Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Home again

I was back in North Carolina several weeks ago. Haven't been there since I left two years ago. The visit really cemented the differences in cycling between my old home and my new one. I couldn't believe the great pavement in NC seeing miles of smooth, unpatched asphalt left me longing for my bike. The weather was great, warm even. But where were the cyclists? It became a counting game. I travelled on four counties roads, non interstate and counted eight riders, only eight riders in six days. Back home in Sonoma County I saw double that within two hours. On our crumby,lumpy, patched, cracked up pavement. I did get in some southern delicacies, namely fried oysters, fried foods aren't big in CA - especially oysters. We did a genuine pig-pickin ( whole hog BBQ ) also some southern fried chicken and SWEET tea that I didn't have to make myself. Nice. Cyclocross finally. I haven't been able to travel to regional races, but last Saturday the race came to me. I haven't had much real specific prep, so it was going to be a revelation of what my modest prep and my years of experience can come up with. All of last years races where soppy mudfests, this race was sunny but the course was mostly gluey mud from rain two days prior. Ten guys took the line in my 55+ class. I raced mid pack as is my norm so I was pretty happy to be where I left off. I did give up a place that I had to take back in the last lap. All told a very satisfying race day. 5th place in a field of tough old guys! Two weeks 'til next race. Thanks for reading.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Gran Fondo

I am still alive, it's been a busy summer. I have been using an iPad since January and seldom use my PC anylonger. BUT it is not conducive to writing my blog, at least I am not able to write and save a draft. I seldom sit down at the PC these days. I had one lengthy draft, that just vanished. Not fun, as typing is laborious for me. So that is my alabi. I did check off one more of Sonoma Countys classic climbs. The Geysers. It is a remote corner of the county that has a lot of geothermal activity. The ridgetop is about 2500' and we start the ride at 120' round trip that day was 70 miles and hot a good ole' upper 90s but thankfully low humidity. Draining just the same its hard to make the change to heat after temps 10-15 degrees lower. One interesting factoid is the county pumps wastewater up there, and into the earth, the ensuing steam is used to turn turbine generators producing alot of electricty. The area is as stated, remote, no water for 20-30 miles but the uncluttered views make up for it, if one is prepared. The climbing is very strenuous in places and corespondingly treacherous on descents, if one messes up no one will find you for a long time, very little road traffic. Now for a Levi's King Ridge Gran Fondo wrap up. It was last Saturday Oct 1. This year I did the Gran (103 mi.) version in '09 I did the Medio (65 mi.) route. the big has probably 60% more climbing a total of 8000+' total. This is in another remote corner of the county. It is a big county by Eastern standards at almost 1800 sq. mi. We climbed up and over a coastal ridge overlooking the Pacific Ocean twice. 7500 registered riders took off I think 6000 do the Gran route. The start is amazing, as we are lined up about 15 riders abreast, it took over 15 min. to even start moving. the first 5 miles are on two lanes of flat road and closed to traffic so it opens up quite quickly until that first hill! Things progressed fine as I moved into the King Ridge climb proper. I had purposely held back exertions to save for later, and was feeling good. Sunny became cloudy, became drizzle became wind and rain in the next hour plus of climbing. No stopping at the top because of cold and the rest stop would require clogging my cleats on the moistening earth. Now down a twisty 20% dropinto the coastal redwoods, but hold on, a crash has already caused a major log-jam. A mass of riders clomp across a metal grate-decked bridge to resume climbing/sizable rollers to a lunch stop with an amazing variety of foods, but its chilly and fog is settling in so I don't stay long. A screaming descent to the coastal highway finally comes and light overcast and warmer temps, but my energy now seems pretty much gone at 65 miles in. The rest of the ride is fortitude and experience shared with a host of others, some I pass and others passing me. The big climb back over the coastal ridge is cruel but quick and I eventually make it back to the finish line festival. Was all that a dream?! The following pictures are from those areas, but the King Ridge ones were from a clear warm day!

Monday, July 18, 2011

Summer finally

After a topsy-turvy June, we are settled into normal weather, warm to hot/dry days, cool nights. Riding is good, getting some rides done that I haven't done in a while.Yesterday I returned to Los Alamos Rd. see my sept 09 post for a reference. It really is amazing. 1600'+ climbing in just over six miles from my place. I still had to stop once, on the 19% pitch, there is a driveway that allows a brief flat spot. Climbing certainly takes power and skill but also mental fortitude. You have to want to keep going, once you let your brain give in, you're done. From that stop I was ok, and a good bit faster than previous. The decent is still scary, it has a wavy and patched surface, it is so steep in places that the back wheel wanted to come up, even though I had my butt pushed way back.
And I hope you are enjoying the tour, probably the most compelling competition in over a decade, it is still a rather open game with lots of drama to come into the last week, enjoy!

