Alpine Road then and now

August 31, 2019

Alpine Road just past the green gate today.

Alpine Road at the same location in May 1990.


This morning I decided to check out Alpine Road and take a photo to compare it to the same location from May 1990.

That year is pivotal in the road’s long history. The last time San Mateo County graded the road was December 1989.

While climbing the shaded, paved section of Alpine Road, a rider passed me wearing a Veloro Bicycles jersey. It had to be Gebhard Ebenhoech, the shop OWNER, so I caught up.

We exchanged pleasantries before I headed past the green gate at Alpine Road where the dirt begins.

It didn’t take long to find the spot, which is only a couple hundred yards past the green gate. I’m pretty sure this is where I took the photo. Even if it’s not, you get the picture.

The tree on the right resembles the one from 1990. Of course the terrain has changed to the point of being unrecognizable after 30 years.

The whole point of this exercise is to remind everyone, for the millionth time, that Alpine Road used to be our gateway to the Santa Cruz Mountains.

It was far and away the best route to Skyline Boulevard, avoiding all traffic and offering spectacular views higher up.

Late-summer days like today weren’t so pleasant back then either, as the dust accumulated on the road, but it was still a good ride.

Loma Mar Store – open at last

August 18, 2019

A view of Loma Mar Store from the patio. Spacious.


The colorful sign posted on 8150 Pescadero Creek Road outside Loma Mar Store sums it up best — Open at Last. It took 5 1/2 years, but the wait was worth it.

I stepped inside and marveled at the spacious, open floor plan. Every detail said quality. Anyone can see that the owners put heart and soul into their store and brought a dream to life.

Over the years since its closure, I’ve stopped by from time to time and watched the store being rebuilt. I think all that’s original is the tree out front.

The store became a favorite way station for Jobst Brandt since he started cycling in the Santa Cruz Mountains in the 1950s. He was joined by a cadre of riders in the 1960s. They were engineers, bike racers, programmers, machinists.

This band of Merry Pranksters, minus the drugs, explored the Santa Cruz Mountains by bike. Jobst knew every trail and abandoned road in the area, and all roads led to Loma Mar, eventually.

Jobst Brandt sits outside the store in 1987.


Jobst became our Pied Piper, our bard, our Francis Bacon in the saddle as he made astute observations about the world around us. In the 1970s-80s he liked to stop at Loma Mar and visit owner Roger Siebecker, who served as the town’s postmaster, store owner, and volunteer firefighter.

On one occasion in the 1970s, Roger came to the rescue of Jobst and several riders who crashed on the frozen Wurr Road bridge one winter day. Bones were broken.

I got to meet the gracious owners, Jeff and Kate, this Sunday morning as they greeted local residents come to see the beautiful store that opened six days ago. It has always been the heart and soul of Loma Mar, a tiny community tucked away in majestic redwoods.

Fuel for the return ride.


It’s hard for me not to feel nostalgia about this place, as I’ve been riding here since 1980. Jobst’s adventure rides became the highlight of every weekend, an escape from the pressure cooker atmosphere of Silicon Valley.

Visiting the store gave me a feeling that “community” really means something. The appeal of the small town hearkens to simpler times when people knew each other by first name and life moved at a slower pace. I enjoyed that feeling every time I stopped by, if only briefly.

Jeff encouraged me to return and I promised I would try. But it’s a long way from where I live and the miles aren’t getting any easier. Cyclists heading down to the coast may want to stop and pay a visit, enjoy a coffee, pastry, sandwich. You too can be part of the Loma Mar community.

Loma Mar Store, open for business.

Squeal like a brake pad – redux

August 15, 2019

Kool Stop pads on the Open Pro rim, above, and Mavic MA2 rim below.


(Follow up: I used the Kool Stop pads on some long descents. They squealed descending Pescadero Road and later on Page Mill Road, although it cleared up completely going down Moody Road. I have zero tolerance for brake squeal. I will use them on the rear brake only.)

Back in 2009 I complained about squeaky Kool Stop brake pads. Fast forward ten years and I’m back to using the Continental style pads (still being sold), but no more squeal.

Jobst Brandt was a huge fan of Kool Stop pads. At one point back in the 80s I think every rider in his cadre switched to Kool Stop.

