Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Diablo Junction from Work - 33 miles

Warm and humid this afternoon. Not nearly as hot as last week but the weather definitely slowed us down. JB and I rode out together, met Jeff at the Church and were happy to find Mark P at the Gate. Mark says he's ready for the Death Ride and he does look fit. Just past the Gate, near the welcome sign was a snake in the gravel shoulder. Looked like it had been injured by a car and could only move the head-half of his body while the other half wouldn't cooperate. There was a ground squirrel there that looked like he wanted to eat the snake but not while we were watching.

I didn't think squirrels would eat snakes but Mark said they sure would. It was a nice little nature break.

Jeff used this opportunity to get a head start on all of us - I guess he doesn't like snakes. Mark talked to JB and me for quite a while about his preparation for the Death Ride (ride lots, go to the gym, don't worry about altitude). JB dropped us at the Bump where I started to have coughing problems - I haven't been able to shake this congested cough thing that's left over from a cold I got almost a month ago! So at the steep bits I had trouble keeping up but after we got past the Ranches I caught up with Mark and Jeff. I noticed that they took down the sign for Turtle Creek Ranch - the wooden structure is still there over the driveway but the sign is gone.

At Chainbuster I left Jeff and Mark behind so I must have been feeling better. Mark said his new Polar HRM/cyclocomputer was messed up and then we realized he had it set on kilometers instead of miles so Jeff fixed it since he has the same model.

Product Review: Look Compatible VP-ARC1 Cleats After Saturday's ride I put on some new cleats that I got at Encina. I hadn't heard of VP before but I figured I'd give them a try. They came with good hardware and seem to be well-made. They didn't have the bi-material type for reduced squeaking but I didn't get any noise on today's ride. I'd guess these guys make a lot of store branded stuff for relabeling; they have a lot of different pedals that all look like clones, and they have headsets and bottom brackets too. Their website doesn't really say where they're located but they have distributors all over the world.

Saturday, June 24, 2006

Diablo Junction – 23 miles

Another Saturday morning. JB told me it would be a short one since he had a wedding to go to. I’d stopped looking for Rick’s car at the Church so it was a surprise to see him at the Gate. He just bought a new house and has been too busy to ride for quite a while.

So all three of us started up together and it started getting hot pretty early. I did some slow cadence big gear stuff as usual but kept it pretty conversational until the top of the Bump.

Wildlife Encounter: Small tarantula, small coyote, snake roadkill, mouse roadkill. Very early for tarantulas… could be global warming has them confused. The coyote looked like it was barely old enough to be on his own.

After Clavicle Cracker we kind of separated with JB in front and me in the middle. When I came past the Ranger House I saw a guy helping a woman rider with her flat tire and then I realized that it was my neighbor Jim again. He remembered me and said ‘hi’.

There was a little talk about doing the Napa Century – flyers arrived in the mail this week. And there was more talk about what we’ll do when NGR is shut down for repairs. There were no conclusions about anything and then we all went down.

Lots and lots of people coming up and we had to pass quite a few people going down also. I saw the same recumbent go down and come back up so he may have been training for the Death Ride. Rick followed me all the way down past the Bump but then said he wanted to give me a lead out for the Dips so I let him in front. There was a bit of a tailwind and I had to brake a little to keep my position behind him. I launched my sprint with a little bit of downhill before the first Dip so I could get some acceleration and really powered up the first one – then I shifted down a few for the second Dip and faded a little before the top. Then a guy in a Discovery jersey flew past me before the crest! I had no idea he was back there. Rick said Discovery guy missed my initial jump but got on my wheel on the first climb and had a huge smile when he went by. I might not have been able to beat Discovery guy up the second Dip but if I had known he was there I could have at least tried!

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Road Closure Information.

The Mount Diablo Interpretive Association has a current story on road closures during the repaving. As of today, here’s what it says:

Mount Diablo State Park will begin major road repairs beginning June 19, 2006. Work is expected to take place over the next six months. This $2.4 million project will take place along the 4.5 mile-long Summit Road. Crews also will do some repairs on North Gate Road the park’s entrance from Walnut Creek.

Mt. Diablo State Park will stay open during the work. However, large sections of the park and its 3,849-foot summit will be inaccessible via car or bicycle on many weekdays during the repair and paving project. Work could spill over into weekends if the road beds need a lot of repairs resulting in selectively closing roads during some weekends as well.

