used a steel steerer tube! This was exotic material. They had to have zero failures, if for nothing other than marketing purposes.  After a few years of success, some quiet failures (it seems no one really remembers the early OCLV road bikes that had BB shells that came unstuck, and roatated within the frame…), the race was on to use lighter material in the layup (It went from “proprietary information” to 120 to 110 g/sq. m in the course of a few years).  I’m not sure if they also reduced the amount of resins used in the manufacturing, but it wouldn’t suprise me. You go lighter - in any material that I know of - and your margin for error lessens considerably.

2: When these projects began, I have to believe that a select group of  “A” Teamers did the work.  Now, just given the sheer quantitly of CF production, this cannot be the case in every manufacturing company. At the beginning, I’d bet the design and fabrication teams doing the CF layup and building were closer to the hand-done, custom end of things.  Now, it’s the assembly line method, which means workers with good days or bad days, and with the vast quantity of items made, more variance in materials and construction.  I think it’s one thing to underbraze a bottom bracket shell, but quite another to not have optimum dispersion of resins through your layers.  Again, you get back to failure modes, and CF ain’t forgiving.

JimG brought up a third point, which was the answer to “well, Carbon Fiber is used in aerospace and aircraft applications.”  “Yes,” he said.  “But there are teams of highly trained personel whose job it is to evaluate the equipment according to very strict guidelines.  That’s a lot different than showing the part to the folks down at the local bike shop and asking them what they think…”

Update - Beth H. had a great post on this today as well - raising the point that all this racey-race gear has no place on a practical bicycle anyway.

Update again - And, yes, I realize steel can fail.

And we continued climbing.  I finally said, “Aw piffle” (or something close to that) and dropped down to the small front chainring.  This final change of gearing helped, and after a water and chat break at West Point Inn, we motored up the last bits of trail to the summit at East Peak. We broke for lunch, watched folks come and go and observed a work crew (on a Sunday?) shoveling rocks and dusty dirt into a Bobcat front loader.  Then we left the mountain top and climbed our way to the descent. 

As I think I’ve mentioned before, the East Peak of Mt Tamalpais is one of three bumps on the mountain top. Thus, you  quickly end up climbing, when you really feel like you deserve an immediate downhill.  Delayed gratification at its finest.

Here, we have made the crest and JimG rolled back to capture the vista in pixels -

From here we could see Mt. Diablo poking up through the heat of the East Bay, while to the south and west, an impenetrable layer of fog covered parts south and the Pacific Ocean.

As foreshadowed earlier, we descended for what felt like hours - I remembered again just how well the Quickbeam handles paved, twisting descents.  I’d swapped the tires for Jack Browns a while ago, and the confidence factor was silly-high. I don’t think I exited a turn without thinking that I needn’t have used quite that much brake.

When we finally regained sea level again and I flipped back to fixed and turned for home, JimG tagged along to get a few more miles in the bank. (The most recent ride he’d done was the RUSA 10th Anniversary Brevet back in August.  The man has some base miles…) When we stopped for a brief tech-check, a lanky rider on a Salsa Casseroll came over and saw through our secret identity power-cloaking field of deflection.  He correctly ID’d me and JimG, and we chatted for a while.  It was the first time I’d had a chance to see a used-and-enjoyed Casseroll in the wild.  He had it smartly set up in singlespeed mode, and had just returned from his own loop up Railroad Grade.  Nice looking rig. And, good to meet you, Jeremy!

The heat increased as I headed home, and both my shorts and jersey had been noticeably enhanced by white contrasting stripes.  But, it had been a good loop.  If nothing else, it helped get my brain around the obstacle of increased miles and riding with a good friend is a great way to keep your mind off your own troubles.  Even through the heat and continued efforts, things continued to feel better as the ride progressed.  Not sure if I would’ve been up for another loop up Railroad Grade, but the Camino Alto climb went by without serious engine knock, and after JimG peeled off for the City, I was able to set a good steady pace home. 

All in all, a darned fine way to spend a chunk of Sunday.

Last update - JimG has posted his photos over at Flickr.

Deep Roots
Filed under: photos, people, mixed-terrain
Posted by: The Cyclofiend @ 6:26 am

The heritage of “mixed-terrain” rides has far-reaching roots in the greater San Francisco Bay Area. Logging roads, farm paths, ex-military routes all snake through the hills of this region in various stages of disrepair and recollection. Many of these have been turned into the ubiquitous “Fire Roads” which make up many of the favored routes away from traffic. 

Beginning sometime back in the late 70’s, cycling iconoclast Jobst Brandt led folks on what became known as the legendary “Jobst Rides”. These were cross-country and fire road epics which were tackled on “bikes” - before mountain bikes as a genre existed. Flickr and RBW List buddy David E. found this link to a run of about 100 photos from these rides - it’s interesting to see the simple machines they used to deal with such a variety of terrain.  You can almost see the wheels turning in Tom Ritchey’s head as they negotiate the lumps and bumps of the routes. (And you can certainly tell the by the level of exhaustion in the faces of most riders that these weren’t easy little jaunts…)


(Note - it takes a while to load)

Mixed-Terrain Ride Schedule
Filed under: brevets, mixed-terrain
Posted by: The Cyclofiend @ 8:00 am

Carlos has posted a more formal schedule of mixed-terrain rides leading up to the LRLR (La Ruta Loca Randonee) in July.

Mixed Terrain ride Calendar

All are welcome, you really don’t need a 5″ travel dualie to play along - riders have done these with smooth-tired 28mm-shod road bikes. I’ve done most with my Quickbeam or the Hilsen - using 33 1/3 Jack Browns, 32 mm Paselas and 35 (actual meas) Michelin Cross tires. Despite our dire warnings, there are usually ways to bail from most of these rides which put you reasonably quickly back to civilization (probably not so much once you get out to Bolinas Ridge or thereabouts, though…).  But, you do need to be reasonably self-sufficient.

And, if you ride in SF Bay area, you know that it is the queen of the microclimates, so layers are helpful.

If you’ve had some interest in this type of riding and want to check it out - pick a ride and we’ll see you on the trails!

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Where the Cool Kids Will be Riding
Filed under: mixed-terrain
Posted by: The Cyclofiend @ 8:35 am

At least this weekend:

Me?  Fighting a spring inner-ear thing that seems to have me wobbling like a weeble.  Oh well.  Should give me a chance to clean off the bikes.