I don’t make it a habit of writing about other junk I see on the Internet (other than stuff you should either buy or avoid). But this morning I saw something on Seth Davidson’s blog that summarized a myriad of thoughts that have been running through my mind for several years:
“I also got to hang out with Will Holloway, the founder and big boss of S. O L. A REAL RYDAS, along with his lieutenants Henry and Gee-Man. Will, like John Jones, has a vision for making communities stronger through bicycles. “People have to get out of where they are comfortable and meet other people,” he said. “The bike wheels make a rotation, and that rotation, going round and round, is what brings us together. You gotta keep the rotation going.”
I and a few others have always that Different Spokes was more than just a LGBT-positive venue to ride bikes/talk bikes/fondle bikes–it’s a community. Sometimes it doesn’t feel like a community but it is. That’s not a part of our original vision and mission statement but maybe it should be. How can you make your community stronger?
Can anything new happen on a Jersey Ride? Barring the Rapture or a Kim Jong-un surprise package perhaps not. But that doesn’t mean J-Rides are boring. It’s July and that means typical San Francisco summer weather—a withering cold breeze accompanied by copious fog—that magically reincarnates as real summer as soon as you cross the Golden Gate Bridge. Yesterday was almost pea-soup but not quite. Nine of us headed out including Rick, who’s relatively new to Different Spokes and rides a mountain bike (very quickly, I might add); Joe, a fellow bike tourer (who goes uphill very quickly, I might add); and longtime Spoker, Will (who goes very quickly, period). Fellow DSSF board member Ginny, Roger H and I, Peter who came all the way from San Jose (isn’t that a song?), Sal, and Will’s friend Dan. As usual it was a long parade in Sausalito—could there be any more cyclists heading into Marin?—but that’s normal these days.
After a brief respite at the Mill Valley sewage treatment plant (“I hear inhaling the vapors does wonders for you!”) we launched up Camino Alto. Joe rocketed by me at a blistering pace and I certainly was in no mood to chase. The descent and subsequent diversion along the Corte Madera-Larkspur MUP were splendidly pleasant and piano piano. But once on Paradise Drive Will took off—into a headwind, I might add—making going fast seem easy. Fortunately for us he slowed down—although I’m not sure why—and Roger H and I caught up with him. Whether it was because he had caught his breath, he sensed we were behind him, or he’s just cruel he ramped it up again. I was barely hanging on. Every time we hit a little descent he jumped ahead and I knew I had to make an effort to catch his wheel or he’d be gone for good. Will is an amazing cyclist. Sometimes he rides a lot and then he’s a total beast. But even when he’s not riding a lot he’s still a beast. I don’t know how he does it; it’s like he’s got a cardiopulmonary system that never degrades. Will is by no means a skinny cyclist but he somehow manages to climb strongly, and on the flats and descents he’s merciless. But I digress. You would have thought by now, having done a thousand Tib loops, that I would have set to memory the exact number of little climbs and subsequent descents through each inlet Paradise Drive has. But I haven’t and I was praying I’d last through them all before he slowed down. I made it, barely. Will slowed down, I went around him and, holy mother of god, I felt the headwind he’d been barreling through for the past 15 minutes! Humbling.
Lunch at the Woodlands Market was the usual affair/fare. Will’s friend Dan mentioned that this ride was his first time on the bike in a year. Wow. If I hadn’t ridden in a year I would have never have been able to get through Tiburon loop without major suffering! It must be because I’m getting old, sigh. He also mentioned he’s just lost 46 lbs. (!) Jeez, and I complain that I’m not able to drop three pounds. Humbling. Joe recounted several of his amazing bike tours including one from Milan to Barcelona as well as one in the deep South in June (and yes it was humid and hot).
