Ride Recap: Sawyer Camp Trail & Mediterranean Kebab

In July the Social Ride took on a beloved ride, the Sawyer Camp Trail. The Sawyer Camp Trail has been a club ride since the beginning but its popularity waxes and wanes. For one, even though it’s close to San Francisco it’s not an especially easy ride to get to. No matter which direction you approach the north trailhead you’re in for a climb and a stiff one at that. Of course once you’re on the trail you realize why it’s so beloved: it follows the rift zone created by the San Andreas fault and is a pleasant meander through the Crystal Springs Reservoir area, a semi-natural and undeveloped reserve that stores San Francisco’s water. On weekends the Trail sees mobs of walkers and a smattering of cyclists, making it a dangerous place to race with its many blind curves, not that one should since it is a multi-use path and the speed limit is set at 15 mph. Apparently bike-pedestrian accidents did occur because at one point a 10 mph limit was imposed and police were ticketing speeding riders. When that happened back in the ‘80s, I pretty much stopped using the trail because I was using it to get to the Peninsula from San Francisco and I wasn’t interested in moseying. The speed limit was since been raised (and the rangers with radar guns seem to be gone as well) making it a perfect place for a Social Ride—except for the getting to the trailhead part!

It was just four of us this time—Roger, me, Omar, and Stephen—but the weather was beautifully cooperative: sunny, mild breeze, and a touch of cool at the start of a mid-80s day. The grind up Murchison proved to be a daunting test for Stephen, reducing him to walking when it became painfully wall-like. But he made it up. The trail was moderately busy but everyone was polite and attentive (a rarity these days with so many folks listening to tunes). We stopped several times to take in the views and take pics. After we exited the trail we ended up on Canada Road, another cyclists’ paradise even though it wasn’t a Bicycle Sunday. Our next stop was the Pulgas Water Temple, the entrance of the Hetch Hetchy water into the Crystal Springs Water, for a pit stop and a quick tour. All this time Stephen was snapping pics and sending them to his husband, who couldn’t make it to the ride because he was out of state visiting relatives. This is a picture-perfect place for a picnic lunch on a ride, but we had other plans and were heading to Mediterranean Kebab! We climbed up Edgewood and dropped down to the flatlands and made our way north to downtown Burlingame for a repast. We lucked out and got al fresco tables. Ah, their baba ghanoush is wickedly good! Conversation ended when our plates arrived–was that because it was so good or because we were so famished? Both! Fortunately after such a filling lunch we had just a few miles back to Millbrae BART.

Next month: the Iron Horse Trail to Khyber Pass Kebob in Dublin.

Ride Recap: Social Ride Silverado Trail & Lunch at Sogni di Dolci

Yesterday’s Social Ride took place under sunny skies and some light heat when afternoon temps made it up into the mid-80s. The rain the previous couple of days had cleaned out the haze and gave us nicely crisp views of the valley hills. Bill, Joe, and Omar joined Roger and me for the 40-mile ride up to St. Helena to grab some panini at Sogni di Dolci. Because the jaunt up the Silverado Trail is so flat (well, actually it’s gently rolling) we dusted off the tandem, which we hadn’t ridden since last October. Although I expected that we would have a faster pace than usual due to the flatness and good quality of the road, folks apparently wanted a really fast pace so we obliged: we averaged 14.7 mph! That’s the high end of C pace and unheard of for a Social Ride. I’ll just say that was an aberration. In all fairness ride leaders may modify the pace and/or route if they have the permission (acquiescence?) of the participants.

We arrived at Sogni di Dolci and were able to grab a table alfresco. Everyone but Omar ordered various kinds of panini (he just had to have a salad). I had a chèvre and roasted red pepper panini with capers and arugula. It was heaven. Oh yeah, and I got a bowl of their french fries, which had been fried to perfection. Only Joe indulged in an adult beverage, a watermelon flavored (!) beer. No one was displeased with their lunch.

