Stevens Creek Trail repair complete

December 16, 2018

Stevens Creek Trail near El Camino Real has been fixed.


It took a year, but the portion of Stevens Creek Trail damaged in the 2016 rainy season has been repaired.

Heavy erosion in Stevens Creek next to the Extended Stay America hotel close to El Camino Real wiped out the paved trail. A narrow bypass trail was built.

It snaked through some redwoods, which was a nuisance, especially since bikes were supposed to be walked. Of course, nobody walked.

That’s the first time I’ve seen the trail closed by erosion.

Back in the early 1980s, Charlie Gibson, Mountain View Parks and Recreation, showed me plans for how the trail would one day extend all the way to Stevens Creek Reservoir.

At the time, there was considerable debate over finding a route beyond El Camino Real/Hwy 85.

Local residents along the proposed route raised objections, of course, so the trail ends at the Highway 85 recreation path overpass. It’s an excellent overpass, one of the best I’ve ridden.

I’m skeptical that the trail will ever make it to the reservoir. There’s too many houses in between and following the creek is impractical. There’s not enough space for a trail past Fremont Avenue.

It’s a miracle the trail extends as far as it does. It took a lot of engineering to figure a way through all the freeways and streets. I’m amazed it came to pass every time I ride the trail.

How to pay for the Bay Bridge Bike Path to San Francisco?

November 24, 2018

Proposed Bay Bridge commuter path by Arup engineering.

A presentation hosted by the Metropolitan Transportation Commission on November 19 in San Francisco made it clear that all the technical hurdles in building a bike path from Yerba Buena Island to San Francisco on the Bay Bridge can be overcome.

It’s financing that’s the hang-up. Does anyone have $400 million they’d be willing to part with? The cost is projected to be $341 million, but that’s in today’s dollars. It will surely go up.

There’s a compelling reason to build the path — traffic congestion mitigation. Rich Coffin, principle engineer with Arup engineering, said the Bay Bridge is going to be well beyond capacity in a few years. Isn’t it already?

His company and city planners built the ebike into their calculations for boosting commuter traffic. Coffin revealed a compelling slide that shows how most commuters in Oakland/Berkeley/Emeryville and San Francisco could make the commute on an ebike in 45 minutes or less.

The path would also be useful for doing bridge maintenance without disrupting traffic.

With so many new businesses and more housing being planned, something has to be done soon. Treasure Island will have 24,000 residents by 2040. San Francisco and Oakland are growing like crazy.

A Path to Somewhere

Right now the eastern span of the Bay Bridge has a fabulous bike/pedestrian path to Yerba Buena Island, but that’s where it ends. The western span only needed a retrofit, so there’s no bike path to San Francisco.

Rafael Manzanarez, Arup bridge designer, showed the path on the north side of the span, bolted on. He said the bridge, 80 years old, cannot be welded.

The added weight could lower the bridge such that ships couldn’t pass under safely. Their solution comes with a repaving project planned for the bridge, which will use lighter asphalt.

The path would be 15 feet wide, with a couple feet added at the first tower, where tourists are sure to congregate.

The plan calls for an off-ramp at Essex and Harrison streets in San Francisco. Bike lanes and other accommodations are planned at that location, which presently is not bike friendly.

Who pays?

Coffin said that all ideas for funding the project are being entertained, including crowd funding and corporate sponsorship. The speakers left the impression that going with the usual local, state and federal funding sources would drag out the project beyond their 10-year plan.

One audience member suggested that he would gladly pay another dollar for the bridge toll.

I don’t visit San Francisco all that often, but there’s no doubt that this is a worthy project. I think of all the senseless expenditures going toward foreign wars, exotic military hardware.

If you believe the projections, the path could reduce traffic on the Bay Bridge by 3 percent, at least. That sounds possible. New York City’s bridges into Manhattan have upwards of 7,000 bike commuters daily during the summer.

More:

KPIX 5 coverage

PDF of presentation

Bay Trail Phase 1 improvement complete

October 26, 2018

San Francisco Bay Trail improvements are complete near Baylands Park in Sunnyvale.


