Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Preparing for a 600k brevet

I have my annual 600k brevet this weekend and I'm getting a bit nervous. A 600k is right at the edge of my ability and I need a little luck to complete one - or at least a lack of bad luck.

One way you can reduce the chance of bad luck is by making sure all your equipment is in good condition. Because of the flat from hell I recently replaced my rear tire and pump. I've also replaced my rear cassette, chain, and middle chain ring. In addition I have purchased new gloves and a new illuminated vest. Oh - and new CO2 cartridges too.

So instead of just riding the 600k with a bunch of new gear and praying, I went for a test ride last night. Everything works great. I made sure I inflated my new tire with my new pump, I checked that I could shift throughout the entire gear range, I made sure my new gloves fit, and I tried the new vest for fit and function. I even made sure the new CO2 cartridges fit my shiny object.

A section of the route that has been closed for road work for the past few months has just opened. Caltrans repaved the road and it is now silky smooth with a bike lane marked for half its length. I made sure I checked it on the way to the ride.

Even as I type I'm charging up my tail lights. When they're done I'll charge up the headlights, and then my Garmin Edge. I still need to print out the brevet cards and routesheet, double check my hotel reservations, pack a bag, etc etc. Then the following weekend, April 5th,  I'll be hosting the actual ride. I have about 20 people signed up - I'll probably have 30 by the day of the ride.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014


I've been rereading Margaret McMillan's excellent book Paris 1919 about Woodrow Wilson, Lloyd George, Clemenceu, and Orlando's attempts to reconstruct a collapsing Europe after the First World War. Wilson's watchword was 'self-determination' by which he meant people should have a say about the kind of government they are ruled by. The problem is that people identify themselves by race, ethnicity, language, religion, history, economics, politics, and a whole host of other things. So what, exactly, denotes a group of people that can form a country?

I identify myself as a cyclist. I wondered if a 100,000 like-minded people got together and persuaded the US government to allocate 1000 sq. miles of the US of A to be a bicycle only zone, what would happen?

For example, where would we want this? Should we chose an area that is already good for cycling like between Solvang and SLO or the area around Eugene, OR? Or should we chose an area that is currently very bad for cycling like most of Florida (see my earlier post about the ten most dangerous cycling cities), and, by excluding cars, make it very good?

There are other considerations. What if you were having a heart-attack and the nearest doctor was either a 5 minute ambulance drive or a 20 minute bike ride away. Which would you chose? Would we have to have bicycle taxies for the sick and infirm? What about bicycle delivery trucks, fire trucks, and farm equipment? Would we make an exception for trains?

It's fun to speculate. I have to say - I think the benefits would far outweigh the drawbacks.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Which top 10 cycling list did San Bernardino/Riverside make recently

Just out of curiosity I recently Googled the best and worst cities in the USA for cycling. As I expected Portland OR and Eugene OR made the top 10 best cities for cycling. I've always loved both those cities. If you ever get a chance to ride in either one I recommend it. I fell in love with Eugene's extensive river park bike trails two years ago. Look at the picture below. It's hard to believe you're in the middle of a large city and that there's over 100km of these trails in total.

I've been blogging about the increase in ghost bikes lately and now I understand the problem. Did you know that San Bernardino/Riverside/Ontario is rated the 5th most dangerous metropolitan area to be a cyclist in the entire USA and the absolute worst in California? I'm just glad I don't live in Florida. Is it all the elderly drivers?

1. Orlando/Kissimmee, Florida
2. Tampa/St. Petersburg/Clearwater, Florida
3. Jacksonville, Florida
4. Miami/Fort Lauderdale/Pompano, Florida
5. Riverside/San Bernardino/Ontario, California
6. Las Vegas/Paradise, Nevada
7. Memphis, Tennessee
8. Phoenix/Mesa/Scottsdale, Arizona
9. Houston/Sugar Land/Baytown, Texas
10. Dallas/Fort Worth/Arlington, Texas

Read more:

Sunday, March 16, 2014

The Flat from Hell

Yesterday I rode my SART 200k starting at 5pm to try to beat the heat. There were mild Santa Ana conditions which reversed the normal wind flow for most of the ride so I got down to the turn around in Newport Beach in slightly over four hours - an excellent time for me.

The Newport Beach Café does not seem to be doing so well. They've reduced their hours and their shelves are largely empty. They no longer sell any sandwiches after the deli closes so I had to search hard for some calories. In the end I settled on a box of oreo cookies which wasn't exactly appetizing. I may have to find an alternative for when I do this ride at night in future. I also drank a can of Monster.

