Wednesday, December 10, 2008
Wow! Those RM riders are hard core.
Forwarded from Roaring Mouse Cycling
Twin Peaks repeats, 6:30am tomorrow @ Cole/Parnassus. Bring your blinkie!
Cold Valley at 6:30 AM to ride up Twin Peaks from the hard side, in the fog.
I'll take a pass. I did get up at 6 AM to ride but went with this monster instead. It was in the low 40's to high 30's at 6:30 AM at Ritual and nobody was there. I felt so crappy that it took me 20 minutes trying to remember the name of the road that is the little hill we climb (Cortland). Bad news. I was ready to blow it off when Crosby did indeed show up. Doh.
Scott rides like I ride - we will both ride at pretty much any pace - slow, fast, whatever. But if nobody is getting dropped, we'll ride pretty much full blast. I was freezing, underdressed, and now I had to ride hard the whole way and didn't have a 3rd person to pawn Scott off on if I decided to bail halfway. Great.
At CC/Valencia we picked up someone else from out of nowhere. Great. Someone going to Google so I can bail early. Nope. Theo works in Foster City. Perhaps slow the pace. Nope. Theo was up to the task on the three little pitches so he'll not slow anything down. Luckily he also took a few pulls. My legs finally loosened up around the airport, and the ride went pretty well. I did Scott do most of the heavy lifting, but it was a good 52 mile spin before work, coming in at 3:10 clock time.
Friday, December 5, 2008
Google is cutting back so at Mountain View I bid adieu to Scott Crosby who had pulled me through the uncharacteristic headwinds instead of begging a breakfast from him. I then completely bonked in downtown Mountain View, tempting me to get on Caltrain to take me to Lawrence. Checking my watch it appeared I had 15 minutes to the next train, so maybe I could get breakfast too. Except there was a SB train already at the station, meaning Caltrain had taken a massive failwhale, confirmed with a quick twitter check. I soldiered on and collapsed on my desk.
I have been trying to keep up with a stretching program, but my quads are still sore from my run in Naperville. Nonetheless I am going to try round two of getting back into running this weekend, hopefully accompanied by a trip to a Bikram class.
Saturday, November 29, 2008
Wednesday, November 26, 2008
Puncture! Also allows one to practice a fast tire change. Somehow I managed to make my train. I think the high intensity work of racing to Caltrain is actually pretty good stuff, but I need to do some stretching on the train or something, I am feeling pretty beat up.
I am picking up an insane amount of glass lately. I think the commuter bike needs to downgrade from the Conti 4000's to something more robust, it mostly gets used on Central Expressway and on the Google rides anyway.
Off to Chicago for the holidays, no bike so I am going to try and (gulp) run...
Monday, November 24, 2008
I managed to get in a ride this AM from SF to work, minus the PA->Mountain View section plus an extra sprint from PA back to Menlo after I missed a train in PA. Despite fighting a cold I felt ok as the pace was not too brisk, and it was good to meet a new rider (Bruce I think) who had some serious mojo and was only slowed down by a broken spoke.
And I stuck to a banana/pomegranate smoothie for fuel, better than some lard infused muffin from the train station.
Onward and upward.
Thursday, October 16, 2008
Resolved - no more cokes, better diet. Decided this AM I would get up and hop the 7:04 to Redwood City and ride some better roads than seen on the google rides, and eat a banana on the train. Of course wifey had eaten all the bananas and I missed the train. There is now a place at 22nd that sells stuff so I finagled a banana and took the next train, which only stops at Palo Alto. Did get a nice ride in from there. It's not like I turned a corner but it was a worthwhile day.
I've decided I need to diary more of this to put the fire to my feet, and do the RWC to Sunnyvale ride which includes Jefferson and the bottom half of Page Mill on the way to the office. This will be more effective than dealing with the crazy bike paths on the Bayway.
Thursday, September 11, 2008
Bad News. I showed up for the Google ride via Skyline today and was promptly dropped. Not even on the climb from John Daly - on the little roller coming up from Lake Merced. I made it about 3/4 the way and my legs went to zero. We have some work to do. These guys are pretty tough so I don't feel that bad. One is a lean and hungry guy who rides to work and back - SF to San Mateo - every day. One is a young guy who "just got into cycling 6 months ago" - clearly that was a change of pace from doing 2:30 Marathons or something. And the other guy - EACH of his quads is wider than his waist and he goes only by the name "space" (no capital letter). Severe.
Worst News. I started up from John Daly, with the terrific threesome vaguely in sight, figuring they would probably wait at Hickey and I could probably get a ride that I could handle through the rollers to Palo Alto. Then I punctured. I laid the Seven down and realized I had not moved my tool bag with tube and patch kit to my new bike, and had to call for the team car. Someone did ride by with a patch, but knowing I could flat again, still without gear, in an even more remote area that would probably have zero cyclists, I hung my head in shame and called my wife to come get me...
Wednesday, September 3, 2008
Nonetheless I have probably managed to maintain some semblance of my early season form by getting up at o dark thirty and riding to work with the Google folks, and sneaking in a few Healdsburg area rides. Not the sort of hillclimbing that leads to faster times but keeps the base going. Also my wife spent her first trimester completely naseous so instead of us going out on brisk couples rides, we tried to keep her from getting sick. She's feeling better and is riding a bit, but now the issue is becoming the inability to lean over due to bulging belly and sore back. I'm trying to find a more upright hybrid we can use for a while, and a trainer.
I entered the Winters Road Race 2 weeks ago and found out that not only am I still off top form but my strategy sucks. There is a small hill, I decided to wait until the start and then go to the front and try to slow it down and then lag climb the hill. Thing is, the hill starts shallow enough that all I did was give a lead out to the strong men before they attacked at the steeper part. The hill has several saddles in it and had I sat in and not used my bullets I probably could have made it to more saddles and then maybe reconnected on the descent. Instead I was worked and got not much more than an entertaining training ride.
