Upcoming rides I'm leading:
Saturday, November 19: Three Sisters and Wetlands Park, 36 miles

Show blog entries about: Upcoming rides | Ride reports | My own training

Quadrophenia #2: The Other Quarry (1/18/2014)

Date: Saturday, January 18
Meet time: 9:30 a.m.
Ride-out time: 10:00 a.m.
Meeting place: Parking lot at Villa and Franklin streets, Mountain View (across from the Tied House) (map)
City: Mountain View
Rain policy: Heavy rain cancels
Category: 2 - moderate pace (10-12 mph)
Terrain: 3 - rolling hills with some steep climbs
Miles: 31

Description:

Down 'round these parts, when we say we're riding "to the quarry," we usually mean that converted hole in Los Altos Hills. But not today! We're traveling to Saratoga, where Quarry Road provides an alternate -- and challenging -- way to the top of Mount Eden.

Before we get there, though, we've got a few challenges on the way. First is Quinnhill Road in Los Altos Hills. It's only 0.1 mile, but it's a visually imposing doozy, and it's perfectly OK if you want to walk it (takes just a minute) and save yourself for later in the day. Next is the Parker Ranch area of Cupertino, where we'll climb to the top of Star Ridge to reward ourselves with stunning views of the valley and a glorious descent. After a brief rest stop, we'll then visit Sarahills Drive, a favorite from our Prelude rides last autumn.

Then, after all that, we're ready for Quarry Road. Part of it was closed to motorized traffic years ago, so we'll dismount and walk around the barricades that deposit us into a hilly area of modern luxury homes, where we do all the climbing of Mount Eden in only about a quarter-mile. Our return to Mountain View is directly through Stevens Canyon and onto Foothill Expressway with, thankfully, no hilly surprises or detours.

Ride With GPS reports about 2,250 feet of climbing; most GPS devices will report a little bit less.

This ride is Caltrain- and VTA-friendly. The first southbound train of the day leaves SF at 8:15 and arrives in Mountain View at 9:29. We're about four blocks from the station.

These rides are for experienced cyclists who know how to safely handle their bikes on climbs and descents. Please RSVP even if you're not sure you're attending. We use the RSVPs to plan support (including free bagels!), and if the weather might cause problems, it's important that we be able to reach you. Also, join our Facebook group to get additional updates and scintillating conversation.


Click here to RSVP
RSVPs are requested but not required.

Quadrophenia #1: Westridge (1/4/2014)

Date: Saturday, January 4
Meet time: 9:30 a.m.
Ride-out time: 10:00 a.m.
Meeting place: Parking lot at Villa and Franklin streets, Mountain View (across from the Tied House) (map)
City: Mountain View
Rain policy: Heavy rain cancels
Category: 2 - moderate pace (10-12 mph)
Terrain: 3 - rolling hills with some steep climbs
Miles: 27

Description:

Welcome to ALC 2014 Quadrophenia! Our goal is to help you eat Quadbuster for breakfast this June, so our first ride takes us to a very Quadbuster-like hill in our own back yard: Westridge Drive in Portola Valley. (Actually, it's a little bit shorter than Quadbuster, but it's a little bit steeper, so it all evens out.)

The reward for climbing Westridge is a scenic, low-traffic short cut between Alpine and Portola roads. We'll take a brief rest stop in Portola Valley and then head back through the Arastradero Nature Preserve and into Los Altos Hills for one more climb: La Cresta Drive, less than a mile long but a stairstep climb of alternating steep and flat sections. We give back almost all of the elevation gain in a very steep descent of only 0.2 mile, and then it's an easy ride back to downtown Mountain View.

Ride With GPS reports about 1,900 feet of climbing; most GPS devices will report a little bit less.

This ride is Caltrain- and VTA-friendly. The first southbound train of the day leaves SF at 8:15 and arrives in Mountain View at 9:29. We're about four blocks from the station.

These rides are for experienced cyclists who know how to safely handle their bikes on climbs and descents. Please RSVP even if you're not sure you're attending. We use the RSVPs to plan support (including free bagels!), and if the weather might cause problems, it's important that we be able to reach you. Also, join our Facebook group to get additional updates and scintillating conversation.


Click here to RSVP
RSVPs are requested but not required.

Quadrophenia 2014: The rides

Are you ready to climb? Are you an experienced cyclist looking for new challenges to train for ALC 2014? Are you tired of the same old routes? Do you want to eat Quadbuster for breakfast this June? If so, then Quadrophenia is for you!

This season's ALC training rides out of Mountain View are new. Rather than focusing on distance as we've done in previous seasons, we're going to head for some of the steepest climbs on the Peninsula and in the South Bay. My experience has been that training on really steep climbs makes the steep-but-not-as-steep climbs of AIDS/LifeCycle considerably easier. Also, this helps you be ready when the ALC route throws us a surprise with an unexpected steep climb, as happened last year in Santa Cruz and happened a few years ago near Oceano. And if you're a stronger rider who doesn't think there's much to offer in the ALC training rides, then you're especially encouraged to give us a try; these rides will help you get experience in riding according to the ALC rules, which is important for all riders in June, and help you become part of the ALC community.

All of these rides will be officially an ALC Cat-2 pace, which means an average speed of 10-12 mph over an entire route. This should help remove any pressure to climb or descend too fast, and should allow you to focus on your climbing endurance and technique. Also, all of these rides have a 9:30 a.m. meet time, which should help us miss the worst of the winter morning chill ... and which also means that all of these rides will be Caltrain-friendly.

Although there is a "star attraction" to each of these rides, most of them also contain other short but steep climbs. These are not one-hill rides!

We meet every other Saturday starting January 4. Here is the schedule; total climbing is estimated by Ride WIth GPS and is probably a bit higher than what most GPS devices will actually record:

January 4: Westridge, 27 miles: We start with a trip to the traditional Portola Valley loop, but with a twist. Westridge Drive is a 3-mile short cut from Alpine Road to Portola Road and begins with a climb that's similar in difficulty to Quadbuster. On the way back to Mountain View, we'll also climb La Cresta Drive. 1,900 feet.

January 18: The Other Quarry, 31 miles: We're on our way to Saratoga today, but we don't waste any time at the beginning of the day. We start in Los Altos Hills with the very short but intimidating Quinnhill Road. Next, while we're passing through Cupertino, we'll climb into the Parker Ranch area and tackle the scenic Star Ridge and, after that, Sarahills Drive (a favorite from our prelude rides). Then, we're ready for the star attraction: reaching the top of Mount Eden via Quarry Road, which has been blocked off to motorized traffic. After all that climbing, we finish with a pleasant descent in the easier direction through Stevens Canyon. 2,260 feet.

Sunday, February 2: Joaquin, 35 miles: (Yes, Sunday, but just this once.) Today's ride begins with a trip to the Los Altos quarry and a climb up Altamont Road. You might think that would be enough for one day, but noooooo. After that, we'll climb scenic and gentle Alpine Road to the end, where our star attraction awaits: Joaquin Drive, a 0.4 mile monster that quickly gets you high above Portola Valley and ready for the amazing descent down Los Trancos Road. One more piece of excitement awaits on the return route: a climb up the shorter side of Viscaino Drive, only about half as long as Joaquin but just as steep. The good news is that you can easily detour around this climb if you just want to get home. But why would you? 3,650 feet.

February 15: Ring of Fire, 38 miles: The Ring of Fire is one of the legendary rides of the lower Peninsula ... and we're ready to tackle it as only our fourth ride of the season. Five legendary double-digit climbs: Moody Road to Page Mill, then Golden Oak, Los Trancos, Ramona, and reverse Westridge. All that climbing also means a lot of descending, some of it steep, so make sure your brakes are in excellent condition. (If roads are wet on ride day, even if it's not actually raining, we might cancel or ride an alternate route.) 3,750 feet.

