6 Saturday. Marin Century. No additional information on the 2022 Marin Century yet.
7 Sunday. Civilized Century. $40. 100-, 75-, 60- and 35-mile routes. Registration opens June 1. Limited to 200 riders. Here’s the ‘new kid on the block’. The 100-mile route starts in Redwood City goes up to SFO and returns before crossing the Dumbarton and returning around the South Bay.
20 Saturday. Cool Breeze Century. $85. 125-, 107-, 95-, 60- and 34-mile routes. A pleasant, not-too-difficult century down in Ventura county with great weather. Registration opens April 1 (no fooling’!) Limit of 2,000.
?. Tour of Napa. The 2021 event was cancelled. No information yet whether Eagle Cycling Club will put on the Tour this year.
?. Tour de Fuzz. More information in March. Event was held in 2021.
10 Saturday. Best Buddies Challenge. More information and registration opening in late January. Last year there was a $50 fee plus $1,550 minimum fundraising. 30, 62, or 100 miles but will be different routes than in past because of closure of Hearst Ranch.
24 Saturday to Sunday. Napa Valley Ride to Defeat ALS. Registration fee and then minimum fundraising amount. 100-, 62-, 47-, 28- and 9-mile routes. Registration is open.
24 Saturday. Lighthouse Century. $85. 100-, 75- and 50-mile routes. Limit of 1,000. San Luis Obispo Bicycle Club’s other century. From Morro Bay a detour inland before heading back to the coast and halfway up Highway 1 and back.
25 Sunday. Jensie Gran Fondo. No information yet other than date. Rides through West Marin on a route similar to the Marin Century.
?. Tour of the Sacramento River Delta (TOSRD). No information yet. Annual ride from Brannan Island to Sacramento via the Delta on Saturday and return on Sunday. Stay at La Quinta near old town. Includes lunch on Saturday and a post-ride bbq on Sunday.
1 Sunday. Grizzly Peak Century. $? Registration not yet open. 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. The end-of-ride meal is most definitely homemade and delicious.
7 Saturday. Wine Country Century. $100-70 Registration opens January 14 is now open. 100-mile, metric, and 34-mile routes. Another club fave. Good lunch, great after-ride meal, awesome tandem friendly rural roads.
7 Saturday. Siskiyou Scenic Bicycle Tour. $65-45. Registration is open. Limit of 450. 101-, 67-, 40-, and 21-mile road routes and a 39-mile gravel route. End-of-ride meal. This ride is run by the Yreka Rotary Club and takes you on rural roads north of Mt. Shasta.
13-15 Friday to Sunday. Climate Ride Green Fondo. $40 registration with a $480 minimum fundraising commitment. Limit of 200. 101-, 65-, and 33-mile routes on Saturday; 67-, 36-, and 19-mile routes on Sunday.
21 Saturday. Davis Double. $? Information will be available at the end of January and registration will open in early February. This is one of the easier double centuries as long as it’s not hot.
14 Saturday. Tour delle Vigne $65. 100-, 50-, and 30-km routes. Formerly the Lodi Sunrise Century. Registration is open. Starts in the Valley in Lodi and tours the flat ag roads.
15 Sunday. Strawberry Fields Forever. $85. 30-, 61-, and 101-mile routes. Registration is open. A pleasant ride in the Santa Cruz and Watsonville area.
?. Devil’s Slide Ride. $?. No information on whether this ride is taking place. A benefit for PARCA.
5 Sunday. Sequoia Century. 101-, 68-, and 57-mile routes. Registration opens February 2.
5-11 Sunday to Saturday. AIDS Lifecycle. $75. $3,000 minimum fundraising amount; $5,000 suggested. You know the routine: raise money for the SF AIDS Foundation or the Los Angeles LGBT Center to fight AIDS by riding 545 miles from SF to LA. Registration is open.
11 Saturday. Gold Country Cycling Challenge. $70-65. Registration is open. 100-, 75-, 55, and 33-mile routes from Grass Valley north to the South Yuba River and back. There are three road rides and two “gravel” rides.
?. Mile High 100. Formerly the Lake Almanor Century. No information yet.
