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Absolute shortest South Bay loop

Thanks to new roads that have opened in the past year plus an old, largely forgotten bike path that's still in marginally usable condition, I've got the South Bay loop down to 41 miles, verified with a test ride. We'll use this route on our December 12 training ride.

Then, later in the season, we'll do the super South Bay loop ... a full 100 miles!

Bay Area randonneuring events for 2010

The two main randonneuring (self-supported long-distance cycling) groups in the Bay Area have announced their 2010 event schedules, and they're good news for ALCers.

The main Santa Cruz Randonneurs schedule doesn't begin until late June, after ALC9 has ended. This is a big change from 2009, when all of the events were in the spring and conflicted with ALC training (and when most of us weren't yet in top form anyway). Of particular note is a 200km ride from Santa Cruz to Moss Beach that's scheduled for July 24 -- an almost-perfect time for ALCers, with just the right amount of post-ALC recovery.

And on August 21, there's a 300km ride from Santa Cruz to Greenfield that covers nearly all of our traditional Day 2 route -- and then comes back the same way, something we never get to do during the ride.

But if you're really ambitious crazy, there's a new event on the calendar this year, just a few weeks after ALC9. This is a 1,000km one-way ride (that's somewhat longer than ALC!) from San Jose to Oxnard that's considerably different from the ALC route. The "Central Coast 1000k" passes through Half Moon Bay, Santa Cruz, Monterey, Hollister, Pinnacles, Big Sur, and Solvang. And also unlike ALC, there's a time limit of 75 hours ... and the clock keeps running night and day, even when you're sleeping. Now that's a challenge.

There's also a full year-long schedule of events from San Francisco Randonneurs, including a 200km ride to Point Reyes and back on January 24. Expect chilly, challenging, dark conditions for this one.

If you can handle the distance (even "just" a 200km ride), most ALCers should be fairly comfortable with randonneuring. The style is very similar to our training rides, and there's a genuine sense of camaraderie. There are generous time limits on each ride (13.5 hours for a 200km ride), but randonneuring is also very much a ride and not a race.

And a reminder: Mark your calendar for Saturday, May 15, 2010. That's when I'm offering the Third Annual Altamont Pass Double Metric, 200km from Mountain View to Altamont Pass and back, my final training ride for ALC9. Start training now, and you can do this!

Photo: My medal from the Chualar 200k in 2008.

News from the Day 6 route

One of the most beautiful parts of the ride is along the shore near Ventura toward the end of Day 6. (Those of you who rode for the first time in 2009 missed this!) But much of that part of the ride also happens to be on very busy, high-speed U.S. 101. The Ventura County Star reports that some changes are on the way in a couple of years, including a new separate bike path:
Caltrans plans to break ground in 2011 on a new carpool lane for Highway 101 as it passes Mussel Shoals, La Conchita and Rincon Point. The $151 million project will also include a bike path that is separate from the highway lanes, a new walkway under the highway between La Conchita and the beach, and the closing of the left turn lanes in and out of La Conchita and Mussel Shoals.

However, not all is rainbows and happiness. Some residents are unhappy about the possible loss of parking along the highway:
The residents’ biggest concern right now is the California Department of Transportation’s recent decision to move a bike path that’s part of the widening plan from the mountain side to the ocean side of the highway.

Caltrans officials say they would have preferred the bike path to be on the mountain side, but the California Coastal Commission asked them to move it because it wants to encourage development of a network of coastal trails that stretch from Oregon to the Mexican border.

Once construction actually begins, here's hoping that Caltrans keeps the existing bike access fully available. There's no other viable way into Ventura (just look at how the highway is wedged in between the ocean and the mountains), so this is an essential part of the ALC route.

Photo: Day 6 of ALC5

Saratoga via Mt. Eden (12/5/2009)

Date: Saturday, Dec. 5
Meet time: 9:30 a.m.
Ride-out time: 10:00 a.m.
Meeting place: Three blocks west of the Mountain View Caltrain and VTA station, in the overflow parking lot at the corner of Evelyn Avenue and Franklin Street. (map)
City: Mountain View
Rain policy: Heavy rain cancels
Category: 2 - medium pace (10-12 mph)
Terrain: 3 - rolling hills with some steep climbs
Miles: 33

After leaving downtown Mountain View, we'll head through Cupertino and then ride through the rolling hills of scenic Stevens Canyon. Next comes our significant climb of the day: the 0.7-mile ascent of Mount Eden out of Stevens Canyon. It's steep but not ridiculously steep, and you can always walk part or all of it. (Come back later this season to see how much you've improved!) We'll take a break in Saratoga Village and then go part of the way toward Los Gatos before heading back on an easy, mostly downhill route.

