Saddle Challenge and Project Inform

If you pledge or collect money for Saddle Challenge, your funds go to Project Inform. Project Inform has been our sole beneficiary because in 2003, the second year of Saddle Challenge’s existence, the club decided to support the Ron Wilmot Ride For Project Inform. Although the RWRFPI was a separate event held later in the year, the board apparently felt strongly enough to raise money for it separately rather than just encourage members to participate in the RWRFPI. I’m guessing that since the RWRFPI involved doing laps in GG Park—not unlike AIDS Walk—it was going to be a lot more fun and interesting to ride elsewhere for a month!

Ron Wilmot was a member of Different Spokes in the early ‘80s and ‘90s and eventually died in 1997 but not before raising an insane amount of money for AIDS services through the AIDS Bike-A-Thon and then starting his own ride in 1995 after BAT vanished. Ron’s ride raised over $750,000 for Project Inform from 1995 to 2007. Although Ron was well-connected, he simply announced his event and convinced a lot of his friends and acquaintances to do it. His event—like Saddle Challenge, Bike-A-Thon, and Double Bay Double—was done with very little overhead. Thus the maximum or near-maximum amount of contributions could go directly to Project Inform. It was truly grassroots fundraising done by an one individual who was able to inspire many others.

Project Inform was one of the first AIDS service agencies that popped up in the San Francisco at the early stages of the epidemic, in 1985. Every year the club selected about a dozen beneficiaries out of the many AIDS services to whom riders could forward pledges. PI was at times one of the organizations that we selected. PI differed from other agencies such as the AIDS Foundation, AIDS Emergency Fund, the Stop AIDS Project, and Pets Are Wonderful Support. Instead of focusing primarily on direct care services and support, PI developed as essentially a research and information clearinghouse. Information about AIDS and HIV, medication and treatment, and clinical trials was difficult to access and ignorance and misconceptions were rife. PI formed not only to organize and disburse information to the community but also to medical professionals. Today PI also focuses on Hepatitis C information and treatment.

Note that PI was and is not simply a “neutral” information center providing education. PI has long had a history of advocacy by fighting for streamlined drug approval, representing the HIV/HepC community to the government, and making sure health care is available to all who need it. PI’s role is thus not only educational but in policy advocacy and improving public health. What made PI interesting is that it was truly community based rather than set up on high by a medical or scientific organization and thus under the control of those whom the epidemic hit the hardest.

For more information, please go to the Project Inform website.

If you’d like to support Project Inform, please participate in Saddle Challenge in March! You can sign up at our website.

Hedging Your Bets [Updated 11/14]

Today I finally received a response to my 10/15/18 email to Carter Choi at San Mateo Dept. of Public Works regarding whether the opening of Crystal Springs Dam Road would be postponed yet again beyond 10/31/18. I’ve put in bold the hedging:

“The County is currently putting in a recreational trail south of the bridge to provide a safe area for pedestrians to walk.  In addition, there is security fencing that needs to be installed in multiple locations within the project site and this security fencing has to be coordinated and approved with the SFPUC.  The current tentative schedule to complete the remaining work for the Parks trail work and the security fencing is the next 2 to 3 weeks pending sub-contractor availability and lead time to procure fencing materials given the current construction climate in the Bay Area.  Once this work is completed the ribbon cutting event for the bridge reopening can be properly scheduled. Thank you for your patience.”

My bet is not before mid-January. Nothing gets done during the holidays and if the  rains will begin, they will delay any real work. And it sounds like there isn’t even a sub lined up for the work let alone the fencing materials being ordered to spec and delivered. Basically he doesn’t have a clue when it will be reopened.

My question is WTF didn’t his office say that on their website in the first place. It’s like they have no idea what is going to happen next and then get surprised by yet another unknown step to getting this road opened. For all we know the security fencing may also need to pass some Homeland Security requirement and California state requirements as well. And it will have to redone because it wasn’t done correctly the first time.

UPDATE: [11/14] Gosh darn, that two to three week postponement turned out not to be true! Now the website lists “December 2018” for the completion. I’ve lost track of the number of times SM DPW has had to backtrack on their finally finalest-of-all-final deadlines. I still think it can’t happen anytime before February 2019.

What Lying Liars Like To Do

Calaveras Road, which has been closed since July 2016, was supposed to reopen on Saturday, November 3. Now the SF Water website says it won’t open before January 1, 2019. The reason? Whatever, it doesn’t matter because they’ve been lining up excuses like bowling pins. They should just say it’s closed indefinitely. But they won’t because people would scream. So they lie and put up a date to placate the public. I would like to say they are unlike other public agencies in their relentless failure to keep to any reasonable timelines. But they’re not: witness Crystal Springs Dam Road (San Mateo County Department of Public Works) and BART.

