2019—Don’t Look Back…

2019—A Very Good Year!

Looking back on 2019 personally it felt like a ‘lost year’. You may recall that after a scary-dry early winter it started to dump buckets in January. Challenging weather notwithstanding I did a jillion miles anyway. But the rapid increase in mileage coupled with an aging body led to hamstring tendinopathy, which took three months of absolute rest to quiet. Then at the end of July I crashed and broke a collarbone taking another three months out of riding. But for Different Spokes it was the opposite: one positive step after another setting us up for, we hope, an even better 2020!

New Kit. Working quietly in the background our apparel maven Brian cranked out two new kits for at the start of 2019, a contemporary black motif and a polar opposite rainbow splash so eye blistering that even idiots texting behind the wheel will notice you. Then to close out the year Brian gets us windbreakers, tights, and bibknickers for this winter. Kudos, Brian!

New Website. Ho-hum, it’s so 2019 you say? Although the 2018 and 2019 boards both ushered in our new face, the heavy lifting was done by Nick Kovaleski and David Goldsmith, who did the design and set-up with able assistance from our previous longtime webmaster Jerome Thomere in the porting over of our resources from his website. Although still a work-in-progress, our website now has integrated communication, email, membership management, and calendaring making it much easier to stay in contact with all of you. Thanks Nick, David, and Jerome!

Saddle Challenge. The 18th Saddle Challenge last March started without a hitch but ended with a big surprise: Project Inform, the beneficiary, closed its doors leaving us with, well, a charity effort without a charity. The future of Saddle Challenge as a charity fundraiser is unclear—what do you think? I’ll follow up on this topic in a future ChainLetter article. We raised a modest sum of $244, which the participants generously agreed to donate to the club to purchase a one-year trial of an all-club RideWithGPS membership. Thanks, Saddle Challengers!

Pride Ride. The Pride Ride has had an up-and-down history. Back in the day we didn’t have a Pride Ride because we were too busy getting ready to march in the parade on Sunday. It was really only after we stopped marching and staffing a booth at Pride that the Ride came into being as a regular offering. Interest has waxed and waned (but mostly waned) perhaps due to the route varying in length and difficulty. But we now seem to have hit upon a ‘Goldilocks’ route—neither too long or difficult nor too short—and coupled with some basic publicity and auspicious weather really brought out the crowd: at least 27. It wasn’t just sheer number either; we had participants from around the Bay Area and three from London. Thanks to Sal Tavormina and David Gaus for leading!

Meet Up. We’d been eyeing Meet Up with some interest for a few years and this year we finally pulled the trigger and set up a DSSF Meet Up site as a six-month experiment in outreach. We had mixed success—we brought in a few members but hardly any MU folks came on club rides. Ginny Watson put a superb effort into setting up the site, communicating with members, and especially in leading Mellow Rides. Nonetheless we pulled the site in November after lackluster interest. Although Meet Up turned out not to be a compatible venue for us, it taught us a valuable lesson in whom we should be reaching out to. Thanks again to Ginny for her leadership and hard work!

Before Work Morning Rides. We have had Social A rides, an occasional mountain bike ride, after work rides, and a few years ago even a weekday series of rides for those who either don’t work or work nontraditional schedules. But we hadn’t had something that is actually a staple of the racing crowd: an early morning pre-work ride. Perhaps it’s because most Spokers can’t don’t get up early enough. Well, Ginny and David Goldsmith, both early risers, led a few this year and although they didn’t get a great turnout, they had great fun romping up the Headlands to blast the soot out of the carburators before getting on with the less important part of the day.

Return of the Getaway Weekend. The club has had a long history of weekend cycling trips starting with a self-supported four-day trip from San Francisco to Santa Cruz and back in 1982 (over Thanksgiving weekend no less!) But the popular trips were two- or three-day trips to Guerneville and Lake Tahoe and later, to Amador County where we don’t have to schlep our make-up kits and boudoir outfits in–eek!–panniers. Roger and I put together an easy weekend in Monterey with a house rental where the group could prepare meals together and hang out. Along with folks who drove down for the day we had a couple of great rides, a delicious group dinner, and interesting conversation. This year David Gaus is putting together another Amador County Weekend in early October.

Annual Picnic. After a big turnout in 2018 when Bill Knudsen moved the Picnic back to Golden Gate Park after more than 20 years elsewhere, we thought, “Well, why fool with success?” Only this year the weather didn’t cooperate—isn’t that the reason it moved out of the Park?—and we had a light turnout. But we did try something different this year, a sandwich bar instead of a grill, and people were very pleased. Maybe in 2020 we’ll look into a warmer location!