Total climbing for the day is about 1,550 feet.

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

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

Leaders: Chris Thomas, Michael Casas, Kevin Hunter, Ally Kemmer, Linda Kemmer, Paul Vargas

RSVPs are requested but not required.

Portola Valley (11/21/2009)

Date: Saturday, Nov. 21
Meet time: 9:30 a.m.
Ride-out time: 10:00 a.m.
Meeting place: Three blocks west of the Mountain View Caltrain and VTA station, in the overflow parking lot at the corner of Evelyn Avenue and Franklin Street. (map)
City: Mountain View
Rain policy: Heavy rain cancels
Category: 2 - medium pace (10-12 mph)
Terrain: 2 - rolling hills
Miles: 29

The Portola Valley loop is one of the Bay Area's most popular cycling routes, attracting everyone from novice riders to professional racers. Join us as we take a gentle route from Mountain View to Stanford and then tackle the long but very gradual ascent into the foothills. There are a couple of short, attention-getting hills as we head back toward Menlo Park, but after that it's all easy going on the Bryant Street bike boulevard through downtown Palo Alto.

Total climbing for the day is about 1,250 feet.

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

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

Leaders: Chris Thomas, Tim Huang, Kevin Hunter, Mayor Bob, Ally Kemmer, Linda Kemmer, Ken Plough, Paul Rosas, Paul Vargas

RSVPs are requested but not required.

Welcome to the new season

The AIDS/LifeCycle 9 season officially got under way this morning with kickoff rides in San Francisco and Los Angeles. And even though just four months ago I said I didn't know whether I'd be back ... well, I'm back.

I'm sure things will somehow be different this time; they always are. I'm hoping to have a smoother training season, although the early weather forecasts suggest that we'll be dodging rain for much of the winter and possibly into spring. I'm again looking forward to making new friends and reconnecting with veterans from past rides. And for me, that's a rather numbing thought -- at five years in ALC, that apparently puts me in about the top 15% of riders for longevity, and it means that I've now been around for more than half of all the ALCs. (That doesn't count the earlier California AIDS Rides, of course, and there are many folks who have been around far longer than I.) I've been more active in the preseason this year, helping teach this year's new classes of training ride leaders, and I skipped most of my traditional time off to lead a series of training rides for the recently completed Seismic Challenge.

Since I've already proven to myself that I can do this ride -- even when somewhat injured and in suboptimal health, as I was this year -- this clearly isn't about me meeting any physical challenge anymore. So why am I coming back? I'll admit that the social aspects have become an increasingly important part of my life. The year-round exercise is also important -- probably more than I realize as the years go by. But for all of the reasons why we ride, we share one common goal: to help fight HIV and AIDS so that the ride is no longer necessary.

To first-year riders and those considering joining us: Welcome aboard. This is a journey quite unlike anything else you've ever experienced. You'll experience just about every emotion in the book, and all of the videos, pictures, and words that you see about the ride really don't do justice to the unique experiences that you -- and only you -- will have.

To returning riders: Thank you for coming back. You already know how important the ride is, and your continuing involvement in the ride helps carry our message forward. And whatever kind of ride you had last time you did it, chances are you'll experience something completely different this time.

To my supporters: Giant thanks! I, of course, wouldn't be able to ride without your generous donations, and your support is more important than ever in these challenging times of drastic budget cuts. I know it's tough to be asked year after year to give what you can, and I'll again appreciate whatever support you can give the San Francisco AIDS Foundation on my way to reaching my $3,000 minimum and my $5,000 goal. (And if you can give sooner rather than later, that's a big help -- your money goes to work immediately, and it helps me stress out less about meeting my minimum.)

Thanks to all of you, and stand by for action!