The South Gate Road entrance from Danville will stay open during construction. Dirt hiking trails in the park will not be affected by the work. This website will be updated on a regular basis as road conditions change. You may also call Mount Diablo State Park at (925) 837-2525 (recorded information).

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Diablo Junction from Work – 33 miles.

Freakin’ hot… 104°F in Walnut Creek at 5 o’clock, a little less on the Mountain. I gave Amanda two extra water bottles and some advice about riding in the heat, and she left a little early for a head start.

JB and I rode out together. Didn’t see anyone at the Church – the DCers must have decided not to move their start time back the way they do most years. So we got to the Gate and I told JB I was planning on just twiddling up very easy. He said he was going to sweat a little so we split up early. One older really fit looking guy passed us up early on but about a mile later I saw him coming back down.

At a switchback above Moss Landing I saw Amanda’s bike on the shoulder, but no Amanda. I called out to see if she was OK and she was behind the bushes for a natural. Didn’t see her for the rest of the ride so she didn’t make it to the Junction.

Another disadvantage to riding slowly is that the bugs have an easier target; not that many of them but they were harder to get rid of. My heart rate was high even though I didn’t feel like I was working that hard so I took that to mean my “easy ride” strategy was a good one… my blood must have been like syrup even though I was drinking a lot. Also, I need some new cleats; my current ones squeak like heck and are hard to unclip so I found that very annoying.

Only one other guy passed me and he looked like a racer. JB was about three minutes ahead by the time I got to the Ranches. Almost caught one slower Diablo Cyclist before the Junction but not quite. Elapsed time: 52m45s and I still felt drained. Lots of bikie talk about the upcoming USCF time trial on the 8th, and also about road closures due to resurfacing... not really sure how all that's going to go.

Drank another bottle of water and went back down. I still feel a little queasy so I'm glad I took it easy. Cool shower felt great though.

Saturday, June 17, 2006

Bump d’Bump - 34 miles

Looked to be the hottest Saturday morning of the year so far – sleeveless jersey and frozen bottle weather. I saw Mark A. getting his bike ready when I rode by his house, then he caught up with me at the light on Ygnacio; said he was beating the heat and wanted to do some trail riding before the USA v Italia World Cup game. I stopped at the Gate and he went on. I decided today I would not go for a sub 21 big gear ride but would only use lower gears when it would help me go faster and when I needed to to hold JB’s wheel.

JB showed up right on time and two guys who looked about our speed started up just in front of us. We let them go and stayed a ways behind them for a long time. We were pretty close behind them when two other guys (Pegasus team) passed all four of us fast and easy – not even breathing hard.

JB told me that he usually makes a smoothie for breakfast and puts some in his bike bottle. Today though, he was out of strawberries so he made a smoothie out of broccoli and walnuts (!) He admitted it didn’t have the restorative qualities of his usual concoction.

At the Bump, one of the first two guys attacked his buddy and got a big gap – JB and I stayed behind the slower guy. Now it was two Pegasus guys, single guy, another guy, and me and JB. Then we got to Son of Chainbuster and JB tried to launch one around the single guy and I accelerated around the outside and kept it up. So now I was in front of JB and stayed there the rest of the way to Junction (42m26s) with him finishing about a minute back.

Yes, nice and warm at the Junction. We decided to go down South Gate Road and back up. It really felt good and cool to descend through the shade of those big trees. We also saw Mark A on his way up the road so I don’t know what trails he rode to get way over there.

We turned around at the Tire Poppers but JB forgot to downshift beforehand so he struggled for a minute to get in a groove. I opined that most of the people who don’t ride Diablo regularly and the riders who come from farther away, prefer riding on the south side because it’s a little easier and has more varied scenery and for that reason the average speed of riders on this side is a little slower than on the north. There are certainly plenty of fast riders here, and there are usually more riders here, and there are more slow riders here than on the other side so you wind up passing more people than you do on NGR… and that’s always fun.

Then a really fast guy passed us, and then a triathlete guy passed us and I tried to stay with him. Suddenly JB appeared to bonk but I kept going with triathlete guy, passing him at the SGR ranger kiosk. I felt pretty good and kept on pounding but the triathlete guy passed me back. So my SGR time from the Tire Poppers was just under 37minutes and JB was way back. I think he’ll be buying some more strawberries this week.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Diablo Junction - 31 miles

JB and I rode from work and met Randall at the Gate. After a mile or so we left him behind and continued on our own. I was doing another Sub 21 and that was a good excuse to let JB get ahead of me.