Friday, July 15, 2011


Was out in Napa on a little winery diversion on Thusday after watching a spectacular Tour stage. Later that afternoon we stopped at Velo Vino, a tasting room opened by Clif Family Winery, yes the Clif Bar people. It is a very cool stop especially for cycling enthusiasts. Along with nice wines, thet have a interesting collection of memorabilia. I was wandering around with a glass of wine a came opon a race bike of modern date, a carbon Orbea, I wondered what it's significance was as I approached, then on inspection saw S.Sanchez on the top tube, this was none other than the '08 Olympic RR Gold Medal winners bike, the same Sammy Sanchez who won that very day's tour stage, also coincidentally on the TV playing discreetly in the tasting room. How cool is that!!
Stop by if you are ever in St. Helena, Napa County CA

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

what's up with the weather?

if you are following me from outside Norcal or even LA you likely have warmer weather than us. May was largely cool and wet. But I am not missing the humidity of the Old North State, you folks are warmer than normal, we are 15 degrees cooler than normal. Even Northern Vermont has been warmer. Yesterday the wet spell is finally broken, I sure hope so.
May was Ride to Work month in the San Fran North Bay. There was a team challenge contest. 5 members max, you log all type commute or non exercise specific miles on their website. The team of four, which I am captain of, logged 542 miles and this is in a wet month. way to go team. we finished in the top 20% It was fun and definitely got me out there hittin' the streets more, which was the point, I'm sure. We saved somewhere approaching 20 gallons of gas not to mention the crud in the atmosphere.
now y'all get out there and ride, ya hear?

Second installment

Welcome back. So I got a bike and gradually got it spiffed up. I was slow to progress as a cyclist, I spent a couple years riding mostly on my own. Never having been an athlete before I suppose I had trouble seeing myself becoming one. I was enjoying the bike and just riding.By that second autumn I entered an organized ride and completed a half century. This distance isn't popular now but the combo of full and half century rides was common then. I don't remember anything about the build up to or even the event itself, but I still have the finishers patch - LAW Half Century 1976. League of American Wheelmen as it was called then. I lived in Charlotte, the Blue Ridge Mountains are a little more than an hours drive. A friend and I were of similar cycling experience and decided to go on a weekend camping trip and ride along the Blue Ridge Parkway. We thought we would ride up aways toward the Virginia line. Ha, The Parkway is a succesion of small to big rolling hills along the ridge crest, but I had never done anything like that before. I had a handlebar bag on the bike and still I remember we got worn out, turned back and bonked bad,which was a new experience. We started to realize it was getting late too and colder as it does in the mountains in late afternoon. We finally crawled back to the town of Blowing Rock, wolfed down some food, and still had a tough ride back to Price Park at twilight. Now I look back at what a short trip that was. But a first none the less.
The French bike was not keepimg up with my cycling self image. One day I stopped in a little bike shop that I frequented. They shared space in a running store. This was the predicesor of Charlotte Bike Sport. They had a slightly used,nice frame set, in my size. It was a English handbuilt that had belonged to a racer, but not much used. A Falcon , Reynolds 531 frame I could be proud to own. So I did. Light Blue with chrome lugs and fork. Typical English frame, clean, no braze-ons for bottles or cable stops. I built it up with parts I already had. I wish I could remember more about the ride, but I don't.
More time passed and I had never been on a real mountain. and found myself at a new job, with a fellow cyclist working there. He lived more in the foothills. I got an invite to join a couple guys going to Mt. Mitchell. It is only the highest point East of the Rockies. Six thousand plus feet up. I made it a ways up the Blue Ridge Parkway, I remember a tunnel or two, but along there my legs gave out and I pulled to the side and waited for them to come down. I had no concept of a big climb. I know now it's a thirty mile climb! I have done it many times since then. It is the final part of The Assault on Mt. Mitchell a famous century in
western North Carolina.
So I was reading everything cycling that I could get my hands on. Now I knew about about time trailing and that the area cycling club held a regular 10 miler. I asked a casual acquaintance what a good first timer might expect time-wise. I wad told 30 minutes. well it was an experience I still can recall and turned in a 29:59 Somewhere about that time in the eighties I entered my first real race at the Dilworth Criterium in Charlotte. then beginners did what was called citizens class. It wasn't a big field if I remember right, and I did OK, but still didn't see myself as a real cyclist. my life at that time just seemed to crowded for that kind of dream. But I enjoyed the bike. I commuted to work fairly regularly. and rode as often for fun, dare I say training, as I could.
I have looked back at mileage logs I kept, I wasn't really riding near as much as I do now. But I got out early to ride to work and took a long route, that left me in a strange mix of exhaustion and elation. A longer ride came along most weekends. I reaquainted a couple friends I had known earlier and now were cyclists, more accomplished than myself. They provided a big push forward for me. The coldest time on a bike was a dark early trip to work, about three miles. It was well below freezing and howling wind. it was hard to inhale for a while it was a shock to the system but I got there.the gear was so primitive compared to today. A crumby battery powered light, Wonder light brand I don't think there was much wonderful about it. and a Belt Beacon rear light that was hi-tech at the time. Basically a DOT style flasher you would find in a construction zone, just a bit smaller. the clothing I started with was wool, chamois were actually chamois, it's an animal skin. and had to be lubed to soften them before a ride. shoes had cleats that were nailed in place. There was so much to be learned to be a real cyclist, now it is so easy to learn things. but the same hurdle exists, I am amazed how little many people want to know about our beloved sport. The internet, magazines, You-Tube all deliver a tidal wave of info if you care to search a little. As I mentioned earlier, I work in a bike shop and find people can't use a pump or even figure out a valve stem. how did I learn? I even had to mount my own cleats with tiny little nails. there is something to be said for paying your dues, I think. it's more than just buying stuff it's a right of passage, a dedication, a "religious" orders vows. Don't get me wrong I don't see myself as something special, I think all cyclists had pretty similar experiences. I treasure the recollections of these first experiences, initiations into life as a cyclist. I remember the first hard shell helmets, the first cyclometers (even before electronics, anyone remember the Huret Multito?) how about roof racks - La Prealpina!, Yakima and Thule were years away yet.
Following the Tour de France was a challenge then, at best the newspaper got us coverage that amounted to a list in the box scores section that might be omitted if space was limited. ABC Wide World of Sports gave us a spare, disjointed coverage of the Tour about 1984 when Jonathan Boyer was the first American in over fifty years. Which leads up to 1985 and Greg Lemond and the modern era, stay tuned.
Thanks for reading.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Thirty-seven years on Two Wheels

