Monday, September 23, 2013

To all cyclists who ride on the wrong side of the trail

While we were southbound on the lower SART yesterday a careless cyclist cross the center line into my wife's lane and hit her head on. She suffered multiple cuts and bruises and a sprained shoulder. Her bike was destroyed. If he doesn't pay up we will be hiring a lawyer or going to small claims court.

I don't how to put it any clearer. It is NOT OK to ride on the wrong side of the trail. EVER. It's NOT OK to ride alongside your friend blocking the whole bike path. It's NOT OK to cut the tops off corners. It's ABSOLUTELY NOT OK to pass a slower group on a blind hill which is what this jerk was doing when he hit my wife. I don't care if no-one is coming - it's the riders you don't see that you will hit. The only time I ride on the wrong side is when I'm passing a slower rider and I can clearly see there's no-one coming the other way. Even then it's only for a few seconds.

Mr. Chung - the reckless cyclist that caused the accident

Sherry's bike frame broke in two from the force of the impact. It's only a year old so now we have to find her a new bike. That's about $2000 or so out of our pocket.

Sherry's Bike - note the break in the top tube and at the top of the down tube

Saturday, September 14, 2013

(Un)Lucky Greek

I decided to ride my 100km Lucky Greek brevet last night after work. It was Friday the 13th and I had left my helmet and gloves at home. Not an auspicious start.

I found a pair of silk under gloves in my truck. The kind skiers use - but they work really well on those chilly days or when it's raining. I wore them instead of my usual Pearl Izumis and I had no hand problems at all - who would have guessed it. I couldn't find a replacement for my helmet but the route has almost no traffic so I crossed my fingers and rode.

It turned out to be a slow but uneventful ride. Lots of riders out on the SART - some lit up and wearing Lycra and some wearing work clothes and riding in the pitch black with no lights. There was also a fair amount of gay trolling going on - pairs of young men standing way too close to each other. Lot's of people exhibiting dangerous behavior. But who am I to criticize - I'm not wearing a helmet. I feel naked - Ick.

I've often thought that cycling is like camping (the real kind - no vehicles). Everything is essential because we don't want to carry non-essential stuff.  You can't remove anything from a bicycle and still ride it. Even the saddlebag, pump, and water bottles are needed to guarantee success.

I met a chap riding a bike that proved me dead wrong.

Look Ma - no hands!

This 'bike' has one wheel, pedals, and a seat. No handlebars, no gears, no brakes - no helmet! Technically he's not riding a bike because a bicycle has two wheels by definition. This has to be rough on the back and butt. Hills must be difficult too.

On the way back I was on a tight, fast turn when I came face to face with a big dog trotting down the wrong side of the bike trail. I managed to twitch my bike around it but unicycle guy would have probably crashed. No helmet. I'm an idiot - but I got lucky this time. Let's hope I never forget my helmet again.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Big Dipper - more audax that Audax

I must confess, when I saw the "Big Dipper" was the name of the September PCHRandos 200k ride I assumed it had a lot of climbing. I'm glad I dug a little deeper and discovered it was named because the shape of the course resembles the big dipper.

Eight of us started at the home of the Larry and Linda Botts in Ventura at 6:30am just after it got light. It promised to be a very hot day so the route with the early inland section containing the bulk of the climbing was a  blessing. Once the temps got high, we expected to be along the coast. The prevailing winds are from the North which meant that once we turned around in Santa Barbara we would have a tailwind all the way home.

The first food control was at mile 37 at a tiny store/cafe in Somis. Here's a picture of our fearless leader, Greg Jones, showing me how to eat properly - something I should have paid more attention to.

Amber and I split a burrito but should probably have had one each. The next control was back at the Bott household where I watered up and had a cookie. Again, I should probably have eaten more. We hit the coast and turned into a strong headwind but as we were riding as a group we took it in turns to pull and the thirty miles to Santa Barbara were over soon enough.

Santa Barbara was hosting a massive Breast Cancer walk with thousands of pink clad women walking to raise money for Breast Cancer research. What a sight!

We ate at a fancy store called Lazy Acres - they were so fancy I'm surprised they let us in. I grabbed some chocolate milk, some fruit juice, some water, and a sandwich. I thought there was enough calories in that lot, but on the way back in Carpenteria I started to bonk so I ate an energy bar. Of course, we immediately started climbing a hill so I couldn't eat or climb well and fell off the back. Jeff stopped to wait for me and I was back with the pack in five minutes. Thanks.

Then, headed back at 20-22mph with a tremendous tailwind Amber hit something and blew out her back tire. We pulled over and found a massive split in her tire which we booted. I've been waiting to try my CO2 inflator for a while. When I inflated her tire with it the gas cartridge froze (thanks Boyle) and felt wonderful on the back of my neck :-)

Just before Hobson County Park we were stopped by emergency vehicles who were looking after a motorcyclist who had clipped the kerb and slid 100yds down the road on his side. He had some serious roadrash and was medevaced out. While we were waiting we watch a pod of dolphins cruise on by.

After 45 minutes we were allowed to continue. We stopped at Hobson Park to get more water and then headed south, still with a roaring tailwind. With only 15 miles to go we cruised back for a total time of 10:15.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

To cyclists who wear headphones

"A person operating a motor vehicle or bicycle may not wear a headset covering, or earplugs "

I have a lot of trouble with people who use bike paths while wearing headphones. I understand why they do it, but it's very frustrating to approach a runner or slow cyclist from behind who is more often than not in the middle of the trail while calling out 'ON YOUR LEFT' only to have them completely ignore you. As you squeeze by you notice they are wearing earphones and are completely oblivious to the needs of all other trail users. Selfish and stupid.

