2022: Parting Glances, part 1

Fond Farewell To An Effulgent 2022!

Before we launch into 2023, let’s take a final look at what the past year was like for our club. In no particular order and without further ado:

Lies, Damn Lies, and Statistics. We had 100 rides. That’s roughly two rides every week on average. We hadn’t had this many since 2014. Our ride calendar had been dropping off a cliff since 2012 and hit a lowly 52 in 2017. We have slowly rebuilt the membership and consequently the number of ride leaders and rides since then. When David Goldsmith became president in 2019, he said he was hoping for two rides every week. Mission accomplished! David had a big role in us hitting the number too: he was the most prolific ride leader of 2022 with 44 rides! I was in second place with a comparatively teeny 19 rides; our treasurer Mark Cook was third with 12 as was David Millard, who led the dirt contingent. And membership? In 2021 our membership climbed slowly and we wondered if we’d make it back to 100 by the end of the year. We did but just barely! In 2022 we topped that by growing 20% up to 121. If we can make it up to 130 or so in 2023, we’ll be back to where we were twenty years ago!

Short-sighted. Talk about schizophrenic behavior: although the previous board had all but resolved not to chase after so-called casual cyclists, that all changed when Laura joined and wanted to make a go of it. She convinced David and they started the Short & Sassy rides. In 2022 S&S rides were mostly short versions of the Jersey Ride but they still managed to attract some attendance. One disappointment this year was the complete lack of interest in the Rosie the Riveter ride, which is part of the annual Fall Social. This ride is an easy, flat ride that should have brought out the S&S folks. (Perhaps next year we’ll replace it with a dirt ride instead, which used to be a popular option in the late ‘90s.) Perhaps we’ll see a surge of interest in shorter rides in 2023!

“Mixed” Feelings. After sputtering attempts to restart interest in riding off-asphalt, the club finally hit its stride in 2022 thanks to David Millard. He led a spate of mixed surface and dirt rides including a beautiful jaunt to Purisima Creek east of Half Moon Bay and a whole lot of rides in the Headlands. Getting even dirtier he led a pretty serious ride on Eldridge on Mt. Tam that even had some bloodshed! “Gravel” rides in 2023, anyone?

Swept Away. David Goldsmith and David Gaus led a wonderful “training” series in January through May ostensibly to get ready for the SLO Wildflower—more on that below—and other century rides. The very first ride, which was to cross the Bay Bridge, ended up being cancelled by a tsunami due to the eruption of the underwater volcano near Tonga. Other than that the drought meant we had few rides cancelled by rain this year.

Merrily We Roll Along. We had no less than three ride series in 2022. To celebrate our 40th year, Roger and I put together a ride each month scattered around the Bay Area just as we did for our 30th in 2012. For the latter we resurrected a bunch of popular and unusual rides from the early days of the club; this time we did some Golden Oldies but also threw in a bunch of newer rides that Spokers love such as Pleasants Valley and Franz Valley. The Davids’ spring series was also very popular and ran the gamut from the Three Bears to SF-to-SJ. The Foxy Fall Century’s pandemic hiatus ended and so David Goldsmith led a short series in the late summer to get ready for it as well culminating in a big group of Spokers heading to the Valley to enjoy a surprisingly mild fall day.

“When you’re alone and life is making you lonely…” The 2020 Kick Off Meeting just squeaked by on February 26, 2020 and then the statewide Shelter-In-Place order went out. For 2021 we had to make do with an online Zoom Kick Off instead. But it was back to real life for 2022 thanks to Nancy for hosting us at her spacious outdoor back patio in the heart of the City. There was a thirst for getting together IRL—27 people attended, a huge jump from the usual number—to hear club plans for the year including the upcoming getaway weekend to the SLO Wildflower and the 40th anniversary celebration events. Will we be back to Sports Basement in 2023? Let’s hope so.