18 Saturday. Climb to Kaiser. 155 or 95-mile routes. If you enjoy heat and climbing, this is the ride for you. “Only” 15,000 or 7,500 vertical feet ascents but you have the pleasure of baking in the Central Valley. Starts in Clovis.
?. RBC Gran Fondo Silicon Valley. $?. No information yet. In case you’re unfamiliar with this ride, it costs $725/$245. Yes, $725 for a 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 who donate their proceeds to local non-profits, instead of profiteering carpetbaggers.
June 18-25. Sierra to the Sea. Registration opens January 18 at 6 PM. Awesome eight-day supported tour from the Sierras to the Bay Area run by fellow club Almaden Cycle Touring Club in San Jose.
16 Saturday. Death Ride. $149. Registration is open.
16 Saturday. Fall River Century. $75-50. 200k, 100 mile, 100k, and 25 mile routes. Registration is open. Limit of 500 riders. Ride in the area near Mt. Shasta.
23 Saturday. Santa Cruz Mountain Challenge. $70-55. Still in planning but hope to offer 45-, 62-, 100-, and 135-mile routes. Registration opens February 1. This venerable event not only got hit by Covid but also by the CZU fire last year that burned portions of the route.
If you’re familiar with online virtual cycling sites, you know that they skew heavily towards training and racing. You can race against yourself or others, or you can do some kind of structured training such as intervals, threshold training, and the like. The best known of these is Zwift but there are many others such as Sufferfest, Rouvy, TrainerRoad, and Xert. They all pretty much hew to the same idea of simulated racing. Racing online isn’t such a new idea; it actually goes back to the Computrainer in the 1986. But nowadays the level of graphics and online participation is much higher making for a more entertaining experience.
What is mostly lost in all this is a focus on the joy of cycling outdoors. If you’re not into racing or competition, then Zwift and its ilk are less persuasive of cycling indoors. There is likely a historical reason for why these sites dwell so narrowly on competition. Indoor cycling—originally on rollers, then later on trainers, then smart trainers—was a way to get through the winter in parts of the world (ie. not California) that had real winters with snow. The most entertainment you got while spinning away on the rollers was perhaps watching a videotape of a cycling race and imagining yourself riding with the pros. Of course that was after VCRs had been invented. Before and even after the invention of the VCR, a typical “ride” on rollers was a short—maybe an hour—structured workout. There were actually books that provided sample workouts. You also have to think about who would be desperate enough to want to ride indoors. It was the most fanatical cyclists many of whom were amateur racers. (The pros would just go outdoors and cycle or they’d crosstrain.) In any case riding on a stationary bike is boring and that was all the more reason to make it brief and therefore intense to get the most out of your short workout.
But what if you ride because you like being outdoors or enjoy cycletouring? If you like to cycle in beautiful places, then Watopia is a letdown. There are a couple of sites that try to provide a more realistic and immersive experience focusing on the joy of riding: Fulgaz and OpenRoad. Both provide video footage of rides from a cyclist’s perspective trying to replicate the actual experience of riding rather than entertaining you with a game-like ride in a completely computer generated fake world. I don’t have much to say about OpenRoad because it is PC only. It’s not even available on Android whereas Fulgaz is available for Mac, PC, Android, AppleTV, and iOS.
Our setup is an AppleTV box hooked up to a large screen TV. You could use an iPad or laptop screen but I wanted to see how immersive the experience would be looking at a large screen. You can try out Fulgaz for two weeks for free, which is what we did since we didn’t know what we were getting into. It costs $12 per month or $100 annually. We didn’t even use a smart trainer, just a bike on a fluid trainer. With a smart trainer you can have your speed/cadence/power data sent to Fulgaz where it appears on the screen. Conversely inclination data is sent to your smart trainer to increase the resistance to replicate the harder effort of going uphill. You can find the details of how Fulgaz works at its website. You can compare it to OpenRoad if you’re a PC person.
