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.
?. Davis Double. $? No information yet. 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.
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
While 2020 was almost completely forgettable for the club, 2021 proved to be much better even if it was not as good as we had hoped. After the lockdown in March of 2020 Bay Area cycling clubs including Different Spokes went silent for months. Offering social events and even rides, which are a lot safer since they’re outdoors, was contrary to county and state health orders for the first half of 2020. We started offering group rides in the fall of 2020 when outdoor recreation with social distancing and face coverings was allowed in more counties than just San Mateo. When most Bay Area counties decided not to use their own health orders and instead fell in line with the State’s, then it truly became possible to host group rides without having to navigate the differing regulations by county. We ran a couple of experimental rides to see how people behaved and the results were positive. So we went ahead with Jersey Rides, which would not have taken place without Secretary Jeff Pekrul’s willingness to host them; the rest of the board was still not ready to gather with others yet. In the meantime like everybody else we had Zoom meetings to keep Spokers in contact.
2021 began on a positive note with the vaccine roll-out. But it took a lot of time for them to be made available to most in the Bay Area. So there was no Ride Leader Appreciation Dinner, usually in January, and our annual Kick Off meeting, usually in February, had to be on Zoom rather than at Sports Basement. But we kept up a low level of activity, a few rides—mainly the monthly Jersey Ride usually led by Jeff Pekrul—and an online workshop on basics of using RideWithGPS led by David Gaus. By April we started to have more rides mainly because Roger H and I finally started to feel comfortable—more accurately, less anxious—about riding with others and, well, we were gonna do these rides anyway so we might as well invite others along!
In June David Goldsmith and Joan Murphy started leading short, before-work morning weekday rides and they really took off. Who knew that some people liked to get up early to ride their bikes? And they continue to this day! The club held its annual Pride Ride and had a huge turnout due to some savvy marketing on social media and a significant change in format. Somewhere around 54-plus people showed up and they had a choice of two routes including a tour of the pink triangle on Twin Peaks. And the free rainbow donuts from Bob’s didn’t hurt! By July it looked like we were heading back to normal—plenty of club rides as well as the first social event of the Pandemic, the annual club picnic, which also had a great turnout. This year we moved the event out of foggy Golden Gate Park and up to Old Mill Park in sunny Mill Valley. The prospect of sunshine, no shivering, and a balmy clime apparently did the trick. Half the group rode up and the other half rode up too…in their cars. But finally we were able to hang out, eat, and catch up with other Spokers. And Benson’s homemade Japanese cheesecake had me spellbound!
Then the Delta variant really hit and we saw a summer surge in Covid cases. That seemed to cut down on rides whether it was due ride leaders’ fear or participants’ wasn’t clear. It also put a nail in the coffin of a getaway weekend at Pajaro Dunes that we had planned for the second year in a row. But we didn’t have to cancel any of our annual social events other than the Orinda Pool Party, which wasn’t because of Covid but due to personal circumstances. The Fall Social was almost cancelled because of Covid but instead was moved to Orinda from Berkeley and became an all-outdoor event. The big surprise was the Holiday Party—a mainly indoor event—took place thanks to the courage of Jeff Pekrul and his husband Lance, and it also had a big turnout!
Besides the record setting number of Pride participants we had a couple of other accomplishments this year. At President David Goldsmith’s urging Club Express, our website software provider, implemented a new pronouns selection for members and non-binary choice in the member profile panel. Who knew we were cutting edge? Our membership number has gone up to over 110. This may not seem like much and it certainly pales compared to our heydey in the early 90s when we went over 300 due to the popularity of the AIDS Bike-A-Thon. But just a few years ago we were down to about 65 members—that’s an 85% increase!! The board has had an eye on growing our membership but it’s happening at a faster pace than we anticipated. Finally we had two members join the board to assume some vacant positions. Tim Oliver took over membership and Greg Mahusay events coordination. Now, if someone would like to take over the reins of ride coordination, that would a great start for the new year!
Living in the Bay Area we are spared the usual indignities of winter—snow, slush, and freezing weather—and that allows us to cycle year-round. Unless you don’t abide rain. Our weather is so hospitable for riding that when it does rain we set aside the bike knowing that in a day or two it’ll be back to dry weather and we can ride again. In places such as the Pacific Northwest this isn’t an option—it rains so much that waiting for a dry day could take weeks. Climate change is making California even drier, so that’s even more riding days! That’s a good thing, right?
What if you want to bike but the weather outside is frightful? You could get some good raingear and head out into the storm. Even if you stay dry—more accurately, less wet—your bike is going to get soaked and require more maintenance to stay in running order. Braving the elements comes with the price of your time or a shop’s time to work on your bike. (Or you could do what I do, which is to let things rust and deal with it all later, later being when things stop working.)
The other option is to ride indoors—it could be a spin class or riding your own trainer. The obvious advantage of a trainer is that you can do it at home; the disadvantage is the upfront cost of the trainer, which these days can run in the thousands of dollars.
