Sunday, June 29, 2014

Bohlman-On Orbit, Black Road, China Grade death march

There was dirt too. Photo by Steve
Executive summary: 63 miles, 7800 feet of climbing.

I'd heard of Bohlman-On Orbit ride for years and wondered what it meant. Is there some guy named Bohlman who was once on orbit, or do we ride loops — orbit — something? Perhaps it's so hard you need to be like, way out, man, really in orbit to ride there? Nope, it turns out it's the name of a street in an area where streets all have space-age names.

It also turns out to be crazy steep. As in the longest crazy steep climb I've ever done. And that was only the the first climb of the day. But at least all the climbing gave us an opportunity to descend down a steep loose gravel  trail. By opportunity I mean #&!%@*&?%@. That was followed by a highly technical switchback descent which was also (word of the day) steep. Steep enough I worried about overheating my rims.

Yes, those are 20% grades in spots.
Our friend and ├╝ber-guide route planner Lanceoldstrong messaged me to say he wanted to do a long ride Sunday. Of course Tricia and I said yes, and joined him and Steve to drive to this crazy route.

Steve had to show off his BMX skills.
I can't believe actual people ride this more than once. There aren't many photos because I spent most of my energy just trying to not fall over and stay alive. That, and keep up with Tricia who, though she kept saying it was hard and she was tired, keep pounding away at a level that made it hard (and often impossible) to keep up with her. Even though she had a strong day riding, she seems most happy with the thumbs-up from a motorcyclist on one of the huge climbs.

Dan may have seen a hobbit.

The ride through the redwoods was stunning, and wonderfully cool. It was great not to have to climb in the hot sun; the trees provided so much shelter despite the hot day it was almost chilly at times. Before the China Grade climb (pro tip: roads with "grade" in their name are often really steep) we stopped to regroup and talked to a guy who was waiting for someone. It was like the state had stationed a tour guide there for us. He gave us park info, climb info and kept telling us how beautiful the climb would be and how much we'd enjoy it.

We did, but is sure was relentless. We kept thinking we must be almost to the top. At one point as we rounded yet another switchback I heard Tricia loudly yell "Really?" as if chiding the mountain would make our summit come sooner. It didn't.

The whole time we were riding I was thinking WTF Oldstrong? But it's amazing how quickly one can forget suffering. Already I'm thinking "Well, that was a nice ride" even as I vaguely remember being at death's door.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Strava motivation

Here's the deal: Strava, (and if you don't know what Strava is I have no idea why you are reading this) the online service that let's us all track our rides and compete for the best time on "segments" also posts "challenges."

I will  never get a KOM (King of the Mountain) on any Strava segment that other riders know about. I'm just too slow, and there are too many riders much faster than I am in the area. I'm pretty much resigned with that. I use Strava to track my own rides and see what my cycling friends are up to.

But this challenge thing? It's hard to resist., and I don't know why. All you get is some pixels on your Strava page. Yet there I was yesterday, very much aware that I was going to complete their "48 hours of riding between June 5 and June 28" Challenge. Heck, I went out of my way to make sure I had a long ride in to make the "Gran Fondo 6" challenge wherein I had to ride 130 km in a single ride. I even had to google the conversion to find out how many miles that was. It's about 81 for you fellow metric-challenged folks.

If that isn't enough, Strava is willing to sell me a jersey for some completed challenges. Yes, a special jersey available only to achievers. I have until July 3 to decided if I want to smack down $103 for this orange jersey. I'm glad it isn't a color I like a lot, because, embarrassingly enough, I'm almost silly enough to do it. There is unfortunately, or perhaps fortunately, no jersey for the "Battle of June"

These little badges appear only on my Strava profile page — a page that no one will ever bother to look at who isn't me — and yet there they are.

I am so predictable. I am Pavlov's dog.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Ride Every Road: It's now a "thing" #RER

This is the kind of RER GPS track you get in the burbs

Tricia has always enjoyed adding a few highly randomized, explore-the-neighborhood rides to our cycling outings. We'd done so many goofball routes that I started wondering what it would be like to ride every road in the city of Antioch, where we live.

Little did I realize that it was becoming a "thing." But then I saw a post on Richard Masoner's cyclelicious where he wrote about other folks with the same goal in their cities.  and realized I hadn't had a unique idea at all. But it did give us a bit of impetus to actually see if we could do it.

We aren't killing ourselves to do this, and we have no serious plan. We don't even have a time frame to completion. Mostly we try to "pick off" a few subdivisions when we're out on a ride.

