Antisocial Darwinism: Survival of the Fittest?

Howard Neckel was one of the original members of Different Spokes when it was founded back in 1982. I recently found out that Howard was no longer a member and wanted to find out why after 32 years he no longer was a part of the club. In his own words here is what he related to me—

It’s been a while since I’ve realized that I’m just not in the kind of shape I was when I was younger. As much as I’d like to ride with other gay cyclists, I just can’t manage to keep up with the ones in DSSF.  A great many of the posted rides are in the 70+ mile category, but even when I try the shorter ones I get dropped. The core group of Spokers are very strong riders, and weaker riders like me get left in the dust. After a few repeats of that scenario, you ask yourself what the point is of participating in a club ride because you’re essentially riding solo after a quick hello at the start. It’s a sad fact of life but I have deal with the fact that I’m 67 now and not the rider I was even ten years ago, and certainly not when I first joined the club. I simply don’t “qualify” for DSSF rides anymore. It’s a shame since they’re right here in town and it’s a gay club—two big pluses. But almost all the club’s rides target the core group of really strong riders. The club doesn’t have a contingent that accommodates older, slower folks like me. That may also hold true when it comes to slower-but-NOT-older riders, for example those new to the sport who might not yet have built up a lot of speed and endurance. As a result I’ve been riding mostly with Western Wheelers. Their club is large enough that the guys who really like to burn rubber plan their own separate rides; those who like to go at a more leisurely pace with social regroups plan theirs. Actually, many rides manage to accommodate multiple skill levels simultaneously by having a slightly earlier start time as well as longer routes for the stronger riders. The multiple routes will often intersect either for lunch midway or for snacks at the end. Personally, I tend to ride with the middle (and sometimes low-middle) skill range and that allows me to talk to folks along the way and at regroups, several of whom I am happy to count as good friends now.

Unfortunately Howard’s experience seems to be shared by quite a few members and participants. Over the years I can’t count the number of times I’ve spoken with cyclists about why they didn’t come back to a Different Spokes ride or rejoin the club and with them expressing the same frustration as Howard’s: they were dropped at the beginning of a ride and ended up riding alone or riding at a faster than comfortable pace to keep up, and otherwise just didn’t get a chance to socialize with other Spokers. In fact you have only to look back to 2012 on this very blog to see the same comments mentioned by others. Those new riders who do keep up perhaps get the kind of social experience we are all looking for and consequently they might come back. They get positively reinforced because they are stronger (or more stubborn) riders. Similarly for women cyclists, they might come on a ride, see that there are very few or no other women, and then not come back. Perhaps given the dearth of dirt rides over the past ten years mountain bikers also eschew coming to Different Spokes. The result is the same: we end up with a club with the same kind of members it already has, i.e. fairly fast, or at least very avid, male road cyclists.

This wasn’t always the case. When Chris LaRussell was President, it was no surprise that having a female leader helped raise the club to near gender equity with about a 40% female membership [I believe this may also have been the case when Cathy Cavey was President in the ‘90s]. There also used to be a very active dirt contingent—why it has faded away is not clear to me. But dirt riding ascended in the early late ‘80s precisely because there was a core, active group of riders including the President at the time, Dennis Westler. It may be lost on the current membership that the original core group of Spokers were touring cyclists, not racers or wannabes. Those early club rides for the most part took place at a friendly pace with just a few animals off the front. However one aspect that has changed over the years is the age distribution. In the ‘80s the club was heavily skewed towards the twenty- and thirty-something cohorts. The number of older cyclists (older than 60) was very small—who remembers Gene Howard or Walter Teague? But those younger riders have aged up and gone grey and like many clubs, cycling or otherwise, the age distribution has shifted upward. Even our current President is a retiree!

Howard is right though: the club’s rides target the faster riders precisely because they have stepped forward to lead more rides. When a free weekend day to ride is a precious commodity, you want to do rides you enjoy and not rides you might do out of a sense of obligation. You can’t fault folks for doing what they want to do; after all, being a club member isn’t like your job (or your family!) where sometimes you just have to do things even if you don’t like it. And being a small club naturally makes it harder to cater to and invite the kind of diversity we’d like to see. The general rule of thumb for volunteer organizations is that ten percent of membership will step forward and do the work. That means of our 130 members about 13 people are club officers, ride leaders, and volunteers who do the work that makes a club run and survive. That’s not a lot of people to cover all the bases, is it?