World’s Longest Road Closure: Crystal Springs Dam Road

So, who among you remembers cycling across Crystal Springs Dam Road? If you don’t, it’s no surprise because we are approaching the 8th anniversary of its closing. Yes, Crystal Springs Dam Road has been closed for eight years: it closed on October 21, 2010—can you believe it? Admittedly the reason for the ridiculously prolonged closure is not entirely bogus. The construction of the replacement dam, which sits on the San Andreas Fault, had to be done conservatively. But as with Calaveras Road there is something about major public works projects that almost always causes them to spiral out of control and blow their timelines. The number of times San Mateo County Public Works has had to revise the opening date is embarrassing. I just glanced online and saw one estimate as “2017”. Seriously? We are almost two years later!

The last estimate of reopening was September 2018 but at the last minute it was pushed back to “mid-October”. Their webpage hasn’t been revised since and we are now just past mid-October and there isn’t even an announcement of a date for the “grand reopening ceremony”. In other words, they’ve blown their deadline again and we haven’t a clue as to when they will reopen it. I emailed the Senior Civil Engineer, Carter Choi, a few days ago about a revised estimate and surprise, surprise I haven’t heard a thing (I didn’t hear from him when I asked the same question in August—I guess he’s too busy “working” to answer his email). I just called SM Public Works and their receptionist says “mid-November”. Of course the engineers weren’t available to talk.

So how believable is that “mid-November”? Does shit even get done at public agencies near the holidays??

San Mateo’s repeated bad estimates mirror that of another public agency, BART. The Warm Spring extension was initally projected to open in 2014, five years after groundbreaking. It didn’t open until 2017, three years late. We are now awaiting the opening of the two stations just to the south, Milpitas and Berryessa. Both were scheduled to open in December 2017. Then there were problems integrating the new electrical control system to the old existing system, and that pushed the opening to June of this year, which didn’t happen, and the new opening was set for maybe the end of 2018 but probably more like early 2019. (Didn’t they run into those same system issues with the Warm Springs station? If so, why didn’t they revise their timeline before?) So now they’re three years behind schedule for Berryessa.

Now comes word that equipment was installed in the two stations that was not “compliant” (they were used and not new) and has to be removed, replaced, and then tested again. Now the rough estimate is Milpitas and Berryessa won’t open any earlier than “late 2019”. The Santa Clara Valley Transit Authority has requested a FTA extension with a deadline to begin service of December 31, 2019. Of course they could easily refile for another extension. Earlier this year we were thinking we could use Milpitas BART to get to the start of the Mt. Hamilton in the Fall ride. That is off the table for next year as well.

We have no inkling as to the actual sequence of events that leads to these delays. Why do agencies continue to mouth overly optimistic opening dates? They should know from previous miscalculations that the error is, say, roughly three years and then add that to their public announcements. One wonders if the delays are due to truly unforeseeable circumstances or whether it is really due to mediocre oversight of contractors and/or inept planning.

Will I even be alive when BART opens these stations??

Saddle Challenge Spoken Here!

Every March Different Spokes hosts the Saddle Challenge. Originally a not-so-serious intraclub competition to see who could rack up the most miles in March, it evolved into a fundraiser for Project Inform. I believe Saddle Challenge started in 2002 but I’m not sure who the originator was. It very well may have been Chris Laroussell, who was President at the time. The Ron Wilmot Ride for Project Inform started in the ’90s after Bike-A-Thon folded and it was still held when Saddle Challenge started even though Ron had passed on years beforehand. But like many fundraisers that lose their moving force, the RWRFPI disappeared around 2007, and at that time Saddle Challenge adopted it and added the fundraising component that it has to date.

In any case the goal of Saddle Challenge remains the same: ride as many miles as possible in March in order to kickstart your riding season. We also raise money from self-pledging or by persuading friends, family, or acquaintances to chip in, in order to donate much needed funds to Project Inform. How you pledge is up to you. You can do it per mile, lump sum, or any formula you choose. To participate in Saddle Challenge you do not have to donate to Project Inform, but you do need to register so that we can see all those miles you’re riding! And you’ll be able to see how many miles everyone else is riding too at the DSSF website. Yeah, it seems really dated how this is done—it was designed for the world before Strava became a thing. Wouldn’t it be nice if Strava or some other platform could host little mini-competititions like this!