My guess is that the newer Mavic Open Pro rims I’m riding are less prone to grunge buildup compared to the Mavic MA2. I have photographic evidence. I could get the Kool Stop pads to stop squealing if I ran them through wet sand and applied the brakes, but the fix didn’t last.

The Shimano Ultegra brake pads I replaced had lost braking power. I noticed it on steep descents and even not-so-steep inclines.

Worn Shimano pad removed from its casing. Easy to remove them once you back out the screw with a 2 mm Allen key.


I think it’s mostly due to age. They were nine years old and had many miles. Rubber hardens with age and I think that contributed to the reduced braking power.

These Continental pads are old. They’ve been sitting in the garage for 15 years, but they work well. These pads last forever. They might just outlive me.

I don’t have any objections to Shimano’s pads. I wanted to use what was on hand and save a buck.

The Kool Stop pads I’m using have some cons. They’re ugly for one. They require a 10 mm wrench. I prefer an Allen key.

While my braking power is much better now, I should be using disc brakes for even better braking.

I’ve always preferred the simpler caliper brake, but nowadays my aging hands need all the help they can get.

Homeless encampments a fire hazard

July 20, 2019

A grass fire consumed most of a homeless encampment at the Guadalupe River Trail and Hwy 237.


When you think about it, humans were all homeless fifty thousand years ago. We’ve come a long way since the stone age, but homelessness still has its place in our society.

A scorched field next to a homeless encampment along the Guadalupe River trail at Hwy 237 brought this sad reality into focus once again during my bike ride.

The grass fire broke out Thursday afternoon around 2:30, cause unknown. KPIX 5 has some footage, no audio.

I reported this encampment to San Jose officials in December 2017, but what can they do?

Meanwhile, there’s also dredging underway along the river that will close the trail occasionally near Montague Expressway. The other side of the river has a dirt road that can be used during closures.

I hope the dredging takes into account all the turtles living in this location. I’ve seen more than a dozen at a time along the shore.

Marin Museum of Bicycling pedals history

July 3, 2019

A velocipede built around 1865, from the Ralph Igler collection.


I have to admit I’m a fan of history, so a visit to the Marin Museum of Bicycling had me from the get-go.

The museum opened four year ago in Fairfax, a town at the foot of Mt. Tamalpais in woodsy Marin County.

This location is sacred ground for the first mountain bike, and just about everyone involved in fostering the pastime and perfecting the bike technology still lives nearby.

Let’s start with Joe Breeze, museum curator, and his wife Connie. The other board members are Ojeda Bodington, Lena Maria Estrella, and Marc Vendetti. Breeze built the first “modern” mountain bike frame in 1977.

I’m not going to try to mention everyone involved with running the museum, because it’s a long list — all volunteers, including the board.

For details about what’s inside, I’ll refer you to their website and a YouTube video.

A curator is usually available to give a guided tour. The museum promotes the Mountain Bike Hall of Fame and an extensive collection of historic and one-of-a-kind bikes, but not just mountain bikes.

Breeze, who happened to be on site, expressed pride in having some of Ralph Igler’s bike collection.

That brought back memories. I met Igler in 1988 when I had a bicycle column with the San Francisco Chronicle. He lived in Palo Alto.

He invited me to see his collection — dozens of bikes stored in his modest-sized ranch house. He had bikes in every room but the kitchen and bathrooms.

This wasn’t a hoarding situation, rather, well organized and neatly arranged artifacts with documented histories.

I wrote a column about Ralph’s passion, published in September 1988. Breeze hadn’t seen the article, so I sent him a copy.

Breeze revealed that the museum came about after he worked with the San Francisco International Airport to create a mountain bike history mural.

“The artwork you see here was donated after the display ended,” Breeze said. A few years later they opened the museum in a former grocery store in downtown Fairfax.

I saw that mountain bike history mural, located in the international terminal, while on a trip to the Philippines.

Next time you’re north of the Golden Gate Bridge, stop by and see the museum. It’s open Thursday – Sunday, 11 a.m. – 5 p.m.

Mountain bike mural at SFO in 2012.

Nothing beats dirt

June 23, 2019

An early morning ride on a dirt road. It makes my day.


My days left in the saddle are dwindling and ride distances shrinking, but I still manage to find some dirt to ride to remind me of past Jobst rides.

There’s always the baylands levees, where dirt roads abound, but it’s not so easy to find trails in the nearby hills within a 35-mile loop from home.