Yet the quandary is that we’re all the worse for it. The club is supposed to be an umbrella for all LGBT cyclists, not just fast ones. How can it welcome all of us if it offers nothing to the majority of cyclists? The club takes on an increasingly one-dimensional mien that just turns off other riders and drives them away rather than towards us. At some point this becomes a self-replicating process. Think about it: it takes a abnormally committed and perhaps somewhat crazy person to come to the club and say, “Well, this club doesn’t offer what I want, so I’m going to jump in and change it!” Yet that’s what we seem to be saying, i.e. “If you don’t like it, well then roll your own!” A normal person would walk away and keep looking, and that’s exactly what most new riders (and now some old-timers) seem to be doing. Fortunately for Howard he’s found another club where he feels welcome and that seems to have embraced him with open arms. The irony and sadness is that we, a LGBT club, don’t have something to offer the Howards out there. Of course, if you’re happy doing the rides that the club currently offers, the answer is you do nothing because the status quo is perfect in meeting your needs. So nothing changes.

But for those on the margins of the club or even for those of us more actively involved but disturbed by this trend, is there a way out of this quandary? There’s a part of me that thinks that not only does it not have to be this way but that we as a club actually do have a responsibility to change it. I don’t believe that our current state is an inevitable step in the evolution of our club. I ride infrequently with Different Spokes, but I do manage to show up on a few B or C rides every year and even the very infrequent A rides (I mean, other than the ones that Roger and I lead). Occasionally there are new faces that I never see again, and I wonder why. Were they simply “bees” that flit from flower to flower all the time or did they just not have a good time with us and why? We rarely get post-ride verbal feedback from those who *don’t* come back; of course, not coming back is feedback, n’est-ce pas?

I don’t know what the solutions should be. For the Howards out there, their solution is more clear: roll up one’s sleeves and try to change Different Spokes or move on to a club that offers rides that meet your preferences. Unfortunately there aren’t any other LGBT clubs in the Bay Area, so you end up riding with “straight” clubs. It would be lovely if some in the club were just to step forward and say, “Okay, I’ll do it.” But I think that’s not likely to happen given the current lethargy. However if you are a member and want to see things change, it doesn’t hurt to take the initiative to make it so. If you want to see more leisurely paced rides, why not volunteer to lead one? Perhaps those of us who’d like to see more “A” rides on the ride calendar should start talking to each other about planning and co-leading rides. You don’t have to do it alone. It won’t change unless either we do it or we luck out and the Messiah miraculously shows up to lead us. If you’d like to see more diversity in our ride listings, give me a holler, speak out on the blog, or comment on the DSSF Yahoo! group site.



Autumn in northern California is always a strange time, a neither-fish-nor-fowl period. If you think for a minute, you’ll realize that we don’t have four real seasons here; it’s more like three seasons: a short, green spring; a dry, dusty brown summer; and a wet (we hope), cold winter. This year was no different. The transition period we call ‘fall’ was practically nonexistent, as we had a hot Indian summer followed by a perfectly warm period with plenty of sunny days. Riding this fall has been decidedly excellent because of blocking Pacific highs sending almost all the rain into the Northwest keeping us dry and giving us plenty of enviable riding days. And in Contra Costa where I live, we went from blistering heat in October to November days that were warmer than summer in SF! Well, it has all come to an end. I finally had to don knickers and a long-sleeved jersey this week.

But not before we had one last blast up Morgan Territory and Mt. Diablo last Saturday. Morgan Territory Road is one of our few remaining Road Less Traveled routes, at the margins of Bay Area urbanization and dangling by a thread from becoming just another subdivision. Just down the road are Clayton and Concord, and probably what’s keeping Morgan Territory from being invaded is the current lack of water. But for now it’s ours and it provides a beautiful experience of what the nearby San Ramon and Diablo valleys were like a mere 30 years ago before Walnut Creek, Danville, and San Ramon engulfed all the open space. (Yes, it’s difficult to imagine now but in the ‘80s we simply crossed over the Berkeley hills to ride on country roads.) David Goldsmith led the four of us up Morgan on what has become a fall tradition. Summer on Morgan Territory is like a friendly visit to a furnace—not the best time to go—but fall is perfect if you don’t have rain—it’s not boiling hot, the weather is kind, and the leaves are turning, giving one a taste of what Easterners experience annually (and tenfold in grandeur). When you’re not anoxic and semi-conscious because of the 14% and 16% bumps on the climb, you’ll realize that you’re all alone on a beautiful, winding road surrounded by trees turning luscious colors. At the top, Morgan Territory Preserve, you’ll find a view of Mt. Diablo from the south and a panoramic vista towards the Livermore valley. For the most part we lucked out and the sky was clear allowing for great views. But as we rested at the Preserve and ate our snacks the moist air driven up the west side of the mountain was condensing and clouds began covering the hillside. Chilled by the breeze we set off on the descent to Highland, which sadly always ends in a frighteningly fast blink of an eye. All that altitude gone in minutes aided by a double-digit grade, the near complete lack of traffic, and decent sight lines that only made us accelerate with abandon. After lunch at Domenico’s in Danville, David made us climb up Diablo for more fall fun. By now it was cooling off and all my clothes went back on despite the uphill. It was still sunny but the autumnal heat was now gone. David and David continued on to the top while Roger and I descended back to BART. A good end to a near-tropical “fall”: an all-day, 82-mile ride with friends. Next stop: winter rain riding!