Flower Power. The San Luis Obispo Wildflower century unexpectedly yet organically turned into 2022’s getaway weekend. The Monterey/Pajaro Dunes Weekend was unfortunately cancelled in 2020 and again in 2021 by the pandemic. Our getaway weekends usually involve renting a house or camping area where the entire group can stay together and cook dinner together. The SLO Wildflower was just going to be your usual century ride but just a little bit further out of the Bay Area than we usually go. There turned out to be a lot of interest in going to SLO maybe because it was an unfamiliar-to-DSSF ride in an area that was a reputation for stellar riding, Paso Robles. We also happen to have a former member who now lives down there, Adrienne, who enthusiastically opened her house to us for a hosted barbecue dinner. Something like 25 Spokers and fellow travelers showed up for a beautiful weekend in Central California. The Friday evening dinner was potluck but Adrienne and her husband really did the lion’s share of the labor by fronting slabs of barbecued ribs and all the sides. And vegetarian and vegan choices too! Thanks Adrienne!! Saturday’s ride had most of the Spokers doing the full century with a difficult final twenty miles on some of the worst paved roads in California; the smart set did the shorter 80-mile ride that skipped the plethora of potholes and got us back to the finish to sup without feeling beaten to death. The even smarter set did the 50-mile route, which the initial scenic loop through some of the nicest roads we’ve seen in years. Will we go back in 2023? If so there will be one more Spoker to join the crowd: Adrienne’s new baby!

Born This Way. The 2022 Pride followed the successful playbook of 2021: two short rides—an ascent up Twin Peaks to the Pink Triangle for the animals and then a subsequent loop down to Lake Merced for those wanting an easier celebration. And of course, punctuated by coffee and deliciously decorated Pride donuts! It was our most popular ride of 2022. Can we top this in 2023? Pride bagels perhaps? Pink mimosas?

And Now For Something Completely Different Spokes. I didn’t attend this event qua ride but it certainly was something très different: the KAV factory tour. Coming from the fertile mind of David Goldsmith, he was so impressed with his new 3D printed custom helmet that he got KAV, which is based in Redwood City, to offer a tour of their facility and custom fit anyone who attended as well as provide a free lunch! It doesn’t get better than that. Oh yeah, and since it’s local why not turn it into a fun ride as well from SF down the Bay Trail? Done.

Forty is the new Thirty. Forty revolutions around the Sun called nothing less than a celebratory dinner and a memorable program along with a ride that was on point. The soiree and ride were held in September, the month with the predictably best weather for San Francisco. So of course we had the freak rainstorm wash out plans for an outdoor “night under the stars” at Il Casaro on Church Street. Hurriedly we reset up inside and ended up having a cozy party. Thanks to David Goldsmith for suggesting the restaurant, which did a stellar job in welcoming us and producing a delicious dinner with so much food that they even made doggie boxes for everyone to take home! Bob Krumm, our long-gone first president, made it a really special evening by coming all the way out from New Jersey to join us and recount the origins of the club along with the other surviving founder, Dave Freling. Bob Krumm and I had managed to hunt down and roust a bunch of old (in both senses of the word) Spokers from the very early days of the club to come out and see how their foundling child has been doing. Pretty good I’d say! The ride the day before was not rained out but instead was a pleasant, sunny day that brought out a huge crowd only dwarfed by the Pride Rides. Now if we can make it to 50… (Will any of the old farts still be around by then?)

Increasing Ride Diversity

At the board meeting in January we had the beginning of a discussion about the lack of shorter and slower rides in the current ride calendar. This wasn’t an abstract musing but a voicing of some of the board who liked to do exactly those kinds of rides. As the resident old fart board member I have a long view of the evolution of the club and the waxing and waning of periodic issues. I wrote a piece for the board about the history of this issue most of which is below. As I mentioned to the board, my summary wasn’t intended to be a downer or to throw water on the idea but for us to see that the issue is not an old one and recurs periodically because it doesn’t have an easy, permanent resolution.
The good news is that to begin to redress this shortcoming two of the board, David and Laura, will be leading a shortened version of the Jersey Ride on Saturday April 9. The regular JR will also take place and the shortened version of just 24 miles will start and end in Sausalito instead. Plus, we’ll have a sweep so you can’t get lost. If the regular JR has been too long or too strenuous for you, here’s a chance to meet fellow club members and have lunch together at Woodlands Market in Tiburon and you won’t arrive home afterwards exhausted or exasperated!
Coincidentally David M. and his husband will be leading a short, 16-mile, after-work ride this Friday through Golden Gate Park and down the Great Highway with the option for tacos afterwards.
Check out both detailed ride listings on the club website if you’re interested.