To spur you on we have a robust calendar of club rides during March. Originally the plan was to have a club ride for every Saturday and Sunday in March so that you all could ride with other Spokers. But it hasn’t quite worked out (yet) since Sunday March 18 still doesn’t have a ride even though the day before has two. And it may work out yet! To be continued…

This year we are making our friendly competition a bit more interesting by offering prizes for members who do the most miles on our club rides and for those who donate the most money. Keep in mind you must be a member to be eligible to win a prize. We’ll be giving away a Spurcycle bell, a Bontrager Flare R taillight, a Bontrager Ion 100 R headlight, and the book Road To Valor: A True Story of WWII italy, the Nazis, and the Cyclist Who Inspired a Nation. And maybe some other mysterious goodies will appear before the end of March—you never know!

The number of miles you ride is counted on the honor system. But for the most miles ridden on club rides in March you will need to make sure you sign the ride waiver at each ride in order to get credit. The miles you earn on those rides is based on the ride listing mileage or its RWGPS route. If you ride extra miles before or after the club ride, they don’t count, alas. However if the club ride goes rogue and officially does extra miles (like the ride leader getting everybody hopelessly lost), they do count as long as the ride leader can confirm what happened.

To register go to the DSSF webpage  and hit the link ‘Saddle Challenge’ on the sidebar and fill in the details.

At the end of March when Saddle Challenge closes, send a check for your donation and/or collected pledges to the Ride Coordinator who will forward them all to Project Inform. Checks should be made out to Project Inform.

Finally, if you have other ideas to make Saddle Challenge even more interesting, share them with me.

2018: Welcome to the Pleasuredome


Good riddance to 2017! Last year started with a whimper: after a nice New Year up Mt. Diablo we got tons of incessant rain. In contrast we seem to be heading into a dry winter—bad news for long showers and green gardens but great news for cyclists! Last year was also a quiet year for Different Spokes. Whether it was due simply to constant bad weather in the first third of the year who knows. In any case we have some great changes in store for 2018.

First, we are soon going to able to offer official club dirt rides again. Our insurance has not covered off-road riding but that will change by the beginning of February. After that expect to see mountain bike and mixed terrain rides appear on the ride calendar. Of course those of us who are non-asphalt inclined have been riding where we please. But now we’ll be able to do it officially rather than on the down low. If you’re a mountain biker or just like to ride on unpaved surfaces, you’ll have even more reasons to ride with Different Spokes.

For those of you who like to ride less quickly you’ll be happy to know that Roger and I have a full schedule of Social A rides for 2018, at least one ride a month. We will be taking in some new routes, sights, and naturally fab eating places such as Treasure Island, Angel Island, and dining at Gaumenkitzel (yum!) as well as old favs such as the American River Bike Trail, the Arastradero Preserve, and eating at Sogno di Dolci in St. Helena and Assemble.

Saddle Challenge is coming in March. Need some incentive to get in the miles? You can look forward to Saddle Challenge Mile Eater rides to get you to your mileage goal for the month and kickstart your season. Will they be the usual boring routes like Mt. Tam or Tiburon loop? Well, maybe a couple will be but you also can look forward to some unusual rides such as out to the Spirit Ship on Mare Island and riding on Delta islands! Why ride the same roads over and over?

Last but not least we might actually see the return of the Lake Tahoe Spectacular Weekend this summer. I’ve been receiving moderate interest. If I can get at least ten firm confirmations, then I think it will be a go. Stay tuned.

What else can we look forward to in 2018? Last summer after several months delay we saw the opening of the SMART commuter train in Marin that now allows for extended riding in Marin and Sonoma without getting in a car. BART managed to open the Warm Springs extension in Fremont after an even longer delay. Hopefully that won’t happen again with BART’s Milpitas and Berryessa stations, which are scheduled to open this June. At last we might actually be able to do our Mt. Hamiton in the Fall ride without using a car to get to the start at Berryessa Creek Park! The SF-to-SJ ride has always ended at the Diridon Caltrain station. But for those of us who live in the East Bay and don’t want to take the Caltrain back to SF, the lessened mileage to Berryessa will be much better than to Fremont or Warm Springs. But wait there’s more: BART’s Antioch extension will open this May. Getting to Black Diamond Mines Regional Park for righteous fire road rambling will be easier. Getting to the Delta to enjoy levee roads will be easier too but it will require you to ride your bike over the Antioch Bridge, which is indeed open to bicyclists and even pedestrians. Brannan Island State Park is just across the bridge as well as Rio Vista and beautiful rides such as Ryer Island. Getting across the Antioch is a bit hairy: there is a shoulder but the traffic (including semis) ostensibly is going 55 mph. There is often a numbing crosswind or headwind off the Delta. Nevertheless it is possible to bike it and it’ll be a lot closer than starting from Bay Point.