There it is in the photo: the new Carquinez Scenic Trail, beckoning… I shot that photo through the locked gate at the western end of the trail a couple days ago. Carquinez Scenic Drive, the long abandoned county road connecting Crockett and Martinez above the Carquinez Strait, will soon be reopened. It could be open for public use as early as this Friday, Halloween, but no later than Saturday, November 8. The road was closed to car traffic in 1983 and left to decay. But it’s always been open to pedestrians and cyclists willing to hazard the narrow, winding road with broken asphalt and missing sections due to storm runoff. Like a vision out of “Planet of the Apes” it was civilization returning to its original form—large weeds sprouting up between the chunks of road, rusted signs, and a slow, crumbling ambience. A few years ago the East Bay Regional Parks District agreed to assume control of the road and the final stages of resurrection are complete. The road has been rehabilitated, the cliffside stabilized, and striping freshly painted and signs erected. Cars will still be banned and the road is even being incorporated as part of the Bay Trail.

Riding along Carquinez Scenic Drive was one of the popular rides in the early days of Different Spokes when it was called “the Port Costa Loop”. In fact the ride was offered for the first time in March 1983 perhaps because the road had been closed and suddenly was a lot more cycle-friendly.

In a way it’s sad that it’s been “improved”. The road has mostly intact albeit crumbling but it was easy to cycle on a road bike. The sections which had slid away were easy to roll over although one might never know from winter to winter how much of the thin trail would still be intact and the only “damage” would be a little bit of mud on your bike if it were wet. The views along the cliff are nothing short of spectacular on a sunny day and shouldn’t be missed. At least now more people will be able to enjoy them.

Carquinez Scenic Trail

On Saturday November 22, assuming the weather is favorable, we’ll roll out from Orinda and take in a big loop through West Contra Costa County and check out the renovated Carquinez Scenic Trail, née Drive. You’ll also be able to ride through historic Crockett, home of C&H Sugar, and go up the back (easy) side of Pig Farm before tackling the Three Bears. Of course, you’re free to check it out yourself beforehand if you can’t wait!

For more information, go here.

2014 Fall Social Recap


We had a big turnout for this year’s Fall Social at Phil Bokovoy’s house in Berkeley. The last hurrah of excellent weather must have encouraged a spate of Spokers to roll over to the East Bay for the traditional rides, the ever-popular Three Bears and the beautiful Rosie the Riveter stroll by the Bay. This year’s Social took place about a week earlier than usual and that may have had something to do with the sunny, warm conditions during a time of year when things could go either way, “earthquake weather” or the onset of a cold autumn. Fortunately we had the former and that made lolling in Phil’s backyard especially comfortable and convivial. Having the event a week earlier also meant that it didn’t have to contend with the after effects of a Halloween Saturday in the Castro!

The Rosie the Riveter ride, which had been dwindling in popularity in recent years, had a resurgence of interest as seven folks took in the spectacular views along the East Bay waterfront. David Shiver and his son Roberto came along as usual. Years ago Roberto first started coming in a buggy towed behind his daddy’s Cannondale; he then graduated to a trail-along, and now he’s on his own bike, a mini-mtb. A slightly larger group of about ten folks did the Three Bears, and they managed to beat the Rosie group back to Phil’s although just barely.


Phil, as usual, butterflied and barbecued a delicious turkey, and we had a wide assortment of salads, appetizers, and of course yummy desserts including Jim’s homemade apple cobbler. The dish was slung while folks inhaled their dishes. You just had to be there. Thanks again to Phil for hosting the soiree [sic] and to everyone who contributed! Next stop: Holiday Party…