March 1: Montebello, 41 miles: We shake things up a bit this time with an extended climb that has a mix of steep parts and more gentle parts. Our route begins with an easy spin to Saratoga; after that, however, it's all climbing as we do the backside of Mount Eden Road on our way to Stevens Canyon and the star attraction: Montebello Road, five and a half miles of climbing on a dead-end road with little traffic and amazing vistas. After we turn around and begin heading back to Mountain View, one more piece of "fun" awaits: a detour into Los Altos Hills via the short and steep Mora Drive. But after all that other climbing, it'll seem like a piece of cake! (Uh-huh. It can easily be skipped if you wish.) 4,000 feet.

March 15: Epic Dead Ends, 46 miles: Some of the most interesting hills in the area are on dead-end roads that are near popular cycling routes, which means that they often don't show up on training rides. This ride gathers five of these hills into one glorious day of backtracking: Ravensbury Avenue and Olive Tree Lane in Los Altos Hills, Stirrup Drive in Palo Alto, Wayside Road in Portola Valley, and Raymundo Drive near Woodside. Haven't heard of these before? That's the idea. Better yet, because they're all dead ends, you can skip as many of them as you want or need. 4,400 feet.

March 29: Midpeninsula Monsters, 53 miles: The area around Belmont, San Carlos, and Redwood City near I-280 has some very challenging climbs to the top of the foothills ... and we'll hit several of them today. Highlights include Crestview Drive, Melendy Drive, Club Drive, and the aptly named High Road. With a gentle spin to and from the hill area, this ride is particularly challenging because almost all of the climbing is concentrated in the middle 25 miles. 4,850 feet.

April 12: Kings Mountain and Alpine, 59 miles: This is our one trip coastside during this season, and it's a beauty. We'll begin with the 4.3 mile climb up Kings Mountain, which really isn't all that steep (at least compared to what we've been through so far). Our reward is the glorious 9-mile descent on Tunitas Creek Road to the coast. After a rest in San Gregorio, we'll head up to La Honda and begin the challenging climb of West Alpine Road. We end with a thrilling descent of Page Mill Road and an even more thrilling descent of Moody Road. 6,900 feet.

On Sierra Road, the Google car catches
some chalk excitement high above San Jose.
April 26: Redwood Gulch and Hicks, 66 miles: Two roads that strike fear into even the most seasoned South Bay cyclist are Redwood Gulch and Hicks Road. Because we're Quadrophenia, we'll do both of them on the same ride. And just for kicks, we've thrown in Kennedy and Shannon in Los Gatos. Because we can. And we will. 5,600 feet.

May 10: Sierra Road, 73 miles: After this glorious season, what's a proper climax? The judges had a few worthy finalists from which to choose, and they've gone with this one: Sierra Road in San Jose, one of the signature climbs from the Tour of California. (Or, as this preview puts it, the "meanest, nastiest climb on the entire Tour of California.") Only 3.7 miles, but almost 2,000 feet in climbing, some of it as steep as anything we've done this season. Of course, all that climbing comes with a great reward: epic views of the Santa Clara Valley and, if skies are clear, perhaps even eastward toward Yosemite. We'll continue our epic day with a northbound ride on Calveras Road (including, yes, the "wall" at the beginning), and then finish with a gentle celebratory ride through Fremont and across the Dumbarton Bridge. You are now more than ready to ride to Los Angeles with style, grace, aplomb, and awesome legs! 4,400 feet.

Important: Just in case you hadn't figured it out already, these rides are not for beginning cyclists. You need to have experience handling your bike on both climbs and descents, and your bike needs to be in excellent condition -- especially including your brakes -- before beginning each ride. I hope to have at least one SAG vehicle on each ride, but SAG service is not guaranteed.

I hope you'll join me for these new and exciting adventures!

Quadrophenia Prelude #4: More, More, More (12/15/2013)

Date: Sunday, December 15
Meet time: 9:30 a.m.
Ride-out time: 10:00 a.m.
Meeting place: Parking lot at Villa and Franklin streets, Mountain View (across from the Tied House) (map)
City: Mountain View
Rain policy: Heavy rain cancels
Category: 2 - moderate pace (10-12 mph)
Terrain: 3 - rolling hills with some steep climbs
Miles: 40

Description:

Our final prelude ride gets us into the spirit of what's to come in the main Quadrophenia rides starting next month: not just one attention-getting climb per day, and even more places where no training rides have gone before.

We start with the full climb up Magdalena Road in Los Altos Hills. Next, it's just a hop, skip, and a jump over the freeway to our next challenge, Highlands Circle (in the easier direction). Then, we get about 11 miles of relative calm (including a rest stop) as we make our way to Los Gatos for the main event: More Avenue. If you've never been there, I don't want to spoil the surprise, but there's a reason why the Strava segment for this street is simply called "Boing." After a second rest stop, we'll finish with another rare treat: a reverse Mount Eden climb, which is definitely the tougher direction (but, believe it or not, easier than the way we'll get there later in the season). After all that, you'll be plenty ready to join us in January when we begin our main Quadrophenia rides!

Ride With GPS reports about 2,620 feet of climbing; most GPS devices will report a little bit less.

This ride is Caltrain- and VTA-friendly. The first southbound train of the day leaves SF at 8:15 and arrives in Mountain View at 9:29. We're about four blocks from the station.

These rides are for experienced cyclists who know to safely handle their bikes on climbs and descents. Please RSVP even if you're not sure you're attending. We use the RSVPs to plan support (including free bagels!), and if the weather might cause problems, it's important that we be able to reach you. Also, join our Facebook group to get additional updates and scintillating conversation.


Click here to RSVP
RSVPs are requested but not required.

Quadrophenia Prelude #3: Egdirtsew (12/8/2013)

Date: Sunday, December 8
Meet time: 9:30 a.m.
Ride-out time: 10:00 a.m.
Meeting place: Parking lot at Villa and Franklin streets, Mountain View (across from the Tied House) (map)
City: Mountain View
Rain policy: Heavy rain cancels
Category: 2 - moderate pace (10-12 mph)
Terrain: 3 - rolling hills with some steep climbs
Miles: 32

Description:

Our third prelude ride begins with a trip to Foothill College and the little climb up Taaffe Road, which might not hurt as bad because we're doing it at the beginning of the day. (Route through Los Altos Hills is subject to change, depending on the status of a major water main project.) After that, we'll take an easy ride to our rest stop in Menlo Park and then head counterclockwise around the Portola Valley loop to our main destination of the day: Egdirtsew.

Egdirtsew? That's reverse Westridge! In the forward direction, Westridge is quite steep -- and, in fact, it's how we'll begin our first official Quadrophenia ride in January. But in the reverse direction, it's considerably mellower, relatively speaking. The biggest challenge is the mind game that you'll play as you confront not one, not two, but three false summits on the way to the top of the hill! After that, it's all icing on the cake: the usual route through the Arastradero Nature Preserve and back home via the wooden bridge from Palo Alto to Mountain View.

There's a bit of climbing on this ride, but it's fairly well spread out across the day. Ride With GPS reports about 2,630 feet of climbing; most GPS devices will report a little bit less.

This ride is Caltrain- and VTA-friendly. The first southbound train of the day leaves SF at 8:15 and arrives in Mountain View at 9:29. We're about four blocks from the station.

These rides are for experienced cyclists who know to safely handle their bikes on climbs and descents. Please RSVP even if you're not sure you're attending. We use the RSVPs to plan support (including free bagels!), and if the weather might cause problems, it's important that we be able to reach you. Also, join our Facebook group to get additional updates and scintillating conversation.


Click here to RSVP
RSVPs are requested but not required.