RideWithGPS. Santa came early this year for the club. After the Saddle Challenge riders donated their orphaned funds to the club, we splurged and got a one-year subscription for a RideWithGPS club account. That club subscription meant every member of Different Spokes would be able to use RideWithGPS as if they had a paid subscription so you all could create your own routes and post them to the DSSF RWGPS account in our club library. Having a club subscription also makes annotating rides with images, history, and notes easy in addition to providing the usual map, cue sheet, route profile, and points of interest. We all we have to do is teach members how to use this fantastic resource.

More Membership Meetings. The club has four annual events that constitute “member” meetings—the Kick-Off Meeting, the Picnic, the Fall Social, and the Holiday Party, which is the minimum required by our bylaws. The Orinda Pool Party could also be included in the count but it’s not one of the “official” club events. Then David Goldsmith decided to pull off an ad hoc meeting just for fun. Ari at Bespoke Cycles was enthusiastic about having the club come for an evening and thus was born a fifth membership meeting in 2019. Those who attended had a great time. Now we’re thinking about more membership meetings in 2020. Do you have an idea for a meeting, a venue and topic? Let us know! Member meetings are a chance to get together around cycling and socialize sans cycling drag. And thanks to David and Ari for putting on the show!

We Recruit. In a heartening development our membership number went up significantly. We started the year somewhere around 69 (appropriate, n’est-ce pas?) and now we’re at 95. We’re getting close to the number where the membership fees will actually pay off our regular bills. Although the Jock Sunday at the Lookout fundraiser was a success yet again, it would be nice not to have to depend on the kindness of strangers in order to stay solvent. If your membership expired on January 1, we hope you’ll look back on the great year you had with Different Spokes and renew your membership tout de suite!

Ride Recap: Last Call for the Jimtown Store

Jimtown Store pulled pork sandwiches

Yesterday’s ride from Healdsburg to lunch at the Jimtown Store highlighted many of the aspects of Northern California winter cycling I love. Those of you who cring at riding in anything less than 60F are truly missing out.

Out of the blue we got a crisp, clear, sunny day with mostly dry roads. A clear winter sky, of course, means a cold morning as all the residual heat of the previous day has radiated away without impediment. At Downtown Bakery in Healdsburg it was 38 degrees. Roger and I had ridden the day before, a jaunt over the newly opened Richmond-San Rafael Bridge to Marin and back; it had been chilly and we knew today would be even chillier up in Healdsburg. So we were both bundled in multiple layers, fleece tights, lots of wool, thick gloves, you name it. Downtown Bakery is the morning hangout in Healdsburg and the only reason there were a handful of people outside enjoying their morning brew was because the inside, which is moderately copious, was packed with those bristling at the cold weather. A hot, fresh coffee and a pain au chocolat in hand I trotted back outside to await the others while enjoying the sunshine and the chilling, tingling sensation on my face.

Donald Cremers and David Gaus joined Roger and me for the ride along Wine Country Century roads to the Jimtown Store for a farewell lunch. Rana was going to join us but she got stuck in Southern California with the Grapevine being shut down and couldn’t make it back in time for the ride and a pulled pork sandwich. Interestingly all four of us had road bikes with disc brakes. Sigh. It’s the end of an era, folks. All of us also had ‘fat’ road tires and I had the skinniest at 28mm. We live in interesting times. Nevertheless for Sonoma county roads the fatter the better because road maintenance up there is literally sketchy. There are long sections of reasonable asphalt and then you hit something that seems headed for Planet of the Apes status as you bounce your way through cracks, pavement heaves, humungous potholes, and weird county patch jobs.

The early start was chilly but that meant hardly any cars. Certainly no one was going wine tasting yet. The roll south on Eastside was barely warming—we weren’t going fast and the sun only occasionally made it over the trees and hillsides to cast its warming gaze on us. It wouldn’t be until we crossed Wohler Bridge and got onto Westside that we’d be on the sunny side of the street. We stopped at Wohler Bridge to take some shots. No one else was out except for rabid fly fishers in the river below. It was a different experience rolling along the roads that are such a familiar sight as part of the annual Wine Country Century: this morning there was almost no one else about. Westside was eerily quiet—I mentioned to Donald it felt a lot like riding in Europe with nearly deserted rural roads peppered with astonishingly scenic vistas around many a corner. The hillsides and fields so sere just over a month ago were now sprouting green grass. Occasional cyclists roared past us; we were moseying, not racing to get to Jimtown. We stopped for an occasional drink, pee, or to snack; it would be nearly 40 miles before we’d have lunch!

When we got to Jimtown, we were greeted with a packed house. The word had gotten out that it was just days from closing and people were crowding the normally quiet restaurant. Everyone knew that pulled pork was the specialty of the house and though those orders were hot and heavy, the kitchen pumped them out quickly and expertly. Poor David ordered a vegan banh mi sandwich and he didn’t get his until the three of us were well finished sucking down our pulled pork masterpieces. Speaking of the pulled pork, I’m going to miss it. A lot. Jimtown sandwiches aren’t large but they pile the perfect amount of pickles and cole slaw on top. It doesn’t overwhelm the pulled pork and if you’re reasonably careful you can eat it with both hands without drooling sauce and sandwich fragments pell-mell. Oh, and the bun is crispy—you can hear it ‘crack’ with each bite. Awesome. It’s now a part of history. Sigh.

