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

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

Saturday weather watch (updated Friday afternoon)

We're still good for a rain-free ride Saturday. If you wake up early, don't panic if you see some showers -- the latest forecast discussion says showers might continue until as late as 6 a.m. Saturday and then "diminish rapidly."

Temperatures are still expected to be unseasonably chilly, with a high for Daly City of only about 52 degrees. Add a northwest wind gusting to 15-20 mph, and it's going to feel more like January out there, so dress accordingly.

In my opinion, this is the most challenging ride of our entire 10-ride set. The rides after this one are longer, but they're not nearly as hilly. And don't forget to eat; depending on your build, you'll burn anywhere from 2,700 to 6,000 calories on this ride.

They'd never close Edgewood Road ... would they?

Here's an interesting item from Tuesday's Roadshow column in the Mercury News:
Q San Mateo County has been managing the slow erosion on the uphill side of Edgewood Road near Interstate 280 for years rather than going to the expense of retaining it. Now much of the dirt around a very large boulder near the top has washed away and it looks ready to roll down the hill and flatten everything in its path. What does the county say about this?
Charles Gillet
A County road officials have monitored this large rock outcropping for years. It is located near the Edgewood County Park and Natural Preserve, which supports more than 500 species of plants, three of which are federally listed as endangered or threatened. As a result, the county is restricted to maintenance work it can do within this area. So far, there has been no significant movement of the rock, even though the slope continues to crumble along Edgewood. If it becomes a bigger hazard, the county will take measures to either close the road or remove the rock.

Distance Training #9: Gilroy (5/1/2010)

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: Heavy rain cancels
Category: 3 - moderate-fast pace (12-15 mph)
Terrain: 2 - rolling hills
Miles: 82/110

Today, we're traveling all the way down to Gilroy. 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 Santa Teresa into south San Jose, then back through Los Gatos and Saratoga with a little attention-getting hill right at mile 100 just for fun.

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. There's a bailout option at about 82 miles by taking the slow VTA light rail back to Mountain View -- not much faster than cycling.

Total climbing on this ride is about 2,900 feet. Limited SAG service will be available.

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, not even at the police station, so take care of your needs before you arrive.

Leaders: Chris Thomas, Larry L'Italien, Randy Files, Paul Vargas, Kathy Sherman, Al Eqsuivel, Dennis Soong

RSVPs are requested but not required.

Distance Training #8: South Bay century loop (4/17/2010)

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: Heavy rain cancels
Category: 3 - moderate-fast pace (12-15 mph)
Terrain: 2 - rolling hills
Miles: 100

This giant loop around the South Bay has a bit of everything. We start with a bit of Peninsula action in the foothills up to Menlo Park. Then, we cross the Dumbarton Bridge and head out to Mission Blvd., where we climb to the Mission San Jose district of Fremont. From there, we head down the east side of San Jose toward Evergreen Valley. Then, get ready for the climb up Silver Creek Valley Road followed by one of the most thrilling urban descents in the entire Bay Area. We'll close by picking up some of our routes from the past to return through Los Gatos, Saratoga, Cupertino, and Sunnyvale.

Total climbing on this ride is about 2,900 feet. A SAG vehicle will be on the route to provide limited services.

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 (probably not even at the police station), so take care of your needs before you arrive.

Leaders: Chris Thomas, Bob Katz, Ally Kemmer, Randy Files, Paul Vargas, Michael Casas

RSVPs are requested but not required.

Distance Training #10: Altamont Pass Double Metric (5/15/2010)

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: Heavy rain cancels
Category: 3 - moderate-fast pace (12-15 mph)
Terrain: 2 - rolling hills
Miles: 125

If you are an intermediate or advanced rider who already has completed at least one century ride at a pace of at least 12 mph this season, you are invited to ride in the Third Annual Altamont Pass Double Metric, where we ride 200 kilometers (125 miles) in one day.

The terrain on this route is not extremely difficult -- total climbing is only about 2,900 feet -- but potentially strong afternoon headwinds and very hot temperatures have combined in the past to make this ride more challenging than it looks.

From our meeting point in downtown Mountain View, we start by crossing the Dumbarton Bridge and passing through Newark and Fremont on our way up Niles Canyon to Sunol. Next, we'll head through Pleasanton and Livermore on our way to the Summit Garage at top of the original Altamont Pass along the historic Lincoln Highway.