The real shit show began once we were back in Mill Valley. The rangers were out giving tickets for “speeding” on the MV bike path (ie. going faster than 10 mph) but luckily we were warned by an oncoming cyclist. There was a long line of cyclists heading back to the bridge and the only salvation was a ferocious headwind coming off the Headlands that splintered the long lines. Even more surprising were the incredible, seemingly infinite, number of cyclist still coming INTO Sausalito. Every rental bike in SF must have been heading towards us, an ominous sign of what we were to see on the bridge. We stopped to regroup before launching onto the bridge and I urged everyone to be extra vigilant and careful with the conga line of cyclists heading towards us. Rick then said that until this morning he had never crossed the GGB on his bike. Maybe this will be his last time…
Our saving grace was the turbulent marine wind blasting across the bridge and the lashing fog. Why? Because it meant there weren’t any idiots taking selfies as they cycled one-handed towards us. Literally it was a non-stop line of cyclists heading north. Like lemmings. Although the danger is primarily due to the sheer number of cyclists they do cycle at a slow speed unlike the Rapha freds, who insist upon passing at a random moment regardless of the wisdom of doing so. Ah the young, so reckless and self-confident. As we approached the southern end we came to a stop: there were too many cyclists coming and going at the bend. As I made the turn off the bridge I saw a young man with his e-skateboard take one look at the horde, shake his head, and turn back. Good decision. Ginny said that despite the number she felt it was actually safer today than in the past and I agreed (if having only one near-death experience with an oncoming cyclist is ‘safer’).
The growth of cycling in SF certainly has led to more traffic across the bridge for leisure. Marin is the most convenient escape valve for penned-in San Franciscans and the open space is attractive. But it’s just another example of loving something to death. You think this is crowded? It’s the new normal for young people today and they likely think nothing of it. But I can’t get the image out of my head of pushers in Tokyo rail stations mashing more commuters into already crammed train cars.
If the mosh pit that the GGB has become isn’t your cup of tea, keep in mind that Blue & Gold Fleet operates a ferry from Tiburon to Pier 41. The cost is $13 for a 25-minute commute. Yes, that’s the price of a decent lunch but it’s less than the cost of your hospital bill if you’re hit head-on on the bridge. And it’s a scenic ride back to SF!
Foster City, you know that sign you see on 101 when you’re blasting by in your car but wouldn’t give the time of day to check out because, after all, it’s just another plastic suburb? You probably think it’s the Norcal version of Amityville. Yeah, you can’t be bothered to waste any time there because you’ve got better and more interesting things to do like check out that new Burmese restaurant on Valencia St. or the latest event at Catalyst. Well, we decided to go there. Again. By bike no less. Oh, and we also rode through Redwood Shores.
After a brief—and by Contra Costa standards, trivial (only
low 90s!)—heat wave we were ready to go Bayside for some cooler weather. We
were pleasantly greeted by mid-60ish temps that rose into the low 70s by the
end of the day. And it was sunny with a light breeze to boot. Roger and I
trundled off to Millbrae BART to meet Peter and Carl for our little foray into
“the Wasteland”. We’ve gone there
before on Social A rides but this time we were going to ride it a bit faster.
After all, our ride is almost dead-flat: 220 feet of elevation gain in almost
32 miles. The biggest climb was the bike/ped overpass crossing 101!
A big portion of the ride is along the Bay Trail, which affords pleasant vistas of the Bay wetlands and provides an eyeful of shoreline development. It also passes by SFO, and since the weather was good air traffic into the airport was going full-tilt and we were able to ogle quite a few planes making their landings. This afforded plenty of chat about travel, vacations, how Alaska Airlines made Virgin suck, and why we’re never satisfied with where we are.
The northern end of the Bay Trail is occasionally narrow and
bumpy and at least on weekends it seems to be fairly well used and that’s a
good thing because it’s a serene retreat from the hustle of Norcal life. Other
than the occasional roar of jets to intrude, you pretty much can let your mind
wander while you ride. Besides the new construction I was also struck by the
number of restaurants with bay views along the path. I saw a Korean joint I
definitely want to check out next time. As you head further south the trail
widens and becomes quieter and the number of pedestrians goes down. But cyclists
still ply the path probably for the same reason we were there: it’s free of car
traffic, flat, and has a calming ambience.
