My Springtime Triple Double

I don’t really recall how it all started. Maybe it was a suggestion from Jerome. Or a way to defy impending mid life. Perhaps I was just curious if I could physically and mentally deal with riding my Serotta all day to the tune of 200 miles and complete a double century without killing myself. Of course, it could also be that I get to see guys with great legs and asses all day too. Whatever the reason, I did my first DC in
2007 at the Solvang spring event. I proceeded to do two more last year, the Davis Double in May and August’s Mt. Tam Double. For completing this trifecta of rides, I earned the right to wear the Triple Crown jersey with its coveted California bear flag logo.

What surprised me about the DCs I did was how much I enjoyed them. There is a certain exhilaration in covering that much ground, seeing that much beautiful scenery and driving yourself close to physical exhaustion in the name of a single day’s recreation. I enjoy a good challenge, and with the amount of riding I have been doing, I find it just takes more effort to get a peak endorphin release. Call me an addict – I do double centuries to get a fix and because I can.

Yes, depending on which bib I am wearing, my butt may get a little sore, but I’ve actually found my feet bother me more from riding that long. Aside from that, I have been very fortunate in how little I have to complain about physically after finishing these rides, especially considering how little I stretch. I can honestly say, I haven’t gotten bored and I generally feel better toward the finish than I do at the 100-150 mile point.

Three card poker and butter cookies

The last weekend in March was cool and partly cloudy when I left for the 5 hour drive down 101 to the adorable little Danish-themed hamlet of Solvang. I arrived late in the afternoon, before Jerome and before registration opened. Since I had already walked around and admired the faux Scandinavian architecture last year, I decided to kill time at the Chumash Indian casino just outside of town. The place was kinda quiet when I got there, before the locals came out in search of a weekend night’s thrill.

I sat down to play three card poker for an hour or so. I am no big spender, so my $5 and $10 bets paled in comparison to the guy who breezed by with a group of friends and plunked down $300 on one hand. The first time he did this he lost, but nonplused, he came back a second time and won his money back and more with a three card straight flush. Emboldened, I increased my bet to $20 and promptly won $600 myself with three kings (gotta love those 30 to 1 odds). In about half an hour, I won a similar amount with another three of a kind. It was obvious this was going to be a good weekend! I rewarded myself with (yet another) bike jersey and some Danish butter cookies and checked in for the ride.


The Solvang DC is a relatively easy double with only about 8,000 feet of elevation gain throughout the entire ride. It starts in Solvang before sunrise (I started about 6am) and makes a large counter-clockwise loop though the beautiful Santa Ynez wine growing region, then up towards San Luis Obispo and Morro Bay, which is the turnaround point.

Stretches of this ride are a little dull, and while I never get truly bored riding, I did resort to listening to my Ipod for a few hours, typically to high bpm dance or electronic rock on the long, flat stretches. I find I often pass solo riders and get passed by the occasional pace line (I am still not a big fan of riding in them). The winds heading toward the coast were a challenge, but once at Morro Bay, we were rewarded with a nice tailwind and a ride back down the coast to Pismo Beach, Guadalupe and Santa Maria that will make those who have done the ALC smile.

Recovery ride? No let’s go wine tasting

Jerome and I both had successful rides. Last year, I got a flat tire in the fields north of Guadalupe. Having a flat on a DC is really a drag when you need nearly all the daylight you can get. I was pleased that the five doubles I have done since have been free of mechanical issues.

To celebrate our accomplishment and my Chumash winnings from Friday, I treated Jerome (who has done more than twice as many doubles as me) to a steak dinner at the casino and taught him how to play three card poker. Beginners luck kicked in and Jerome won several hundred dollars at the game too. Flush with cash ($100 bills make me nervous) we recreated the movie Sideways on Sunday and bought a few cases of the area’s best Viogniers, Pinots and Syrahs.

On the drive back to the Bay Area, Jerome planted the bug in my ear about doing the Devil Mountain Double. I gotta admit I had looked at the DMD website, and even I was intimidated by the ominous tone of the difficulty and rigorous pace of the ride. After a week or so though, I figured I’d give it a try, so I registered for the ride and also made reservations for two nights at the San Ramon Marriott. Seems silly to stay at a hotel so close to home, but when you have a 4am wakeup call and plan on arriving back very tired and well after dark, who wants to drive back to the City?