Here is the first installment of my memoir. it is through a single lens, reflections on my life aboard a bike. Over the course of these nearly four decades, many things have shaped my life but none has had the day in day out presence that cycling has had. My cycling life started earlier still, but as typical for children, was unobserved and unreflective, as I discovered things that two wheels could deliver me to, independence, freedom and adventure. As typical of my generation in the US, I cast the bike aside as a child's pastime as I became a teenager. But as strong a draw as car culture was, it also provided a path back to the bike. The Arab Oil Embargo in 1973 came in my last year of college. As I was a commuter student less than ten miles from campus, I started using my younger brothers ten-speed to get to school on occasion and enjoyed the forgotten freedom of two wheels. I was invited to join some others for what became my first group ride, and was hooked. After graduating and getting my first job, getting a bike of my own was paramount. I don't remember how I selected the shop or the bike, but I do remember searching out info in the local library. I discerned how poor the typical parts were on entry level bikes, and had my first bike upgraded to the new Suntour shift systems from Japan. The bike itself was a Jeunet from France, a clone of the popular Peugot U-08. These bikes were crappy by today's standards, but much better than the bikes typical in the US. I put down deeper roots as an up-and-coming bike geek by hanging out in the bike shop daily and reading everything I could find. Within year, I ditched the steel cottered crank for an alloy Stronglight 99 and had some hand built wheels with Campy hubs and the new Rigida narrow clincher rims mounted. Then came good Cinelli bars, stem and a Laprade seat post. This upgradeing was common,people don't do that these days, you just buy a new bike, I am sure some people did then, but bikes didn't change much year to year so we just improved what we had. I was equally intrigued by bike touring and the mysteries of racing, but I see now that racing had a mystique that drew me in, especially the European scene, with all the strange names and places. It's funny, but I don't remember agony on the saddle or learning how to use a pump or manage toe clips not to mention riding in a city of 350,000 people, these things put off beginners now, but I loved my new sport, even though I had never been an athlete before. I also loved the bike and started to learn how to work on it. I never did rely on the LBS (local bike shop) for my service needs.
This will complete the entry, check back for more.
Are you enjoying the Tour of California, and in HD. One thing is sure, we can't get the weather to cooperate out here. The scenery in the first road stage was nothing to brag about, its a shame we didn't get to see Tahoe and Mt. Shasta.
Thanks for reading