I have a long history—more accurately, an un-history—with stationary bike trainers. Way back in the day I had a Racermate. You probably have never heard of it. Racermate had the distinction of producing the first computerized stationary trainer back in the ‘90s, the Computrainer. But I didn’t have a Computrainer—I had a Racemate Windtrainer, which was their prior product, in the late ‘80s. This was one of the first, if not the first windtrainer. What made it so fantastic was that prior to the Racermate we rode rollers, which have very little resistance, and took skill to ride so that you didn’t fall off the rollers every five seconds. With the Racermate your fork was locked securely in a stand so no skill was required to stay upright. It had rotary fans driven by the rear wheel of your bike. As you went ‘faster’, the resistance increased proportional to wind speed and it felt like real life. Except it wasn’t. You didn’t even have a screen image you could stare at and fool yourself into thinking you were actually riding. Riding a trainer back in those days was a form of mental torture: it was brain cell destroying to ride on it for any length of time. I was bored no matter how many artificial carrots I dangled—“I’m getting stronger!”, “Wow, I’m not getting drenched outside!”, etc. Consequently I didn’t use it much except in desperation. Instead I got used to riding outside in the rain. Think about that: riding in the rain with all that entails—raingear, extra sweating, possibly getting soaked anyway, rusting bicycle, changing a flat in the rain—was more pleasurable than riding an indoor stationary bike. That’s how unpleasant it was.
Decades later in a moment of insanity I purchased another trainer, a Kurt Kinetic. The sales pitch was it was a fluid trainer—resistance blades moving in oil rather than air—and so was a lot less noisy, I’m not sure what I was thinking but whatever it was it soon dissipated when I mounted up my bike and tried to ride it: the same old feeling. It quickly got relegated to the storage room and has only been pulled out for rehabbing knee injuries. To this day I still prefer to ride in the rain. Unfortunately the enjoyment and satisfaction—if it can be called that—of doing my own bike maintenance has faded. So the extra bike maintenance induced by riding in the rain has become just another irksome task I prefer to postpone, hence rusting bikes.
The good news is that the world of trainers has evolved dramatically since the good old days. We now have ‘smart’ trainers along with Internet training websites. Smart trainers send data on speed and power to a training app site so that you move along a simulated route and you can race against other users. Conversely training sites can send resistance information to your trainer to simulate wind or ascending. (The Computrainer was the first stationary bike to do this however they didn’t innovate fast enough and got passed by the competition.)
Zwift is the app getting the most buzz but there are plenty of others including Rouvy, Trainerroad, Sufferfest, BKool, RGT. However the one that may finally get me indoors and prevent my bikes from turning into rust buckets is Fulgaz. My impressions of Fulgaz in the next post. To be continued…
Clubs and organizations that have regularly mounted century rides mostly got burned in 2021 and 2020. Only the earliest rides in 2020 got off the ground before the Pandemic hit and shelter-in-place orders ended all public events. Thinking that COVID-19 was going to be one-and-done, quite a few decided to postpone rides to the fall only to have to cancel them altogether when the summer surge put paid to regathering. Time and money spent on planning and logistics were in vain; upfront expenses were likely a complete loss. With vaccines being introduced at the end of the year, there was hope that spring rides could take place and that by late summer 2021 we’d be back to normal. Not quite. In the end most rides that took place were virtual rides and the few that actually took place were far away from urban centers with one exception being the 2021 Foxy Fall up in Davis.
What’s going to happen in 2022? In our favor, rides take place outdoors and social distancing and mask protocols have become commonplace. Public events are even taking place indoors so it’s likely that state and local mandates will not preclude permits for century rides. Whether clubs and organizations will want to risk planning and putting on an event only to have to cancel or postpone it later is another story. But at the moment a few are going ahead with publicity and advance registration even though they don’t know whether there will be a winter surge and a subsequent clampdown let alone interest from cyclists with the shadow of the Omicron variant.
Here’s what we know so far for the first months of 2022. April is when the calendar really starts to get packed. As new information becomes available, this listing will be updated.
January 1 Saturday. Resolution Ride/New Year’s Day Up Diablo. This isn’t a century but it’s the first “big” ride of the year and practically a club tradition. See the listing in the club calendar.
February 12 Saturday. Tour of Palm Springs. 100-, 50-, and 25-mile routes. $90-30. This is by today’s standards a huge ride—thousands of cyclists. It’s a long drive south but hey, it’s Palm Springs! Masks required outdoors when social distancing is not possible. Registration is open.
13 Sunday. Velo Love Ride. 63 miles. No fee. This event has been put on by Chico Velo for ages—at least going back to the mid-aughts if not earlier. It’s a much lower key event than their Wildflower attracting only a couple hundred cyclists in a good year. But it’s pleasantly flat and tours the scenic valley area around the Sutter Buttes. Unfortunately Chico Velo hasn’t been able to find a member willing to organize this long held ride. But Different Spokes is going to go up there to ride it anyway as long as it doesn’t rain. See the listing in the club calendar after January 1. You can read about two previous rides here and here.
