Can You Ever Be Too Thin?

Way below spec! Should have been replaced a long time ago.

Well yes, when it comes to disc brake rotors. Everybody is disco-ing these days and lord help you if try to find a new bike that has ye olde rim brakes. So whether you’re like Alvin Toffler and embrace these “new” technologic marvels being marketed like Cabbage Patch dolls or you’re firmly in the Luddite camp clutching your spoon brakes in a death grip, disc brakes for road bikes are here to stay like it or not.

I’ve carped about road disc brakes previously mainly focusing on the increased time, cost, and attention they need compared to rim brakes. I mentioned before that disc rotors wear out amazingly fast, way more quickly than an aluminum rim does (like an order of magnitude faster!). Doing your own bike repair and maintenance is a dying habit these days and it’s certainly not encouraged by the increasing complexity of equipment so much so that taking your bike to a shop for just about everything has become standard practice. But if you do your own bike maintenance, ignoring your disc brake rotors—which is unfortunately all too easy—is a bad mistake. Rotors wear down; for me they last about a year. When worn down they don’t always make odd noises or behave strangely—there just isn’t an obvious warning that you need to replace them. If you regularly take your bike to a shop, they’ll catch that because checking brake pads and rotors is standard practice and long before it becomes a problem they’ll tell you to replace the rotor.

Here’s what happens when you just don’t bother to check your rotors: Roger and I went for a ride and he commented to me that his rear brake felt like it wasn’t working—it wasn’t stopping the bike and he was relying almost entirely on the front brake. I didn’t think much of it—probably the brake pads had worn down yet again. We go through disc brake pads like candy. We have to change them about twice a year (note: on each bike!) In contrast changing rim brake pads is such an infrequent chore that I don’t even keep spare pads around. Maybe I have to change pads once every ten years or so. The other thought that occured to me was perhaps Roger’s bike had air in the rear brake hydraulic line, which can cause spongy and ineffective braking. I took a quick look at the rotor and it seemed fine and the lever feel seemed fine too yet the brake wasn’t doing its job. Hmm.

When we got home to the shop, I was able to pull the wheel out of the frame and inspect the brakes more carefully. The pads were actually okay. But a closer look at the rotor showed that it was quite worn. I couldn’t see it out on the road because I was looking at the edge of the rotor, which was still thick because his brake pads were wearing a track below the outside edge thus leaving it intact. I measured the thickness of the rotor and it was just 0.76 mm—half the recommended mininum thickness! In retrospect we were lucky the rotor hadn’t just cracked and split altogether being so thin. Good thing we weren’t going down Diablo!

A brand new Shimano rotor is 1.8 mm thick.

Every brand of disc brake rotors—Campagnolo, SRAM, Shimano, Tektro, etc. has a minimum thickness; when your rotors get this thin, they want you to replace them. Shimano for example recommends that its rotors be replaced when worn down to 1.50 mm. Brand new they are 1.80 mm thick, so you can see that there isn’t a lot that has to be worn down before they need to be tossed. This isn’t like eyeballing your rim brake pads or even your aluminum rims—you can barely see the difference between new and worn rotors. So to be prudent you need to invest about $20 in a vernier caliper which you can accurately measure the thickness of the rotor. You can buy analog or digital calipers but the digital ones don’t cost a lot more and they’re a lot easier to read. You should get in the habit measuring your rotors’ thickness every couple of months. When a Shimano rotor is down to 1.50 mm, replace it. (SRAM recommends no thinner than 1.55; Campagnolo says no thinner than 1.65 mm.)

A typical worn rotor; 1.36 mm is still below the recommended 1.50 mm for replacing.

Most rotors today use the Centerlock standard that Shimano invented for attaching rotors: the rotor is splined and fits directly onto the hub and held in place by a lockring. You’ll need a lockring tool to remove and install the rotor. The other, older standard is six-bolt rotors; for these you’ll need either a hex key or Torx T25 wrench depending on the kind of screws they use. Keep in mind that when you install the new rotor you’ll need to torque down the lockring or screws to the specified torque. Lockrings are 40-50 Nm and screws are usually 4 Nm. 40-50 Nm is a lot of force, so if you don’t have a torque wrench, tighten it as much as you can because you don’t want the lockring to come loose when you’re riding. If you have rotor bolts, you can buy a preset torque wrench with replaceable bits set at 5 Nm, which is close enough.

One thing to keep in mind when you’re measuring the thickness of your disc rotors: make sure you’re measuring the actual thickness rather than the outside or inside edge of a worn track on the rotor. Measuring the edges will give you an incorrect read of the rotor’s actual thickness. So place the caliper tips directly in the worn track as shown in the photos.


No pain, no gain.

So far this has been a year unlike any other. Similar to the winter of 2016-17 when we also had a series of atmospheric rivers plow through northern California, this year our drought prayers were answered with double-fold irony: we’ve had so much rain that only the hardy go out to ride and when they do they’re confronted with washed out roads, downed trees blocking roads, and lots of mud and pools of water whose depth is uncertain. San Francisco to date has had over 29 inches of rain when the average year nets just 19 by now; SF averages less than 23 inches for an entire year. In Contra Costa we’ve received well over 47 inches to date when usually we get about 35. If we receive more than 50 inches by June 30, I would not be surprised given how prolific this rainy season has been. By the way, although Seattle and Portland have reputations for being rainy cities, but did you know that the annual average rainfall for Seattle is 37.5 inches? Portland is just 36 inches. And this year both have gotten just 40 inches to date. This has been a wet year!

That few of us are venturing out for rides is not news especially since our rains have been mostly constant and steady. In previous winters the rain wasn’t a serious deterrent for me and even this January despite my intentions to use Fulgaz and ride in the comfort of my living room, I just had to get outside and I rode 23 days rain or shine. I was expecting that I would continue.

But then life intervened and I couldn’t ride because of other responsibilities. Usually when I’m under stress going out for a ride has been a welcome relief and reinvigorating for handling life’s other travails. But not this time. And with the rains whatever incentive I had to get out just vanished in a puff. So almost a month went by and I did hardly a lick of a ride and whatever strength and stamina I had eked out became a faint dream. At my age it’s important to keep moving because every recession in fitness is just another ratchet downward no matter how hard I try to resist and come back.