Sunrise over Diablo

Compared to the Solvang DC which has nearly 500 participants, the DMD is a small event. A group called Quack Cyclists puts on this ride and they do a spectacular job. I’ve never felt so pampered on an organized ride before (except maybe for the massage tent at ALC). It was surreal to see riders filing out of their hotel rooms and down the corridor to the elevator bank before the 5am mass start.

The ride started with the 150 or so riders riding through the streets of San Ramon and Blackhawk to the base of Mount Diablo. There is something quite peaceful about riding in the dark, but before we had finished more than a few miles of the ascent up of the south approach, we were greeted by sunrise over the East Bay foothills. It was perfectly clear and the day promised to be a very warm one for late April.

Ten Advil and a bottle of Endurolytes please

The Devil Mountain Double may well be the toughest single day ride in California. In 206 miles, it climbs Mt. Diablo, Morgan Territory, Altamont Pass, Mt. Hamilton, Sierra Road, Palomares Canyon and Norris Canyon. That’s nearly 20,000 feet of climbing in one day. For comparison, the well-marketed Death Ride is a measly 125 miles with only 15,000 feet of climbing.

The wind gods were smiling on us, as we did not face strong headwinds though Livermore and had a nice tail wind on the long grinding ascent up Mines Road and to our lunch stop at the Junction Café. This place is really more of a dive bar / motorcycle hangout in the middle of nowhere, but they do serve burgers, fries and cold drinks. I had met the owner while playing cards in Tahoe before last summer’s Death Ride, so I say hi to her every time I stop by.

I thoroughly enjoyed the burger, potato salad and several cans of V8 (salt is an endurance rider’s best friend) at lunch as well as a few Advils and more Endurolytes. I like to think of it as better riding through chemistry. I probably overdid it on the ibuprofen though, ingesting something like ten of them throughout the day. I thought of this as I lay in bed Sunday morning and couldn’t feel my feet…

The best lemonade ever!

The Junction stop was the second of two time cutoffs for the DMD. Participants needed to be at that point by 4pm at mile 115 of the ride in order to continue. I was merrily on my way up the backside of Mt. Hamilton around 2:30 for the rest of the ascent up to the 4,200 foot summit. The last five miles were an incredible grind. By this time, it was hot, I am sure well into the 90s and the average grade for the last five miles is around 8%, with several sections much higher.

There were actually two or three times I needed to get off my bike in the shade just to rest for a few minutes. After the longest hour of the day, I arrived at the rest stop just before the summit and enjoyed several juice boxes of Trader Joe’s all natural lemonade before the long, satisfying descent down Hamilton to San Jose.

After another rest stop, our final big test of the day loomed: the three-mile climb up the way steep Sierra Road. This one has small stretches of pavement that exceed 20% grade and an average over 10%. By this time (155 miles into the ride), the riders were scattered far apart. In fact, I only saw around five riders the whole second half of the ride. I arrived at the top of Sierra after 6pm, with the temperatures finally falling a little bit. This rest stop, called “pet the goat” featured its own mini petting zoo along with hot cups of noodles, a common feature at the later rest stops on double centuries for its combination of carbs, salt and warmth.

With the last big challenge out of the way, completing the DMD was just a matter of time and cranking out another fifty miles. Energized, I sailed through the scenic Calaveras Reservoir area and on toward the last rest stop at the Sunol train station, arriving there just as the sun set at 8pm. I was feeling good and didn’t even get off my bike before pressing on.

Palomares after dark

The whole section between San Jose and Castro Valley is another of my favorite riding areas. Niles Canyon, despite its narrow shoulder, is an enjoyable and fast ride and the climb up Palomares is truly a favorite of mine. I have done it so many times, I felt very comfortable riding it in the dark. My headlight provided a sufficient beam of light, but I was curious what kind of wildlife was peering out at me from just beyond the road surface. I thought of the DSSF group ride we did several years ago which had more than five flats in this area. The idea of trying to change a flat in the dark was a bit unnerving. Please god, I thought, no flat tires tonight!