19 or 26? Saturday. Pedaling Paths to Independence. 65-, 45- or 20-mile routes. The Community Center for the Blind and Visually Impaired puts on this annual fundraising ride out of Linden, which is just east of Stockton. It’s a small event of about 250-300 riders. It tours the rolling ag land south and east of the town. It’s unclear if CCBVI will run this event in 2022 but last year they announced their virtual event late. You can read about a previous ride here.
March 5 Saturday. Solvang Century. 96-, 68- and 52-mile routes. $125-105. After not being allowed to run the Solvang in 2020 and 2021, Randy Ice, the longtime organizer of the Solvang Century, has passed the Solvang Century on to Planet Ultra, a business that puts on ultramarathon events and tours. Post-event meal (tacos or hot dog) is an extra $18. Tentatively planned for March 5 but not confirmed. PU is also putting on the Solvang Double Century on March 19 as well as a Solvang Spring Tour March 21-26. A side note: it’s probably a good thing that Randy Ice is no longer involved with the Solvang since he believed that COVID-19 is a hoax. Although the Solvang has never been short of participants—several thousand is the usual number—it’s always been priced at the high end of curve and provided disappointing, perfunctory food and then had the gall to charge extra for a post-ride meal. Planet Ultra will have its work cut out for it to improve the event’s reputation. Looks like Planet Ultra is following the same script: gouging. Seriously, a hot dog for $18? Bite me.
27 Sunday. King Ridge Supreme. 80- and 60-mile routes. $125. This is a mixed terrain ride. The 80-mile route has timed segments so it’s a race with age groups and podium places. But if you don’t want to compete, you can ride at your own pace. The 60-mile route is not timed. Starting in Duncan Mills you go to Occidental and then up Highway 1 to Fort Ross before returning to Duncan Mills. Perfect for you gravel bikers. Registration not yet open is now open. Limit of 450.
April 7-10 Thurday through Sunday. Sea Otter Classic. 91- and 49- mile road routes; 30-mile gravel route; and 19-mile MTB route. $115. Sea Otter returns to its usual April slot. Registration and exact schedule not yet available is now available. Gran fondos and tours are on Saturday and Sunday.
9 Saturday. Cinderella Classic &Challenge. 100-, 65-, and 31-mile routes. $65-40. Limit of 800 riders; women/girls only. The Classic starts at Las Positas College near Livermore and traverses a big loop counter-clockwise through Danville, Dublin, and Pleasanton. Registration opens January 12, 2022 is open.
10 Sunday. Primavera Century. 90-, 63-, and 25-mile routes. $90-25. Starting in Fremont the 100-mile route heads up Calaveras, around the reservoir and then out to Patterson Pass before turning west and going over Palomares to Fremont. Registration is now open.
16? Saturday. Mr. Frog’s Wild Ride. 100k and 50k routes. No exact April date set yet. Mixed terrain ride.
23 Saturday. Tierra Bella Century. 95-, 64-, 55-, 51-, and 33-mile routes. $75. Starts in Gilroy and takes in the climbs and reservoirs in Santa Clara valley. New routes this year. Registration is now open. opens Dec. 14 16 22.
23 Saturday. Levi’s Gran Fondo. 81-, 69- and 32-mile routes. $263-140. New routes this year heading up to the Geysers rather than King Ridge. Registration is open.
23 Saturday Bike Around the Buttes. 100-, 60-, 40-, and 20-mile routes. $55-40. No date set yet but they say they’ll be back in 2022. This ride covers much of the same area as the Velo Love Ride. Registration is open.
24 Sunday Chico Wildflower. 125-, 100-, 65-, 60-, 30-, and 12-mile routes. $75-20. No exact date in April set yet. This used to be the ‘must do’ club ride qua getaway weekend. Terrific riding despite the incineration of Paradise three years ago during the Camp Fire. Note that the Wildflower is now on a Sunday, not a Saturday as it has been for ages. Registration opens in ‘early January’. is now open.
23? Devil Mountain Double. 200 miles. Cancelled in 2020 and not offered in 2021, no word on whether Quack Cyclists will offer their very challenging ride in 2022.
29-1 Friday to Sunday. Eroica California. 108-, 81-, 72-, and 36-mile routes. $150. Limit of 1,500. Only ‘classic’ bikes—usually 1987 or earlier—are allowed. See site for detailed rules. Mixed terrain routes.
30 Saturday. SLO Wildflower. 100-, 80-, and 50-mile routes. $75. Limit of 1,000. New routes this year with all three doing the same 50-mile loop and then the 80- and 100-milers heading out to do different loops. This is turning into an ad hoc getaway weekend for the club with quite a few members heading south for this scenic riding. See the ride listing. Registration opens Jan. 2 is now open.
30? Mount Hamilton Challenge. 125- and 70-mile routes. The classic up Mt. Hamilton and down Mines and back via Calaveras, or climb up and down the front of Mt. Hamilton. This ride has not been taken place in several years but Pedalera keeps announcing it. No date set but usually the last weekend in April. Website says more information in February.
