Upcoming rides I'm leading:
Nothing on the schedule.

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

Palo Alto hills (Friday 4/10/2009)

Meet time: 9:00 a.m.
Ride-out time: 9:30 a.m.
Meeting place: Arastradero Open Space Preserve, 1530 Arastradero Road (map)
City: Palo Alto
Rain policy: Rain cancels
Category: 2 - moderate pace (10-12 mph)
Terrain: 3 - rolling hills with some steep climbs
Miles: 33

Whether today is a holiday for you or you just feel like playing hooky, join us for a ride that skips all the preliminaries and gets right to the climbing in the hills above Palo Alto.

From our starting point at the Arastradero nature preserve (restrooms and water available), we'll begin climbing immediately and make our way to Alpine Road. Most of our rides turn at Portola, but today we'll continue all the way up Alpine to the end of the paved portion -- a 3-mile climb that's only a tiny bit less challenging than the more well-known Old La Honda Road. The reward is the descent, but be careful on the winding, narrow road.

After that, we'll head back to Portola Road and go to Woodside for our rest stop at Roberts Market. Then it's down into Menlo Park, Palo Alto, and Los Altos before heading back into the hills around Foothill College to return to the preserve.

Total climbing on this ride is about 2,300 feet.

Route sheet for this ride is here.

P.S.: This makes a great warm-up ride for the Evil Twins ride the next day!

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, Susan Fish

RSVPs are requested but not required.

The odometer reads 3,896

With 200km of cycling this weekend -- 43 miles yesterday, followed by 82 miles today on Randy's ride to Sunol (with bonus miles riding to and from the ride) -- my total for the month of March is now exactly 500 miles. This is my first 500-mile month since last August and just barely tops the 496 miles I rode in March 2008. Training might be getting back on target here!

Big thanks to the many folks I rode with at different points during today's ride -- it's always easier when there's someone nearby.

(And as for the odometer: That's total mileage on this bike since I bought it after the ride last June.)

Bad, bad, bad

Today I rode the 43-mile ALC "expo ride" from San Francisco to Fairfax and back. It was my first time cycling in Marin County in quite a while, and it sure seems like attitudes there have taken a turn for the worse -- both from motorists and cyclists.

I saw lawless drivers, lawless cyclists, angry drivers, frustrated cyclists, and just about everything in between. Our slog up the 1.2-mile hill on Camino Alto was interrupted by two vehicles whose drivers sounded their horns almost nonstop all the way up the hill as they gunned their engines around cyclist after cyclist. (And one of the vehicles had a giant "W'04" sticker still on its rear. Imagine that.)

But we were no angels either. I lost count of how many stop signs I saw cyclists ignore or roll through. Even the presence of two officers in Ross (with cyclists pulled over both times I went by them) did little to deter the violations. Single-file riding was but a dream in many places. And with the noticeable increase in cyclists over the past few months -- and also because today's weather was so doggone nice -- the roads often just weren't big enough for all the cyclists and all the vehicles that wanted to be there at the same time.

And yes, many of the stop-sign violators I saw had orange tags that identified them as ALCers. I even saw one of us do a stop-and-roll through a red light.

This is bad. If this happens on the ride in June, we run the risk of losing permission to ride through one or more of the many jurisdictions between San Francisco and Los Angeles. When this happens, the least that results is that our route becomes longer and more difficult. But if there is no alternate route available -- and that's the case over much of our route -- the very existence of AIDS/LifeCycle could be at risk.

Every one of us is responsible for obeying all traffic laws every time, even when other cyclists don't. Fortunately, nearly everybody who attends my training rides already knows this and already follows the rules. But don't slip up now, this close to the ride. I'll be instructing my co-leaders to be on the lookout for violations; if they see you do something, expect them to call you on it. And if this happens, it's not because we hate you ... it's because we want to make sure that you stay safe, we want to make sure you don't get a very expensive ticket, and (most of all) we want to make sure that ALC continues.