Already we've noticed a lot in our silly attempt. I'll write about sociology, urban planning,  litter, landscaping, architecture and automobiles later. For now I'll stick with a few bike riding observations.

This is harder cycling than it looks like it would be. There's no rhythm to be had. Instead, it's endless turns after short distances. And courts. Oh my dizzy head there are courts. Zillions. And we're trying to hit every one. The constant slowing for a tight semi-circle followed by getting back up to speed is a lot more tiring than just maintaining a constant pace. And of course, drafting is out of the question.

On the North side of the city the streets are in a very tidy grid. We haven't started them yet, but I expect the experience to be quite different from the clever-yet-annoying loops and swirls on the south side. Sometimes we think we've hit every street, only to Strava the ride and discover that, nope, we missed something.

The other part of this that's hard is the documentation. Strava and my Ascent for Mac program show routes on a map for each ride, but don't show every ride. Strava has a "heat map" feature, but it's to show where you ride a lot. Roads ridden only once are hard to see. I'd love to take all my GPS files, combine them and have my tracks show up on a map. I tried to in Ascent, but after many hours of churning, trying to combine 18 months of files, my poor Mac just choked.

If you, gentle reader, have any idea how I might accomplish my GPS mapping goal, please let me know!
I can hardly see the light blue lines. I want more drama!

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Delta De Anza Trail: Good news?

This may soon be this missing link: a connector bike path between Antioch and Oakley. #abouttime
This section of cracked pavement may soon be really swell
VIA the City of Antioch Environmental Resources Facebook page I learned that the weekly City Manager's report contained the following short sentence.

Delta De Anza Trail repairs (Viera Ranch Subdivision 7220, between Ridgeline Drive and Neroly Rd.) – Construction is scheduled to begin June 9th and to be completed August 8th.

Does this mean that at long last there will be a connector trail to Oakley so I don't have to risk my life on Lone Tree? That would be great.

I, as always, am a bit skeptical. I rode by there and there is some work going on, but it isn't on the trail itself, it's next to the trail. They are building a wall to keep dirt from washing where they don't want it. I didn't see any work being done on the trail itself.

Currently there is a trail there, but it's gated off and in ill repair. I've heard various tales about why it was never open for use; everything from the developers who constructed it didn't meet East Bay Parks specs to the Water District somehow torpedoing it.

But if it does actually get built and opened, it will be so extra very cool.

Here's the East Bay Park's page on the tail, with a pretty good map, and a screen shot from the area where the trail is being repaired (marked proposed here.)

Saturday, June 14, 2014

No sports at sports bar #bitter

Sad Tricia needs food. No luck at Tailgators. 
Maybe I'm just spoiled. When I ride my bike to Antioch's Okawa Japanese restaurant for sushi they graciously stash my bicycle in the back. When Tricia and I go to Antioch's Cocina Medina we park our bikes next to us on their patio. So when we thought "Beer, burgers and World Cup soccer on a patio at a sports bar" after our bike ride we figured we'd roll into Antioch's Tailgators and get similar treatment. After all, it is Tailgators Sports Bar. Surely paying customers with sports equipment would be welcome.

Apparently not so much. When we entered the front door we were shouted at by the distant bartender not to bring our bikes in;  that we could leave them in the bike rack (far away from the door, near the dumpster, in a perfect bike-theft zone.) We said we just wanted to leave them on their patio — the patio with not a single person was using.  Nope. No deal.

This, in a near-empty restaurant in a location that's failed several times before, can't be the best way to gain customers. At least it didn't work for us.

Tricia and I believe in local dining. We avoid chains and try to eat where we'll see the same staff and deal with owners that have actual names. Partly because we support local businesses, and partly because we think we get better food and service from real people and not faceless corporations.

We'd been to Tailgators twice before. They have a good beer list, the food is fine for pub/sports bar fare, and the wait staff was commendable. Heck, the staff was the main reason for our return visit.

But sorry excellent wait staff, no tips for you today.

We instead rode over to the lovely and delightful Cocina Medina, parked our bikes on the patio, enjoyed lunch (and a margarita!) and had a fine time.

Tailgators, we won't trouble you again.

I really want to park my bike here.
I got an email from a member of the local bicycle club:

Well, I did go by and the Gator did smile!
This seems to be the story:

The bike rack by the dumpster is largely used by the employees that ride to work.