I am thinking of doing the Mt Tam Hill Climb just because it's nearby (if the aforementioned stressors don't render that impossible) but hopefully I will be able to get the training to tune things up a bit. The most important component should be diet, hopefully with the fresh produce coming from the garden/trees and us watching Jill's diet, I can make some headway there.
Sunday, August 24, 2008
So I have started The Holier Than You Blog
holierthanthou was taken by someone who isn't blogging. Peak Everything indeed.
Saturday, August 23, 2008
Marin County has some good riding. It also has some very lousy, sketchy riding. Scenic, sure, but junk miles for training and sketchy. The problem is the lousy riding is in between San Francisco and the good riding further North. But I hate driving to the ride when I live in such a great place like the Bay Area where so much riding is so close. It's a waste and then there is always the day you drive to the ride, and forget your shoes. My biggest pet peeve is people who drive to group ride starts and then instead of us getting started, they have to change, pump their tires, check their headset, etc... When you ride out the door, you are ready to ride.
Tuesday I decided to solve the issue of both riding out the door, but skipping the Bridge/Sausalito/Mill Valley section of the trip to Marin (on weekdays the bridge can be extra sketchy as pedestrian tourists and cyclists share the same narrow pathway). I rode down Market St (sketchy, but in a "good way") to the Ferry building and took the ferry to Larkspur. 25 minutes and $4.70 (with my translink card) later I was in Larkspur. Along the way I got some fine scenery and had some snacks picked up on the way.
From Larkspur Ferry, follow the bike path West. There is a fork, follow it left over a wooden bridge and stay on the path to the end and onto a road. Follow the road to a T intersection, go left and you are on Magnolia in Kentfield.
I followed the remaining crappy miles through Ross, San Anselmo, and Fairfax and then rode up Whites Grade, to Nicasio over the little hill, then right on Lucas Valley and over that climb, and met my wife at Lucas Valley and 101. Wonderful riding, and now I'm in Healdsburg getting in some training and working in the garden.
Wednesday, August 6, 2008
6:30 AM Ritual Roaster, SF. Ostensibly the destination is Google, though a few of us have alternate destinations along and beyond that route. There are a bunch of people from Google that started a ritual of riding along the peninsula from SF on a daily basis - this ride goes almost every day, definitely every Friday (Friday is "No Rider Left Behind" day). Sometimes the route goes down Skyline but more frequently the route is along the peninsula with a hybrid of random roads, parking lots, bike paths, and even a "Bridge to Nowhere" in Redwood City that involves riding through a field, up a dirt ramp onto the bridge, and down another dirt ramp that starts with a small dropoff.
One of the stronger riders is moving and threw down a challenge - break the record. If I read it right the record is one hour and 57 minutes of "rolling" time (measured on a bike computer that stops when you do, at lights/etc...). Probably the best way to calculate the "record" because at some point the only way to improve the record is to take unneccessary risks at stoplights.
Should be interesting and fun. And painful - the lineup is pretty strong despite 1 or 2 of the heavy hitters being out of the country.
Intermediate points -
Millbrae Ave/Old Bayshore - probably about 7:15
Redwood Shores/101 - 8 AM or so.
more details at groups.google.com/group/sf2g
Tuesday, July 29, 2008
My wife and I took a vacation to Canada this past weekend. I hectically tried to pack my road bike just before the flight, decided to bail, then packed my road gear but not my mountain gear. Of course in Whistler there were no road bikes to rent and very excellent off roading. I made the best of it.
For 3 days we were in Vancouver. We rented some hybrids and rode around Stanley Park, a nice park poking into the sea/bay/sound/whatever. Check out the rig!
Vancouver was a very cycle friendly city, at least the downtown area. Not much car traffic, most of it pretty slow, some good bike lanes - it just felt super mellow compared to riding in SF. And when you are crossing a street you know if there is a bike lane from the street signs.
We hiked this trail, it was very technical. I considered riding it later when I rented a mountain bike, but wearing my Teva's and having not gone offroad in many moons I chickened out. I think it might have actually been easier than the ski run I did come down, which started out pretty mellow but ended with a steep descent with loose rocks ending with a sharp right. Next time I'll have proper gear and try out this technical run called "Old Timber Run".
This was a slightly more "technical" run I also didn't "find time" to try out.
I did go down the ski run a few times after riding a bit with my wife. The place where we were staying was on Kadenwood Drive which the ski run and Old Timber started off of. I also therefore rode up Kadenwood 4 times for a good workout. It would be an excellent climb (and fantastic descent) on a road bike. The last time down the ski run I saw another rider coming down from another trail. It was an easy trail with a winding hairpin. He got off his bike and cut off the hairpin on foot. I couldn't figure out why he would walk this clearly easy section (while I was navigating the steep part on my own trail). I looked up and figured out why he cut the trail. You probably can't see it from the picture, but there is a brown blob just above the hairpin bend. It was a bear, and he cut off the hairpin so as to not go whizzing by!
Tuesday, July 15, 2008
Sunday, July 13, 2008
This weekend was Kings Mountain via Greer. Greer is a tougher substitute for the first third of Kings, but without cars so it's pretty nice. I struggled through this section trying to keep any of my colleagues in view. As we made the turn onto Kings I got a little wind in my legs and soldiered on. I rode past one rider who quickly slotted in behind me.
Now, at this pace I think it's less "Drafting" than just letting someone else set a pace so you don't go too slow or don't race out too fast, but whatever. I found a good rhythm that left me feeling I might just crack at any moment but knew that I probably wouldn't. That's a good intensity climb. My friend stuck close to my wheel when I sped up, and when I slowed down he refused to pass. Amusing. As we hit the steepest section with just under a mile to go I utilized the compact crank on my Ritchey (the Seven still being MIA) to try to stretch it out a bit. But lo and behold as we got to 20 yards from the top, he decided to race to the line and went by me. Cheeky!