Last week Roger and I finally went out for a (re-)inaugural bike ride, just a “stroll” down and up the local MUP. It was 25 miles and we rode it at a leisurely pace. No problem. That night Paul pinged me and asked if we’d like to go for a ride the next day. He too had been unable to ride, and since Saturday was to be a dry day with the rains returning on Sunday it was going to be the only day to get out. Both Roger and I felt alright (= not sore or tired) so we delightfully agreed to meet him. My left brain was telling me it was probably a mistake; my right brain was telling me how nice it would be to go for a Different Spokes-ish ride. Paul is a relatively new member who also lives in the East Bay, so it would be a good chance for us to get to know him a bit better. He’s also in our cohort, ie. as old as the friggin’ hills.

Paul was going to take BART to Orinda but he surprised us by riding over Wildcat instead. I thought, “Hmm, that would be more than I would be able to do if I were just starting to ride again”. We took him on a ride that we do often, which is out to the back part of Walnut Creek on lightly travelled suburban roads to some “hidden” hills in Danville and Alamo and then back to Orinda. It’s about 35 miles and although it has hills, they are short and not too steep. It’s a ride that we normally would consider a ‘light’ ride but with enough hilliness that you can make it as hard or as easy as you want. If we did it at an easy pace, it should be no problem.

Paul had never ridden out that way even with Grizzly Peak Cyclists, his other club. He was a bit lost in the morass of suburbia even though it is far more varied than the cookie cutter homes in Daly City, for example. Admittedly we were taking a lot of “roads less travelled” with lots of turns and cuts through cul-de-sacs that make the route confusing the first time. We had a nice time and I was surprised at how calm my legs felt despite having ridden the day before and after a month of inactivity.

On the way back my legs very quickly became tired and I slowed down. A lot. My leg muscles felt completely exhausted, as if I had ridden a century yet it less than 30 miles—at an easy pace no less! Riding two days in a row—never a problem in the past—this time was turning out to be massive overload. Just a couple of miles from home both my legs locked up, spasming uncontrollably. I pulled to curb but I couldn’t even dismount. I had waved Roger and Paul to go ahead to the coffee shop just before I cramped up. All I could do was stand there and not move. After five minutes my muscles had not calmed down. No matter which way I attempted to move, muscles would lock up like a vise. Eventually I stumbled onto the grass and sat down trying to find a position to stop the cramping. After minutes of agony I called Roger and asked him to come get me.

On a long ride I would have brought a small bottle of pickle juice in case of cramps. (You didn’t know pickle juice can help with cramps?). But this was a short ride so I hadn’t. I also had consumed all my water. Roger and Paul arrived and tried to help me. But the cramps were unrelenting and exquisitely painful. Roger went home to get the van because there was no way I could cycle up the hill to the house. Paul, who suffers from dehydation on rides, had some electrolyte pills. I gobbled three of them and more water. After about 15 minutes of struggling I was eventually able to stand and walk very slowly to a cul-de-sac where Roger could pick me up. Paul was very helpful in escorting me in case I fell victim to cramping again. But I didn’t. Roger arrived, we said our farewells—next time we’ll get coffee after a ride, Paul!—and headed home.

I never expected that starting cycling again would bring about such suffering. Each time I have to take an extended break from cycling or exercise, I feel like Sisyphus pushing the rock up the hill only to see it roll back down. In this case it was like Sisyphus pushing a rock uphill and then getting leg cramps!

Fun With Tubeless Tires: Left High & Dry

When all else fails…

A week or so ago I went for a ride in the rain. I didn’t care that it was raining: I wanted to go for a ride and Fulgaz wasn’t going to do it for me. I took the bike with the tubeless tires this time because in the two previous outings I didn’t and guess what? I got flats. In the rain. Do you know how irritating it is to change a tube when it’s raining hard? Oh, and good luck finding the cause of your flat before putting in a fresh tube to get home. When your hands are cold and everything is soaked and covered in dirt, it’s harder to feel for that piece of glass, wire, or flint stuck in your tire. For one of the flats I ended up calling for a rescue to get home since I flatted the spare as well when I didn’t find the cause of the flat and just stuffed the new tube in. (Long story: I actually did find a wire and a piece of glass stuck in the tire and removed them. But it was a yet another glass shard that caused the flat!)

This was no epic ride, just a short jaunt out the local bike path and back. No problem, right? Nope. After the turnaround and while standing going up a slight incline, the rear wheel felt a bit bouncy. But I discounted it since I couldn’t have a puncture because I had tubeless tires! A couple miles later it was obvious I had punctured because the tire was very low. I was able to pull out of the rain under a gas station canopy to try to pump up the deflating tire. There was no use in trying to find the source of the problem because I had fenders that prevented me from inspecting the tire carefully, for what was obviously a slow leak, and anyway everything was filthy and wet. Would I even be able to see the offender? I doubt it. My minipump has a gauge and it said I had about 10-15 lbs. pressure. So a hundred pumps on my minipump and a prayer later the tire still wasn’t hard but good enough for me to get further down the road where I suspected I’d have to stop and add more air. Fortunately one of the local churches down the road had installed a self-standing bike repair station with a floor pump. I pulled in and used it to get the tire up to 60 lbs. I was able to get home without another stop, which was a good thing because it was raining hard.

Per routine I dumped the bike in the shop to be dealt with later. The next day I was able to give it a proper inspection and I found the puncture: it was a sharp, tetrahedral-shaped flint. Being about 3 mm. in size the rock was easy to spot. Interestingly there was no sealant around the intruder. Immediately after popping the sharp stone out, the tire deflated with a rapid hiss. No sealant spewed out. A probe inserted into the valve stem came out dry. Well, that answers that: even though I had topped off the tire about three or four months ago, all the sealant had dried up.