Once you pass under Highway 92 you’re in Foster City. This isn’t the kind of town where you can walk to a nice café from your home. It’s built around the automobile like many newer suburbs. But if you like to live in a quiet, sleepyish community with surprisingly little car traffic, both Foster City and Redwood Shores fit the bill. Although the homogeneity of the architecture—it is a planned development—can be a bore, there are undoubtedly comfortable apartments, condos and homes spread throughout. A nice plus is that some homes have waterfront access and have small boats to ply the sloughs and the Bay. If you like outdoor living, there are plenty of places to sit, walk, or pedal to take in the views. On the way to lunch in Burlingame we zoomed through East San Mateo, which originally was a working class community. Full of modest single-family dwellings now worth a million or so, it’s a strange testimony to the craziness of Bay Area real estate prices. Downtown Burlingame was a complete contrast: trendy young techies perusing Pottery Barn and the Apple Store wares. The Crepevine in Burlingame unlike the ones that used to be in Walnut Creek or on Church Street in SF, was jampacked and busy. Carl’s fortuitous conversation in Spanish with one of the staff got us an alfresco table at the height of lunch hour. Score! Although Crepevine isn’t haute anything by any means, it is decent, affordable food. The lunch special was a fried chicken sandwich with fries and god, am I a sucker for fried chicken! Lunch was prolonged and chatty despite the natty crowd yearning for a table. After lunch it was only about three miles back to Millbrae BART and after that feast there was no need to make haste. Nice day!
Whatever you want to call it—Gay Pride Day, LGBT Freedom Day, Stonewall 50—we get it once a year and Different Spokes SF hosts our Pride Ride to celebrate the occasion. Today was the ninth version of what has officially been called the Pride Ride but actually it’s the eleventh of some form of Pink Saturday ride. In 2006 Laura Petracek led a Pride Ride but it was in the East Bay, not SF, and was intended to be children/family friendly. Then in 2010 we had a 40 & Fabulous ride on Pink Saturday to honor the 40th SF Pride Parade. This ride was a 40-mile ride around the perimeter of the City, quite a bit longer than the current 28-mile ride. From 2011-13 we had a shorter 20-mile loop that eschewed the southern part of SF and cut across midtown. Since 2014 we have been doing the current 28-mile loop. Over the years the club’s participation in Pride has waxed and waned. In the Oughts and before, we were a regular presence in the Parade itself and always had a booth at the festival. Our last parade contingent was in 2009 and the last time we had a booth was in 2014. The Pride Ride is a lot less work especially now that we are a smaller club. Perhaps one day we’ll march again…
Today’s ride really brought out the crowd. We got the word out through the SFPride site, our new Meetup group, the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition, and our Facebook page. I lost track but it was somewhere around 27! It was a diverse crowd; we had three from London, several from the South Bay, three from remote Castro Valley, and a scattering from other locales. We are a regional club after all! In terms of longevity I guess I represented the Old Farts— no one else can claim membership back in the early 80s (at this point it’s just Derek and I who can claim that moniker). We had a few from the 90s—Ann, Rob, and Scott—and the rest were the “youngsters”. In attendance were the Vice President, Treasurer, Secretary, and Ride Coordinator. Our President couldn’t make it because he was partying at Stonewall 50 in NYC!
The ride took in a good smattering of western SF— the Panhandle, the Presidio, Seacliff, Outer Avenues, NOPA, GG Park, the Great Highway, Lake Merced, St. Francis Wood, Glen Park, and then the Mission—which is about enough; anything more and we’d have a much longer ride. Traffic was refreshingly light just about everywhere except at the end in Glen Park and the Mission. Of course we spread out right from the start but periodically regrouped to let the “laggards” catch their breath. Things held together pretty well until Glen Park when Destination Bakery proved to be a bust. People started splitting off to get lunch elsewhere, get home to do other chores, or in our case to get out the City as fast as possible before horrendous Pink Saturday traffic reared its head.