Finally, the last of the roads closed by 2017’s storms will open. Calaveras will reopen to weekend use in the near future (before the Primavera Century in April) and by October should be open daily. Skyline Boulevard (Hwy 35) just south of Castle Rock State Park should also reopen this spring. Further south Caltrans hopes to have Highway 1 at Mud Creek open by late summer, which will finally allow David Gaus’s long-delayed Big Sur Adventure to be held.

The Return of the Lake Tahoe Spectacular Weekend?

Long time members will recall that one of the annual events that the club put on was the Lake Tahoe Spectacular Weekend. This two-day event took place during the summer allowing for warm, sunny weather not only to enjoy cycling but also the lake itself. Members drove up Friday or early Saturday and spent two days of cycling in the Lake Tahoe area. We rented an odd house, “the Octagon” and cooked a group dinner Saturday evening.

The earliest versions of the weekend had riders drive half-way around the lake, park the cars, and then cycle back to the rental house; the second day we rode to the cars and then drove back, about 35 miles each way. This quickly evolved to riding around the lake in one day—70 miles—and then doing something else on Sunday, usually riding up Brockway Summit to Truckee and then back on Highway 89. Later when mountain biking became popular, some would instead do the Flume Trail.

The last time this trip was offered was around 2006. What killed the trip was the loss of “the Octagon”: it was taken off the rental market and there was now no easy way to house a large group inexpensively. The Octagon was an otherwise semi-decrepit ski house but it had one exemplary trait: it had a crapload of beds making a weekend at Lake Tahoe immensely affordable. There were four bedrooms that could sleep two couples each, a couple of bunk rooms that could accommodate four or so each, a hallway area with two beds (!), and then an upper seating area where at least a couple of folks could crash. It wasn’t uncommon to have more than 15 people attend; I recall at least one occasion when there were well more than 20.

A few years ago I attempted to rent the Octagon but was unable to get a response from the previous agent. About three years ago I accidently ran across it listed on VRBO. It had changed hands, had undergone a serious remodel and update, and of course was now a lot more expensive! But in its new incarnation it can still handle 12-16 people.

I ran the Tahoe Weekend at least once (and had even written a ‘how to’ document on how to organize the Weekend) but I no longer recall how much it cost back then. I think it was something on the order of $50-$75 per person for the entire weekend. That included two nights at the Octagon, breakfast Saturday and Sunday, a big Saturday dinner, and plenty of snacks.

To rent the Octagon for a weekend in August will now cost about $1,400 rather than $700 (= 2006 cost). On the immediate plus side is the much nicer digs as well as we no longer have to clean the place before we leave (we instead pay a cleaning fee). With a rough estimate of $35 per person for food and 14 participants, the average cost would be about $135 per person for the weekend. A quick perusal of motel costs in the Tahoe City area shows that one night alone would cost about that amount and of course no food would be included.

The room arrangement of the Octagon is such that filling every bed requires that we have exactly the right number of “couples” and singles. If not enough couples, then two people who don’t mind sharing a bed; if too many couples, then some who don’t mind sleeping separately for two nights. If there is ample interest, then we may be able to squeeze more people in to lower the cost but it will involve sleeping in the common areas (either the TV sitting area above the living room) or on the sofas in the living room. If there aren’t enough couples and someone doesn’t want a bedmate, a single supplement would be charged proportional to the house rental.

I would like to see the Lake Tahoe Weekend Spectacular done again and would like to get some feedback on the interest level and cost from members.

Here is my proposal:

Lake Tahoe Weekend Spectacular

August 17-19, 2018


  • Drive up Friday. For those who arrive early enough, go out to a group dinner near Tahoe City.
  • Saturday: ride around Lake Tahoe (70 miles), group dinner at the Octagon. Hang out at the Octagon; those inclined may go gambling, bar hopping, etc. in the evening
  • Sunday: ride to Truckee and return by Highway 89 (35 miles?? I can’t remember). Depart sometime in the afternoon.

Includes food for Saturday and Sunday breakfast, Saturday group dinner, and snacks.

Cost will depend on number of participants. If 10 people, then about $175 per person; if 14, then about $135; if more, then even lower.

If you want to view the Octagon, you can see it here.