The one major disappointment of the day was the line at Bouchon Bakery was way out the door, about a half-hour wait. Given the afternoon warmth we declined and sped back to Napa. Of note there is a brand new separate multi-use path along Solano Avenue, which is the frontage road to Highway 29. It even has its own bridges. This path runs from the front of the Yountville Veterans Home all the way down to Napa. Although Solano Avenue is also freshly paved and often free of traffic, having the separate path will be a boon for those riding at a casual pace and seeking to avoid interaction with cars.

Next month we’re back to a BART accessible location with the ride starting at Millbrae BART and heading up to the Sawyer Camp Trail with a return along Alameda de las Pulgas. Lunch will be at Mediterranean Kebab in Burlingame. And we’ll be back to our chatty A pace!

Ride Recap: Bay Vistas and Lunch at Tabla

It’s a sign of the times: not only do we post rides at the last minute but folks send their RSVPs at late as possible too. Two days before our Social A Ride Roger and I thought we were going to be doing it alone. By Saturday morning there were eight of us! Rarely do I not produce a cue sheet, but this ride, which takes in the multi-use paths along the Bay through San Mateo County, is a convoluted mess that would cause headaches if you really tried to do it by cues. So I skipped it. It’s a social ride anyway so I figured we would stay together. Perhaps that was a mixed blessing because my navigation was rather wonky.  The group might have done better if they had followed cue sheets rather than my confused leadership. Roger and I hadn’t ridden the route in a year plus I had altered it to include more paths in Foster City. To add insult to injury I was using a Garmin Edge 1000, which I already knew was prone to navigational mishaps (the topic for a future long blog posting), and mid-ride it experienced—mirabile visu!—a major meltdown that had me nervous for the rest of the trip. Thankfully Roger was using an older Garmin 800, which is near bombproof, and between memory and frequent consultation we were able to complete the ride with only slight delay. Mea culpa! Next time I’ll prepare better.

We had four new club members join the ride—Frank, Stephen, Greg, and a returning former member, Bill—in addition to Mr. Mileage (David Sexton), Roger, me, and Omar. The weather was near-perfect with no wind, low 80s, and abundant sunshine. Highlights included the wind sculptures at Seal Point, Larry Ellison’s America’s Cup winning sailboat in the Oracle lagoon, and an intimate tour of Foster City architecture. Better see it now before global warming has it under the Bay (just as it was before 1960). Of course the real highlight was lunch. This time we partook of a nondescript looking Indian restaurant, Tabla, which serves south Indian food, i.e. spicy. The place was full of South Asians so we sensed we were in the right place. Boy, was it good. The service was spotty—Greg and Stephen finally got their lunch—but the kitchen knew what it was doing. This was probably the first Indian restaurant in the Bay Area we had eaten at where the food arrived spicy, i.e. we didn’t have to request that it be made hot. Lord knows what would happen if you asked for it Indian-hot—probably we’d become flamethrowers. On a whim I ordered medu vada, which was described as an Indian donut. Yes, it was shaped like a donut and it was deep fried but that was the end of the resemblance. Made from ground lentils it was distinctly savory rather than sweet.

After lunch we rolled back to Millbrae BART. Frank commented that after all that hot food cycling was difficult. Well, I was definitely needing a nap!

Next month we’re off to the Napa valley to ride the Silverado Trail and slobber down some delicious panini at Sogni di Dolci in St. Helena and some baked goods from Bouchon Bakery. See you there!

Ride Recap: Wine Country Century

This year’s Wine Country Century, a club favorite, took place on a rainy day. That’s the first time I can remember that happening in quite a long time. The prediction was for “showers”, which turned out to be technically true—it rained off and on—but it was mostly wet and occasionally very wet. It started raining steadily not far from the start and I grimly thought it was going to be one long day in the saddle. But eventually it relented and the rest of the day when it did rain it was less daunting. Yet we rode the entire day in rain gear. I even brought up my rain bike (which is heavy) because I thought fenders would come in handy and boy, was I glad I had them.

There were supposed to be a fair number of fellow Spokers up there but we saw nary a one. Since we were doing the metric, my guess is that you all were out in the hills doing the full century and fighting the same rain and wind—if not worse—that we were dealing with along Westside Road.