Then, 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 district of Fremont. Finally, we'll pass through McCarthy Ranch and go through Milpitas, San Jose, Santa Clara, and Sunnyvale on our way back to Mountain View.

We ride out at the crack of dawn. Sunset for today 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.

This is an epic ride, but it is very doable, and your ride leaders and volunteer roadies will be on hand to help you succeed. But please, for your own health and safety and the safety of other riders, do not sign up for this ride if you will not have completed at least one other 100-mile ride before May 15.

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.

Leaders: Chris Thomas, Kathy Sherman, Paul Vargas, Randy Files, David Gaus, Arun Bhalla, Gloria Padaong, Dennis Soong

RSVPs are strongly encouraged for this ride so that you can be kept informed as the date approaches.

Ride report: Distance Training #6 (3/20/2010)

Go, riders!

After the challenging weather of this winter, our group of 29 riders (and awesome SAG driver Taryl) was treated to a first day of spring that was almost perfect for cycling. Today's official high in San Jose reached 74 degrees, and this 81-mile ride was an ideal example of the many things you can expect on the event in June. In fact, today was almost the perfect "average" day on AIDS/LifeCycle.

In June, you'll average about 80 miles a day. You'll average about 3,000 feet of climbing a day. The mornings typically will start out around 50 degrees or a little bit cooler, and daytime temperatures usually will warm significantly before cooling off again by the end of your riding day. And you'll travel through busy urban corridors, along picturesque rural scenery, up and over moderately challenging hills, and even places where the miles start to seem monotonous.

Today was a perfect opportunity to practice the many ways in which you need to manage your ride to respond to this multitude of conditions. Dressing in layers is essential to deal with temperature swings that can be as much as 40 degrees or more from morning till afternoon. Those of you who like city miles can get more comfortable with riding in the country, where shoulders may not be as wide and road conditions may not be as good. Those of you who like country miles, on the other hand, can get more comfortable with high-traffic situations and navigating complex lane configurations. These are all things that you'll experience in June, and you're ahead of the game if you learn now how to most effectively react to any negative feelings you have about riding in any of these conditions.

Road surfaces can get a little sketchy out there in the middle of nowhere, with bumps, ruts, and holes appearing out of nowhere. This is especially important on days 2 and 3 of the ride, where we spend much of our time on rural backroads of Santa Cruz and Monterey counties. Sad to say, but in these times of budget cuts, the standard of rural road maintenance in these areas just isn't what it should be, and we'll be dealing with long stretches of roads that have seen better days. And because chip-seal is very common in these areas, the vibration from the road surface can play games with your hands and the rest of your body, even when the road quality is OK. You need to watch for road hazards and call them out when you see them; holes and ruts can appear right where you might want to be cycling, and other cyclists behind you probably can't see the hazards in front of you. This is doubly important when you're cycling at high speed, such as going downhill, because the consequences of hitting an obstruction there can be very serious indeed. When you're going faster, leave more space between you and the rider in front of you ... just like you would if you were driving. You need time to react to any unexpected events.

Another part of today's ride that was almost just like June was the somewhat unequal distribution of rest stop locations. Rest stops can be anywhere from about 9 miles apart to about 25 miles apart in June, and you always need to make sure that you've got enough water and food to get you to the next rest stop. Check your route sheet to see how far to the next rest stop. (Yes, you get a route sheet every day in June, even though the route is usually marked well. The route sheet gives you other information that can help you better manage your ride, such as the elevation chart and rest stop locations.)

At 81 miles, today's ride was the longest ever for many of you, and congratulations are in order. Now that we're into uncharted territory, pay special attention to how every extra mile is affecting your body. Don't forget your basic lessons of nutrition, hydration, and (um, er) excretion; managing your body is another important key to succeeding at long-distance riding. Always have some type of energy on hand to use in an emergency if your body starts to run out of fuel before the next rest stop. Some folks like energy gels; others use "shot blocks," tablets, or other items; this is the time for you to figure out which ones work for you. A typical gel shot contains lots of caffeine but only about 100 calories; that's not enough to serve as a meal replacement, but it might be enough to get you those last few miles to camp or the next rest stop.

What's next? The ALC calendar is getting busy now. Next Saturday is the ALC9 SF Cyclist Expo and Roadie Training. Two rides will be held that day, but they're only 22 and 40 miles, so they'll be a piece of cake for us. (And if you've never done the Tiburon Loop, you should do it at least once.) After the rides, vendors will be on hand to sell items and gear you might find useful on the event, the ALC store will be open, and there will be the usual drawings for fabulous prizes.