I would like to get a reading on the interest for this trip. Would you be interested in participating under the conditions of this proposal? If not, what modifications would better fit your needs? Do you consider the price reasonable and affordable? Is this a good time for you to participate or would a different weekend be better?

Keep in mind that this is a general proposal and it can be modified. If you are interested in helping organize the weekend, let me know. Post your feedback either to the DSSF Yahoo! Group listserv or email me directly at

2018 is Just Around the Corner! Start Planning Your Centuries

At the Crater Lake Century

Was 2017 a bit of a bust for you because of the incredible amount of rain we got last winter and spring? The club ride calendar really suffered—not many were willing to proffer a ride with the likelihood of yet another weekend rained out and those that were offered were either cancelled or repeatedly postponed. It’s looking to be a drier winter and now is the time to mull over the Big Rides you want to do in 2018. Below is a select list of local and not-so-local centuries that Spokers love and cherish. Keep in mind that many of these rides have rider caps and do fill up. As we get closer to the dates we will be trying to organize Spokers who would like to ride together on a century.


1 Monday. Resolution Ride. Yes, it’s back thanks to David Sexton and Gordon Dinsdale, who seem to think climbing Diablo should be done weekly, not just once a year! Join Different Spokes as we join the crowd clawing our way up Mt. Diablo along with Diablo Cyclists, Grizzly Peak Cyclists, and the Valley Spokespeople—it’s a regular party on two wheels. Free! It’s not a century but it’s a way to kickstart your century accomplishments in 2018.


10 Saturday. Tour de Palm Springs. $80. Registration is open. It’s in the South land so it’s warmer, maybe, and probably drier,maybe, but there is usually a crew of Spokers who head down. Options for 10, 25, 50, or 10 miles.

11 Sunday. Velo Love Ride. $50. Registration is open. This used to be called the Rice Valley Tandem Ride and it’s usually on or close to Valentine’s Day, hence the name. A low-key event with a flattish ride around the Sutter Buttes outside of Chico. Starts in Gridley, just north of Yuba City—a bit of a schlep but a great ride. The meal at the end is worth it. Has a real “locals” feel rather than the usual mass-event mosh pit vibe. Sponsored by Chico Velo, the same fine folks who put on the Chico Wildflower.

24 Saturday. Pedaling Paths to Independence. $45. Registration is open. 65 or 25 mile routes. This is a pretty easy metric in the Valley that is a benefit for the Community Center for the Blind. It’s cheap too. Mostly flat so it’s not too demanding (unless the wind is blowing.) A good early season ride. Starts in Linden, east of Stockton.


10 Saturday. Solvang Century. $115 mail in; $125 online. Registration is currently open. It’s a long after-work Friday drive down to Solvang but you get to amble back home on Sunday. (But DST does begin that morning.) And be sure to reserve a motel room well in advance. Solvang is a big event but BikeSCOR has scaled it back from megahuge craziness to “just” 3,000 now. That’s still a lot of bikes on the same roads. Personally I’ll probably never do this event again because the cost is high and the rest stop food is Costco-perfunctory. And the after-ride meal isn’t even included. Seriously? But if you haven’t done it before, it’s a nice ride without a lot of elevation gain. (FYI major parts of the route have plenty of places you could stop on your own and get food way better than the mediocrity you find at the rest stops.)


14 Saturday. Cinderella Classic & Challenge. Registration opens 1/10/18. Limited to 2,500 women and girls. 65 or 87 miles. Sponsored by Valley Spokesmen, the very first women/girls only century ride now in its 42nd year. Boys will have to settle for Different Spokes’ very own Evil Stepsisters ride!

14 Saturday. Tierra Bella. $65. Registration is open. Limit of 2,000. A club fav and it’s close by to, in Gilroy. Great roads that are not suburbanized (yet). Post-ride meal is pretty good too. For unknown karmic reasons this ride gets horrendously rained out periodically. Last year it was sunny and great. This year??

15 Sunday. L’Eroica California. $150. Registration is open. 40, 70, 87, and 127 mile routes. The rides are part of the two-day festival of vintage bicycles, held in Paso Robles. You have to have a vintage bike to participate, e.g. no STI-like shifters, no clipless pedals, basically no bikes made before 1987 and the older the better.

21 Saturday. Sierra Century. $60. Registration is open. Limit of 1,200. 41, 65, 102, and 122 mile courses. Stars in Plymouth in the Gold Country, about 2.5 hours from SF by car.