Quadrophenia Prelude #2: Sarahills (11/10/2013)

Date: Sunday, November 10
Meet time: 9:30 a.m.
Ride-out time: 10:00 a.m.
Meeting place: Parking lot at Villa and Franklin streets, Mountain View (across from the Tied House) (map)
City: Mountain View
Rain policy: Heavy rain cancels
Category: 2 - moderate pace (10-12 mph)
Terrain: 3 - rolling hills with some steep climbs
Miles: 27

Description:

For our second prelude ride, we're off to Saratoga. But before we get there, we'll climb to the Parker Ranch area near the Fremont Older Open Space Preserve to see (but not ride) some of the steep hills we'll be tackling later in the season. Then, it's time for our main climb of the day: Sarahills Drive, a little-used connector between Saratoga-Sunnyvale and Pierce roads. It's only 0.4 mile, but feel free to take a break or two to savor the views and prepare for the descent. After a brief rest stop, we'll return to Mountain View on a mostly easy route ... well, except for our little detour on Cristo Rey Drive and through the Rancho San Antonio area. Can you feel it?

Ride With GPS reports about 1,400 feet of climbing; most GPS devices will report a little bit less.

This ride is Caltrain- and VTA-friendly. The first southbound train of the day leaves SF at 8:15 and arrives in Mountain View at 9:29. We're about four blocks from the station.

These rides are for experienced cyclists who know to safely handle their bikes on climbs and descents. Please RSVP even if you're not sure you're attending. We use the RSVPs to plan support (including free bagels!), and if the weather might cause problems, it's important that we be able to reach you. Also, join our Facebook group to get additional updates and scintillating conversation.


Click here to RSVP
RSVPs are requested but not required.

Quadrophenia Prelude #1: Alta Tierra (11/3/2013)

Date: Sunday, November 3
Meet time: 9:30 a.m.
Ride-out time: 10:00 a.m.
Meeting place: Parking lot at Villa and Franklin streets, Mountain View (across from the Tied House) (map)
City: Mountain View
Rain policy: Heavy rain cancels
Category: 2 - moderate pace (10-12 mph)
Terrain: 3 - rolling hills with some steep climbs
Miles: 22

Description:

For ALC 2014, the Mountain View training rides are new, new, new! We've got a set of rides that are lovingly called Quadrophenia -- our tour of some of the steepest (and, often, little-known) hills of the Peninsula and South Bay. Quadrophenia begins in January, but before that, we've got four "prelude" rides that will help you reawaken your climbing legs with some moderate challenges.

For our first prelude ride, we'll play around in Los Altos Hills. We'll visit Barley Hill on our way to the little-known Alta Tierra Road. It's a bit steep, but it's only 0.2 mile, and there's no shame at all in walking some or all of it. After that, we'll climb to Neary Rock Quarry from the (easier) Foothill College side and finish with a trip around the easier side of the Los Altos Golf & Country Club.

This might sound like a lot of climbing, but it's not: Ride With GPS reports only about 1,365 feet of climbing; most GPS devices will report a little bit less.

This ride is Caltrain- and VTA-friendly. The first southbound train of the day leaves SF at 8:15 and arrives in Mountain View at 9:29. We're about four blocks from the station.

These rides are for experienced cyclists who know to safely handle their bikes on climbs and descents. Please RSVP even if you're not sure you're attending. We use the RSVPs to plan support (including free bagels!), and if the weather might cause problems, it's important that we be able to reach you. Also, join our Facebook group to get additional updates and scintillating conversation.


Click here to RSVP
RSVPs are requested but not required.

Peninsula Ring of Fire (9/29/2013)

Date: Sunday, September 29
Meet time: 9:45 a.m.
Ride-out time: 10:00 a.m.
Meeting place: Sports Basement Sunnyvale, 1177 Kern Avenue (map)
City: Sunnyvale
Rain policy: Rain cancels
Category: 2 - moderate pace (10-12 mph)
Terrain: 4 - very steep climbs
Miles: 48

Description:
To mark my first group ride from Sunnyvale, we're going to do a legendary little ditty that's commonly called the Ring of Fire (a first attempt for your humble leader). The start and end in Sunnyvale give us a bit of warm-up and cool-down time, but we'll be doing (in order of appearance): Moody, Golden Oak, Los Trancos, and the reverse Westridge.

Ride With GPS says about 3,750 feet of climbing; your mileage may vary.

No SAG or sweep, so please know what you're doing. We'll have one scheduled rest stop at about mile 26.

The ride is Caltrain-friendly; first southbound train from SF arrives at nearby Lawrence station (1.3 miles away) at 9:38.

If driving, please park near Kern Avenue, away from the entrance to the store.

Click here to RSVP now
RSVPs are strongly recommended but not required.

Ride report: Double Bay Double 3 (9/21-22/2013)


The third Double Bay Double is successfully into the history books! Our 20 riders and 16 volunteers have raised more than $15,000 (so far) for the San Francisco AIDS Foundation, and everyone ended the ride safely. Our weekend was full of fun, surprises ... and some epic challenges.

In the pre-ride orientation that all DBD participants view, there's a slide that says in part: "If unexpected things happen (and they will), go with the flow." It's become part of accepted DBD wisdom that "unexpected things happen" every year, but nobody (least of all the National Weather Service) expected the torrential rains that soaked us partway through Day 1 this year.

Day 1: Mountain View to Marina

Our day began quietly enough after a few showers moved through the area overnight, keeping temperatures a little warmer than usual and keeping the fog to only the highest elevations of the coastal hills.

We headed out about 10 minutes earlier than planned, hoping to get a head start on what we thought would be a few light sprinkles later in the day. But the roads were still wet in places, and we got a stark reminder of that less than 1 mile into the ride, when our route out of Mountain View along California Street was blocked in the oncoming direction by a serious vehicle collision that had occurred not too much sooner.

Otherwise, though, our ride through Mountain View, Palo Alto, and Menlo Park was mostly uneventful, and we were soon on our way up Old La Honda Road, the biggest climb of the weekend.

Although the road gradually went from "a little wet" to "mostly wet," the rain was holding off, and there wasn't much fog until right before the summit ... where the surprise "Rogue Rest Stop" was waiting for us, staffed by Frank, Diana, and Terri and providing a much-needed collection of smiling faces and delicious snacks.

A long, gradual descent took us through La Honda and into the first rest stop of the day at Sam McDonald County Park, a new location for us this year. Instead of being the quiet, secluded location I'd scouted out during route planning, the parking lot was full of Boy Scouts and scout leaders about to embark on coastside adventures.

Most of us quickly refueled and refreshed and got back on our way to the top of Haskins Hill and on the gloriously long descent into just outside Pescadero.

By this point, the skies were becoming decidedly dark, and our first riders started to feel their first raindrops as they headed into a strong -- and somewhat unusual -- headwind out of the south past Butano State Park and onto winding, narrow Gazos Creek Road. As we neared the junction of Gazos Creek and Highway 1, a welcome sight awaited us: the colorful tent of the San Francisco AIDS Foundation, set up across the highway at the ocean access parking area. (It was visible from quite a distance!)

Robin and Morgan of SFAF were there, and (just like the rest of us) had no idea what they were getting themselves into. The wind was whipping, blowing over bicycles and box lunches, and making it difficult to secure the tent.

Then the rain started.

It was light for the first few minutes, but it quickly intensified. Soon it was torrential, cold, and potentially dangerous. The first few riders had already headed onto Highway 1 toward Santa Cruz, but the rest were trying to huddle under the tent, shrouded in emergency rain ponchos. Meanwhile, on the road, conditions deteriorated rapidly. At mile 50, the rain was heavier than I'd ever encountered during a cycling event, so I pulled into a rest area and took brief refuge in a public toilet (one that was large enough to also hold my bike) as the worst of the heavy rain crashed onto the corrugated metal roof.

After a few minutes -- and a quick check of the weather radar on the cellphone -- I decided that the worst was almost over, and I got back on the road, but conditions were still poor at best. A couple of our support vehicles went by me and pulled over, and we had some discussions about what to do. I said to one, "ALC has been shut down for less than this!"

Shutting down a day of DBD would have been a difficult proposition at best, since we aren't normally equipped to transport all (or almost all) of our riders and their bicycles. We started making some phone calls to put possible rescue drivers on standby.