For me personally I thoroughly enjoyed catching up with a Spokers I haven’t seen in a long while. Although the conversations were short and I wish we had had more time to yammer, it’s good to see old faces and remember that although the club might be small, its bonds are strong.
The simple fact of riding together creates something that no account can adequately describe. Riding your bike, especially when everything clicks—excellent weather, a smooth running machine recently overhauled, the freedom away from work and home responsibilities—is a joy. But riding with friends adds another specialness that compounds the magic of a few hours on two wheels. Such was last month’s Jersey Ride. A wet spring gave way to brilliant sun and a crisp spring air. A beautiful riding day emerged after surprising spring rains and eleven of showed up for the venerable monthly club run to Tiburon. It was a mixed crowd too—David Gaus and Peter Phares from the South Bay, Roger and I from the East Bay, and the rest from SF. It was mixed in another way too: we had two e-bikes present. For years Roger was the only member sporting an e-bike; a couple of years later the Den Daddy—who is, I believe, turning 87 this year—got one. Now Zach showed up with some uncertainty as to whether he’d be able to “keep up” on his new e-bike. He must have gotten an affirmative because he’s since become a Spoker. (Rumor has it that another Spoker, who lives in the East Bay and will remain nameless, has been gifted an e-bike! That’s make four, but who’s counting?) It’s apparently becoming more the standard route to Tiburon for the Jersey Ride: we took the Corte Madera-Larkspur Multi-Use Path through Corte Madera instead of the road. That path didn’t exist back in the day and it’s a much more peaceful way to get to Paradise Drive. Everybody kept calling it “Nancy’s way” since she was the first person to take the Jersey Ride there. That and no one knowing its real name. I guess enough decades have passed that Tiburon has finally decided to pour some cash into road repair because another section of Paradise Drive has been repaved into buttery smooth asphalt. If only the entire length were redone… But the ugly cracks and Frankenstein-like patches are steadily (and slowly) giving way to a more bike-friendly conveyance! We mostly stayed together until we got to Paradise when Will Bir vanished into the distance and everyone spread out and handled Paradise at their own pace. We regathered at the Woodlands Market for lunch and enjoyed the warm sun on its deck. Did you know you can get pad thai-in-a-box at Woodlands? No one blinked an eye—god, do we live in a bubble. We had a nice, long lunch filled with aimless but enchanting chatter. Someone voiced the idea of going to Belvedere but when an actual vote was taken, almost no one wanted to head out that way either because been-there-done-that or the thought of a feisty climb right after lunch didn’t settle well on the stomach. So we all headed back at a reasonable pace. We rode back on Tiburon Blvd, which isn’t my fave—I prefer heading through Strawberry—and boy, has the car traffic grown. It was bumper-to-bumper from 101 to Camino Alto. We took Ashford and Lomita to get away from the cars and what do we get? Cars cutting that way too and getting pissed that they’re behind cyclists. Life is tough, isn’t it? As is wont everyone spread out on Alexander, things not being helped by a ferocious wind. The bridge was pretty hectic and crazy as usual but nobody got hit. I did get passed by two groups of freds in full Rapha-mode. Seriously, you pass cyclists on the GG Bridge when there is oncoming traffic?? I’m so done with idiotic risky riding. The weather was near-perfect, the company delightful, no one got flats or crashed. It’s enough to make you come out even on a Jersey Ride!
It’s been seven months since my last “lesson” in managing road tubeless tires. In many ways I’m glad I’m not a “fast” learner and I appreciate that my lessons are coming at long intervals rather than all at once since my lessons have always been hands-on, at inopportune times, and involved a lot of swearing and consternation. On the other hand the see-no-evil philosophy of bike care, for which I have great fondness, in the long run leads to more inconvenience. So there you go.