“Why Can’t We Have Slower and Shorter Rides??”

Some history and background: This discussion has ebbed and waned since the very beginning of the club and it reemerges every now and then. I recall that in the 1980s that it was common for riders of varying ability levels showing up for club rides almost regardless of the listed pace. You can probably understand why this was happening at the time: there weren’t a lot of rides and there was a real thirst to ride with other actual LGBT people! It almost didn’t matter what the listed pace was because your fellow queers wanted to meet cyclists just like them. I think a second reason was that initially there was no ride code (distance/terrain/pace) to provide guidance. However even after the ride code was developed, this issue persisted and I think some of it could be put on the murky nature of ride codes, eg. what is a “moderate” pace versus a “leisurely” one?
So what happened? Occasionally faster riders took off and/or slower riders got left behind. In those days we had no GPS—we barely had cyclometers—and if the ride leader didn’t give out a map or cue sheet, then you had to follow him/her unless you already knew the route. But often ride leaders gave out paper maps. (Photocopied AAA maps with yellow highlighting were popular!) The result was just what you expected: sometimes the fast group was never seen again except maybe at a regroup point and the slower riders might disappear because the ride was too fast or hard or because they just didn’t know the route. There were repeated admonitions in the club newsletter, The Chain Letter, that rides needed to be rated accurately and that ride leaders lead it at the pace that they had listed. Faster riders were advised not to “hijack” the rides (ie. inadvertently cause the group to go faster than the listed pace) and to slower riders not to attend rides whose pace was harder then they could realistically maintain. Because those admonitions were repeated often it was apparent that it was occuring all too often (I mean, it went on for years!)
This caused a fair amount of low level tension because slower riders showing up on faster rides posed a conundrum for ride leaders. If they slowed the ride down for them, the other fast riders would get upset or just take off anyway (unless the leader hadn’t given out maps). If the ride didn’t slow down to accommodate the slower riders, then they were basically blown off and often never came back because “Different Spokes is all fast riders”/“Different Spokes isn’t very friendly/too competitive”. Occasionally a ride leader might speak to the slow riders at a regroup point and recommend that they try a slower paced/less hilly ride the next time. I doubt many of them ever returned partly because although we had more easy rides back then, it still was much less than other kinds of rides. Resentment ensued. Bottom line: it was a no-win situation because someone often ended up being dissatisfied with how the ride went.
Another dynamic was at play as well: as the club quickly grew, its composition changed as well. The early Spokers were heavily into bicycle touring. But within two years we had an influx of “serious” recreational cyclists, ie. those that did local centuries, wanted to “train”, and liked to chase each other up and down hills to exhaustion. As the club grew into a club composed of more avid cyclists, touring cyclists as well as casual cyclists—to whom we were also reaching out—diminished.
So that’s pretty much what we still are today, a club of avid recreational road cyclists. Except for an extended foray into dirt riding in the late 80s and through the 90s, the club has remained the same, weighted towards moderate and hard rides.

