Flat, Flat, Flat, Flat, Flat

Seems I’ve been wrongfully maligned recently, on this very blog:

Last summer President David was on a ride we were leading and he got a flat. As he popped a spare tube and a CO2 cartridge out of his saddlebag he mentioned that he had never done this before. Hmm.

A few weeks ago, I had the pleasure of riding in the Tour of Napa Valley with Roger S. and David Ga. It was a pleasure until 5 miles out, when … flat.

I got off my bike, took off the rear tire – yeah, the yucky back one, the one that’s hooked into all those disgusting, dirty, chainy, move-y things. I managed to get the wheel off, then get the tire off, swap the tube with a nice new one from my saddle bag, and filled the tire with CO2. Got the wheel back on the bike even with that weird chainy thing. All by myself. (Well, OK, Roger helped me get the wheel back on, but whatever.) Take that, Tony.

It’s fair to say I’ve never been in love with fixing flats. I’d be the first to admit it. I’ve had a couple of lessons in it, but truth be told, I rarely flat on rides. So even though I was OK at it 3 years ago after I took the class, now I’m slow and clumsy at it, have forgotten all the little things you need to do, and don’t mind it when other riders are kind enough to help me. On my own, it usually takes me about 20-30 minutes to get the wheel off, get the tire off, get the new tube on, inflate it, put the $!!(&%%@ tire back on the wheel, figure out how to get the stupid thing at the end of the cassette back into the place where it belongs (usually takes me several tries and even then I’m not sure I’ve done it correctly), say a prayer that I’m not going to get a pinch flat, and then get my sorry ass back out on the road.

Back when I used to bike commute, I marveled at how fast certain folks could change flats. The group would stop and watch while one of the butch guys or gals took out some tools, went zip zip wavey wavey, and in about 3 minutes the group was back on our way. I flatted a couple of times with that group. I’d say something like, oh, no, I don’t want to slow the group down, I know the way, you go ahead. After you, please. They would, and then I’d fumble and fuss and swear for half an hour or forty five minutes or whatever, trying to get the tire back on that stupid, awful chain-y thing.

But my cycling life has changed in regard to flats in the last 4 weeks.

Because the flat 5 miles out on Tour of Napa Valley was just my first one. I flatted three other times that day, and poor Roger flatted five times – FIVE TIMES – the same day. As the dreadful scene played out over and over and over again, I found that I was gradually getting a little better at fixing my flats. Oh. My. God. Unimaginable. See, Tony, I just needed a little practice.

And I got some more practice this morning, on the way out of town through Golden Gate Park on the SF to Pacifica ride that Nancy and Ginny led. Just after we passed the DeYoung, on JFK Drive, in front of a nice waterfall. Even my choice of locations for flatting is improving. I heard the familiar thump, thump, thump and thought to myself dammit, why don’t they pave the stinking roads in this park. But thump, thump, thump continued and I yelled back at Nancy, “I flatted, didn’t I?”

So, back to the side of the road I went. I wasn’t fast but I felt competent for maybe the first time ever. It took me somewhere between ten and fifteen minutes and we were on our way. And that was the REAR tire, the one with the horrible chainy thing that you have to figure out how to get around. I remembered to undo the little tab-y brake-y thing, to take off my GPS so I didn’t scratch it all up, and to get into a gear that would make everything easier. Got the tire off and the tube swapped out, and even got the tube back on pretty quickly. (I was shocked to hear a compliment made behind my back about that, and someone saying how hard it was for them to get the tire back on.) A little CO2 and we were on our way.

Best of all, my repair held, I rode on it the rest of the way with no problems.

I’m normally all thumbs, and believe me even a simple repair like fixing a flat does not come naturally to me. I go “yuck” when I have to get my hands dirty on a ride. Ewwww, grease. But this story is meant to be inspirational. If a doof like me can figure out how to fix a flat, maybe a doof like you can, too.

And nyah, nyah, nyah, Tony.


How Much Do We Ride?

Part of my job as DSSF Ride Coordinator is to collect the waivers from all DSSF rides. Since the start of the year, I’ve been feeding the information on the waivers into a spreadsheet that aggregates the mileage and climbing various different ways.

Yeah, I’m a data geek.

I’ve been presenting the numbers at the club board meetings since I built the spreadsheet, and I thought the club members might be interested in seeing how many miles we’ve ridden and how many feet we’ve climbed.

As of 9/23/2012:

Number of club rides in 2012: 95
Number of different riders have ridden with DSSF: 211 (includes both club members and non-members)
Number of DSSF members have led rides: 25
Total number of miles DSSF riders have ridden on club rides: 38,848
Total number of feet DSSF riders have ascended on club rides: 2,369,759

(Disclaimer: I am at the mercy of the ride waivers for this information! Statistics are accurate as far as the waivers are accurate and legible.)