This time I decided to do a little preemptive maintenance and ended up learning something profitable. How many of us check our tires before or after a ride? It’s one of those items that is inevitably included in handy-dandy lists for beginners in Bicycling magazine (which they reprint practically every year). Yeah, me too—there is no way in hell I’m going to be that diligent after climbing up the hill to the manse. After doing a one-mile 10% grade at the end of a long ride, I’m not thinking a lot about how my tires are doing. Not flat? Great—throw the bike in the corner for the next ride. But this time Roger warned me that I had ridden through a big honking pile of glass. Uncharacteristically I hadn’t seen it, and even more uncharacteristically after having been told I had just piled through a splatterfest of future tire flatness I didn’t bother to wipe my tires down. They’re not flat? Great, dodged that bullet and keep on riding. But after returning home despite my innate lethargy and diminished mental capacity due to climbing El Toyonal, I thought I should check them just to be sure I wasn’t going to have a surprise the next time I rode.
The front was fine but the rear tire had something embedded towards the sidewall. I tried to dig it out and it turned out to be a dried plug of sealant. Pop! and the tire started to deflate. I immediately spun the tire so the hole was facing down and sure enough, a spray of Orange Seal came out and shortly thereafter stopped. No problem! Just wait to let it seal up…
The next day I checked the tire and the pressure was down (duh!) but it seemed rideable. When I inflated it with a pump, the seal broke and the tire couldn’t hold pressure above about 40 psi. The hole was just large enough that even Orange Seal wasn’t going to work unless I resigned myself to riding at low inflation all the time. (For dirt it would be plenty but for pavement 40 psi is a little bit too cushy for me.) Since the tire was $70—a Schwalbe Pro One—I wasn’t interested in just tossing it and putting a new one on.
So this is what I did.
A long time ago in a Boy Scout moment I purchased tire plugs for tubeless tires just in case. Tire plugs, you say? Whazzat? If you’ve had a flat on your car tires, you know what these are: they’re big honking plugs of rubber that the repair shop jams into the hole the nail made in your tire using a special tool along with some rubber solvent. The hole seals up and you can inflate your car tire back to 28 psi or whatever. It’s a quick fix and it works on puncture holes typically. Well, they also make tubeless tire repair kits for bicycles. Mountain bikers know what I’m talking about because dirt riding went tubeless years ago. So there is a thriving cottage industry of tubeless tire repair kits—usually a plug jammer with some tacky plugs—just for mountain bikes. Those same plugs *mostly* work for road tires too. Being a cheapass amateur bike mechanic I of course bought the bottom-of-the-barrel brand, Genuine Innovations Tubeless Tire Repair Kit, for about six bucks. It’s the aforementioned plug jammer tool with about five plugs. The kit is two years old and I had never used it. Usually I’d go to YouTube if I were doing some new bike repair thing just to make sure I wouldn’t completely fuck up. But again in my new liberated state of oh-fuck-it-let’s-just-see-what-happens I opened the kit, put the plug sort of on the jammer, and tried to stick it in the hole in the tire. Of course it didn’t work.
Now, why is that you ask? Because (a) the tire plug, which is a short, strand of wound fibers dipped in tacky rubber, doesn’t like to go into a tiny hole without a lot of force, and (b) the jammer tool is rather dull and large. After several attempts at trying to get the plug into the slightly-too-small-hole (but not so small that Orange Seal could plug it), I came to the conclusion that the only solution was brute force since I was way too lazy to try to carefully ream out the puncture. If you’re an amateur mechanic, you know that resorting to brute force often leads to an unhappy ending (and you know I always like my repair sessions to have happy endings!) In a fit of frustration I had a boy-moment and just JAMMED that tool as hard as I could into the tire. And it worked: the plug went in and stuck in the hole like a condom off a limp dick. No leaking air. Voila! The last step is to cut off the part of the plug that sticks out of the tire with a razor blade and then I had a ‘flat’ tire again.