Previous attempts to broaden: Although there have been ride leaders who like slower and flatter routes, there have been far fewer than those who like more challenging rides. And even some of the slower leaders liked to do long and hilly routes such as the Davis Double and Mt. Hamilton, eg. Sharon Lum. The major standout is Aaron Berman-Almendares. For several years in the early Aughts he led a short after-work ride in SF almost every week. It was popular among a certain segment of the club. But it’s interesting to note that after he retired from ride leading absolutely no one else stepped up fill that gap and lead that kind of ride. Whether that was due to Aaron’s personality, the lackluster leadership interest on the part of his followers, or some other reason is not clear.
Occasionally sporadic attempts to lead easier rides were done by other ride leaders. They mainly were rides in Golden Gate Park and they had just as sporadic turn out, ie. not many. The problem is that ride leaders who usually lead more challenging rides don’t want to lead easier rides regularly, which is completely understandable because people who lead rides lead the kind of rides they want to do. This is a fun club, not a job.
There was a more regular and systematic attempt to reach out to this population. My husband and I led a Social Ride series from July 2015 to December 2018. These rides were almost all A-pace rides (there were a few B-pace) varying in length from about 25 to 40 miles; most were flattish but some were hilly such as the Three Bears and the Sawyer Camp Trail. They were led in various locations around the Bay Area—Peninsula, East Bay, South Bay, and North Bay. We also tried to start them at BART stations when possible to make them accessible to those who didn’t drive to the start. These rides were not quite monthly—more like 7 or 8 times per year at least. Our goal was to encourage cyclists who were slower. They could be aging up and slowing down, newer cyclists, coming back from injury, whatever. It was not explicitly intended to reach out to casual cyclists and the length of the rides almost certainly discouraged that type of person to join the rides—it was about pace, not distance (although our Social rides were shorter than what we usually do ourselves).
What was the result of this initiative? Ridership varied from maybe ten-ish to just we two; the usual number was around four to six altogether, and genderwise it was mostly male. There were a few regular riders (by ‘regular’ I mean showed up on more than two rides). Generally it was new people often but they usually did not come back. There were a few Spokers who joined our rides when sick or needing a recovery ride. No one else out of this group ever got inspired to lead a ride. However there were a few people who ended up joining the club because of the Social rides.
Roger and I ended the Social rides not only because there wasn’t any internal energy to that process (ie. others weren’t stepping up) but also because we generally prefer faster and harder rides. In that respect our effort was a real outlier because we did it for a three-and-a-half year period, which I think shows how difficult it is to reach out to this population at least with the format we used.
The most recent effort to reach out to slower cyclists was the Different Spokes MeetUp group. The 2019 board decided to start a MeetUp group to try to reach out to a wider population of cyclists. This experiment lasted about six months. Ginny Watson headed up that effort. We cross-listed existing rides to the MeetUp calendar and Ginny in particular led some SF rides—called Mellow Rides—that were casual and slower (around Lake Merced). The turnout was very light—maybe two or three other cyclists at most although two of them did join the club. What we learned about using MeetUp was that it’s an extremely easy way to reach out to a lot of people but that those people were likely to be casual cyclists (eg. rode a few times a year) or just liked signing up for events (and then never showing up).

So where does that leave us today? Cycling participation like other activities consists of a pyramid of people. The base is very big and broad and the peak is very small. One would think that reaching out to the base, ie. casual or slower cyclists who like shorter rides, would be a good way to increase the membership of the club as well as diversify. After the MeetUp experiment the board more or less came to the consensus that reaching out to casual cyclists was not going to work. Why? Because less avid cyclists are less avid precisely because they’re less interested in cycling compared to other life activities and that included prioritizing putting energy into Different Spokes. So their interest in stepping up and taking on leadership roles is also very low. Conversely, already avid cyclists will likely want to put energy into Different Spokes if they like what they experience, which is (a) rides they like to do, and (b) they start making good friends in the club, which they are more likely to do if they’re hanging with people who share the same interests namely, doing the same kinds of rides. If you want to start attracting more casual cyclists, then likely the best way to do that is to have people and activities that that kind of cyclist likes, namely slower rides and other people who like doing slower rides.
So, how can that happen? I think it takes committed slower/casual cyclists who want to make that happen stepping up and leading slower, shorter rides. In other words we need slow/shorter ride evangelists! If our ride calendar doesn’t have regular slower and shorter rides, then bringing this type of cyclist into the club isn’t going to work because we will have nothing to offer them on an ongoing basis. Those who prefer slower and shorter rides need to post them and draw out both members and non-members who enjoy those rides. Asking the existing ride leader cohort to take on that responsibility is, in my opinion, a non-starter because their interest in leading rides that they wouldn’t normally do is very low. And as we all know life in the Bay Area is very time-pressured so most cyclists are going to want to commit their precious free time to the rides they want to do. That said, there have been and may still be members who like to do both kinds of rides or at least whose riding ability and interest straddles that divide. But the problem is that this hypothetical creature doesn’t exist in the current ride leader cohort.
For clubs and voluntary activity-based organizations the rule of thumb is that your leadership will come from 10 to 15% of your members. If you have a hundred members, then you can expect that ten to fifteen members will be the actively contributing to the running of the club. We are already at that point as we have about 17 ride leaders and officers and we have about 113 members. So unless some of the existing cohort want to focus on leading shorter, easier rides, we’ll have to find a way to bring in new ride leaders. Keep in mind that if you want a sweep for a ride, then you need at least two ride leaders per ride, doubling your need for ride leaders.
The other thing that might help grow a cohort of members who like slower and easier rides it to offer this type of ride on a regular basis as we do with the Jersey Ride. If it’s on the calendar at regular intervals, then slow/easy riders will know that they can do the ride next month/week if they miss the most current one. But someone has to step up to lead those rides.

