Bicycling

Bicycling can be a life long activity that promotes health and providing a practical form of transportation. Bicycling is extremely energy efficient: 5x walking, and nearly 200x riding in a car by yourself. FWIW: check out Robert Förstemann vs toaster for a sense of how much power simple things like a toaster consume as compared to cycling. I can often reach near by destinations faster by bicycle than when driving on congested streets or when factoring in finding a parking spot and then walking from the parking locations to my building. I probably take a bit too much pleasure I as ride pass cars stuck in the morning commute on their way to the office. Just be cautious around cars, bicyclists go 18 miles per micromort while car passengers get 223 miles.

Mid Peninsula Rides

Most of my rides starting from my driveway, so naturally my focus is on rides in the mid peninsula. When I first moved to the bay area I tried most of the Stanford Cycling Club’s Local Routes. Twenty plus years later I am still riding many these routes. My default route is a variant of the “classic loop”, often with an addition of climbing Old La Honda Road (OLH), decent La Honda Road,  and maybe going out Canada Road to do some sprint internals.  I drop Canada road when time is tight since it’s not as pretty as the rest of the ride. I don’t think I will ever get tired of this route.

Old La Honda is the classic hill benchmark.  8% grade, 3 miles, mostly shade, small number of cars. My experience is that recreational cyclists in good shape can do this in around 30 minutes if they push themselves. I ride with some people with sub 20 minute times… I don’t think I will ever be that fast.

There are a number of “classic” rides with good climbs and nice scenery. When I have extra time I like the route to Pescadero thanks to the refreshments: the Bakery’s wonderful artichoke bread, Duartes food and pies. I don’t drink coffee, but I have been told that the coffee shop there is one of the best in the greater bay area. I also love routes that incorporate climbs on King’s Road and Purissima Creek Road. I tend to avoid Page Mill Road. I find the traffic is a bit more than I like, and the curves on the decent are tighter than I enjoy, and it’s the last place I crashed due to gravel on the road. Other classic climbs include Mt Hamilton, Mt Tam, and Mt Diablo.

Further Afield

The Death Ride provides 15k of climbing over a 129 mile course. The Tahoe Loop is a much gentler ride in the Sierras. This ride come close to living up to it’s tag line “The most beautiful bike ride”. The Mt Lemon climb just outside Tuscan, AZ is a 6936 ft climb over 30 miles. The Cookie Cabin at the top is a great reward. The decent is fabulous… you can pretty much do the whole thing without pedaling or applying brakes.

Group Rides

The Silicon Valley Bike Collation maintains a list of local bike clubs. Of particular note is Western Wheelers, one of the largest and best organized groups. Several of my female friends tell me that Velo Girls group rides helped gain confidence and enjoy developing their skills. Almost all the local bike shops organize rides. Finally, there are a number of good meetup.com groups. Note: most Bay area cyclists are spoiled, so if there is even a chance of rain, most groups cancel their rides.

My Bicycling

I did a lot of cycling in the 70’s & 80’s… AYH rides (typically class A, B when I was looking for a nice recovery ride) and a bit of racing. I did numerous century rides including the Columbus Fall Challenge and TOSRV. One year I did TOSRV as two double centuries, back to back. The dream was to hit each of the food stops twice each day but the hours the food stops were open made this impossible. In the 1990s I got too busy with life, the amount of touring dropped, my bike became primarily transportation and a source of exercise. In 2003 my daughter started to enjoy bike rides which got me riding for fun again.

My Bicycles

I used a Peugeot PX10 from 1975 until 2008. Over the years components failed and were replaced (Simplex to Campy Record detailers, Mafac to Dura-Ace brakes, a couple of wheel changes, several freewheels, countless chains, etc). I eventually decided that finding parts for a 1970s French bike was too much of a pain. I was also looking forward to lower gearing than 23×45.

In 2008 I picked up a used Trek Pilot 5.2 and gave the PX10 to a friend who loves keeping classic bikes running.