How could the sealant, Orange Seal Endurance, have dried up so quickly? This tire was relatively new and unlike its predecessor it has always lost air through time. This is likely due to a very slight difference in the rim-tire bead interface. There is variation in tire production and all it takes is a minute difference in thickness, uniformity, or diameter and the tire bead may not seat perfectly against the rim. Another possible reason is that despite having cleaned the rim carefully before setting up the new tire I may have missed a bit of old, dried sealant that would have created a gap. That slight difference is enough to leak air slowly. Even though I always had to pump this one up before a ride, it was no more hassle than with latex inner tubes or sewup tires so I didn’t give it too much thought. And the prospect of demounting the tire and cleaning everything over again was too daunting even for someone as anal as I.

Apparently over time the less than ideal seal had allowed the sealant to evaporate more quickly, something that hadn’t occurred to me.

There is a preventative solution, a solution that I knew about but didn’t apply when I set up the tire because I hadn’t confronted this problem before and it thus seemed completely superfluous. After filling the tire with sealant I should have sloshed it around thoroughly so that the sealant flowed around both tire beads. This involves tipping and rolling the wheel every which way to make sure the sealant is distributed throughout the interior of the tire. Then it would seal any tiny gaps at the rim-tire bead interface. Here’s a link to one way to do this.

With this repair I mistakenly thought that all I had to do is add sealant and the hole would vanish, voila! But after adding sealant and pumping the tire, air and sealant spewed endlessly until the tire was almost flat again. A second try had the same ending. I had a hard time believing this was happening: this hole was barely 3-4 mm. long and Orange Seal should have closed it off. But it wouldn’t. So out came the tubeless repair kit. This was the same Genuine Innovations kit I used the last time. And I had the same frustrating experience as before: I just couldn’t get the damn tire plug to go into the hole. By the way, most tubeless repair kits have the same shaped plug tool: it looks like a very tiny two-prong spear. The idea is that the tire plug can somehow be placed between the prongs so that it’s held in place when you jam the thing into the rubber tire and then it releases it. However I’ve never been able to get the plug to fit the prongs. No way José. This is why Dynaplug has become such a hit: there is no prong. Instead the tire plug is capped with a metal spear point that you just mount in the stick tool like an arrowhead and then plung into the hole. When you withdraw the tool, the plug releases easily since it’s not held by any prongs. Besides being ridiculously expensive, Dynaplug has another problem: those metal tips are sharp, deliberately in order to go easily into your puncture. But if you end up having a flat that won’t seal and can’t be replaced with a tire plug, you either put in a spare tube or call for a rescue pickup. But that metal tip now lives in your tire and can puncture any tube that is ever inserted in the future. Basically when you switch to Dynaplugs you can’t go back to tubes without pulling out every one of the plugs first. So I don’t use Dynaplugs.

Sharper than a serpent’s tooth…

As before I ended up just holding the plug against the puncture and jamming it in with a tiny flathead screwdriver and then pumped it up. No leak. And this time I put in so much sealant that for the first time ever I could hear it slosh around as I spun the tire. Oh, and after swirling the wheel every which way for some time, I did notice sealant bubbling out at the rim and eventually sealing. After sitting overnight the tire held air.

By the way, while inspecting this tire after fixing the flat I saw what I thought was a speck of dried sealant on the tread. But it wasn’t: it was the base of a tiny thorn. I popped it out, sealant bubbled out, and it sealed. So although this cautionary tale might seem like I’m yet again kvetching about tubeless road tires, you have to remember that the value of all things is relative: what do you have to endure with the alternatives? In this case I flatted in the rain but it could have been worse: I would have replaced a flatted tube with a spare after finding the flint but then punctured again with the thorn. At least with tubeless I made it home.

If your tubeless road tires regularly lose air, you may inadvertently be drying out your tire sealant at an accelerated rate. So after topping off your tire with abundant sealant, make sure you do the Jan Heine wave to distribute that sealant completely in the tire to seal any tiny gaps and holes.

Ride Recap: Resolution Ride

A bit delayed but the Resolution Ride, the club’s annual start-the-year-off-right jaunt to the top of Mt. Diablo, finally happened today. Although it wasn’t raining on New Year’s Day and we could have had a fabulous ride, the state park was closed because of mudslides, road collapses, and sundry debris imperiling the roadways. So the ride was postponed a month since this was the first weekend that Stephen, the ride leader, would be available. It’s just as well because the rains went on for three more weeks.

Of course the rains would have to return for our second stab at this ride as well! The forecast was looking ominous all week but it looked like the rain wouldn’t hit until Saturday night. With some trepidation the four of us—Stephen, Paul, Roger H, and I—left Pleasant Hill BART up North Gate Road. One benefit of this postponed ride would be that New Year’s is always a moshpit on Diablo with hordes of cyclists, hikers, and car drivers trying to make their way up to Rock Springs, Juniper, and the summit. Today it was quiet—hardly any traffic—making for a really pleasant and undisturbed ascent. Diablo is greening up nicely, the cows were out, and the overcast skies made it a placid scene torn right out of the Swiss playbook (well, minus the Alps!)

On the way up we noticed the damage from the earlier storms: a couple of sections of road that had been cleared of mud, one new major road slip reducing the road to one lane, and a couple more sections of road that have nasty cracking through the pavement and some settling.

The plan was to make a decision at the junction whether to continue up or not because showers were increasingly likely to hit after 1 PM. We were at the junction by 11 AM and it was looking no different than when we had left, ie. midlevel overcast skies with nary a hint of rain. But Roger never wanted to go higher and I had had my fill by the junction—I could have gone to the top but it would have pushed the lever from “I’m having a really chill time riding” into “fuck, I’m busting a gut now”, and anyway I like riding with my husband. And as I mentioned to Paul and Stephen I’m becoming more a porch dog with every day.

So Roger and I cruised down South Gate to Danville but we skipped the ritual lunch stop and went directly back to BART whereas Stephen and Paul were determined—more like consigned—to getting to the top. There is something to be said about commitment, a milestone, and enduring.