A related issue: pace inflation. This is a topic I wrote about some years ago. This is an issue, which I called ‘pace inflation’, that impacts ride diversity: specifically, when ride leaders post a ‘B’ ride and then proceed to lead it at a C or D pace. This happens not because ride leaders are cruel but because the B-pace category has morphed into the catch-all pace. If you read the description of a B ride it is supposed to be moderate as opposed to leisurely, brisk, or strenuous. The problem is that one person’s moderate pace is another person’s strenuous pace. If you ride at your self-designated ‘moderate’ pace, well, then it should be a B-pace ride, right? Not exactly. If you look at our website and the description of pace you will see that moderate is equivalent to a moving average of 10-12 mph, ie. at the end of your ride, your average moving speed should have been between 10 and 12 mph. But few pay attention to this and I bet almost no ride leader has actually investigated what their average moving speed typically is. The second factor is that the B-pace ride is the most listed category in our rides and also happens to enjoy overall the most turnout. So if you want a good turnout, you list your ride as a B. Even if you end up averaging 14 mph. Finally, riders who come on a “B” ride and can keep up and enjoy it, then come to think they’re riding at a B pace—even if it’s 17 mph—and go on to replicate this if they lead a ride.
In my experience it’s rare that a club ride has been done at a pace under the listed pace, ie. slower than advertised, unless something really peculiar has happened (eg. a major mechanical problem).
If we do list slower and easier rides, there should be a concerted effort to make sure that the rides are done as advertised or they will inadvertently end up repeating this phenomenon and driving away the very population it is trying to attract and ending up with low participation.

In The Rearview Mirror

Don’t look back!

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!

Kicking Off

This past Wednesday we had our annual Kick Off Meeting with a little help from Zoom. Last year’s Kick Off took place at the end of February before the SHTF and we locked down, so doing our annual membership meeting on Zoom was, unfortunately, another first for us. Next year we should be back live, in person, at Sports Basement. If not, then we probably will have much more significant things to worry about.

Zoom is not conducive to fervid schmoozing and, alas, all snacks and drinks were bring-your-own. Ah, but the trade-off was that all the food money got ploughed into raffle prizes!

Speaking of raffle prizes our winners were:

• Grand prize – a training session with Nick Nagy (our kickoff meeting’s speaker): Donald C
• Second prize – DSSF club jersey of your choice, from our Jakroo site:  Jeff M
• Third prize – $50 Emporio Rulli gift card (or other coffee shop of your choice):  Roger H
• DSSF club neck wrap, from our Jakroo site:  Roger S
• Primalwear mask (courtesy of David Gaus): Nancy L
• DSSF club cap, from our Jakroo site:  Greg M
• Trailbutter 3-pack: Stephen S

Congratulations to our lucky winners!

We could have gone really total pig, hog-wild on the prizes but we’re saving our ammo for, um, something later…

Oh yeah, the rest of the meeting: Prez David recapped the past year—basically, we were locked down, the board squirmed and writhed in impatience getting a reopening plan in order, we opened up carefully, and we now exercise patience hoping that the pandemic will ebb sufficiently that we can do the nasty on our Pride Ride, club picnic, pool party, fall social, and holiday party later this year. Despite the paucity of rides David thanked those ride leaders who managed to squeeze in some rides pre- and post-lockdown, the latter mainly being Jeff Pekrul, who’s Mr. Jersey Ride 2020-21; the rest of the board continue to emulate Punxsutawney Phil and wait for spring (or the vaccine, or Godot).

Our presentation this year was by the personable Nick Nagy, an excellent and experienced personal trainer and fellow ALCer, who led an online workout and provided a plethora of information and advice about stretching and conditioning. As someone who is currently rehabbing a knee due to starting up too impatiently, I can say that Nick’s sage words fit in precisely with what my physical therapist is telling me. Nick knows his stuff! Oh, and Nick, next time please wear even tighter workout shorts and I guarantee you that at least the boys will be even more attentive! Those attendees who want more attention from Nick can contact him through the club to arrange a training or for follow-up questions to his Kick Off presentation. Big thanks to Nick for sharing his time and wisdom with us!