Everybody was enjoying their meal. Hardly any words were exchanged but it had been 40 miles of anticipation (and whetted appetite). As we sat outside eating we had a front row seat at the piles of people and cyclists rolling up and getting ready to munch down. When we arrived the bike rack was empty but now it was completely full. As we chatted and eyed the happy crowd, we could see the hilltops had been burned by fire, which is part of the reason Jimtown was closing. Housing in Sonoma is a scarce commodity after the fires and working people are being priced out. (Sound familiar?)

Eventually it was time to go. I could have eaten TWO sandwiches but if I had I would have sunk into a food coma and never made it back to Healdsburg, just six miles away, without a serious nap first. Also, Noble Pies was awaiting us.

The roll back was an easy, flat six miles. When we got back to Downtown Bakery, no one wanted to get pie (!) Those sandwiches were plenty for lunch! (And six miles isn’t enough to prep for serious pie.)

Unless someone decides to buy Jimtown Store and keep it as is, that will be the last Different Spokes ride there. Of course you’ll still pass the building on the Wine Country Century. But it won’t be the same. Adieu, Jimtown.

2020 Century Rides, Part 1

Crater Lake Century

2020 is nigh and so the beginning of a new year of centuries and gran fondos. They start up quickly, folks, with the Tour de Palm Springs and Velo Love Ride in early February. Here’s the early bird information list. All fees listed are for registration now and most go up as the events get closer.

This list goes through June 2020. Many rides in the second half of the year don’t have information posted yet; Part 2 will follow later in 2020. Below includes a lot of ‘old standards’ that Spokers have enjoyed over the years. I’ve also included some that are farther afield and look interesting, as far north as nearly the Oregon border. The Greater SF Bay Area is blessed with a multitude of century and gran fondo rides of which these are just a subset. Starting in April things really heat up and you’ll be able to find a big ride almost every weekend.

Ridership in local centuries generally seems to be on the wane. For example, the Cinderella Classic has been around since 1976 and until recent years had a limit of 2,000 riders, I believe. This year’s limit is down to 800. Having worked registration for over 15 years I can tell you that the numbers have tumbled. Is it because centuries are no longer a ‘thing’, women-only rides are passé (are we post-feminist too?), Valley Spokesmen is tired of fighting the local authorities around permits for such a large event on public roads, or it just can’t muster enough volunteers to hold such a large event anymore? The latter is clearly taking place at the Sierra Century. The Sacramento Wheelmen do not have enough members, particularly new members, to step up and run the event. Cycling clubs are mostly aging up with thin ranks of younger members. The reason for this is unclear. Although cycling is enjoying a boom (yet again), newer cyclists may not be joining clubs.

Fortunately into the breach have stepped a number of local charity organizations to invent and put on new centuries. Local Lions Clubs and Rotary International sections seem to be common sponsors for smaller rides. One could say they’re riding the charity ride wave and that’s good news for those of us who appreciate riding in different areas on new-to-us roads.  How many of these will last is questionable because it takes a significant effort to put on a fundraising ride, mainly lots of volunteers and yearlong planning. Different Spokes put on the AIDS Bike-A-Thon for ten years before the leadership and the membership just burned out. So if you see a ride that looks interesting you may want to sign up because there is no guarantee it will be there in 2021.


1 Wednesday. Resolution Ride/New Year Day Up Diablo.  Technically it’s not a century or a gran fondo but the NYDUD coming during the winter doldrums will feel like one! And what better way to rid a hangover than to get up early and head to the top of Mt. Diablo? If you do nothing else in 2020, you’ll still be able to say you made it up the second highest peak in the Bay Area. If we’re lucky, the park rangers will again have coffee and donuts at the Junction and Roger H and I won’t have to schlep them all up for you.


8 Saturday. Tour de Palm Springs. $80. Registration is open. Here’s your chance to check out your retirement options by cycling in the Palm Springs area! It’s a schlep to get to Palm Springs but Spokers who’ve been say it’s worth it. Options for 9, 26, 51, or 102 miles.

8 Saturday. Velo Love Ride. [UPDATE 1/6/20: CANCELLED. It seems Chico Velo needed an event organizer and they couldn’t get one this year, alas. I know they also lost their longtime caterer. This event has been held for ages, so this does not bode well for the future.] A low-key event with a flat ride around the Sutter Buttes outside of Chico. Starts in Gridley just north of Yuba City—a much easier schlep than Palm Springs. The meal at the end is worth it. Has a real “locals” feel rather than the usual mass-event mosh pit vibe. Sponsored by Chico Velo, the same fine folks who put on the Chico Wildflower. 40-, 60- and 100-mile options. I’ve been assured by Chico Velo that the Velo Love ride is going to be held even though the Chico Velo site is mum about it now. They also accept late registrations so if rain is threatening, you can make your decision later.