So eventually we end up at Roberts. He sees me and the following conversation ensues.
"So you're the guy who pulled me all the way up Kings" (and I nipped you at the line)
"Yeah, well, I was about 5 seconds from falling apart the whole way up" (thanks for not coming around and taking a turn)
"Me too, I thought about pulling but I was in the same boat, you almost dropped me near the end" (what do you think, I'm stupid? If I pull you drop me. I'm the king of all wheelsuckers.)
"I'm paying for it now, not enough riding" (I'm out of shape but will now train hard for 2 weeks, come back, and drop you like a wicked stepsister).
Monday, July 7, 2008
I went to the SFBC Bikes On Board subcommittee meeting tonight. SFBC is trying to collect some data on bike usage on Caltrain in order to address perceived inaccuracies in Caltrain's data. I got a look at the data organization tonight but the data is far from broad - most of the data is from two riders who are in the committee. Please feel free to add to the data set by collecting data from your Caltrain rides.
Incident report link here
Last year I did a loop starting in Hopland Ca with my wife, we rode primarily Mountain House, 128, 253, and River Road. Mountain House Road, not to be confused with Mountain Home Road in Woodside, Ca., is an excellent cycling road. Ever since that day I wanted to go back and knit the road together with routes a little closer to home (though I will mention that riding CA-253 from Boonville to Ukiah is really really really cool. A climb followed by a descent that is in my all time top 10 descents - just steep enough, just twisty enough, butter smooth pavement).
Anyway, I left Le Tournesol in Healdsburg and headed North on West Dry Creek. I went over to Cloverdale on Dutcher Creek Road (top notch) and into Cloverdale on Asti Road. I cut east on Crocker, onto River and then *North* onto Geysers Road. (South is a wicked climb for another day). Geysers North from Cloverdale is a classic Northern California Road, along a river, slightly rolling. Good view of an interesting Railroad tunnel, and you can see 101 on a ridge above. Problem - Geysers dead ends into 101.
I rode 101 - Bike legal as it is the only road to Hopland here - all the way to "Old River Road" and into Hopland, a town that surely announces you are no longer in the Bay Area but truly in the beautiful strangeness that is Northern California. 101 was not bad here - the shoulder is great and there isn't that much annoying traffic. You just have to adjust to it.
Out of Hopland I rode Mountain House. This is a rocking road. A few miles of mostly upward rollers, then a nice tecnical descent down to the Mountain House itself, a strangely out of place estate in the middle of a valley in the middle of nowhere. From here you climb 2 or so miles to CA-128. Make sure you have water, it gets hot. I think it's 10 miles from Hopland to 128 and I saw exactly one car.
The last rise up on MH I really started to flag, but knew happily that it was mostly downhill to Cloverdale. The road is flattish for a bit, then a short quick descent, about 1/2 mile of sweet technical road, then it flattens out again. I figured I was in for a bunch of rollers all the way to Cloverdale. The next mile is very annoying, high traffic and marginal shoulders - 101 is much safer than this in reality. But then you come out to a very nice well paved descent, very technical and you can outrun most cars if you have nominal descending ability (my ability is at best nominal). This dropped me into Cloverdale at the World Famous Hamburger Ranch and Pasta Farm, where Jill and I had our Wedding Rehearsal Dinner (OK, there was dinner, but no rehearsal). I took a weenie out - I had the SC transit schedule in my pocket and took bus #60 back to Healdsburg.
The major problem was I didn't bring my camera. So instead, here is a picture of the harvest from the Peach, Plum, and Apricot trees at Le Tournesol.
Unfortunately we ended up with about 15 plums, and we fed about 200 of them to the bluejays, moles, and racoons. ^@%!$#%&^$#@!!!
Next year I will be ready with nets and be more knowledgeable about when harvest starts.
I ask him if I can just lock to a pole, he says "I don't care". I see a very good candidate - a BS Car Centric "Visitor Parking" sign. I'll show them!
Unfortunately I was so fixated on my anarchist "Stick it to the Man" bent by locking my frame to the pole that I neglected to think about what the bushes might be doing to my tire.
Monday, June 30, 2008
We got back around 1 PM and I got on the 1:07 Caltrain. Gotta love Silicon Valley. 15 minutes later I was getting off the Caltrain at Bayshore, there had been an "incident" at San Bruno. Given I had Cubs tickets for tonight work was a wash. Best to just ride home.
As I headed through Noe Valley I decided it was a good day to snap some shots at Bespoke Cycles, the new bike store in Noe. I could also ask the mechanic about a click I had been hearing in my bottom bracket. We quickly determined the problem :(
A very gnarly crack across the top of my bottom bracket. It actually goes around the back side of the seat tube - the mechanic spotted it from the opposite side of that shown in the photo.
Good thing it was found now and not while descending Kingsbury Grade.
RIP my friend.
Monday, June 23, 2008
If You Don't Speak Up Now!
Due to the overwhelming success of Caltrain's bikes on board program, an increasing number of bicyclists are bumped every day as bike-cars quickly fill to capacity. Unfortunately Caltrain's Draft Bicycle Master Plan does not address present or future bike-car capacity needs. In fact, the plan does not even acknowledge there is a capacity problem. Instead, the plan focuses exclusively on improving bike parking at the ten most popular Caltrain stations. Dont take our word for it, review the plan yourself at: http://www.caltrain.com/pdf/bike_master_plan_key_findings_public_presentation_6-08_v2.pdf
Caltrain is Digging in Its Heels
Caltrain held three meetings in June to collect public comment. You can read bicyclists alarming accounts of these meetings at ...
We need more voices to add to theirs!