Still Closed But Never Closeted

And Future Awesomeness Awaits!

Long story short: we are not restarting club rides yet and we will revisit the issue in six weeks.

After a long discussion the board came to a consensus that we were not comfortable with allowing club rides at this time. What led to that decision? Frankly it was a surprise to me because in the previous discussions there was a palpable feeling that we were open to the idea of having group rides again as long as the membership and ride leaders were comfortable with it, hence the poll on the website. In case you haven’t looked at the poll recently, over a third of the club responded and a little over half were inclined to attend a club ride, about a third weren’t, and rest were undecided. If that were representative of the whole club, I personally would have been in favor of allowing club rides all other things being equal because there was probably enough interest for small group rides (three or four participants). That said, personally I probably would not be leading rides at this point.

But in the past month the situation in the real world changed: the COVID-19 positivity rate started to inch up in the Bay Area, and as you know many other sections of the country including Southern California have seen alarming increases in infection, hospitalization, and ICU admissions. The Governor has put all Bay Area counties except San Mateo on alert because the numbers have not been going in the right direction. Face mask use has been inconsistent if not mostly absent. Counties have had to backtrack on reopening and there is even talk of going back to the initial lockdown to squelch the virus. So all other things are not equal after all!

When the board met again last week most of us now turned out to be more wary of restarting rides. Everyone on the board is a ride leader and obviously more involved and active than the “average” member yet we were feeling that now is not the right time to reopen. Most of us were also ambivalent or not enthusiastic about joining any group ride right now, club or otherwise.

So we decided to punt and wait roughly two more cycles of county health orders to see if the infection rates can be reduced or whether they’re still going to worsen. (County health departments generally wait two or three weeks to see how the rates respond to a new health order or alert.)

You might be wondering what other clubs are doing. Here in the Bay Area initially in March all clubs shut down their rides. Now about two-thirds of recreational cycling and racing clubs still do not allow group rides. The only clubs that currently allow outdoor group rides are Western Wheelers, Sunnyvale Cupertino Cycling Club, Santa Rosa Cycling Club, Benicia Cycling Club, Hercules Cycling Club, and Alto Velo Racing (in Santa Clara County). Western Wheelers now has club rides in San Mateo and Santa Clara counties, their home turf, because those counties allow outdoor recreation of up to 50 and 60 participants respectively; Sunnyvale Cupertino CC has rides also in Santa Clara and San Mateo. Santa Rosa Cycling Club has rides in Sonoma where recreation businesses may do so after creating a COVID-19 compliance plan. Hercules and Benicia are two clubs that have just gone ahead with group rides despite their counties—Contra Costa and Solano respectively–not allowing group gatherings. Diablo Cyclists in Contra Costa County also seem to have group rides listed on their website but it’s not clear if those rides are actually taking place or not.

Here is the list of Bay Area clubs that do not allow group rides at this time: in the East Bay, Veloraptors (Oakland), Oakland Yellow Jackets, Cherry City Cyclists (Hayward) , Grizzly Peak Cyclists (Berkeley), Fremont Freewheelers, Berkeley Bicycle Club, and Valley Spokesmen (Dublin/Livermore); in the South Bay, Almaden Cycle Touring Club, San Jose Bicycle Club, and Velogirls; in the North Bay, Marin Cyclists; in the West Bay, Golden Gate Cyclists and Peninsula Velo. That said you would have to be blind not to see groups of cyclists, some in club kit, riding together. However they are doing it unofficially and not under the auspices of any club (not including the exceptions listed above).

Feedback from Western Wheelers and Santa Rosa Cycling Club has been that their members—since both clubs restrict their rides right now only to members—have been very good with social distancing and using face coverings on rides so far. According to our bylaws we cannot restrict club rides just to members, so we are not in a position to exert that much control over whom we allow to join club rides.