Dirt Riding


Last weekend I did a club ride starting in Pescadero and out Cloverdale Road into the back side of Big Basin State Park via Gazos Creek Road. After arriving at the park headquarters it continued up car-free Escape Road, a bypass to Highway 236 (Big Basin Way), and onto China Grade and then down Butano Fire Road back to Cloverdale Road and the start. This was a 40-mile, mixed-surface ride–Cloverdale was of course asphalt, Gazos Creek Road was a dirt and gravel fire road, Escape and China Grade were decaying asphalt, and Butano was a dirt fire road. If you can’t find that ride on the DSSF calendar, it’s because the club wasn’t Different Spokes–it was Grizzly Peak Cyclists. There was a time when dirt riding was very popular in Different Spokes but off-road riding has, excuse the pun, fallen by the side of the road. And that’s unfortunate because off-road riding not only can be loads of fun but it’s a relaxing way to escape the ever-present threat of death/injury by car. When I’m riding on the road, there is always an energy-draining vigilance for wayward deathmobiles that makes the ride a little less calming and refreshing as I would like. I know there are a few Spokers out there who mountain bike because I’ve talked to you; if there are others, you are definitely keeping yourselves well hidden. Or, perhaps you just don’t look to DSSF as the right venue to get your dirt yayas? Maybe it’s time for a revival–how about posting a dirt ride on our ride calendar!

Riding a pure road bike such as a Colnago C59 wouldn’t be my first choice for going up Gazos Creek Road, but I did do the entire ride on my old commuter bike, a Redline “cross” bike. I simply swapped out the road tires for some 700×32 Continental Cross tires. The gearing was a little bit tall–the low gear was a 34×26–but I was able to stand and grunt until, well, until I had to get off and walk, which was a few times more than I’m used to because Gazos Creek has some short walls that were definitely greater than 15%. The State Park had also dumped gravel on these sections to stabilize them against erosion and that made them treacherous even when ascending at a measly four miles per hour. But walking is all part of the fun because you’re in the woods next to a trickling stream, no cars in sight, and no urban noise to spoil the experience. Heavenly! The nice thing about a road or ‘cross bike on a ride like this is that it was really a mixed-surface ride, partly on dirt and partly on various qualities of pavement. Having a road bike made the asphalt sections fly by and the bigger tires were perfectly adequate for fire road conditions (well, except the gravel parts). My fellow riders were all on “mountain bikes” (they had front suspension and I didn’t) but two of them were also used as commuters and had un-mountain bike-like tires. In the middle of the ride as we were resting at the top of China Grade at the start of the next dirt section, three young studs on road bikes zoomed past us heading the way we had just come. Drop bars, no discs or cantilever brakes, no triples. Just like Jobst Brandt! (Google that name if you don’t know who he is.) As we dropped down Butano Fire Road I could see their skinny tire tracks in the dirt. They had come up Butano on regular bikes, which goes to show that you can ride off-road on fire roads even with road tires. No big deal.

You don’t necessarily need a mountain bike to ride off-road. There is a hidden trove of dirt roads throughout the Bay Area and there are quite a few “mountain bike” trails that can be ridden with varying degrees of grace on a road or ‘cross bike. Mt. Diablo State Park has a warren of fire roads as does the Santa Cruz Mountains. The East Bay is blessed with the Regional Parks District, which includes Tilden, Redwood, Sibley Volcanic, Black Diamond Mines, and Chabot, all of which have fire roads which are open to cyclists. Nowadays fire roads and double-tracks merely elicits yawns from fat tire afficionados–“Give me single track, the gnarlier the better! Rock gardens? Yeehaw!” You might not be able to clean Eldridge Grade on your road bike but there is still plenty of off-road riding away from cars. Just keep an eye out for those dirt roads you pass all the time on your road bike and never venture to explore!

Gear Review: Camelbak Podium Ice Bottle

Ice bottle
Camelbak Podium Ice (21 oz) and Big Chill (24 oz) bottles

Water bottles are a cheap accessory usually running between $4 and $10, and unless you’re using a pack hydration system such as Camelbak’s, a necessary one for longer rides. The Camelbak Podium Ice bottle sells for $25. What in the world would justify a premium price for an item that we use without a thought, mistreat callously, and dispose of as quickly as last week’s boyfriend? The name gives it away: this is an insulated water bottle, which one will appreciate greatly in hot weather. Camelbak makes two insulated bottles, the Chill and the Ice. The former sells for $12 and claims to keep water cool “for twice as long.” The Ice ostensibly commands a premium price because your water is kept cold “4X longer!”

A little history: A few years ago Camelbak sold the Ice bottle and then after one season it mysteriously disappeared. I had bought both the Chill and the Ice and found the Ice to work better than the Chill. On a typical hot day I’d fill the bottles with cube ice and cold water, and an hour later all the ice in the Chill bottle would be melted; in the Ice bottle it would last about 45 minutes longer. So, that’s not “4x longer” but almost. But as we all know, size matters and Camelbak sold the Ice only in a 21 oz size whereas the Chill came in both 21 and 24 oz. So I mostly used the Chill.