Submit Your Comments by July 3
Submit your comments to Caltrain at email@example.com and cc firstname.lastname@example.org to help the SFBC in its effort to work with Caltrain to draft a real Bicycle Master Plan (not just a Bicycle Parking Plan). Please spread the word among cyclists!
no grungy stuff inside. No stickers, etc...
I looked over the rider briefly, new shoes, new helmet. I could not resist and said "New bike?". She turned her head, looked at me, smiled, "Since Thursday".
It was nice to have a conversation on the train about something other than getting bumped... EDIT: I will go home and tell my WIFE about the new bikes I am seeing on the train, and there was a giant commuter bike that I should get HER because it looked pretty cool and would be good for knocking around Healdsburg when we go to OUR house.
Wednesday, June 18, 2008
Thursday I have stated that I am going to ride both ways to work - 45ish miles each way just to avoid the zoo that Caltrain is sure to be with free rides, publicized way in advance. Unfortunately that might be on the heels of riding all the way both ways today.
I told my wife last night that if we woke up early - and we've been waking up at like 5 AM every day lately as the sun blasts into our bedroom window, that I would join the Google ride down the Peninsula this morning. She said she was interested in riding after work, and I commented that I would be more than willing to ride in the AM and still ride after work with her, and I received general blessing to get up and ride.
I did inded wake up very early, but rolled around until about 6:10 then jumped up, frazzled. I needed to be out the door at 6:20, I threw on my kit and put whatever I needed into my messenger bag. I got to Ritual Roasters early enough to get some banana bread, but I discovered that I had left my wallet. I said hi to Trinh from Google, and dug an ancient emergency clif bar from my bag to get me started while I pondered a day without my train pass or money. I then also realized I forgot to bring the leftovers from GFC (Good Frickin' Chicken) that I had planned to eat for lunch, which would have been very handy on a day without my wallet.
Nobody showed but Trinh. This was a bad sign. Trinh has been showing storming form lately and I have not rounded into shape at all. This was shown early as we went over Cortland and San Bruno, but with those little rollers out of the way I humbly settled into 2nd wheel and hung on for dear life. He sat up a few times so we could chat about various roads I like to ride when I have some actual fitness - Skaggs Springs, Morgan Territory, etc... and I cursed that I was going to have to ride all the way to Google behind this monster - with no other riders I didn't want to abandon Trinh, and besides - I didn't have my train pass! One thing however - I could probably talk him into letting me load up at the Google Cafeteria, which would be very useful given that I was going to be in huge caloric deficit and had no money!
Shortly after Coyote Point, Trinh muttered something about "Going this way" where there is a fork in the path. I thought he had found some new route, I followed him and said "What's the deal?" He said "I'm peeling off in San Mateo". "New office?" I queried. "New Job". Ah. Great. Now I had no money, no train pass, and nobody to draft. Wonderful. I set off to slog on southward.
Let's see, what else. I got lost in Menlo Park trying to find the bike bridge to Palo Alto. I sat up a bit on Central so that I would meet a Caltrain at Mountain View and hope someone would emerge from the train that I could draft off of, no such luck.
On the bright side, I found 6 quarters in my desk at work so I could get a gatorade. I have no idea how I am going to get home, maybe my wife will meet me in Redwood City or somewhere for a ride and we'll (gulp) get in "her" car.
There - got my whining out of the way. If this is a "bad" day, I have a pretty good life. I did have my Ipod water bottle speaker thing going and was doing some good karaoke down the frontage roads in Menlo Park.
ADDENDUM. Opened my email.
"now I have a call scheduled for 5:00 pm....it will be better to just take it than to push it off to tomorrow." So much for a ride home - guess I will just have to ride my bike!
Monday, June 16, 2008
Irony - I will be leaving my bike in the office, taking the shuttle to MV Caltrain, walking,
go to the meeting, walk, train, MUNI. There is no way I'm leaving my $$$ Seven
locked up on the street for the duration of the meeting. While this clearly indicates I *can* get to/from work without my bike, it sucks. For the 6 PM meeting, I will get on a shuttle at 5:07 PM. This arrives MTV at 5:27, and I get to sit around. It takes me 15 minutes to ride - less time than the shuttle and no flexibility. Most people would take a little bit longer than 15 minutes, but the flexibility is key to keeping the idle time down.
Had I thought about that this AM I would have checked my bike at Warm Planet. Of course, I would have then skipped SB 220 and 322 and wasted 30 minutes to take the train that meets my company shuttle. These little things are the tipping point between a "reasonable" commute experience and one that completely sucks. My wrist was broken for 3 months in 2005, I was on MUNI and the shuttle for that time - I never got bumped from the train, but it was more miserable than being bumped.
Speaking of bumps - GGT 72X from Santa Rosa to SF bumped 7 passengers - sans velo - at Rohnert Park. There were a few seats open, but not 7. The waitees were gambling that there might be more room on the 72 arriving 5-10 minutes later. Good luck to them. The bus riders in Sonoma County are starting to get as surly as the Caltrain bikers, with no relief in sight.
This weekend was a lot of work - we have 13 or so fruit trees which are coming into fruit - Nectarines, Pomegranate, Pears, Almonds, and zillions of apples. We even managed to get 10 or so tomatoes to start fruiting in our vegetable garden - I'm trying to learn gardening so that we can have produce coming in most times of the year for our renters to pick. It's hard trying to figure it all out - we have table grapes that are fruiting but not nearly as much as the random grapevines on the fence. The question is - are those any good? To this city boy they might as well be poisonous if I don't know any better. Unlikely - but they might not be a variety that tastes good.