In Northern California we are coddled by such good riding weather that rain almost always means waiting until later in the day or the next morning to do a ride. This winter with El Nino I finally developed a Portland mentality and rode rain or shine. It sure helped today! Unfortunately one old habit I still retain is that when it rains my focus narrows to just finishing the ride as fast as possible rather than enjoying it. I’m sure there were occasional beautiful sights—as there usually are—on the Wine Country but I ended up revving the engine and making for the barn door as quickly as possible. We definitely didn’t linger at the rest stops despite the admirable display of goodies. So I can’t say I truly relished the Wine Country even if I did finish it.

Despite the weather it is worth noting that the Santa Rosa Cycling Club did their usual stellar work in hosting this ride. The rest stop food was copious and not perfunctory. Having coffee and hot chocolate especially on a rainy day was soothing and encouraging. The food at the end was, as usual, yummy: we both had the tri-tip and thought it was well prepared, and the food line was not at all stingy at dumping more food on our plates!

Observations along the way: (1) Sag wagons were kept busy all day. It seems a lot of people were abandoning the ride. (2) There were a lot of flats. We passed more groups of cyclists repairing tires than I have ever seen on a century. That happens when it rains. (3) I was surprised at how many riders did not bring any rain gear at all. But SRCC gave out garbage bags for emergency rain wear at the rest stops and we saw lots of riders using them. (4) We saw just one crash, outside of Geyserville. (5) People were happy to be riding despite the rain!

We were done by 1 p.m. As we drove down 101 we were hit by yet more rain. We were thinking of poor you hundred-milers!

Ride Recap: San Juan Bautista-Elkhorn Slough

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“David, that looks awfully steep!”

David Gaus’s annual visit to his old stomping grounds took place this past weekend. Despite having relocated from Hollister years ago he loves to show the club the roads he haunted when he was a wee Spoker. Boy, is it a schlep from SF: about a hundred miles or more than an hour and a half of freeway driving in good traffic. Other than some weekend tours in the early days of the club, the only other club ride I had been on that was further away was a Chris Thomas ride in Fresno. So, for the first time we drove down to check out the scene in rural San Juan Bautista. Apparently the curiosity of others was piqued as well: besides our leader and the two of us we rode with Donald, Omar, Roger Sayre, Parker, Gary, and Tom. All of us were either from the East Bay or SF.

The weather was near-superb: bright sunshine the entire day with moderate temps with just a tad of heat at the end of the day. The only minor bummer was the constant coastal headwind that made riding in the Salinas flatlands a bit challenging. But that comes with the territory and although not endearing at least it wasn’t brutal. San Juan Bautista, is a dinky town of just 2,000 folks and is probably most famous for its mission, used in Alfred Hitchcock’s Vertigo for Kim Novak’s demise (twice!) The edge of town is the beginning of the vast ag land in San Benito County and crossing the highway we almost immediately lost civilization and entered the beautiful countryside. Fortunately spring heat hadn’t yet diminished the still verdant grasses of the hills.

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Crappy Road Summit!

There were just two climbs of the day and the first one up San Juan Grade is right at the start. We were a chatty little group, climbing together. At the top Monterey County begins and you are made aware of it by the transition in pavement from crappy to decent chip seal. These are isolated county roads with nary a center line. That they get any love at all from the county road departments these days is miraculous. We dropped towards Salinas and re-entered Car Hell, with lots of SUVs and pickups zooming into town. The lack of a shoulder at times made dancing with cars even more fun. The farm roads were more devoid of death monsters and a relief to ride on but being beaten to death by farm trucks and starved for maintenance we had a rough ride until we got to Castroville.

David had planned this ride around a generous number of re-fooding/re-caffeining stops, making it a schizophrenic day: race like the dickens, then relax and refresh leisurely. We stopped at a Starbucks in Salinas and then later stopped for a more substantial lunch at the Artichoke food truck at Pezzini Farms near the coast. Needless to say their speciality was artichokes, grilled, fried, deep fried. I had their Po’ Boy filled with deep fried ‘chokes. Yummy!