My favorite dirt road/trail reminds me of Alpine Road in every respect. It’s close to Foothills Park and it goes somewhere, bridging two roads often used for cycling. If you want to know what it was like riding Alpine Road before its demise, this is the place to ride.

I was introduced to the trail in 1979 by employees of Palo Alto Bicycles, who frequented the route on their morning rides before work.

They showed me other trails as well, most of them off limits to bikes even then, but they were young and brash, and I was up for the adventure.

Alpine Road as it appeared on Sunday, May 13, 1990. A mile or so past the green gate, end of pavement.

Saratoga’s brick road has that Paris-Roubaix feel

June 8, 2019

Saratoga’s brick road can be ridden on Austin Way, just off Los Gatos-Saratoga Road.


Next time you’re cycling to Los Gatos from Saratoga on Los Gatos-Saratoga Road (Hwy 9), and you’re interested in riding “the bricks,” turn right on Austin Way.

It’s also called Heritage Lane. The brick portion goes for several hundred yards. I was going to post a video but the footage was so shaaakkkyyyy that I decided against it.

I don’t know the road’s history other than the brick has been in place for about a century. This was the main road back in the early 1900s. Hwy 9 was straightened to its present alignment in the 1920s or so.

Peninsular Railway, an electric car line, ran by here in the early 1900s. Throughout the day, passengers could take the light rail between Los Gatos and Palo Alto, service ending around 11 p.m.

Southern Pacific ran its steam trains on the same track. Peninsular folded in 1930.

I don’t know the exact alignment of the rails, but it generally followed Los Gatos-Saratoga Road.

The road has several hills that would make it difficult for a train, but back then they built trestles to level things out.

Pruneridge sees 50 cyclists during 2-hour survey

June 4, 2019

Cyclist pedals to work on Tuesday. Note that one ear bud is OK, but not two.


Is 50 cyclists riding to work on Pruneridge Avenue in a two-hour time span a lot or a little? It depends on who you ask.

My informal survey took place this morning (Tuesday) from 6:43 a.m. – 9 a.m. at the corner of Pruneridge and Pomeroy Avenue. That’s a T-intersection. Perfect cycling weather.

A local grade school was in session, but I didn’t see a single child riding to school. That’s understandable. Pruneridge is recommended for experienced riders.

I counted only 30 cyclists on Hedding a couple of years ago in another informal survey. However, it was colder than today and it had rained.

I also counted pedestrians on Pruneridge/Pomeroy, which totaled 55.

All but four cyclists were westbound on Pruneridge. My guess is that most cyclists were headed to the Apple HQ.

Most of the Pomeroy traffic turned right onto Pruneridge.

This section of Pruneridge has a Class IIB bicycle lane, from Pomeroy to Tantau. It’s made possible by reducing two-way traffic from four to two lanes.

As I watched traffic, I thought to myself. “This is a lot safer than two-lane streets with no bike lanes,” which is true for Pruneridge between Pomeroy and Winchester.

Traffic backs up from the lights at Lawrence Expressway. I observed peak traffic at 8:40 a.m. I’m sure the light cycled once for some cars. However, it wasn’t as bad as drivers like to complain about.

We have absolutely no reason to complain about traffic here. It’s a million times worse in any large Asian, African, and many European cities.

Back to Pruneridge. According to the 2018 Santa Clara bicycle plan update, it is number two on a priority list for bicycle street improvements, behind the number one priority of a separate bikeway on El Camino Real.

What’s envisioned is an extension of the Class IIB buffered bicycle lane to close the gap between Winchester and Pomeroy.

Will it happen? We’ll have to wait and see. I have my doubts. The opportunity presented itself last year when Pruneridge was repaved. The public was asked what it wanted in the way of improvements. The Class IIB lanes didn’t materialize.

It’s too bad there isn’t another street with as direct a route as Pruneridge. Forbes Avenue comes close, but it has terrible light sequencing that dissuades cycling there.

I’ve also found that with all the parked cars and “speed limit 25” signs planted in the middle of the street, it doesn’t feel any safer than Pruneridge.

A little trivia regarding the survey: I saw one e-bike, one recumbent. A squirrel survived its dash across the street.

One rider, with a child carrier on back (no child), was on the phone while pedaling. It takes all kinds.

Drivers have their issues as well. A jeep blasted down the center turn lane at high speed, no doubt frustrated by the road diet.

