Friday, October 28, 2005

Critical Mass San Francisco (I don't know, about 9 miles I think)

Adam and I were jazzed about this ride; the Halloween Critical Mass typically draws an even crazier peloton than most months. We rode our bikes from work to the Walnut Creek BART and it started to drizzle on us but it didn't dampen our spirits. At every stop more and more Mass Riders got on the train and the ambience began developing.

We got to Peewee Herman Plaza at a quarter til 6 and the festivities were in full schwing. There was a guy in an Evel Knievel costume doing some stunt riding in the circle. There were costumes of all kinds. One guy had a fish bike that was really cool - it had two side-by-side wheels in front like a cargo bike and the front was a sort of paper machier fish head with big eyes that lit up with lightning bolts and a moveable jaw operated by a lever in the cockpit. The bike was articulated and the rear section was like a scaly fish body but the scales were all "FREE AOL" CDs… very creative.

As always, there were people handing out flyers promoting protests and activism, I almost scanned one in for your reading pleasure but it's got too much fine print… suffice it to say there was a big anti-Bush Regime sentiment at the Plaza.

There are always a few guys with trailer-mounted stereo systems. One guy I've seen several times has like eight giant car speakers mounted on this big long deck-plate kind of wagon with batteries inside and he has enough watts in there to power a concert at the Pavilion.

After a lot of hooting and noise making we started rolling and Adam and I were eager to go so we got near the front. After about a block though we pulled off and watched the crowd go by because it's much more fun in the middle. We saw Wonderwoman, Ninja Turtles, ghosts, pirates, and assorted weirdoes; we felt a little out of place being dressed so normally. It wasn't raining but I kept my coat on just in case.

We rolled down Market Street for about 8 blocks at 1.2 miles/hour. Adam was on his fixed gear and his gear ratio was a little too high for such a slow speed so he walked a good chunk of those 8 blocks (no trouble keeping up!). Then we turned right and went through the Tenderloin which was kind of eerie because there aren't many street lights in there. Then we headed north on Van Ness and that's when the cops got a little more involved. They blocked the intersections for us and made sure no cars tried to crash our party. At one intersection there was a really mad guy in his car yelling at us and telling us we were all worthless disgraces and should be ashamed of ourselves! That's the kind of guy I like to piss off, so I just waved and a few people rang their bike bells. Then we turned on Broadway and started riding toward North Beach. I found myself separated from Adam and realized that I was surrounded by police motorcycles and a couple of squad cars; I turned around to realize I was the Lanterne Rouge of San Francisco Critical Mass! I don't remember being passed by too many people, I was just fitting in and enjoying the slow ride. Then at the west end of the Broadway Tunnel we all stopped and crowded together. It was about an hour into the ride now and we filled up about two solid blocks as crowded as we were (maybe 2,000 riders?) We just malingered there for a while and let the atmosphere get electric, and then the guy with the amphitheater sound system cranked up some satanic speed metal music and we bombed through the tunnel like we were crazed demons being released from hell to take over the Earth HA HA HA HA HA HA HA! Anyway, quite an experience with the music making the whole tunnel vibrate and scaring the bejeezus out of the cars on the other side.

After that Adam split to go catch a BART home, but I stayed on for a while longer. We rolled through North Beach and entertained the restaurant patrons. We wound up at a big intersection and corked all the streets while some of the stunt riders performed some more trick riding. I decided I'd had enough at that point and found my way to the Embarcadero and then to the BART station. It was a very tame Critical Mass; no confrontations, no taking over any bridges or freeway on-ramps, just a bunch of regular joes enjoying this monthly coincidental convergence on their bikes