This past Saturday, November 27, was the 43rd anniversary of the assassination of Harvey Milk and George Moscone. Roger and I led this “ride” for the first time in 2018 and I’ve reposted its blog entry below because I don’t have much else to say about this day in history. But before I do that I’ll briefly recap how this year’s ride went.
I wasn’t sure I wanted to lead this ride again. But at the time there wasn’t another ride listed for the Thanksgiving weekend and I sure as hell wasn’t going to ‘just go on a ride’ without thinking of the date. Roger was enthusiastic about it so I relented. In 2018 it was Roger and I—no one else attended—and I wasn’t expecting it to much different this time. It is Thanksgiving weekend after all when everybody is preoccupied with things more personal. I was badly mistaken as fifteen people showed up. I’m not sure why it sparked an interest this time. But three ALC folks showed up because David Gaus told them about it. Speaking of ALC, I had no idea that it was also starting a training ride at McLaren Lodge at the same date and time. I emailed everyone to meet just to the west. I guess in addition to coopting a lot of LGBT cyclists it’s also taking over our traditional ride start location. Oh well, there is cultural appropriation and then there is…appropriation.
The route was the same as before: out Golden Gate Park to the Great Highway and then south through Westlake Shopping Center to Colma. We stopped at Jose Sarria’s grave as well as George Moscone’s before returning to the Park and then to the SF Columbarium to see Harvey Milk’s niche. Along the way I played docent and recounted what (little) I knew about Jose Sarria, George Moscone, and Harvey Milk. No one else in attendance had been in SF on 11/27/78—I felt like a dinosaur! Afterwards a few of us went to Arguello Market, got some delicious sandwiches, and sat outside at their tables in the marvelous sunshine.
Here is what I wrote in 2018:
For better or for worse having lived through a historic event inclines one to dwell on it or perhaps incorporate it as a seminal touchstone from then on. In November 1978 two such events took place for me: the Jonestown mass suicide and the assassination of Harvey Milk and George Moscone by Dan White. I didn’t personally know anyone who was part of the People’s Temple or Jonestown nor did I ever meet Milk or Moscone in person. But Jim Jones, Harvey Milk, and George Moscone touched many lives in the Bay Area and they definitely were part of the post-60s ethos: radical Christianity of the poor, identity politics, and violence as a reaction to the cultural throes we were experiencing. It was like the end of a dream and left a withering cynicism among some and acted as a call to greater action to others.
40 years is a long time. I think about how Pearl Harbor, undoubtedly a turning point in the lives of the Americans who lived through it or during it, yet to me it was just another distant historic event, on a feeling level no different than the American Revolution or the Civil War—abstractions. So it is with the Milk/Moscone assassinations for many of you.
I had never been to Milk’s memorial at the SF Columbarium nor to Moscone’s grave in Colma. To give you an idea how long it’s has been on my mind, about ten years ago I was thinking of leading a ride to see them. But it just didn’t come together; I was busy chasing high heart rates and had a busy work schedule as well. About a month ago I suddenly realized it was 40 years ago when those events took place. Wow, a lifetime. So I made it happen and on time, which is contrary to my usual MO, i.e. to completely forget about an anniversary until a week later.
Fortunately the Camp Fire smoke ended and the rains did as well. Roger was going to miss the ride for medical reasons but at the last minute threw caution to the wind and came along.
We took BART to the City and rode from Civic Center to McLaren Lodge. I’ve done it many times since moving out of the City, but this time I was noticing the changes along the way. Long time businesses that were there in 1978 were no more. There are now so many more cyclists plying the streets than 40 years ago. Ah, but the old Freewheel Bike Shop is still there on Hayes!
Starting a ride at McLaren Lodge is a real throwback. In the early days of the club it was THE place to start a ride, that position having been usurped by Peet’s in the Castro. I remember meeting Michael John, Bob Humason, Dennis Westler, Abel Galvan, Walter Teague, Ron DeCamp, and many others—some now ghosts—at McLaren to head out on rides. In any case no one else chose to join us for a stroll to the boneyards so off we went to Colma.