When The Going Gets Tough, The Tough Conduct A Poll

In June both Sonoma and San Mateo counties announced revisions in their shelter in place orders that allow group outdoor recreation with a capped number as long as the usual social distancing protocols and use of face coverings are followed. San Mateo allows groups of up to 50 to bike, run, hike, etc. and Sonoma allows groups of up to 12 for recreation businesses. Santa Clara County will allow outdoor group gatherings up to 60 starting July 13. San Francisco’s and Marin’s latest orders are more ambiguous but seem to allow outdoor recreation businesses to take place with restrictions; whether that applies to us is unclear. The other counties either do not allow group gatherings or allow very limited gatherings of social bubbles or at most members of two households, so riding as a club in those counties is not feasible right now.

Already some clubs are rousing from their forced hibernation and have rides on the calendar. Western Wheelers on the Midpeninsula is allowing club rides in San Mateo (and shortly, Santa Clara also) and Santa Rosa Cycling Club is calendaring club rides in Sonoma, Marin, and Mendocino counties.

The board is currently discussing the details of how we can offer rides safely in San Mateo and Santa Clara counties. We know that there need to be some new rules for club rides—maintaining social distancing, bringing a face covering and using it in specific situations, no physical contact—and there are others that are subject to debate and discussion, eg. mandatory preregistration to control for numbers, also use of the electronic waiver to avoid having to pass around paper and pen, and what responsibilities the ride leaders should have around safety on rides. There are also other issues that have to be resolved such as whether our liability insurance covers the club for suits around COVID-19 infection and whether we’ll need a separate COVID-19 waiver. The club also needs to decide whether to apply as a non-profit business for group gatherings in counties such as Sonoma that require COVID-19 compliance plans on file.

It may not appear so on the surface but getting the club ready to offer ride again has and will continue to involve a fair amount of work and obviously will require a change in how we conduct rides and how participants comport themselves. In other words it will not be the same as before and we will all have to cooperate in altering our conduct. Given the work involved and the degree of change we’ll all have to adopt, the board doesn’t want the cart get ahead of the horse, so to speak. We need to know: how do members feel personally about joining a group ride right now especially with the infection rate beginning to spike in California? If members are not ready to join group rides or are unsure and ambivalent, then there is little reason for the board to charge ahead at this time. If you are a current member, we would like to know how you feel about personally participating in a club ride. Please log in to the club website and respond to the poll, which you will find under the “Resources” tab or just hit this link. If you would like to leave more detailed input, go to the general forum at the website and respond on the thread about reopening rides.

Coronavirus and DSSF: ‘Playing Safe’ Has A New Meaning

Today the World Health Organization announced that COVID-19 is now a global pandemic. Community transmission in the Bay Area of the coronavirus is now a fact; there have been cases in San Francisco, Alameda, Contra Costa, and Santa Clara counties that are not due to travel or contact with someone who is known to have been exposed to the coronavirus. As you know public events are being cancelled or postponed and commercial sports events such as Warriors games will take place without a live audience.

In Italy where the disease is uncontained the national government has locked down the entire country and restricted movement until April 3 in order to halt the spread of COVID-19. Traveling outside of your immediate community now requires special permission, all public gatherings such as at cultural sites, sporting events, and festivals are forbidden, restaurants and bars are open only for limited hours and patrons must stay at least one meter apart.

Cascade Cycling Club up in the Seattle area, the country’s largest cycling club, has issued guidelines for its group rides in order to keep participants safe, mainly asking ride leaders to brief riders—asking them to limit physical contact such as shaking hands and hugs, give each other space, and not coming on rides if you are feeling ill. In addition Cascade is asking ride leaders not to post rides that involve stopping at “heavily used spaces (such as coffee shops) or that have a post ride event.”

Closer to home we’ve had cycling events cancelled such as the Sea Otter Classic and the Cinderella Century although they are mass events rather than small group rides.

We are fortunate that our favorite recreational sport takes place outdoors and doesn’t involve close physical contact, so Different Spokes rides during the epidemic should mostly be safe as long as we exercise some precautions. Ride leaders should brief their groups on the following:

• Please refrain from attending rides/events if you’re feeling sick. If you’re the ride leader, please find a replacement ride host or just cancel/postpone your ride.

• Ask participants to refrain from physical greetings—shaking (gloved or ungloved—both can transmit the virus) hands, hugs, etc.