21 Saturday. Sea Otter Classic. $110/$90. Registration is open. Did you know the Sea Otter Classic is more than a glitter show of new bike products and race watching? Yes, it has four rides, and in the spirit of “something for everyone” they offer two road rides (91 or 49 miles), a mountain bike ride (19 miles) , as well as a fad du jour “gravel grinder” (29 miles). But none of them is cheap.

21 Saturday. Bike Around The Buttes. $40/$45/$50. Registration opens 1/1/18. If you can’t make it to Chico Velo’s Velo-Love Ride in February, this ride covers similar roads in the Sutter Buttes area. Choice of 17.5, 40 or 100 mile routes.

22 Sunday. Primavera Century. $70. Registration is open. 100, 85, 63 and 25 mile routes. Last year there was no Primavera because Calaveras Road was closed due to earth movement caused by rain. Calaveras is still closed but is expected to reopen for weekends in early 2018. Starts conveniently in Fremont but too early to get there by BART (except for the 25-mile fun ride).

28 Saturday. Mt. Hamilton Challenge. Last year the Mt.Hamilton Challenge just never happened presumably due to uncertain weather. But this year the Pedalera Bike Club is promising it will take place.

29 Sunday. Chico Wildflower. $45/$75. Registration is open. 12, 30, 60, 65, 100, and 125-mile routes. This year there is also an 80-mile dirt/gravel option but it’s limited to 200 riders. This century is a club favorite. A group of Spokers usually arranges to have dinner together the night before in Chico. Booking lodging requires advance planning, as the Wildflower will fill up all the motel rooms in the area. If you can take Monday off from work, so much the better because you will almost certainly be whipped after the ride and the excellent post-ride dinner; driving back right after is just a chore.


5 Saturday. Wine Country Century. Wow. After losing a warehouse of century equipment and supplies in the Tubbs Fire, the Santa Rosa Cycling Club is still planning to put on the Wine Country Century in 2018. Now, that’s determination! No one would carp if they had decided to call it a year and coast into 2019. No information up on the web yet. This is a beloved century and one of the easier in the area.

6 Sunday. Grizzly Peak Century. Fee not yet announced; registration not yet open. 76, 102 or 110-mile road routes; 78 or 100-mile mixed terrain routes. Capped at 1,000 riders. Starts in Moraga so very easy to get to except not by BART because BART doesn’t open up early enough! The GPC is most definitely not a flat route–it’s a climber’s ride. This one always sells out, so don’t wait too long after registration opens, which I am guessing will be around the New Year. The end-of-ride meal is most definitely homemade and delicious!

19 Saturday. Davis Double. No information yet but the DD always takes place!

20 Sunday. Strawberry Fields Forever. $65. Registration opens in January 2018. 30, 63, and 100 mile routes. A pleasant ride in the Santa Cruz and Watsonville area. Despite the multitude of road closures in the Santa Cruz Mountains this past winter, their routes are intact for this spring.


3 Sunday. Sequoia Century. No information yet but Western Wheelers always puts this century on. 100, 72, and 50 mile routes.

23 Saturday. RBC Gran Fondo Silicon Valley. $700/$260. Registration is open. Yes, your read that right: $700 for a friggin’ 75-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.

30 Sunday. Climb to Kaiser. Registration open on Christmas Day. 95 or 71 mile routes. If you enjoy heat and climbing, this is the ride for you. “Only” 7,500 vertical ascent but you have the pleasure of baking in the Central Valley.

Redwood Road Update and Niles Canyon Stroll ‘N Roll 9/30

After months of silence from Caltrans and Alameda County we finally have word on Redwood Road. Since it was shut last spring due to the road collapsing towards EBMUD’s San Leandro Reservoir, we had just been assuming that Caltrans was “working on it.” Apparently not, for now we have word that the reconstruction of Redwood Road will begin next Tuesday September 12. Getting those ducks lined up must have been one herding job! In any case the repair is expected to be completed by January 2018. Whatever that means–probably plus or minus a couple of months depending on unexpected problems they find during repair, unforeseen problems with the contractor, and what our weather will be like this winter. And yes, it’s going to stay shut until it’s completed. Speaking of weather, long range forecasts to date seem to believe that this coming winter will be neither an El Niño nor a La Niña type…which means they have no idea how much precip we’ll be getting.