Our ride leaders have done extraordinary service on behalf of the club. The next time you go on a club ride, be sure to thank the ride leader who set the ride up. Four ride leaders have led 10 or more rides: our club President, David G. (25), Joseph (21), myself (17), and Chris T. (11).

Six club riders have ridden more than 1,000 miles on club rides this year. One DSSF rider has climbed over 100,000 feet! Go riders!

Shout-outs to the following ride leaders:

Will B., for organizing the Amador County weekend and leading three rides on it
Chris T., for organizing Double Bay Double 2 and leading a wonderful training ride series to prepare riders for that event
Neel E., for leading an East Bay ride series to prepare Double Bay Double 2 riders
Tony and Roger, for hosting our club’s pool party on Labor Day weekend
Tony, for continuing to lead the rides in his 30th anniversary series
Joseph C., for continuing to lead the jersey rides and almost-weekly rides in Marin

Keep riding! I’ll provide updates in the blog from time to time, until we are able to get this information on dssf.org.

Double Espresso Ride to Rulli’s

It was a beautiful day for a ride yesterday, and so 12 of us met up at Peet’s at the utterly civilized hour of 10 AM for a jaunt up to Marin, lunch at Cafe Rulli, and the ride back.

Because of the distance and pace, the ride was attractive to all levels of riders. We had a smattering of fast and experienced folks, some mid-level riders, and several new or almost new friends with us today. Jeff joined us on his recumbent and kept up admirably. Howard and Gene rejoined DSSF for their first ride after a number of years of being away from the club. Andrew, a strong rider who recently moved here from Chicago, made it to his first club ride. And Mark, a newer rider, braved our pace to join us, and did well.

Rico and Andrew joined the group at the Bridge. I’m pretty sure most club members know this, but in case it never occurred to you – on most rides, it’s not necessary to meet the group at the starting point – if there’s a convenient place mid-route you’d like to join, that’s a possibility. Before the ride, check with the ride leader about the appropriate time to meet up with the rest of the group at your desired meeting point.


I did not bill the ride as such, but I decided that NRLB – No Rider Left Behind – would be a good policy to follow today, since so many of the riders were new to the club and not 100% sure of the route. So I swept for the group and had the pleasure of getting to know some of the newer riders. I think in the future I will bill such rides as NRLB if I’m leading, since I think this is an attractive thing for newer riders or people who don’t ride with us that often. Nothing sucks quite as much as going on a ride with the club for the first or second time, getting dropped, maybe getting lost, and then having to ride alone the rest of the day. I probably wouldn’t want to advertise a faster, longer ride as NRLB, but for a 37-miler with relatively few hills, definitely. There is a need for this kind of ride and I would encourage others of you to post similar rides if you’re up for it.

You all know this route, so there’s not a whole lot to say about it. Lunch, coffee, and dessert at Rulli’s was superb as always. The guy behind the bar was as cute as ever, and he had a big ol’ hickey to boot.




Pizzeria Pico, which is about a block south of Rulli’s, looked empty. This place is supposed to be great. Please post a comment if you might be interested in a ride that stopped at Pico for pizza some time and if there’s enough interest, I’ll organize something.

The group split into 3 after lunch, with several riders taking the ferry from Larkspur home, several others going off to do the Tiburon Loop, and the rest of us turning around and climbing Camino Alto as we headed back across the Bridge. Nice long stop at Bicycle Odyssey (a DSSF sponsor) for a bathroom break and toy shopping. It was a particularly nice ride back today – so gorgeous, I did something I haven’t done in a couple of years, which was to stop in Sausalito and take pictures of the City across the Bay.



(All photos courtesy of Eric S.)

Hollister – Aromas – Castroville – Fremont Peak – Hollister

Just three riders – the other David G., Doug, and I – met in Hollister Sunday for a terrific day of riding. I had never done this route before, so it was all new ground for me.

David’s route took us out Hollister and up into the coastal ranges, past the entrance to the GrantiteRock quarry, and into funky little Aromas (so named because of the odors of a sulphur spring, according to ePodunk.com) for our first stop.

There’s not much going on in Aromas on a Sunday (or any other day I expect, unless the CrossFit Games in town), so we continued east after a short rest. After a few more miles, we turned right down Elkhorn Road, and proceeded through the Elkhorn Slough. Elkhorn is a huge tidal slough and estuary, the largest in California except for San Francisco Bay, and we rode for about 6 miles through this most beautiful, largely deserted  place, surrounded by birds, tidelands, mud, and mudhens.



Coming up out of Elkhorn, we climbed a small hill now named “the hill of dropped chains,” a new tourist attraction something like the Mystery Spot. Both Doug and David experienced the same mechanical difficulty within a few feet of each other.

Through suburbia now for lunch in Castroville at the Giant Artichoke!

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Then more mostly flat riding into Salinas before our big climb of the day back over Fremont Peak and a bumpy descent down the poorly-maintained road. (David told us to observe road quality as soon as we got to the San Benito county line, and the difference was truly remarkable.) Finally, screaming tailwinds took out of San Juan Bautista after our last regroup and home to Hollister.