Getting to Colma is pretty easy and we decided to take the ‘scenic route: through GG Park to the Great Highway and then down the coast to Westlake Shopping Center, and then cutting through to Hillside Blvd. By now the fog had lifted and it was a beautiful blue sky day, perfect for a visit to the cemeteries. Once in Colma housing and businesses abruptly stop at the city limit and are replaced by miles and miles of green lawns of the various cemeteries. Some of them have their origin in being kicked out of SF, the land being too valuable to leave to the dead. George Moscone is buried in Holy Cross Catholic Cemetery but there are plenty of other well-known figures interred in Colma and why not pay them a visit as well? Our first stop was Woodlawn Memorial Park where Jose Sarria a.k.a. the Widow Norton was laid to rest. You may have heard of Jose Sarria from his drag doppelganger, the Widow Norton, a drag gag take on the famous SF eccentric, Emperor Norton. The latter declared himself the ruler of the US and Mexico in 1859 and was treated deferentially by Barbary Coasters despite being a bona fide bum. The Emperor Norton was interred at Woodlawn and by coincidence the plot directly in front of his was available and that is where the Widow Norton is buried! You may not know that Jose Sarria was much more than his drag persona. Before Harvey he was the first openly homosexual candidate for the SF Board of Supervisors back in 1961. He came in 9th out of over 30 candidates and got 6,000 votes. Sarria also founded an early LGBT rights organizations, the League for Civil Education. He got his taste of discrimination when he was busted for cruising in a tea room and the morals charges prevented him from becoming a public school teacher. He ended up working as a waiter at the infamous Black Cat bar at the edge of North Beach, a gay hangout, that was repeatedly raided by the SF Police because it was then illegal to sell alcohol to homosexuals as well as to “impersonate members of the opposite sex.”
Finding Sarria’s gravesite took some effort. Woodlawn isn’t on Hillside Blvd. where all the other cemeteries are located, rather it’s down off of Junipero Serra. We eventually found it and the office kindly gave us a map. We had to climb up a steep hillside to get to his plot and we only found it after scurrying around on a very wet lawn for about 20 minutes. But there it was. On his tombstone it says, “United we stand, divided they catch us one by one.” Someone else had recently visited because a fresh flower was on the site.
A quick descent to Junipero Serra and then a slog back up to Hillside took us to our next stop, Hills of Eternity Memorial Park, to look for Wyatt Earp’s and Levi Strauss’s sites. But when we got to the entrance it was chained. What kind of cemetery isn’t open on Sundays?? After looking for a second entrance (there isn’t one) we gave up and headed south to Holy Cross.
Besides George Moscone Holy Cross has a slew of famous people buried there. You could spend the better part of a day hunting for all of the sites. But today we were looking just for Joe DiMaggio, Vince Guaraldi, and Benny Bufano. Holy Cross has two entrances and unfortunately the one I had planned to use was closed. The other entrance was open but I was disoriented because we were now off-route and Holy Cross is a bit of a warren. We rolled right by Joe DiMaggio’s grave but didn’t notice it until we were further along. Oh well, another time. Finding Vince Guaraldi’s was easy. You probably know him as the composer of the music for the Peanuts special, “A Charlie Brown Christmas.” But he was a very well-regarded jazz pianist and a SF native as well. His grave is very modest and like a good Italian boy he’s buried along with his mother, who long outlived him. He died in 1976 at the early age of 47, a real loss to the jazz community.
After paying our respects we rolled off to our real goal, George Moscone. His site was also fairly easy to find and like Vince Guaraldi’s, a very modest bronze plaque on the ground. You would never know a Mayor of San Francisco was interred there, a nearly anonymous plaque amongst thousands. On this day hardly anyone was visiting cemeteries. Was it the good weather that turned people’s minds to other forms of pleasure and amusement? On his plaque it read, “We miss you, Dad.” If you aren’t old enough or local enough, Moscone is merely a name of a historical figure. But in the 1960s and ‘70s he was a liberal politician aligned with the Burton brothers and their allies who included Willie Brown and Nancy Pelosi. He was an ally of the LGBT community during a time when being an ally was politically costly. He was known for sponsoring legislation for the first school lunch program in California as well as repealing the anti-sodomy laws. When he ran for Mayor in 1975 he beat out a terribly conservative real estate broker, John “Garbage-alotta” Barbagelata, as well as Dianne Feinstein, who to this day has never attended a Gay Freedom Day Parade in our city. (Oh, and by the way do you recall when Diane Feinstein, who succeeded the assassinated George Moscone as Mayor vetoed the domestic partners legislation in SF?) Moscone was a true friend of our community not an expedient supporter trying to catch the LGBT gravy train.
Afterwards we mounted our bikes and rolled by Benny Bufano’s grave, which is topped with one of his iconic sculptures, and headed back to SF to visit Harvey. The ride back was a bit easier because Hillside Blvd. is up on a hill. So we rolled mostly downhill back to Westlake and up Lake Merced. We headed back up 37th into the Park and then up Arguello to the Columbarium. I’m sure almost all of you have never been to this hidden, tucked away site dropped down in the middle of a residential neighborhood. Being on a cul-de-sac it was very easy to miss. The Columbarium is a place where those who’ve passed away can be memorialized. It’s not exactly a mausoleum because some of the dead people honored there actually have no cremains placed there nor is there a corpse. That is the case with Harvey Milk. The Columbarium may appear small but it holds the remains of a LOT of people. Fortunately there is a kiosk in the office that allows you to look up the location. For the record Harvey’s location is in the House of Olympians in the Dionysus room, tier 4, niche 26. The House of Olympians is the side building just to the north of the main capitol. Harvey’s niche is decorated with memorabilia including buttons against the Briggs Initiative, in which he was instrumental in fighting for its defeat, as well as items from the film Gus Van Sant directed about him, Milk. There is also a toy camera there reminding us that Harvey ran a camera shop in the Castro and from which he ran his campaign to become Supervisor.