You can download a ride and then view it or just stream it; we did the latter out of convenience. Fulgaz has about 1,200 videos of rides from around the world including a lot of the classic climbs of the Alps and Dolomites. But it also has a lot of other unexpected but interesting rides, for example a ride around Uluru (Ayers Rock) in the Northern Territory of Australia. Videos are shot by Fulgaz staff but users can also submit videos for curation. This leads to some slight variability in quality but for the most part the video quality is decent to good since Fulgaz provides guidelines on shooting video and also edits and curates everything submitted. Since we were streaming the rides, there was some pixellation but it wasn’t disturbing enough to jar you out of the faux experience of riding outdoor. If we had downloaded the rides instead of streaming them we suspect the pixellation would disappear. Most of the videos if not all seem to be shot using GoPro cameras that are mounted at handlebar level. This makes for a slightly strange perspective but that oddity soon goes away. This doesn’t seem to be the case with OpenRoad videos, at least the ones I can see on its YouTube site. The perspective seems to be almost normal eye level. But that could just be due to mounting the camera above the handlebars rather than below. In any case you don’t see the handlebars or shifters, which is nice. It would be too much to ask those who submit videos to Fulgaz to use a special setup for their submissions. But for Fulgaz’s inhouse videos it wouldn’t.
GoPro camera lenses have a very wide field of view of 170 degrees. This causes a distinct ‘warping’ of your view that leads to a prominent—at least to me—artifact in Fulgaz videos: the camera is mounted to the handlebars so every panning motion is visually exacerbated. I found it at times unnatural but usually got used to it and didn’t notice it except when the bike in the video was turning sharply. This doesn’t seem to be the case with OpenRoad—perhaps they’re using a different camera than GoPro or they set their cameras to a medium field of view. Going into a turn the visual field tilts but you don’t since you’re on a trainer, and since I happen to be prone to motion sickness, the disconnect between what my eyes see and what my inner ear is sensing for balance is occasionally disorienting to the point of me feeling nauseous. This was most noticeable on a couple of videos with a lot of quick, sharp turns—both happen to be on multi-use paths. On roads in the videos this doesn’t happen because the turns just aren’t that sharp.
Another artifact you’ll notice is how smooth a cyclist the camera person is. When going slowly uphill we all move the bars side to side but some of us are smoother than others. This all becomes apparent when climbing up a steep hill. When we do it in real life, we don’t notice it. But on camera it becomes very evident as the camera perspective hunts back and forth with each tug on the bars. In one Provence ride the cyclist was a total animal and seemed to be going 20+ mph all the time. When he went uphill there wasn’t any back-and-forth motion since he was going so strongly in the saddle. On the contrary in a ride shot in coast of Japan up a steep hill, the cyclist veered sharply left and right accompanied by some very noticeable yet appropriate huffing and puffing.
You don’t often think about how your brain processes all the motion your eyes are actually exposed to—the bumps in the road, eye scanning back and forth, head turning, etc. But it all is spun into a seamless, smooth experience and you end up not being cognizant of all these actions. On the contrary, the camera movement on the bike is very noticeable. If you’ve ever watched a GoPro video on YouTube of a mountain bike going downhill, you realize just how jarring the experience actually is, yet when you ride downhill in real life your brain factors almost all of that out in creating a smoother experience.
There is also audio so you get to hear the sounds on the ride such as the gear shifts, heavy breathing, cars passing, etc. I found it to be more sensorily immersive to listen to the soundtrack but you can always mute it and/or listen to music instead.
All this nitpicking is not intended as a putdown of Fulgaz. I’ve enjoyed the experience of virtual riding and one gigantic plus is that every day you ride on Fulgaz is a good day—no heat wave, no wildfire smoke, no freezing temp, no rain, no sunburn! Not every video is shot on a grand summer day but you’ll always be cozy in your boy/girlcave. When it’s dreary and pouring down hard outside you can go ride Old La Honda on a pleasant spring day. Speaking of Old La Honda, Fulgaz has quite a geographically diverse set of rides including a lot of the ‘famous’ ascents in Europe and elsewhere. (The Alto de Letras in Colombia is noticeably absent.) There are plenty of rides in Italy, France, Switzerland, and other European countries. Unfortunately there are only about a dozen rides in Japan, a place I love to cycle. But it was fun to revisit the country and ride albeit by video. The Bay Area is represented as well with rides up Diablo, Mt. Tam, Old La Honda, and several others.