Riding in Contra Costa County in the summertime can get hot—often over 90 degrees—and having a cold sip is so much more refreshing than a tepid one. I was dreaming of a 24 oz (or bigger!) Ice bottle. Unfortunately Camelbak stopped selling them, and subsequently I found out that the insulating material that Camelbak used in the Ice bottle was no longer available, which is why production ceased. Darn. Well, at least we had a few Chill bottles and one small Ice bottle.

A couple of weeks ago we were wandering through REI and what do I spot but a new Ice bottle. I’m not sure what insulation was used before but now Camelbak is using Aerogel, an extremely light material, and it works very well. The Ice bottle still holds just 21 oz of fluid (a standard water bottle holds 20 oz) but it has the size of a typical 24 oz water bottle; all that extra space must be the insulation. The Chill still comes in either 21 or 24 oz sizes, and there still is no 24 oz Ice bottle. Now seeing the size of the current Ice bottle (the previous model was quite a bit smaller), I can’t imagine how you’d fit a 24 oz version on your bike: imagine the difficulty prying that thing out of your bottle cage. It would have to be the size of a typical Thermos! That must be the reason Camelbak doesn’t make a larger Ice. So if you want the additional cooling power of the Ice, you’re stuck with 21 oz, which is only slightly more than a small water bottle. If you need to carry a larger bottle, then you’re stuck getting a Chill, which isn’t a bad thing, just not as good as the Ice is. At least with the Chill you pay less, $12 for the 20 oz bottle and $15 for the 24 oz.

Yesterday we went for a ride out to Danville. It was in the mid- to high-80s. I filled both the old and new Ice bottles with cube ice and cold water. The new one lasted nearly the entire ride including a long coffee break at Peets, about 3 ½ hours total. I can’t recall when the old Ice bottle got warm but it was well before. I’d say that’s an improvement!

Riding With Lower Tire Pressure: HED Ardennes+ SL Wheels

HED wheel

After years of drinking the Kool-Aid that tires should be as thin as possible and pumped to the maximum, we’re finally getting some sane discussion on suitable tires for recreational cyclists. When it came to road tires, thin was in and we liked them hard, rock hard. But we’re now learning that wider tires at lower pressure not only may be more comfortable but that this may actually be faster too. Rims are coming onto the market that are slightly wider than we’ve been used to, increasing the volume of air in the tire, which in turn allows you to lower the pressure without risking a pinch flat.

I’ve been riding a pair of HED Ardennes+ SL wheels for six months and finally feel comfortable making some comments about them. Most clincher rims are 19-20 mm wide but the Ardennes+ rims are 25 mm. In other words they’re extra wide, wider than most road clinchers made today, or at least clinchers intended for speed and nimbleness rather than durability and touring. Wide rims are common in super-cheap wheels intended for neglect and abuse but they’re distinctly rare in racing and performance riding. So, the Ardennes+ manages to be very light: the stated weight is 1502 g. Even if this is exaggerated a bit–and wheel weights almost always are—these are still very light especially for such a fat rim. They certainly feel like it: I can accelerate them easily and they feel very similar to a pair of old Easton SLX 90 wheels, which were purported to weigh about 1420 g. If you’re not sure what your current wheels weigh and like most of us you’re riding a middle-of-the-line Specialized or Trek, your stock wheels are likely to be somewhere around 1700 to 2000 g. So, the Ardennes+ wheels are going to be quite a bit lighter than what you’re used to. For comparison a pair of Mavic Aksium wheels—aluminum rims and steel spokes and considered a relatively inexpensive upgrade from stock wheels—is supposed to weigh 1,735 g. My experience with Mavic rims and wheels is that their weights are always overstated. Nonetheless this gives you an idea how much lighter these HEDs will be than what you’re consider an upgrade wheelset: they’re 230 g lighter than the Aksiums. Well, that’s a half-pound you will feel every time you accelerate. Unfortunately the Ardennes+ wheels are not cheap. Well, almost no wheels are cheap these days but these are less cheap than most other wheels, $1,150 to be exact. (Note: I got a deal on mine so they were quite a bit less. Never pay full price!) Premium wheel prices are going through the roof these days—consider that Mavic’s top-of-the-line aluminum clincher, the R-Sys SLR, costs a mind-blowing $2,200. That’s right, over two grand for, my gawd, wheels with just aluminum rims. Zipp and Enve carbon clincher wheels go for as much as $3,000, and Campy Hyperons are almost, gasp, $4,000! Okay, now that’s just insane. Anyone who’s buying wheels that costly and who isn’t racing is just pulling a Walter Mitty. So, a thousand-plus bucks for a set of light wheels is kind of okay, right?