A big portion of the middle of the 55-mile ride was touring Elkhorn Slough, a vast, meandering tidal slough full of wildlife. You would think it would be dead-flat being a slough. But it wasn’t—it squiggled and rollercoastered up and down making it delightful to ride except for the occasional terror of being passed cars on the narrow road with no sight line. Eventually we ended up in the little town of Aromas for our final snack stop at a local minimart. The fave seemed to be ice cream bars of various sorts washed down with sugar drinks and bags of chips and Cheetos. Isn’t cycling a healthy activity? For some reason Tom seemed to like to read the ingredient lists aloud, as if we cared how much high fructose corn syrup we were downing. Any port in a storm!

The final push was over Carr Road, a climb that reared its ugly head just a couple blocks away from the minimart. It’s not a long climb but I did hear someone scream, “It’s 14%!!” at one brutal moment. Then it was just a long descent back to Vertigo Coffee Roasters in SJB for more refreshment before the long drive back to the Bay Area. Thanks David!

Electric Bike Expo at Stanford

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Demoing e-bikes at Stanford

This past weekend Stanford Shopping Center hosted the Electric Bike Expo, one of six taking place in the western US. Roger and I found out about it quite by chance and made last-minute plans to drop in on its final day, Sunday. The Expo hosts bikes by about twenty different e-bike manufacturers as well as adventure companies using e-bikes, and even a company making e-bike charging stations! There were a few brands familiar to US cyclists—Trek, Felt, Raleigh, and Focus—but most were either new companies or established European brands such as Haibike, Kalkhoff, and Gazelle finally bringing their e-bike goodness to the New World. The one major brand that was missing was Specialized, which is just down the road in Morgan Hill, perhaps because Specialized would prefer you to try their e-bikes away from the other brands. That’s too bad because that was the one model, the Specialized Turbo, that I would have wanted to demo.

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Cargo e-bike set up for hauling child

In addition to vendor booths where you could check out the various e-bike models, talk to company reps, and pick up informational brochures, there was also a small, closed off track where you could try out a multitude of bikes. As expected most of the bikes were commuter or hybrid style bikes with a strong number of e-mountain bikes. There were cargo e-bikes too. If there ever were a sensible idea, it would be to marry the cargo bike with an electric system: you can get some badly needed assist when you’re carrying a heavy load or when you’re going up a hill. No one had a drop-bar road e-bike. Clearly manufacturers are aiming for the commuter and casual cyclist and not the recreational cyclist, and that makes sense: e-bikes make commuting by bike a much more tolerable affair not just be reducing the effort but also by speeding up the commute and reducing its sweaty aftereffect. Arriving at work a smelly mess is not a good way to impress the boss or your clients.

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Hawg of a different color: E-cruiser with sidecar

Although there were a few, well, let’s call them “less heavy” e-bikes, this was accomplished by using smaller motors and batteries, which are probably enough for a city-sized commute. Most e-bikes are pretty weighty affairs pushing 50 pounds or more. That isn’t a problem for the engine as you’ve got plenty of watts to propel all that extra mass. But it is a problem if you need to store the bike on anything other than the ground level. If you live in a walk-up or even have to schlep your e-bike up a few stairs, you’re going to find just about any e-bike a real pain, if not impossible, to lift. You better have an elevator at hand and a large one too because e-bikes are not small. The good news is that if you have to lock it up outside, removing the battery and in some cases the computer head will make stealing it a lot less desirable. But I wouldn’t leave a $3,000 bike outside unattended.

Speaking of $3,000 that’s the other thing I noticed: these bikes aren’t cheap. For “serious” cyclists, spending a few thousand dollars for a new bike sounds about right, but for everyday people that’s practically the sign either of insanity or profligate wastefulness. Who are these companies marketing too? Casual cyclists and a lot of basic commuters aren’t looking to spend tons of money on a bike, let alone one they have leave locked up outside in danger of being stolen or one they can’t lift up the front stairs. At these prices you’re either indulging in an expensive fad or you’re already into the cycling lifestyle in spades. For e-bikes to take off the prices will have to come down a lot before we see them jamming up the streets of San Francisco in large numbers. Until then they’re going to be a distinct minority. Now, for the cycling addicts out there, rolling big coin on yet another bike involves a lot less hesitation. But currently manufacturers don’t really make the kind of bike that Mr./Ms. Road Cyclist would probably like to own. I’m talking about something that looks like a road bike. But they are coming and when they do I’m really going to enjoy going to an Expo to try them out. Until then it’s mostly going to be more commuter bikes or full suspension mtb rigs.