Hwy. 84 at Alameda de las Pulgas

This letter appears in the latest edition of Gary Richards' column in the Mercury News:
Q There is a fairly big intersection at Alameda de Las Pulgas and Woodside Road on the Peninsula. If heading east on Woodside but wanting to go right at the Alameda, there is a bike lane and white painted markings that indicate that you should not get into the right lane until fairly close to the intersection. I can't tell you how many times cars speed by me in the bike lane. Is there a way to let these drivers know what the rules are?
Laurie Bassin

A Redwood City police get a ton of complaints about this behavior and say it is clear that only bicycles are allowed to travel on the right side of the roadway for most of the shoulder. They recently were out cracking down on these scofflaws and will likely make a return appearance.

This spot will be very familiar to Seismic Challenge riders as the site of Rest Stop 2 on Day 1. We also use it regularly on many of our Peninsula rides. It's a tricky spot because bicyclists usually are still moving along at a rather high speed after completing the mile-long descent from Woodside.

Back to normal in the Presidio

The Chronicle reports tonight that the traffic management experiment in the Presidio is ending earlier than planned:
Officials with the Presidio Trust, which operates the urban park, said Tuesday they gathered enough good information to shorten the test.

Several smaller road-closure tests, including the uphill portion of Crissy Field Avenue, will be reopened by Friday.

... The decision is welcomed by many neighbors who felt that choking off a major traffic artery leading in and out of the former Army base has been a big inconvenience.

This means that all of the usual routes will be available for our kickoff ride this Saturday.

Repaving on Bryant Street in Palo Alto

Two blocks of the "bike boulevard" are about to get a much-needed coat of fresh pavement. Ellen Fletcher (yes, the Ellen Fletcher of the "Ellen Fletcher bike boulevard" signs) says:
The prep work for repaving has started on the bumpy two blocks between Churchill and Lowell on the Bryant Street Bike Boulevard in Palo Alto :-)
The work is expected to last a couple of weeks.

From the map, you can see that simple detours are readily available.

PCH in Malibu

This report from Wednesday's edition of The Malibu Times likely will be of interest to ALCers. We're all too aware of the hazards along this part of PCH.
The most recent tragedy involved the death of Rodrigo Armas, 45, and serious injuries to his teenage son in June when Malibu City Clerk Robert Sam Sanchez allegedly struck the two as they were bicycling on Pacific Coast Highway. Sanchez, who is still employed by the city, has been charged with vehicular manslaughter, a DUI, and a hit and run resulting in serious bodily injury. He is scheduled for a hearing Oct. 20 at the Malibu Courthouse.

According to a state Office of Traffic Safety report, Malibu ranked No. 1 in total traffic victims killed and injured in 2005. The report, the latest ranking available, lists Malibu as the worst out of 104 cities in its population category based on daily vehicle miles traveled. Malibu was also the second worst city for victims killed and injured in alcohol-involved collisions; first in alcohol-involved collisions for drivers age 21 to 34; ninth for bicyclists killed and injured; first in speed-related collisions; and second in nighttime collisions, the report states. Calls to confirm 2006-2008 statistics were not returned by the California Highway Patrol.

... After the June 28 death of cyclist Armas, Thorsen said plans are in the works for a bike path along the highway to be constructed at the west end of Malibu. Additionally, the PCH Safety Task Force has resumed operation after a two-year hiatus. It will hold its next meeting on Jan. 7, 2010 in Santa Monica, at which the public is invited to voice safety concerns.

Giro d'Vino, Lodi (11/1/2009)

I'm signed up to ride 100km over in the Central Valley on Sunday, Nov. 1, in the 2009 Giro d'Vino.

It's a mostly flat route, but weather around there can be very unpredictable, and strong headwinds can make a flat ride very difficult. There's also the risk of early-season fog and drizzle, so a day of decent weather would be a very pleasant surprise indeed. (A 60km route is also available.)

This will be my first organized ride in the Stockton area since the 2005 Delta Century, which started at the exact same location. I'm familiar with most of the route, but it should be nice to see it again after a few years. There's a map running around Bikely that claims to be the 100km route, but it's almost totally flat. The organizers say that the route "includes some rolling hills of the Mokelumne River basin," so I suspect the unofficial map isn't accurate.