Afterward we ran into the manager who wanted to be sure we visited the niche of Chet Helms. You remember Chet Helms, don’t you? He was THE hippie: he produced concerts at the Fillmore and the old Avalon ballroom during the ‘60s. Roger didn’t seem interested but I remember Chet Helms!
By now we were starving since we did not stop at Westlake for lunch despite plans. Luckily Velo Rouge Cafe was just a few blocks away. Being a bright, sunny Sunday afternoon I thought it would be packed but it wasn’t. In a way it was a perfect end to an interesting day: the clientele was distinctly Millenial but it looked like a Haight St. cafe from back in the day (minus the love beads and patchouli). Oh, and the huevos rancheros were excellent!
Although those days were very dark and depressing, somehow we managed to move into another era thanks to the steps that people like Harvey Milk and George Moscone made. I didn’t think I’d see in my lifetime. Instead of being treated with thinly veiled contempt (or no veil whatsoever) the LGBT community is treated more like a formidable third rail: fucking with us will have a cost. Instead of getting stomped on we are fighting back. Harvey and Jose told us to fight, and we are.
Norris Canyon is an oft overlooked rural road surrounded by a sea of Alameda county suburbia. How much longer will it last? Set between Castro Valley and the burgeoning city of San Ramon this idyllic island in the East Bay hills surely makes developers go gaga and slobber like wolves eyeing a fawn. For the time being it’s a convenient escape from neverending encroachment and makes a lovely road to visit by bike.
We’re deep into autumn so the sun sits lower in the sky and casts a warm radiance over the landscape and since we’ve been fortunate to receive copious early season rain, grasses are bursting forth regreening the hillsides and displaying an unreal emerald glow in the sunlight. The valley fog finally receded and brought us clear skies and beautiful sun, making it a perfect day to roam the hills on a bike.
Last Sunday nine of us headed out of Orinda to visit Norris Canyon, six from SF, Eric the lone member from Marin, and then Roger and I from the EB. After a short hop to Moraga and a pit stop at the trailhead restroom we headed south on Pinehurst and then Redwood Road on our way to Castro Valley. Pinehurst and Redwood are roads frequented by East Bay cyclists. Surrounded by park land and EBMUD holdings, no development—for now—can take place leaving the Oakland hills relatively undisturbed and natural despite the mishegoss just over the hills. There is traffic but it’s nothing like what you confront in the rest of the suburbs where people live, work, and shop. Other than the occasional car or motorcycle you’re left to your own thoughts, which are mainly about the vagaries of the multiple ups and downs thrilling your thighs.
Everybody quickly spread out or at least it seemed so from my perspective at the rear. Roger H. surprised me by saying he wanted to do this ride because he’d only just started riding again. We were also pretty beat from hauling buckets of concrete the day before. We happily parked ourselves at the back of the group and ‘took it easy’. Roger S. and Carl kept us company and we chatted away about all things inconsequential.
We regrouped at the Redwood Canyon Golf Course after the stunning and fun descent from Chabot Park and then headed over to Castro Valley to cut through to Crow Canyon Road. Crow Canyon is usually a terrible road for cyclists. At one point in its distant past it was like Norris Canyon. But it is less steep and wider and so became the preferred road that got widened. With explosive growth in the San Ramon valley and the bumper-to-bumper traffic on 680 and 580, it’s now the commuter cut-through to get from there to SF and Silicon Valley. Many moons ago when ignorant I rode Crow Canyon during the commute period. Just once—lesson learned. But on a Sunday it’s much less terrorizing and even halfway reasonable. Fortunately it’s not long before you leave it behind and turn onto Norris Canyon. The transformation is quite abrupt: from cars to almost nothing but quiet. The price you pay for this peace is an increased gradient. But at its worst it’s ‘only’ 11%! Norris Canyon is narrow and lined with oaks and pleasantly shaded, which makes for dappled relief on a hot summer day. As you progress uphill it opens up into grassland, which now is iridescent green.
It’s there we finally caught up with David. He was riding very smartly. Not having the big miles in his legs yet he was going steady the entire time, hardly stopping at all, maybe not burning up the pavement but also not lagging. We stopped at the top to take in the view: green pastures, happy cows, serpentine formations. And below in the distance, lotsa houses! Mark, who lives in the City, commented that we live in ‘paradise’ over here in Contra Costa. Yes, there are still smidgens of it left. Perhaps not for much longer as the imperative to grow relentlessly destroys all the open space here filling it with houses and cars.
The descent is fast and straight (uh, not gaily forward in my book!). I waved the group ahead because I wanted to take my time and not worry about crashing. In a trice we’re in San Ramon. What a contrast. Were we really just minutes from all that tranquility?
