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Saturday, November 19: Three Sisters and Wetlands Park, 36 miles

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My year in cycling

It's been a year of many changes in my cycling world, not the least of which were my move back to the Bay Area, my purchase of a real road bike, and my first-ever double metric centuries. But after four and a half years of rather intense cycling, some peaks and valleys are becoming more pronounced, and I need to give increased consideration to riding smartly as opposed to just riding.

First, the numbers. Here's my monthly mileage for the past few years; 2006 was the first year that I rode in ALC.

JanFebMarAprMayJunJulAugSepOctNovDecTotal
200823621949655956010415905162363063252665450
20073492705645287488502763694132312032765077
20065616326278597396865575154684334843846945
20054014164735677036055355313465135034826075

So I racked up more miles this year than last, but much of the increase came from the very wacky month of June. How wacky was it? I started the month with ALC7, and then I came back and bought the new bicycle -- which immediately got me eager to go out and try everything again. Plus, thanks to a medical issue, I spent the second half of the month on the steroid prednisone, which put my body into super-hyper-overdrive ... an experience I hope not to repeat anytime soon. The result was that, for my first time ever, I racked up more than 1,000 miles in a single month. But I feel like there should be an asterisk next to that drug-assisted number.

That said, I also attained a long-held goal of mine: I rode 200 kilometers (125 miles) in a single day, and I did it not once, but twice. After leading the longest-ever ALC training ride in early May, I became a member of Randonneurs USA and rode in the Chualar 200k event in August. (I finished third-from-last, but just like ALC, it's a ride, not a race.) Extreme long-distance cycling is a fascinating sport that takes the mind-set of ALC to the next level, and it's something I'm hoping to continue pursuing, if only at the sport's "entry" level of "only" 200k. (Don't look for me on any of those 1,200-kilometer rides!)

Of more direct relevance to those who are reading to get insights into training for ALC, I put in significantly fewer miles before this year's ride than I did last year, particularly during the weeks immediately before the ride. And this year's ALC was actually easier for me, with my average speed during the ride slightly faster than in 2007. There's an important lesson here: Do not overtrain for ALC. Yes, you need to get experience in riding consecutive long-mileage days, but you also need to make sure that you don't wear yourself out before Day 1.

Looking ahead, there are two big challenges.

First is boredom. As I've noted here before, I've bicycled almost every reasonable nearby route, and those that I haven't are generally more difficult than I enjoy. And when I get home from work at night, do I really want to put on all the gear (so much gear for bicycling these days!) just for yet another 15-mile spin up Foothill Expressway? I've found that much more of my riding is now "destination" riding -- on weekends or at special events -- and less of it is just because I want to go out and have fun for an hour or so. That's a trend I need to reverse.

Second is age. The statistics say we lose a little bit of our aerobic capacity every year past age 35, even though cycling can help mitigate that. And the body just doesn't want to burn away fat like it used to. Bicycling is a great way to stay fit into one's later years (just ask our ALCers who are in their 70s and even their 80s!), but I'm probably reaching the point where I will start to see my performance decrease, rather than increase, over time. Switching to a road bike has given me a temporary speed boost, but I attribute most of that to equipment and not to me.

But enough melancholy stuff. We're just a week and a half away from the beginning of this season's Cat-3 Distance Training rides, and I've been extremely pleased by the "buzz" I've been hearing about the rides. I've got some interesting new routes planned, and I'm looking forward to riding with many of you as we get ready for ALC8.

Ride report: South Bay/Peninsula early-bird ride #8 rescheduled


Go, riders!

What a difference a week makes. Last week's bone-chilling rain and snow seemed but a memory today as temperatures soared into the lower 60s for the 14 of us who completed the second attempt at our 46-mile loop around the South Bay. Even without the brisk East Bay tailwinds that usually help push up speeds on this route, each and every rider delivered an impressive pace today that met or exceeded ALC's Cat-3 pace (12-15 mph).

(At right: Approaching the Dumbarton Bridge with, yes, the blimp in the air.)

This was the longest ride of the season for some of us, and I'll bet that, like me, you felt that you had crossed a threshold in terms of distance. For me, 40 miles is about the point where I need to modify my behavior ... which I didn't fully do today, and I was feeling the consequences near the end.

Three hours of riding is too long to go without proper nutrition -- a crunchy marshmallow bar in Milpitas doesn't count. And without venturing too far into the category of too much information, three hours is also too long for me to go without reapplying butt cream.

As our rides get longer, taking care of yourself is more important than ever, because the key to making it all the way to Los Angeles is giving your body the care that it needs and deserves.

As I said earlier, today's pace was certainly brisk to say the least. I need to stress that you should never, ever feel pressured to ride any faster or harder than you want to ride. It's good to test your limits (and, hopefully, expand them), but do not let yourself be intimidated by the sight of riders roaring off into the distance. It happens to all of us!

If you're riding a Cat-2 pace, the Cat-3 riders will be ahead of you. If you're riding a Cat-3 pace, some Cat-4 (15+ mph) riders will leave you behind. And even if you're a Cat-4 rider, there are a few riders who make it all the way to Los Angeles at an average speed of more than 20 mph.

Every training ride always has a ride leader in the sweep position behind the last rider. The TRLs riding sweep expect to ride more slowly than the rest of the pack, and you're never "imposing" on them by riding at whatever pace you need. The sweep is there to help you successfully complete your ride, so don't hesitate to let them know how they can help you. And don't be surprised if the sweep offers you a few tips along the way. They've all been here before, and they've seen many common problems that can be fixed.

What's next? This was the last ride in our South Bay/Peninsula early-bird set of rides. Beginning next month, the training season kicks into high gear, and there are many ways for you to proceed from here. I'll mention just a couple that are relevant to folks who will be doing at least some of their riding on the Peninsula and in the South Bay.

Every Sunday beginning Jan. 18, there will be Cat-2 rides in Sunnyvale, San Francisco, the East Bay, and the North Bay. These will all be approximately the same length every week, so you can switch between locations as you wish. The rides will start at about 20 miles and increase over 20 weeks to about 100 miles.

Every other Saturday
beginning Jan. 10, I'll be leading the Cat-3 Distance Training rides from our location in downtown Mountain View. These rides are for intermediate and advanced riders who want to increase their physical and mental endurance on long-distance rides. This set of 10 rides gradually starts at 40 miles and increases to a mid-May finale of a double metric century: 200 kilometers (125 miles) in a single day. Everyone who rode today is qualified to ride these rides. It's perfectly OK if you're at the lower end of the Cat-3 range; you do not need to be a 15-mph rider to do these rides.

Our first ride is a bit easier than today's ride. It's a 40-mile jaunt through the lowlands, with a long run along the entire length of Foothill Expressway from Cupertino to Menlo Park. There's just one little hill (McClellan), and there are two scheduled rest stops. Details and RSVP are here.

There will also be many other training rides, some as part of every-week series, others as one-time events. Many of the January rides are already listed, and others will show up later this week. You can see them in the official ALC training calendar here. Check back often, because new rides will continue to be listed throughout the training season.

Don't forget the kickoff party for all of the San Francisco AIDS Foundation's endurance events, including AIDS/LifeCycle. It's Sunday, January 11, in San Francisco. There will be lots of fun and information -- and, of course, the chance to win one of several new bicycles. RSVPs for this event are required; more info is available here.

And with that, I wrap up our training for 2008. Best wishes for the new year, and may you meet whatever challenges you set for yourself in 2009.

Route conditions from King City to Morro Bay

I took a quick trip to San Luis Obispo this weekend, so of course I checked out some of the more "colorful" parts of the ALC route along the way to see whether road conditions have changed since June.