Monday, April 25, 2011

on track

Easter Sunday evening I was treated to a couple hours of World Championship track cycling on TV. Thanks Universal Sports TV. It is such a spectacle of performance, skill and drama. You gotta see it, it is easy to follow, a great spectator sport even. In the late 1800's and early 1900's, track cycling was immensely popular and lucrative for the racers and promoters. The USA's first worlds were in track cycling. The popularity of the sport and it's various disciplines rivaled the big sports of today. That is probably because the bike enjoyed such explosive growth as recreation as well. Paved roads were developed for bikes, the auto hadn't even been a factor. The step through frame so called ladies frame as we still see it, was to allow women in long skirts to ride!
Road racing was sort of the freak show. The road events were two or even three times the distance of the modern events we see now.
The social upheaval of WW1 paired with the acceptance of the automobile spelled doom to the bike as we well know in the US.
Anyway, track cycling is so cool, I don't understand why it can't come back here. Americans love measured observable sports. Standard fields of play and timing. Predictable conditions except for the athletes themselves. I think the lack of that predictability is a major reason more Americans can't embrace cycling personally or as a spectator. Track racing is still big
in Europe, where the auto is of much less importance. I know, shorter distances, more expensive gasoline ya, ya ,ya. But on so many levels, media friendliness not the least, track
racing ought to come back.
My parents lived in Southern CA for a while. A world class velodrome (track for cycling) was built for the 86(?) Olympics in LA. It was near their home and open for a invitational event to be a sort of test run for olympic athletes the year before. I wa sable to see several events that summer. It was amazing to experience these athletes so up close, it was the size of a small town football stadium, every seat is great. Watch some if you get the chance.
I hope your spring riding is going well, thanks for reading

Monday, April 11, 2011

another monument

Sunday, instead of watching a fantastic Paris-Roubaix, I joined a group doing a ride called The Geysers. this is a ridge climb to 2700' above the 120' valley floor. it is one of the classic climbs in Sonoma County that I have not done. It was a good set of climbs, but as is often the case here, the descent is an equal challenge. we climbed 2200' in about three miles descend some and then climb another 1000+. good pavement as it was installed in the modern era to provide access to a geothermal site. Waste water is pumped up and converted to steam to generate electricity. Some mysterious gravel sections but generally good, wide open road. the long descent down the other side could not be more different. Much is only a lane and a half (or less) wide and a quilt of potholes, patched surface and loose debris. The upper steeps are good, but there were several miles of rolling descent that required skill and courage, kind of like Paris-Roubaix. The final 25 miles into a headwind finished me off. but it was a fine day on the bike. Sorry no pics, I left the camera on the counter
I got home just in time to watch the rebroadcast of the mornings race. Excellent! I like Cancellara and all, he is a great and worthy champion, but it seems to me that favorites are going to have to come up with some fresh strategy to win, especially these "crap-shoot" spring classics. the second tier is now so talented that they can pull off a win while the Demi-gods mark each other.
molto bene, Johann

Friday, March 11, 2011

Racing returns in earnest

Ah, we are rolling into serious road racing now withParis-Nice and Tirreno-Adriatico and racing on TV. I really enjoyed P-N in full HD the one day I was able to follow it. I am intrigued to see the new Vacansoleil team really showing their stuff. This is the outfit that for some reason decided to sign the just reinstated Ricardo Ricco. Fresh off drug bust he seems to have decided to try a little self transfusion of some kind and wound up in a hospital. The team really took it on the chin, but the boys have really made the best of it. These are a bunch of new pros that are all new to me. I am happy to see these guys digging the team out of a deep PR pit.
This time of year it is always a bit of a challenge to keep track of the riders, especially on TV, what with the rider transfers to new teams and new team outfits and even new teams such as the aforementioned Vacansoleil squad.
Had some nice road rides lately One in particular was a solo 50 miler. Solo rides lead to a much different flow of thoughts. This day I really fell in love with Sonoma County all over again. The scenery and terrain vary so much without even leaving the county. I rode over 5000 miles last year and don't think more than 200 were outside the county. Everything from ocean views, quiet Redwood groves, remote hilly pastureland and even some climbs that take up to an hour.