In Danville the little burb was hopping with Sunday brunch mania; the parklets were packed with diners. Our lunch stop was Henhouse at the north end of town. We lucked out: there was no one there and the picnic tables outside were free for the taking. The choices for lunch in Danville are practically unending. Domenico’s is the usual club go-to stop. But its popularity means crowds—even with outdoor tables—and a long line, and today it was doing very good business; Sultan’s Kebab we ate it the last time we rolled through town; and alas, Homegrown, that Seattle transplant that I enjoyed every time I ate there, including the 2020 Resolution Ride, didn’t survive the Pandemic. Henhouse is a new addition to the Danville scene and the idea is simple: fried chicken sandwiches. You can get other stuff but there’s no point if you’ve got a killer sandwich and it does. Almost everybody got some version of it and the verdict was it was pretty good. Even the veggie version made with deep fried cauliflower got a thumbs up from Carl. I wouldn’t say it was the best fried chicken sandwich I’ve ever had. But it was also only $7 for a huge, juicy breast on a fluffy brioche bun. Such a deal!
Everybody left (over)full. Usually that means end the ride with a scarf ’n barf: hit the gas on Danville Blvd.! But instead we went easy up the road. We took the shorter way back to Orinda involving a short but stupid incline, Hillgrade. Will instead decided to head straight back to BART. Mark and Carl missed the turn to Rossmoor so Roger gave chase and steered them back on route. It’s a short noodle through Lafayette and we were back in quiet ol’ Orinda. A fine fête on two wheels to greet the new greenery.
Ed. Below is the report of the club’s annual Mt. Hamilton in the Fall ride courtesy of co-leader David Gaus.
My first Mt. Hamilton in the Fall was in 2004. I was nervous: 4,000 feet of climbing over 22 miles was significantly more than in my very first century, the Marin, which I had completed just that summer. But it turned out to be a lovely day and probably on the warm side for late October except a couple of miles from the top I experienced leg cramps for the first time. Fortunately I had stopped to stretch just before the cramp hit. I was able to get to the top, got lots of advice on why I was cramping—not enough to eat, low sodium, dehydrated, probably all three—and then got to enjoy the (mostly) 18-mile descent. I’m not sure what year was the first time I led the ride when Sharon could not, maybe 2007. [Ed. Actually it was 2005.]
The last year I completed the entire route was 2016. In 2014 I led Ron H on a three-mile detour adventure—don’t ask me why I turned onto Clayton or why I didn’t realize my mistake sooner! By the time we got back up Hwy 130 we were so far behind everyone that when we came upon the riders coming back down, we turned around also. In 2017 I was running out of steam about three miles from the top and a friend and I both turned around.
With almost two years of very little cycling compared to a normal year and four months of PT for hip pain, I could only offer to drive SAG for the ride. Thankfully Roger S offered to lead the ride with my SAG support offer.
So early Sunday I was off to Vegan Donut Cafe to get donuts for the riders. My friend David P, who also was not up to attempting the ride—next year, though!—offered to co-pilot and pick up a Peets coffee traveler for the riders also. The folks at Peets thought he wanted to order the $115 five-gallon “traveler”, and as he said “it would have been enough coffee for me for a month”.
Five riders—Will B, Alan L and his friend Jon, Mark C and Roger—headed out for the long climb to Lick Observatory. It was a gorgeous fall day, in the mid-fifties at the start and very pleasant in the sun. David and I leapfrogged the riders to the top, getting lots of photos along the way. There was a gaggle of MINI Coopers at the Grant Park regroup, having passed us on the way up. The entire Highway 130 seems to have been repaved making for excellent road quality. With the repaving the road was also restriped with a double yellow line making the lanes seem very small from the car. The SCU Lightning Complex fire burned so close to the observatories it must have been terrifying. All the fire hydrants are painted a bright red now. I’m so glad that they were able to stop it when and where they did!
At the top everyone had a bit of lunch, between the last of the donuts or food or bars they sent up with us in the car, and then layered up for the descent. Will borrowed my sweatshirt for a bit of extra warmth for the first half to Grant Park, as he had only a pair of arm warmers with him. Alan was the first to arrive at the end of Highway 130; his smile after the longest descent he had ever done said it all! Somewhere between Grant Park and the end of Hwy 130, we lost Will. So David and I backtracked to where he had returned the sweatshirt. No sign of him and I kept thinking he must have turned off on Miguelita, the only alternate route that made sense. [Ed. Miguelita cuts off Highway 130 and more directly goes to Alum Rock Park.] Sure enough we got a text from Roger that Will made it back to the start. It was a nice day and hopefully next year I’ll be back for more but on two wheels.
