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Ride report: Saratoga via Mt. Eden (12/5/2009)

Go, riders!

The almost-winter chill definitely was in the air today for our intrepid group of 20 riders on our 33-mile ride. From the remote quiet of Stevens Canyon to the busy streets of Cupertino and Sunnyvale, we experienced a good sample of the many different types of riding we'll see on the event in June.

Special congratulations to those of you who conquered Mount Eden for the first time. That climb is typical of many of the intermediate climbs you'll find throughout the training season and in June. Everyone has their own speed; never feel pressured to keep up with anyone else. The same applies on the descent: Just because an expert hill master flies by you, don't feel the need to get in behind them -- especially if you're unfamiliar with the road. And if any climb is just too much for you for any reason (maybe it's just not your day), never be ashamed to walk some or all of the hill. Those of us who did ALC8 this year were faced with an extremely steep hill (which may or may not be part of the ALC9 route) outside Pismo Beach on Day 4, and many of us chose to walk. Always listen to your body, and don't needlessly put yourself at risk of injury.

Part of keeping your body healthy is proper nutrition. Now that our rides are more than two hours long (yes, even for the faster folks), you can't complete a ride without proper energy before, during, and after the ride. For morning rides, a good breakfast is essential, about an hour before ride-out. And it's important to take in calories during the ride, either at scheduled rest stops or on your own. Check out the guidelines on nutrition and hydration at the ALC website. And a quick note: Don't forget to drink, especially during winter. In colder weather, we're often less tempted to hydrate while riding, but the need is still there.

And as always, a few lessons were learned along the way today ... including by me.

One of our riders went down today, and we were very lucky that nobody was hurt. The bad part is that I was at least partially to blame. As we approached the tricky left turn from Quito onto Cox, I was leading a group of riders who were moving along at a rather strong pace -- about 18-20 mph. I saw the small "Quito Center" sign that was marked on the route sheet, and I called out, "Left turn!" The problem was that we were already at the beginning of the left turn lane, and there was a lane of traffic between the bike lane and the turn lane. I called, "Slowing!" and quickly made it to the head of the left turn lane, but I had failed to announce my intent early enough, and some of the other riders in the group weren't prepared to make the turn. One tried to come across -- and went down in the process at a slow speed ... but right in the middle of the through-traffic lane. Fortunately, the approaching car stopped! And also very fortunately, the rider was not injured. But my error was clear: I should have announced my intent earlier. And since I did not, the proper action was to continue past our designated turn to the next intersection, where we could have made a safe U-turn and returned to the route.

Another error I made today was at the intersection of Cox/Wardell and Saratoga-Sunnyvale. Our route took us through the intersection, and I correctly stopped behind the limit line and in the through lane (not the turn lane) ... but I failed to stop on the painted bike sensor to trip the traffic signal. In a situation like that where a bike sensor is clearly indicated and no car is already on top of the sensor, the proper action is to move to the sensor, which is usually in the middle of the lane. Thanks to the rider who gently reminded me of my error!

I was very pleased to hear lots of "Car back!" today. When you hear it behind you, always pass it forward in your line of riders. And if the car turns or stops before it reaches you, don't worry -- it's far better to have given an extra warning than to not have given one when there really is a car back.

What's next? Next Saturday (Dec. 12), we are scheduled for a 41-mile flat loop around the South Bay. The weather might have other plans for us; the storm that's approaching is already putting news outlets on high alert with phrases such as "biggest storm in the past seven years" and "the storm door is open" even to "these storms could end our drought." The current long-range forecast for next Saturday (which, of course, is more of a guess than an actual forecast) calls for showers throughout the day. However, the ride is "heavy rain cancels," which means that mere drizzle or light showers won't cancel the ride. (And because our route is almost completely flat, we don't have to worry about tricky technical riding in the rain.) Getting at least some experience riding in the rain is strongly recommended because rain can happen during the event in June, and we keep on riding unless the storm is of epic proportions (as it was this year on Day 6). Lots of things change in the rain -- how your brakes work, how your wheels grab the pavement, how well your sunglasses repel (or don't repel) water, how much water soaks into your saddlebag, and other things you might not have considered.

I'll post updates here as needed throughout the week, and next Saturday morning, I'll make a ride/no-ride decision as early as possible, hopefully by 7 a.m., and post it here. Details and RSVP are here.

Don't forget the ALC9 Northern California kickoff party, scheduled for Sunday, Jan. 24 in San Francisco. This is one of the major events of the season, and there's a new location this year: Mezzanine. Thousands of dollars in prizes are promised, which probably will include the usual assortment of new bicycles. Details and RSVP are here.

Thank you for riding today, and thank you for being part of AIDS/LifeCycle.

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