King City: Construction on First Street is progressing very, very slowly, and the only southbound bike route out of town continues to be closed while a bridge is rebuilt. From the looks of things, I'd say it's quite unlikely that the street will be reopened in time for ALC8, so we might get to use the same route we did this year (the pedestrian bridge over the river). Whether this is a good thing or a bad thing is up to you. (At right: First Street in King City)

US 101, Bradley to San Miguel: There has been no work on the shoulder, and it continues to be in horrid condition. This 2 to 3 miles is my least favorite part of the whole route now. There's a project to do guardrail work in the area between January and April, but it's unclear whether they're going to do anything to that awful, awful shoulder. Perhaps we will get lucky.
Update: Caltrans appears to be creating a separate project to cover resurfacing of the highway through this area:
In Monterey County about 20 miles north of Paso Robles from 0.3 mile south of East Garrison overcrossing to 0.1 mile south of Jolon Road undercrossing: Hot mix asphalt overlay
The bad news is that the project isn't even being advertised for bids until March 23. That means that nothing will happen in time for this year's ride.

San Miguel: Good news!! Our route through town has been completely repaved from end to end, with nice smooth pavement and marked bike lanes all the way from U.S. 101 right through town and to the mission. (At right: Mission San Miguel)

Paso Robles: Our route out of town along Vine Street is still in the same poor shape it was for ALC7.

Morro Bay: Construction on Quintana Road, our route out of town, continues. One of the intersections is being transformed into a roundabout, and it appears that the street will be safer once it's complete. And work is far enough along that it will probably be done before we pass through.

As always, remember that the ALC route could change from year to year, so there's no guarantee that any or all of these places will be on the route. But we're so established now that, barring major construction (such as in King City) or other incident (such as losing permission to ride through an area), significant changes to the route probably are unlikely.

Bicycle thefts aren't just a big-city thing

Report from Bay City News Service:
Palo Alto authorities have noticed an increase in the number of expensive bicycles stolen over the past several months and are working to find those responsible for the thefts, a police spokesman said Friday.

A total of 31 bicycles, each worth $1,000 or more, have been stolen from June through last week, said Agent Dan Ryan. Nine of the 31 bikes were worth between $4,000 and $10,000.

The thefts are taking place throughout the city.

A reminder that, even when we're on organized group rides, don't leave your bicycle unattended -- even someplace where you think thefts "never" happen. In our deteriorating economy, places once thought safe may no longer be that way.

Ride report: South Bay/Peninsula early-bird ride #8

Our luck ran out today. Despite only a 10% chance of rain at ride-out time, we were getting rained on within the first 15 minutes, so our group of 12 riders decided to head directly back from Palo Alto to Mountain View, making today's ride a grand total of 9 miles. Thanks to everyone who showed up, especially those who came from far away. Especially this early in the season, safety takes priority over everything else, and I appreciate your understanding.

We're going to try the ride again next Sunday, same time, same place. Early indications, however, are that the weather may still be a problem, but we'll see how this wet and stormy week plays out.

South Bay/Peninsula early-bird ride #8: Loop around the South Bay rescheduled (12/28/2008)



Rescheduled from last week due to rain.
Meet time: 9:30 a.m.
Ride-out time: 10:00 a.m.
Meeting place: Three blocks west of the Mountain View Caltrain and VTA station, in the overflow parking lot at the corner of Evelyn Avenue and Franklin Street. (map)
City: Mountain View
Rain policy: Rain cancels
Category: 2 - medium pace (10-12 mph)
Terrain: 1 - mostly flat
Miles: 46

Description:
This is the last of our early-bird training rides. You've got a fantastic head-start on the season, and today we celebrate with our longest ride yet.

From Mountain View, we'll go to Menlo Park and take the Dumbarton Bridge into Newark and Fremont, with a return via Milpitas, San Jose, Santa Clara, and Sunnyvale. There's a little bit of everything on this ride, from quiet streets to busy highways, we've got two rest stops planned, and there's just one little hill to keep you honest. Total climbing for the whole day is only about 700 feet.

Riders from all over Northern California are invited! Southbound Caltrain from San Francisco arrives at 9:14 a.m.

Route sheet for this ride is here.

Be sure to check the Training section of the ALC website for information on how to prepare for a training ride and what you must and should bring.

Leaders:
Chris Thomas
Dan England
David Gaus

RSVPs are requested but not required.

Today's ride is ON

Good morning, riders!

The hour-by-hour forecast from The Weather Channel suggests that there is practically no chance of rain in Mountain View at ride-out time, with the chance increasing to just 30% by 2 p.m. Temperatures should rise into the low 50s, so it will be cool but not horribly cold.

There are two rest stops on today's ride -- one in Newark, and one in Milpitas -- and while it's important that you take both rest stops, it's also very important today that you not linger at the stops. The quicker we get back to Mountain View, the less chance of rain we face. Also, the winds today will be opposite to what we normally face on this route, with a light breeze from the south-southeast. If you're familiar with this route, you know that the East Bay part of this trip often benefits from a strong tailwind, but that won't be the case today.

Please try to be at the meeting location by 9:30 a.m., so we can ride out on time. And if this is your first ride from Mountain View, remember that we meet at the overflow parking lot three blocks northwest of the Caltrain station, not at the station itself.

Sunday weather outlook

As of Friday morning, things appear to be following roughly the same path that they did last week: The real rain isn't expected to arrive until late in the day Sunday (perhaps even later than last week), so early indications are that we will be OK to ride. Temperatures will be similar to last week -- mid-40s at ride-out time -- so bundle up.

While there aren't any ways to chop miles out of the middle of our ride if the weather turns foul, we have an interesting bailout option available between miles 33 and 39. We can take light rail back to Mountain View. It costs $1.75 cash, and it's not at all speedy, but it's dry.

A reminder: On Sunday morning, I'll put a weather update here before 8 a.m.

Some fixes for one of the worst stretches of ALC road?


ALC veterans are all too familiar with the part of U.S. 101 from Bradley to San Miguel, notorious for its beyond-awful shoulders and traffic roaring by at 70 mph. At Wednesday's meeting of the San Luis Obispo County Technical Transportation Advisory Committee, Caltrans presented an update on its upcoming projects, including the following:
US 101  SAN MIGUEL/SALINAS GUARDRAIL UPGRADE
AT VARIOUS LOCATIONS FROM SAN MIGUEL TO BRADLEY (PM 64.9  69.3)
Project: Upgrade guardrail and crash cushions and place hot mix asphalt dike
Estimated Start Date: January 2009
Estimated Completion: April 2009

Alas, I don't know what a "hot mix asphalt dike" is (oh, I can imagine the one-liners already), but it sounds like there's some shoulder work scheduled in the next few months before we pass through there in June. We can hope!

The picture is from U.S. 101 north of Bradley, where the shoulder isn't as bad.

First look at weekend weather

Despite the persistent showers and the snow on area hills, the weather forecast for this Sunday currently isn't looking too bad. There's only a very slight chance of light showers on Sunday, and temperatures are expected to rise into the lower 50s during the day. So come join us for our 46-mile loop around the South Bay!

Ride report: South Bay/Peninsula early-bird ride #7


Go, riders!

Back in elementary school not too many years ago (watch it ... no cracks about "back when FDR was president"), I used to pretend that I was a weatherman. (Not the William Ayers type of weatherman, so no cracks about that either.) Because the teacher liked me, the whole class would have to sit through my horridly drawn maps and forecasts. But this afternoon, I'm feeling pretty darned good about my meteorological prognostications -- the skies in downtown Mountain View opened up within one minute of the return of the last of today's 10 riders. So back in Woodside when I said that we probably had pressed our luck as far as we could for the day and I cut the ride from 40 miles to 33, I was about as correct as it is possible to be. So, go me!

That said, we did ride through a couple of patches of light sprinkles today, and the roads around Portola Valley were somewhat wet from earlier showers that had moved through, so it's very important that you clean your bicycle as soon as possible. In addition to basic cleaning of your frame with water and a rag, here are a couple of not-so-obvious applicable tips from a forum about bicycle commuting:
Chains and gears can be prematurely worn by grit and sand that’s thrown up, especially if you don’t have fenders and chainguards. To extend the life of your chain, chainring, cogs and external gearing, wash or wipe the parts after a wet weather ride and lubricate.

Brake pads can have grit embedded in them, which will shorten the life of your rims if you don’t use disk brakes. Wipe them off along with the braking surface when you clean your other components.

On the ride in June, we almost never get weather like what we had today, although it can be almost as cold on some mornings. Rain is extremely rare, but Day 1 often has lots of nasty light drizzle and thick fog for much of the first 30 miles, so it's good to get some experience with riding in less-than-optimum conditions. Learn how your bicycle's components behave in wet conditions: Observe the differences in shifting, braking, and cornering.