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Bonus Post

I've been riding my Eddy Merckx 7-Eleven bike to work the last few months, as well as a few rain rides on the Mountain. The front brake has been getting really grabby though, and on a downhill section where I would ride the brake, I'd get a violent chatter out of the fork. I wasn't sure if it was the brake, the headset, or the rim but it was getting too bad to ignore. My wheels are conventional Mavic Open Pro's on DT Hugi hubs and suspecting the front rim was getting worn (remember this is my rain bike so the brake surfaces get a lot of abrasive abuse), I popped in my old sew-up front wheel and - voila! No more grabbiness at all! So the front wheel is shot, the rear is probably not far behind; I figure why not ride my sew-ups all the time? I've got a few (really) old tubulars hanging in the garage for spares, so I made sure the glue was still good on the tires that were already mounted and I had a tubular commute bike.

I desparately wanted to believe the guys on that say sew-ups are no more prone to flats than clinchers but it wasn't my experience. I don't think I ever went more than about 200 miles without getting a sew-up flat. But I was really enjoying riding my sew-ups to work and I figured I could keep on doing it until I used up all my old tires and then I wouldn't have to build up a new set of clinchers so soon and then I at least would have a reason to finally throw the sew-up rims away for good (or maybe not). Anyway, I got 7-3/4 commutes on the tubulars before my flat. Screw that, my nostalgic feelings for rim glue and latex evaporated in a big poof of compressed air. I'm building some new clinchers on those DT Hugi hubs next week.

Time to start riding my Rockhopper to work anyway - the only bike with lights attached.

Saturday, October 22, 2005

Diablo North Side up to Toyon, Down South to Hole in the Fence - 40 miles

A coolish morning, but I wore shorts and my Shower’s Pass jersey. Rick and Nicole were planning to be at the Gate at 8:30 so JB and I rode to the top of the Bump and then back down to meet them.

Rick said Foxy’s Fall Century went well – the roads were in better condition and there wasn’t as much wind as when we rode it together. This time he rode with Joe and the total ride time was 7-1/2 hours! I’m glad I didn’t go.

We stayed together until Moss Landing and then we left Nicole to ride at her slower pace. I got stung by a bee yesterday morning and my left hand was painful all day but this morning it was just a little annoying.

JB started panting pretty hard going up the Bump for the second time and I secretly enjoyed putting the hurt to him, so Rick and I kept just ahead of him forcing him to dig a little. The Mountain isn’t very green yet despite some recent rains; I do have my yellow lenses in the Bolles though so the colors were interesting.

JB was breathing really hard near Chainbuster so Rick and I pulled away from him. We rode side by side rather than drafting which meant that we would have a fair challenge to each other and also that we were both riding away from JB individually. Rick tried his sprint a little too early and he opened up a gap but then I countered and beat him by a couple bike lengths at the line.

There were a few guys hanging around the Junction station. One guy came down from the Summit and locked up his rear wheel and skidded, nearly running into another guy – the ranger saw this and told him to slow down and ride in control.

I wanted to go down to the Tire Poppers and then come back up to the Junction, but JB wanted to go up first, then down South Gate and around so he said we should all go up first and then Rick and I could still turn around at the Tire Poppers. So we all went up to Toyon (bottom of the Speed Trap – neat view from up there) and then zipped up for the descent.

Nicole had been to the Junction and turned back down by then, so we just kept on going down South Gate. When we got past the Kiosk Rick said, “So Scott – Hole in the fence?” and that made me mildly pissed off because they knew I wanted to go back up but I figured what the hell and went along with them. Somewhere near a golf course I saw a rider stopped on the other side of the road and he was wearing a Shower’s Pass jersey also so I acknowledged his excellent choice of clothing with some chest pointing and he reciprocated with a thumbs up. We three took the backroads through Danville and Alamo to the south side of Walnut Creek and then split up and I went home.

Saturday, October 15, 2005

Diablo Bump de Bump plus up to Toyon

Woke up to find it had rained over night. Everything was wet but it appeared to be over. Pulled down my foul weather bike and scavenged for some tights and got to the Gate at 8:10. There was a rock on the post, I put another one on there and rode up. Rick’s doing Foxy’s Fall Century today and no one else was coming except JB. I had the hall pass until 11:30 so I figured I’d just ride as much as I could and still get home in time, not knowing what route I’d take.