Roger and I had an uneventful ride back except for encountering the hundreds and hundreds of South Asians streaming north on the Iron Horse Trail. It turns out tomorrow is Thaipusam, a major Hindu festival day, and this was the ritual pilgrimage done the day before. It was like Woodstock for Hindus. Just as we pulled into Pleasant Hill BART it started to rain. We sure were glad to be off the bike now, lucky us! The rain waxed and waned until we got home at which point the sky actually opened up and dumped just as we got into the garage. Lucky us again!

As for Paul and Stephen? I presume they made it to the top. But Stephen texted me later that they got soaked and were chilled to the bone by the descent. Paul’s report:
“As Stephen mentioned in his text, we had the kind of descent no one wishes for… particularly Mt. Diablo in the cold rain… When we got to the top, it was misting/raining, but we figured it might still be dry below the Junction.  No way – rain all the way down, a scary descent (my non-disc brakes aren’t wonderful), and then a bit more rain as we made our way to a dry and warm Starbucks near the PH Bart station – thank goodness for those great Starbucks employees, who plied us with coffee and hot liquids, to warm our core (which in my case was cold to the bone, along with our soaked clothes and bikes).  But a good ride nonetheless, and a chance to talk to Stephen, who is a great riding companion …  Glad you guys didn’t get wet. Look forward to the next adventure, perhaps not as daring, though.  Thanks!”

Now that’s a proper Resolution Ride!

2023 Centuries: August-November [updated 3/6/23]


5 Saturday. Marin Century. No information on the 2022 Marin Century yet. 100- and 62-mile courses. $110-$90. Registration opens mid-February is open.

6 Sunday. Civilized Century. $40. 100-, 75-, 60- and 35-mile routes. Registration opens June 1. Limited to 200 riders. Here’s the ‘new kid on the block’. The 100-mile route starts in Redwood City goes up to SFO and returns before crossing the Dumbarton and returning around the South Bay.

19 Saturday. Cool Breeze Century. 125-, 107-, 95-, 60- and 34-mile routes. A pleasant, not-too-difficult century down in Ventura county with great weather. Registration opens April 1 (no fooling’!) Limit of 2,000.


2?. Tour de Fuzz. More information in March. Limit of 1,250.

9-16 Sunday to Sunday. Cycle Oregon. 350 to 454 miles. $1,385. The best week tour on the West Coast. Limited to 1,350 and it always sells out quickly. This year’s route is big clockwise loop west of Salem. Registration is open.

9-10 Saturday to Sunday. Bike MS: Waves to Wine. $20 start fee. Ride from San Francisco to Rohnert Park. Minimum $350 fundraising. Currently limited information at website.

15- 17 Friday to Sunday. Eroica California. 108-, 81-, 73-, and 36-mile routes. $150. Limit of 1,500. Only ‘classic’ bikes—usually 1987 or earlier—are allowed. See site for detailed rules. Mixed terrain routes. Registration is open.

16 Saturday. Tour of the Unknown Coast. 100- and 62-mile routes. $100. Tour the redwoods in Humboldt County. Registration opens May 1.

23 Saturday. Napa Valley Ride to Defeat ALS. 100-, 62-, 47-, 28-, and 9-mile routes. $60. Minimum $150 fundraising. Registration fee and then minimum fundraising amount. 100-, 62-, 47-, 28- and 9-mile routes. Registration is open. Routes are pending approval.

30 Saturday. Lighthouse Century. $85. 100-, 75- and 50-mile routes. Limit of 1,000. San Luis Obispo Bicycle Club’s other century. From Morro Bay a detour inland before heading back to the coast and halfway up Highway 1 and back. Registration opens June 11.


1 Saturday. Best of the Bay. 200 miles. Date set but no information yet.

14 Saturday. Best Buddies Challenge. $100 start fee and $5,000 minimum fundraising. 72 mile route. No longer run along Highway 1 and now the route is a loop in west Marin. Registration is open.

21 Saturday. Foxy Fall Century. 100-, 100k, and 50k-routes. No information yet. Limit of 1,500. Registration opens in July.

21 Saturday. Tour de Lincoln. 100k-, 50k-, and 25k-routes. $76-$55. If Foxy Fall is too crowded for you, here’s a community ride just up the road in Lincoln. Registration is open but link is broken.

21 Saturday. Ride Santa Barbara. 100-, 62-, and 34-mile routes. $149-$69. It’s a longish drive south but Santa Barbara is a great place to do century with beach front views and fantastic climbs in the Santa Ynez Mountains including Gibraltar. Registration is open.

?. Tour of the Sacramento River Delta (TOSRD). No information yet. Annual ride from Brannan Island to Sacramento via the Delta on Saturday and return on Sunday. Stay at La Quinta near old town. Includes lunch on Saturday and a post-ride bbq on Sunday.


18 Saturday. Death Valley Century. $165. Limited to 300 riders. Route is a uncertain since in 2022 roads were damaged by rains and their repair in time for the event in unclear. Ride starts in Furnace Creek. Registration is open.

2023 Centuries: May-July [Updated 3/18/23]

Here are noteworthy century rides mostly in the NorCal area.

6 Saturday. Delta Century. 100-, 67-, and 26-mile routes. $65-$45. Very flat rides starting in Woodbridge tour the Sacramento Delta. Registration should open in January is open.

6 Sunday. Wine Country Century. 100-, 63- and 34-mile routes. $110-$80. A club fave and great food. It always sells out so register early. Limited to 2,500. Registration is open.

6 Saturday. Mr. Frog’s Wild Ride. 55-, 43- and 21-mile routes. $75-$40. A challenging hilly ride out of Murphys including Sheep Ranch Road. Registration is open.

7 Sunday. Grizzly Peak Century. 100-, 75-, and 50-mile routes. And a 60-mile gravel route. $90. Limit of 1,000 riders. Registration opens mid-January is open.

13? Sunday. I Care Classic. 100-, 62-, 32- and 10-mile routes. $95. Riding in the Santa Clara Valley between San Jose and Gilroy. Run by the Almaden Lions Club. Registration is open.

20? Saturday. Davis Double. 200 miles, period. $140. Limited to 500 riders. Registration opens March 1.

