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

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5,000 miles for 2009

With today's 35-mile World AIDS Day ride in the East Bay, I've crossed the magic 5,000-mile mark for this year. How does this compare to previous years? I hit 5,000 miles on these dates:

2009: November 29
2008: November 16
2007: December 16
2006: August 20
2005: October 21

My springtime maladies cost me a bunch of valuable training time during what should have been my highest-mileage period of the year. And, admittedly, there's the elusive "fun factor" -- the challenge of keeping cycling fun even though I've done nearly all of the popular nearby and convenient routes (at least the ones that are consistent with my skill level) so many times that the bicycle knows the way by itself.

That's one of the reasons why I traveled to Orinda for today's ride, and (more importantly for you) that's one of the reasons why the upcoming Cat-3 Distance Training rides won't be the same old routes from the previous two seasons. I'm still considering the possibilities, but there are definitely some interesting rides in store for us in 2010 as we get ready for ALC9.

Distance Training #2.5: Los Gatos (1/30/2010)


Rescheduled from Jan. 23
Date: Saturday, January 30
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: Heavy rain cancels
Category: 3 - moderate-fast pace (12-15 mph)
Terrain: 2 - rolling hills
Miles: 45

Description:
Even if you missed the first Cat-3 Distance Training ride in early January, it's not too late to join us.

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'll start by taking the gentle route to Saratoga (no Mount Eden) and then heading to Los Gatos. After that, we'll climb Kennedy Road east of Los Gatos in the easier direction, taking us briefly into San Jose, and then we'll return to Los Gatos along Blossom Hill Road into Monte Sereno. From there it's mostly downhill back through Saratoga, Cupertino, and Sunnyvale. Total climbing for this ride is about 1,900 feet.

Riders from all over Northern California are invited! Southbound Caltrain from San Francisco arrives at 9:29 a.m.

Leaders: Chris Thomas, Tim Huang, Kathy Sherman, Paul Vargas

RSVPs are requested but not required.

Distance Training #1: Woodside (1/9/2010)


Date: Saturday, January 9
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: Heavy rain cancels
Category: 3 - moderate-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 heads up Foothill Expressway past Stanford to Portola Valley. We'll take the back way into Woodside and then play around in the rolling hills there for a bit before heading down Sand Hill Road and back through downtown Palo Alto on the bicycle boulevard. Total climbing for this ride is about 1,700 feet.

Riders from all over Northern California are invited! Southbound Caltrain from San Francisco arrives at 9:29 a.m.

Leaders: Chris Thomas, Al Esquivel, Randy Files, Ellen Goldstein, Kevin Hunter, Mayor Bob, Bob Katz, Ally Kemmer, Larry L'Italien, Paul Rammer

RSVPs are requested but not required.

Corrections and clarifications

The Cat-3 Distance Training rides will begin Saturday, Jan. 9, not the 16th as I mentioned earlier. Sorry about that!

Ride report: Portola Valley (11/21/2009)


Go, riders!

Sure, it was probably in the upper 30s when you woke up early this morning. But when the sun came out, things warmed up in a hurry. And even though the official temperature at the end of our ride was only 54 degrees, it certainly felt a whole lot warmer. The 20 intrepid riders on today's 29-mile training ride were treated to some fantastic late-autumn weather, and speeds were way up.

In fact, everyone on today's ride was riding at a Cat-3 pace (12-15 mph) or greater! And today's climbing was no slouch, either: On a mile-for-mile basis, there was about as much climbing today as you'll find on several days of the ride in June. And also just like June, some of that climbing was long and gradual, and some of it was short but attention-getting.

Everyone has their own style for dealing with each type of climbing, but the best advice I ever got for climbing -- and cycling in general -- comes from longtime ALCer Doreen Gonzales (ALC9 will be her 17th AIDS ride!), who said at the beginning of ALC6 that you always should ride in your "happy gear." What's your happy gear? For me, that's the point where I'm not overexerting myself, nor am I madly pedaling and bouncing my hips up and down. In technical terms, that usually translates for me to a cadence of about 80-90 rpm, even when climbing, but you can skip the technical part and just focus on when your body is telling you that it's happy.

Another way that today was similar to June was in how quickly the temperature warmed up. Even in June, it's not unusual for us to begin our ride in temperatures below 50 degrees. What's different in June, however, is that on some days the temperature can get very hot, easily exceeding 90 degrees. That's why it's important to dress in layers, so you can remove, add, and remove clothing as conditions dictate throughout a long day in the saddle. For me, that usually includes leg warmers and arm warmers (although I wore a long-sleeve jersey today since I knew it wouldn't get all that warm) plus a light windbreaker that I can fold up tightly.