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Solar powered e-bike charging station

The e-bike charging station caught my eye. At first glance it all made sense: solar powered recharging stations spread throughout the land so you can top off your battery while you work/shop/eat! But upon thought it didn’t make any sense at all. Most commutes by bike are under five miles. Roger’s e-bike in Eco mode, which is plenty for all but the steeper hills, gets 40-50 miles per charge. So unless you’ve got a long commute or you’ve just forgotten to recharge your battery at home, charging stations are charming but unnecessary. Second, each motor/battery manufacturer has a different, proprietary motor, battery, and charging port. How are these charging stations going to be one-size-fits-all? Until one system becomes the standard (or is mandated the standard), we’ll end up with either (a) proprietary charging stations, (b) lots of dongles at the “pump” to connect to your port, or (c) you carry a universal dongle that connects your battery to, say, a two- or three-prong plug.

Speaking of proprietary, that’s another potential headache. There are about three systems currently on the market that are or are going to be widespread: the Bosch system (yes, the same company that makes your power tools), Yamaha, and now Shimano with its e-Steps system. Panasonic also has a system on the market. The rest of them are pretty much tied to one specific bike company. For example, Kalkhoff touted the fact that it had a proprietary, in-house designed motor and battery. (Specialized has the same for its Turbo, but its wasn’t present at the Expo.) That may have cachet to be designed in-house but what it meant to me is: (a) what if they stop making that system or their e-bike effort flounders? How then do I get replacement parts or batteries? (b) You mean I can’t get a battery from anyone else to fit your mount or whose voltage matches your motor? I have to order one just from you? How much will that cost? and (c) “What do you mean you don’t have a vendor in Schmoville?! I need to buy a battery there!” One manufacturer had bikes with three different battery designs (!). That’s taking customization to an absurd level. While for some that means choice, for me it means that maintaining one of their e-bikes for the long term is going to be either expensive or I’m going to end up searching on EBay for EOL parts or batteries. Right now the Bosch system seems to be the most palatable because it’s widespread (at least overseas), has a deep distribution network, and their system is used by a lot of bike companies. That means it’s not hard to get a battery or parts. Bosch also has come out with its new 500 watt-hour battery (the current is 400 WH) and they have kept it backward compatible with the mounts and the chargers of the older models, so at least they’re trying.

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Lots of e-mtbs

There’s no doubt that riding an e-bike is a lot of fun. But the current choices on the US market show that they’re not aimed at us for the most part. My guess is that in less than five years time the e-bike landscape is going to be different. Not only will there we rapid expansion in this country but there will also be some thinning out of the motor/battery systems. My guess is that Bosch will continue to do well and that Shimano is going to take off because it really knows the bike market and its e-Steps system offers potential integration with its Di2 electronic shifting system. Plus, we are going to see the spread of e-road bikes. Haibike already has one it is selling in Europe and the other companies are sure to follow.

New Different Spokes Southern California Kit!

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Our brethren in Los Angeles have redesigned their club jersey. If you’d like to support them while sporting some fashionable duds, then zip over to their website to place an order. DSSC is offering two jersey designs, a limited edition “L’Orange” and an always-fashionable black club jersey. You can get either design in short sleeve, summer short sleeve (a lighter fabric), sleeveless, or summer sleeveless. You can add matching shorts, bib shorts, or performance bib shorts. All are made by Champion Systems in either club cut or race cut. That is a lot of choices! Prices are super reasonable too: only $55 for the short sleeve jersey and $73 for the bib shorts. When they have enough orders for a minimum, they’ll place it with Champion Systems; this is expected to be towards the end of May with delivery in early July. You can either send them a check or use PayPal, but don’t send them payment until you are sent an invoice and that won’t be until they’re real close to placing the order.