Anyway, after hours in the yard and fixing a broken faucet, we did get out for a ride on Saturday. We did a loop of Eastside and Westside roads (I think this is the east and west sides of the Russian River). Nice roads with low traffic and only a few rolling hills. Jill's a little under the weather so we took it nice and easy. On Sunday I broke free for a loop north of town, through the Dry Creek and Alexander Valleys, and over Chalk Hill Road - the bane of triathletes doing the Vineman Triathlon. This drops me into Windsor where I can return on Los Amigos Road. This picture is of the Dry Creek Valley just off of Lytton Springs Road.
Sonoma County has it all for cyclists. Beautiful winding roads, low traffic for the most part, awesome scenery, Bear Republic Brewery for post ride libations. I skipped the Racer 5 IPA as I headed home where my wife was being a good sport and had made dinner. We managed to integrate some of our garden - Cilantro from the garden for the Spanish rise, and Fresh Rosemary from our Rosemary Bush for the Chicken. Our Lavender is blooming like crazy and I read about someone making "Lavender Chicken" but my wife was cooking - so she made the rules and the Lavender was vetoed.
Friday, June 13, 2008
Ah - back to Cycling. Back to climbing.
I joined my friend Geoff and a couple people from bikeforums.net for a climb up Montebello Road yesterday. Ivan (also from Alto Velo) and Becky joined us at the last minute.
Montebello is an excellent training hill but I find it works better when you are in better shape (or at least have gearing that matches your shape). When I am not in top form, the 39/27 just isn't quite enough for the couple of steep sections at the bottom. I know I am going well when I can mow through that section seated. Not yesterday - I had to grind grind grind out of the saddle in more than a few spots.
The climb is 3 parts - 2 miles at the bottom which are quite steep and not a lot of recovery. Then there is one blissful flat mile which is also shaded. Then you pull out of the shade and climb at a little less grade for 2 miles - the last chunk has some steeper sections as you go past Ridge winery. There are a couple of stair steppy pitches towards the very end - when you can see the big American flag flying by the house at the top you know you've got it and can attack for the top.
It was super hot yesterday which did add to the misery but the bottom line - I need to get my diet started if I want to get the form turned around....
Wednesday, June 11, 2008
The 8:19, of course, had a mechanical. Given that the replacement train was bound to depart late, we tucked it in, re-checked his bike, and got on the 8:44 which would deliver him to Redwood City sans bike and me to Sunnyvale (closer to work).
I got so wrapped up in the bike capacity issue and the poor handling of it, that I got off track of the general concept that Caltrain needs some more funding - now. I definitely want them to get a little smarter - but the system is breaking down. In addition to 14 train cars going out of service, the number of mechanicals seems to have gone up lately (granted this is just anecdotal). They are squeezing everything they can out of their gallery cars in the promise of "electrification" - who knows if that will ever be funded.
Ridership is through the roof. There are stats from (I think) February that support this, but anecdotally I believe that it has gone way up in the last 4-5 months. February is a bad month to measure, the rain chases away not just the cyclists. If you take MUNI or VTA to Caltrain, rain is a good reason to "Just Drive". Capacity for special events (basically Giants games during commute hours) is completely maxed out.
The value to SF and the Peninsula of Caltrain is very high (in my opinion, anyway). It is attracting many new riders right now. The long time riders are putting up with the disruptions because we have already decided that we don't want to drive, for various reasons (can't afford car, hate to drive, environment). And even disrupted service now is substantially better than it was even 6 years ago.
The new riders however, are just being thrown over a tipping point, most likely for gas prices. I can't really vouch for traffic congestion since I haven't driven the 101 during rush hour for but I doubt it is at the level of the dot com days. Regardless, those new riders will react poorly to bad experiences. "We" need to keep those riders on transit. This means keeping the service level up to at least current standards.
Of course even if the trains run on time, there is the issue of how to get the riders on board. That is why bike capacity and handling that capacity cannot be ignored. The diehards will figure it out. Some buy folders. I am probably buying a used bike from Walt's and locking it up at Sunnyvale and praying it doesn't get stolen. I'm going to go to the Caltrain bike master plan comment and make sure Caltrain is acutely aware that bike racks won't cut it for most people because they cannot afford to have their bikes stolen. I saw a longtime cyclist on the train this AM, she had thrown in the towel and was going with a skateboard. That won't work for me - I'm too klutzy, and skateboarding down Central Expressway just doesn't sound too fun, let alone motoring through SF. But new riders are being turned off by being bumped, and if they try to drive, the parking is limited.
My worry is that throwing money at Caltrain might not do the trick, of course, but if Caltrain does need the money, it will take a while to get, the campaign should start tout de suite.
Tuesday, June 10, 2008
Caltrain ranters on the peninsula feel free to join in for a rant fest! I'm rolling the Webcor colors per usual, slow tempo. When all fails - go for a ride!
EDIT: I did go on the ride, but I was late because I was bumped at Mountain View from the 5:03 train. I had to wait for the 5:37, and made it on but 10 others were bumped. That train then bumped 10 at Menlo, and 10 at Redwood City...
The 7:44 and 8:44 trains are a disaster. They are always late. This delays the 7:59 and 8:59. Why are they late? Dwell time is through the roof. Caltrain is surely blaming the cyclists. The conductors are surly. What is going on?
Gas prices have attracted a lot of new cyclists. The trains are packed. The new cyclists aren't really well vetted in the etiquette, they board and then block the vestibule, don't have tags, run to their bike at the last minute to de-train. These problems didn't exist as badly in the dot com era because with all trains stopping at all stops, the load was more distributed and people offloaded in pieces instead of all at once. And there was more padding in the schedule with all the stops. Caltrain, in my opinion could fix this stuff with some simple modifications.
The problem with the 8:44 is thus. It's loaded with bikes for PA and Cal Ave. And I do mean LOADED. This is the most popular train of all from what I can see. The previous train is a local to PA, and no other train stops at Cal Ave, a very popular spot. The next train stops at Menlo - some cyclists are smart enough to know that it's 5 minutes from Menlo to PA, but surprisingly most don't. I've seen PA cyclists bumped off the 8:44 wait for the 9:07 local! Or they go home and drive - even worse.