• Use hand sanitizer and/or wash hands before eating and before and after contact with others.

• If your ride has stops at coffee shops, restaurants, or other indoor venues, remind riders about possible exposure to coronavirus.

• If you’re a ride leader, plan stops that don’t involve entering crowded public venues. Please consider suggesting to participants that they bring their ride snacks/lunch rather than going to a restaurant/market/coffee shop.

• The risk of transmission of the coronavirus is highest when within one meter (three feet) of an infected person. An infected person may be not be ill or even aware that they are harboring the virus.

The Future of Saddle Challenge

Astute Spokers will notice that this March there is no Saddle Challenge. We’ve had the Saddle Challenge every year since 2002 and beginning in 2003 it became a fundraising event for Project Inform. Last year Saddle Challenge commenced and mid-March the beneficiary, Project Inform, closed its doors and ceased operation leaving Saddle Challenge without a substantial purpose. The monies gathered eventually were gifted to the club and were used to purchase a one-year club membership in RideWithGPS.

After the end of Project Inform the club board engaged in a discussion about whether SC should or could continue and if so, what form would the event take. The club has for much of its history engaged in fundraising for the LGBT community. The club ran the first AIDS Bike-A-Thon for ten years (1985-1994), and during the existence of the California AIDS Ride (CAR) and the beginning of the AIDS LifeCycle many Different Spokes members participated and led training rides. Then we began Saddle Challenge and then from 2012-2016 member Chris Thomas ran Double Bay Double—although generously the club got credit—for the SF AIDS Foundation. So SC has been the last remnant charity fundraising event the club sponsored. Although Different Spokes formed as ‘merely’ a LGBT recreational cycling club, from the beginning there was a sense that the club should give back to its community.

Is there a future for Saddle Challenge? Originally it was just a friendly in-club competition to encourage members to start riding after the winter. Is that something the club still needs? Probably not. As a charity fundraiser SC takes place at a suboptimal time of year because during March it can still raining a lot such as in 2018 when it rained virtually every weekend. If SC remains primarily a fundraiser, then it would do better to take place later in the year when members are riding more.

Who should the beneficiary be? The board has talked about a LGBT beneficiary as being a natural affiliation although it did not rule out the possibility of a non-LGBT organization. We’ve had some discussion about raising funds for non-profits focusing on LGBT youth. Outcycling in NYC sponsors a LGBT youth section called Fearless Flyers that provides cycling as a healthy alternative activity for queer youth. This not so coincidentally also encourages membership of young people at a time when most clubs are aging up.

The board would like to engage in a discussion with members about whether or not Saddle Challenge should continue, particularly as a fundraising event that the whole club can get behind. What are your thoughts? Do you think the club should put on a fundraising event? What form should it be and who or what should be the beneficiary?


Well, everyone else seems to be focused on that other election. But we’re focused on the election that really matters: the DSSF 2020 Board! Current Different Spokes SF members are eligible to vote for the 2020 board candidates during the election period, which runs from January 1 to 31. We currently have about 73 members who may vote but only 19 of you have done so to date. (If you’re one of the 23 whose membership expired on January 1 and haven’t renewed yet, you can rejoin and then vote.) Why put it off? Just log into the DSSF website and cast your ballot before it’s too late. You’re determining the future of our club!

Yes, it’s an uncontested election with David Goldsmith nominated for President, David Gaus for Vice President, Jeff Pekrul for Secretary, and Roger Sayre for Treasurer. Yes, it’s the roughly the same ‘rogues gallery’ but you can cast a write-in vote if you really want someone else to run the club. If the election is uncontested, why is it important to vote at all? Because the board needs your support. No, not just the other members’ but yours. The club is not the board’s private fiefdom. The board is here to serve you. The board tries to do what it thinks is in the best interests of the club but ultimately it comes down to you giving input. And the most important feedback is the annual election. Voting is the easiest way to show you’re all in with the club and its current direction. (Of course, a better way to show your support is to offer your services to the club either by joining the board or volunteering in other ways such as leading a ride!)

Seriously, the board needs your vote. If your membership has recently lapsed, please rejoin. Voting is easy. If you missed it, here’s the link to the election:

Calling All Sugardaddies!

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

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

Giving is the Way to Nirvana