When to wear leg warmers? The experts disagree. Some say in temperatures up to 60 degrees; others say up to 70 degrees. Again, it's mainly a matter of personal preference and need; in my case, I had knee trouble a few seasons ago, so I usually want to keep them warm. I have two sets of leg warmers: one thicker (which I used today) and one lighter.

And here's some practical advice: Wear sunscreen. No, really. Even in winter. And reapply it often! As I write this, I'm nursing the tender early stages of a slight sunburn on my face and ears. Even though I put on sunscreen before we rode out, it was beginning to wear off by the end of the ride, and I didn't reapply any during the ride. Wrong! Especially if you're fair-skinned like me, sunburn can happen at any time of the year, particularly on the longer rides that we'll be doing in the weeks to come.

A quick shopping tip: There's an ALC9 info meeting at Sports Basement in Sunnyvale on Tuesday, Dec. 1, which also happens to be World AIDS Day. They'll be showing the standard ALC video and signing up new folks, but here's the big draw for those of us already signed up: The increasingly rare 20% discount on everything in the store will be in effect that night. (That's more than the usual 15% ALC discount.) You can RSVP for the event here.

What's next for us? I'm taking the holiday weekend off, but I'll be back two weeks from today with a 33-mile ride to Saratoga and just a little bit beyond. We'll go through the extremely scenic (but possibly chilly) Stevens Canyon and tackle the significant 0.7-mile climb up Mount Eden. We'll have a rest stop in Saratoga and then head part of the way to Los Gatos before heading back. Details and RSVP are here.

Looking ahead to January, the Cat-3 Distance Training rides begin on January 16 January 9. This is a set of 10 rides, to be held every other Saturday, that start at about 40 miles and slowly build to a finale of 200 kilometers (125 miles) in a single day in mid-May. Everybody who was on today's ride easily qualifies for these rides, which will run at a typical pace of 12-15 mph. These rides will start showing up in the official ALC calendar in the next few weeks ... save the dates.

Also beginning in January are the Sunnyvale Cat-2 rides, facilitated by Randy Files and his group of leaders (many of whom you'll recognize from the Mountain View rides). These rides will take place every Sunday for about 18 weeks beginning in January and will slowly increase from about 25 miles to 100 miles. More details on these rides soon as well.

Have a happy holiday week, and thank you for being part of AIDS/LifeCycle.

Keeping an eye on the weather

Looks like we're expecting rain Friday and Friday night, but the current forecasts say Saturday should be OK. (Hmmmm, isn't that what they said last week as well?)

Based on the forecast, I'm still going ahead with plans for Saturday's ride to Portola Valley. And since this one is "heavy rain cancels," it'll take more than just a couple of light sprinkles to cancel the ride. Come on and join us!

Ride report: ALC9 South Bay/Peninsula kickoff ride (11/14/2009)


Go, riders!

Welcome to the AIDS/LifeCycle 9 training season in the South Bay and on the Peninsula. This ride report goes out shortly after every ride that I facilitate between now and June. If I have a good email address for you, it'll show up in your inbox. If I don't (if, for instance, I can't read the sign-in sheet), all of the reports are posted here as well ... with photo enhancement.

We certainly started things off in grand style this morning with 33 intrepid riders who braved a very unexpected -- but mercifully brief -- heavy rain shower on our 22-mile ride from Mountain View to Cupertino. Along the way, we learned a surprising number of things about getting ready to ride in ALC.

In most cases, the ride in June goes on rain or shine. (The ride this past June was a notable exception, when conditions simply were too hazardous to safely continue. But that's a story for another time.) And since much of our ride is along the coast, drizzle or light rain really can happen at just about any time of the year. Day 1 of the ride is notorious for thick fog that sometimes turns into drizzle as we head south out of San Francisco. Even if you don't like riding in the rain, chances are that it will happen to you sometime, so it's always helpful to get some rain-riding experience before you have to do it with 2,500 other riders around you.

What's different about riding in the rain? Mostly, it's just common sense. Slow down. Allow extra braking distance. Turn cautiously. Leave extra space behind the rider in front of you. Use your lights if you have them. Be on the lookout for car drivers who might not see you.