It was supposed to be really hot so I had both my bottles frozen but it was cool and even drizzly so I hardly got to drink anything all the way up (still frozen). It's getting easier to do these big gear rides, but I'm not getting any faster!

There's going to be a USCF time trial up North Gate next month - check it out!

Saturday, June 10, 2006

Diablo Junction - 23 miles

Today had to be a quick one because I had a family event in the early afternoon. As I went past the Church, I saw a couple guys nearly ready to get going but I didn't recognize them. JB wasn't at the Gate yet so I waited until 8:01 and put a rock on the post. Just then the two Church guys rode up and I contemplated starting behind them but figured it would be a good challenge to go first and not let them catch me. I also decided to do a "Sub 21" ride again today; meaning I wouldn't use any cassette cogs bigger than my 21 so it would be a big gear workout.

It was windy through the Dips and up past the Dumpster Gate - a headwind the whole way. I half expected JB to catch me and I kept looking back but I didn’t see him and I didn't see the Church guys. The wind got even stronger in the winding section below the Bump. Then I saw my first rabbit so I concentrated on chasing him while not forgetting about climbing the Bump in a 21. Caught the guy just below the Upper Washout and saw he had a white Klein so I said "hi" and he said "nice bike" and that was the whole convo.

Now up near the Ranches I look back and see three guys chasing me. Then I figured out it was a group of two and a solo rider who just happened to be together when I saw them. Then I started to wonder if the two were the Church guys. They came past me pretty quick and it looked like them but couldn't be sure - they were both tall guys with sinewy legs. Then the single guy passed me too and he had a triathlete kind of bike with a triple and he was twiddling about 110rpm in a really small gear - quite a contrast with my big gear mashing. Coming around one hairpin (into the wind) I looked up at the grass and saw that I was going to have a tailwind after the switchback - but as soon as I came around the corner the grass changed directions!

Up above Chainbuster was more headwind but no JB so at least I didn't let him catch me. Junction time 45m51s so that was a slow one. JB showed up after and then went up to the Summit in search of sun.

On the way back home the oddest thing happened. There was a garage sale on Walnut which is usually a pretty nice street to ride on but now there were a lot of parked cars. I was on guard for dumbass drivers and sure enough a minivan pulled out of its parallel parking spot right in front of me. It wasn't close enough to make me skid but they clearly weren't looking and didn't signal or anything. So I pulled up next to the passenger's window and pointed at my eye saying "Watch what you're doing". Inside was a very elderly couple (mid 80s at least) and a little rat-dog. The woman was driving and the man was in the passenger seat. They couldn't hear me but I made it clear that we had just had a close call due to her inattentiveness. Then they got ahead of me but we met up again at the stoplight on Walnut and Ygnacio - I was going straight and they were in the front of the left turn lane and there were now lots of cars waiting for the green. I looked over hoping to see some sign of remorse or contrition but instead I saw the old lady driver giving me the finger! I stared for a moment in disbelief, wondering if I was really seeing this and then the old guy flipped a crooked middle finger at me too! Now this was funny but maddening at the same time and all the other people in their cars were watching so I give the guy my Italian fist-in-the-elbow gesture a couple times and then the light changed and it was all over.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Diablo Juniper - 21 miles

Today was the first day I drove my car to work since before May. I had my bike on the roof and drove out to the Church right after work. I saw all the DCers leaving just as I got there. I rolled up to the Gate and waited until 5:30 before I started up. JB and Adam and Jeff would have to chase me.

Warm day but not too hot. I decided for fun I'd do the whole ride without shifting lower than my 21t. It was actually pretty easy after a while - I stood up more but kept my cadence in check. Didn't have any trouble going up the Bump, where I passed two DC stragglers. I was breathing hard but controlled.

Wildlife Encounter: A coyote on the shoulder right next to me. I talked to him and he trotted right past me in the other direction with lots of eye contact. They really are a lot smaller close up than they appear to be at a distance… or maybe this one was still a pup. Anyway it was a neat experience.

Up past the Upper Washout I passed a guy with a jersey that had the Spanish Flag on it, and I shouted out "¡Qué viva España! and he smiled at me and said "Viva España" but he didn't say it with as much enthusiasm.