Registration is available online and costs $46.09 before the end of this Saturday. That includes the "processing fee" from active.com. If you use that website, be careful because active.com puts in all sorts of annoying upsells and opt-outs, trying to get you to pay on auto-renewal for magazines, subscription services, and memberships that you don't want. It's a sleazy practice, but they've apparently got de facto monopoly power and can do whatever they please. That still doesn't make me happy about it. (End of rant.)

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

Date: Saturday, Nov. 14
Meet time: 9:30 a.m.
Ride-out time: 10:00 a.m.
Meeting place: Three blocks west of the Mountain View Caltrain and VTA station, in the overflow parking lot at the corner of Evelyn Avenue and Franklin Street. (map)
City: Mountain View
Rain policy: Rain cancels
Category: N/A - This is a no-pace ride
Terrain: 2 - rolling hills
Miles: 22

Whether you're a first-time ALCer or a veteran rider, join us as we kick off another season of training in the South Bay and on the Peninsula. Meet new faces and reconnect with friends from past adventures on this mostly easy ride that goes ever so gently into the beginning of the foothills. We'll have plenty of ride leaders on hand to help you on the road, and we can help answer your questions about the ride, your bicycle, and the upcoming training season.

From downtown Mountain View, we'll head into Sunnyvale to begin our very gradual climb to De Anza College in Cupertino. Then we'll tackle our one hill of the day, westbound McClellan as it crosses Stevens Creek. It's very short but a little attention-getting, and it's perfectly OK to walk it. (In ALC, we call that "cross-training.") Then we'll ride on Foothill Expressway, a very popular bicycling route, to our rest stop in Los Altos Hills. After that, we'll continue into Palo Alto and then head back down near sea level for a flat return into Mountain View. Total climbing for the day is only about 550 feet.

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

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

Leaders: Chris Thomas, Michael Cases, Eleanor Edralin, Randy Files, Tim Huang, Ally Kemmer, Linda Kemmer, Jamie Pereira, Ken Plough, Dennis Soong, Paul Vargas

RSVPs are requested but not required.

Seismic Challenge 2.0: The weather forecast

Final update Friday morning

Over in ALC world, legendary rider Bob Katz has become known for posting advance weather forecasts before each year's ride. While I can't promise the same exemplary service as Bob, we're now within the two-week window where the weather forecasting services are starting to offer their predictions for this year's ride.

Here are specific to-the-hour predictions on what conditions will be like at each of the major stops, at the time most riders probably will pass through. There is currently no chance of rain anywhere along the route!

Of course, things can and do change, so take nothing here as certain. Also, the many Bay Area microclimates are notoriously tough to predict. But this information might help you prepare for what to pack and what to wear. My data comes from AccuWeather.

Day 1: Saturday, Oct. 17

7 a.m. in San Francisco: 59F, humidity 100%, wind WSW 5 mph, partly sunny (but sure looks like dense fog)
9 a.m. in San Bruno (RS1): 61F, humidity 93%, wind WSW 7 mph, mostly cloudy
10 a.m. in Redwood City (RS2): 62F, humidity 87%, wind N 2 mph, mostly cloudy
Noon in Fremont (lunch): 69F, humidity 85%, wind NW 6 mph, mostly cloudy
2 p.m. in Castro Valley (RS3): 68F, humidity 87%, wind W 9 mph, mostly cloudy
4 p.m. in Moraga (RS4): 72F, humidity 71%, wind W 8 mph, mostly cloudy
6 p.m. in Martinez: 70F, humidity 70%, wind WSW 8 mph, mostly cloudy

Day 2: Sunday, Oct. 18

7 a.m. in Martinez: 57F, humidity 92%, wind SSW 6, partly sunny
8 a.m. in Vallejo (RS1): 57F, humidity 94%, wind WSW 6 mph, partly sunny
9 a.m. in Napa (RS2): 58F, humidity 94%, wind WSW 5 mph, mostly cloudy
11 a.m. in Sonoma (lunch): 60F, humidity 86%, wind W 5 mph, cloudy
1 p.m. in Petaluma (RS3): 61F, humidity 79%, wind WSW 7 mph, mostly cloudy
4 p.m. in San Anselmo (RS4): 65F, humidity 68%, wind SW 10 mph, mostly cloudy
6 p.m. in San Francisco: 60F, humidity 74%, wind W 18 mph, partly sunny

Weekend changes to Caltrain schedule

I thought the weekend trains had been arriving at unusual times, and I was right. Turns out that Caltrain has modified its weekend/holiday schedule, and this could affect you if you take the train to any of our rides in Mountain View.