So, what do you think about 50 cyclists riding to work? How many cyclists would it take before you believed the road diet was having a positive impact on reducing car traffic? Or is 50 enough?

Hwy 84 straightening marked progress back in the day

May 31, 2019

Western exit for the abandoned section of Hwy 84, and MROSD trail access


As the automobile gained a stranglehold on the American psyche, California road planners responded in the 1960s with freeway proposals that sound crazy today, like Highway 84.

On the Pacific Coast side, Hwy 84 is known as the two-lane La Honda Road, winding through pastoral farmland and woodsy nooks where redwoods reign.

Thankfully the Hwy 84 freeway scheme got shelved along with a dozen other crazy freeway proposals, but efforts were made to straighten Hwy 84.

The straightening I know about (there may be others) occurred sometime between 1955 and 1968, according to USGS topo maps. If anybody knows a more exact date, please let us know.

Old Hwy 84 alignment in 1955, map on right, and after straightening, 1968.

Jobst Brandt pointed out the straightened section decades ago during a ride. I finally got around to taking a photo. It’s at milepost 5.50.

What’s interesting is that this section of abandoned road, a mere quarter-mile, is used by Midpeninsula Regional Open Space District. Signage is visible from the road behind a gate.

It turns out this land is part of the La Honda Creek Open Space Preserve, kind of. The land where the old road runs is still privately owned, but there’s equestrian only trail access to Harrington Creek Trail from here. Use permit required.

Hikers wanting to visit Harrington Creek Trail start at the staging area off Sears Ranch Road. Bikers, you’re out of luck. There’s no access to this preserve, a lot of which is still a working ranch.

Riding through January weather, in June

May 30, 2019

Mitchell Creek’s logging road, former mill site that prompted building Tunitas Creek Road.


Is this going to be another lost summer, like the one we had in 2009? Not that I’m complaining. Well, just a little after my ride.

Headed down Alpine Road into a pea-soup fog, relative humidity 105 percent, what do I see? Dew drops sloughed off the redwoods lining the narrow road, coating it with that wet stuff — rain.

At Pescadero Creek Road it didn’t get any better. In fact, it looked like a January morning during a rainstorm. Road splatter became a reality.

A bail-out occupied my thoughts, like riding up Hwy 84, but as I did so, the road got dry away from the trees. I carried on to San Gregorio under cloudy skies.

Curious about learning the history of an old segment of Hwy 84, long since abandoned, pictures were taken. More later…

At the coast I saw blue sky and regained some composure climbing Stage Road to Hwy 1. The weather turned for the better.

On Tunitas Creek Road I searched for the exact location where Jobst Brandt took a photo during a ride in the early 1960s. I don’t know the exact year, but Gary Fisher (b. 1950) joined the ride, and he looks to be about 14. He’s just behind the rider in the blue jersey.

Tunitas Creek Road in 1965 and today. Just past the Biker Hut. (Jobst Brandt photo)


The weather turned out to be about as mild as I could hope for on a gloomy day. The redwoods dazzled, tucked away in the deep canyon with its bewitching creek, whose waters tumble over jumbled logs and sandstone boulders on the way to the blue Pacific.

Tunitas Creek Road is meant to be climbed.

I stopped at Mitchell Creek to reflect on past adventure rides that took us up a steep fire road to Star Hill Road. And so close to home.

When all seemed right with the world, here comes the intrusive sound of chainsaws chewing through redwood. The horror.

At the always welcome sight of Shingle Mill Road, marking the end of 10 percent climbing, I saw a Big Creek Lumber truck and tractor parked.

Down below along the road lay many severed redwoods, which will soon be cut into boards for houses, fences and decks.

Big Creek Lumber logging operation underway.


I’m not complaining about today’s logging operations in the Santa Cruz Mountains. They’re about as responsibly logged as you could ask for. Redwoods grow back, crazy fast.

Skyline Boulevard offers the usual Jekyll and Hyde personality with drivers blasting past, ignoring California’s laughable three-foot rule, on their way to an important meeting.

And then there’s a minute or two of pleasant car-free riding on the scenic road that rolls up and down the spine of the Coast Range.

Fog blew across the road once I reached Windy Hill, and why not? It’s Windy Hill after all. I managed to stay warm enough that the ride didn’t turn into a suffer-fest. So much for this rainy May.