Started off kind of fast thinking I might catch JB if he were having a bad day (and he’s been fighting a head cold recently). First caught sight of him about a mile below the Bump but I wasn’t sure it was him. After a couple more switchbacks I got close enough to verify that it was so I caught up with him in time for us both to climb the Bump together. He said I was making him breathe too hard and the head cold thing was still messing with him.

I have my yellow lenses in the Bolles now and they give an odd colorful look to all the semi green and brown flora on the Mountain – even the rocks seem different somehow. It was very quiet and still, the road was dry but the fog was getting thicker as we climbed. When we got to the Ranger House JB decided to go for a sprint so I just watched him. Afterwards he said he just wanted to see how far he could push himself with a head full of snot and it took him way too long to catch his breath afterwards. So we hung out for a while at the Junction but he said he’d be going back down North Gate Road. A mountain biker rolled in from the South and said that the trails had gotten very sticky from the rain; he said the stuff caked on his wheels and collected at his fork and stays and the creeks were mostly flowing… must have been more precipitation than I thought.

So JB went home and I went down South Gate. The fog was even thicker here but down around BBQ Terrace it suddenly got sunny, though not warm. I was in my long finger gloves and light jacket and it was barely enough. I wasn’t in a hurry, just wanted to ride up to the limit so I didn’t bomb the descent or rail any corners. Stopped for a few minutes at the tire poppers to eat a Power Bar and a couple guys rode up past me. One of them had a Strada jersey on so I didn’t figure I’d see them again. Going up South Gate is getting to be more familiar to me. I’m remembering how long the tough stretches are and where the tricky corners are and even where some of the bad sections of pavement are. If I’m ever going to do the Diablo Challenge and expect to get close to the hour mark I’m going to have to get even more in tune with it though.

Then I saw the two guys a few switchbacks ahead. I felt pretty good I guess and figured if I could catch them I could pass them and stay ahead. Then they stopped at a pull out and one guy was dinking with his saddle and the other guy was talking on a cell phone about his heart rate and training plan so I didn’t get the ego boost of sneaking up behind and passing them.

Wildlife Encounter: Between Rock City and BBQ Terrace I saw a figure jump up the hill next to the road. As I got closer I saw a coyote standing up there. We watched each other as I rounded the corner… very cool.

I didn’t stop at the Junction – there were a few people there just getting ready to start up Summit Road so I figured I’d have to work hard to stay away from them. It was getting close to 10:30 though which I figured would be my turn around time so I amped it up a little bit. The fog was still pretty thick so the guys behind weren’t able to see me too well but they knew they were getting close. When I got to Toyon picnic area I pulled off and out of sight. They must have wondered what happened to me.

So I buttoned up and headed down. A few more people were at the Junction, including the two guys from South Gate. Then I got stuck behind an SUV that never pulled over so it was a slow descent from there.

Wildlife Encounter: Another coyote above the Upper Washout. He was trotting along some trail looking hungry.

I’d been noticing some odd behaviour from the front end of my drive train. Couldn’t tell exactly what was wrong but shifting was slow and sometimes incomplete. Crank coming loose? No. Bent chainring? Well it looked bent on one revolution and then not on the next… weird. Remember this is the FSA Gossamer compact crank I put on about 200 miles ago so I was hoping there wasn’t something wrong with it.

Wildlife Encounter: A car coming up in the other lane had stopped and the driver was out in front. We both slowed down not knowing what was going on and as we got closer I saw that the guy was trying to shoo a tarantula off the road safely, but was afraid to get too close to the thing! I didn’t stop to help.