Cat-3 Distance Training #10: Altamont Pass (5/16/2009)

Meet time: 5:15 a.m.
Ride-out time: 6:00 a.m.
Meeting place: Three blocks west of the Mountain View Caltrain and VTA station, in the overflow parking lot at the corner of Evelyn Avenue and Franklin Street. (map)
City: Mountain View
Rain policy: Rain cancels
Category: 3 - moderate-fast pace (12-15 mph)
Terrain: 2 - rolling hills
Miles: 125

Today is our big day!

We'll head into the East Bay and go east of the hills for a fun day in places that we almost never reach by bicycle from Mountain View. We'll start by crossing the Dumbarton Bridge and passing through Newark and Fremont on our way to Sunol. Next, we'll head through Pleasanton and Livermore on our way to the top of Altamont Pass. We'll retrace our route back to Pleasanton and then head up and over the Dublin Grade into Castro Valley. After that, we'll take city streets through Hayward and follow Mission Blvd. into the Mission San Jose area. Finally, we'll pass through McCarthy Ranch and go through Milpitas, San Jose, Santa Clara, and Sunnyvale on our way back to Mountain View.

Total climbing is only about 2,700 feet, so the day won't be very hilly. Afternoon headwinds might pose an additional challenge, however.

Sunrise for today in San Jose is 5:58 a.m., and sunset is 8:09 p.m., so you'll have about 14 hours (including stops) to complete this route. Ride leaders will be encouraging riders to make steady progress throughout the day and not linger at rest stops, so that everyone can be back in Mountain View before sunset. Limited SAG support will be provided.

Don't feel like riding so far? An 85-mile option is available. This option omits the portion from Pleasanton to Altamont Pass and back.

Route sheet for this ride is here.

The meeting point is next to some condominiums, so please keep noise to a minimum when arriving at this very early hour. The police station next door will notice if we become loud. Restrooms will not be available, so take care of your needs before you arrive.

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

Leaders: Chris Thomas, Bernard Cabigon, David Gaus, David Goldsmith, Maggie Vande Voorde, Cindy Edelson/Diana Cordio (SAG)

RSVPs are requested but not required.

Cat-3 Distance Training #9: Gilroy (5/2/2009)

Meet time: 6:00 a.m.
Ride-out time: 6:30 a.m.
Meeting place: Three blocks west of the Mountain View Caltrain and VTA station, in the overflow parking lot at the corner of Evelyn Avenue and Franklin Street. (map)
City: Mountain View
Rain policy: Rain cancels
Category: 3 - moderate-fast pace (12-15 mph)
Terrain: 2 - rolling hills
Miles: 113

Today we tackle a route that's very similar to (and just a tiny bit longer than) Day 2 of the ride, the longest day.

We head through Saratoga and Los Gatos, then go around south San Jose and up to the Calero and Uvas reservoirs, then in the back way to Gilroy. After that, we travel up the east side of the valley to Morgan Hill, back up Monterey Highway into south San Jose, and then back through Los Gatos and Saratoga with an easy return through Cupertino and Sunnyvale. (No surprise hill at mile 100 this year!)

The biggest challenge on this ride is the possibility of strong headwinds on the second half of the ride, making the flat terrain much more challenging. We've thoughtfully made the rest stops closer during this part of the ride, and we've even got a stop at a bicycle shop in Morgan Hill in case your bike needs something.

There's a bailout option at about 83 miles by taking the slow VTA light rail back to Mountain View -- not much faster than cycling, but it's available if you need it. Bring cash for the fare. Also, we will have limited vehicle SAG available on this ride.

Total climbing on this ride is about 2,900 feet.

Route sheet for this ride is here.

The meeting point is next to some condominiums, so please keep noise to a minimum when arriving at this early hour. Also, the police station where many of you have used a restroom will not be open before our ride, so please take care of your needs before arriving.

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, Randy Files, Ken Plough, Cindy Edelson/Diana Cordio (SAG)

RSVPs are requested but not required.

March 29: Return to Sunol

If you enjoyed our ride to Sunol earlier this season -- or if you missed it and want a second chance -- ride leader Randy Files is offering essentially the same ride next Sunday, March 29. His ride starts from Sunnyvale, so it's a little bit longer (70 miles vs. 64 miles), but the core of the route is identical, with rest stops in the same three locations. The ride to Sunol is one of my favorite routes -- it covers a wide variety of riding conditions, and it's just hilly enough to be interesting. This also makes a perfect post-Expo ride for a two-day total of about 112 miles.