Meanwhile, back at Gazos Creek, some of our riders made the decision to not attempt the route between there and Davenport (where Kiki and friends were waiting by the side of the road at our next rest stop), and our vehicles were able to accommodate them. I was facing a tough call: Do we shut down the ride? Finally, I decided not to do so at that point; those who wanted to continue were doing so anyway, and those who wanted to get a ride were also doing so. One thing I did not know at the time, however, was that there had been at least two serious vehicle collisions behind me on the rain-soaked Highway 1. Had I known that, I might have made a different call.

Eventually, the rain gave way to just some scattered showers. By the time the first riders entered the west side of Santa Cruz, the streets were dry, suggesting that it hadn't rained there at all. The day started to look better, but then the skies opened up yet again, and an equally torrential rain began to dump on the Boardwalk area. Just before some of our riders went through the area, a vehicle went off the road and through a retaining wall onto the beach below.

By the time riders began to roll into Rest Stop 4 in Aptos, things were getting serious. Fortunately, the first riders in the group had decided to take an extended break there, so nobody had gone beyond that point. We detoured our gear transport vehicle -- which should have already been set up in Marina to serve arriving riders -- to the rest stop (sorry about the confusion on the location!), where riders were able to access their bags and change into their Day 2 cycling clothes if desired. (In my case, doing so probably kept me from shivering myself into sickness the rest of the day.)

Although the showers were still popping on and off in Aptos, the weather radar indicated that the storm was quickly passing through to the north. We pressed forward toward Watsonville and our final rest stop, where skies were finally rain-free. But the winds were still annoyingly out of the south, and our final segment around Elkhorn Slough and Castroville was slowed considerably. By the time we reached the end of the day's route in Marina, we had just about every emotion in the book: relieved, exhausted, tired, grumpy, excited, triumphant, and on and on.

Beginning in Davenport and continuing through Aptos, bike tech volunteer Aron put in a stellar effort to keep our bicycles running. Like the rest of us, he couldn't have imagined what we were getting into, yet he set up his work area and rack outside the Comfort Inn in Marina, where he offered to work on each and every rider's bicycle, cleaning drivetrains and doing whatever else was necessary to keep us on the road.

It's not an understatement to say that many of us could not have completed the event (myself included, after my rear brakes disintegrated in Santa Cruz during the storm) without Aron's help.

After such an epic day, many of us were tired and sore. But another 100 miles awaited us.

Day 2: Marina to Mountain View


It would have been tough to outdo the excitement of Day 1. But by this point, many of us were quite happy to be without such excitement.

As mornings in Marina go, Sunday was just about picture-perfect. No fog, temperatures cool but not chilly, and almost no wind. So our spirits were up as we headed out of town on a slightly new route that avoided road work in the hotel area.

We made reasonably good time into our first rest stop at Salinas, and after an extended serenade by a canine duo in the parking lot, we began our annual assault on San Juan Grade.

Under mostly favorable conditions, the ascent was about as painless as it can be, and many of our riders set personal-best times. The descent, of course, is still the same rutted, bumpy, patched, cracked 80-year-old pavement, but there was one added attraction this year: A large herd of cattle had gotten loose overnight and were defiantly occupying the middle of the road. (And from the, er, deposits strewn across the road, it was clear that they had been there for quite some time.)

Loose cattle are not to be trifled with! A couple of riders reported that a cow made a moooove on them. Some of us saw the police cruiser headed up the hill from San Juan Bautista, presumably on its way to corral the wayward herd.

The ride from San Juan Bautista to Gilroy can be windy and challenging, but many of this year's riders got a special treat: a slight tailwind on Highway 25 that allowed us to quickly dispose of that 6-mile segment of busy, straight, and flat highway through the fields of rural San Benito County.

In true South Valley fashion, however, the winds began to increase as the day wore on. After our lunch stop in Gilroy, the winds turned from the north and picked up. The first riders of the day didn't have too much difficulty around Uvas and Calero reservoirs, but that wasn't the case for those who got there as the afternoon progressed.

Again this year, the fine folks of South Bay Blaze set up a bonus rest stop for us at the end of the reservoir segment, just before we reached San Jose. "Rest Stop 4.5" was a fun-filled and much-needed respite from the wind, and it put riders into good spirits as we began our last 30 miles through the urban byways of the South Bay.

After 180 miles, the weekend was beginning to take its toll. A couple of riders missed a key turn on Almaden Expressway and ended up with about 14 bonus miles! Another went the wrong way after leaving Rest Stop 5 in Los Gatos and picked up some extra distance as well. But everyone eventually got back on track, and the last rider of the day successfully crossed the finish line in Mountain View at about 6:25 p.m., a job well done.

Random notes


Of the 20 cyclists who began the ride, 19 finished under their own power. One rider had to end early after some minor medical issues, several riders were transported through the worst part of Saturday's storm, and one other rider began Day 2 mid-ride. We had our first vehicular casualty in the event's history: Our caboose vehicle broke down early on Day 2 and had to leave early to limp back to the Bay Area. Thanks again to our volunteers, who quickly and adroitly shuffled responsibilities to keep the route covered.

The story of our journey inspired many. Kudos to the passer-by who gave us a $20 bill at the Gazos Creek rest stop. And during dinner in Marina, the owner of the restaurant where many of us ate returned with $50 in cash after hearing about our day. (Both of those donations will be employer-matched and, therefore, doubled.)

When I began to organize DBD3 several months ago, I was hoping we'd reach our no-permit limit of 50 riders. That didn't happen this year, due in part to a crowded event schedule and a last-minute shift in the date of the Surf City AIDS Ride (which shared part of Sunday's route with us, although we passed through the area before any of their riders did so). That was a bit disappointing for me, but a smaller event allows me to do things that I couldn't easily do for a larger group. We had plenty of amazing volunteers this year, but they would have been spread too thinly if we had twice as many riders.

On the plus side, however, our increased social media presence this year has definitely spread the word about DBD. And again this year, we were safe. Everyone did what they felt necessary during Saturday's storm, those who had difficulties didn't try to ride every mile, we stayed mindful in difficult traffic, and no ambulances had to be called.

After three years, DBD has grown well beyond my original vision ... and it's done so organically, made possible by the event's cyclists, volunteers, and friends. The level of support during the event has increased to a level I didn't think possible, and that's entirely due to the determination and effort of the many volunteers who have been part of DBD -- and who have often had to deal with the lack of structure and organization that is common on larger and more established events. I continue to be amazed and impressed that so many people get together and simply do the right thing to empower and support one another for an entire weekend. And I continue to be impressed that all of our riders and volunteers help fund the event so that every dollar raised can go directly to the San Francisco AIDS Foundation. Thanks also go to Different Spokes San Francisco, who continue to provide the legal framework without which DBD would not be possible.

Our DBD orientation slides also say: "Remember why we're here." For everyone who is part of DBD -- cyclists, volunteers, supporters, family, friends, and everyone else -- thank you for again allowing us to remember why we're here.

Photos by DBD3 participants and friends

DBD3 ride #7: Pacifica (9/8/2013)

Date: Sunday, September 8
Meet time: 9:30 a.m.
Ride-out time: 10:00 a.m.
Meeting place: Parking lot at Villa and Franklin streets, Mountain View (across from the Tied House) (map)
City: Mountain View
Rain policy: Rain cancels
Category: 2 - moderate pace (10-12 mph)
Terrain: 3 - some steep climbs
Miles: 74

Description:
It's our last training ride before DBD3! And we're going to a destination that you've consistently noted as one of the best: the coast at Pacifica. What's different, though, is that we're using a considerably shorter route than on previous rides ... and, of course, that means a new hill or two along the way.

We begin with a simple ride up to Roberts Market in Woodside, then along the entire length of Cañada Road, including through car-free Bicycle Sunday land. After we climb the Ralston bike path and descend Polhemus, though, we'll tackle the Tartan Trail ("of tears") in Hillsborough and then ride a couple of short bicycle-legal segments on I-280 before getting on Skyline Blvd.