Then, next Sunday is the second ride of the season down in Hollister. This 54-mile ride has a few moderate climbs but nothing worse than what we've done here so far. In the heart of San Benito County, this ride is also a perfect opportunity to experience rural roads very similar to those of the Central Coast, with all of the fantastic scenery but also with some of the challenging road conditions that you need to be comfortable with before setting out in June. Hollister is only about a one-hour drive from our meeting point in Mountain View, and you can even go outlet shopping on the way back home.

Our next Cat-3 Distance Training ride is in two weeks, on Saturday, April 3, when we'll do a challenging 90-mile ride all the way to San Francisco and back. This is another very useful ride because you'll get to experience about 15 miles of the traditional Day 1 route of the event in June, and you'll be much happier on Day 1 if you know in advance what this rather hilly part of the route feels like. This ride also introduces us to real freeway cycling; we'll be going on several short bicycle-legal parts of I-280, and this is yet another thing that you need to be comfortable with in June. (Better to have your freak-out now than when 2,500 other cyclists are around you!) This is a fun ride that always generates at least a few interesting stories; details and RSVP here.

(Edit, added after I sent the email version of this report: Construction on the Crystal Springs Dam Bridge has been delayed, so we'll be able to take a direct route in both directions. The route will be a little bit simpler and easier than the one that's posted now; I'll make the corrections soon.)

Just 78 days until we start our journey to Los Angeles! Thank you for being part of AIDS/LifeCycle.

Selfish moment

Wouldn't I look absolutely fetching as I pedal around the byways of Northern California in this totally awesome jersey? Such colors!

Well, this jersey can't be bought at any price. The only way I can get it is by getting my fundraising total for this year up to $5,000 or more. And, of course, I need you to help me do that. So, if you can, please click that pretty lil' Donate now button over there on the left and give what you can.

Why? Well, here's what the San Francisco AIDS Foundation has to say about it:
The San Francisco AIDS Foundation provides leadership to prevent new HIV infections. Linking community experience with science, the Foundation develops ground-breaking prevention programs and bold policy initiatives to promote health and create sustainable progress against HIV. Established in 1982, the Foundation refuses to accept that HIV transmission is inevitable.

I've bicycled 1,205 miles so far this year to help make this happen. You've got the easy part. Thanks for your support.

(So, yeah, that's not really very selfish of me at all, is it.)

Don't forget the sunscreen

For many of us, this weekend might be the first opportunity this year (or ever!) to compelte a very long ride under ideal, sunny, warm conditions. At the risk of sounding trite: Don't forget the sunscreen!

We'll be outside for up to eight hours, so it's essential that you take care of your skin. One application at the beginning of the day is not enough, so be sure to bring your favorite sunscreen with you. And you might also want to consider some lip balm; burnt lips are a common (and painful) occurrence during the event in June.

This Saturday's ride: Just a little bit easier

I've made a slight change to the description for this Saturday's ride to Coyote Valley: The climb up Pierce Road no longer is part of the ride.

Why? The series of four consecutive climbs -- Mount Eden, Pierce, Kennedy, and Camden -- is a bit much for some riders, most notably myself. When I did the first three of these climbs in a row yesterday, I was unable to maintain a Cat-3 pace (12+ mph) over the first 21 miles of our scheduled route, so it's unfair of me to require that everyone else do so.

The distance is about the same, and the overall total climbing is about the same -- we just get to Saratoga a tiny bit more gently this way. Don't worry; there's still plenty of climbing to be had, and at a smidgen over 80 miles, this ride will be a formidable mid-season challenge, roughly comparable in difficulty to Day 1 of ALC9.

The competitive spirit

AIDS/LifeCycle is a ride, not a race: That's one of the key concepts that's drilled into every one of us over and over again. But if you're a naturally competitive person, the ride can pose challenges for you -- sometimes helpful, sometimes not so helpful.

On today's training ride, the location of the second rest stop was "choose your own." I did just that, and I ended up eating my sandwich at an outside table in a shopping center along the route. It was refreshingly quiet -- I was the only rider there -- but it also had the unfortunate property of letting me watch our route while I ate. And every time I saw one or more riders go by on Saratoga-Sunnyvale Road, I couldn't help but think that I had just fallen "farther behind" in the group of today's riders.