Details and RSVP here.

Ride report: Cat-3 Distance Training #6

Go, riders!

How do you make the most difficult of all the Cat-3 Distance Training rides even more difficult? Simple ... just add in healthy servings of wind, cold, and rain. Lots of rain. The weather forecasts for today were wrong, wrong, wrong, and the storm that was supposed to arrive tonight instead arrived during the day, hitting not just our group of 31 riders but also affecting other ALC training rides throughout the area. Worse yet, the storm arrived at just about the halfway point of our ride while we were near the coast, so we couldn't even gain any advantage by turning back early. (Photo: What happens when you try to take a picture in the rain.)

Completing the full 81 miles and 5,400 feet of climbing today is a huge accomplishment. Today we did more climbing than on any single day of AIDS/LifeCycle, and we rode the distance of an average day of the ride as well. Our total climbing was similar to that of Day on the Ride at the end of April, so we are well on our way to being ready for June!

Of course, many of us did not do the entire route today. There is no shame at all in that, especially on a day like today. But this brings up one of the most difficult aspects of the ride in June: the sweep, and deciding when to stop riding for a day and get in the sweep vehicle instead. Sometimes, the decision is easy: Your bicycle has suffered a serious mechanical failure, and you just can't go on. Other times, it's not so easy: You want to go on, but your body is saying no.

Remember that there is no special prize for riding EFI (Every "Friendly" Inch) of AIDS/LifeCycle. Everyone who rides out on Day 1 has raised at least $3,000 to fight HIV and AIDS, and that's what matters. But many riders have a personal goal of riding EFI, and when something happens to throw that into jeopardy, emotions can very quickly get hot and heavy. The act of getting into a sweep vehicle can be very emotionally draining for some. You can end up in the sweep vehicle because you have decided to stop riding, or because someone on the ALC staff has observed you and decided that you need to stop riding. (And if an ALC staff member makes this decision, it's final. Don't argue the point, or you could get kicked off the ride.)

Part of your training is to become more aware of what your body is telling you, and another part is to become more aware of your limits and possibly expand them. But if your body is telling you that you shouldn't be riding anymore today, then the sweep is for you -- and you are to be commended for listening to your body and not putting yourself (and those around you) at undue risk. Today, many of us decided that 61 miles and 5,000 feet of climbing was enough -- and there's nothing at all wrong with that. (And again this week, super special thanks to SAG driver Susan. Today's conditions made her job extraordinarily difficult, and she handled everyone's needs with grace and aplomb.)

One thing I noticed today was that I heard a lot of people talking about food ... or, more precisely, about how they were aware that they weren't properly eating. In June, proper nutrition practically comes to you, with meals carefully planned by ALC staff. On training rides, however, it's not quite as simple. There are no set menus, and sometimes (like today) we travel to places where home-cooked, nutritionally balanced meals are merely a dream.

My strategy on training rides is to take care of my basic nutritional and caloric needs with easy-to-find products such as fruit drinks, nuts, bagels, energy bars, and electrolyte gels. When I deviate from that plan -- such as when I tried to have a sandwich in San Gregorio today -- my stomach quickly let me know that it was not happy. I can't pretend to say what works for you, but you should identify items that work for you and are easy to find. The good news is that none of our other Cat-3 Distance Training rides have rest stops that are remote as were today's.

We got a taste of a few miles of the Day 1 route along Highway 1, thus dispelling any notions that the highway along the coast is flat. Those 5 miles of Highway 1 are, I believe, among the most hilly that we do along the entire coast on Day 1 -- and it always seems more difficult because it comes right after lunch at San Gregorio State Beach. Today was unusual, though, in that we had to deal with a headwind out of the south. In June, we are virtually guaranteed favorable tailwinds on Highway 1 from Half Moon Bay to Santa Cruz.

Three brief announcements from the folks at ALC World HQ:

-- Don't forget the Cyclist Expo and Roadie Training next Saturday, March 28 in San Francisco. Two training rides of 25 and 42 miles will be offered at the expo, and this is a great chance to ride in a larger group than we usually have down here.