But as I mentioned, the selling point of these wheels–specifically the rims–is their unusual width rather than their weight. With its Ardennes wheels and Belgium rims, which are both 23 mm wide, HED broke from the narrow-is-better philosophy because their research showed that a wider rim for a standard 23 mm clincher tire smoothed airflow over the wheel by eliminating the ‘light bulb’ shape and replacing it with a smooth transition. The Ardennes+ widens it further to 25 mm. However it was neither for the weight nor the aerodynamics that I was interested in but rather in what the wider rim allows one to do with the tire pressure, which is to lower it quite a bit. In fact, I’ve been riding these wheels at 55-65 psi. That’s a tire pressure more like what you’d find on a cruiser bike than a road bike. Since the rims are slightly wider at 25 mm, I’ve been riding them with 25 mm Michelin Pro 3 tires. This gives an even plusher ride than 23 mm. tires. Michelins are known to run wider than their labeled sizing, and in this case the Pro 3’s measure out to 30 mm after sitting on the rims for a few weeks. That extra half-centimeter makes the ride positively buoyant. For added comfort I’ve put in latex instead of butyl tubes for their resiliency and compliance. And, at this width I could go even lower to around 47-57 psi according to Frank Berto.

If you’re worried that a fatter tire will mean more rolling resistance, never fear: it turns out that this trope isn’t always true either. Wider tires at the same tire pressure deform less, and the amount (and shape) of tire deformation are what determine rolling resistance.

It all works beautifully. Even at 55 psi. I’m in no danger of bottoming out the tires because the air volume is so huge. They have the smoothest ride I’ve ever experienced from a clincher tire, which goes to show that bigger volume tires with lower pressure are a real boon for clinchers as long as you’ve got the right rims. It’s a real pleasure to ride these wheels—they’ve got it all: light weight, super plush ride, precise feel, and they roll fast. You could always stick a wider tire on your existing rims and reduce the tire pressure in order to reap some comfort. But the advantages of a wider rim are the even bigger volume compared to a traditional rim, the increased sidewall support especially for high speed turns, and of course the better aerodynamics if you’re into that kind of thing.

HED Ardennes+

Orinda Pool Party Recap

Pool Party 2Twelve came for the ride and five more for the après-ride festivities for a total of 17 this year. I’ll admit that after last year I was ready to put the OPP on hiatus—we’ve been doing it for several years. But Roger insisted that we do it—not only does he like to throw a party but it is, after all, about giving back and making a contribution to the club. So on it was. Months ago we figured that August would be the best time to host the party, that month typically being quite warm. However last year it was coolish and windy, and this year lightning almost struck twice. Luckily this year the overcast broke up at the beginning of the ride and it warmed up enough that the San Francisco contingent actually got to experience near ‘tropical’ (by their standards) heat—it must have been 75!! In any case the pool was 90 degrees and lounging was the order of the day rather than swimming laps. With the repaving of Wildcat Canyon we reverted to the original 30-mile loop: up Pinehurst, north on Skyline and Grizzly Peak and back on Wildcat. Pinehurst, a beautiful climb through the redwoods that culminates in a lung-sapping 14% grade, wasn’t enough. So for extra credit most of us did Manzanita, a very short 16% grunter that immediately starts at the top of Pinehurst. The ride along Grizzly Peak and Wildcat, both recently repaved, was gloriously smooth. Then we took the back way on El Toyonal and did a little cyclocross to arrive at the house. Most everyone jumped into the pool after the ride and enjoyed the sun. There was plenty of food and drink, including a host of chocolate and sweets. Unfortunately it had to end and folks then had to complete the ride by descending down to BART to catch the train back to chilly SF. Next year!

June 2014 DSSF Board Meeting Minutes

Date: Wednesday 18 June 2014

Time: 6:30 pm

Attendees: Sal Tavormina / President , David Gaus / Vice President, Ron Hirsch / Treasurer, Roger Sayre / Secretary, Jerome Thomere / Web and Blog Editor, David Goldsmith / Ride Coordinator


1. Call to Order

Sal called the meeting to order

2. Public Comments

– No public comments received.

3. Approval of Minutes

–Minutes from the meeting of 3/31/2014 were approved

4. President/Membership Coordinator’s Report

Sal noted that DSSF currently has 98 paid members for 2014. Ron noted that the website states 107 members and that if DSSF has more than 100 members it may make a difference for fees on certain things. It’s anticipated that additional members will join during pride festivities. The remainder of the year usually doesn’t see too many new members.