Still in my 21 I plugged along but it was fun. Junction time was 43 minutes so it didn't slow me down too much.

Another big crowd up there. I talked to Jay K about the Sierra Century where a cyclist died from a stupid maneuver in front of a logging truck. Jay found some orange tires for his bike so that pretty much completes the package except maybe his spokes.

The rest of my little group showed up after a while. Jeff and JB went back down North, Adam went home via South, and I went up to Juniper - IN MY 21.

The Blue Oak stretch was quite a grunt in the big gear but the rest of it was fine. It was a little windier toward the top and there were a lot of riders descending from the Summit. The shadows up here get long and dark and can obscure the pot holes so you have to watch out for that. A guy on a touring motorcycle passed me at one point and I thought how nice it was that he had a Honda or something with a quiet engine and good mufflers and not one of those obnoxious Harley noisemakers.

Just a few minutes at the Diablo Valley Overlook (that's what the sign at the Juniper Parking Lot says) to enjoy the view and then it was back down. I'm not a screaming descender but I timed myself and it was about 21 minutes from Juniper back to the Gate.

Saturday, June 03, 2006

Diablo Summit – 33 miles

I thought I was getting an early start this morning. Everything was all ready and I pumped up my front tire, then went to pump the rear – gave the valve a little burp before I put on the chuck and the tube ripped right at the valve. It was one of those things you just understand – no need to investigate what happened, the tube was ripped. So I pulled down one of the patched tubes that hangs from my ceiling in the garage and got to work. Got some tree poop in the chain, got chain grease on my hands, got a new tube in my tire and got it all back together again. No time to wash my hands – I can just make it to the Gate if I sprint the whole way.

8:02 and JB was already there. The sun was out and it was clear and warm. JB thought it might have been his first ride of the year with no tights. After about a mile we passed a guy and I said “hi” and then realized that I knew him from somewhere… not sure if I knew him well enough to stop until I figured out he was my neighbor Jim. So we slowed just a bit and Jim rode with us.

I had spoken with Jim a few times in the neighborhood. One time a few years ago I saw him with a bike and he told me he was just getting back into riding after a long hiatus. I hadn’t seen him ride much after that though, so I figured he never got that serious. Jim had a different bike now – a Specialized Tarmac. He asked us if we ever rode with the Diablo Cyclists and we said not really but we see them all the time and know most of them. He knew Mark and Amy and Sarkis so that was a nice connection. Then Jim said he was just starting to ride after an injury. He was descending North Gate Road about a month ago when a car coming uphill passed some riders around a blind turn and Jim got hit hard – a shoulder separation and totaled his new $4000 Trek. He had an interesting story about how the other riders viewed the accident compared to what the automobile passengers said. There was a report but nobody got a ticket and Jim had hired a lawyer because he had medical bills, lost wages, and a ruined bike. As he was telling the story we knew pretty quickly that he was talking about Clavicle Cracker so then JB told his story about how he gave the corner its name. Anyone who doesn’t know where Clavicle Cracker is should figure it out and be careful there – it’s probably the most dangerous corner on the Mountain; about 2.5 miles below Junction on North Gate Road… as you’re coming down it’s a right hand sharp hairpin, there’s a 15MPH sign with a right turn arrow, and it’s REALLY easy to misjudge it. I always assume there’s a car passing riders coming at me in my lane when I approach it – that attitude has saved my skin a few times. Most of the Rangers now are bike friendly but I don’t think most of them understand how really stupid some of the drivers up there are.

So at the Upper Ranch, Jim excused himself and said he was just warming up for the Diablo Cyclists club ride that left from Countrywood at 9 so he turned around.

After that JB tried a couple accelerations to shake me and the 4th or 5th one worked and he beat me to the line by about 30 seconds.

At the Junction there was the usual camaraderie of people who don’t know each other but all love bike riding. JB asked around for an 8mm Allen because his cranks were creaking, but nobody had one. I also saw a guy with a Klein that had Rolf wheels. I like to write about the other people I see thinking maybe some day some of them will recognize themselves.

JB went down but I decided to summit. It was a little more breezy up there but still very very nice. Some friends of mine were camping on the Mountain somewhere so I took a cruise through Juniper campground looking for them, but they must have been somewhere else.

At the Summit I rode to the far end of the Lower Parking Lot and found some really great perspectives to take photos from – so I’ll have to bring the digicam next time.