-- The ALC travel planner has information on everything you need to know about travel before and after the event, including where to stay in Los Angeles and several ways to get your bicycle back to the Bay Area.

-- The medical waiver is now available in your Participant Center. Everyone needs to supply their medical information, and if you do it online now, that's one fewer line you need to stand in on Day 0. And be as detailed as possible; if an emergency were to occur during the ride, this information could save your life.

What's next for us? In two weeks, on Saturday, April 4, we'll be riding all the way up to San Francisco and back on an 89-mile ride. We'll ride a long stretch of the traditional Day 1 route along Skyline Blvd., and we'll even ride a little bit on Interstate 280 -- yes, just like we do on Day 1, and yes, it's legal in the place where we'll do it. It's another somewhat hilly ride -- about 3,900 feet by my count -- but that seems like nothing after today, right? Details and RSVP are here. And our meet time next time will be at the oh-so-early hour of 7 a.m. sharp. Please try to arrive before then so that we can do the ride briefing, exercises, and safety speech and roll out on time at 7:30 a.m.

Congratulations again to everyone for being part of today's ride, and thank you for being part of AIDS/LifeCycle.


That was some ride, wasn't it! I'll write my full report later, but let me congratulate everyone who took part in today's wet, windy, and cold adventure. No matter how many miles you rode, everyone was a champion. This was certainly one for the history books.

A clothing tip for tomorrow

Bring a jacket, and either bring leg warmers or wear long pants. Temperatures at the coast aren't expected to rise much above 52 degrees or so, and there will be a brisk wind when we're out there.

Looks like the rain will hold off until the evening, so barring any unexpected overnight developments, we're on our way to San Gregorio in the morning. Bring sunscreen; even under cloudy skies, many hours on the bike make you susceptible to sunburn. (That's also good practice for bringing your own sunscreen with you on every day of the ride in June. ALC-supplied sunscreen is only for emergencies and usually runs out anyway.)

The latest word on Saturday

This "Special Weather Statement" just out from the National Weather Service.
A cold storm system will move out of the Gulf of Alaska and into California this weekend... bringing rain... colder temperatures and snow in the mountains. Rain is expected to begin in the north San Francisco Bay region Saturday afternoon and then spread rapidly southward over most of the district Saturday night... along with a slight chance of thunderstorms. Rainfall is not expected to be excessive as this will be a quick moving storm with a limited moisture supply.

If correct, this suggests that we'll be OK for our scheduled ride on Saturday, although we'll want to make an effort to get back to Mountain View as expeditiously as possible.

Update: AccuWeather says Saturday afternoon could be windy, with west winds gusting as high as 30 mph. For those of us struggling to climb back up Highway 84 from the coast, this could actually be a very good thing.

Today's tip: Save your circumference

If your bike computer is like most (and you do have a bike computer by now, don't you?), you had to set all sorts of mysterious numbers before you used it for the first time. (You did set all those settings, didn't you?)

One of those settings was probably the circumference (distance around the edge) of your tire; the computer calculates your speed by counting the number of rotations and using the size of your tire to figure out the actual distance covered. That number varies by the size of tire you currently have installed -- a 700x25c tire has a slightly different circumference than a 700x28c tire. The manual for your computer probably has a table of tire sizes and corresponding circumference numbers. It's usually a four-digit integer, so it's factored strange in order to be a whole number that you can easily enter into your computer with the buttons.

Here's the rub. If you're like me, you tend to forget your circumference setting. And when your computer's battery dies or you just accidentally reset your computer in the middle of a ride (it happened to me earlier this year!), your computer no longer can accurately measure your speed or your distance. And if you're all nerdy about numbers like I am, you suddenly feel naked during your ride.

So ... with all that backstory, here's the tip. Write your magic circumference number, and tape it inside your computer, on the inside of the removable cover for your battery. (Don't put it on the battery, because you'll eventually replace the battery.) That way, if you ever need that magic number in the middle of a ride or when you don't have your computer's manual handy, it's right there for you.

As you can see, my magic circumference number for 700x25c tires is 2146. So if I forget it, now I can just ask one of you instead.