22 Saturday. Pedaling Paths to Independence. $45-40. Registration is open. 65-, 45- or 20-mile routes. This is a pretty easy metric in the Valley that is a benefit for the Community Center for the Blind. It’s cheap too. Mostly flat and not too demanding unless the wind is blowing. A good early season ride. Starts in Linden, east of Stockton.


7 Saturday. Blossom Bike Ride. $50. Registration is open. Put on by the Lions Club, the Blossom Bike Ride is in Reedley southeast of Fresno, about 3.5 hours from SF. Another flattish Central Valley ride and good for starting the riding season and Saddle Challenge. 60-, 45-, and 20-mile options.

14 Saturday. Solvang Century. $99. Registration is open. It’s a long after-work Friday drive down to Solvang but you get to amble back home on Sunday. (But DST does begin that morning.) And be sure to reserve a motel room well in advance. Solvang is a big event with thousands of cyclists. If you like crowds, this is your ride. The rest stop food is perfunctory yet ample but no lunch or after-ride meal is included. 25-, 49-, 66-, and 100-mile options.

28 Saturday. Cinderella Classic & Challenge. Registration opens January 8. $40/$65. Limited to 800 women and girls. 30, 65 or 85 miles. Sponsored by Valley Spokesmen, the very first women/girls only century ride is now in its 44th year. Boys will have to settle for Different Spokes’s very own Evil Stepsisters ride!


4-5 Saturday/Sunday. L’Eroica California. $130/$220. Registration is open. 33-, 74-, 81-, and 108-mile routes for classic bikes; 81-mile route for all bikes. The rides are part of the two-day festival of vintage bicycles held in Paso Robles. You have to have a vintage bike to participate in the Sunday classic ride, e.g. no STI-like shifters, no clipless pedals, basically no bikes made before 1987 and the older the better for the classic routes. But you can ride your modern bike on the 82-mile route on Saturday. Retro-poseurs need apply. And wear wool!

18 Saturday. Sea Otter Classic. $90-110. Registration is open. Did you know the Sea Otter Classic is more than a glitter show of new bike products and race watching? Two gran fondos at 49 or 91 miles. Also a gravel grinder of 29 miles and a mountain bike ride of 19 miles.

18 Saturday. Bike Around The Buttes. $55-40. Registration opens Jan. 1. 100-, 65-, 40-, and 20-mile routes. If you can’t make it to Chico Velo’s Velo Love Ride, this ride covers similar roads in the Sutter Buttes area.

CANCELLED. Sierra Century. This long-time spring century by Sacramento Wheelmen is on hiatus because, “Sadly, this event has been cancelled due to an inability to recruit new club members to take over critical leadership positions for the event. Whether this event is ever offered again depends, at least in part, on the future well-being of the club, which now needs to focus on attracting and integrating new members so that a next generation of Wheelmen will be prepared to do so.” Sad yet understandable.

19 Sunday. Primavera Century. $65 Registration is open. 100-, 85-, 63- and 25-mile routes. Starts conveniently in Fremont but too early to get there by BART (except for the 25-mile fun ride).

25 Saturday. Tierra Bella. $55/$70. Registration is open. Limit of 1,500. A club fav and it’s close by in Gilroy. Great roads, which are not suburbanized (yet). Post-ride meal is pretty good too. For unknown karmic reasons this ride gets horrendously rained out periodically. But in dry years it’s a fantastic ride. 33-mile, 100-mile, or three 100K options varying in hilliness.

25 Saturday? Mt. Hamilton Challenge. For the past three years the Mt. Hamilton Challenge has been cancelled due to weather or road closure. But Pedalera promises it will be back for 2020.

25 Saturday. SLO Wildflower Century.  $75. Registration opens Jan. 5. Limit of 1,200. Starts in Creston  southeast of Paso Robles.

26 Sunday. Chico Wildflower. $45/$75. Registration is open. 12-, 30-, 60-, 65-, 100-, and 125-mile routes. This century is a club favorite. Spokers usually arrange to have dinner together the night before in Chico. Booking lodging requires advance planning, as the Wildflower will fill up all the motel rooms in the area. If you can take Monday off from work, so much the better because you will almost certainly be whipped after the ride and the excellent post-ride dinner–driving back right after is just a chore.


2 Saturday. Wine Country Century. $70-110. Registration is open. 100-mile, metric, and ‘super’ century. Cap of 2,500. Another club fave. Good lunch, great after-ride meal, awesome tandem friendly rural roads.