21 Sunday. Strawberry Fields Forever. 102-, 64-, and 30-mile routes. $100. Out of Watsonville and into the Santa Cruz Mountains. Registration is open.

19-21 Friday to Sunday. Cycle Oregon (Gravel). 66 & 61-mile, or 34 & 26-mile days. $375. Cycle Oregon is offering a two-day gravel trip. Limited to 500. Registration opens January 24 is open.

27-28? Saturday-Sunday. The Art of Survival Century. 100-, 60-, 38-mile road routes & 74-, 54-mile gravel routes. $75-$25. Rides near the Oregon border in NW California. Registration is open.

3 Saturday. Gold Country Challenge. 100-, 74-, 54-, and 35-mile road routes; also 42- and 62-mile mixed terrain routes. $80-$60. Registration is open.

3 Saturday. Ojai Valley Century. 128-, 102-, 67-, and 35-mile routes. $90-$60. A bit further south in Ventura County in the Ojai Valley out to Santa Barbara and back. Registration is open.

4 Sunday. Sequoia Century. 101-, 76-, and 59-mile routes. $125-95. A venerable century going from the Midpeninsula over the Coast Range to coastside and back. Will Stage Road be repaired and open by June? Registration is open.

17 Saturday. Climb to Kaiser. $125. 155- and 99-mile routes. The hardest climb in California: 15,000 vertical gain. Registration is open.

17 Sunday to 24 Sunday. Sierra to the Sea. 420 miles over 8 days. $1,500. Limit of 85 riders. Registration is open.

18 Sunday. Mile High 100. 108-, 56- and 33-mile routes. $95-$65. Rides around Lake Almanor near Chester, CA and Lassen. Registration is open.

24 Saturday. Alta Alpina Challenge. Registration is not yet open.

24 Saturday. Giro Bello. 100-, 63- and 35-miles routes. Similar to the Wine Country Century and in the same area. No information yet.

15? Saturday. Fall River Century. 200k, 100k-, 100-, and 25-mile routes. $75-$50. Beautiful rides east of Mt. Shasta. No word yet on whether this event will take place in 2023.

15 Saturday. Death Ride. $139. 103 miles. Monitor, Ebbetts, and Pacific Grade summit for 14,000 vertical gain. Registration is open.

15-16 Saturday-Sunday. STP. 206 miles. $200-$160. The big ride: Seattle to Portland. Overnight in Centralia with camping or cheap lodging from $50-$25. But you’re doing it in one day, right?

29 Saturday. Santa Cruz Mountains Challenge. 125-, 100-, and 50-mile routes. $90. Registration opens February 1 is open. Despite storm damage there are defined RWGPS routes for all of them.

2022: Parting Glances, part 2

There were some club rides in 2022 that I found especially enjoyable and I hope we shall do them again this year. And there were a few rides I didn’t get to do last year and that I desperately want to do this year, Allah willing, and I’ll address those in a separate post.

Tony’s 2022 favs, in no particular order.

Stage Road and Coastside. These roads are wellworn and no surprise—they’re beautiful, scenic, and mostly quiet. Who doesn’t love riding down the San Mateo coast along Highway One? If there is no fog or rain, the views of the Pacific are borderline astonishing accompanied by the redolent salt air. And despite being so close to SillyCon Valley, the tiny town of Pescadero and Stage Road are usually untrafficked and quiet allowing you to ride in pastoral serenity undisturbed by the mishegoss just over the hills. And I and many Spokers have ridden it many times. But what made this ride a breakthrough for me last year was that we did it without starting in either Half Moon Bay or Palo Alto, which would have made it a 60-mile day. Instead the Davids’ innovation was to start it in Pescadero making it only a 31-mile loop and without a big climb over the Coast range. I finally understood the meaning of “eat dessert first” and how impatience can be a virtue.

New Speedway Boogie (Patterson and Altamont Passes). The club doesn’t go up Altamont very often. It is infamous more for the daily logjammed commute on Highway 580 than for its beauty. But beautiful it is when you go there at the right time. Hit it in winter or early spring when the as-yet undeveloped hills are intensely green and you’ll experience what it used to be like decades ago when all of the land east of Livermore was pristine: no cars, lonely country roads, and grassland hills with oak trees. In 2022 we went up Patterson and took the California Aqueduct bikeway north to Altamont Pass for the return. Right at the turnaround point there is Valero minimart with—among many other things—coffee, fried chicken, a taqueria, a Subway, and a Wienerschnitzel! And the views at the top of both passes can’t be beat!

Velo Love Ride. I’m an unadulterated proponent of this ride, which until 2022 Roger and I were the only Spokers who had done it. It’s a beautiful winter ride around the Sutter Buttes not too far from the Oroville Dam, a slightly long drive from the Bay Area. Chico Velo offered this supported century at the oddest time of the year, early February when it is likely to be rained out and at the very least would proffer up challenging weather. It’s been on hiatus for a few years but not for us: we go up there every year as long as it isn’t raining. It’s dead-flat for 60 miles with only one small hill. The loop takes in the rice fields, ag land, and many fruit and nut orchards, which often are starting to bloom around Valentine’s Day, the traditional weekend to do this ride. It can be cold and since it’s during the rainy season it can be wet. But the real challenge of the ride can be wind since you’re completely exposed for much of the ride. But other than the start town of Gridley and midway hitting Sutter the ride is completely rural and devoid of traffic. In 2022 David Goldsmith decided to join us and we got to gape at all the flowering orchards this time. Maybe you’ll join us in 2023?

Old La Honda and Tunitas Creek. Also no surprise here since these roads are so well-trodden as to be posterchildren for Northern California riding. But I hadn’t done them in quite a while (because there was a time when I did these roads ALL the time and burned out on them). But this time was special because the Loma Mar Store finally reopened after about a yearslong remodel and it’s now an even better place for a midride stop. Their new restaurant is a welcome change from Arcangeli Store in Pescadero. Loma Mar’s food and coffee are excellent and the new owners are a peach. We also took our time on this ride and turned it into a day-long jaunt! Taking a long—even if unnecessary—break at the Bike Hut just to chat and look at the birds made it a special day. That’s something we don’t often do: stop to take a break just because we could!