Trains that departed San Francisco on the hour now depart at 15 minutes past the hour. This means that the arrival time in Mountain View is now 29 minutes past the next hour. The earliest train of the day now leaves SF at 8:15 a.m. and arrives in Mountain View at 9:29 a.m.

Northbound trains back to SF appear to be unaffected, still leaving Mountain View at 19 minutes past the hour.

The change doesn't mess up this Sunday's ride, but it's worth noting for the future. Whenever I have rides that are train-friendly (those when the ride-out time is late enough), I'll be sure to accommodate the new train schedule.

End of another training season

In October!? Yes, it's the end of the Seismic Challenge 2.0 training season, and I've been proud to help many of you train for this year's ride, which begins two weeks from today in San Francisco.

Each of the nine riders on today's 87-mile ride did fantastic, with everyone riding well above the pace necessary to complete both days of Seismic Challenge. We were helped by remarkably moderate temperatures -- not getting much above 70 degrees if at all -- and winds that didn't really pick up until the last few downhill miles.

I think the most important lesson to take away from today's ride is a lesson that I've talked about before: pacing. We started off today's route with 50 fairly easy miles, and just about everybody rode those 50 miles at an average speed of 15 mph -- way fast by our standards. Toward the end of the day, I could see a few folks slowing down (including me). The trick is to keep some energy on hand to deal with late-day hills and other unexpected events, even when there's a strong temptation to ride all-out on flat terrain. Remember, it's not a race.

I'll see all of you in two weeks on Day 1 of Seismic Challenge. Since you folks are so speedy, I'm sure you'll pass me, so say hi as you call out "on your left." (I'll be wearing my ride leader jersey and the socks. Can't miss me!)

It's been an honor to ride with you, and I commend you for your support of the San Francisco AIDS Foundation.

Photo credit: Susan Fish

Fire season on the SC Day 1 route

The Chronicle reports tonight on a 15-acre grass fire near Fremont that has closed parts of our Day 1 route along Niles Canyon and Palomares roads:
About 300 firefighters from five agencies have been combatting the blaze, which broke out shortly before 4 p.m. in the region of Niles Canyon and Palomares roads. The fire was about 70 percent contained at 8:40 p.m., Agenbroad said.

... State Highway 84 was closed between the Mission and Sunol exits from about 4:30 p.m. to 6:45 p.m., said California Highway Patrol Officer Peter Van Eckhardt. Palomares Road between Highway 84 and Interstate 580 remains closed and will likely stay closed throughout the night, he said.

Saturday's training ride doesn't go through that area, so no worries there. But it's a good reminder that this is indeed fire season, and with all the wind that's in the forecast, anything can happen.

Ready for some wind?

AccuWeather's current forecast for Saturday in San Jose calls for afternoon northwesterly wind gusts up to ... get ready ... 45 mph.

Don't panic quite yet, though. Our 87-mile route won't hit actual headwinds until about mile 57, when we turn onto Santa Teresa Blvd. Once we reach Los Gatos and head toward Saratoga, we should get a bit of a break; the headwinds will resume as we head back toward Mountain View, but most of that stretch is gently downhill.

The biggest cause for concern is our giant 1.4-mile downhill on Silver Creek Valley Road around mile 52. Because it's a twisty descent, the wind might come at us from several directions, making a high-speed descent dangerous. Please, please: Use caution, and don't ride beyond your abilities.

And if the wind is simply too much, you can hop on VTA light rail around mile 58. It'll bring you all the way back to downtown Mountain View, and it costs only $1.75, but it's sloooooooow. Count on about 90 minutes for the trip.

Here are some tips for riding in headwinds. Some of them are written for competitive riders, so ignore those. But here's an interesting statistic that I hadn't considered:
Think of it as a form of hill climbing (at slower speeds, each 5 mph of wind speed equals ~1% of grade i.e. a 20-mph headwind would equal a 4% hill).

So a 45 mph headwind would equal a 9% hill -- in other words, Quadbuster.