2 Saturday. Siskiyou Scenic Bicycle Tour. $65-15. Registration is open. 103-, 68-, 21-, and 8-mile road routes; also a 90-mile mixed surface route! End-of-ride meal. This ride is run by the Yreka Rotary Club and takes you on rural roads north of Mt. Shasta.

3 Sunday. Grizzly Peak Century. $75. Registration opens mid-January. 52-, 76-, 102-mile road routes. Capped at 1,000 riders. Starts in Moraga so very easy to get to except not by BART because BART doesn’t open up early enough. The GPC is most definitely not a flat route–it’s a climber’s ride. This one always sells out, so don’t wait too long after registration opens, which I am guessing will be around the New Year. The end-of-ride meal is most definitely homemade and delicious.

16 Saturday. Davis Double. $120? Registration usually opens in March. Limit of 1,000. No information yet but the DD always takes place. This is one of the easier double centuries as long as it’s not hot.

16 Saturday. Tour de la Vigne  Formerly the Lodi Sunrise Century. $65. 100-, 62-, 38-, and 17-mile routes. Starts in the Valley in Lodi and heads up to Camanche Reservoir and back through Linden. If you’re not up for 200 miles at Davis.

17 Sunday. Strawberry Fields Forever. $45 No information yet. 30-, 61-, and 101-mile routes. A pleasant ride in the Santa Cruz and Watsonville area.

30 Saturday. Devil’s Slide Ride.  $90/$45. Registration is open. 101-, 64-, and 42-mile routes down the San Mateo coast and up the Coast Range and back. A benefit for PARCA.


7 Sunday. Sequoia Century. $95-45. Registration opens Jan. 2. 100-, 72-, 59-, and 44-mile routes through the Coast Range to the coast and back. Another longtime, epic ride.

13 Saturday. Gold Country Cycling Challenge.  $70-45. Registration is open.  The Rotary Club of Grass Valley sponsors this one for the seventh time.  100-, 75-, 55, and 33-mile routes from Grass Valley north to the South Yuba River and back. There are actually three paved rides and three “gravel” rides!

20 Saturday. Mile High 100. $85-55. Formerly the Lake Almanor Century. 108-, 56-, and 33-mile routes. Near Lassen Volcanic Park. Mid-ride lunch and after-ride meal included.

20 Saturday. RBC Gran Fondo Silicon Valley. $725/245. Registration is open. Yes, your read that right: $725 for a friggin’ 71-mile ride from Palo Alto to the San Mateo coast and back along the roads we ride all the time—Kings Mtn., Tunitas Creek, Stage Road, Pescadero Creek, La Honda Road. For the venture capitalist in your family. Well, you don’t have to drive far to do this one. Or you could just do the Sequoia, which is not only way less expensive but supports a great local club, Western Wheelers, instead of profiteering carpetbaggers.

The Future is Here, Now

Taking SMART with your bicycle

This Saturday (Dec. 14) SMART will open the link between the current southern train terminus in San Rafael and the Larkspur Ferry Terminal. This link makes it much easier for commuters to get to work in SF. But for those of us heading to play instead of labor, it is a bonus to getting to the outer reaches of the North Bay! With the recent opening of the bike/pedestrian path on the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge, we will then have an incredible multimodal path from the East Bay all the way into Sonoma. Those of us who live in the East Bay will be able to ride our bikes across the R-SR Bridge to the Larkspur Ferry Terminal and catch a train as far north as the northern boundary of Santa Rosa near the Charles Schultz airport. That area is where the Wine Country Century takes place and abounds with smaller, rural roads that are excellent for road riding (I won’t mention that dirt roads that will be easier to access too!) Yes, you could “just” ride up from San Francisco but you’d spend the better part of the day (after taking BART to SF) riding up through SF and Marin just to start those rides. (Keep in mind that downtown Santa Rosa is about 45 miles north, making it a 90-mile day just to get to the start.)

With SMART’s excellent bicycle infrastructure it will make the train leg much more hospitable than even CalTrain or BART.

Part of SMART’s plan has been to have a muiti-use path adjacent for much of the right-of-way all the way to the northern end. That part of the plan hit some roadblocks and did not open when SMART initiated service. But it now looks like the bikeway will be completed eventually. With that we will then have the option of either bypassing SMART altogether or embarking/disembarking along the way to ride sections of the path you desire.

You can read the details here.

Calling All Sugardaddies!

“Is that a donation in your pocket, or are you just glad to see me?”