Our descent into Pacifica is steep and scenic, and our climb back from the coast on Sharp Park Drive is moderately steep but not stupidly so. Then we take the Sawyer Camp Trail and Crystal Springs Road back to the top of Polhemus, at which point we head down Ralston over to Alameda de las Pulgas for the straight shot back home.

RideWithGPS reports about 5,600 feet of climbing on this ride.

This ride is Caltrain-friendly; the first southbound train from San Francisco arrives in Mountain View at 9:29 a.m.

Click here to RSVP now
RSVPs are recommended but not required.

DBD3 ride #6: Kings Mountain Plus (9/1/2013)

Date: Sunday, September 1
Meet time: 9:30 a.m.
Ride-out time: 10:00 a.m.
Meeting place: Parking lot at Villa and Franklin streets, Mountain View (across from the Tied House) (map)
City: Mountain View
Rain policy: Rain cancels
Category: 2 - moderate pace (10-12 mph)
Terrain: 4 - long climbs
Miles: 68

Description:
As we get closer to the event, it's time to add some serious climbing into the mix. Today, we tackle Kings Mountain, one of the Peninsula's signature climbs, which rises above 2,000 feet in a climb of about 4 miles that is a little steep in places but not stupidly so.

But there's that "Plus" in the ride title again, so you know there's more! After reaching the top of Kings Mountain, we'll enjoy the glorious 9-mile descent on secluded and scenic Tunitas Creek Road, which takes us all the way to Highway 1 at the coast. (Depending on the fickle weather, temps could be as much as 30 to 40 degrees cooler coastside, with fog and drizzle possible -- just like on the event -- so bring appropriate clothing!)

Then, we'll do the gradual 14-mile climb up Highway 84 back to the summit and then take an easy return on familiar roads back to Mountain View.

RideWithGPS reports about 6,000 feet of climbing on this ride.

This ride is Caltrain-friendly; the first southbound train from San Francisco arrives in Mountain View at 9:29 a.m.

Click here to RSVP now
RSVPs are recommended but not required.

DBD3 ride #5: Gone With the Wind (8/25/2013)

Date: Sunday, August 25
Meet time: 9:30 a.m.
Ride-out time: 10:00 a.m.
Meeting place: Parking lot at Villa and Franklin streets, Mountain View (across from the Tied House) (map)
City: Mountain View
Rain policy: Rain cancels
Category: 3 - moderate-fast pace (12-15 mph)
Terrain: 2 - some rolling hills
Miles: 61

Description:
This week's ride has very little climbing, but it also has the potential for some strong headwinds ... especially if this summer's unusual weather pattern persists. This is an important part of our training because Day 2 of DBD can have similarly strong headwinds (although we've been very lucky the past two years).

Our route is fairly simple: We're doing a big loop around the bottom of San Francisco Bay, but in the counterclockwise direction (which is the opposite to how this ride usually is done). This means that we'll be returning westbound across the Dumbarton Bridge in the afternoon; if the onshore flow picks up, you might wish that we were climbing Old La Honda instead!

There's only one significant but short climb on this ride; RideWithGPS says about 1,260 feet total.

This ride is Caltrain-friendly; the first southbound train from San Francisco arrives in Mountain View at 9:29 a.m.

Click here to RSVP now
RSVPs are recommended but not required.

DBD3 ride #4: Los Gatos Plus (8/18/2013)

Date: Sunday, August 18
Meet time: 9:30 a.m.
Ride-out time: 10:00 a.m.
Meeting place: Parking lot at Villa and Franklin streets, Mountain View (across from the Tied House) (map)
City: Mountain View
Rain policy: Rain cancels
Category: 2 - moderate pace (10-12 mph)
Terrain: 3 - rolling hills with some steep hills
Miles: 56

Description:
We're heading to Los Gatos to do the climbs up Kennedy and Shannon (in the slightly more difficult directions), but we'll also have a little "plus" fun on the way there and back.

We start with some more time in Los Altos Hills, including our first climb up the interesting La Cresta Drive and the very steep descent on eastbound Viscaino Road. After an easy spin down Foothill Expressway to our first rest stop in Cupertino, we'll head toward Saratoga and climb the full length of Pierce Road before descending into Saratoga. For a new experience, we'll wind through some back streets and up to the Villa Montalvo area before we arrive in Los Gatos for our main climbs. On the way back, we'll take the secret Laurel/Oak hill back to Quito Road for an easy return to Mountain View.

A couple of steep climbs on this ride, but they're not very long. Strava reports about 3,300 feet of climbing; RideWithGPS says about 3,720 feet.

This ride is Caltrain-friendly; the first southbound train from San Francisco arrives in Mountain View at 9:29 a.m.

Click here to RSVP now
RSVPs are recommended but not required.

DBD3 ride #3: Woodside Plus (8/11/2013)

Date: Sunday, August 11
Meet time: 8:00 a.m.Note earlier time!
Ride-out time: 8:30 a.m.
Meeting place: Parking lot at Villa and Franklin streets, Mountain View (across from the Tied House) (map)
City: Mountain View
Rain policy: Rain cancels
Category: 2 - moderate pace (10-12 mph)
Terrain: 3 - rolling hills with some steep hills
Miles: 50

Description:
It's another "plus" ride, where the "plus" stands for extra fun! Why just ride to Woodside when you can ride to Woodside Plus?

This ride has a lot of turns and drives home the notion that DBD is as much about navigation as it is about pedaling. We begin with fun on the quiet side streets of Los Altos Hills, where we quickly go to the top and then spend some time going around the Loyola golf course in not one, but two directions. Then it's over to the quarry area and Foothill College for a bit more climbing, followed by a descent into downtown Los Altos -- with an interesting all-new little hilly surprise along the way -- for our first rest stop.

After that, things get a lot simpler as we take the standard route up to the Arastradero nature preserve and then back along Alameda de las Pulgas to Redwood City, where we'll do the Woodside Drive climb in the reverse (longer but not as steep) direction to what we did last week. After a rest stop at the Roberts Market in Woodside, it's an easy ride back to Mountain View.

No giant climbs on this ride, but the little ones add up: Strava reports about 3,250 feet of climbing for this ride, and RideWithGPS says about 3,960 feet.

Sorry, but due to our earlier meeting time, this week's ride is not Caltrain-friendly.

Click here to RSVP now
RSVPs are recommended but not required.

DBD3 ride #2: Redwood City Plus (8/4/2013)

Date: Sunday, August 4
Meet time: 9:30 a.m.
Ride-out time: 10:00 a.m.
Meeting place: Parking lot at Villa and Franklin streets, Mountain View (across from the Tied House) (map)
City: Mountain View
Rain policy: Rain cancels
Category: 2 - moderate pace (10-12 mph)
Terrain: 3 - rolling hills with some steep hills
Miles: 46

Description:
It's just a ride to Redwood City and back! What could be simpler? Well ... that's the "plus."

We will visit a lot of the quiet side streets and backroads between here and there. None of the climbs are especially long -- the longest is only about a mile -- but there are a lot of them, which is a good way to help prepare for DBD. And there are a lot of turns -- which is also a good way to practice your navigational skills for the event. (Remember, the DBD event route is not visibly marked!)

The rewards are plenty on this ride. Even the most well-traveled cyclist likely will go somewhere they've never been. And even the most jaded cyclist likely will find something that makes them go "Oooooh, wow."

Strava reports about 2,750 feet of climbing for this ride, and RideWithGPS says about 3,240 feet.

This ride is Caltrain-friendly; the first southbound train from San Francisco arrives in Mountain View at 9:29 a.m.

Click here to RSVP now
RSVPs are recommended but not required.

DBD3 ride #1: Woodside (7/28/2013)

Date: Sunday, July 28
Meet time: 9:30 a.m.
Ride-out time: 10:00 a.m.
Meeting place: Parking lot at Villa and Franklin streets, Mountain View (across from the Tied House) (map)
City: Mountain View
Rain policy: Rain cancels
Category: 2 - moderate pace (10-12 mph)
Terrain: 3 - rolling hills with some steep hills
Miles: 40

Description:
The training season for DBD3 is officially under way! We begin by going "only" as far as Woodside, but we've got a somewhat hilly route to get there. We'll start by visiting the quarry in Los Altos Hills and climbing Elena Road behind Foothill College. Then it's a familiar route through the Arastradero nature preserve, around the backside of the Portola loop, and into Woodside for our rest stop.