Given all of the hills on today's route, everyone did amazingly well. Most parts of the ALC route aren't as consistently hilly as the first 17 miles of today's ride, but there are a few, and again, it's best to be prepared for them. It's always a ride and never a race, so never feel pressured or intimidated by other riders to go any faster than you want to go. No matter how strong you are, there will always be someone on the route who's stronger than you, but that's OK. And conversely, you will always be stronger than someone else on the route, so when you pass them, remember how you feel when you get passed. You will pass and be passed literally thousands of times during the ride in June, so learn now how you react to that -- this is one of the many important parts of mentally training for the ride.

Next week, however, we dispense with most of the hills for our final early-bird ride. Our 46-mile route will first head across the Dumbarton Bridge to Newark (just like we did last week), and from there we'll go through Fremont, Milpitas, San Jose, Santa Clara, and Sunnyvale in a big loop back to Mountain View. There's only one small hill about two-thirds of the way through the ride, and other than that, there's nothing bigger than an overpass (or the bridge). This will put you in great shape to join any of the regular rides that begin in January throughout the Bay Area; I'll be leading every-other-Saturday Cat-3 (12-15 mph) rides out of Mountain View, and there will be every-Sunday Cat-2 (10-12 mph) rides in Sunnyvale, San Francisco, and the East Bay.

Finally, a special thanks to ride leader Zack Kreiter for driving a SAG vehicle for us today. Although only one rider needed Zack's services, he provided a good sense of reassurance during today's uncertain weather, and he seemed to be everywhere!

Thanks for being part of AIDS/LifeCycle.

Today's ride is ON

There are some scattered showers around the Bay Area, but they appear to be light and very scattered as of early morning, so we will go ahead with the ride.

We have four ride leaders on today's ride, and it will be important that you stay in contact with the leaders so that we can quickly change course if the weather turns bad. If you are a faster rider and get ahead of the leaders, that's fine, but you might end up on your own if we turn back due to rain.

Dress appropriately for the conditions! It's a toasty 34 degrees outside as I write this.

Saturday night weather update

I'm going to try to run our ride tomorrow.

The forecast suggests that the worst part of the weather will get here in the mid-afternoon, and before that it's just as likely that it won't be raining as that it will. Our route has a few bailout points where we can cut the ride short if necessary; in particular, if the weather turns threatening, we might head back directly from Rest Stop 1 in Woodside and still get in a good 30-mile ride.

Check back here in the morning to see if things change overnight. I'll post something here by 8 a.m. -- hopefully a yes-or-no decision.

Coyote Hills

There aren't that many cycling routes left in the Bay Area that I haven't done. Most of them are that way because I find them either too difficult, too far away, and/or just too unappealing. But today I ended up at the Coyote Hills Regional Park, just across the Dumbarton Bridge (see last week's ride) for the first time ever, and I quite literally had no idea that these bike trails even existed. The scene you see here is along the eastern shoreline of San Francisco Bay -- yes, really, with lush, green hills at the water's edge, with a multi-use path winding along the side of the hills. And with today's brisk winds, the sky was perfectly clear, meaning that the buildings of downtown San Francisco were clearly visible (but not in this view) all the way down here.

The occasion was an ALC "Cyclist Representatives Ride," when many of the staff from San Francisco came down to ride with us out here in the provinces. Kudos to Russ for scoping out today's 25-mile ride, about half of which was on paved off-road trails.

Apologies to anyone who thought I shunned them by riding ahead of the group, but my timing turned out to be highly fortuitous -- the rain started to fall almost as soon as I got back to Mountain View.

Sunday weather update

It's looking iffy for Sunday's ride, but we've learned many times before that weather forecasts around here can be wildly wrong.

One thing is for certain: A cold, wet storm is approaching. The two question marks: when the worst part of it will get here, and how strong the storm will be. There's still some disagreement on those points; one forecast says during the day on Sunday (which would be bad for us), but another forecast says Sunday night (which means we might be able to ride).

Here's a reminder (posted before) about what "rain cancels" means and what happens when rain is likely on ride day:

-- A sprinkle or two is not "rain."

-- If the roads are wet enough that water splashes up from your rear tire onto your butt and jersey, that is "rain."

-- About two hours before meeting time, I start checking the radar to see what's approaching. If a total washout is near-certain (i.e., the radar is an explosion of color), I may decide to cancel the ride then. Either way, I will post an update to this blog. If you have access to the net in the morning, please check first before calling me, because I'm probably busy getting ready for the ride myself!

-- If a ride is still possible, I continue to check the radar, especially over our entire ride route, since we usually travel across more than one of the Bay Area's many microclimates. As meeting time nears, I may still decide to cancel the ride. If so, I'll always post a notice to this blog.

-- Even if a ride is cancelled, I will always show up at the meeting point at the designated time. And I might not make the decision on whether to cancel until after I have arrived at the meeting point, depending on what the weather is doing.

-- If a ride is cancelled, some riders may choose to individually ride the designated route. These rides are strictly unofficial and are not sanctioned or controlled by ALC. You can use our route sheets, but you're probably on your own.

Safety is always our first priority, and it's best to err on the side of caution. There will be another day to ride.

Los Altos Hills situation resolved

Looks like the "NO BIKES" marking on El Monte Road is being removed. Here's a reply from a town official to a representative of the Silicon Valley Bicycle Coalition:
Thanks for the information. The pavement marking was originally installed to encourage bicyclists to use the new pathway through the college. It was brought to our attention that some drivers may act more aggressively towards bicyclist with the markings in place.

The Town wants to encourage various modes of transportation and does not want to do anything that would result in more drivers behaving badly. As a result, the Town has temporarily covered the markings and made arrangement to have it permanently removed by early next week.

Bundle up!

As I sit here sniffling and sneezing the night away with a yucky cold I probably picked up on yesterday's ride, I notice that next Sunday's ride is going to be downright cold. The current forecast from Weather Underground calls for the temperature to be 43 degrees at our 10 a.m. ride-out time. Fortunately, the chance of rain is very slight at this point, so it doesn't look like we'll get rained out. But dress appropriately!

Los Altos Hills illegally closes a street to bikes

This is of special interest to me because next Sunday's training ride goes on exactly this route, and many of our other South Bay and Peninsula rides go through here.

Some time this week a "NO BIKES" sign was stenciled into the pavement as you are heading southeast on El Monte Road just past the intersection of Elena/Moody/College Loop. The only places bicycles can be prohibited are freeways (CVC 21960) and clearly this road is not that. So it would appear this ban is not allowed.

I've been in contact with Richard Chiu of Los Altos Hills Public Works (http://www.losaltoshills.ca.gov/contact/staff.html). He indicated this was done at the direction of council due to safety issues and the bike route is through the college. My understanding is that even if there is a bike route, bikes can still not be prohibited from alternate streets.


Preliminary indications are that the town council has broken the law by placing this notice, but I will see what action (if any) happens this week before deciding what to do on this weekend's ride.

Ride report: South Bay/Peninsula early-bird ride #6


Go, riders!

As I promised, every trip across the Dumbarton Bridge can be different, and today's chilly ride with 16 riders (plus one unofficial rider) was no exception. In all of my years of riding the bridge, never before had I encountered what I saw today. As I was descending the bridge into Fremont, a golf cart pulled into the bike lane and started coming right toward me! Turns out the cart was actually a Caltrans maintenance cart, but it certainly made for a tight squeeze on the narrow path. And then on the return, descending back into Menlo Park, one of the service hatches was open and wasn't marked or blocked off -- leaving a giant hole in the middle of the path, a hole that would have promptly deposited an unwary rider right into the bay! So I have something new to warn riders about on future rides across the bridge.