For more information and to place an order, go to: http://www.dspokes.com/jersey/

Ride Recap: Morgan Territory

Morgan group

David Gaus had such a good idea to ride Morgan Territory. The backside of Mt. Diablo can be a bitch during the summer when it’s insufferably hot, spring and fall being the best times to have a fun romp on the Rump. A wet winter made the grasslands lush and verdant but time was running out before they would all turn dun-colored. But we hit it when it was still crisply green, with the wind at Morgan Territory Preserve whipping the tall grass like something out of a Terrence Malick film. And, the weather was also picture perfect: sunshine with moderate temps to keep the climbing very pleasant and just a taste of headwind in the afternoon.

Morgan clouds

David had about 11 or 12 show including several faces I hadn’t seen before. If I remember correctly who was there: Will Bir, Doug O’Neill, Roger Sayre, Jeff Anhalt, Omar Manuar, Roger Hoyer, Jonathan, two more Jeffs, and a woman who showed up late and who didn’t connect with the main group until lunch. True to the ride listing David led it at a B-pace but overall the group must have been frisky because once on Morgan Territory most of the group rolled up the road. We regrouped at Morgan Territory Preserve, shot the bull, inhaled industrial “sports” food, and enjoyed the surreal view with high clouds rolling over the green hills.

The descent to Highland Road was most excellent and I believe Doug said he hit 50. Isn’t that kind of “death wish” territory, Doug? Luckily for me Doug was waiting at Highland because I love to sit on his wheel when he’s fighting the at-times enervating headwind on the way to Danville. Domenico’s was jam-packed leading to a prolonged lunch. Roger and I always eat from the deli side but the line was out the door so we relented and tried the panini/pizza side. Despite not having a wood-fired oven their pizza was a close facsimile of what you might get in Italy (I said close, mind you, not the same as); in other words, it was surprisingly good. Omar ordered a pizza just for himself but then realized if he ate the whole thing he wouldn’t have room for dessert, so he graciously farmed out some of it so he could go back and get some cookies.

After lunch we rolled up Danville Blvd. I committed a bit of a faux pas by leading this section a bit fast and it was more like a D-pace. Mea culpa. But nobody seemed fazed by the rapidity with which we returned to Concord BART. Thanks David!

The Mystery of Volunteerism

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Roger and I belong to several cycling clubs including Different Spokes. All of them seem to struggle at one time or another with finding enough people to step forward to fill essential club roles such as producing a newsletter, plan events, do outreach, and lead rides. In the case of Valley Spokesmen and Grizzly Peak Cyclists, both of which are large clubs and put on annual century rides, even finding volunteers for the already organized scut work—making rest stop food, registration, clean up, etc.—has been hard work. Judging by newsletters convincing members to step forward and lead a ride is the most common complaint. Even now Different Spokes has not had an official Ride Coordinator for well over a year (but kudos to David Goldsmith for continuing to field ride waivers despite having given up the position). Fortunately Different Spokes rides are being regularly hosted despite the lack of a taskmaster to prod the membership; unfortunately it’s mainly by the usual suspects (primarily David Gaus, David Goldsmith, Joseph Collins, and me) taking the lead, with other members leading rides less frequently. The four of us are fairly prolific ride hosts so the Different Spokes calendar gets at least minimally populated through the year, and most weekends have at least one club ride.

Why people lead rides is probably due a great deal to personality type—some people want the attention (“All right Mr. DeMille, I’m ready for my close-up!”), some feel the need to give back, and some just need to be in control. I’m not sure which type I am but I do recall that not too long after I joined Different Spokes I didn’t think it was a big step for me to host a ride and I did so. Yet I realize that for some the prospect of hosting a club ride is daunting—maybe it’s the felt responsibility for the group, the feeling that “my rides are all boring—who’d want to do them?”, or the fear that no one would show up. Yes, I’ve hosted rides where no one else showed up, and you know what? I still got to do a great ride, as I often ride alone anyway. And I get to do the ride I want to do!