Saturday weather first look

Hrmph. I thought we were done with this for the season.

We're back into one of those who-knows patterns where the three major forecasts (Weather Underground, AccuWeather, and The Weather Channel) all say different things for Saturday, ranging from a 10% to a 40% chance of rain. Some say the rain arrives Friday night; others say Saturday night. I've pretty much given up trying to work these things out in advance this season.

But there is one important thing this week -- the reason why I'm taking time here to post this. Because our ride this weekend goes on technically difficult mountain roads and coastal highways with heavy traffic, the threshold for not doing this ride will be lower than usual. We won't ride this route if the roads in the mountains and along the coast are wet, even if it might not be raining at the exact time we pass through. It's too close to Day 1 to put us needlessly at risk of serious injury.

If that happens, however, I'll have an alternate ride (same place, same time) ready to go if things aren't a total washout here on the bay side of the hills. Of course, it won't have 5,400 feet of climbing.

Every little bit helps

Instead of having a big dinner out on the weekend as I sometimes do, I just treated myself to a take-out Italian entree instead ... and donated the difference to my ride.

It might not seem like much, but in this extraordinarily challenging fundraising season, every little bit can help make a difference. I'm now just slightly over halfway to the $3,000 minimum that I am obligated to raise for the San Francisco AIDS Foundation, and we're down to the final two months of fundraising. (Donations that come in after mid-May might not be processed in time to count for the ride.) No matter the size, every donation matters -- and smaller donations can add up quickly to make a big impact.

In my four years with AIDS/LifeCycle, I've met many truly special people, some of whom depend on the foundation for essential services. The ride is for them ... and for everyone else, too, because we all have a stake in ending HIV and AIDS.

I know we're all freaked out over the economy right now; I certainly am. But I'm really not asking for much: If just 25 20 more people each do twice what I did tonight -- forgo one nice evening out -- then I will reach my $3,000 minimum and will be allowed to ride on May 31. But don't do it for me, because this isn't about me. Instead, do it for the people who need our help more than ever during these uncertain times.

Find out more about the San Francisco AIDS Foundation. And then, please give what you can to help.

Cat-3 Distance Training #8: South Bay century loop

Meet time: 6:30 a.m.
Ride-out time: 7:00 a.m.
Meeting place: Three blocks west of the Mountain View Caltrain and VTA station, in the overflow parking lot at the corner of Evelyn Avenue and Franklin Street. (map)
City: Mountain View
Rain policy: Rain cancels
Category: 3 - moderate-fast pace (12-15 mph)
Terrain: 2 - rolling hills
Miles: 100

This is the traditional South Bay loop on super-duper steroids, plumped up and ready for action.

We start by taking in some Peninsula foothills on the way to Menlo Park, then cross the Dumbarton Bridge and head out to Mission Blvd., where we climb to Mission San Jose. From there, we head down the east side of San Jose toward Evergreen Valley. Then, get ready for a Quadbuster-esque climb and a thrilling descent on Silver Creek Valley Road, and we'll close by picking up some of our routes from the past to return through Los Gatos, Saratoga, Cupertino, and Sunnyvale.

If you don't want to ride the full 100 miles, you'll be able to take VTA light rail to cut the total distance to about 71 miles. Bring cash.

Total climbing on this ride is about 2,900 feet.

Route sheet for this ride is here.

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

Leaders: Chris Thomas, Dan England, Bob Katz, Randy Files, Maggie Vande Voorde, Susan Fish

RSVPs are requested but not required.

In the Mercury News

Today's Mr. Roadshow column in the San Jose Mercury News is all about bicycling. Find out about all of the new bicycle overpasses about to open in Sunnyvale, the fate of the horrible interchange at U.S. 101 and Tully Road, what's ahead for the Benicia Bridge, and close it all out with a letter (edited for space in the Merc, it seems) by yours truly.

Ride report: Cat-3 Distance Training #5

Go, riders!

After three weeks of rain, many of us probably didn't recognize the sun as it shone upon our group of 32 riders yesterday. The actual temperature might have been a bit cool, but the sun warmed us up on our 76-mile ride to Coyote Valley.