When the train gets to PA and Cal Ave, there is no way we can hit the dwell time. So many riders are getting off at PA that it takes too long. Also, riders from the other half of the split local are transferring at PA instead of Redwood City, because trying to board at RWC means you will get bumped. If you wait on the split to PA, and board there, you can get on because so many people are getting off. The train is still half full, mostly with Cal Ave bikes. The people boarding are mostly going to San Antonio and Sunnyvale, split local only stops. They can't rack their bikes because the outside bikes are all Cal Ave. The Cal Ave riders are now scrambling on because they know what a disaster getting off at Cal Ave is. So we get to Cal Ave and miss the dwell time as well. Disaster. This train is always 10 minutes late. I used to be able to set my watch by Caltrain. No more.
How to deal.
1) Do the needful to put 2 bike cars on this train EVERY day. I hear all the stories about rotation of train sets. This is a known problem train. I'm not saying put two bike cars on all trains. Just make sure there are 2 bike cars on the trainset that needs it. That is the 7:44 and 8:44.
2) Add Cal Ave to the 7:19/8:19 train. Cal Ave is a very popular stop that could use more service. I'd personally remove Menlo Park. Menlo has bullets before and after serving that population. Burlingame is another candidate. Even if the overall passenger demand for Menlo is higher than the cyclist demand, spreading the cyclist demand will get Caltrain back on time which is a win for everyone. Those who lost a train will adjust.
3) Either add a 9:14 SB bullet to PA, or switch the pattern of the 8:59 to go to PA instead of Menlo. Caltrain did all this analysis to select the bullet stops for the "A" pattern, yet they run 3 on the "B" pattern and 2 on the "A" pattern. I think the ridership and SB commute patterns would justify a 9:14 bullet and then run the 9:37 as a full local, just running the :07's as skip stop to San Bruno and the :37's full local.
4) Take advantage of the twitter feed that Ravi Pina has setup to alert cyclists to 2 bike car trains 30 minutes before departure. This is enough to sero-sort cyclists to the 2 bike car trains and spread the load.
5) For crying out loud, find the money to improve the electronic signage. The story I am told is that all signs must show the same message - they can't run individual messages. Who in the hell did they hire to do this job? Signboards like that were done as a senior project by 20% of my graduating class at Illinois - in 1986! They should be able to indicate what train is coming and what the bike car setup is. If the cyclists KNOW there are 2 bike cars, they can line up distributed and dwell time will be reduced. As it stands, the engineer holds up 2 fingers as he pulls into Mountain View, but it takes us forever to get to that train car because of the crowds on the platform, saving zero time.
6) BIKES BOARD/DETRAIN FIRST FROM THE BIKE CAR. This will get the non-cyclists to use the other doors. The nature of the bikes is that they back up in the vestibule which delays boarding. If all the cyclists were smart enough to board the rear first, it would not be so bad, but some don't know any better and some don't care (it's really nice to have your bike by the door when we arrive 22nd St at night, detraining there is a nightmare). This is a simple idea that I think would pay huge dividends. But all Caltrain can come up with is "ENTRY/EXIT" signs for the bombadiers that don't make one lick of sense and have been universally ignored.
This costs Caltrain very little money and would have huge impact, IMHO. Certainly with conditions improving, Caltrain would attract more ridership and much like widening the freeway, the problem could reappear. But to do nothing is ridiculous. I defended Caltrain tooth and nail for the last few years because I had seen them make big changes for the positive (24-32 bikes per gallery car, Baby Bullet I, Baby Bullet Reinvention) but they are sitting on their butts right now at a time when service is being demanded.
Some of these examples are specific. Some are not. None have made it into the tiny brains of the Caltrain staff, which I am now convinced is really into big capital projects (Ponderosa, Baby Bullet, Bayshore (waste) Station, new platforms at Burlingame, PA, Cal Ave) all of which have paid big dividends but could care less about simple things that would make service so much better. I almost doubt anyone working for Caltrain other than a conductor would even understand my analysis of the 8:44, let alone come up with it themselves. The conductors? Maybe 50/50. But they don't get to vote.
Where to start. I've been a regular Caltrain user since I moved to SF in 1998. Back then, there were 24 spots per train on the bike car. The AM southbound schedule was 7, 7:05, 7:30, 8, 8:05, 8:30, 9, 10. That's right, after 9 AM - wait an hour. Bumpings of cyclists became rampant as the dot com ramped up and traffic on 101 got horrible. Somewhere around 2000 they went to 32 slots and this improved the situation, but the situation with bumpings resolved itself when the dot com went dot bomb.
Caltrain "reinvented itself" in 2004 adding the Baby Bullet service. This was mostly an addon to current service. It was nice when you could get on a bullet, but they made the silly decision for a 6:11 and 7:11 bullet - who works in Silly Valley starting at 7 AM? And these trains had only 16 slots for cyclists - making them not really an "express" in that if you wanted to take the train, you had to show up so early it wasn't any faster.
In 2005, they went to FIVE bullets each way and got rid of the 6:11 and added a second bullet pattern, including an 8:59 bullet. Now that is the Silly Valley Sweet Spot. We could travel in leisure and not worry about too many bumpings, especially for someone like me who uses SF and Mountain View instead of midline stops like Redwood City or Palo Alto. One concession, getting on at 22nd St is a pure gamble, and unlike back in the day when getting bumped just meant riding to 4th to get on the next train, the next train leaves so soon you can't make it in time. So you wait for the next train and get bumped again. Then the NEXT train doesn't even stop at 22nd. Get on at 4th, get off at 22nd on the way home.