SLO Wildflower. This is a century that I have known about for ages. But like many of you I never did it because the drive to the Paso Robles area is long enough to be a deterrent. The San Luis Obispo Bicycling Club also usually mounts this event the same weekend as the Chico Wildflower and/or the Primavera. The latter is a mere hop, skip, and a jump away in Fremont making it the lazy person’s default century and the former was for many years the club spring century must-do with hordes of Spokers driving up to Chico to make it a default getaway weekend. So when David Goldsmith and Roger Sayre suggested this ride I gave it a pass until my husband’s eyes twinkled at the prospect of riding someplace different for a change. When Adrienne, a former member who now lives near Paso, enthusiastically offered to host a barbecue at her place, the deal was signed, sealed, and delivered! It all turned out to be a fabulous weekend with almost 30 Spokers making the trip. The weather cooperated with a beautifully sunny, if chilly, morning. Although I had ridden in this area about 30 years ago, it was a welcome rediscovery as the Wildflower route is amazingly beautiful, quiet, and even had decent pavement! Oak woodland in California in its unspoiled state is charming and inviting during spring. Those who did the full hundred-mile route had to endure some the worst county roads in California for about 15 miles. But those of us who did the 80- or 50-mile route escaped that and had a totally perfect day. That won’t be a problem in 2023 since SLOBC has axed the one hundred mile route due to the disappearance of the wildflowers along the long route due to climage change. Just maybe we’ll go back in 2023?

Alpine Dam. This is another club fav, which in a previous incarnation was called the Evil Stepsisters ride when it was offered annually on the same day as the Cinderella Century, which is for women/girls only. You can climb Tam and descend to Alpine Dam or come from Fairfax to the Dam and then climb up the Seven Sisters to Tam and down. This ride was planned to be done clockwise, which I like less because then one has to descend the Seven Sisters. That descent is almost a straight line down to the Dam so either you go very fast or you ride the brakes. I prefer to climb up through Fairfax, which is less trafficked than Pan Toll, and go up the Seven Sisters. Fortuitously Jeff and Mark decided at the last minute to invert the loop, so we ended up riding it counterclockwise! This is another ride that I had done to death when I lived in SF. But after a twenty-year hiatus revisiting this old ride reminded me of why I used to ride it so often: it’s beautiful and challenging.

Cavedale. This was a discovery for me. I had never done Cavedale before and probably for a good reason: until now it was a wretched, pothole-ridden example of why riding in Sonoma county is a blessing and a curse: the scenery can be so enticing yet the road quality is akin to what one would find in an undeveloped country. It also intersects with Trinity, which often is heavily trafficked. But we fortuitiously chose a day to climb this steep road when it was being repaved to a glassy sheen thanks to none other than PG&E. For most of the climb it was beautiful, fresh asphalt as smooth as can be; the last third hadn’t been reconstructed yet and we got to taste what it had been like for the past 30 years or so. The views of the Sonoma Valley are robust and breathtaking making stops a must even if you don’t have to catch your breath.

But what made all of these rides so pleasurable? It wasn’t just the road quality, the weather, or the scenery—it was the company. Riding with fellow Spokers who enjoy riding in Northern California as much as I do, having idle yet memorable conversations with Spokerati, sharing a midride meal, and building memories of fun days on two wheels. That’s what made these rides my faves for 2022!

2022: Parting Glances, part 1

Fond Farewell To An Effulgent 2022!

Before we launch into 2023, let’s take a final look at what the past year was like for our club. In no particular order and without further ado:

Lies, Damn Lies, and Statistics. We had 100 rides. That’s roughly two rides every week on average. We hadn’t had this many since 2014. Our ride calendar had been dropping off a cliff since 2012 and hit a lowly 52 in 2017. We have slowly rebuilt the membership and consequently the number of ride leaders and rides since then. When David Goldsmith became president in 2019, he said he was hoping for two rides every week. Mission accomplished! David had a big role in us hitting the number too: he was the most prolific ride leader of 2022 with 44 rides! I was in second place with a comparatively teeny 19 rides; our treasurer Mark Cook was third with 12 as was David Millard, who led the dirt contingent. And membership? In 2021 our membership climbed slowly and we wondered if we’d make it back to 100 by the end of the year. We did but just barely! In 2022 we topped that by growing 20% up to 121. If we can make it up to 130 or so in 2023, we’ll be back to where we were twenty years ago!

Short-sighted. Talk about schizophrenic behavior: although the previous board had all but resolved not to chase after so-called casual cyclists, that all changed when Laura joined and wanted to make a go of it. She convinced David and they started the Short & Sassy rides. In 2022 S&S rides were mostly short versions of the Jersey Ride but they still managed to attract some attendance. One disappointment this year was the complete lack of interest in the Rosie the Riveter ride, which is part of the annual Fall Social. This ride is an easy, flat ride that should have brought out the S&S folks. (Perhaps next year we’ll replace it with a dirt ride instead, which used to be a popular option in the late ‘90s.) Perhaps we’ll see a surge of interest in shorter rides in 2023!

“Mixed” Feelings. After sputtering attempts to restart interest in riding off-asphalt, the club finally hit its stride in 2022 thanks to David Millard. He led a spate of mixed surface and dirt rides including a beautiful jaunt to Purisima Creek east of Half Moon Bay and a whole lot of rides in the Headlands. Getting even dirtier he led a pretty serious ride on Eldridge on Mt. Tam that even had some bloodshed! “Gravel” rides in 2023, anyone?

Swept Away. David Goldsmith and David Gaus led a wonderful “training” series in January through May ostensibly to get ready for the SLO Wildflower—more on that below—and other century rides. The very first ride, which was to cross the Bay Bridge, ended up being cancelled by a tsunami due to the eruption of the underwater volcano near Tonga. Other than that the drought meant we had few rides cancelled by rain this year.