After the descent of Palomares, it was up and over Niles Canyon and back to San Ramon for the finish of this epic ride. I was pleased to finish before 10pm, less than 17 hours after the mass 5am start. My average speed was just under 14 mph and I was very happy to place in the top 1/3 of those who started and 52nd among the 112 riders who finished. After enjoying a plate of pasta and collecting (another) jersey, it was off to shower and bed.

The hotter than 100 200

My third DC for the spring was the Davis Double on May 24th. I was interested in doing this ride again because last year the route was changed the morning of the ride due to a brush fire and, instead of a loop, it was an out and back. Instead of fires this year, we just had incredible heat. When I arrived in the wonderful college town and bike friendly city of Davis on Friday evening, it was still well into the 90s, and I was ecstatic to sleep in a room that felt like a refrigerated box for the evening after several days of Bay Area heat wave. I was on my own for this ride-if you can believe it, Jerome had something else to do besides biking-his San Francisco French acting debut.

Saturday was an extraordinarily hot day, with temperatures topping out at 102 along the route. The ride was well supported, with ten rest stops, but I still decided to wear my Camelback in order to make sure I could stay hydrated. I have never had so much to drink on a ride before! Due to the excessive conditions, I was careful to keep my heart rate below 150 on the steep parts of the climbs and focused less on my speed and more on just trying to staying cool. The Davis DC is the most popular double, with over 725 participants this year, but on this day, there were many riders who sagged and did not finish.

Five miles of butterflies

The Davis DC is actually a beautiful ride, once you get through the fast (averaging over 20 mph) first forty flat miles of agricultural fields and into the foothills at the border of Solano and Napa counties. We were on the first serious climb of the day, well before 8am, toward Monticello Dam and our second rest stop (I skipped the first one – the only one I skipped all day).

There, just after the Napa County sign, I was greeted by a most unusual riding experience-five miles of dense monarch butterflies. When I say dense, I mean it – think The Birds but with smaller creatures with gossamer wings. Let me tell you – butterflies sting when you hit them going downhill at 30 mph. Still, this was preferable to the swarms of gnats encountered on last year’s Mt. Hamilton Challenge or the numerous tarantulas crossing the road on David Gaus’ autumnal Quen Sabe rides.

After skirting around Lake Berryessa, we headed northwest to Middletown and Clearlake. This stretch featured the toughest climb of the day, the steep ascent up Cobb Mountain, with 2,000 feet of climbing in just five miles. Triple chain ring time on this hot day! After an enjoyable rest stop featuring Aretha Franklin’s greatest hits, it was time for a little more climbing and then a wonderful descent down to our lunch in Clearlake. While I was able to eat a bit during lunch, for the most part, the day was so hot that it was difficult to stomach food, so most of my calories came from Perpetuem, fresh fruit, sodas and V8s.

Stretches of the Davis DC reminded me of rides I have done in Colorado – long, straight stretches of well-paved descents. I maxed out at over 50 mph on one of them. The scenery in Napa, Lake and Colusa Counties on this ride is spectacular and I look forward to creating a group ride out of part of it that is less than 80 miles long.

Ice ice baby to go

Happily the 9,000 feet of climbing on the Davis DC is concentrated in the middle and pretty much over after Resurrection. While it was relatively speedy ride (17.1 mph) for me, the hot air currents definitely were a drag on my time. At the final two rest stops, I enjoyed several more cold hose downs and even rode the last 25 miles with only my bib on. Not only was it cooler to ride in the late afternoon that way, it also helped to blend those sharp farmer tan lines.