Sal also updated the Yahoo Group and it now has about 66 members.

Sal updated the New Member Guide for 2014. A copy was distributed to board members for review and input. Email Sal with any corrections. A pdf version will be available on the DSSF website and David Gaus will print hardcopies for distribution at events like pride.

The DSSF Membership Kickoff meeting went smoothly. Sports Basement issued a $35 gift card for their revenue sharing. They don’t issue a check for under $50. David Goldsmith will purchase the gift card and the $35 will go into DSSF funds.

Only 6 or 7 people responded to the JFK Initiative poll, mostly Board members. No further action

Brendan Patrick may be willing to take events coordinator position if he moves to San Francisco

DSSF will have a booth at the Pride Festival on Sunday, June 29th to sign up new members and get people excited about riding. Last year 10-12 new members joined DSSF. This is a great opportunity for outreach and to make DSSF known in the wider community. All paperwork is completed. Volunteers are needed to help man the DSSF booth in 2 hour shifts from 10am to 4 pm. So far only David Gaus & Joseph Collins have volunteered. Additional volunteers are needed. Someone must be there at 9am to set up the booth. The parade starts at 10:30. Ron suggested not bringing a cooler with drinks since the cooler is difficult to maneuver through the crowds and drinks are readily available. Sal will contact Phil Bokovy to get the DSSF banners. Phil had them for the Great Western Bike Rally.

DSSF’s annual club picnic is scheduled for Saturday, July 26th. China Camp in Marin County was selected as the location for this year’s picnic. DSSF has used this location many times and it seems to work well. Advantages are a beautiful location right next to the Bay, privacy, quiet, and flush toilets, and probably the best chance for ideal weather. The main drawback is the aggressive bees that go after the food. The ride to China Camp is about 45 miles round trip from MacLaren Lodge in SF. David Goldsmith will coordinate the ride. All board members are encouraged to co-lead this ride.

Jerome suggested that DSSF consider doing away with family memberships. Ron noted that it would simplify the bookkeeping. Only 10-12 people currently have family memberships. Sal felt that since the gay community has struggled for so many years to have our family relationships recognized that it’s symbolically important for DSSF to continue family memberships. It was agreed that family memberships will continue.

Ron requested that half price memberships be restricted to new members only. Offering half-price memberships during the second half of the year does make sense since the year’s half over, but as Ron pointed out it also rewards procrastinators. Only 5-6 people have taken advantage of half priced membership. Jerome proposed that instead of renewing all memberships at the beginning of the year we change to yearly memberships that are renewed throughout the year depending on when the membership started. After some discussion it was decided that it’s much simpler to send out renewal notices all at once. Eventually it was decided to leave things as they currently are.

Ron requested clarification on approving people for Facebook group page. David Gaus said he just checks the persons Facebook profile to verify that they’re a real person and not some spammer. Basically just use judgment.

DSSF business cards have been printed. Ron & Sal each have half of them

5. Treasurer’s Report

Government Forms up-to-date: CA, SI-100; CA, RRF-1; CA, 199N; and IRS, 990-N

Financial report: Sal thanked Ron for his work. Current financial status is:
$4,800 in current assets (Pay Pal + bank account + $20 cash)
$1,600 Y.T.D. revenue
$1,300 Y.T.D. expenses
$520 fee for Pride booth + $120 for insurance for pride = $640 pride expenses
Most financial activity occurs during the first half of the year

6. Ride Coordinator’s Report

David Goldsmith just posted about 12 new rides to the Ride Calendar, so it’s starting to look pretty healthy for the remainder of the year. He’s had some time off between jobs so he’s been using it to plan rides. Ron will post two rides. David Gaus has posted some Saturday rides. Chris Thomas will be posting DBD training rides on Sundays. Joseph Collins will also be posting rides. David Gaus will solicit ride leaders where there are gaps in the ride calendar.

It was suggest that rides with a lunch destination are always popular.

Ride Coordinator Report: David sent out reports last week. He’s been having some difficulty getting all ride waivers submitted, but will keep working at it. David would like to do a ride leader appreciation dinner this winter.

7. Web/Blog Editor’s Report

Jerome requested we replace the Yahoo Group. Outgoing emails are only having an 80% success rate in reaching the recipient. Yahoo groups does have some advantages in that it allows the organizer to see who voted for what in polls whereas alternates like Survey Monkey don’t have that feature. Jerome will investigate whether it’s possible to send email through DSSF’s web hosting provider 1&1

Sal asked if there are any better alternatives for sending emails to members. Emails sent through DSSF’s web hosting provider 1&1 only have about a 75% success rate, and it’s even lower with Yahoo. Jerome says that Sal’s email, is an alias which may be blocked by the recipients spam filters. Jerome will set up a new email address . Jerome also suggested using blog posts more frequently although that does require people to go to the blog.