There is a back gate (another CA secret path and secret menu thing) to the patio that is reached by a path around the back. The back gate is locked for security, but it will be opened and people with bikes will be helped to get around. It will not be locked back right away since they trust people with bikes (did not understand that part)
The manager I spoke to was surprised this was not offered and will make sure that all the greeters know. If they do not (or cannot be bothered) just ask for a manager.

Dogs (except service dogs) are not permitted on the patio and bikes in the restaurant are not permitted (even $5000 carbon fiber bikes) due to CA Health Code which currently does not make an exception.

The front patio will shortly have a low iron fence and chairs and tables and the bikes can be placed there and secured if you sit on that new future patio. (Apparently they need more quiet space for those of us who cannot hear or just want to talk to our wives or girlfriends).

It worked out OK, I hope. BTW - The number is 925.754.2277 and you can call ahead to order food so it will be ready when you get there - if you like to eat and run.

The Fixer, Bill Y

Friday, June 13, 2014

Marsh Creek Trail closed WTF?

Tricia and I were surprised on our ride this week to discover the Marsh Creek Trail closed. If you get on at Big Break Marina in Oakley you can ride as far as the bridge over the canal, but that’s it. Not only is it closed, but it will be closed all summer, until October. This is a highly used path that connects Antioch to Brentwood. It helps cyclists avoid some very sketchy high traffic roads. It also serves families on walks and nature observers enjoying the delta wetlands. I guess were just supposed to ride down Highway 4.

Of course, there were no detour signs, temporary bypasses, marked useable detours,  or any of the things that you’d normally find for autos. Not that I’m bitter…

I called the Contra Costa water District office number listed on the closure sign — 925 688 8010 — to register my disappointment. While the man on the phone was nice enough, he basically said "Yep. That's the way it is." I'd like to encourage you to call as well. Perhaps it won't fix this issue, but it will send a message that this is unacceptable.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Anniversary ride to the Diablo summit

Fifteen years ago, on July 12, Tricia and I were married.  Today we celebrated with a bike ride up to the Mt. Diablo summit. We started in a huge wind that was mostly in our faces and we wondered if we'd end up bailing out at the junction. But as we rode the wind let up, and the day became pleasantly warm.

We must have seen 40–50 cyclists, and only a dozen cars. Maybe the state park should rededicate the pavement to cycling, and then see if they can find funding for some very small, limited access automobile paths.  Or have limited automobile use hours, or days, or both. Just a thought...

Wednesday, June 04, 2014

Schwalbe Marathon Plus mounting and review

I live in the land of broken glass and stickers, so I've become pretty darn proficient at changing (and patching) bike tubes. I can get most road tires mounted without even using tools. I've done it in the dark, and in the rain. Not to say I love it, or I'm the best, but I know what I'm doing. At least I thought I did.

Marathon Plus

After my last tire wore out I did some research and decided to try a 700c 28mm Schwalbe Marathon Plus for my commuter bike. It's the darling of commuters and tourists because it is, apparently, bullet-proof and lasts almost forever. At over $50 (discounted!) it isn't cheap, but if it lasts as long as its fans claim, it will be a cost savings in the long run. I'd used their Marathon Racer and Marathon Green Guard (they cost less) and been satisfied. I figured I'd step up to the Plus as not flatting on my commutes would be really really nice.

I'd read that they were hard to mount. Heck, just click this. Google has a lot of hits for mounting. But, as I said, I'm really good.


I tried using no tools. No luck. I couldn't even get it started. I tried using one, then two, then three levers, but couldn't get it going. I'd think I had, but it would just pop off the other side.

I was eventually inspired by this video. (I might have realized there could be issues when there's a YouTube video, but there are YouTube videos on boiling water...)

Living in 2014, I had no extra toe straps hanging about to use as the video suggests. But I did have some serious Velcro waiting for a useful purpose. And that's what it took.


Using three levers, and tying down the tire with several velcro strips ever time I got another inch settled in the right spot I was eventually able to get the blasted thing mounted.

Maratho Plus mounting

It's all good now. But what will I do if I hit the biggest thorn ever? How will I repair it on the road? Should I carry three levers and a bunch of velcro strips? I'll need a bigger seat bag...

If you have any hints about mounting this tire, let me know. And seriously, don't think you could do it easily if you haven't actually tried.

Tuesday, June 03, 2014

Democracy by bicycle

New bike stickers #'merica

Tricia has been riding to vote for along enough she has quite a collection of stickers — there are a lot more than you see here.  I love the Spanish one, I just wish we could get them in every language they make them in. Viva Democracy!