In the early days of the club there was actually—gasp!— competition in the elections to fill the officer positions. We had real elections, i.e. more than one person vying for the posts! Somewhere around the time Dennis Westler was President (the early ‘90s) competition for club positions waned. Dennis did such a superlative job as President that he was pressed into service year after year until it became a running joke that he was President-for-life and that we had become a ‘banana republic’. Now it’s like pulling teeth to get members to willingly take on the scut work of keeping the club alive and kicking. Besides the dull work of making sure we comply with 501(c)3 rules, we need enthusiastic folks to plan club events, handle communication, assist in running the website, pay bills, maintain the membership database, lead rides, and encourage new members.

Newer members may not realize that the club almost disappeared about 15 years ago. Club participation was declining and there was a proposal to fold Different Spokes into the SF Bicycle Coalition, to become a subgroup. There were enough believers in Different Spokes that the motion was defeated and a small cadre stepped forward to revitalize the club, which it did successfully. We ought to thank Chris Laroussell for stepping into the breach and reinvigorating our club. Chris could be a polarizing figure but she was enthusiastic, truly believed in Different Spokes, and volunteered when no one else would. We’re not exactly in the same situation today but we sure could use an injection of volunteerism from members.

What happened? During a period when both recreational and commuter bicycling are undergoing a resurgence, shouldn’t clubs like Different Spokes be growing by leaps and bounds? But clubs of virtually every persuasion, not just cycling clubs, are dealing with cultural pressures that are depressing engagement: lack of time due to long work schedules, general alienation and numbing, transience, and ever increasing superficiality in human interactions. With more acceptance of homosexuality in the Bay Area perhaps the pressure for LGBT folks to flock together has diminished. This is the post-gay hypothesis: LGBT folks are accepted ‘enough’ that we no longer are ghettoized or have to self-ghettoize for physical and psychological survival. A quick perusal of the media shows that despite having a lot of straight allies these days LGBT folks are still getting bashed physically and verbally, so I personally don’t believe we’re post-gay yet. “Religious freedom”, anyone? But it is easier than ever for LGBT cyclists to join a mainstream cycling club and at least not get overt flak if not downright acceptance. Grizzly Peak Cyclists is a fine example; Not only does the club have a large number of women members but lesbians and straight women seem to mingle concordantly.

My suspicion is that many LGBT clubs that were founded in the ‘70s and ‘80s have had a hard time maintaining membership and vibrant involvement. But I don’t think in Different Spokes’s case it is simply the membership aging out; our demographic doesn’t seem to be relentlessly shifting up much age-wise. Cycling in this country—it is slightly different in the UK and Europe—is such a solitary sport. You can do it by yourself, which is one of its attractions and advantages; you don’t need to field a team, a partner, or reserve a court/tee time/field. You just go out and ride. If LGBT cyclists come to Different Spokes and don’t feel like it’s their cup of tea, it may be a disappointment but it is no big deal to return to riding by oneself. I’m curious how the active members of Different Spokes came to see the club as their club enough to want to invest their energy. Was it a friendly encounter on a club ride, the type of rides we typically offer, a particular social event? There must have been a positive experience to induce folks to want to hang out with the club. Conversely those who sniff out the club and then decide it’s not for them either had a negative experience, realized that the club wasn’t exactly what they thought it was, or they just weren’t impressed and moved on.

Clubs can create energy and enthusiasm that leads to involvement and willingness to volunteer; it’s not just a matter of folks with energy and showing up and leading rides. If the space you create is welcoming, fun, purposive, lacks rancor, and meaningful, then people generally will step forward with little encouragement. People will commit to something they believe in and for which they have hope. Inspiration leads to action.

Ride Recap: Social Ride-Lunch at the Prolific Oven

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Almost all of our Social Rides taking place in the immediate Bay Area originate at BART stations in order to make it easy and convenient for you all to get to the start without having to jump into a car—if you even own a car. Last Saturday’s ride started at Union City BART but only Roy came by train; everyone else drove! Perhaps BART’s many recent “challenges” swayed people into driving rather than risk another long delay in the system. As if on cue the elevator at Union City BART was out of order. So despite our generally effete efforts at living a quasi-green lifestyle Roger and I drove too because hauling his e-bike, which weighs like a kazillion pounds, up and down the stairs from the platform wasn’t an alluring prospect. Maybe next time we’ll just skip the pretense and start nowhere near BART!