Congratulations to those riders for whom this 35-mile ride was their longest ever. A little birdie pointed out something to me during the ride: Some of you might be wearing underwear while you're riding. Bike shorts aren't meant to be worn with underwear, and on longer rides, the underwear can cause painful chafing of your tender manly and/or womanly bits -- painful enough that it can take you out of action during the ride. True, there are some folks who ride all the way to Los Angeles without bike shorts, but they're certainly a small minority. Even if you're doing fine on mostly-flat 35-mile rides, you might want to consider what you're wearing between your butt and your bike seat. And if you're worried about being seen in those tight-fitting shorts, you can buy mountain-bike shorts that still have the tight-fitting inner part but have more traditional-looking shorts on the outside.

One of our ride leaders had a very close call with a truck on the way back while crossing Highway 101. Freeway interchanges are some of the most tricky places we ride, and they're usually unavoidable on nearly all rides around here. Our safety rules say that we should "stay out of right-turn lanes," but freeway interchanges can pose a dilemma: Turn lanes can appear and disappear with little or no warning, and what we think is a turn lane might actually become a through-traffic lane.

In today's incident, a truck pulled up behind our rider and straddled both the through lane and the exit lane -- presumably a nice gesture to let the rider pass safely over the bridge. But another vehicle behind the truck was going way too fast for conditions (the speed limit there is 35 mph), and the driver of that vehicle slammed hard on the brakes to avoid hitting the truck. In theory, the truck could have been pushed into our rider, so even though the rider was doing nothing wrong, when it's vehicle vs. rider, the rider almost always loses.

After you've been on a few rides, you'll get to know many of the common interchanges we pass through, and how traffic lanes flow through these interchanges. The key in all of these situations is to ride predictably, doing what a driver would probably expect you to do. This usually means not switching lanes unless necessary or required, and perhaps riding in a group if possible. But remember: Even if you do everything right, a driver might not, so try to think defensively and have an escape strategy if one is needed.

And a few words about temperatures. It was chilly today! Instead of warming up, the clouds thickened up, and it didn't get any warmer than the mid-50s. At such temperatures, it's all too easy to catch a cold (as my sniffles this afternoon can attest), and it's extremely important that you dress in layers. Don't forget to cover your knees: Cold temperatures can lead to knee injuries on long or hilly rides. A windbreaker helps keep your torso and arms warm. Full-finger gloves help the hands. And when it's really cold, some folks even use shoe booties. We keep riding all winter as long as it doesn't rain, so be prepared for any temperature. If you need gear, take advantage of your participant discount at many area bike shops.

What's next? Next Sunday, Dec. 14, we're scheduled to ride a hilly 40-mile ride up to Woodside. There's a storm moving into the area sometime around then, but the latest forecasts don't show it getting here until the next day, so right now it looks like we're in good shape to be riding. This will be a challenging ride for this early in the season, with nearly 2,000 feet of climbing (about three times what we had today), but none of the hills are especially long. (You can always walk them.) Details and RSVP are here.

Thanks for being part of AIDS/LifeCycle, and see you next Sunday.

Early-season challenges

15 miles shouldn't be too challenging, but today I went out to test-ride the San Gregorio-Pescadero loop that will be part of the upcoming Cat-3 Distance Training rides, and I was reminded that in early December, most of us definitely are not in the same shape we are in June.

This is an amazingly scenic ride that incorporates a few miles of our Day 1 route along the coast, just after our lunch stop. This is probably the most difficult part of Highway 1 that we ride on Day 1: three short but moderately steep climbs in rapid succession over the course of just a few miles. Many folks don't like these hills in June, especially right after lunch, and I especially didn't like them today.

As if that weren't enough, the ride back from Pescadero along historic Stage Road features two more significant climbs and two more thrill-a-minute twisty descents.

All told, this 15-mile loop has more than 1,800 feet of climbing, and if you divide 1,800 by 15, the result is more than 100, which is my personal definition of a "challenging" ride. (None of my official training rides this season rate more than 100 on this scale.) In terms of hill after hill after hill, this loop feels a lot like the middle of Day 5 of the ride, when we go through Vandeneberg Air Force Base and pack a whole bunch of climbing into one moderately short day of riding.

So the moral here is that I shouldn't be unhappy that today's ride felt much harder than it should have, and you shouldn't despair if your riding in December isn't quite in long-distance form. We have more than five months to go until the ride, and that's plenty of time to get ready for what's ahead.

Chilly mornings

Sunny skies are again expected for this Sunday's ride to Newark, so come out and ride with us!

But now that winter is almost here, mornings can be brrrrrrrrr. Even during the ride in June, it's quite common for temperatures to be in the mid to upper 40s at the 6:30 a.m. ride-out time, and temperatures can warm way up during the day, so it's important to dress in layers -- and our training rides are a great opportunity to practice doing just that. Here are a couple of articles about dressing for cold-weather cycling, and here are search results for a whole big bunch of other articles.

Cat-3 Distance Training #2: Pulgas Water Temple (1/24/2009)



Meet time: 9:30 a.m.
Ride-out time: 10:00 a.m.
Meeting place: Three blocks west of the Mountain View Caltrain and VTA station, in the overflow parking lot at the corner of Evelyn Avenue and Franklin Street. (map)
City: Mountain View
Rain policy: Rain cancels
Category: 3 - moderate-fast pace (12-15 mph)
Terrain: 2 - rolling hills
Miles: 45

Description:
The Cat-3 Distance Training rides are for intermediate and advanced riders who want to increase their physical and mental endurance on long-distance rides. This set of 10 rides gradually increases to a mid-May finale of a double metric century: 200 kilometers (125 miles) in a single day.  These rides should be just one part of your overall AIDS/LifeCycle training program -- such as in conjunction with the weekly Cat-2 rides -- and are not sufficient by themselves to prepare for the event. 

You do not need to be a super-fast rider to participate in these rides! Our experience has been that many cyclists taking part in Cat-2 training rides actually ride at a Cat-3 pace.  And it's perfectly OK if you're at the lower end of the Cat-3 range; you do not need to be a 15-mph rider to do these rides.

This time, we add a few more hills and a little bit of mileage. From downtown Mountain View, we'll head to the Stanford Loop and break off up to Woodside. From there, it's along the very popular cycling route on Cañada Road to the historic Pulgas Water Temple. From there, we'll go downhill on Edgewood Road and back via Alameda de las Pulgas and around Stanford. Total climbing on this ride is about 2,000 feet.

Riders from all over Northern California are invited! Southbound Caltrain from San Francisco arrives at 9:14 a.m.

Route sheet for this ride is here.

Be sure to check the Training section of the ALC website for information on how to prepare for a training ride and what you must and should bring.

Leaders: Chris Thomas, David Gaus, David Goldsmith, Maggie Vande Voorde, TJ Zmucki

RSVPs are requested but not required.

Cat-3 Distance Training #1: Get-acquainted ride (1/10/2009)



Meet time: 9:30 a.m.
Ride-out time: 10:00 a.m.
Meeting place: Three blocks west of the Mountain View Caltrain and VTA station, in the overflow parking lot at the corner of Evelyn Avenue and Franklin Street. (map)
City: Mountain View
Rain policy: Rain cancels
Category: 3 - fast pace (12-15 mph)
Terrain: 2 - rolling hills
Miles: 40

Description:
The Cat-3 Distance Training rides are for intermediate and advanced riders who want to increase their physical and mental endurance on long-distance rides. This set of 10 rides gradually increases to a mid-May finale of a double metric century: 200 kilometers (125 miles) in a single day.  These rides should be just one part of your overall AIDS/LifeCycle training program -- such as in conjunction with the weekly Cat-2 rides -- and are not sufficient by themselves to prepare for the event. 

You do not need to be a super-fast rider to participate in these rides! Our experience has been that many cyclists taking part in Cat-2 training rides actually ride at a Cat-3 pace.  And it's perfectly OK if you're at the lower end of the Cat-3 range; you do not need to be a 15-mph rider to do these rides.

We start this year's rides with an easy confidence-builder that goes down Central Expwy. to Santa Clara, then back up city streets to Sunnyvale, then up to Cupertino, along the entire length of Foothill Expwy. past Stanford to Menlo Park, then back on the Bryant Street bike boulevard through Palo Alto. Total climbing on this ride is about 900 feet.

Riders from all over Northern California are invited! Southbound Caltrain from San Francisco arrives at 9:14 a.m.

Route sheet for this ride is here.