On another topic entirely, we all have enjoyed riding in Niles Canyon, right? Well, except for the high-speed death machines who blow by inches from us because we essentially have no road shoulder. There have been at least two cyclist deaths in Niles in the past couple of years from cars hitting the cyclists from behind. Every time I ride in Niles Canyon I hammer as hard as I can to get the hell out of Niles as quickly as possible. Niles Canyon may have been a pleasant, scenic corridor 30 years ago but today it’s a major commuter corridor, making cycling there an iffy proposition if you value your life and safety. On Saturday September 30 Niles Canyon will be closed to all car traffic from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. From 7 to 8 a.m. only cyclists will be allowed to use the road; after that it’s open to everyone else. This is a special event put on by Alameda County Supervisors Richard Valle and Scott Haggerty to promote the creation of a “Class 1 trail” in Niles Canyon. You can see more information here. The club will be putting on a ride that day going through Niles Canyon to take advantage of the car-free day and to be able to enjoy Niles Canyon, which is actually quite scenic, without the threat of cars on this narrow passage. For details go to the Different Spokes Ride Calendar or click here. You can bet there are going to be a lot of cyclists there, including us!

2017 Centuries and Gran Fondos

black Cannondale road bike


Less than one month to go and 2016 will be one for the books, yet it’s not too early to be thinking about next year and the Next Big Ride. Many cycling clubs don’t yet have information available about their centuries and even if they do, registration has yet to open and details are currently a bit sparse. But at least you can peruse the calendar and figure out those weekends you’re going to dedicate to a hundred-miler. Although 2016 was an El Nino year, other than January when rain was near epic it actually wasn’t too wet. Training for an early century in winter wasn’t that hard. This year is forecast to be a La Niña year, which tends to have normal precipitation. We may be able to enjoy even more riding days in 2017 without having to pull on rain gear! These are the usual suspects up to early June 2017. Most rides from June on have little or no information up yet. A follow up post will highlight the centuries of the latter half of 2017.


1 Sunday. Resolution Ride. This is Different Spokes’s own ride up Mt. Diablo on New Year’s Day.  If you’re already semi-fit or at least willing to suffer, it’s a great way to start off the New Year. Open to anyone and no fee! If it’s not raining, it will be a mosh pit at the summit—Valley Spokesmen, Grizzly Peak Cyclists, and Diablo Cyclists all respect this day and have club runs to the summit.

21 Saturday. Tour of Palm Springs. $75. Registration is open. 10/25/50/100-mile routes. Down south typically receives much less rain than we do, so this one is a safe bet for dry riding. But if it’s dry, there will a huge crowd. A few brave Spokes have driven south for this one.


12 Sunday. Velo-Love Ride. $50. Registration is open. 40/60/100-mile routes. Chico Velo annually celebrates Valentines Day with the Velo-Love Ride. V-Day falls on a Tuesday, so Sunday February 12 is the closest weekend date. Because it starts in Gridley, which is close to Yuba City, the drive is even less than going to the Chico Wildflower. Nice tour of the rice fields and Sutter Buttes in the Sacramento Valley. The post-ride meal is really good too! A small and friendly ride.

25 Saturday. Pedaling Paths To Independence. $45. Registration is open. 25 or 65-mile routes. This is a pretty easy metric in the Valley that is a benefit for the Community Center for the Blind. It’s cheap too at $45. Mostly flat so it’s not too demanding (unless the wind is blowing.) Starts in Linden, east of Stockton.


11 Saturday. Solvang Century. $125 online/$115 mail in. Registration is open. 50, 70, or 100-mile routes. This is an extremely popular Southern California ride starting in Solvang. It’s about a six-hour drive from San Francisco so it’s close enough for us. It regularly attracts 5,000+ riders. Consequently lodging at the last minute is scarce; book early or plan on sleeping far away. One year we couldn’t get a room any closer than Santa Barbara. Perhaps SCOR, the organizer, has heard some of the criticism because this year the enormous registration fee will include the bbq lunch at the end that they used to charge separately for. The rest stop goodies have in the past been merely perfunctory (think:they loaded up at Costco).


1 Saturday. Tierra Bella. $60 until 1/16/17. Registration is open. 35, 63, 100, and 123-mile routes. Cap of 2,000 riders. A club fav and it’s close by to, in Gilroy. Great roads that are not suburbanized yet. Post-ride meal is pretty good too.

8 Saturday. Bike Around The Buttes. $49 online/$56 mail in. Registration is open. 18, 40, or 100-mile routes. Starts in Sutter just west of Yuba City. If you didn’t make it to the Velo-Love Ride, this ride covers similar territory at a warmer and drier time of the year.