Obviously when I turned around I had a headwind so I where I was riding at 18mph on the way down I was struggling to hold 14mph on the way back. I kept waiting for the Monster and cookies to kick in but they took forever. It was at least 30 minutes before my energy level came back up.

At mile 22 on the return I decided to stop and use the restroom, top up my bottles, and eat an Odwalla bar. Let me describe an Odwalla Strawberry and Pomegranate protein bar to you. Imagine a bear had feasted on strawberries and pomegranates and then taken a huge dump. Someone comes along and press and shapes the crap into a bar and puts it in a wrapper. It tastes slightly of berries but that is about it. Also, it doesn't have the pleasant chewy consistency that I assume bear crap has - this bar has the consistency of drywall. On the plus side it has calories, it does speed me up, and I'll be regular for a month. Normally I like Odwalla but this particular bar won't be gracing my shopping basket again.

Continuing into the headwind I was descending Green River road towards Palisades when my rear tire blew out. I walk the bike to the next street lamp and get my flat gear out. Oops - I'm out of CO2 cartridges, I guess I'll have to use my pump. I put the new tire in and start to pump it up and part of the chuck blows out the back. It must have been damaged when it fell off the bike on the SLO 300k. So now I'm sitting by the side of the road at midnight with no way to inflate my tire. There's no point in calling the wife because she leaves her phone in the living room and we don't have a land line.

I had 30 miles to go and six and a half hours to complete the ride. I decided to finish the ride on the flat rear tire. It's really difficult to ride on a flat tire. It has far more drag (which is probably why we put air in them), it keeps sliding from side to side like it's on ice, and every tiny bump slams your butt (which is another reason we put air in them). After a while I felt comfortable riding at 8-10mph but that was the fastest I could safely ride.

Somehow, on the top half of the SART, the tube folded over on itself, creating a big lump in the tire and making a screeching sound like I was being following by a flock of angry seagulls. It drove me crazy and it couldn't have pleased all those transients sleeping under the bridges. It took me over four hours to complete the final 30 miles (remember I rode over 60 miles in the first four hours of the ride). I ended up with an 11:22 ride time. Not even my slowest 200k!

I'm sure I destroyed the tire treating it like that. I'm going to replace it with a Vittoria Randonneur tire. I need more CO2 cartridges and a new pump too. I hope the wheel is OK.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Too many ghost bikes

After a post I wrote recently about two new ghost bikes that had appeared on some of my favorite bike routes, Vicky Backman suggested that we need a more European approach to car/bike accidents where the car is assumed to be at fault because of the asymmetrical injuries caused by such accidents. That got me to thinking about whether such an approach would ever be accepted in the USA and whether it would even be appropriate.

For one thing, the USA is very car-centric. This isn't really surprising considering how big the country is. But even while gas prices are hyper inflationary and we go to war to ensure gas availability, the idea of replacing gas guzzlers with public transport or bicycles, or even just replacing them with smaller and more efficient cars, is greeted with cries of "Commie Fascist!" (Americans have never claimed to be politically savvy either). Hell, we even divert corn off the tables of starving children into the gas tanks of our SUVs.

Europe has slowly been moving away from individual cars and towards public transport, walking, cycling, etc. The health and cost benefits are clear and there is gathering momentum towards bringing non-motorized forms of transport into the mainstream. I read that in Amsterdam half of all non-commercial trips are made on bicycles. Compare that with Caltrans's attitude towards alternative transport as "a damn nuisance". Maybe in 50 years the USA will be where Europe is now. But I can't imagine a time when they will actually catch up. Protected bike lanes, separate stop lights, Right to Ride - I can only dream!

A few nights ago I was driving home from a meeting of the Inland Empire dot net user group late at night and in the space of five miles I saw four separate cyclists with no helmets, no lights, and no reflective gear. One of them was even riding against traffic on a four lane highway. The only reason I saw him at all is that he passing in front of a reflective sign. Just this morning there was a teenager riding his bike no handed in the middle of the road (literally) with headphones on. I had to pass him on his right. He didn't know I was there - he couldn't hear me. What if he had decided to move to the curb just as I was passing?

My dilemma is that with all these apparently suicidal cyclists on the road, how can we get motorists and law makers to give us the protection we need? As a motorist, I don't want the law to assume I'm at fault if I hit one of these crazy cyclists. And if I'm concerned, how do we persuade the public at large?