Daylight savings time returns, it sure makes me happy. I really like daylight lingering into the afterwork time. I will miss the morning light for the next month or so but that will change.
Let's ride!
Thanks for reading

Friday, February 25, 2011

My reflection

A little reflection on cycling and frustration. Not that cycling and frustration are collaborators or anything, but on this weeks trail ride I did encounter some frustration. I am an experienced, though hardly expert trail rider, and riding on rocky terrain is probably were I am the least expert. The park in my local is quite rocky. I was exploring another section I had not been on before, its called Rough Go on the trail map, need I say more? Trail riding requires a tripod of skill, power and confidence. Any week leg on this stool, shows up quick. You can hide some shortcomings for a while on a road ride, but trail riding brings the truth out quick. But I did have to grapple with frustration as I found shortcomings in my cycling that day, trail riding also can give rewarding flashes of satisfying achievment. A rider has to make split second decisions to clear a rough technical section requiring all three aspects of skill. Often this happens on a instinctive level, and of course this is where time/experience come into play. The rider has to bring all three aspects to play. A shortcoming brings a stall, a bail or worse a crash. On a demanding road ride the state of affairs is more pliable or fluid moving stightly from one corner of the metaphorical stool the the other and back. It make take covering several attacks befor lack of power finally overwhelms me and I am left witha dull sense of frustration. Conversly the rewards tend not to have that quick deep satisfaction either. That is one thing I like about trail riding and why I generally like to do it alone on my own terms. The following shot is a rather calm section.

This region is of ancient volcanic origin, which contributes to good vineyard soils. The mountain I'm on has very porous "boiled" looking rock on on side and hard and even glassy rock on th other side. It was quarryied for cobblestone in the early twentieth century. One can still see remnants of that work in blast holes and rock piles.
We had a snow shower today!! A cold front blew in from Alaska on the tail end of a rain event. Tonight is going down to 28 degrees brrr

Sunday, February 20, 2011


How's the winter been treating you? For those of you back East, the weather hasn't been conducive for cycling until just recently. In norcal land the bulk of Jan/Feb. have been great. Sunny, warm even into low 80's.Until this past week that is, now heavy rain even hail and highs struggle to hit 50. the other night we had snow at about 2500' ele.,the ridge that separates us from Napa had lots of white. Oh well this is needed for the dry six months ahead. So many rides are scheduled for the area. Every organization seems to try and tap into the money making potential of the regions cyclists and great riding.I just wonder if there will be a push back from the non cycling public at large.
I am not riding quite as much as last year, working more it seems, it is a long season, so that is fine.I try to get out on the mountain bike once a week. Some new pics

Been doing some bike maintenance on our fleet of bikes, but I tend to not take stuff apart that isn't acting up, if it ain't broke don't fix it. One does run a certain risk of a cable going out during an event, I've been there. Chains I am pretty good on twice a year. Between several wheels I've never had to replace a Campagnolo cassette. Of course I also have systematically transitioned from 8 to 9 to 10 speed drives too. Somehow I am not really compelled to jump to 11 speed, but I am sure time will come.
How about the likely arrival of electronic Ultegra from Shimano? Are any of you putting off a 2011 purchase to get it? I have ridden the Dura-Ace group on demo, it is very impressive, especially the front shift.
My only purchases for new stuff this year have been in the apparel side and general upkeep tires hb tape and such. Except my Giant Anthem full-suspension bike. It has been a lot of fun. I am very interested in going into a new 29r format bike, but since off road is not rely my main deal I will put that off. Working in a bike shop it is hard to not keep daydreaming about "the next bike" and the Giant TCR Advanced SL sure seems to be calling my name. Stop it right now! It's bad enough just with clothes and shoes and, and.......

Wednesday, January 26, 2011


Yikes, after a cold, dark, wet December, the last two weeks have been amazing, mild to warm and SUNNY!! Mustard is blooming in the vineyards, frogs are doing their thing, Loudly. The shop is enjoying a respite from quiet January days?! Registration opened for Levi's Gran Fondo. It has a cap at 7500 riders this year, see my post from Oct. 09 for a comparison. It is a century that covers some amazing Sonoma County territory, remote and hilly, often steep but with breathtaking views. We'll have to see how it compares to B2B and other NC events of my past. I have ridden all of the course but not all together. A significant portion of the profits go to Santa Rosa's Tour of CA financial obligations, with several other non-profits also benefiting. I better get some riding done, even indoors I hope you can too, HH

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Big cycling news in Santa Rosa

Just announced in this mornings local paper, the Press Democrat, my new hometown will indeed be hosting the start of the 2012 Tour of California. This is big economic news because it means a week of buildup and gala events with officials,staff, athletes and tourists. The 2011 Tour will bypass Santa Rosa for the first time, but it was hinted that we would trade that for the start of the event in May 2012 We had to commit $190,000 for previous years stages, now we have to pony up three times that amount to host the race start. Levi's King Ridge Gran Fondo has committed $120,000. Registration opens Monday for this Octobers event You heard it here first I guess. If you're not a local. Oh, and come on springtime