In addition to the 5 bullets, there is a limited stop run that gets me from SF to MTV almost as fast as a bullet. The locals are a "split local", bad on one hand in that one doesn't stop at MTV, but the other one gets to MTV in an hour. The downside is that some stations are now infrequently served - down to once per hour for places like SSF and (inexplicably) Cal Ave. And if you are going from Belmont to Sunnyvale, you have to transfer - but while this sounds draconian, the run from Belmont to Sunnyvale is now *faster* than it used to be - because Caltrain removed the (rarely used) Atherton stop. Life was good, ridership was up.
Then gas went to $4 a gallon and it all went to hell.
Monday, June 9, 2008
I love bike shops. I can hang out in a bike shop for hours. And I like discussing the difference between bike shops. Different shapes, sizes, interests, good points, bad points. I won't always like the end result but the process is most of the fun.
There is a new store in Noe Valley, I walked in yesterday and checked it out. Review will be forthcoming. For now, 2 shops I use with some frequency.
Warm Planet Bikes - 4th/Townsend, SF. Operated by "Kash", someone whose writings I've been able to review on the sfbike mailing list (open with care, it's frequently off topic and there is plenty of ranting). The major plusses - opens at 7 AM, closes at 8 PM, and will VALET CHECK your bike for free! As a Caltrain commuter this place is a huge plus. Check your bike and take the train. Check your bike and have them work on it while you are at work. Flat on the way to the train? Having what you need at the train station is a big bonus. Kash's operation definitely is focused on the commuter. All the bikes in the shop are folders and there's no racks of spandex jerseys or Sidi Shoes. Look instead of fenders, locks, lights, racks. This shop is about using your bike to get the job done. The first time I went there I asked for a 700x23 tube, Kash replied "Presta?" I laughed - "Is there any other kind?" Of course there is but I definitely live in a Presta world. But Kash didn't have a 48mm stemmed tube! That has been corrected, but he doesn't have my favorite T9 lube (I just don't like Tri-Flow). This store is indispensible and I'll give them whatever business I can.
In Sunnyvale is Walt's. I used to *hate* this store. It was by the Caltrain, which was great to get a tube in a pinch but all the bikes were junk, the store didn't carry much useful stuff. I sort of thought they basically catered to 12 year olds and people who could not afford cars. A group that needs to be served, but I had not much use personally. Certainly I would not leave my bike to be serviced there.
What a change a few years can make. The shop has been remodeled, the bike range has been expanded, from low end utility bikes to high end road bikes. A much better selection of clothing, tires, helmets, tools, etc... I got my T9 lube there today. The best part? They have an *incredible* selection of used bikes.
There was a very cool old school Puegeot with downtube shifters, 7 speed for under $200. Raoul from the Caltrain tells me they have a "loft" with all sorts of treasures. All the bikes look to be in very good shape, if a bit vintage. Nice. Their service has upgraded very well, I highly recommend this store.
Monday, June 2, 2008
Sonoma County bys #60 picks me up at the end of Limerick Lane at 5:10 AM, headed for downtown Santa Rosa. It has 3 bike racks. The 5 AM bus is definitely a thing populated by regulars. 2 guys from Healdsburg who have their bikes and must work construction somewhere off Shiloh Rd in Windsor. They look the type to be driving a pickup, not a hardtail MTB with panniers, but there they are, toolbelts and all. More likely a couple of DUI's than a couple of tree-huggers, but I won't look askance at anyone in the army. An older Asian woman who rides from Windsor to Santa Rosa, and transfers to Sonoma to volunteer at the hospital. My next door neighbor who I pass as she walks to the bus stop, flashlight on, on her 2 bus route to work in Sebastopol. Last week, a wrinkle - another cyclist! Third rack filled, I had to strap my bike in the wheelchair slot - at least SC transit allows this. This morning I chose to ride 25 minutes to Shiloh Road and board where the construction guys get off - of course one of them wasn't working today.
In Santa Rosa, it's GG Transit #72, a plush bus with room for 2 bikes in a sliding bike rack in the luggage bay. Luckily I've never been bumped - yet. This bus winds through SR, Rohnert Park, and Cotati, then expresses to the GG Bridge. I usually get off at Embarcadero and Bay, avoiding downtown SF's slowdown on the bus. Today, the locking luggage bay refused to *unlock*. I reboarded and said "I'll ride with you to the yard and we'll figure it out". After the last passenger got off at 2nd and Mission he said "let's try it here". We banged on it and finally dislodged my bike.
A sketchy ride down 4th St to Caltrain, where I waited in a huge line to buy my June Pass. The full up 8:44 bus to Sunnyvale. A 3 mile cruise to AMD. 5 hours! Ugh.
Normally this commute is 4 hours - traffic was awful in Sonoma and Marin today, and the luggage bay fiasco cost me 30 minutes in the end. We really need the SMART rail to pass, a bus isn't driving, but it still gets stuck in traffic. Not a big deal either way, I get a good nap on the way to SF, and breakfast and a paper await me for the Caltrain. And I was on my bike for 45 minutes. Beats the hell out of being in the cage.
Thursday, May 29, 2008
Time - 22:57
Have not weighed myself but I am probably around 210. Getting to 190 should be 2 easy minutes, and the process of getting to 190 should require enough training for another 50 seconds. 8 seconds can be had by jettisoning the pump and the water bottles :)
It's a good baseline to start with, back in 2001 I told myself I could but myself a Seven if I got under 22, at that point 24 was my record. So I am clearly not dead yet if I consider myself "out of shape" and am a minute faster than I was after 3 years of trying to figure out how to ride a bike (I bought my first road bike as an adult in 1998).
Tuesday, May 27, 2008
Last year my wife and I were riding through Jimtown and decided to check it out, I told her I would ride up for 20 minutes and then come down to collect her. This past weekend we, along with my buddy TJ and his girlfriend Theresa, decided to go back up. Here is the recon...