Finally the SUV got far enough ahead of me that I could sprint up the double dips but the chain suddenly downshifted from the big ring! OK, I had to stop to investigate at the farmer’s driveway there and… I found three of the five chainring bolts were missing!!! And the other two were quite loose!!!! Crap, that could have been nasty. I finger tightened the remaining two and limped to Encina Bicycle Center and bought a five pack of bolts for $6… good guys there. Put them all on finger tight (Allen wrench on one side, thumbnail on the other) and made it home by 11:25.

Another copasetic day on the bike on the Mountain.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Diablo Junction - 16 miles

Today is the last Wednesday night ride of the year. Couldn’t even get a decent pack from work to show up, just me and Adam. Adam said he needed to get home by dark so that meant leaving Junction well before 6:30 and going down South Gate.

Traffic getting out there was really bad so I didn’t even get to the church until after 5:30. Adam met me and we started off together but by the bottom of the Bump I told him he’d better take off and he didn’t argue. We saw a dead snake and I expected Adam to get grossed out but I guess it’s only tarantulas that do that to him. Adam told me he’s decided to be on the Davis Bike Club “Elite” racing team next year – they have the best package available for the kind of stuff he wants to do… they’ll be expecting him to upgrade to a Cat 2 though, no more sandbagging.

So after the Bump I could see the sun starting to set over the East Bay Hills. My shadow stretched out 30 feet on the flatter sections and my grey sunglasses were way too dark. It was an enjoyable ride though, quiet… like getting ready for hibernation.

Hardly anybody at the Junction either, but I did see a few people coming up while I was descending… including one couple on a tandem.

Good bye Wednesday night rides. See you next April.

Saturday, October 01, 2005

Diablo Bump de Bump – 38 miles.

Rick’s doing the Challenge tomorrow so he’s resting today. Nicole called at 7:30 to say she’d meet me at 9 at the Tire Poppers on South Gate (our plan B). JB wasn’t at the Gate by 8 so I put a rock on the post and left. I met up with a couple guys that were about my speed on the way there, but by the time I got going they had about three minutes on me so I didn’t think I’d see them again.

When I first rode out my door this morning I thought I was going to be too cold and there were some dark, ominous clouds to the west, but now here on the mountain it was sunny and a little windy – still cool but I was comfortable in shorts and short sleeves. The tarantulas are starting to thin out already – I only saw two on the way up. Kept looking back for JB but there was no sign of him. I was enjoying the relaxed, meditative ride when I came around Son of Chainbuster and saw the two guys I’d met earlier – they were probably a minute ahead so I picked it up and had a little chase. Almost caught them but they beat me to the Junction. I didn’t stop there, just rolled on through and down to the South.

Immediately the conditions changed; South Gate Road was foggy and damp. Trees were dripping on me and there were large sections of wet pavement. It was like I climbed a mountain in California and was descending one in Oregon – or like I climbed up in September and rode down in December. It wasn’t uncomfortable though; I was enjoying the ride but couldn’t believe the difference.

Hooked up with Nicole near the bottom and started back up with her. She said she got drizzled on at her house in Dublin. Riding with Nicole is always a relaxed experience. I cracked a few jokes and did a lot more scenery admiring than I usually do. Suddenly we came upon JB who also turned around and started up again. When we got up around Rock City where the road was wet Nicole got dripped on by a tree. Summer’s definitely over.

We gabbed for a while at the Junction and then we all split up. JB went up Summit Road, Nicole down South Gate, and I went down North Gate.

Adrenaline Inducing Event: Right at the bottom of the Double Dips, just where you take maximum speed into the sprinter hill, a squirrel made a dash across the road from my left. I was in the middle of the right lane and got a good grip on my bars expecting to pop the little dumbass but (I am NOT making this up) – he stuck out all four feet and SKIDDED about two meters, slowing down just enough to miss my front wheel by the width of an eyelash. I found myself laughing as I pounded up the little climb in my big gear thinking how close I came to increasing the road kill inventory.