Now, consider what happens during the event in June. You stop by the side of the road just for a minute, perhaps for something as mundane as taking off a jacket or making a phone call. In that short time, it's not uncommon to see dozens -- or maybe 100 or more -- riders go by. Of course, you'll do the same thing to countless other riders as well during the day -- cycle on by and "get ahead" of them -- but that's not what you're thinking of at the time.

If you let your competitive spirit get the best of you in such cases, your ride can become less pleasant. You start feeling that you need to "catch up," and you risk taking your body beyond where it wants to be. There are a few advantages to arriving at camp sooner rather than later; in particular, the lines for shower trucks can be shorter. But in the grand scheme of things, this isn't a big deal, and you should never let your riding be guided by your relative position compared to other riders. It's your personal challenge and your body that needs to be listened to.

That said, however, a little competition sometimes can be a healthy thing.

Today's ride was structured in such a way that riders easily could cut it short at several points and return to the meeting place. And after about 40 miles of hill after hill after hill after hill, the thought of doing so was very tempting (and, as I learned at the end, many riders chose to do just that). But while I had been riding mostly by myself most of the day, I had linked up with a friend at about mile 37, and together we navigated a particularly ornery portion of the route sheet (complete with a foul-up on my part that added a useless hill).

As we approached one of the easy bailout points, I was leading our small group of two, and even though I really wanted to end my ride at that point, I found that I just couldn't do it while I was being followed by someone I know. And the exact same thing happened about 7 miles later when we had another opportunity to cut some climbing and distance out of the route. Had I not been under "the watchful eye" of another rider who knows me, I might well have bailed out, but my body responded to the challenge, and both of us finished the full route.

The determination to ride "Every Friendly Inch" can be overpowering, and I've written before about some of the very, very strong emotions that can come up surrounding EFI. But remember, nobody will ever think less of you for listening to your body and doing the right thing. Not other riders, not ride leaders, and not your donors. Don't be afraid to expand the limits of your physical endurance, but also learn to accurately gauge when your body really is telling you no más, and then react appropriately. That's the responsible thing to do, not just for your safety but also for the safety of everyone around you.

Photo: Cresting Mount Eden on today's training ride. Photo by Dennis Soong.

Thank you!

I have received enough donations to take me past the $3,000 minimum that I have to raise in order to begin the ride on June 6. Giant thanks to each of you who helped make this happen, whether you donated yourself, persuaded someone else to do so, or simply thought positive thoughts.

That said, if you've been thinking of donating but haven't done so yet, don't let this stop you! The San Francisco AIDS Foundation still needs our support more than ever, and I ride to help bring in as much of that support as possible. (Plus, speaking selfishly, there's a special jersey for reaching $5,000 ... and I've only reached that level once before.)

Keep following my training adventures here, and I look forward to whatever support you can give. Thanks!

How fast do you have to ride in June?

The answer: Not as fast as you might fear.

Here is my average in-motion speed (mph) for each day of each of the four ALCs that I have done.

Day 1Day 2Day 3Day 4Day 5Day 6Day 7
* = Rain-shortened day of only 15 soggy, uphill miles
** = More difficult route along Skyline Blvd. to Hwy. 84

The paces in this table -- as underwhelming as they seem -- usually were sufficient to get me into camp in at least the faster 50% of riders on most days. It's also worth noting that the faster speeds on Day 2 are largely due to strong tailwinds that are present almost every year.

Even if you're a faster rider, you might find that your speed in June is less than you might expect. Why? Riding in a group of 2,500 riders is a very different experience. You'll often need to slow down and wait for a safe opportunity to pass other riders, and there will be times when the route is so crowded that you just can't safely (or legally) go any faster. Besides, what's the rush? There's no prize for getting into camp early (except, perhaps, shorter lines at the shower trucks).

But time management is still an essential skill, even (especially?) for faster riders. Most days feature four rest stops and a lunch stop, plus various unofficial stops. It's easy to spend several hours of each riding day off your bicycle doing something else, yet the time limit for most days is 12.5 hours. (It's less on days 5 and 7.) Start getting in the habit now of taking care of your essential rest stop business -- food, drink, and toilet -- as quickly as possible so that you'll have all the time you want to enjoy the many other attractions of the week ... including, of course, the elaborate shows that you'll find at some rest stops.

