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

Go, riders!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thanks for riding, and see you in two weeks.

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