8. Apparel Coordinator

Bob McDiarmid reported that Primal Custom Cyclewear – vendor for the team kit – is running a special on custom kits – reducing the minimum number of orders required to ten pieces. (meaning one jersey and one bib = two pieces). He posted a poll on the DSSF Facebook group page to determine interest and so far 5 people have responded positively. The order would need to be for either the old Rainbow jersey or the 30th Anniversary jersey. It’s not possible to combine both types in one order.

9. Special Events for 2014

Jock Sunday at the Lookout bar is scheduled for Sunday, August 17th. Ron will coordinate. This is a good moneymaker for DSSF since the Lookout splits the proceeds 50/50 with DSSF. Ron prefers doing the jello-shots to the raffle.

Big Sur trip won’t happen this year. David will ask Bob if he’d be willing to coordinate a trip to the Davis Bike Museum.

10. Other Business

Tony Moy suggested that the Club open an account on to store the Club’s ride library. Account levels are free/$50/$80. Tony suggests the premium membership at $80/year. David Gaus will check on group memberships. He thinks that he may have already set up one.

11. Next Meeting

The next meeting will occur in October. Agenda items will be to plan the xmas party, ride leader appreciation dinner, and board elections

Road Update Contra Costa County

Wildcat Canyon Road, the shining example of road budgets gone in the toilet, has just been repaved. Wildcat is one of two major cycling connector roads from Berkeley over to Orinda (the other being Tunnel Road). If you’ve ridden the Fall Social ride over the Three Bears, then you had to endure traversing Wildcat to get there. Despite being in tenuous shape even 25 years ago, it had not been repaved until now. Finally. I had long ago given up hope that the City of Berkeley was ever going to scrape up the money to fix Wildcat’s horrendous condition–rough, eroded asphalt with constant gaps and cracks that had one hunting for relief from the incessant juddering. Ironically a cut made in the road a decade or so ago for a sewer or water line–and thus “newer” pavement–was the smoothest part of the tarmac one could find. Unfortunately it was often smack-dab in the middle of the lane. Riding Wildcat on a stiff, rigid frame with 23mm tires was guaranteed to be an unpleasantly memorable experience. Despite it being in our backyard, Roger and I had given up riding Wildcat in disgust because, well, it’s literally a pain. In fact, the reason we changed the Pool Party route last year to go further south on Skyline was specifically to avoid riding on Wildcat. But with the new road surface, this year’s Pool Party ride is going back to Wildcat! Roger and I rode it a few days ago and the road crew still had not striped the median divider and the shoulder lines. What was it like? Like buttah! You wouldn’t recognize it! And this was no cheap slurry seal job: Berkeley did the right thing and actually covered the entire width of the roadway with new asphalt. With Grizzly Peak Boulevard having been repaved last summer (and still in excellent shape), this year’s ride is going to be smoooooth! See you there next week.

In other road news Alamo Boulevard, which is the section of Danville/San Ramon Boulevard in the unincorporated town of Alamo, has also just been repaved. About 12 years ago Contra Costa County slurry-sealed it and did, at least by cycling standards, a barely adequate job. Prior to its remediation it was typical suburban pavement: basically smooth but full of slowly growing cracks. The county did the minimum to seal the cracks–it simply slapped down a thick layer of slurry on top. It didn’t even try to cover the full width of the roadway and worse it was lumpy and rough. It was as if they rolled it with chains; it was “distressed” in more ways than one. I’m not really sure why the county decided to repave it because the slurry job had held up fairly well (by automobile standards). But like Wildcat this time it was done right: a chip-seal surface with a final fine asphalt on top to give it a very smooth surface. And, they did it the entire road width. A few days ago the striping was completed. Note that this is only on the Alamo section, i.e. not in Walnut Creek or Danville. But those cities maintained their stretches and the roadway was in excellent shape. Now when you hammer down to Danville for an espresso and panini, you’ll be able to enjoy the smooth ride as you dodge the ninnies in SUVs. Like buttah!

Finally, the other major section of road recently being repaved is Mt. Diablo Boulevard in Lafayette. The section that has just been completed runs from near the Lafayette Reservoir into downtown. The roadway was generally in decent shape but a series of construction projects over the past decade had degraded the roadway with cuts, erosion due to heavy truck traffic, and debris. The worst of it was, of course, the bike lanes and shoulders.