Doing so also gives you a helpful time cushion in case something does go awry during your ride, either mechanical or physical. If you're sidelined with a problem, it's nice to know that you've got two or three hours to get it taken care of before the sweep vehicle sweeps you off the route for the day.

More photos from Saturday's ride

Super SAG driver Dennis passes along this note:
Hey there Chris.

I dont have everyones email addresses that were on the ride Saturday and sure that you sent this to all riders. Could you please send out an email if it is not to much trouble that i will be downloading pictures to facebook tonight and should be available for viewing on Tuesday. They can also send request to me if they do not have a facebook acct.

Thank you.

Looks like more than 90 photos have appeared here. Enjoy!

'The Art of the Cue Sheet'

Route sheets are an important part of our training rides. On the event in June, the physical route is usually well marked, and it's possible (in theory) to get all the way to Los Angeles without having to look at a route sheet while riding.

On our training rides, however, that's not the case. Our routes are almost always not marked with arrows or other route markings, so it's important to study and understand the route sheet before beginning your ride. And on the other side of the equation, it's important that you get a route sheet that's accurate.

Here's a 2004 article from the Randonneurs USA newsletter about making route sheets for long-distance rides. Some of the points are very applicable to the type of riding we do, others not so much. A couple of soundbites:
Superb cue-sheet writers (and I have known several!) all have their own idiosyncratic styles. Nonetheless, their cue sheets all have two qualities: accuracy and clarity. Cue sheet design is particularly critical for brevets, where routes are longer and include more turns than on the average club ride. Brevets should be challenging because of the terrain and the distances involved, not because of poor cues that cause riders to get lost.

... The cue sheet should point out significant road hazards – metal bridges, railroad tracks, poor road surfaces, unpaved roads, unchained dogs, gravel in turns, sharp switchbacks on steep descents, etc. Highlighting such notations in bold print helps to warn riders in advance. I also note ambiguous road signs, confusing turns, and unmarked turns. Additionally, it is very helpful to indicate T intersections, stop signs, traffic lights, etc., and I always make special note of a turn that takes place in the midst of a descent, indicating that it’s easy to miss (“ETM”).

There's no single "correct" way to do a route sheet, and you'll no doubt see many different styles during your ALC training and on other club rides and organized events. When I make route sheets for training rides, I make them look almost exactly like route sheets from the event in June so that you'll have experience in reading sheets that are done in that format, including rest stop markings and the all-important scale of the elevation chart.

Good route sheets usually are the product of hours of research, writing, and editing, so be sure to thank your ride leaders ... and, perhaps, even be somewhat understanding when slipups occur.

Ride report: Distance Training #5 (3/6/2010)

Go, riders!

With a weather forecast that played games with us all week long, just about anything wouldn't have been unexpected today. Just about anything, that is, except for the near-perfect conditions that made for a beautiful day of amazing cycling. Our group of 22 riders plus a SAG crew of three (thank you, Dennis, Gloria, and Ken!) completed a 70-mile ride to the Calaveras Reservoir without any major incidents.

Now that we've crossed the 100-kilometer mark on our rides, the mental aspect of long-distance cycling becomes more important than ever. And that's one of the most difficult aspects of cycling to write about because everyone is different and reacts different ways to the same things.

For example, after we finished our long stretch on Calaveras Road today, one cyclist told me that for the first time on these rides, they "felt like a real cyclist" because of the terrain and scenery. But for me, that part of the ride was the most challenging and, I dare say, even the least enjoyable despite all the magnificent scenery. Why? Because of the lack of landmarks to gauge progress. After just a few minutes, every curve looked just like the one before it and the one after it, and I started to feel like I wasn't going anywhere, despite the miles accumulating on my cycle computer. It's rare on our rides to go 15 miles without making any turns or encountering any significant landmarks, and I just wanted it to be over. When we crossed into Alameda County, I started to focus on the tiny mile markers by the side of the road (did you notice those?) -- they gave the distance to the I-680 junction and helped me feel better.

Now, you might think this is all rather silly -- but that's because everybody's experience is different. But the lesson is the same for everyone: Listen to what your mind tells you while you're riding. Embrace it, understand it, and react as appropriate. Get experience now with what your mind does during long rides so that you don't have a freak-out moment in June when 2,500 other riders are around you.