Flat tires happen more frequently in the rain ... as many of us (including myself) discovered today. That's because the wet surface allows all of the nasty little bits of road detritus to stick to your tires and wedge themselves in toward your tube. You can reduce your chances of going flat in two ways: Slightly reduce the pressure in your tubes (by no more than 10 psi), and stop often to wipe the junk off your tires by spinning them and using part of your gloved hand to clean them.

Our training rides give you a chance to practice many of the skills you'll need on the ride on June. But there are a few additional skills that you need to make the most of training rides. One of these is learning how to read route sheets. Even though you'll get a route sheet for each day of the ride in June, the route is physically marked very well and packed with roadies to direct you. During training season, however, the routes are not marked with arrows or other indicators, and you need to study your route sheet so that you can avoid making a wrong turn.

Another thing that you'll find on route sheets for rides that I lead is an elevation chart for that day's ride. You'll notice that today's elevation chart had a scale of 110 miles distance and 2,000 feet of elevation, even though we did nothing close to that today. That's because this is the scale that you'll find on each route sheet during the ride in June, and this gives you good practice at gauging the relative difficulty of a ride.

Many short but significant hills barely register on an elevation chart of this scale ... such as today's short climb up McClellan Road in Cupertino. Here's a magnified view of part of the elevation chart. See the bit circled in red? That's the hill on McClellan! At actual size, you probably didn't even notice the little bump in the elevation line.

The ride in June typically has about 20,000 feet of climbing spread out over seven days. While there are some long climbs almost every day, there are countless little hills like this one that aren't very long but certainly can be attention-getting, especially after you've been on your bike for days. If (like me) hills aren't your favorite thing, just take them at whatever speed is comfortable for you -- and don't be afraid to walk part or all of one if needed.

Before today's ride, I talked at great length about the importance of safety and following the AIDS/LifeCycle code of conduct. By and large, your ride leaders were quite pleased with what we saw today. A couple of notes from the road, however. First, when someone calls out "on your left" and is starting to pass you, try to move over as far to the right as safely possible to give the other rider room to pass. This is very important in June because chances are that you will pass or be passed dozens of times each day. Second, although the ALC safety rules don't specifically say anything about prohibiting photography while riding, that's something you probably shouldn't do in most cases, especially in hazardous conditions like this morning's rain.

And I'll close for today with a few words about that rain. My apologies to each of you; I honestly didn't expect that we'd get rained on, especially to the extent that we did. But this gives me an opportunity to talk about our rain-cancellation policy. Most training rides are marked either "rain cancels" or "heavy rain cancels." Generally, light drizzle doesn't count as rain. Depending on when you rode through Cupertino this morning, the rain you experienced was somewhere on the dividing line between "moderate" and "heavy." When there's a chance of rain, the ride facilitator tries to make a good call as early as possible so that you'll know whether the ride is on or off. The decision is based not just on the forecast but also on where we'll be riding on any given day; for example, twisty, narrow mountain roads are more dangerous in the rain than are quiet residential streets.

If rain happens during a ride, the ride leaders confer to decide how best to proceed. After talking with most of you today, we decided that with only 9 miles left and improving skies, we'd continue with the rest of the ride. And sure enough, it was sunny by the time we got back to Mountain View. Sometimes, however, ride leaders might take riders back to the meeting point via a shorter route that isn't part of the designated route. When rain breaks out on a training ride, it's often best to wait at the next rest stop until a ride leader shows up. (Of course, if the conditions are too dangerous and no rest stop is nearby, stop at the next safe place and wait for the weather to clear.)

On a ride morning when weather is an issue, I'll always post updates on my training blog and my Facebook page; please check there before calling me. If we do cancel a ride, a ride leader will always be at the meeting location at the designated time, usually with route sheets for anyone who still wishes to ride unofficially. Such rides are by individuals, however, and are neither organized nor sanctioned by ALC. (End of legal stuff.)

What's next? I've got three more Mountain View rides coming up before the end of the year. Next Saturday, we'll be riding 29 miles to Portola Valley around the Stanford loop. This is one of the most popular cycling routes in the nation, and we'll have plenty of company as we tackle the rolling hills. All of my rides meet at the same place as today's ride, and you can find out more and RSVP here. Other rides from Mountain View will be on Dec. 5 and Dec. 12, slowly increasing to 41 miles.

We have a fun and challenging training season ahead of us, I look forward to riding with you, and I thank you for making the commitment to be part of AIDS/LifeCycle.