(UPDATE: Dec. 4): This new stretch of trail is not up to par with previous work on the Bay Trail farther west, also funded by Google. I talked with some contract workers as they were using a road roller to compact the trail some more. Based on our conversation, it was clear that they were addressing complaints. I think the issue is that the contractor used a different aggregate, sandier and more susceptible to water saturation. It’s still better than no treatment at all, but not by much.

Another 0.6 miles of improved San Francisco Bay Trail is open, located near Hwy 237 in Sunnyvale.

Now it’s up to the Santa Clara Valley Water District to complete the Bay Trail improvement all the way to the improved trail to the west, about a mile and a half.

Phase 2 improvement was just an oil coat along the Hwy 237 frontage path.

Thanks Google for funding the Bay Trail upgrade.

Alpine Road repair might be in the works

October 19, 2018

Back in the mid 1980s, Jobst Brandt and friends worked on the road, even installing this culvert, thanks to Peter Johnson, shown riding over it.

Update: At its Oct. 24 meeting, the board voted 5-0 to bid the contract to Waterways Consulting. There was no public comment. MROSD will ask San Mateo County to help pay for the trail work.

At the October 24 Midpeninsula Regional Open Space District meeting, they’ll vote on approving a contract with Waterways Consulting, Inc., for design and engineering services, preparation of construction documents, permitting and bidding process support, and construction oversight for the Alpine Road Trail Repair at Coal Creek Open Space Preserve.

I figure they’ll improve the “road” as a “trail,” but I can’t imagine San Mateo County would improve it to road status. It hasn’t been abandoned, but it’s a road on paper only.

Of course, the study still needs to be completed, so it’s not a done deal. A lot of unknowns. The wording indicates it’s more than just a feasibility study. We’ll see.

Note that this project only addresses the upper half of the road. The Bypass Trail stays. Let’s hope they fix the lower half.

Anything would be an improvement, the way the trail looks now.

Link to proposal in PDF.

San Francisco Bay Trail improvements underway in Sunnyvale

October 15, 2018

S.F. Bay Trail is being upgraded in Sunnyvale near Baylands Park.

That line of dump trucks at Baylands Park in Sunnyvale, next to Hwy 237, is making improvements to the San Francisco Bay Trail, unpaved, and other trails nearby.

Yves Zsutty, city of San Jose parks and recreation, said to expect some trail closures in the days ahead. See the map for alternate routes.

Google is financing some of the trail improvement. The Bay Trail treatment will be the same as done for the Bay Trail to the west going to Stevens Creek Trail. Google paid for that upgrade as well. The city of Sunnyvale has no involvement.

I’m not sure if the entire San Francisco Bay Trail will be improved at once. The water district is supposed to do some of the work, according to the map.

The upgrade turns a rocky dirt road into a smooth all-weather dirt path. Still dirt, but good dirt.

The Phase 2 and 3 work is just a refresh of the existing paved trail. A Class 1 bike path will be designated along Lafayette/Gold Street, east side. (Updated Oct. 16)

UPDATE Wednesday, Oct. 24:
The SF Bay Trail, Phase 1, will be open on Thursday, Oct. 25. Google inspected the upgraded trail today. Phase 2 work was underway on Wednesday, and I think it will be complete on Thursday, Oct. 25.

Unfortunately, the entire SF Bay Trail to the Sunnyvale water filtration plant was not worked on, just a short stretch, Phase 1.

San Tomas Aquino Creek Trail Reach 4 extended

September 25, 2018

San Tomas Aquino Creek Trail Reach 4 has been extended. Looking north to El Camino Real.


For users of Santa Clara’s San Tomas Aquino Creek Trail, Reach 4 from El Camino Real south to Homestead Road is officially open.

The trail will extend south to Pruneridge Avenue, eventually.

From what I can see, there’s also a new sidewalk on the east side of San Tomas Expressway, pedestrians only.

Anyone who rides this section of trail needs to use extreme caution crossing El Camino Real, Benton Street, and Homestead Road.

Cars turning right off San Tomas might not stop. The junction at Homestead is especially inconvenient for bikes due to the curb alignment.

Even with all the room taken up by the path, there’s still a shoulder where bikes can ride on San Tomas. I used to ride San Tomas a lot, but not anymore.