After that, we'll head partway up Cañada Road and then take Jefferson Avenue back to the valley floor -- which, incidentally, involves a 0.7-mile climb before we can descend. We close with an easy route along Alameda de las Pulgas, Junipero Serra Blvd., and Foothill Expressway back into Mountain View.

Strava reports about 2,250 feet of climbing for this ride.

This ride is Caltrain-friendly; the first southbound train from San Francisco arrives in Mountain View at 9:29 a.m.

Click here to RSVP now
RSVPs are recommended but not required.

DBD3 kickoff ride (6/22/2013)

Date: Saturday, June 22
Meet time: 9:30 a.m.
Ride-out time: 10:00 a.m.
Meeting place: Parking lot at Villa and Franklin streets, Mountain View (across from the Tied House) (map)
City: Mountain View
Rain policy: Rain cancels
Category: 2 - moderate pace (10-12 mph)
Terrain: 3 - rolling hills with some steep climbs
Miles: 35

Description:

Meet your fellow DBD3 riders, or learn about the event and decide whether it's for you, or just come hang with us on the road for a few hours ... any way you slice it, we'd love to have you with us!

Our regular training rides will begin in late July, but here's a pre-season get-together that isn't too easy and isn't too tough. But because DBD has plenty of climbing, yes, we'll do a bit of climbing, but none of it stupidly steep. Our first climb will be Magdalena Avenue in Los Altos Hills, all the way to the top. Then we'll take a gentle spin through Cupertino and do a quick loop up into the Parker Ranch area. After a rest stop in Saratoga, we'll go up Highway 9 as far as Pierce Road before one last climb and our easy return to Mountain View.

Total climbing on this ride is about 1,800 feet. Our ride-out time is late enough that you can take Caltrain to get here in time for the start.

Click here to RSVP
RSVPs are requested but not required.

Ride report: AIDS/LifeCycle 12

All by myself (again) at the VA Center in Los Angeles.
It's probably not much of a surprise that, yet again, my ALC experience differed significantly from what I expected. The short answer: I completed every mile (and then some) for the seventh time, not all of those miles were easy, I set no daily speed records, and I mostly avoided getting grumpy.

This year, I'm not going to do a detailed day-by-day, mile-by-mile description of what happened. You've heard it all already. Except where noted, the route was essentially the same as before. Rather, here are some random observations from my week on the road.

First, the numbers: Here is my in-motion average pace for every day of every ALC that I've done. Significantly, I set no records this year. However, my elapsed time on several days was better because I took fewer and shorter stops. I was among the first 100 finishers on six out of the seven days, even though many other riders were much faster than me.

ALC5ALC6ALC7ALC8ALC9ALC11ALC12
Day 113.312.8*13.513.314.116.416.3
Day 214.514.014.114.215.216.215.7
Day 313.211.913.612.813.816.114.0
Day 413.612.713.312.314.015.315.1
Day 512.011.012.111.4+12.8+14.514.4#
Day 613.113.212.99.7^14.015.715.6
Day 713.312.313.213.914.215.915.8

Notes:
* = Longer, more difficult route along upper Skyline to Hwy. 84
+ = Longer, more difficult route via Solvang
^ = Route truncated at 15 miles due to heavy rain
# = Rode 14 extra miles, mostly flat

Speed demon? Despite my slower overall pace, I blasted right through my previous top speed ever on a bicycle -- apparently reaching 39.7 mph briefly on Day 4 in the dunes such of Oceano. But more significantly, there were countless times during the week when I exceeded 30 mph, which is highly unusual for me. This could mean that I've finally become a little more comfortable with descending ... at least on familiar, straight roads.


Way off the official route. Bad me, bad.
Renegade: For the first time, I (sort of) broke the event rules on Day 5 and went off-route. When I reached Lompoc early in the day, I didn't want to wait around for hours until my hotel room became available, so I decided to do one of my favorite short rides in the area: the ride out to the coast and the remote Amtrak station at Surf. I did my best to make sure that nobody saw me make the turn off the official route, but in the perfectly flat terrain, I'm sure some riders saw the silhouette of a strange solitary rider going the wrong way toward the coast. I greatly enjoyed this part of the week for several reasons: It was nice to not have to worry about other riders for a while, it took me to one of my favorite places on the Central Coast, and it helped build my confidence in being able to ride every mile. I was a little worried about whether there would be any official consequences for my renegade ride; such fears were probably quite overblown on my part, but I'll admit to a sigh of relief the next morning when there wasn't a violation ticket attached to my bike.

Tender manly bits: About six weeks before the ride, I bought and installed a new saddle because my old one was beginning to fail after nearly 30,000 miles. I made a key mistake in not getting my new saddle professionally fitted, but the mistake didn't become apparent until a couple of days into the event. I started to have significant, shall we say, interface issues with the saddle, and by the end of Day 4 in Santa Maria, I had managed to get some ugly sores in my nether regions. Because I obviously wasn't thinking clearly, I didn't make the obvious connection until partway through Day 5, when I realized that I should tilt the front of my saddle downward. After a quick adjustment by the helpful Sports Basement bike tech at Rest Stop 2, it was a world of difference -- enough that I rode those extra 14 miles that day just because doing so wasn't painful anymore. (But I'm just now finally beginning to fully heal from the damage that was done.)

Leg: At lunch on Day 3 in Bradley, I visited Sports Medicine for some attention on my right leg, which had started to bother me. I got some tape put on my leg (although it came off within the first five miles and had to be reapplied later that night in Paso Robles), and I got additional tape at camp in Ventura. The pain in my leg was starting to scare me, and I took most of the hills very gingerly the rest of the week. (This probably accounts for most of my speed differential between this year and last year.) I don't regret getting the attention, and although it was a first for me to get taped up, my problems paled in comparison to those of many other riders ... and in the end, I felt a bit silly for using event resources for what turned out to be a very minor matter.

Teams and cool kids: In past years, I've experienced frustration, anger, and depression over the strong presence of "teams" of riders on the event. This year, however, they didn't really bother me at all. The big reason, I believe, is that most of the teams I saw were much more well-behaved on the road than in previous years. Only once all week was I passed on the right by another cyclist (who, yes, was part of a pack of matching jerseys).

Santa Cruz: Much to my surprise, we used another new route out of Santa Cruz on Day 2 ... and it was, by and large, the same route we used for the first time last September in DBD2! There were no rush hour-related slowdowns and very few traffic signals, and it was generally a much more pleasant experience ... except for that nasty, evil hill on Rio Del Mar Blvd. (Strava says 0.3 mile at only 6.9%, but the beginning is much worse.)

Backwards winds: More than in any other year that I can remember, the winds were not favorable. On Day 2, we had headwinds heading out of Salinas (where, last year, strong tailwinds helped me get through the rain), and on Day 3, the final 12 miles into Paso Robles were much more difficult than usual due to very strong headwinds that drove my pace way down for the day. On most other days, the usual tailwinds were not as strong as in the past.

21st century intrudes: It's a sad fact of life in the 21st century that security paranoia (some would say security theater) is a part of our lives. This showed itself on Day 0, when we were told of the new rule that all bags and packs on the event -- including hydration packs -- required an additional identification tag. And it showed up again on Day 6, when the route was temporarily shut down after a pressure cooker was found by the side of the route. (I'd gone through before this happened, and I didn't see it.) I can't fault the event staff one bit for the heightened security consciousness, but it's still sad that such things are now part of everyday life, and it makes it harder to forget about the outside world while on the event.