A long black dress may cover a multitude of sins but not budget deficits. A dirty little secret of our club is that these days we need about a hundred paying members to break even and keep the club running like the smoothly oiled machine that it is and we’re not there yet. We’ve been supplementing our coffers by depending on the kindness of strangers: fundraising additional dough with the great help of the Lookout Bar. To stabilize the club we’d love to have 150 members (okay, we’ll settle for 130 members!) But in the meantime Holly Golightly needs some sugardaddies (and -mommies) to keep her afloat! Our $20 member dues provide for our web site, club insurance, taxes, post office box, and membership events run on a shoestring budget. Did you know our membership dues haven’t increased since the 1980s? We are soliciting member donations so that Different Spokes San Francisco can fund additional programs and nicer events. For example, we’re looking to continue our club’s RideWithGPS membership (which we got as a gift from Saddle Challengers last March), provide a Different Spokes app, and give our ride leaders better capabilities so we can fully move to electronic ride waivers. If you would like to help the club out in this way, please consider adding $50, $100, or $200 to your normal $20 dues for the year. Oh yeah Daddy/Mommy, you know we’ll get some extra love in return. (You know generosity is always well rewarded!)

Giving is the Way to Nirvana

Ride Rumor: Treasure Trail to Speisekammer

Treasure Island: Lost in the ozone again…

The last time Roger H and I had been out to Treasure Island was March 2018 and there have been some big changes. With redevelopment plans gaining steam, wholesale demolition of older housing and buildings has turned TI temporarily into, well, an unpleasant construction zone. Views of the East Bay, San Francisco, and the Golden Gate remain fantastic but let’s say that the ambience is a little bit ‘unaesthetic’. Nonetheless we had a pleasant visit despite the demo work partly because we were there on a Sunday and mostly because the weather was near perfect: cool temp, very light breeze, and full sun. At some point TI is planned for about 24,000 residents compared to the current level of less than 2,000 and that’s going to make it both less and more hospitable—less because there is going to be hella traffic and more because the infrastructure to support all those residents is going to be in place. A Slanted Door on TI? Maybe. But for now it’s still very sleepy.

The demolition meant that Google Maps was no longer accurate, as a bunch of streets were blocked off to all traffic. After some confusion wandering about trying to follow the route I had designed, we took Will up on this suggestion to go to Mersea for a break. Mersea is a restaurant/cafe made out of repurposed shipping containers. The other choice on the Island currently is the Aracely Café, which was too busy for our taste (plus loud rock music on a Sunday morning? Seriously?!). Aracely is tucked away in what looks to be the front of a school building; Mersea is near the Bay facing SF and has a glorious view. This day we took in everything from the top of Twin Peaks to the enormous cruise ship at the Embarcadero. Mersea has $9 all-you-can-drink kombucha, which Will imbibed, whereas Roger, Leonard and I drank more mundance espressos. Their homemade croissants are very tasty. After languishing there for ages enjoying the sun we saddled up and headed back to the East Bay. The portion of the Alex Zuckerman path into the Port of Oakland has finally been completed and it’s buttery smooth. Being Sunday the Port was a ghost town and looked very apocalyptic-Post Industrial except for some massive new construction. Eventually we meandered over to Alameda for lunch at Speisekammer.

It was crowded. Wow. They’re always jammed at Oktoberfest but it was a surprise that they were doing very good business on a regular Sunday morning. In the past we’ve always been able to sit outside within view of the bikes. But Alameda has been ‘discovered’ and German food is now on trend rather than being the subject of sneering. So we forewent waiting for a table al fresco for immediate seating inside.

Since Roger and I don’t drink, Will and Leonard had to do double-duty for hoisting the adult beverages. God, that was a delicious lunch! As I get older my ability to inhale immense quantities of food has really diminished. Normally I would partake of the wienerschnitzel platter. But two large slices of pan-fried, breaded pork plus the potatoes and salad was going to be a bridge too far and I wisely got the wienerschnitzel sandwich with only one slice. Roger had the vegetable strudel and said it was delicious; Will had the jägerschnitzel and red cabbage, Leonard the pork roast. Everyone was pleased.

The nice thing about this ride is Speisekammer is only a few miles from the end. So you can scarf ’til the cows come home without fear you’ll barf afterwards. Since I can’t eat as much as I used to, that just means we’ll have to come back here again and again to enjoy their heavenly food.

NTKOMM Membership Meeting*

Ari at Bespoke Cycles talks tires
Ari at Bespoke Cycles SF talks tires.

(*Not the Kick-Off Membership Meeting)

Last Wednesday we had our first general membership meeting that wasn’t the annual Spring Kick-Off Membership Meeting in more than ten years, probably even longer. Probably none of you realizes that our bylaws require us to have a minimum of four membership meetings annually; this has been true since we achieved official non-profit status, which was roughly a couple of years after we were founded. In the beginning this was hardly an issue since—believe it!—we had monthly membership meetings. Initially we met at the Haight Street branch library meeting room and when it closed for renovation years later we moved to the old MCC in the Castro.