This was a lot like a medium-length day on the ride in June. Lots of little hills, nothing too obnoxious, a mix of city and rural riding. The challenge for the next few weeks is for you to increase your consecutive days of riding. It's one thing to do a long ride like this one, but it's another thing entirely to do it all over again the very next day ... and the day after that. That's why Day 3 of the ride often is so difficult for many riders -- although it's a shorter day (and even shorter now that it used to be, thanks to the route change in King City), very few riders have done three consecutive long training rides. It really does make a difference. Around late April or early May, I try to take a day off so that I can ride on a Friday or Monday in addition to both weekend days.

One difference between yesterday and an actual day on the ride is that you'll usually have many more scheduled rest stops during the ride. The gap of 23 miles between rest stops 2 and 3 yesterday was big enough to get a couple of folks talking, but even that was a little bit of training for the ride.

In June, rest stops are usually about 10 to 15 miles apart, but there are a couple of notable exceptions. Using last year's route, there's a 23.6-mile gap on Day 4, there are gaps of 23.0 and 20.3 miles on Day 2, and there's even a 20-mile gap on Day 1. When you're between rest stops, you're always allowed to take a rest anywhere you choose, although the ALC folks urge us to use only actual restrooms. Especially in the agricultural land that we pass through, farmers in the past have complained about riders using fields as toilets, and that could jeopardize our permission to use those routes in the future. Yes, I know ... when you gotta go, you gotta go. It's a touchy subject, so I'll just tell you what the official line is, and you can make your own decisions from there.

Toward the end of yesterday's ride, I saw a lot of unhappy legs. That's not entirely unexpected, since this was the longest ride of the season so far for most of us. Your task is to be aware of what's happening to you, and then take appropriate action to mitigate any problems. In the case of legs, that means doing stretching exercises at every rest stop (and even between rest stops if necessary) -- being able to identify which muscles are giving you the trouble, and then using exercises that focus on those muscles.

That gets into the big take-away point about yesterday's ride and all of the other long rides to come. It's no longer just about pushing pedals over and over again for five hours or more. While on your bike, you now have a lot of management to do -- a mental task that's at least as important as your physical activity.

While on a long ride, you have to manage your body as I mentioned above. But you also have to manage your nutrition -- eating properly and in appropriate quantities for your body and your pace. You have to manage your hydration, taking in enough liquid (and electrolyte replacement, if you're not getting that from any other source), but not too much liquid. You have to manage your pace so that you have enough energy to get you through the entire ride. And you have to manage your mind -- dealing with any thoughts that come up that would have the potential to distract you. All of these factors are crucial in making the transformation from casual recreational cyclist into long-distance endurance cyclist. Who knew that riding was such hard work?

What's next? Our next two Cat-3 Distance Training rides are, in my opinion, the most challenging of all, even though they're not the longest. On March 21, we're going to the coast at San Gregorio via a climb up Old La Honda Road. This year, due to popular request (really!), I've added a new optional loop that travels down the coast from San Gregorio (along a few miles of our traditional Day 1 route) to Pescadero. In total, the ride is 81 miles with about 5,400 feet of climbing; without the Pescadero loop, that reduces to about 65 miles and 3,600 feet of climbing. Either way, this is a challenging ride that requires strong climbing and descending skills. Your rewards are some amazing scenery and the accomplishment of doing more climbing in one day than on any single day of ALC. Details and RSVP are here. (After the ride, many of us will be gathering for celebration at a Mexican restaurant near the meeting point. Details will be sent in the Rider's Briefing that you get when your RSVP. Please remember to RSVP for these rides -- and any other ALC training rides. That helps us plan resources accordingly.) Looking ahead: In four weeks, we'll ride up to San Francisco and back, a ride of about 90 miles and 3,900 feet of climbing.

Finally, a giant thanks from all of us to Susan, who was our SAG driver yesterday and will do so again on our ride to San Gregorio. Even though nobody needed her transportation services this time, it's always reassuring to have a vehicle on the road for us, and it brought a smile to my face when I'd round a curve or crest a hill and see Susan standing there, cheering us on. You are awesome!

Day 1 is just 12 weeks from today. Thank you for being part of AIDS/LifeCycle.