So when friends ask me what I’ve been up to lately, I guess the correct answer is a lot of biking. In the space of two months since mid-March, I’ve done 15 rides and more than 1,500 miles of biking, including three centuries, three double metrics and three doubles in that time. Maybe this year I have over-trained for ALC…

China Camp picnic

I was hoping for nice weather for the club picnic, but who would have guessed the heat wave that arrived, that it would be80 degrees when I parked behind McLaren Lodge for the ride to and from the picnic. 80 degrees at 8:30 in the morning in the City! That did not keep eight of us (Larry, Rico, Cory, Doug, Michael, Will and Peter) from joining Jerome for the ride to the picnic site at Buckeye Point. Roger provided the morning food SAG, collecting food and beverages as they arrive by car or by bike at McLaren lodge for transportation. Meanwhile Patrick and Les were collecting and transporting beverages, ice and the picnic staples.

Crossing the Golden Gate Bridge was interesting, the temperature drop once we were on the bridge was dramatic, as was the immediate rise in temperature on the Marin side, even before arriving at the parking lot at Conzelman. We regrouped for coffee and snacks at Rulli Gran Cafe in Larkspur before making our way over Wolfe Grade and on to China Camp State Park.

Before the day was over, we had nearly 30 members and guests, including Aaron and Simone, Derek, Wly, John, Cameron, Larry’s partner Trevor and their friend Diane, Will’s new beau Kevin, and Jade and her girlfriend. Stephanie was joined by David G3 and Nancy for the pre-picnic training ride to the Bovine Bakery and back.

When it came to the return trip back, riders were bailing left and right. In the end, only Doug, Jerome and I returned to McLaren Lodge, and once we got over Camino Alto, the temperatures started dropping. Peter and Michael followed us to Larkspur, where they turned off to catch the ferry back toi the City. Unfortunately for them, the schedule someone had looked up was for weekdays, and they ended up waiting over an hour and a half for the next ferry back.

Thanks all for making it a great day!

June Jersey Ride

June’s Jersey ride almost had more non-riding Spokers show in street clothes than actual riders. But by the time we rode out, we had 15 riders with one more joining us at the northern GG bridge parking lot. And we had a great mix of members, long time and new, along with several SFBC riders who joined us for their first DSSF Jersey Ride.

No one was up for doing Conzelman in the morning, it was a bit foggy and cool, but on the return trip, the David G’s opted to add the loop on. And even then, looking back at the City the fog was still hanging around, just not very low.

Spoker in the New York Times!

Stephanie Clarke was reading an article in the New York Times, about the Grizzly Peak Century held earlier this month.

She says: “When I saw the photo, I thought to myself, I saw that guy out on the course. Then when I looked behind him, there I was. I’m the one in yellow, standing to climb a hill on my bike, aka, “The Shiny New Bike.” I’m a little out of focus, but I think you can still tell it’s me. We always knew I’d make the Times!”

You can read the full article here!

Climbing & Descending clinic

While it was foggy in the City and on the drive up from Hollister, it was nice to see this pocket of sunshine in Palo Alto, as a group of us met at Gunn High School on Arastradero (right off Foothill Expressway) for the Velo Girls Bike Skills 201: Climbing & Descending clinic. Stephanie, Nancy, Chris, Larry, Wly, Doug, Raymond and his friend Charles signed up. Each of us had different skills we hoped to improve on, and some hope to overcome our fears some, by learning better handling skills.

Wly and Lorri

We started out in the parking lot with Bike Handling Skills. Did you know that you should not be “steering” with your handlebars? First we did a bike/body separation drill, where we rode around the parking lot and changed out positions out of the saddle; first out on the top tube, then way back off of the saddle, then off to the left and off to the right. We then focused on steering the bike with hips, first by standing at the bike and practicing hip swivels, left then right. Then we got on the bike to use this same motion to ride through a cone slalom.

Counter-steering was next, and when explained it does seem intuitive; that for a right turn you would stand on the outside leg, in this case the left, and then your inside hand is weighted and pushing on the bar (you should be in the drops). And then you lean your body in the opposite direction. Practicing this in the parking lot, I finally got it!

Then we learned about riding techniques, hands, feet and weight distribution for either seated or standing climbing and for either technical descents or fast descents. We then rode up to the Arastradero Preserve for a quick break, and then we headed up to Alpine Road, above Portola, where we turned off on to Indian Crossing Road to practice both the climbing and the descending, with Lorri and Kim watching and providing feedback. It got to be kind of fun, we were doing mini-hill repeats, climbing in the saddle, then out of the saddle where it got steeper, even shifting into a harder gear on the climb. And then we got to come back down, quickly gaining speed, many of us seeing 38 mph, before turning around to do it again!