Moffett Blvd. in Mountain View

If you've been in Mountain View lately, you might know that there's a repaving project in progress on Moffett Blvd. near downtown -- which just happens to be part of our scheduled route for this Saturday's kickoff ride.

Not to fear, I think; all of the signs indicate that paving should be done by Friday. If it's not, we'll just take a slightly different route for the last mile of our ride, and I'll have a route sheet that reflects that if needed.

Update, Friday afternoon: The street was paved today! It's nice and smooooooth now.

Loop around the South Bay (12/13/2009)


Date: Sunday, Dec. 13 rescheduled
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: Heavy rain cancels
Category: 2 - medium pace (10-12 mph)
Terrain: 1 - mostly flat
Miles: 41

Description:
Today's ride takes us across the Dumbarton Bridge and into Alameda County for a scenic, flat loop around the South Bay. And thanks to new streets and an old bike path that I recently rediscovered, the loop is now shorter than ever before!

From our starting point in downtown Mountain View, we'll ride along the bayshore and up University Avenue to the bridge -- which, incidentally, is our biggest hill of the day. (Never bicycled across the Dumbarton before? Most folks say it's not nearly as stressful as the Golden Gate.) After a short break in Newark, we'll head south along the other side of the bayshore, through Fremont and across marshlands, on our way to our second stop of the day in Milpitas. Next, we'll get on the Coyote Creek Trail and then follow an old bike path (just a couple of very small breaks in the pavement) for about half a mile along Highway 237. After that, we'll pass across the northern edge of San Jose and Santa Clara on our way to Baylands Park in Sunnyvale. We finish the day by riding along the edge of Moffett Field back into Mountain View.

Riders from all over Northern California are invited! Southbound Caltrain from San Francisco arrives at 9:29 a.m. Note that if you arrive via train or light rail, you'll need to walk three blocks northwest from the station, across Castro Street, to the corner of Evelyn and Franklin. The meeting place is not at the station itself.

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, Michael Casas, Al Esquivel, Kevin Hunter, Ally Kemmer, Linda Kemmer, Kathy Sherman, Margaret Vande Voorde, Paul Vargas (Not all leaders will be present for the rescheduled date)

RSVPs are requested but not required.

Paving throughout unincorporated San Mateo County

Caution is advised through the end of December: The county is resurfacing many random streets and roads. The busy part of Alameda de las Pulgas from Sand Hill to Santa Cruz was being repaved yesterday, and work appears set to begin on lower Alpine Road. Work is also under way on part of Portola Road.

I tried to find a list of affected streets at the county's website, but I came up short. All I found was a contractors' project description, which didn't list any specific streets. The orange signs at the work sites indicate that the resurfacing program will continue through December 31. If you hit a street at the wrong time, you're likely to find pre-ground pavement that's very unpleasant for cyclists.

Charge cyclists a toll on the Golden Gate?

So there's again talk of possibly charging a toll for cyclists and pedestrians to cross the Golden Gate Bridge. Logistical nightmares aside, there's some interesting math running around the intertubes today. The original credit on this goes to John Holtzclaw of the Sierra Club.
The damage to roadways from motor vehicle traffic in the standard formula used by engineers is the speed x (axle loading) to the 4th power.

Speed on GG Bridge:
bicycle -- 10 mph
SUV -- 50 mph
ratio SUV/bicycle = 5

Axle loading:
170 lb person on 30 lb bike -- 200 lb
SUV -- 4000 lb
ratio SUV/bicycle = 20
20 to 4th power = 160000

So SUV damage = 5 x 160000 = 800,000

To be fair, bicycles should be charged the same rate as cars for the damage they cause. Charging bicycles 1 cent = $0.01 is equal to charging SUVs $8,000. If bicycles were charged 1 cent for every 10 bridge crossings, SUVs would be charged $800 per crossing. While there isn't an equivalent formula estimating pedestrian damage, if it is conservatively assumed to be 10 times that of bicyclists, a 1 cent charge to pedestrians is equal to charging SUVs $800.

Ref: Johnsson, R, THE COST OF RELYING ON THE WRONG POWER: ROAD WEAR AND THE IMPORTANCE OF THE FOURTH POWER RULE, Transport Policy, Volume: 11 Issue: 4 ; 10/00/2004

Ride report: Giro d'Vino (11/1/2009)


The headline of the day is that I completed a metric century in my fastest rolling time ever: six minutes faster than my previous best, which was set in Fresno in September 2005. Today's route was similarly almost-flat, although a couple of surprisingly "big" hills (which in reality weren't big at all) in the middle of the ride caught me off guard.