Merrily We Roll Along. We had no less than three ride series in 2022. To celebrate our 40th year, Roger and I put together a ride each month scattered around the Bay Area just as we did for our 30th in 2012. For the latter we resurrected a bunch of popular and unusual rides from the early days of the club; this time we did some Golden Oldies but also threw in a bunch of newer rides that Spokers love such as Pleasants Valley and Franz Valley. The Davids’ spring series was also very popular and ran the gamut from the Three Bears to SF-to-SJ. The Foxy Fall Century’s pandemic hiatus ended and so David Goldsmith led a short series in the late summer to get ready for it as well culminating in a big group of Spokers heading to the Valley to enjoy a surprisingly mild fall day.

“When you’re alone and life is making you lonely…” The 2020 Kick Off Meeting just squeaked by on February 26, 2020 and then the statewide Shelter-In-Place order went out. For 2021 we had to make do with an online Zoom Kick Off instead. But it was back to real life for 2022 thanks to Nancy for hosting us at her spacious outdoor back patio in the heart of the City. There was a thirst for getting together IRL—27 people attended, a huge jump from the usual number—to hear club plans for the year including the upcoming getaway weekend to the SLO Wildflower and the 40th anniversary celebration events. Will we be back to Sports Basement in 2023? Let’s hope so.

Flower Power. The San Luis Obispo Wildflower century unexpectedly yet organically turned into 2022’s getaway weekend. The Monterey/Pajaro Dunes Weekend was unfortunately cancelled in 2020 and again in 2021 by the pandemic. Our getaway weekends usually involve renting a house or camping area where the entire group can stay together and cook dinner together. The SLO Wildflower was just going to be your usual century ride but just a little bit further out of the Bay Area than we usually go. There turned out to be a lot of interest in going to SLO maybe because it was an unfamiliar-to-DSSF ride in an area that was a reputation for stellar riding, Paso Robles. We also happen to have a former member who now lives down there, Adrienne, who enthusiastically opened her house to us for a hosted barbecue dinner. Something like 25 Spokers and fellow travelers showed up for a beautiful weekend in Central California. The Friday evening dinner was potluck but Adrienne and her husband really did the lion’s share of the labor by fronting slabs of barbecued ribs and all the sides. And vegetarian and vegan choices too! Thanks Adrienne!! Saturday’s ride had most of the Spokers doing the full century with a difficult final twenty miles on some of the worst paved roads in California; the smart set did the shorter 80-mile ride that skipped the plethora of potholes and got us back to the finish to sup without feeling beaten to death. The even smarter set did the 50-mile route, which the initial scenic loop through some of the nicest roads we’ve seen in years. Will we go back in 2023? If so there will be one more Spoker to join the crowd: Adrienne’s new baby!

Born This Way. The 2022 Pride followed the successful playbook of 2021: two short rides—an ascent up Twin Peaks to the Pink Triangle for the animals and then a subsequent loop down to Lake Merced for those wanting an easier celebration. And of course, punctuated by coffee and deliciously decorated Pride donuts! It was our most popular ride of 2022. Can we top this in 2023? Pride bagels perhaps? Pink mimosas?

And Now For Something Completely Different Spokes. I didn’t attend this event qua ride but it certainly was something très different: the KAV factory tour. Coming from the fertile mind of David Goldsmith, he was so impressed with his new 3D printed custom helmet that he got KAV, which is based in Redwood City, to offer a tour of their facility and custom fit anyone who attended as well as provide a free lunch! It doesn’t get better than that. Oh yeah, and since it’s local why not turn it into a fun ride as well from SF down the Bay Trail? Done.

Forty is the new Thirty. Forty revolutions around the Sun called nothing less than a celebratory dinner and a memorable program along with a ride that was on point. The soiree and ride were held in September, the month with the predictably best weather for San Francisco. So of course we had the freak rainstorm wash out plans for an outdoor “night under the stars” at Il Casaro on Church Street. Hurriedly we reset up inside and ended up having a cozy party. Thanks to David Goldsmith for suggesting the restaurant, which did a stellar job in welcoming us and producing a delicious dinner with so much food that they even made doggie boxes for everyone to take home! Bob Krumm, our long-gone first president, made it a really special evening by coming all the way out from New Jersey to join us and recount the origins of the club along with the other surviving founder, Dave Freling. Bob Krumm and I had managed to hunt down and roust a bunch of old (in both senses of the word) Spokers from the very early days of the club to come out and see how their foundling child has been doing. Pretty good I’d say! The ride the day before was not rained out but instead was a pleasant, sunny day that brought out a huge crowd only dwarfed by the Pride Rides. Now if we can make it to 50… (Will any of the old farts still be around by then?)

2023 Centuries: January-April [updated 2/28/23]

What’s happening in 2023? Clubs and organizations mostly came back in 2022 and offered their usual centuries. A few did not such as the Pedaling Paths to Independence and the Crater Lake Century. Let’s hope they have the interest and energy to put them back on the calendar for 2023. The risk of event postponement or cancellation due to Covid seems over barring something unforeseen. Vaccinations seem to have greatly reduced the chances of a superspreader event.

Here’s what we know so far for the first months of 2023. April is when the calendar really starts to get packed.

1 Saturday. Resolution Ride/New Year’s Day Up Diablo. 38 miles. No fee. This isn’t a century but it’s the first “big” ride of the year and practically a club tradition. See the listing in the club calendar.

11 Saturday. Tour of Palm Springs. 102-, 85-, 56-, 34-, 25-, and 7-mile routes. $100-$30. This is by today’s standards a huge ride—many thousands of cyclists. It’s a long drive south but hey, it’s Palm Springs! Registration is open.

12 Sunday. Velo Love Ride. 60 miles. No fee. This event had put on by Chico Velo since at least the mid-Oughts if not earlier. It’s a much lower key event than their Wildflower, attracting only a couple hundred cyclists in a good year. It’s pleasantly flat and tours the scenic valley area around the Sutter Buttes providing an excellent early season metric. Unfortunately Chico Velo hasn’t been able to find a member willing to organize this long held ride. But Different Spokes is going to go up there to ride it anyway as long as it doesn’t rain. See the listing in the club calendar. If you’re unfamiliar with the Velo Love Ride, you can read about it here, here, and here.