And then the climb to the end of Alpine Road, it’s about a three mile climb, the road is nicely paved, with not a steep grade except here or there and until the last stretch. And then the payoff, the technical switchbacky descent down to our regroup at Willowbrook Road, near the Windy Hill Open Spaces. And then from there, the long straight descent down Alpine, and then returning to Gunn High School. Group consensus was the A+! We all got new skills to practice and added confidence in both climbing and descending.

Thanks again, Lorri and Kim!

May Jersey Ride

The temperatures were a bit chillier than the clear sky indicated, but that did not faze the 18 riders on the May Jersey ride. It was also great to be joined be DSSF founding member Howard Neckel. Returning member, Kepa Askenasy joined us on her new Bianchi, having replaced her 17 year old Specialized. Several members joined us along the way to the Golden Gate Bridge, those wanting that extra bit of sleep on a Saturday morning.

Raymond Pelayo and Michael Schmucki lead the morning Conzleman loop, joined by Joseph (5,000 miles before ALC) Collins and Larry L’Italien. Chris Contos, Patrick Heryford and myself led the rest doing the Camino Alto-Paradise Drive Tiburon Loop meeting up at Shark’s Deli, including Cameron Ross, John Coundouris, Wanderson Carlos, Yew Hoe Tan, Jeremy Jacobs, Rico Nappa and David Goldsmith. Unfortunately, we lost one guest rider along the way to the Golden Gate Bridge, David’s friend Rhette who came up from San Jose. We were also joined by Rob, a friend of Joseph’s, and Doug.

Lunch at Sharks Deli

On the return trip, Chris and I opted to do the Conzelman loop, and Joseph and Larry opted to repeat it with us, we considered returning thru the tunnel and coming back up under the bridge, but ultimately decided to climb back up McCullough and then back down Conzleman. Joseph took us an a detour through the Presidio to an old dilapidated former leper hospital, soon to be renevated to.. what else? luxury condos. Jospeh and Larry dropped off towards their respective homes and Chris and I arrived back at Peets to have coffee with Michael.

Look forward to seeing you all next month!

And the windmills stood quiet…

Each time I had done the Mt Hamilton Challenge, I had run into riders climbing Mines Rd. Since I learned they were doing the “Devil Mountain” Double Century, I got curious… I had done double centuries before (13 since 1999), but one that included the two big summits of the Bay Area, Mount Diablo and Mount Hamilton, sounded appealing. It became a bit scarier when I learned that the organizers, not quite satisfied with these two mountains, had included all the climbs they could find in the route: Mt Diablo, Morgan Territory, Patterson Pass, Mines Rd, Mt Hamilton, Sierra Rd, Palomares and Norris Canyon!

In particular Sierra Rd was a particularly nasty inclusion: by itself it’s a tough hill that climbs more than 1700 feet in 3.5 miles with some long parts approaching 20%. But putting that at mile 150, after you’ve climbed already 15000 feet, that ought to be considered an “unjust and cruel punishment”.

The other thing was that it is a bit early in the season, so I hesitated a few years before taking the plunge this year. I tried to log as many miles (and feet) as possible during the Saddle Challenge, did the Solvang Double Century as a training ride (!) and try to ride all the parts of DMD separately in the weeks before (to get a sense of what that means, you can view my GPS logs here for the south and here for the north part).

It seemed to have paid off. In the first climb, Mt Diablo, I got a bit worried because I kept seeing many more riders ahead than behind, so I was not sure I could make it to the 1 PM cut-off at Mines Rd. That’s also at the top of Diablo that I saw Will for the last time – I was not going to see until the finish, where he had been already asleep for 2 hours when I arrived!

As a matter of fact, during the entire ride (the 19 hours of it…) I felt surprisingly good. The hardest part was probably the back side of Mt Hamilton, because it was still pretty hot. Even Sierra Rd went ok, and I got rewarded by a beautiful sunset on the whole Bay.