Be sure to check the Training section of the ALC website for information on how to prepare for a training ride and what you must and should bring.

Leaders:

Chris Thomas
Bernard Cabigon
Susan Fish
David Goldsmith
Bob Katz
TJ Zmucki

RSVPs are requested but not required.

World AIDS Day 2008

-- 45% of new HIV infections worldwide are in people ages 15 to 24.
-- 1 in 4 people in the U.S. who have HIV don’t know it.
-- 900 to 1,000 San Franciscans will become infected with HIV next year.

Special webpages are running today at the San Francisco AIDS Foundation and AIDS/LifeCycle. Please take a minute to get involved.

Ride report: South Bay/Peninsula early-bird ride #5


Go, riders!

I keep saying that the weather can't get any better for our rides, and I keep getting proven wrong. With perfectly sunny skies, light winds, and temperatures near 70 degrees, one can almost forget about all of the rain that we should be getting this time of year. In the meantime, however, we'll keep taking advantage of the amazing conditions. (And no, we didn't have a rider on this bicycle, although it was parked with ours at the Starbucks rest stop in Saratoga.)

That's what 17 of us did today as we took our second trip of the season up to Saratoga -- this time, the "not-so-gentle" way up and over Mount Eden. We had a uniformly strong group of riders today, and everyone made it up and back down without incident.

That said, this is a good time to talk about descending -- not your own technique, but how to ride in a group of mixed abilities just like you'll experience in June. Some experienced riders live for the thrill of the descent, and ALC offers plenty of chances to build up some truly significant speed. Other riders -- including some experienced riders -- take descents more slowly, for any number of reasons.

Either way is perfectly fine! But whether you're fast or slow on the descents, you have responsibilities to the riders around you. If you're the slower rider, stay as far to the right as safely possible, ride as much of a straight line as possible, and expect to be passed a lot, often by riders going very fast.

On the other hand, if you're the faster rider, expect to encounter slower riders, give them plenty of notice that you're approaching, pass only when it's safe to do so, and give the other rider enough room in case they do something unexpected.

Here's a case in point from ALC. Near the beginning of Day 6, there's a long, moderately steep descent on Highway 1. The shoulder is wide and smooth, and riders easily can exceed 40 mph. But the shoulder also has several bicycle-eating grates along the right edge! This means that slower riders tend to ride down the middle of the shoulder, so that they won't weave in and out. (This counts as "riding predictably.") Sometimes a faster rider gets upset and doesn't know that the slower rider is riding safely by going down the middle of the shoulder. Remember: Some riders will have never encountered hills this big, and you have no way of knowing the ability of the rider next to you. So it's always best to ride in a manner so that unexpected actions on anyone's part don't cause a multiple-rider incident.

(And a legal note: Speed limits apply to bicycles as well as other vehicles, and you can get a ticket for exceeding the speed limit on a bicycle, particularly in several Bay Area communities.)

Let's talk about route sheets for a minute. I've apparently acquired a bit of a reputation for having impeccably accurate route sheets. (Thank you!) But if you took the restroom detour at the bottom of Mount Eden this morning, your odometer probably differed from the official mileage by about 0.2 to 0.3 mile.

It's only logical that if you ride a street not on the official route, your actual distance won't match the route sheet. But how should you deal with that? ALC route sheets generally do not list the incremental distances from point to point, so if you go on a short detour, you should remember the extra distance and adjust the remaining distances accordingly.

That said, route sheets are rarely 100% accurate -- and more important, bicycle computers are rarely calibrated perfectly. It's not unusual for there to be an error of 1% to 2% in a route sheet -- and over a 100-mile ride, that can be a significant margin of error! During most training rides, I often do lots of arithmetic in my head, like this: "Last turn said 25.0, next turn is at 28.5, but my odometer said 25.3 at the turn, so the next turn will be at 28.8 for me." Interestingly, such mental gymnastics are a useful sanity check for me; if I ever get to a point where such simple arithmetic becomes difficult, it's a good sign that I've not been eating and hydrating properly.

What's up next? We're riding every Sunday for the next few weeks, so we're back on Sunday with a 35-mile ride to Newark and back. The biggest hill on this ride is the Dumbarton Bridge, which we'll do in both directions, so it should be a fun day for everyone. (If you've never cycled on the bridge before, this is a great time to start.) And the weather forecast is already looking fantastic for next weekend as well. Details and RSVP are here.

Finally, remember that Monday is World AIDS Day. It looks like the ALC website will have some content related to the day, so be sure to check aidslifecycle.org. And at some point during the day, please take a minute to reflect on the pandemic, how you have been affected, and why you are riding. Thank you so much for riding, and see you next Sunday.

Thank you!

Thanks to your generous support, I have reached my first intermediate goal of $1,000 by the end of November.

Your donations are especially helpful in these challenging times, and the San Francisco AIDS Foundation will put your money to good use in its many programs of services, outreach, and research.

Remember that Monday, December 1, is World AIDS Day. Please take a minute on Monday to reflect on the pandemic and the losses that many of us have experienced ... and on how we're working together to bring an end to this suffering.

My fundraising continues -- I still need another $2,000 before I am allowed to ride out in May.

Another fantastic Sunday is coming up

Don't let these showers fool you ... the forecast for Sunday calls for sunny skies with temperatures back up near 70 degrees. A great day to join us on our 33-mile ride to Saratoga! Details and RSVP here.

Cat-3 Distance Training preview

Here's what I've currently got planned for this season's Cat-3 Distance Training rides. The popular routes from last season are back, some with a few changes, and I've got a couple of new routes planned as well. I'm busy rounding up ride leaders to help me; once I do, you'll start seeing these rides in the calendar, and you'll be able to RSVP for them. (As always, everything is subject to change.)

Ride 1, Jan. 10: 40 miles, 900 feet climbing
Get-Acquainted Ride
A new ride this season! We start with an easy confidence-builder that goes down Central Expwy. to Santa Clara, then back up city streets to Sunnyvale, then up to Cupertino, along the entire length of Foothill Expwy. past Stanford to Menlo Park, then back on the Bryant Street bike boulevard through Palo Alto.

Ride 2, Jan. 24: 45 miles, 1500 feet climbing
Pulgas Water Temple
This was Ride 1 last season. Around part of the Stanford Loop, up to Woodside, along Cañada Road to the water temple, down Edgewood, back through Menlo Park and on Foothill Expwy.

Ride 3, Feb. 7: 50 miles, 1700 feet climbing
Foothills tour
This is the same ride as last season, but the second half of this ride got rained out. The first half of the ride is flat, so all the climbing is concentrated in the second half of the ride. (A good lesson on pacing oneself!) Santa Clara, Moffett Field, Shoreline Park, Palo Alto, then up Sand Hill and Whiskey Hill to Roberts Market; return through Portola Valley and the nature preserve.

Ride 4, Feb. 21: 60 miles, 700 feet climbing
Sunol
A new ride this season! I've offered this ride as a Cat-2 before, but it's new to the Cat-3 world this season. Across the Dumbarton Bridge, up Niles Canyon Road to Sunol, and then back mostly the way we came.

Ride 5, March 7: 70 miles, 2200 feet climbing
Coyote Valley
Same as last season. This very popular ride goes through Saratoga and Los Gatos and then traverses south San Jose before heading around Calero Reservoir and down the Bailey Avenue hill. Return along Santa Teresa Blvd. then back through Los Gatos and Saratoga. Wide variety of conditions and traffic.

Ride 6, March 21: 80 miles, 5700 feet climbing (ouch)
San Gregorio and Pescadero
Major change this season! Even with all this climbing, y'all seem to like this ride a lot, and many of you specifically asked for it to be repeated since its first running got rained out last season. I've added a new -- and perhaps dastardly -- twist this season: After reaching San Gregorio, we will head south along the coast on Hwy. 1 and go to Pescadero, returning up Stage Road back to San Gregorio before heading back up the long Hwy. 84 climb. (In return, we'll head back directly from Woodside and not do the Stanford Loop on the return.) Astute riders will notice that they can omit the Pescadero loop to cut several miles off this ride, making it doable for riders who aren't up to 80 miles at this point in the season.