Starting in Lodi, it's a given that any ride will begin flat, flat, flat. And that's what today was, as we rolled out of the Woodbridge winery just a few minutes before the official start time of 8:30 a.m. (Many riders had left earlier, as I saw throughout the first part of the ride as I passed them.) A couple of 20mph-plus pacelines came by early, and I managed to hang on to one of them for something less than half a mile before deciding that doing so was just plain silly.

DSSF president David Gaus rode with me for the first few miles but then went off ahead on his own; he finished even faster than I did, although I finished first because I took less time at rest stops and even skipped some entirely. (More about that anon.)

The nominal raison d'etre for the ride was to taste (and, hopefully, buy) a wide variety of wines from the Lodi region. The organizers had even arranged to ship riders' purchases to the finish line. As a result, the route was a convoluted zigzag whose main purpose was apparently to pass by as many wineries as possible. In fact, the official route sheet showed a whopping 61 turns on the route. Most were marked well (although David managed to miss a turn somewhere), but there was hardly any opportunity to get into a groove for any extended period of time. There were five designated "tasting stops" in addition to the two rest stops and one lunch stop. (And if you care, no, I did not partake of any tasting.)

The rest stops were, in a word, odd. The first "tasting stop" at mile 2.7 had its entrance blocked and a sign out front saying that the winery was "closed for the day." When I reached the first official rest stop at mile 21 at the Michael-David winery, there was nothing set up outside. I took a quick look inside and didn't see anything other than typical winery stuff and lots of tourist snacks available for purchase. I didn't feel like buying anything, so I quickly left and resumed riding. (I was told later that there were indeed a few freebies such as half-bananas, but I didn't see any signage or people directing me to them.)

Lunch at Vino con Brio, on the other hand, was very well organized and very pleasant. The winery staff was making every effort to make us feel welcome, and they even had a duo playing live music in the courtyard. I almost wanted to buy a bottle just to thank them.

The route sheet said there were about 16 miles from lunch to the next rest stop -- the only real rest stop in the second 30 miles of the ride. Actually, here's what it said:

At Go and Cycle on For
44.1 R Hwy 12/88 0.7
44.9 L Mackville Rd 1.2
46.1 Rest stop - Chocoholics 0
46.1 R Jahant Rd (at "Y" merge to left) 0.6
So I interpreted that as "turn right on Hwy. 12/88, go 0.7 mile, then turn left on Mackville, go 1.2 miles, and at the 'Y' with Jahant, there will be a rest stop."

Wrong. I made the left onto Mackville Road, but as soon as I did, I saw something looking very much like a very small rest stop (a couple of tables) on the right side of the road. I immediately concluded that this was a "bonus" rest stop and decided I didn't need it because the real rest stop would be just another mile up the road. Nope; that was the real rest stop, and when I reached the "Y," I realized that I'd blown by my last chance for food, water, and portapotty.

That wasn't the only route sheet fart of the day; there was this little sequence, too:

56.6 R Woodbridge Rd 0.3
56.6 R Buck Rd 0.5
Perhaps I'm just becoming too picky about my route sheets! The result was that my ride ended up being 63.1 miles, not the 60.1 that was advertised on the route sheet. (Bikely said 61.7 miles.)

But since I missed the last rest stop, I had to make a brief unscheduled stop in the middle of nowhere to eat my emergency Clif bar, and I used the last of the Gatorade I'd taken at lunch. My speed also slowed a bit; my first 20 miles were in excess of 17 mph, but the rest of the ride was not quite as aggressive. Some of that was due to the poor condition of some of the roads we were on -- the chip-seal was old and had lots of ruts and sudden holes that were difficult or impossible to see. That's just the way things are in much of the Central Valley. But when we were on good roads with nice asphalt, my speed picked back up.

I rolled in to the end at Woodbridge in just a little under 4:30 of elapsed time and 3:55 of riding time, which makes me happy. After collecting my complementary winery glass (I got another glass from them last time I did a ride from there -- the Delta Century in spring 2005) and sampling the mediocre post-ride meal of pasta, salad, and bread (I declined the chicken) that's a staple of so many organized rides, I quickly changed out of my riding gear and made the 90-minute drive home.

That's my fill of Central Valley riding for a while; besides, today's near-perfect weather (temperature near 70 and very light winds) will be but a memory in that part of the state in just a few weeks when the fog settles in for the winter.