Donald, Roy, Lamberto and Joe joined Roger and me for a longish Social Ride across the Dunbarton Bridge to the Arastradero Preserve above Palo Alto and then lunch at the heavenly Prolific Oven. Our rides, unlike almost all the club’s other rides, are oriented toward flatter and shorter routes in order to provide an opportunity for non-animals to ride together without fear that the group will vanish off into the distance. Last month’s ride up the Cummings Skyway had perhaps a challenging amount of vertical but reasonable distance whereas this month’s ride at 46 miles was on the long side yet the total vertical ascent was under 1,000 ft—unusual for a Bay Area ride!

We lucked out with the weather: it was sunny and not-too-hot, not-too-cool, with a light breeze almost the entire day. Starting at UC BART means riding through icky traffic but we managed to escape temporarily by cutting through Ardenwood Historic Farm, which just happened to have a Scottish Festival taking place. Ardenwood is right next to Highway 84 on the way to the Dunbarton toll plaza. I’ve probably passed it a thousand times in a car but until yesterday I had never set foot there. What a mistake! It’s a pleasant rural oasis in the middle of burgeoning Fremont: it’s like being in the countryside. And, unlike the farmland in Contra Costa County it’s in no danger of being turned into a housing tract or a business park because it’s owned by the East Bay Regional Park District. After a pit stop at the Don Edwards National Wildlife Refuge we literally bounced along the decrepit Marshlands Road up to the bridge. The pavement is deteriorating, and with no reason to be maintained—it’s only used by cyclists heading to the bridge and by a few fisherman heading to a pier—it’s only going to get worse. We were hunting for the few smooth sections of the road, which mostly happened to be a thin, white strip no more than six inches wide—good practice at riding a straight line.

Once over the bridge we rolled through Belle Haven, which was the low income area on the other side of 101 from tonier Menlo Park. Perhaps it’s still “low income” if by the term you mean modest-houses-starting-at-merely-a-million-dollars. A quick hop over a pedestrian/bike overpass to 101 and we were in the “where the 1% live” zone. Eventually we made our way through the Midpeninsula suburbs to the outer reaches of Palo Alto and the Arastradero Preserve, another important piece of open space. Housing and business were starting to nibble at the edges of Arastradero Road until the Preserve put an end to such nonsense a few decades ago. While taking a break at the Preserve we ran into a unicyclist heading up the trail, quite a sight to see him ascend! We also ran into a women on a brand new e-bike with the Shimano E-Steps system. When asked what she thought of it she said she loves it! Shimano is the first big bicycle equipment manufacturer to get into the e-bike motor business and they are just going to clean up; the motor looks to be a bit lighter than Roger’s Bosch system and the batteries are comparable in size and power.

Eventually we rolled back down to Palo Alto to the Prolific Oven. Downtown PA was bustling with traffic but for some strange reason the Prolific Oven, which has been a local mainstay since 1981, was practically empty. That made it all the easier for six hungry cyclists to get their orders. The true hedonists were immediately evident because they ordered and got their pastries before their sandwiches. Donald shared his cherry strudel with the table—I mean, with those of us who didn’t immediately get a pastry. Roger then went to the counter to get his own but Joe and Domingo had apparently already snatched the last slice, so he came back with a fruit tart. Not having sampled the fare to their satisfaction Joe and Domingo then went back and returned with a chocolate covered cream puff. Oh yeah, and we had sandwiches of various sorts. How can a deli sandwich stand out? Use homemade bread, and the Prolific Oven’s is first caliber. Needless to say it was a long lunch, fitting for a long ride. Eventually we rolled out the door and saddled up for the tailwind-fueled ride back across the Dunbarton.

The next Social Ride will probably be at the end of the month during Memorial Day weekend. Stay tuned to the DSSF Ride Calendar for more details soon!