Ride 7, April 4: 90 miles, 3700 feet climbing
San Francisco
Change this season. Last time around, we did this ride as a century, with the last 10 miles being a loop to Sunnyvale and back. I've ditched that do-nothing loop this year, and I've moved this ride up one position in the series. The ride is plenty challenging as it is. We go up Cañada and Skyline, then along the Great Highway to the Safeway-by-the-Sea. This ride is significant because we ride freeways at two points: I-280 near Skyline, and the Hwy. 35/Hwy. 1 interchange (just like on Day 1).

Ride 8: April 18: 100 miles, approx. 2000 feet climbing
Century loop around the South Bay
A new ride this season! This is the traditional South Bay loop on super-duper steroids, plumped up and ready for action. We throw in a bit of Peninsula action, then cross the Dumbarton Bridge and head out to Mission Blvd., where we climb to Mission San Jose. From there, we head down the east side of San Jose and pick up some of our routes from the past to return through Los Gatos and Saratoga. (Parts of the route are still under development, but there will probably be light-rail bailouts to cut the ride to 60 and 80 miles.)

Ride 9, May 2: 110 miles, 2900 feet climbing
Gilroy
Same as last season. The biggest challenge on this ride is the possibility of strong headwinds on the second half of the ride, making the flat terrain much more challenging. Last season, we were fortunate to have relatively light winds, but anything could happen. (Bailout option at 88 miles is available by taking the very slow VTA light rail -- not much faster than cycling.)

Ride 10, May 16: 125 miles, approx. 2600 feet climbing
Double metric
Possible change this season. OK, I'll admit it: I don't have this ride fully planned yet. The route will be mostly the same as last season, but I'm considering skipping Livermore and Altamont Pass and heading to Walnut Creek and Concord instead. This would offer many more BART bail-out points for those who need it. Again, winds are a possible major factor in this ride. I might also remove the Norris Canyon climb and replace it with the easier climb along Diablo Canyon Blvd. and Castro Valley Road. Last season, I changed the route of this ride just a few weeks before the ride date (after gauging the skill level of the riders who had been participating in the earlier rides), so there might be more surprises here. But no matter what, we'll be doing a double metric again! And the ride-out time will be earlier this season to provide maximum daylight for those (like me) who need it.

5,000 miles for 2008

With today's ride, I've now exceeded 5,000 miles for this year so far. How does this compare to recent years? I crossed the 5,000-mile mark on these dates:

November 16, 2008
December 16, 2007
August 20, 2006 (yipes!)
October 21, 2005
Didn't make it in 2004

Yes, I keep my statistics at this level of detail. For each ride, I log the distance, time, odometer, and any special conditions (rain, flats, new gear, etc.) Don't laugh, really; you might find such a training log very helpful ... and it might be fun to look at a few years from now.

Ride report: South Bay/Peninsula early-bird ride #4


Go, riders!

Maybe the weather was just too good today, or maybe everyone else was just too worn out from riding and/or demonstrating yesterday. Whatever the reason, only 12 of us showed up for today's ride, but we could not have asked for finer conditions -- more like June than November, with sunny skies and temperatures well into the 70s.

Today's relatively warm temperatures were a good reminder that we need to hydrate ourselves well while riding, especially when the temperatures are warmer and the humidity is lower. The training ride guidelines say that we should bring two water bottles or a backpack-type hydration device, and that's especially helpful on days like today. I'll admit that I didn't pay attention, and I brought only one water bottle. I didn't run out while riding, but when I got back to Mountain View, I sure wish I had that extra bottle of water handy. The price? My need for a drink cost me $2.50 at a restaurant over on Castro Street.

Also today, we hit the first serious hills of our training season. On the way back from the loop, after the rest stop, I'm sure you found those little hills to be quite an attention-getter. I'm sure you also noticed, as I mentioned before the ride, that they barely registered on the elevation chart at the top of the route sheet.

The charts I'm using this year have the same scale as the charts you'll get on each day of the ride, and this should help you prepare better for June. In fact, at right are the seven elevation charts from the route we used this June on ALC7. Click on them to see them at full size. The charts pretty much speak for themselves. The good news is that our training ride series all build up to rides similar to these individual days. The bad news is that, yes, every day has many little attention-grabbing hills; you can't avoid them in June. Even the flattest day, Day 2, has many small but steep climbs on the way out of Santa Cruz. You don't have to learn to love hills, but make an effort to at least cope with them. You never have to go fast up a hill, and in June you'll find many riders walking partway up some of the steepest hills. My strategy is to go up each hill at whatever pace I need to maintain a steady cadence all the way to the top without stopping. That often isn't very fast at all, but it's consistent ... and consistency will go a long way toward making your ride a happier one.

On safety, I saw and heard lots of good calling-out of conditions, obstacles, and vehicles today. Keep up the good work! This is especially important when we're on routes with cyclists of different abilities, such as going down the Bryant Street bike boulevard in Palo Alto (which we'll return to many times this season). Especially when small children are around, it's important to let them know early that you're coming ... and to be prepared in case they do something unexpected. Plus, when we follow the rules around children, it sets a great example that they're more likely to follow as they grow up.

What's next? Beginning in two weeks, on Nov. 30, we start riding every Sunday for four weeks in a row. And we add our first truly significant hill of the season: Mount Eden, coming out of Stevens Canyon. It's only about 0.7 mile long, but it's moderately steep, and the descent is somewhat tricky. It's very similar to some of the hills we'll see in June, so this is a good time to start learning what they're like. Our ride will take us back to Saratoga, this time with a few more hills than we did two weeks ago. We're increasing the distance to 33 miles, but we'll have two rest stops this time, so you'll have plenty of opportunity to rest. Details and RSVP are here.

And a quick fundraising tip: The end of the calendar year is approaching, so some of your donors might be looking for tax writeoffs they can claim for 2008. Remind them! This is likely to be a very challenging fundraising year for many of us (myself included), so every little bit helps. Don't be shy about stressing the importance of the work that's being done by the San Francisco AIDS Foundation, and don't hesitate to tell your potential donors personal stories about why you're riding.

Thanks for riding, and see you in two weeks.

South Bay/Peninsula early-bird ride #8: Loop around the South Bay (12/21/2008)



Meet time: 9:30 a.m.
Ride-out time: 10:00 a.m.
Meeting place: Three blocks west of the Mountain View Caltrain and VTA station, in the overflow parking lot at the corner of Evelyn Avenue and Franklin Street. (map)
City: Mountain View
Rain policy: Rain cancels
Category: 2 - medium pace (10-12 mph)
Terrain: 1 - mostly flat
Miles: 46

Description:
This is the last of our early-bird training rides. You've got a fantastic head-start on the season, and today we celebrate with our longest ride yet.

From Mountain View, we'll go to Menlo Park and take the Dumbarton Bridge into Newark and Fremont, with a return via Milpitas, San Jose, Santa Clara, and Sunnyvale. There's a little bit of everything on this ride, from quiet streets to busy highways, we've got two rest stops planned, and there's just one little hill to keep you honest. Total climbing for the whole day is only about 700 feet.

Riders from all over Northern California are invited! Southbound Caltrain from San Francisco arrives at 9:14 a.m.

Route sheet for this ride is here.

Be sure to check the Training section of the ALC website for information on how to prepare for a training ride and what you must and should bring.

Leaders:
Chris Thomas
Cindy Edelson
Dan England
David Gaus
Gilbert Gonzalez

RSVPs are requested but not required.

South Bay/Peninsula early-bird ride #7: Mountain View to Woodside (12/14/2008)


Meet time: 9:30 a.m.
Ride-out time: 10:00 a.m.
Meeting place: Three blocks west of the Mountain View Caltrain and VTA station, in the overflow parking lot at the corner of Evelyn Avenue and Franklin Street. (map)
City: Mountain View
Rain policy: Rain cancels
Category: 2 - medium pace (10-12 mph)
Terrain: 2 - rolling hills
Miles: 40

Description:
We add a few more hills this week, but nothing terribly steep or long. We'll start by climbing to Foothill College and taking the back way into part of the Stanford Loop. We'll break out of the loop early and head up Mountain Home toward Woodside, and then we'll take the very popular Cañada Road as far as Edgewood, where there's a thrilling descent back down to bay level. From there it's mostly easy as we go back through Menlo Park and Stanford. Total climbing on this ride is about 2,050 feet.