News blackout and social media: In my early years of ALC before I had a smartphone, it was an amazing experience to go the entire week basically without hearing news of the outside world. But when Facebook started to become part of everyone's lives, it was very nice to be able to follow other riders online during the event, and to share one's status both with those riders and with friends and supporters elsewhere. But one big problem of using Facebook during the event is that news from the outside world invariably seeps into one's news feed. When the revelations of NSA domestic surveillance came out, I quickly knew about them, and I spent much of my evening reading more about them, even though I knew that doing so would upset me about the state of the world and take my focus away from the event. One of the magical things of ALC is the ability to get away from everything, but our increasing use of social media on the event seems to make that more difficult if not impossible.

Solitude: Nobody ever claims that ALC is a good opportunity to experience solitude. But because of my riding style of quick/skipped rest stops, I often managed to get the road mostly to myself. That was especially true on Day 7 this year, when I rode the 40 miles from Rest Stop 1 straight through to the end, making me the sixth person to finish the ride. My early morning ride along the undeveloped coast before Mailbu, with nobody around me and before all the packs of local cyclists hit the road, was my highlight of the week. But the cost of getting such an experience during ALC is very high: Skipping rest stops and riding hard are not for everyone, and doing so means that you don't get to experience the rolling party. This, of course, is usually quite fine by me.

A rare shot of me on the event, this time with
Lorri Lee Lown on duty at the Otter Pop Stop on Day 2.
The Strava effect: Again this year, I took almost no photos during the ride. Before I started using Strava, I'd often take "photo breaks" which usually were more about having a quick rest than capturing any scenery. But the result is that, now, I end up with very few photographic memories of my week. I'm not sure I need another set of photos of the same things I've seen so many times before (just how many pictures does one need of the fog on Skyline Drive on Day 1?), but it's definitely the case that using Strava stokes my self-competitive fires, perhaps in a way that's not entirely appropriate on an event such as ALC.

The Day 6 fustercluck: For those of us who ride at even just a moderate pace, Day 6 is really two completely separate rides: the 25-mile sprint to Rest Stop 2, a long rest of an hour or more, and the rest of the day. This is because we can't proceed past Rest Stop 2 until 9 a.m., when Caltrans clears a lane for us over a narrow bridge on U.S. 101. Invariably, Caltrans is late in finishing their work, so we all bunch up in the rest stop and wait ... this year, until 9:20. This causes, in essence, a second mass start -- much like the Day 1 ride-out -- with packs of riders immediately entering the dangerous freeway and continuing in large groups all the way to lunch in Santa Barbara. That part of the ride has become my least favorite part of the week, and it's always a challenge for me to improve my mood to complete the rest of this difficult day without getting overly grumpy. After so many years, one would think that Caltrans would know exactly what we need and when we need it. Here's hoping this situation can be improved in the years to come.

Dazed and confused? Toward the end of the week, I became almost exclusively focused on finishing the ride, and finishing strong. I probably rode harder than I should have done, and I got a big wake-up call on Day 6 that I might have taken things a bit too far. While riding on the bike path through Santa Barbara, I reached a traffic signal where a roadie was standing. He looked at me and said, "Do you know where you are?" I replied, "Yes, about to have my ice cream" (at Paradise Pit), which was the correct response. But I was probably in such a trance that I might have looked a bit out of it.

Lots of fun. I stopped to take off my jacket (and this pic).
"How do you feel?" "I do not understand the question." And this gets right to the heart of my ALC experiences. Every year, I say that I'm going to have more fun on the event. But the definition of "fun" is quite fluid and nebulous. For many, "fun" on ALC means enjoying the rest stops and roadside attractions that so many volunteers have worked so hard to create, riding together with friends, and simply being part of the mass experience. But for me, the most fun I usually have consists of overcoming personal challenges and having plenty of solitary "me" time to ponder life, the universe, and everything, while knowing that more than 500 people are there to support me in case something goes awry. On the days that I deliberately rode out a bit late to be among more riders, I quickly found myself getting frustrated, and I overexerted myself to get back closer to the front of the group. Perhaps it's time to stop expecting that I'd have any other type of "fun" on the event.

One thing, however, has not changed since my pre-ride report: I'm still fairly certain that I will not be riding in ALC 2014, although I still encourage others to do so if that is what's right for them.

Beyond the millions of dollars and our strong visual statement, AIDS/LifeCycle is a transformative event for many. And many of those transformations do not manifest themselves until after the event, sometimes long after. The week gives us an opportunity to get away from our everyday existences and reflect on how we're living our lives. Quite often, we decide that one or more changes are necessary. I think that's the case for me again this year.

In the meantime, though, it's full speed ahead with Double Bay Double 3. For the third year, I'll be producing this ride for DSSF to benefit the San Francisco AIDS Foundation, and I'd be honored to have you as part of it. As of today, the ride is already more than 40% full; the limit is 50 riders because life is too short for me to worry about permits. This two-day, 210-mile event captures some of the magic that makes ALC great, but it does so in a much smaller, more intimate event where everybody gets to know pretty much everybody else. Although we still follow ALC safety rules, the other aspects of the event are generally far more informal and collegial. Last year, we raised more than $20,000 for SFAF, and I hope to easily surpass that this year. Be sure to sign up early because, this year, the ride is the same weekend as the Monterey Jazz Festival, so you'll need to book your hotel room in Marina very soon.

Beyond that, what's next? Damn good question.

Traditional pre-ALC musings

With yesterday's 51-mile ride from Reno to Hallelujah Junction and back, and today's 44-mile ride from Carson City to Gardnerville and back, my training season has come to a close. I'll probably be on the bike a little bit this week, but only to make sure everything's still running OK after I give the bike a much-needed cleaning.

One week from tonight, I'll be in Santa Cruz at the end of Day 1 of AIDS/LifeCycle 12 (or, as they're apparently calling it now at ALC World HQ, "AIDS/LifeCycle 2013"). And I've already told a few people, so it's no secret, but this is probably my last ALC ride ... at least for now, and possibly beyond.

Eight years ago, I was not at all certain that I could ride from San Francisco to Los Angeles even once, let alone six times so far. I've bicycled every possible mile, with the only gap being the rain-shortened Day 6 three years ago. I've become a progressively better and stronger rider, so much so that I managed a first-100 finish every day of last year's event. And more important, thanks to you, I've raised more than $35,000 in vital funding for the San Francisco AIDS Foundation.

And I'm going to give this all up? Well, in a word, yes. Life changes, circumstances change, and people change. The event itself is still the same incredible, transformative epic that it's always been (it's possibly even better now), and it's entirely likely that I'll continue as a training ride leader. I'll also continue to organize and produce the Double Bay Double for Different Spokes San Francisco. (If this year's event reaches the 50-rider limit, I'm open to giving up my spot and driving a support vehicle so that someone else can ride.) So I'm not going away (yet). But I'm not the same person I was eight years ago.

While I can still pump out 200 kilometers in a day (and, this year, even turn in my fastest elapsed time), I can distinctly feel that my multi-day endurance is beginning to decrease. I did very few days of consecutive long-mileage training this year because I just couldn't bring myself to do it.

Also, with just under 56,000 miles of cycling since June 1, 2004, it's increasingly the case that I'm growing more than a little bored of most of the places I can regularly cycle. (And some of the places I haven't been are simply too challenging to hold much appeal for me. One time up Mount Diablo was plenty for me.) When I lead training rides, I derive considerable energy from those around me, including many who are seeing new cycling territory. When I'm by myself, however, it's far more difficult to get excited about yet another ride up and down Foothill, Junipero Serra, and Alameda. (San Francisco folks can compare their own feelings about riding to Fairfax and back at the beginning and end of almost every ride.)

Another key factor for me is that, contrary to what you might expect, participating in ALC year after year causes me to gain weight that becomes tough to lose. I have consistently gained five to 10 pounds per year every year that I do the event; when I skipped the ride in 2011, I was able to lose those 40 pounds ... but they've started to come back. I could probably address this with a more rigorous training program, but I've steadfastly refused to get "serious" about whole-body training because, for me, it makes the whole thing even more like work and less like play. (To those of you who develop a tough training regimen and achieve great results, you have my respect and admiration.)