So how immersive is Fulgaz? Overall I would say that Fulgaz is a more convincing argument against riding outdoors when conditions are unpleasant—very cold, wet, windy, dark, or smoggy/smokey. If you want to race or ride with others, you can also do that on Fulgaz. It’s just that it’s not the focus of the application. Instead it provides a chance to tour the world by bike without leaving your home or just do local rides when the weather is terrible. With the large screen HD television the experience was generally quite good, probably as immersive as it can be given you’re inside your home. With a laptop or small screen I’m not so sure I’d be as interested in using Fulgaz. If you’re like me and find riding a stationary bike somewhat mentally agonizing, then you’ll appreciate the extra distraction of a large screen. Given that we haven’t been able to travel—we’ve had to cancel three overseas cycling trips and probably will end up cancelling a fourth due to Covid—being able to get a taste of riding elsewhere, especially revisiting actual locations we’ve ridden before, is a very welcome addition. And on days when I just have to get outside I can don the raingear and do an actual ride. I don’t think Fulgaz is going to pull me indoors completely. But it’s nice to have the option on days when I’m wavering on whether to head out into the storm or when the day is full of to-do’s and I can’t find the time to ride before it’s dark.
They’re dancing on the good foot I got to get on the good foot Got to do it on the good foot Do it with the good foot —James Brown
Yeah, soulful people knows what it’s all about. And they showed up to ride up Diablo on New Years morning, hangovers be damned. I woke up Saturday morning and checked the weather on top of Diablo at 3,849 feet: whoa, 26ºF. But it was going to be clear and sunny, as bright as your eyes can bear. I couldn’t get a road report, or rather the recorded road report mentioned nothing. So I presumed that meant all the snow that fell earlier in the week was not going to be a problem.
At the start everyone who had registered showed up including one who hadn’t preregistered. Coincidentally I happened to have brought a paper waiver with me, which is technically a no-no since Covid, so all the bases were covered. There were ten of us, which is a big group for the Resolution Ride—why was it popular this year?—Roger and I, Roger S, Mark, Alan, Stephen, Bud, and three non-members, Ofer, Julian, and Robin. Club use of BART still hasn’t recovered: everyone from SF came by car except Stephen and Ofer. Everybody was dressed for the cold with multiple layers, shoe covers, tights, full-fingered gloves, you name it. Several of us had little heater packs shoved into our gloves—they worked perfectly all day! Julian had the awesomest piece of kit: battery heated gloves! But at the summit he said he didn’t need to turn them on, so it proved to be overkill.
I’ve gotten into the bad habit of leading the Resolution Ride the same way—up North Gate, down South Gate—and I probably should mix it up one of these years or else someone else should lead this ride another way. Someone at the start asked me which way was “steeper”. I have no idea although I probably should since I’ve been going up Diablo since most of you were in diapers. They’re both challenging and when you’re doing about 4,000 feet of gross vertical it all comes out the same in the wash: it’s hard.
This morning it was pretty quiet. Hardly anyone was stirring about. I led the group through the side steets of Walnut Creek rather than taking Walnut Ave., which is a dreary arterial, up to the entrance station and then everybody started climbing at their own rate, stopping at times to take pictures or to strip off layers now that we were sweating. A few years ago I was so hot I took off my gloves and rode up barehanded. Not this year—it was just too chilly. The crystal clear air and intensely green grass on Diablo’s slopes made for some acid-like moments you would only appreciate if you stopped pedaling to take it all in.