Riders from all over Northern California are invited! Southbound Caltrain from San Francisco arrives at 9:14 a.m.

Route sheet for this ride is here.

Be sure to check the Training section of the ALC website for information on how to prepare for a training ride and what you must and should bring.

Leaders:
Chris Thomas
David Gaus
Zack Kreiter
Maggie Vande Voorde

RSVPs are requested but not required.

Today's safety tip



Even though this is my fourth year in ALC, this is also my first year riding a fully "proper" road bike. As a result, I might make some of the very same silly novice-type mistakes that you do. And I caught a whopper today.

In recent rides, I had noticed that my braking wasn't as strong as it had been. Especially going down hills, I had to really squeeze the brake levers to keep myself at a speed I'm comfortable with. Well ...

Before today's ride, I went to inflate my rear tire and managed to snap off the valve cap, which gave me a flat. I decided to take the opportunity to install a new tire that I'd bought a couple of weeks ago. But when I went to remove the current tire, I noticed that the brake release lever was already in the "release" position! This meant that the rear brake pads were farther from the wheel than they were supposed to be, which of course was responsible for my diminished braking capacity. The top photo shows the release position; the bottom photo shows the correct position for riding.

Another thing to check before a ride. Speaking of that, this is a good time to point out the "ABC-Quick-Check" that you should do before every ride. You can find many versions of it all over the web; here's a version from the University of Louisville:
  1. A is for air

    • Inflate tires to rated pressure as listed on the sidewall of the tire.
    • Use a pressure gauge to insure proper pressure.
    • Check for damage to tire tread and sidewall; replace if damaged.

  2. B is for brakes

    • Inspect pads for wear; replace is there is less than ¼" of pad left.
    • Check pad adjustment; make sure they do not rub tire or dive into spokes.
    • Check brake level travel; at least 1" between bar and lever when applied.

  3. C is for cranks, chain and cassette

    • Make sure that your crank bolts are tight; lube the threads only, nothing else.
    • Check your chain for wear; 12 links should measure no more than 12 1/8 inches.
    • If your chain skips on your cassette, you might need a new one or just an adjustment.

  4. Quick is for quick releases

    • Hubs need to be tight in the frame; your quick release should engage at 90°.
    • Your hub quick release should point back to insure that nothing catches on it.
    • Inspect brake quick releases to insure that they have been re-engaged.

  5. Check is for check it over

    • Take a quick ride to check if derailleurs and brakes are working properly.
    • Inspect the bike for loose or broken parts; tighten, replace or fix them.
    • Pay extra attention to your bike during the first few miles of the ride.

Ride report: South Bay/Peninsula early-bird ride #3


Go, riders!

If you looked outside this morning and decided to stay home because you thought you'd get wet ... you were wrong. The 10 riders who took the chance and came to Mountain View were rewarded with mostly sunny skies, light winds, and a grand total (by my count, at least) of exactly six droplets of water that fell from the sky at about mile 24 of our 28-mile ride.

We were all very strong riders today, and you're all doing quite well for so early in the season. Our very gentle climbs gave us a chance to slow down a bit, and the very gentle descents were just enough to let many of us build up some decent speed. Longtime riders know this, but it bears repeating: The best thing you can do to conquer ALC is to find a pace at which you can essentially ride "forever," one that you can maintain day after day after day. This may not be the fastest pace you've ever done, but we're fond of saying that ALC is a ride, not a race. There's plenty to see and do between San Francisco and Los Angeles, so there's no point in wearing yourself out so that you can't enjoy any of it. (Conversely, of course, you should also plan to ride fast enough so that you do have enough time left over to stop and do all the diversions you want -- be they giant cinnamon buns, fried artichokes, or some discreet skinny-dipping.)

On a day like today, your bicycle probably accumulated quite a bit of gunk, not just on the frame, but in the other important parts as well: gearing, chain, and cables. If you haven't done so already, take five minutes to give your bike a quick water wipe-down. Your bike will thank you.

Another thing that happens often during training season happened to some of us today: the inevitable encounter with the "club rider." A racer got a little impatient with the speed of our group and whipped unsafely around us, nearly sending one of our riders off the road. As our rides get longer and travel to some of the more popular cycling destinations, such encounters are inevitable, but still thankfully somewhat infrequent. There's not much we can do about them, and there's usually little to be gained by trying to confront them. (Some of you may be more aggressive about this than I am; that's fine, too.) I find that the best way to spread our message of safe cycling is to be the example and let our actions speak loudest. Of course, if another ALCer does this, please call them out on it -- and tell a ride leader if there's not one around at the time. Remember that it only takes one rider in one town to lose one permit for us to ride, and the entire future of the ride could be in jeopardy. Don't let it happen!

What's next: On Sunday, Nov. 16, we'll do the Stanford Loop. This is a moderately hilly route that's extremely popular on weekends, so we'll have plenty of company. In the counterclockwise direction we'll be going, we'll tackle the gradual 3-mile climb up Alpine Road, followed by the glorious downhill into Portola Valley, with a couple of challenging little climbs before the final descent into Menlo Park. It's a nice 29-mile ride with about 1,250 feet of climbing. Details and RSVP are here.

Also be sure to check out the official ALC training ride calendar for a complete list of rides across the Bay Area. As the season goes on, it will be more important for you to ride consecutive days, so that's a good habit to start getting into.

See you in two weeks!

Today's ride is *on*

Good morning! The radar shows the last few showers moving out of the area, so it looks like we're in for a cloudy and cool day of riding, with temperatures in the lower 60s and light to moderate winds. So come join us!

What happens when rain is likely

The latest forecast has increased the chance of rain to 70% at ride-out time in Mountain View. But do not lose hope. I've seen far too many times where the weather has turned out downright clear and sunny despite a forecast of near-certain rain.

That said, here's generally how things work on a likely-rain ride morning:

-- About two hours before meeting time, I start checking the radar to see what's approaching. If a total washout is near-certain (i.e., the radar is an explosion of color), I may decide to cancel the ride then. Either way, I will post an update to this blog. If you have access to the net in the morning, please check first before calling me, because I'm probably busy getting ready for the ride myself!

-- If a ride is still possible, I continue to check the radar, especially over our entire ride route, since we usually travel across more than one of the Bay Area's many microclimates. As meeting time nears, I may still decide to cancel the ride. If so, I'll always post a notice to this blog.

-- Even if a ride is cancelled, I will always show up at the meeting point at the designated time. And I might not make the decision on whether to cancel until after I have arrived at the meeting point, depending on what the weather is doing.

-- If a ride is cancelled, some riders may choose to individually ride the designated route. These rides are strictly unofficial and are not sanctioned or controlled by ALC. You can use our route sheets, but you're probably on your own.

I know it's disappointing to travel to a meeting location only to have a ride cancelled. But safety is always our first priority, and especially this early in the season, it's best to err on the side of caution. There will be another day to ride.

Princesses: Never too early to book those rooms

Last year, I waited too long (until November) to book my two nights of motels along the route. The result was that I didn't get the motel I wanted in Paso Robles -- and I ended up in, shall we say, a less-than-satisfying lodging experience.

So today, I made my reservations for Paso Robles and Ventura. The good news is that rooms are still available at the Best Western in Paso Robles, the closest motel to the campground. In Ventura, I stayed at the Motel 6, a few minutes away from camp, and the experience was, well, Motel 6-ish, but by Day 6, Motel 6 seems like a palace of earthly delights.

Remember, of course, that ALC could possibly change camp locations (or even camp cities) for this year. But now that we're as big as we are, such major changes seem increasingly unlikely.

For first-time riders, the Princess Plan refers to spending one or more nights in motels along the route, instead of in our glorious campgrounds. There is a very unofficial website that tells more and gives detailed info for each 2008 host city.