This training season has been particularly difficult for me. My "real life" has been unusually full of stress on several fronts, and it's been very difficult to detach from that, even while riding. This year's Mountain View training rides, while suitably challenging and successful, were appreciated by those who did them, but the growth in other Peninsula and South Bay training options left fewer riders (and ride leaders), making the logistics more difficult to manage, for a smaller group of riders. It's quite possible that the Distance Training rides have run their course (feel free to tell me if you disagree), and if I return for an eighth year of leading rides in the fall, I might take things in a different and interesting direction. (Yes, I've been thinking about it. No, I'm not ready to share.)

Then there's the whole matter of fundraising. After eight years of begging and pleading, too many of my friends are sick to death of me. And because so much of my life revolves around the ride, my circle of non-riding friends has become even smaller than it was before. As a result, much of my fundraising (about two-thirds this year) comes from other ALCers, past or present. I'm especially grateful for the donations from other riders, but I often feel as if taking this money is "cheating," even though it all ends up in the same pool anyway. I hope that some of the people who consciously avoid me now might reconsider that position when I don't have an upcoming event that wants their money.

So that takes us to next Sunday. I know I've said this many times before, but my plan is specifically not to be a seven-day speed demon. In fact, since this might be my last ALC ride, I'm seriously entertaining the notion about possibly riding a sweep bus for at least part of one day -- something I've never done before except in a rain-out. I might have longer days on the route so that I can experience more of the many sights along the way. (I've still never had a Pismo Beach cinnamon bun, although I'm not sure my stomach would appreciate it at that point in the week anyway.)

More importantly, I might ride more slowly so that seven days of consecutive riding might not harm my body as much as has happened in some previous years. On Monday after the ride, I have to be all bright-eyed and bushy-tailed at work, and I don't have the luxury of a multi-day recovery period.

Also, I'm determined to make this year's ride be for me. Yes, that's a bit selfish, but I feel that I've earned it. This probably means little or no blogging during the week. I plan to ride with Strava just to keep my cycling history there complete, although I'm considering keeping the data private. I really don't want to feel any pressure to compete this year ... with anyone else or, at least as important, with myself. I probably will still try to put in a strong effort early on Day 1, mostly to beat the traditional fustercluck of the mass start out of the Cow Palace and up Skyline and 92 to the coast. But after that, all bets are off.

On Saturday, June 8, after I arrive in Los Angeles, we'll see how much of this actually happened. One thing is for certain: Something unexpected happens on every ALC ride. There will no doubt be many fascinating stories for me to tell. Thanks to everyone who has been -- and will be -- part of my ALC 2013 experience. See you on the road.

Ride report: 6th annual Altamont Pass Double Metric (5/4/2013)

Go, riders!

After six years of hosting the Altamont Pass ride, the one thing I've learned is that each ride presents its own unique set of challenges. This year's ride was no exception, but our intrepid group of 15 riders and six volunteers conquered the challenges and turned in excellent performances.

Each rider returned to Mountain View under their own power, and only one rider chose to get a lift between two intermediate rest stops ... although one rider started to head the wrong way down Altamont Pass toward Tracy! That would have been a lot of bonus miles.

Speaking of Altamont Pass, we were treated to something that had never happened before on this ride: backwards winds. The climb to the top (which, as you discovered, wasn't all that much of a climb anyway) was a little more difficult, but the descent was quite literally a breeze, thanks to the unusual winds out of the northeast. This also made our return across the Livermore Valley quite a bit easier than usual, although the rapidly increasing temperatures began to pose their own challenges as the day progressed.

Although no temperature records were broken, highs were running about 10 degrees above normal in the East Bay. If you haven't had much heat training this season (and, given our wacky winter weather, that's not surprising), you might have been caught off guard by how your body reacted to the heat. In my case, my fluid consumption went way up, so much so that I ran out of water just before the Hayward rest stop -- something that almost never happens to me.

Another thing that happened to me in the heat was that I found myself taking many more short stops than usual between the official rest stops. There's no shame at all in doing so. I also took care to replace not just water, but also electrolytes and sodium. I slowed my pace a bit; while it would be exaggerating to say that I went into "survival mode," there was a part of the afternoon where I simply wanted to get through the miles without damage, and I took extra care to listen to what my body was saying. It's rarely wrong.

On the event in June, we've been fortunate the past few years to have unusually cool temperatures. But it's entirely normal for afternoon temperatures to reach into the 80s or even the 90s on several days of the event. Also, just like yesterday, many days of the event pass through several microclimates. You can go from cool to hot to cool to hot again all in the same day, and you might even be taking your jacket off and putting it back on multiple times. Remember the lessons you learned yesterday, and put them into practice next month. (And take note that midday temperatures can sometimes be surprisingly cool despite a warm start: When we leave Paso Robles on the morning of Day 4, it can be bright and sunny, but it can be foggy and damp just 20 miles later as we descend to the coast.)

I also want to take a couple of minutes to thank all of our volunteers on this ride. We were extremely fortunate that we had nothing more serious than a couple of bicycle adjustments, shuttling one rider, and handing out lots of water and salt. I want to assure all of the volunteers that your presence was definitely needed and appreciated; it's impossible to overstate the sense of security that's present when you know that people are available to help if an incident occurs. (And, as Murphy would attest from several previous rides, the lack of support volunteers often happens precisely on the rides where they end up being needed the most.)

Trivia department: I can answer one of the questions about the two unexpected events we encountered along the way. The crowd at Quarry Lakes Regional Park in Fremont in the morning was the Western Pacific Marathon/Half Marathon/10K/5K.

But I am flummoxed by the cycling event we saw going the other way between Livermore and Pleasanton in the morning. I can't find anything about it online, and given that many of the participants had the same jersey and they had ribbons of different colors that suggested multiple routes, I would think that it would have been announced somewhere. Any ideas?

A ride of 200 kilometers is your introduction to the steeped-in-tradition world of randonneuring: long-distance, unsupported, non-competitive cycling. In this country, Randonneurs USA is the main organization in this sport that traces its origins all the way back to late 19th-century Europe: "The first recorded audax cycling event took place on June 12, 1897, twelve Italian cyclists attempted the challenge of cycling from Rome to Naples, a distance of 230 km." RUSA rides often feel much like ALC rides, with the same spirit of camaraderie ... but generally without the high levels of rider support we have. RUSA membership is a bargain at $20 per year; the quarterly print magazine American Randonneur is worth the price alone just for the ride reports and cycling tips.

Two randonneuring groups in this area are Santa Cruz Randonneurs and San Francisco Randonneurs; each offers a series of events year-round. But where my training rides stop at 200km, the RUSA rides are just getting started, with distances of 300km, 400km, 600km, 1000km, and 1200km -- the distance of the legendary once-every-four-years (next in 2015) Paris-Brest-Paris. Many ALCers are RUSA members, and it's not uncommon to spot ALC jerseys on their rides.

What's next for us? In past years, I'd be saying thank you and wishing you all well in June. But this year, thanks to the unusual schedule and the unusual weather, we've got one more ride on the calendar. On Saturday, May 18, we'll have our first-ever celebration ride. Because these are the Distance Training rides, it wouldn't suffice to get all suited up just to ride up the street to the next Starbucks. Instead, we're going to tackle one of the more challenging and incredibly scenic rides of the South Bay: the ascent of Highway 9 to Saratoga Gap. Then, we'll descend the west side of Alpine Road toward the coast and climb back up and over Highway 84. This ride is "only" 62 miles; there are really only two significant climbs the whole day, but that adds up to almost 5,000 feet of climbing. The good news is that there are no surprise climbs at the end of the day; we'll proceed directly down Alameda and Foothill to Loyola Corners with no detours. The meet time is also a comfortably reasonable 9:30, which means that you can take southbound Caltrain to this ride. What a treat! Find out more and RSVP here.

Congratulations on an epic day, and thank you for being part of AIDS/LifeCycle.

Photos by Andrew Bennett