We regrouped at the junction and there were hardly any other cyclists—now that’s a change! New Years brings out all the local clubs and in all previous years it’s been a mosh pit with hordes converging from South Gate and North Gate. It was as if everyone was taking the year off from riding up. Alas, no rangers with coffee and donuts this year either for the obvious reason. After the obligatory selfie shot, we continued upward. The segment from the junction to the summit is only 4.5 miles but it has over 1,600 feet of unrelenting vertical. Plus, once you pass the junction you’re now exposed to the wind making for a bracing, at times onerous effort. On the one hand you want to go as fast as possible to get out of the cold and the wind; on the other hand you’re getting your ass kicked by the unrelenting grade, the headwind, and the chill. We passed patches of old snow by the side of the road. More cars were appearing and passing us at random despite the double yellow line and the numerous signs not to pass cyclists on blind curves. A couple of times cyclists cursed out the drivers and deservedly so. I was surprised at how abundant car traffic was this year. It must have been everybody’s bright idea to get out on NYD by driving up Diablo.
Cars weren’t the only company we had. There were boatloads of electric mountain bikes riding up…on the road (!). Like WTF, clueless dudes, there’s an awesome trail open to dirt bikes, Summit, that goes to the top! Interestingly I was able to overhaul and pass all of them, which proves either that I’m superbutch or they’re total noobs. (I think I know which is correct.) There were also more hikers than I have ever seen going to the top of Diablo on NYD or any other day. They were all shapes and sizes, lots of families with kids. Awesome.
Roger and I got to the top first. More butch points perhaps but in exchange we had to wait the longest for everyone to show up, enduring the bone-chilling northeast wind. Eventually everyone made it to the top but in the meantime the small parking lot filled up fast. We had just beaten the crowd up the road and now they were swamping us. A cyclist asked the ranger overseeing the parking lot, “Is there water up here?” “Yes”, he responded, “But the faucet is frozen. You’ll have to use the restroom over there.” Everyone was jubilant to have made it to the top despite some being frazzled by the effort and the cold. There were a few wise cyclists who knew the NYD routine: get out the extra cold weather gear you hauled up and put it on! We did exactly that. I had carried up an extra windbreaker, wind chaps (you never know who you might run into…), a fleece neck gaiter, and lobster gloves with heater packs dropped inside.
The descent may be physically easier but mentally it can be harder. A typical New Years Day ascent has the road swarming with delighted cyclists and fewer cars. But this year it was exactly the opposite, lots of cars and fewer cyclists. For the most part cars were patiently waiting behind slow cyclists but every now and then a car would zoom around in the oncoming lane—oh, that would be the lane we were on—much to our aggravation. Dancing with elephants couldn’t be more fun. With the higher number of cars that meant we were often slowed down behind them. A decade ago I would have been irked, but not today: those cars were taking care to descend and so should the cyclists. Did you know the speed limit on Diablo is 20 mph? That’s for cars AND bikes. Given how crowded it was we were pretty much held to that speed limit. This was the first time I can remember where I was not passed by harebrained cyclists going warp speed, crossing the center line and passing cars. Julian led the descent and if he hadn’t been slowed by the cars I don’t think I would have seen him until the bottom.
We all made it down safely without incident, cut through Diablo—which was also eerily quiet—and ended up at Lunardi’s in Danville. I had been dreaming of hot soup on such a cold morning and Lunardi’s deli counter had a choice of several. We had the outside tables all for our little group. It was about ten degrees warmer and nicely sunny. Hot chili stew with a steaming cup of coffee hit the spot. I was reenergized. We were chattering now and it wasn’t because we were cold! Stephen happily opined that this was the only proper way to start the new year: go up Diablo! “Accept no substitutes.” A bag of evil-looking butter cookies from Lunardi’s was passed around. Much grabbing ensued. Roger S. stared at the bag, sighed, and remarked, “Well, there goes that New Year’s resolution!”
The cats were eventually herded to head back to Pleasant Hill. It was a ‘chill’ crowd in both senses. But being preternaturally skinny I get cold easily and so I took off to warm up. Only Ofer followed me. We soon lost the group and waited for them in Walnut Creek. However they had diverted onto the Iron Horse. We saw Stephen pass by heading to BART, which is where Ofer was also going. So I took off to catch the rest of the group, which I only did right at the PH BART station. By now it was about 3:30 and the temp was dropping again. I was glad to get into the van and turn on the heater!
Now, that’s getting the year off on the right foot!
Where people do the sign and take your hands And dancin’ to the music James Brown band They’re dancing on the good foot I got to get on the good foot Got to do it on the good foot —James Brown