South Bay/Peninsula early-bird ride #6: Mountain View to Newark (12/7/2008)



Meet time: 9:30 a.m.
Ride-out time: 10:00 a.m.
Meeting place: Three blocks west of the Mountain View Caltrain and VTA station, in the overflow parking lot at the corner of Evelyn Avenue and Franklin Street. (map)
City: Mountain View
Rain policy: Rain cancels
Category: 2 - medium pace (10-12 mph)
Terrain: 1 - mostly flat
Miles: 35

Description:
This week, we take a break from the hills and head for the Dumbarton Bridge. Depending on the weather, the ride through the Don Edwards San Francisco Bay National Wildlife Refuge can be scenic and pleasant ... or windy and cold. We won't know until the morning of the ride! We'll take a rest stop in Newark before turning around and retracing our route back through Menlo Park and Palo Alto. Total climbing on this ride is only about 610 feet, and a lot of that is on the bridge.

Riders from all over Northern California are invited! Southbound Caltrain from San Francisco arrives at 9:14 a.m.

Route sheet for this ride is here.

Be sure to check the Training section of the ALC website for information on how to prepare for a training ride and what you must and should bring.

Leaders:
Chris Thomas
Dan England
Susan Fish
Zack Kreiter
Maggie Vande Voorde

RSVPs are requested but not required.

South Bay/Peninsula early-bird ride #5: Mountain View to Saratoga, the not-so-gentle way (11/30/2008)



Meet time: 9:30 a.m.
Ride-out time: 10:00 a.m.
Meeting place: Three blocks west of the Mountain View Caltrain and VTA station, in the overflow parking lot at the corner of Evelyn Avenue and Franklin Street. (map)
City: Mountain View
Rain policy: Rain cancels
Category: 2 - medium pace (10-12 mph)
Terrain: 2 - rolling hills
Miles: 33

Description:
We did the gentle route to Saratoga a few weeks ago, so today it's time to take a somewhat less-gentle (but much more scenic) route. We'll take Foothill Expressway through Cupertino and into Stevens Canyon, where we'll do our big hill of the day, the 0.7-mile climb up the legendary Mount Eden. (It's OK to take a break partway up, or even to walk part of the way.) After enjoying about 3 miles of descents, we'll take our first rest stop, and then we'll climb again, but this time much more gradually as we head up Quito Road toward Highway 9. After taking a second rest stop (what a deal!), it's almost entirely downhill or flat the rest of the way back to Mountain View. Total climbing on this ride is about 1,630 feet.

Riders from all over Northern California are invited! Southbound Caltrain from San Francisco arrives at 9:14 a.m.

Route sheet for this ride is here.

Be sure to check the Training section of the ALC website for information on how to prepare for a training ride and what you must and should bring.

Leaders:
Chris Thomas
Dan England
Lynn McComas
Rich Prendes
Maggie Vande Voorde
TJ Zmucki

RSVPs are requested but not required.

Ride report: South Bay/Peninsula early-bird ride #2


Go, riders!

Chilly fog giving way to beautiful sunshine and near-perfect cycling temperatues ... who could ask for a better preview of life in June, and who could ask for a better day of riding today? On today's ride to Menlo Park and back, our group of 18 riders tackled a few hills (some might say MORE than a few hills), and everybody made it back to Mountain View in great form.

The type of terrain you saw today is a good approximation of much of what you'll see during the ride in June. Sure, we have a few bigger hills during the big ride, but much of the week consists of gently rolling terrain, with an occasional gear-shifter thrown in just to keep you on your toes. If you can handle today's ride -- and you did! -- then you're in great shape for building strength and endurance in plenty of time for ride-out on May 31.

These early rides serve two important purposes. First, of course, is building your cycling skills. Second, and just as important, is learning the rules of AIDS/LifeCycle riding. Especially for those of us who already have some cycling experience, adjusting to the rules of ALC can be difficult at first, and perhaps even a little bit frustrating at times. But it's important -- and, of course, mandatory -- that we ride according to ALC rules. This isn't just for your own safety, either. A key part of our training program is learning how to ride safely as a group, so that all of us get to Los Angeles safely. That means a common set of easily-understood rules, so that riders of all abilities know what to expect of one another.

Here are a couple of safety-related things that your marvelous ride leaders saw today. (And, by the way, remember that all of the ride leaders you saw today are volunteers who freely give hours and hours and hours of their time to help ALC be as safe as possible.)

-- What happens when you reach a signal-controlled intersection where the signal is red and there is a right-turn lane but no bike lane? You should stop in the rightmost through-traffic lane, not the turn lane, and you should stop behind -- not alongside -- the vehicles already waiting in that lane. Why? If you stop in the turn lane or even next to it, then vehicles won't be able to turn. And if you try to pass stopped vehicles closely on the right, you risk all sorts of bad things -- and those same vehicles will just have to pass you again as soon as the signal turns green.

-- What happens when you're in a bike lane and there's a group of slower riders in front of you? (Believe me, this happens often in June.) Well, if the other riders are ALC riders, they should be riding single-file, thus giving you an opportunity to pass when it's safe to do so. But what if they're not, and what if they're holding you up? Only pass them when it's absolutely safe to do so. Look behind you to make sure there's no approaching traffic. Look ahead to make sure there's no traffic about to turn in front of you. Then call and signal your intentions, pass, and get back into the bike lane as quickly as possible. If there's no safe place to pass, then chill out for a while and wait for a good spot to happen -- or until the other riders go some other direction. We had a nasty crash on the first day of ALC7 this year when a cyclist veered into traffic on Highway 1 while trying to pass another rider. Don't let that happen to you! As Zack said during the safety speech, it's a ride, not a race.

Another key part of a training ride is making sure that you're prepared for things that might happen during the ride. This means that you should carry a rather extensive (yet compact) set of items with you on every training ride. Some of these items are mandatory for ALC training rides: bike pump, spare tube and/or patch kit, tire irons, at least one full water bottle, photo ID, and emergency contact info. There are many other useful items you should consider bringing; for a full list and explanation, check the first page of the ALC training calendar.

Many of you asked about what's ahead in training rides this season. The schedules are still being assembled, but here's some general info that you might find useful. These South Bay/Peninsula early-bird rides will continue every other Sunday through November, and then every Sunday until December 21, when we'll end with a 45-mile mostly flat loop around the South Bay. Then, beginning in January, you'll have many options:
-- A series of weekly Cat-2 (10-12 mph) rides will run on Sundays. Similar rides will be offered from starting points in Sunnyvale, San Francisco, and the East Bay. These rides will build in distance and terrain until mid-May up to about 100 miles.
-- Several Cat-1 (8-10 mph) rides will run as well, but I don't have much information on cities or dates yet. There will definitely be some Cat-1 rides in San Francisco, and they're likely in other locations as well.
-- I'll be leading a set of 10 Cat-3 (12-15 mph) rides every other Saturday until mid-May from our same starting point in Mountain View. These rides will start at 40 miles and end with a 125-mile ride. (These rides are meant to be done in conjunction with other training rides and/or your own training, since it's important that you train far more often than once every other week.)
-- Plus, ride leaders will be scheduling all sorts of other random rides, mostly on weekends but also on weekdays as well. All paces and terrains will be represented.
Watch the ALC training calendar for announcements of upcoming rides.

What's next? Next Saturday is the ALC kickoff ride in San Francisco. It's actually three rides in one -- a clinic for novices, a 22-mile intermediate ride, and a 38-mile advanced ride. Both the 22-mile and 38-mile rides go across the Golden Gate Bridge into Sausalito and beyond ... which, of course, means that the return route involves climbing back up out of Sausalito! It's also a great way to meet other cyclists and learn more about the event. Check out all the details and RSVP here.

Our next Mountain View ride will be in two weeks, on November 2. We'll take one of the easiest routes to Saratoga on a 28-mile ride that's a little bit longer than today's ride but actually has a little bit less climbing. (Did I just hear applause?) The only tricky part is that most of the climbing is concentrated in about the first half of the ride -- but that means that the second half of the ride will be a breeze, with nearly all of it downhill or flat. For more info and to RSVP, go here.

Thanks to each and every one of you for helping make a difference. We're in for an amazing training season, and I look forward to sharing our experiences over the next few months, right up until we all ride out of the Cow Palace on May 31. I hope to see you on Saturday, November 2, at 9:30 a.m. in Mountain View.