8 Saturday. Cinderella Classic & Challenge. $58. Registration opens Jan. 4. 65 or 85 mile-routes. Limit of 2,500 riders and they always sell out in advance. Starts in Pleasanton. Valley Spokesmen’s 41st annual women/girl only ride. Classic roads of Contra Costa County, which is rapidly being suburbanized. Male Spokers may want to do our Evil Stepsisters ride in lieu, or you could volunteer to work the event and support women cyclists!

8 Saturday. SLOBC Wildflower Century. $75 before 1/21/17. Registration is open. 46, 64, 76, and 99-mile routes. Starts in Creston. SLOBC also puts on the Lighthouse Century later in the year. Great roads in Central California. The Wildflower takes place the same weekend as the Eroica, so you can do both!

9 Sunday. Eroica California Gran Fondo. $150 before 3/31/17. 40, 73, 87 or 127-mile routes. Starts in Paso Robles. Ride mixed surface roads in Central California on your vintage steel bike. That would be…almost no one in Different Spokes. But you can always troll EBay for a classic bike although they are no longer cheap due to the Eroica! The original Eroica in Tuscany makes a lot of sense but these knockoffs in disparate locations such as California and Japan seem, well, forced, shall we say. But the dirt roads are truly awesome!

15 Saturday. Sierra Century. $64 before 4/1/17. 41, 65, 69, or 102-mile-routes. Starts in Plymouth. Scenic Gold Country route with the well-known Slug Gulch climb.

22 Saturday. Sea Otter Gran Fondo. $110 before 4/3/17. 51 or 92-mile road routes. Also offering a 22-mile mtb route or a 32-mile gravel route for $90.

23 Sunday. Primavera Century. $65 if before 12/31/16. Registration is open. 25, 63, 85, or 102-mile routes. Starts in Fremont, but is not BARTable because Sunday service starts too late to make any of the rides except the 25-mile.

29 Saturday. Mount Hamilton Challenge. $20? 125 miles. Pedalera BC hasn’t yet announced the 2017 Mount Hamilton Challenge but there is little doubt they will offer it again. It’s dirt cheap because you bring all your own food to be sagged for you. Starting in Santa Clara riders roll up Hamilton and down the back side and back.

29 Saturday. Motherlode Century. $75? 35, 66. 81, or 95-mile routes. This is another one that isn’t up yet. Unlike the venerable Mt. Hamilton Challenge, the Motherlode is of recent origin so perhaps it is already defunct. Last year registration opened on Jan. 1, so we’ll know shortly. This ride starts in Coloma in El Dorado County. It’s a longer drive than the Mt. Hamilton Challenge but it is a traditional century and won’t have to schlep your own food.

30 Sunday. Chico Wildflower Century. $75 before 1/31/17. Registration is open. 12, 30, 60, 65, 100, and 125-mile routes. This is a club favorite. A group usually arranges to have dinner together the night before. Booking lodging requires advance planning! If you can take Monday off from work, so much the better because you will almost certainly be whipped after the ride and the excellent post-ride dinner; driving back right after is just a chore.


6 Saturday. Wine Country Century. Fee? 35, 65, 100 and 125-mile routes. Registration opens 2/1/17 and it will sell out in a matter of days. If you want to ride this one, do not delay. This ride is great for tandems, and the food is excellent. In various years the rest stops have offered make-your-own burritos and fresh coffee—now these folks understand cyclists!

7 Sunday. Delta Century. $45? 25, 62 and 100-mile routes. No information yet but registration is supposed to open this month. Last year the cap was 500. Starts in Lodi. If you’re looking for a flat century, this is it: the century has a total elevation gain of 37 feet!

7 Sunday. Grizzly Peak Century. Fee not yet announced; registration not yet open. 76, 102 or 110-mile road routes; 78 or 100-mile mixed terrain routes. Capped at 1,000 riders. Starts in Moraga. The GPC is most definitely not a flat route–it’s a climber’s ride. This one always sells out, so don’t wait too long after registration opens, which I am guessing will be around the New Year. Last year the GPC featured a mixed surface option; this year there are two mixed surface rides. See you there!

20 Saturday. Davis Double. Fee? Registration opens 3/1/17. There is only one route: 200 miles, baby! Starts in Davis.

21 Sunday. Strawberry Fields Forever. $65 before 3/16/17. 30, 61, and 101-mile routes. Limit of 1,200 riders. Registration opens 1/1/17. Starts in Watsonville and takes in the Santa Cruz mountains.


4 Sunday. Sequoia Century. Fee unknown. 100 and 120-mile routes. No information yet at the Western Wheelers site but this one always takes place. Route changes every year but starts at Foothill College and goes over to the coast and back.