What about the title? Oh, it’s just that I had done as a training ride the north part of DMD and my most difficult moment was something nobody had warned me about: Patterson Pass. On paper, it seemed like a reasonable little climb. The problem was the headwinds: near the top, they actually prevented to ride, and I had to walk! So I was very happy, last Saturday, to notice that the windmills (they haven’t put them here by accident!) were still. At that point, I felt it was going to be a good ride.

If you want to get a sense of it, you can view the logs on my Garmin .

You can also see the results: Will finished a brilliant 52nd position, before 10 PM!, whereas I was happy to arrive around midnight, with some 20 riders behind me 🙂

Now, I can get back to normal activities…


A view of the course with Google Earth

Tierra Bella

This years Tierra Bella featured a new hellish change to the century route; no Metcalf Road climb, instead we only went as far as Calero Reservoir before returning to Morgan Hill and then on to the new challenge, Thomas Grade and East Dunne to Henry Coe State Park.

Jerome Thomere, William Bir, Larry L’Italien, David Goldsmith and I all headed out together for the loop up past Uvas. Christopher Olson was also at the ride start, but he was unsure because it was rather cold, he mentioned something about going back to a warm bed instead.

At the Uvas rest stop, David told us to go on, he was going on to his own version of the ride, and made his way over to do the Gilroy Hot Springs loop, ending the day with over 70 miles.

Topher did catch up to us at the Calero rest stop and again at the Coyote River park stop, although he had to change a tube there. He later passed me, going up East Dunne to the Henry Coe Park rest stop.

Although we did not see Stephanie Clarke or her spin class friend (who were doing the metric) before we left, or any of the other DSSFers doing the metric, we did hear of sightings by Alfred Santiago who started the metric with Stephanie Vance, along with Feney Mathews who reported she enjoyed the beautiful ride, despite winds on the return to Gabilan College.

And Almaden Cycling Touring Club definitely wins kudos for the homemade breads at the rest stops along with the post-ride meal, always great featuring pie and ice cream!

Team DSSF ALC7 Fundraiser – Mardi Gras in April

On Sunday, Team Different Spokes San Francisco held our Fourth Annual team fundraising party at Michael Schmucki’s house to eat, drink, and talk about the upcoming AIDS LifeCycle.

We had a wonderful turnout and we raised a ton of money.

San Francisco AIDS Foundation volunteer Beau Thomsom spoke about the ride, the organization and the spirit of the ride.

Different Spokes members and guests to date pledged $7736.00!

We want to thank everyone who came to the party and made a contribution.

For those who could not make it but would like to lend their support, please visit AIDS/LifeCycle Team 146. Every dollar goes to support the programs and services of the San Francisco AIDS Foundation, and is tax deductible.

The final results are in for the March Saddle Challenge…

The DSSF March Saddle challenge has come to a close and what a
spectacular month of riding it was for our participants! Larry
Litalien maintained the lead for the most miles ridden in March: 778!
Congratulations Larry! Jerome Thomere stayed in 2nd with 740 miles
and Will Bir hit 595 miles for 3rd place! Will & Jerome both did the
Solvang Double Century in March, thus they tied for the most miles
ridden in a single day: 192.5 miles – yikes!!!

Larry continued his almost daily riding routine throughout the month
for a total of 28 riding days! I was next with 27 days (in case you
haven’t guessed it, we both commute to work on our bikes).

The Saddle Challenge is also about achieving the mileage goals that
we set at the beginning of the month. Will topped that list at nearly
120%! Others that reached their mileage goals included Sharon Lum,
Larry Litalien, Jerome Thomere and myself. President Gaus and Don
Dodge came very close to theirs as well.

When participants registered for the Saddle Challenge, we gave them
the option to continue supporting Project Inform in the name of Ron
Wilmot – a former DSSF member. This could be done in a pledge per
mile basis or a fixed lump-sum contribution. Collectively we raised
over $500.00 this year!

Thanks to everyone that participated this March! We hope this has
helped to get you on your way to a great year of riding! Be sure to
continue watching the DSSF Ride Calendar for upcoming rides.

Viel Velovergnügen alle!