Another day, another product announcement. Sigh. Since we live in the best of all possible worlds, new bike products must be unfettered goods (pun intended). But Shimano’s latest announcement, the new “2021”—really 2022 since you won’t be able to get them until later this year—Dura Ace and Ultegra road groups are sorely testing my faith in the ultimate goodness of God (or at least Leibniz). I’m sure lots of cyclists who can afford to buy bikes with either of these groups will be giddy with delight at their effortless shifting and smooth-as-butter disc brakes. However the announcement left me less than pleased due to three developments, two overtly mentioned and the other not so. The first is that these groupsets are electronic only: no more mechanical shifting. Perhaps that makes sense for Dura Ace since it is mainstay of professional road racing. But Ultegra is more of a bread-and-butter group for the rest of us, especially since Dura Ace prices seem to be going up relentlessly. Online pundits are bemoaning this loss and I would too except that in my experience maintaining a Di2 system has been less work. Cable actuated shifting systems aren’t a whole lot of work in this era but e-systems are even less work! And the less time I have to spend fiddling with a shifter, the more time I have to eat bonbons. What I don’t care about Di2 is the price. Mechanical shifting is fine and it’s a lot cheaper: the Ultegra Di2 groupset now costs as much as Dura Ace did just a few years ago.
The second is that Shimano will no longer be developing rim brakes. You will be able to get new 2022 rim brakes but they are the same old brakes with just a different date stamped on them. The writing is clearly on the wall: Shimano thinks there’s no money to be made in better rim brakes. So they’re now on death row with the execution date not yet announced. If you want Shimano rim brakes on some future bike—like in four or five years—they’re not going to have “Dura Ace” or “Ultegra” on them, more likely “Tiagra” or “Sora”. They’ll probably work just fine but they’ll be heavier, look a bit unrefined, and come with Shimano’s best cheap-ass brake pads. Maybe that will be the time to switch to ee brakes. (But the price: ouch!)
I’m not going to bore you with more rim vs. disc brake polemics. I use them both and both function fine. I like disc brakes when I’m riding in the wet—what, you don’t ride in the rain??—and they allow me to run fatter tires. But I also use “medium reach” rim brakes (what are called medium reach these days used to be the standard size back in the day) with bigger tires and they work pretty well although I really can’t run a tire wider than about 35mm. I like rim brakes because they’re about three-quarters of a pound lighter and are way easier to maintain and adjust. That’s important for DIY mechanics and as I get older I’ve not only gotten crustier but also more impatient with bike repairs that take me more than a half-hour to complete, preferably less than 15 minutes. If you always take your bike to a shop, then it doesn’t make much difference except to your wallet. In any case rim brakes are headed the same direction as spoon brakes regardless of how I feel: the boneyard. On the other hand given how expensive Dura Ace has become it’s soon to be out of reach anyway, so having Tiagra rim brakes is probably going to be just fine along with Tiagra everything else.
The third development flew under the radar. Now that Shimano road groups are going 12-speed, it no longer will be making a cassette with anything other than an 11-tooth small cog. With 11-speed you could get a Shimano cassette with a 12-tooth small cog; when Shimano groups were 9-speed, you could even get a 13-tooth cog. Going to 11 only is a move that SRAM made when it started making groupsets: it never offered a cassette with anything other than an 11. At the time I thought that was stupid and I still do. Most of us use whatever cassettes come with the bike, and being stuck with an 11-tooth cog is realistically no more than a minor inconvenience. I had never used a cassette with an 11-tooth cog until I bought a bike with a compact chainset. My previous experience was a 9-speed bike with a compact chainset; it came with a 12-cog and I thought that was plenty. Did you know that a 50×11 is just about the same gear development as a 53×12? It’s plenty big. The only time I used a gear that big was on some descents, and as I get older I’m less inclined to go ridiculously fast downhill. When I was “fast”—yes, that was quite a while ago—my top gear was a 53×13, which is less quite a bit less than a 50×11, and I rarely used it and I would still go downhill at 40+ mph. In other words, you don’t need a 50×11 to go downhill fast. All you need is stupid bravery and knowing how to tuck. So 11- or 12-tooth cogs are like vestigial organs I just don’t need or use. And I suspect that is true for the vast majority of recreational cyclists.
What I do like—and appreciate more and more as I get older and creakier—is having lots of gears in the middle of the cassette, where I ride a lot, rather than tiny cogs that I almost never use. With the new Shimano groups I’m just getting more of the same: cogs I don’t need. Oh well.
Finally, one other change caught me eye, which is the chainrings offered. The “standard” 53×39 chainset is gone replaced by a new 54×40. That is a damn big ring! Who do you know runs a 54-tooth chainring? Only Pro Tour cyclists and some oddball time trialists. Everyday cyclists need a 54 like a hole in the head. FYI a 54×11 is 133 gear-inches. All I can say is: wow. But hold on there just a minute! At some point Shimano is going to have to produce a 12-speed “junior” cassette. Junior racers (under age 18) have gearing capped at no smaller than a 14-tooth cog. It’s easy to imagine a great 12-speed cassette starting at 14 and giving something close to my ideal set of ratios. How about a 14-15-16-17-18-19-20-22-24-27-30-34? This would have a lot of useful gears in the middle, an excellent low gear, and a reasonable top gear of 54×14 = 104 gear-inches. Sign me up!