In 2013 I had an accident and thought I needed a new bike (more on this later). Several people recommended getting fitted by by Wade at Spokesman Bicycles. He recommended trying a Cervelo R3 and Specialized Roubaix. The Roubaix was slightly more comfortable, but the R3 felt way more responsive and fun so I purchased it. I found R3 was comfortable enough for endurance rides like death ride, was great for climbing, and handled a lot like a racing bike without being too twitchy. Two years later my R3 was stolen. As I was doing my first test ride (a Giant Defy) I realized I really loved my R3 and decided not to test ride any other bike. I purchased exactly the same bike that was stolen.

Back to my “broken” Trek Pilot. The folks at Palo Alto Bicycling said I could send the frame back to Trek, but this would cost several hundred dollars and Trek would likely decide they wouldn’t repair the frame. I would get a modest amount of credit toward a new Trek bike. The thing was, if I was going to replace this bike, I wasn’t that interested in Trek. After I had purchased my R3 I was trying to figure out what to do with the Pilot 5.2. It was unridable, but seemed too valuable to just junk. On a lark I took it to Chain Reaction Bikes. The owner noted that the carbon on the seat stays were thicker (and sounded different when tapped) than most of Trek’s other carbon bikes. He was pretty sure the frame was ok. I took a chance and sent the frame in. Trek said the frame was OK and repaired the bent derailleur hanger. I donated my repaired Trek to someone who needed a bicycle. In the future I will take a “damaged” frame to Calfee Design in Santa Cruz for a proper assessment.

In 2021 several components of my R3’s drivetrain had worn out and it looks like it was going to take weeks to source the parts, and at least one could be months. I decided to pick up a new bicycle to use immediately and to repair the R3 so I would have a spare and not have to take my bike on and off my Kickr. I did test rides on the current Cervelo R-series, Cervelo Caledonia, and a Specialized S-works 2019 Roubaix. The Roubaix surprised me. The Roubaix design had been significantly updated making it much more responsive than the previous generation of Roubaix (just slightly less than the R-series) while providing an incredibly comfortable, smooth and controlled ride. My biggest surprise was that I found I likely the Roubaix handling more than the Caledonia. Both Cervelo models are more attractive to my eye, but the comfort + performance of the Roubaix won me over. I normally wouldn’t bother with S-works level build / components, but due to COVID supply issues there were limited choices, and this bike was discounted because it hadn’t sold in 2 years. While I normally won’t be willing to pay for Dura-Ace components, they are noticeably smoother than the mechanical Ultegra level components I normally select.

Other Bicycling Gear

Seats: For many years I used the seat that came from the manufacturer. This mean I used the terribly uncomfortable Brooks saddle for years. People talked about how you would break a Brooks in over time, but it seems to me that the saddle broke me into it. When I purchased the Trek I tried a number of saddles but failed to find one that was sufficiently more comfortable to justify the cost of replacing what came with the bike. I continued to use the saddle provided with the bike until 2013 when I saw a kickstarter project for the Infinity Seat. I purchased one and feel in love. The Infinity seat is the most comfortable seat I have ever used.

Clothing/Kit: For most of my cycling time I did not wear a bicycling kit. I wore a generic athletic shorts/pants and shirt, and used running shoes on peddles with toe clips. Around 2010 I decided that wearing more traditional bicycle kit would be a good idea. I found that padded shorts were a lot more comfortable that unpadded shorts and found that in many conditions an Icebreaker cycling jersey was better than a running shirt. Later I discovered that the minimalist padding in classic Tri-shorts were more comfortable than the thicker cycling shorts when I was using an Infinity seat. As I was simplifying my clothing I found that a short sleeve polartec Delta exercise shirt worked really well for me in hot conditions. I have some arm sleeves to protect my arms from the sun. When it drops below 55F, I found adding a GoreWear Shakedry jacket keeps me comfort in rain or just protecting me from the wind.

Rule 6: Free your mind and your legs will follow…

Your mind is your worst enemy. Do all your thinking before you start riding your bike. Once the pedals start to turn, wrap yourself in the sensations of the ride – the smell of the air, the sound of the tires, the feeling of flight as the bicycle rolls over the road

Velominati’s The Rules


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