P.S.: I was an idiot and left my camera in the car yesterday. These photos were taken by forementioned awesome SAG driver Susan.

Shopping party at Sports Basement Sunnyvale

Ride leader TJ Zmucki asks me to pass along this note:
Hello all you wonderful ALC Riders,

I have won a party at the Sunnyvale Sports Basement on April 1, 2009 from 6-8pm. We will have beer, soda, chips, dip, fruit and a 20% discount on your purchases. If you are in interested in attending please RSVP by emailing me back at TJ_Zmucki@msn.com

Bring friends also if you like. I am supplying some prizes and surprises for all who attend this event. Come celebrate and SHOP.

And I'll add that I just got my bike tuned up at Sports Basement Sunnyvale this week, and they were extremely nice. Giant thumbs up for a bike shop that doesn't make me feel like an idiot.

Saturday weather first look

Amazing! Looks like we've got a Saturday where I won't have to spend the whole week watching the ever-changing forecasts. This Saturday appears to be partly cloudy and cool, with highs hovering around 60 degrees. Ride-out temperatures will be chilly, though, probably in the low 40s, so dress in layers.

A great day for a ride! We've got a 76-mile ride planned, but there are many ways to cut some of the distance.

The easiest way (and the one that's on the route map) is to ride the first 40 miles and then take VTA light rail back to downtown Mountain View. The train ride is slow and requires a transfer, but it'll take you and your bike back to within three blocks of the meeting point for only $1.75.

You can reduce the ride to about 45 miles by riding as far as Rest Stop 1 and then riding the rest of the route back from there. This is handy because the route goes by Rest Stop 1 on the way back. (If you hang around the rest stop for a while, you might even link up with some of our faster riders on their way back.)

Or if you're feeling like 70 miles but not 76, you can bail out early on the return trip up Foothill Expressway.

With all of the rainy weekends in recent weeks, I know a lot of folks are behind on their training. But if you're a Cat-3 rider, don't let that keep you from joining us this Saturday. Details and RSVP are here.

A nod to reality

Astute followers of this webpage will notice that my fundraising "goal" over on the left side of the page has decreased from $5,000 to $3,000.

In this uncertain economy, it's looking likely that reaching even the $3,000 minimum that allows me to ride will be quite a challenge. And I decided to make the goal reflect the personal commitment that I made to the San Francisco AIDS Foundation: to raise at least $3,000 for them this season. They have a piece of paper with my signature on it, containing exactly that commitment. And I am determined to honor that commitment.

That's what this is all about. My ride in June is secondary to the primary goal of providing much-needed support to the SFAF, and that's where you come in. Big thanks to the donors who have already supported me this year. The San Francisco AIDS Foundation needs our help more than ever. If you have the resources to give this month, please do so. (If you don't, I understand.)

Ride report: Saratoga Gap

Go, riders!

4,400 feet is a lot of climbing to do in any one day of cycling. It's even more challenging when the ride is only 48 or 53 miles. By comparison, Day 1 of ALC has about the same amount of climbing, but it's spread out over about 80 miles, and no single climb is as long as the one we did yesterday. This picture from Skyline Blvd. during yesterday's ride (click on it to see a larger version) shows just how high up we were; at the left is the Stanford campus, and in the center, you can see the Dumbarton Bridge crossing the bay -- that's the same bridge we crossed on last week's ride.

The 25 riders who took part in Saturday's ride were treated to some wonderful scenery, some great riding on roads that usually aren't part of our training rides, and a near-perfect 72 degrees in Mountain View at the end of the ride.

On the ride in June, there is no single sustained climb as long as the climb up Highway 9, so if you made it to the top, then you're making fantastic progress. Even if you had to stop a couple of times (like me), that's fine, too; stops give me a chance to stretch and take some more pictures. But we do have a couple of very long descents in June, similar to what most of us experienced on Highway 84 on this ride. Whether you like your descents fast or not-so-fast, it's good to build your confidence and skills so that you can ride safely on such descents when hundreds of other riders are around you.