I went riding yesterday on my repaired tire and it worked like a charm.
Yes, tubeless road tires can be a pain in the ass. You’ve got to remember to put fresh sealant in them at regular intervals, put up with getting sprayed with sealant when you do get a puncture, you can’t use CO2 cartridges, and seating the tire on the rim can be Sisyphean. But boy, the pleasure of riding without worrying about flats is leading to a new, oh-fuck-it-all me.
If you want an even easier tubeless tire repair kit, there is Dynaplug. Their tire plugs have a sharp, pointed metal tip that looks like it would slip easily into even a small puncture—no need for brute force! You simply load a tip into the inserter and jam it in. The metal plug can’t be pulled out so it stays in place. The catch is Dynaplug kits start at $42. And that’s with just a tiny number of their proprietary plugs. As I said I’m a cheapass amateur mechanic so I won’t be including these in my repair kit anytime soon (unless they come at my birthday!) But they’ll look cool with your $15,000 Colnago and Zipp carbon wheels.
Why The New Look? I’d like to say it was time for a “fashion makeover” at the House of DSSF. But in reality the real reason why your club website looks so fabulous is more because we had some real problems with the overall structure of our online communications rather than because we wanted to look more chic. But we do look prettier, don’t we?
It’s actually a side benefit of moving the website over to Club Express that we got to play around with the graphics and style, thanks very much to Nick. (That boy has some real fashion sense!) Jerome built us a pretty good website that got the work done. The problem was it was built around the idiosyncrasies of Yahoo! Groups for communication. Our site did most of the heavy lifting—publishing rides, hosting our resources, showing our pictures, and partly communication and partly membership. And it was the “partly” part that got us in trouble. The details are gory, semi-impenetrable, and frankly boring. But in a nutshell trying to coordinate membership between the Yahoo! group and the website was a mountain of unnecessary work, and since access to the Yahoo! group depended on membership that put a crimp on our communications since we could no longer tweak the Yahoo! group into what we wanted. The bottom line was we couldn’t communicate with you, our members, effectively and without a ton of work. No wonder more than half the membership wasn’t accessing our Yahoo! group.
That’s all about to change with the new DSSF site because membership, communication, ride calendar, and to some extent finances are all in one place. Plus, maintaining the membership list will be mostly automatic (since you do it!) rather than cross-checking different email addresses and lists. That Yahoo! email address you had to create in order to access the DSSF group? You won’t need it any longer (at least for DSSF). Instead of wrestling with the craziness of Yahoo! groups and email, that time will be better spent keeping you up to date on club plans and events, and also for board members to actually get out and ride!
At the moment the only component that continues to exist externally is the Different Spokes ChainLetter aka “the DSSF weblog”. It’s still hosted by WordPress rather than CE. But that may change in the future.
The new DSSF site was only a twinkle in the eye until this January—basically, we got a new website after three months of off-and-on again volunteer work. Although the current and previous boards both contributed to where we are today, the heavy lifting was really done by Nick, who put a crapton of hours into designing, laying out, and getting feedback from the other board members and implementing it. The other guy who put the pedal to the metal was David Goldsmith, who put a ton of work into coordinating the transition, dotting the i’s and crossing the t’s as well as making sure we didn’t have any egregious errors or oversights in the website. Many thanks to Jerome for assisting in the handoff and for many years of volunteer webmeistership.
And wait there’s more! The website is up and running but the board is working on the improvements that are yet to come…
If you haven’t yet seen the site, go there now. If you’re a current member, you should have received an email giving you temporary access to the site so you can go in, check your personal contact information and emend it, and set up your login. If you haven’t received an email message (and you’re sure you are a current member), please contact David Goldsmith or Nick Kovaleski (see the Leadership page at the site). And if you’d like to join DIfferent Spokes, go the website and click the “Membership” link.