Although today's ride wasn't specifically designed to reinforce the importance of pacing yourself, that lesson certainly was there as well. The first 18 miles of today's ride were very flat, and almost all of us moved along at a very fast clip into Rest Stop 1 in Milpitas -- just about everyone was riding at a Cat-4 pace (15+ mph). That's all well and good, and if you can maintain that pace through an entire ride, you have my respect. Because I, on the other hand, am a mere mortal, I have to budget my limited energy to last through an entire ride (or an entire multi-day event such as ALC).

On the ride in June, the route sheet you get each morning shows the elevation profile for that day of riding. (In fact, if this year is like recent years, the elevation chart will look exactly like the ones you've been getting from my rides, with the same horizontal and vertical scales.) Use the elevation profile to plan your riding for the day. Don't be lulled into a false sense of security by 20 or 30 easy miles when some challenging climbing is next.

And also with our rides becoming so long, proper nutrition is absolutely essential -- so essential that you can damage yourself by not taking in enough fuel to get you through a ride. How many calories is enough? For a couple of reasons., that's a tough question to answer. First, there are about a million and six "bicycling calorie calculators" out there on the Web, and each one seems to say something different. Also, your calorie total is dependent on your weight, on your pace, and even on the terrain. I know of at least one rider whose computer told them that they burned more than 4,300 calories on today's ride. That's probably accurate for some of us; it's probably too high for others. And, of course, you can't run out to the pasta house right after the ride and down 4,300 calories of fettuccine, either. As with so many other things, nutrition is a deeply personal matter, and this is the time when you should be learning about your specific needs. One thing is for sure, though: On a ride of more than two hours, your body cannot function on just stored energy. One recommendation is to have an hourly caloric intake in the low hundreds of calories while you're riding; some folks need more.

Our SAG drivers reported that our safety performance was mostly good today, with only a couple of cases of rule-breaking. If you haven't already read your "Monthly Spin" email from ALC World HQ that you got last week, I strongly urge you to go back and read it. (And if you aren't getting a Monthly Spin email, check your spam filters and/or contact your cyclist representative.) There's a story in there from a rider who recently passed through one of our host cities and got a very chilly reception when they said they were part of ALC.

That's sad, that's scary, and that's dangerous. Sad because we don't want a bad reputation, scary because that bad reputation could make it more difficult for us to get permission to ride through these communities, and dangerous because losing the ride would take away more than $10 million a year from our beneficiaries. As we're fond of saying, it only takes one rider breaking one rule in one jurisdiction, and ALC could be no more. With so many other cyclists breaking rules and not riding considerately (we sometimes see them when we're out riding), we have to work extra hard to make sure that our reputation stays intact and positive. Every one of us is responsible for helping make this happen, on every training ride, on the event in June, and even just any time you're cycling around town in your favorite ALC jersey or jacket.

What's next? We've got an 80-mile ride on tap for Saturday, March 20. We're going almost all the way to Morgan Hill via a scenic backcountry route around the Calero and Uvas reservoirs, and then we'll come back through San Jose. The total climbing goes back up to about 3,500 feet -- the most we've had on any of our rides so far this season -- and that includes the moderately challenging Kennedy climb between Los Gatos and San Jose. Also, depending on the weather, strong headwinds might challenge us as we return northbound from Morgan Hill. (In this weird, wacky weather year, however, who knows?) We've got four rest stops planned, so there's plenty of opportunity to pause and refuel, and there's even a light-rail bailout available after 51 miles if it's just not your day. Details and RSVP are here.

And don't forget to save the date for just 10 weeks from today: Saturday, May 15 is the third annual Altamont Pass Double Metric, our 200-kilometer (125-mile) epic training ride. More details in the weeks to come.

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

Today's ride is ON

Good morning, riders!

Well, surprise surprise. The morning radar indicates that a few scattered light showers are indeed spinning off our coast this morning, and the official forecast has been changed to include a slight chance of getting a little bit wet today -- but only barely, since no significant measurable rain is called for. However, AccuWeather still calls for a rain-free day ... so it could still be dry for us.

Either way, our ride is on. You'll probably want to dress appropriately -- I'll be bringing my rain booties, just in case. One good thing about all the cloud cover this morning: It's a bit warmer than predicted, 50 degrees pre-sunrise, so really cold temperatures won't be a problem.

Don't forget our hour-earlier meet time ... see you in downtown Mountain View at 8:00 a.m. Please be on time so that we can ride out on schedule.