A great day, and an extremely well thought-out ride.


Gilroy Hot Springs and South Bay Reservoirs Loop

Well, this was a fabulous ride with a nice group of riders. Two David G.’s, two Rogers, and one each Ben, Will, Frank, Doug and Stephanie met up at Peet’s in Morgan Hill on a gorgeous morning of what proved to be a gorgeous day. Perfect weather, and green hills all around, can’t beat that. This part of the South Bay is great riding territory in the spring.

The gang, just before ride out

After coffeeing up, we headed east and then south. After we reached Roop Road, David G.’s route roughly paralleled the metric century of the Tierra Bella tour. Uphill on Roop Road towards Gilroy Hot Springs, then back down Canada Road. Unlike Tierra Bella, there were no hunky firemen at the CDF substation (darn), nor was there a deathly skeleton atop Canada Road reminding us to take it easy on the descent. (So we didn’t.)

We cruised into Gilroy around 12:30 and lunched at Quizno’s, knowing the hills were mostly behind us.

From there, my favorite part of the ride – up Uvas Road and McKeen. But I am used to doing this part of the route first thing in the morning, when there is no wind, and on this particular day, we faced headwinds all the way up Uvas. We were ready to take a good break when we got to Calero before going wee, wee, wee all the way home to Morgan Hill.

62.25 miles more towards the Saddle Challenge!

Out in the middle of nowhere
Stephanie takes a breather on Uvas Road


More Running Water Than I’ve Ever Seen in Northern California

I led two rides in late February, and I continue to be amazed at the amount of running water in places I’ve never seen running water before. Creeks are appearing and rivers that are nearly dried  up in summer are full. Last weekend, on another ride, I saw a waterfall on Petaluma-Point Reyes Road as we approached Nicasio Reservoir.

On Saturday, February 20, Will, Evan, Ben, the two Rogers and I rode up Mt. Veeder, which is the first part of the route of the Tour of Napa Valley. The ride was largely an excuse to go up to Yountville and pig out at Bouchon, the bakery owned by Thomas Keller, who also owns French Laundry. Since Bouchon was the start point and end point for the ride, we did just that. Mt. Veeder was its usual nasty self, and I heard Roger swearing at me on the way up for having the brilliant idea of climbing it. At about 1,200 feet elevation, I was swearing at myself, too. But the great thing about this route is that once you get to the top, it’s downhill or flat the rest of the way. Thanks to a good idea by Will, we changed the route to tour Bear Creek Rd. all the way back to Napa, where we had a nice lunch at a grocery on 29 and Redwood Road. Yes, I guess this one was all about the food.

The following Sunday, a nice group of us including co-leader Doug, Evan, Roger, and Mark (apologies – I think I’m leaving one or two out) did a club favorite, Morgan Territory Road. The climb was tougher than I remember, as the hill up to the Preserve seems to have gotten steeper over the winter than it was the last time I did it. Another great day.


The pretty gate to the property at the top of Mt. Veeder


Napa Valley in the winter


Roger conquers Mount Veeder


On the way to Morgan Territory


Into the park


Flowering trees in the East Bay hills

L’Alpe du Fromage

Three intrepid riders – myself, Nancy, and Evan – set out from San Rafael for a 33 mile jaunt through the Marin suburbs and back country. We were treated to a beautiful winter ride with sights rarely seen – a nearly-full Nicasio reservoir, plentiful and rushing water flowing through the creek that runs down the back side of Lucas Valley Road, and an empty parking lot (and no waiting) at the Cheese Factory at lunchtime.

I did not even realize there was a creek that ran alongside Lucas Valley Road  – I had never seen running water there – but on this particular day, it was spectacular.

A few minutes of rain at the very end of the ride did not spoil what was otherwise a glorious day for riding.


Stage Road From Pescadero

6 riders braved the January weather in Pescadero. We all drove through a deluge on Highway 1 before arriving at Pescadero, then spent the first hour of the “ride” having coffee and tea in the bakery and country store, lusting after the baked goods, and debating the merits of riding vs. the warm artichoke soup at Duarte’s. Great hanging out with Wly, Scott, Nancy, Frank, and Patrick for a while – but I’m glad we decided to take off on our bikes around 11 – the sky cleared, and we were rewarded with a beautiful day.

One of the goals of this ride was to help us get in shape for spring and summer riding. Good thing – several of us (myself included) discovered that we were quite out of shape after a winter of hibernating and not doing much riding. When I caught up with the fitter riders in San Gregorio, my thought was “I can’t believe I ever rode 100 miles on the same day before.” Things will get easier as the season develops.

It was a classic coastside ride on a gorgeous day – beautifully verdant hills on Stage Road, clear air as we rode down Highway 1, providing great vistas, and running water in Gazos Creek.