It may seem excessive to most of you to have had 11 or 12 club meetings a year especially since they weren’t required by law. But this was all pre-Internet (technically it was when a few were using Compuserve, Prodigy, maybe AOL, or were lucky to have Internet through academia or DoD work ) so the business of the club had to happen mostly face-to-face. How were rides created? We lugged a big box of maps and guide books out of the storage room of the library and members perused them to think of rides they might lead or talk to other members about possible routes. There was no website so information (and juicy gossip) was shared verbally. Board meetings took place at the beginning of the club meeting so everyone could see what was being discussed (either to their complete boredom or their horror, depending).

We didn’t always have an official program (a speaker or a topic of interest to the membership) and sometimes the meetings were tedious and mundane. But people showed up probably because it was the main way to meet other members and see what the club was about. Yes, you could just show up on a ride but the monthly meetings were a lower key way to introduce oneself to the club and vice versa. That was certainly my introduction to Different Spokes.

Somewhere along the line the regular monthly meetings went away although I can’t remember exactly how that happened. Some clubs like Grizzly Peak Cyclists (Berkeley) and Almaden Cycle Touring Club (SJ) continue to have monthly meetings. Others such as Valley Spokesmen hold quarterly meetings and some clubs such a Diablo Cyclists appear to have no meetings at all.

Club meetings especially if they involve food are a low-key, convivial way to hang out and meet other clubmates, see each other out of cycling drag, and find out “officially” what’s going on with the club.

In the future we may have more NTKOMM meetings but it will depend on whether a board member (or regular members who want to help!) has the energy and an idea for it.

But I digress—back to the recent NTKOMM: David Goldsmith happened to be chatting with Ari, the owner of Bespoke Cycles and idea of a club meeting that didn’t have the onus of the Kick-Off Meeting (introduce the new board, cover a year’s worth of upcoming events, a program, etc.) came up. It was really an excuse to hang out in a cool bike shop and chat with clubbies. As a plus Ari volunteered to talk about whatever topic struck our fancy. We told Ari that perhaps opining on new bike technologies might spark some interest and so the meeting was born.

For the food David went to the trouble of getting lots of fabulous Detroit-style pizza from, I think, Square Pizza Guys south of Market St. Ari threw in a bunch of different kinds of beer and soft drinks. I grew up in Detroit and I had never heard of “Detroit” pizza, which apparently is a thing in SF now. Perhaps it was because I grew up in a Chinese family where Italian food was limited to a very infrequent can of Chef Boyardee. Or it could be because I—horrors!—predate such hometown trends. In any case it was pretty damn good. Pizza Square Guys also make a vegan pizza but such concepts baffle me and there was no way I was going to venture into the unknown when the pepperoni was so good. I’m going to have to check this place out in person…

IRL (not in cycling life!)
IRL (not “in cycling life”)

There were eleven of us who attended including a brand new member Michael whom I chatted with only briefly and didn’t get the chance to find out why he joined Different Spokes SF sight unseen. And he came all the way up from San Jose! Almost the entire board was there—David Go., David Ga., Nick, Roger, Ginny, and I. Roger Hoyer, Carl Stein, Stephen Shirreffs, Jeff Mishler, and new member Michael filled out the dance card.

Ari talked about three topics: tire trends, drivetrain maintenance, and ceramic bearings. Punchline: tires are getting wider with little or no detriment to speed and big gains in comfort. The narrow-is-faster orthodoxy turns out to be empirically false in most everyday situations so manufacturers are making wider tires and wider rims to take advantage of the comfort angle. Ari said there has been a movement away from 23 mm road tires to 25 mm and now even 28 or larger tires are being recommended. He said the wider rims support the wider tires so that cornering is excellent even at lower tire pressure, and lower tire pressure is what wider road tires is all about: more comfort, just as much flat protection, and better grip. Surprisingly Ari is not a proponent of tubeless tires although I don’t recall exactly why except he mentioned the mess they make when you do get a puncture that doesn’t seal right away. (I can vouch for that!)

Ari then recommended that the next thing recreational cyclists should do is be more diligent about drivetrain cleaning and lubrication. Using wax based chain lubricants reduces drivetrain grime and makes a quick rubdown with a rag at the end of a ride a lot easier than breaking out the chain cleaner. In particular he recommended Squirt lube (yes, that’s its real name and no, don’t go to squirt.org to read about it; try squirtcyclingproducts.com instead).

Finally Ari went gaga over ceramic bearings and brought out some sample bottom bracket bearings and chain pulley bearings—standard steel bearings or bushings versus ceramic bearings—for us to compare how they feel. The ceramic bearings did indeed have less friction and he claimed they did not need more maintenance than regular bearings. Less friction means less effort to go fast on the order of 5-10 watts. Although Ari may have a point, I am not convinced from the maintenance perspective. But he did mention that Ceramic Speed, the maker he’s selling, stands behind its products.