At the bottom there is a sign that says "Windy road next 12 miles". I sort of hoped this included some gravel section that is not part of the climb proper. No such luck. You ride up a rolling gorgeous climb for a little over 8 miles, not very steep, several rolling/short downhill sections. You then hit a meadow - which I assume is the pine flat. This takes you for a mile or two, you do down a short steep downhill section and then it gets rough. Steep, then steeper. At this point I was riding with a woman from Santa Rosa I picked up on the climb, but decided to go back and find my cohorts. TJ was in the meadow and we headed back up. I saw my SR friend riding down and figured we were close to the top as we struggled up a very long steep section. She yelled "good luck!". Finally I came around a bend and it flattened out, but I could see in front of me an even worse steep section and could not discern where the finish was. I was shot from the prior 1/2 mile or so at 15% and didn't really feel like going after the 18% looking stuff in front of me. TJ and I decided to bag it and descended to Jimtown for snacks.
This would be a very rude awakening at the end of a race - I am sure everyone would ride the first 10 miles very hard, then BOOM.
Thursday, May 22, 2008
For 5 years, I rode from San Jose to Santa Barbara every Memorial Day weekend with a group of about 45 friends. Last year I went to the Giro instead, and didn't get my mojo back together for the trip this year. But I did manage to get up and ride from San Jose to Morgan Hill with them this morning. A good way to shake off the cobwebs from Tuesday, and a lot of perspective upon seeing a photo of David Ritter's post surgery stitches from his gnarly crash last week.
We rode down Camden/Almaden/McKean/Uvas, I returned via Oak Glen and back through Uvas. Nice riding but crazy wind. I rode with the front group a while and was doing ok but someone dropped a HR monitor and I got gapped going around him, just as the pace lifted. I closed the gap once, but the last 2 riders got gapped and I couldn't get around them due to a car passing. I don't have a 2nd gap close in my right now with that sort of crew. The "no car" photo is from Oak Glen Road, a very nice road around Uvas Resevoir.
I had to get a photo of a realtor I saw on Sycamore Road. There were a few things about the scene that amused me. A realtor driving a Prius? Realtors are very image conscious about their cars - I know from experience. So now the Prius is "accepted" amongst the realtors - at least in the Bay Area. Anyway, he was posting a "Price Reduced" sign on the for sale sign. This is in Morgan Hill, a bedroom community for the Silicon Valley, and out on Sycamore you can get all sorts of land for "cheap" but must suffer a hellish commute on 101/85 to get to work. Prices are being reduced in MH just like our friends out in CC County? Gas Prices? Prius driving realtor? I just found it an interesting juxtaposition. And you thought this blog was going to be about bike racing.
I certainly realized everything was back to normal when I approached a section that was narrowed to one lane while PG&E trimmed back some trees. I looked back and saw an SUV. I signaled my intention to take the lane and the driver signalled their intention to not allow this by hitting the accelerator. I backed off and flipped her the bird. Yes - things are back to normal, post incident.
Tuesday, May 20, 2008
This has come into play more now that I ride a lot with my wife - she is a good rider, handles her bike well, and is strong enough to get most places but we don't put the hammer down. I enjoy these rides as much as any in a fast paceline or up a steep hill.
However, I decided this year that I would put a goal in front of myself. Much like my Aussie compatriot Jonathan(known for his Tolstoy like messages as well) I decided I wanted to break 20 minutes on Old La Honda. My prior best - 20:41. My ace in the hole, I did that at 195 lbs. With a reasonable training load, if I could get down to 190, I would hit it easy. It's a good goal for me because it doesn't require training for a peak on a specific date, so the slings and arrows that work, life, injury, might throw at me can be accounted for.
I decided to open a blog to track this quest with a bit of personal ego by making it public. I put up a strawman first post, and was going to announce the quest once I settled a few things down so I could get a good baseline - a time up the hill, current weight, etc... This task slipped along as life got the better of me, though I have gotten in some riding.
Well, it starts tonight because if you wait too long, you never know when it might be too long. I met my friend Joe in Redwood City and rode up Edgewood Rd to meet my wife. I have ridden up this hill at least 30 times. There is heavy traffic but a very wide shoulder. I probably feel as safe on the upper slopes of Edgewood as I do anywhere.
Nearing the top, as Joe related some anecdote to me, and I laughed, I was thrown violently forward and to the right. I rammed into Joe and then it was over. I was standing over my bike but only in mild shock. Before I could even do a systems check I knew something was wrong, I watched the car driving away, heard Joe saying something about "Check this out" and carrying the passenger side mirror. I realized my right shoulder was sublexed and set about quickly getting it into joint before the capsule had even more time to get irritated. I then took stock.
I had been clipped by a Honda Prius going about 45 mph and didn't even go down. The rearview mirror put a nice scrape up my left thigh, I injured my shoulder ramming into Joe's backpack. I was riding at least 2 feet to the right of the white line, granted I was overlapped with Joe's rear wheel but still well on the shoulder. A second's inattention by a driver, perhaps assisted by gusts of winds in the canyon let her drift onto the shoulder. 6 inches more and I get hit by the right front fender instead of the mirror, and am most likely not typing this blog entry.
I walked up to the driver who had stopped at the first pullout. She was very upset, very apologetic, quickly offered all her information, told me to go to an ER (I skipped it, having been through this injury before - if it doesn't settle down overnight I'll get it looked at). Strangely I just told her thanks for stopping, got her information, said "please drive carefully" and we parted ways. I can get worked up for an entire day over someone who does something intentionally stupid on my commute to the train, this woman had just screwed up and she knew it, that was enough for me I guess. She's probably more upset than I am, thanks to the fact I am ok.
But now - game on. That hill is mine now. One more Coke tomorrow morning to settle my nerves and the race begins....