And it's absolutely vital that your brakes be in good working condition and that you know how to use them properly on a descent. Be sure to get your bike tuned up before June, and don't wait until the last minute; local bike shops will start to get backed up soon, not only with ALCers but with other cyclists who start their training or recreational riding in the spring.

Did you experience any crosswinds along Skyline Blvd.? I sure did, and one of the strong gusts came awful close to knocking me over while I was on a short descent. In June, we usually have the benefit of tailwinds, but a few sections of the route are notorious for strong crosswinds. Bicycling magazine published a short list of tips on how to ride in crosswinds. Ignore the first two tips that recommend forming pacelines -- we don't do pacelines on ALC, remember? -- but focus on the "By Yourself" hints. For example:
Stay relaxed. If you stiffen your arms and back, you're more easily moved by the wind.

React to gusts by steering back to your line with your body, not your bar.
Another tip that I've found useful, especially on descents, is to keep pedaling. The downward force of your stroke reduces the effect of the wind's horizontal force. The physicists can explain it, I'm sure.

Now that our rides have become longer, there are three more items that you should consider bringing with you on every ride.

First is sunscreen. Now that spring is almost here (really!), the sun's rays are potentially more damaging, and you need to protect any part of your skin that's exposed during the ride. Every year in June, I see way too many riders covered in white zinc because the sun got to them. This is the time to be finding out what sunscreen works best for you, and where you can find that sunscreen in bottles that you can carry with you. I like to use spray-on sunscreen because it's much easier to apply, but many other folks like the old-fashioned, rub-on lotion. Either way, this is the time for sunscreen. (P.S.: Even when skies are cloudy.)

Second, and related, is lip balm. Sunscreen usually doesn't work well on lips, and chapped or burnt lips can be just as painful and dangerous. Lip balm also comes with an SPF, so again, time to start finding a brand that you like.

Third, and more fun to talk about, is the class of personal lubricants that we commonly call "butt cream" or "butt butter."

First-year riders are often reluctant to talk about this subject, but sooner or later, most of us will succumb to the need for products to prevent chafing in our tender manly and/or womanly areas. Although it's called "butt butter," we often apply it to other parts of our nether regions; again, it's a matter of personal need as to how you use this product. But even if you haven't felt the need to try it yet, it's another thing that you should explore before June.

Saddle sores and skin abrasion can erupt during consecutive days of riding, and the pain can be so bad that it can force you out of the ride. So we can laugh about butt cream, but it's a necessity for many of us when the rides become long.

What's next? The Cat-3 Distance Training series resumes next Saturday with a 76-mile ride around the south end of San Jose and into Coyote Valley. This route is always popular and features a wide mix of city and rural conditions, plus once big descent (Bailey Avenue) for those who are into such things. Total climbing on the ride is only about 2,250 feet -- about half of what we did this weekend -- so it's a somewhat more mellow day. There's a VTA light-rail bailout available to cut the distance down to about 40 miles. Details and RSVP are here.

Day 1 of the ride is only 13 weeks from today! Thank you for being part of AIDS/LifeCycle.

Cat-3 Distance Training #7: San Francisco (4/4/2009)

Meet time: 7:00 a.m.
Ride-out time: 7:30 a.m.
Meeting place: Three blocks west of the Mountain View Caltrain and VTA station, in the overflow parking lot at the corner of Evelyn Avenue and Franklin Street. (map)
City: Mountain View
Rain policy: Rain cancels
Category: 3 - moderate-fast pace (12-15 mph)
Terrain: 2 - rolling hills
Miles: 89

Today we're going all the way to San Francisco ... and back! We'll head through the foothills along CaƱada and Skyline, then along the Great Highway to the Safeway-by-the-Sea. You'll get a good sample of about 15 miles of the traditional Day 1 route, including the climb out of San Francisco and a couple of short segments of freeway cycling. The weather can be anything from warm and sunny to cold and foggy, so dress in layers.

Total climbing on this ride is about 3,800 feet.

Revised route sheet for this ride is here. The location of Rest Stop 4 has changed from the route sheet originally posted here.

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

Leaders: Chris Thomas, Bruce Der-McLeod, Susan Fish, David Goldsmith, Diana Gomez, Maggie Vande Voorde, TJ Zmucki

RSVPs are requested but not required.