By the way Ari also does bike fittings and has been doing it for ages. He didn’t say anything about it that night but it might be interesting to hear him talk about how he does bike fittings and changes to bike fit thinking with the advent of gravel bikes (a.k.a.” regular road bikes” back in the day).

Jock Supporters

Wanna buy a jello shot?

A very big thanks to Roger Sayre, Will Bir, Peter Phares, Nick Kovaleski, and Jeff Pekrul for volunteering at Jock Sunday at the Lookout on Sunday November 3. These guys gave pandering a good name by selling jello shots to the packed crowd of Millennials and raising $603 for Different Spokes! Of course a very big thanks to the Lookout for continuing to support local LGBT sports clubs by putting on Jock Sundays and allowing us to participate once again.

Membership fees do not cover the costs of running the club (yet) so fundraising events and generosity are important for us staying above water financially.

Although hanging out in a gay bar isn’t everybody’s fav way to spend a Sunday afternoon (but we’re not sure why not with all the eye candy), volunteering for club events is a great way to contribute to the club. So on behalf of the board thanks to all five of you. Next time you see one of our very own Pro Panderers on a club ride, please be sure to show them how much you appreciate their hard work!

The High Cost of Fashion

If you’re going to dress to be chic, it will cost you. You already knew that, right? Let’s see—Rapha, Assos, Castelli….or Bike Nashbar, Performance, Decathlon? We all want to be PRO and not Fred, so our closets are filled with physical incantations that will transform us into Those To Whom We Aspire. You should not be surprised that this also applies to your bike. Hence the current obsession with hydraulic disc brakes. Setting up and maintaining hydraulic brakes perhaps becomes second nature after practice. But the learning curve is a lot steeper than with old-fashioned rim brakes. Cutting lines and setting the olive and barb, bleeding lines and making sure they’re free of air, to name just a couple of tasks, are probably unfamiliar to most road cyclists while very familiar to mountain bikers at least those who do their own maintenance and repairs.

Nowadays road bikes are getting more complex and the tradition of DIY maintenance and repair is slowly eroding away. Having your LBS handle routine brake maintenance is going to cost you not just because it’s more time consuming but also because you’ll probably need to have it done more often than you would with rim brakes.

The other dirty little secret of hydraulic brakes is that the replacement parts are much more expensive than for rim brakes. I alluded to this in an earlier post but I was incorrect about the cost. I said that rim brake pads and disc brake pads cost about the same and that is not accurate. Top end Shimano Dura Ace brake pads cost a mere $9 a set—$20 for two sets and you have brand new brakes. Contrast that with hydraulic brakes: Shimano replacement pads run about $25-30 for one set. You will also have to regularly change the rotor, which wears out quickly. Shimano rotors run about $60-75 for one rotor. I run through about three sets of pads before I’ve worn down the rotor to the point it needs to be changed and I run through about one rotor per year. So in a year I’ll be spending about $130 on replacement parts for disc brakes. Another way to put it is the per wheel cost: the average maintenance cost per wheel is about $50 for hydraulic brakes but for rim brakes it’s just $9. For me rim brake pad wear is measured in years but rotors and hydraulic disc brake pads it’s months. Of course the unmentioned cost with rim brakes is that you eventually will wear out your rim. But in my case that’s somewhere north of 25,000 miles so the cost per year is really quite small. Of course the cost is less important if your use case warrants it. When I’m going down fire roads those hydraulic brakes are a blessing!

The Best Way to Keep One’s Word is Not to Give It

The San Jose Mercury News reported that October 21 was the deadline for remediation of the infrastructure for BART’s as-yet unopened Milpitas and Berryessa stations in order to open by the end of this year. If you recall last June the opening date for the new stations was delayed yet again until “November” or “late 2019”. Everything was set back when “thousands” of problems were still unresolved between the VTA-constructed stations and BART. Apparently those problems are now down to a “handful” and BART blew its deadline yet finally began testing the new line a week late on October 28. Nothing ever seems to go smoothly with BART especially its dismal PR. Since BART never appears to rush headlong (yeah, we wish!), the odds of it being able to open Milpitas and Berryessa by Dec. 31 are about zero. One would think that being one week behind schedule means it will open a week late. Well, originally it was “November” or “late fall”. I think we might see it before June 2020 keeping in mind BART never admits its timelines are always ludicrously unrealistic.

On the other hand we just had dinner with a German friend who commented that the new Berlin Tegel airport was originally set to open in 2011. But due to the 2008 recession subcontractors went bankrupt disappeared and along with them the schematics of their work. So now the airport is “done” except that nothing works and they’re untangling that mess slowly. New opening date is now late 2020. Does that sound familiar to you? In another example of stellar German planning the Hamburg opera house, the Elbphilharmonie, finally opened in 2017 but ran into cost overruns that put construction on hiatus twice, I believe. It eventually opened six years late. So maybe BART is actually ahead of the curve. Whoa, what a thought!