25 Saturday. Pedaling Paths to Independence. 65- and 25-mile routes. $55 and $45. This benefit for the Community Center for the Blind and Visually Impaired is their annual fundraising ride out of Linden, which is just east of Stockton. It’s a small event of about 250-300 riders and this year is their comeback from the pandemic. It tours the rolling ag land south and east of the town. If you’re unfamiliar with this ride, you can read more about it here. Registration is open.

4 Saturday. Solvang Century. 101-, 68-, and 52-mile routes. $125-$105 Now $135-$115. Although the Solvang has never been short of participants—several thousand is the usual number—since being sold to Planet Ultra there is now a limit of 1,000 riders. Registration opens December 25 is now open.

15 Saturday. Cinderella Classic & Challenge. 95-, 65-, and 30-mile routes. $70-$30. Limit of 900 riders; women/girls only. The Classic starts at Las Positas College near Livermore and traverses a big loop through Danville, Dublin, and Pleasanton. Registration will open January 5 is now open.

22 Saturday. Tierra Bella Century. 100-, 77-, 55-, and 33-mile routes. $65 Now $75. Limit of 1,500. Starts in Gilroy and takes in the climbs and reservoirs in Santa Clara Valley. New routes this year. Registration opens Jan. 1 is now open. There may be masking required at rest stops. And new “Southern Picnic” meal after ride!

22 Saturday. Levi’s Gran Fondo. 139-, 120-, 81-, 63-, 40-, and 22-mile routes. $295-$140. Some new routes this year. Registration is open.

20-23 Thursday through Sunday. Sea Otter Classic. 92- and 50- mile road routes. $125. Sea Otter returns to its usual April slot. Registration is open.

23 Sunday. Primavera Century. 100-, 90-, 63-, and 25-mile routes. $95-$40. Starting in Fremont the 100-mile route heads up Calaveras, around the reservoir and then out to Patterson Pass before returning and over Palomares to Fremont. Registration is open.

29 Saturday. SLO Wildflower. 63-, 52- and 30-mile routes. $85 Now $105. Limit of 1,000. SLOBC has decided to cancel the 100-mile route due to climate change, ie. the wildflowers have all disappeared from the route. Last year the club went down to do this ride and had a great time. Registration is open.

30 Sunday. Chico Wildflower. 125-, 100-, 65-, 60-, 30-, and 12-mile routes. $85-$25 Now $95-$35. This used to be the ‘must do’ club ride qua getaway weekend. Terrific riding despite the incineration of Paradise four years ago during the Camp Fire. Registration is open.

Fun With Tubeless Tires: Dodging A Bullet. Again.

I’m so modern!

Typically when I return from a ride, I throw the bike in the corner and forget about it until later; sometimes ‘later’ is the next time I ride it. In this case I rode the bike with the tubeless tires and when I got home, I felt the tires: the rear was soft. In no mood to deal with it then, I put it off until the evening. I hate having to deal with bike repair issues when I’m tired but in this case I figured it wouldn’t take too long. I cleaned the tire and managed to pull out flints and small sharp objects embedded in the rubber. Then I felt the air rushing out and knew it was a simple, small puncture. But why wasn’t the sealant working?

I removed the valve core, which was semi-clogged with sealant—another issue I should deal with, and stuck a probe into the tire; it came out dry. Well, that answers that: I had allowed all the sealant to dry up and apparently hadn’t topped it off in recent months hence the leak. With Stan’s Sealant I wouldn’t have been surprised since in my experience I have needed to add Stan’s about every three or four months. But I have been using Orange Seal Endurance since giving up on Stan’s and this stuff lasts much longer, something like eight to ten months. Had it been that long since I had added sealant?

So here are a few words of advice if you’re running tubeless tires and sealant. First, mark down when you’ve added sealant or make a note in your calendar to check it at regular intervals. Despite my best intentions I never do this but I am sure that if my phone nagged me to do it, I would at least give it a second thought before ignoring it!

Second, put in more sealant than you think you need—I mean, a LOT more. That extra weight in your tire? Honestly you won’t feel it. And anyway, it’s going to evaporate more quickly than you realize leaving you with less weight and the joy of experiencing flats again. Also, putting more in means you can ignore it for a really long time until it dries up completely!

Third, just because you’re using sealant doesn’t mean you can forget about your tires. The previous rear tire I wore down to the casing. Was it because I’m a cheap ass? Well, yes partly. But it was also because I had gotten lulled into ignoring it as I wasn’t giving me any problems. I just happened to notice one day while out on a ride that I could see large sections of casing! So look at your tires every now and then. I also do this to pull pieces of glass, wire, and flints out, giving me the satisfaction that running tubeless plus sealant was a good decision.

Back to the flat tire: of course after I pulled a piece of glass out of the tire, the air rushed out as there wasn’t any sealant left in the tire. Adding more sealant was easy. I don’t like to pull off the tire bead and pour it in because it’s just asking to be spilled all over when I try to get the tight bead back on the rim. However the advantage of doing that is I can see more accurately how much sealant I’m adding. Instead I prefer to remove the valve core and attach a tube to the stem to pump the sealant in. Less fuss, no mess. The disadvantage is I have no idea how much sealant I’m adding. So I just pump a lot in because having ‘too much’ is kinda impossible. When I did this and then aired up the tire, the puncture started to spit sealant—thank god it was a tiny puncture because otherwise it might not seal and I’d have a bigger problem. All I had to do now was roll the tire so the puncture was at the bottom. In a few minutes it was sealed. I went to bed. Next day I checked the tire: still hard, so success!

In this case I was probably very lucky either to have had a very slow leak or to have punctured close to home because it certainly didn’t feel soft when I was riding. The last time I made this same mistake I flatted about a mile from home, so it was pretty easy to get back to the manse to deal with it. At least if I had been far from home with a flat and had to put a tube in, I wouldn’t have gotten covered in wet sealant unlike the last time.