I've lost a lot of friends to drunk and distracted drivers. It's the same thing. If we want drivers to drive responsibly we have to ride responsibly. If you must listen to music use a single earpiece in the right ear so you can still hear traffic. This is legal. Covering both ears is not legal.

I went running up in Big Bear last night. It's mainly trails with some road. I used my bluetooth earpiece in one ear only. There are some mountain bikers on the trail and they need to get by me safely. If they call out, I need to be able to hear them. It's common courtesy. It was raining over Mount San Gorgonio when  I started and there was a partial rainbow over Big Bear Solar Observatory.

Rainbow over Big Bear Solar Observatory
 I added a few extra miles to my normal run making it seven miles (I walked most of it because my knee is still healing.) When I got to the turn-around it was almost dark and the view over Big Bear Lake was awesome. I am so lucky to be able to run in such a beautiful part of the world.

Looking West over Big Bear Lake after sunset
Running back in the dark I was glad of the years I spent as an amateur astronomer because there was no moon and I could barely make out the trail. At one point I could smell skunk and it occurred to me I would not be able to see a skunk even if it was sitting in the middle of the trail so I started whistling to assure any nearby skunks that I was a good guy with no ill-intent and certainly there was no need to spray me.

Near the end of the run I pass through Serrano campground. I started thinking about the psychology of camping. It's like we want to get back to the good old days when we lived in caves and almost every disease was fatal. All the campers had their brightly colored portable caves, their propane powered bulrush torches, and applewood smoked mammoth bacon. Don't get me wrong, I used to love camping. I don't do it anymore, probably because I don't like being outside and stationary for long. When I'm outside I want to be mobile - hence the running and endurance cycling.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Passing of Lee Mitchell

I just found out that an old friend, Lee Mitchell, passed away today. He had been battling throat cancer for some time. He was a good friend to a lot of cyclists, a father, a teacher, and a husband.

I remember one of the first times I met him. My daughter and I were on a double century and he saw us at one of the rest stops. He chastized us for aligning our tail lights up to the heavens instead of horizontally at drivers approaching from behind. It was good advice and I took it to heart. I've passed it on to many other cyclists.

When I heard he had cancer I sent him an email reminding him of this meeting. I'm sure I'm just one of thousands of cyclists he has helped, both with advice and support, over the years. He and his red minivan were a constant presence at hundreds of cycling events from century rides up the the RAAM. He was beloved in our small, close-knit community.

On my next night ride I will point a tail light up to the heavens - perhaps you will see it. But I will also have another tail light pointing backwards just the way you told me to.

Lee Mitchell, your body may be dead but your memory will live in our hearts while they still beat.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Anaheim to Solana Beach

Amber and I tried a new route from Anaheim Amtrak station to Solana Beach last Saturday. The intent was to avoid Laguna Beach - a city more interested in parking revenue than cyclist safety. We also decided to end the ride at Solana Beach which is one station stop before San Diego. I cannot find a good route through San Diego - even the OCW Amtrak Century route is nasty through San Diego. This gave us 90 miles with some considerable climbing over Santiago Canyon for a total of 5000' of climbing.

We started at 8am with the intent of getting the climbing over by 10am to try to beat the worst of the heat. From the top of Santiago Canyon (1500') it's almost all downhill to the beach at Dana Point. From there we stay alongside the ocean all the way to Solana Beach so we figured the heat wouldn't be a problem - good theory anyway.

We ate at 10am at Cook's Corner biker bar at mile 25. It's always busy there and it took us 20 minutes to get our food and eat it. We ordered hash browns and French toast. The hash browns were good but the French toast was awesome. No syrup and a dash of cinnamon. Instead of being sickly sweet the eggy bread was fantastic. That place continues to amaze me.

We had never ridden down Alisal Creek trail before - it's much more fun than climbing it :-) It's pretty much 20 miles of 1-2% downhill.

Alisal Creek Bike Trail
Unfortunately there is one uphill - a medium length 13% brute of a hill up Niguel Rd from Crown Valley Pkwy to Marina Hills Dr. Ow. RideWithGPS claims it's only 5% - it lies.

We had planned on eating again at the Carl's Jr on El Camino Real in San Clemente (mile 55) but we weren't really hungry. We were both carrying some extra calories so we decided to push on to the Angelo's burgers in Oceanside (mile 75). We went through Camp Pendleton and I managed to get the guard to laugh by asking her if she could flatten the hill out a bit. We were both pretty hungry by the time we got to Angelo's. I ordered a steak sandwich and Amber got the veggie burger. Amazing food.

When we left Angelo's we had about 90 minutes to ride 17 miles. Normally this section is nice but the traffic was horrid what with it being Labor day weekend. All sorts of idiots were parked in the bike lane- forcing us out into heavy traffic. Even Vulcan Avenue which is my preferred route through Leucadia and Encinitas was very busy. What with the heat, the traffic, and the idiots the last 15 miles were not particularly pleasant.

We got to Solana Beach Amtrak at 4pm with 40 minutes to spare before the train. I do like being able to book bike slots with the tickets. No nasty surprises when the conductor says you can't bring the bike on the trail. I had major leg cramps on the train (after telling Amber I was surprised I hadn't cramped) but I had some sports beans which seemed to help. I ate a banana when I got home too.

I much preferred climbing Santiago Canyon instead of risking my life in Laguna Beach and stopping short of San Diego worked out well. I'm looking forward to doing this ride again when it's 20 degrees cooler and not a holiday weekend.