While I’m sure some residents miss all the trees that were cut down, I don’t. They dropped needles and leaves that clogged drains on rainy days. Limbs fell down on the road, etc.

Reach 4 where the road curves north of Homestead. Maybe they’ll add some landscaping later on.

Flow Trail – like an amusement park ride

September 19, 2018

Flow Trail, a ribbon of single-track through Demonstration Forest.


Thanks to Soquel Demonstration Forest rangers and Santa Cruz mountain bikers for collaborating to create one of the most enjoyable off-road single-track trails in Northern California. And it’s legal.

The name Flow Trail evokes images of a smooth path with endless downhill, whoop de doos, and banked turns. I read about it online, so I had to find out for myself. Dream come true or fake news?

I headed off on the kind of day that makes Northern California weather nervana: Clear skies, temps in the 60s, a gentle breeze. My ride started six miles away so I could become accustomed to the wider tires, 26 x 2.0 nobby monsters. Talk about sluggish steering.

Riding on Highland Way is never a sure thing. In one place the road has caved, narrowing it to one lane. I’ve clambered over a huge slide on a vertical slope. But views sublime: The forest across from Soquel Canyon looks so three-dimensional.

Sulphur Springs Road, logging site and helicopter pad.


I arrived at the Demonstration Forest entrance on Highland Way and saw four parked cars. It’s a zoo on weekends.

Having ridden here since 1980, I knew the routine. I headed up Highland Way to Buzzard Lagoon Road and hoped for hard-packed dirt. It was so-so, plenty of dust. The grind up Buzzard Lagoon with eight to 12 percent grades tested my legs.

Not much has changed since 1980. The road is graded from time to time, which is a good thing because otherwise we’d be riding through a boulder field.

I turned right onto West Ridge Trail with fear and loathing. This ride conjures up the best and worst of off-road riding. Worst: the trail is Rut City with rocky sections that even a pro would find challenging. As for me, I’m not proud. I walked in places.

Tribute to a mountain bike trail builder.


I remembered little from my last trip here in 2007, just that it’s gnarly. My rides always took me down the oh-so-tame Aptos Creek Fire Road. However, I remembered the helicopter landing site cleared by loggers in the early 2000s or so. It’s also where Sulphur Springs Road heads downhill.

I continued on past more trailheads — Braille, Tractor Road, destined for Flow Trail. Sadly, or maybe blessedly, Sawpit Trail at the west end of the forest is closed for logging operations. This is still an actively logged forest, thus the name Demonstration Forest. I heard chainsaws in the distance.

In just over two miles I arrived at Flow Trail. Orange netting blocked the way to Sawpit Trail.

Start of Flow Trail. Sawpit Trail access cut off.


Did the videos lie? Would Flow Trail be manageable for an aging tenderfoot like me? My fears evaporated in a flash. I found myself gliding effortlessly on the well-designed trail. Many turns are banked.

Some steep drops of 35-40 percent left me screaming for joy, and fear. The trail has held up well since opening in 2015.

As for uphill, there isn’t any. The short segments of uphill were put there for your enjoyment, easily ridden with momentum coming off the steep stuff.

The trail is signed Segment 1 through 6, mostly at intersections with Tractor Road and other logging roads, not that you’d ever become lost since Flow Trail is all single-track.

Start of the long grind up Hihn’s Mill Road.


I arrived at Hihn’s Mill Road after 3.6 miles and headed back to the entrance. I had forgotten how steep it was, or maybe I was much stronger back then. It’s a grind, with grades of 8-12 percent. A few flat spots let you catch your breath.

I must confess I’ve ridden a few other trails that rival Flow Trail, but they shall remain nameless. Flow Trail is legal.

I measured the route using a pre-calibrated CatEye wireless bike computer. Note that GPS fails miserably on this route. Canyons and trees degrade the satellite signal. My Garmin Edge 500 clocked in 1.3 miles short.

CatEye Mileage:

Start ride at entrance to Demonstration Forest on Highland Way.
1.93 Right onto Buzzard Lagoon Road
2.47 Open gate
2.87 Keep right at junction, continuing climb on Aptos Creek Fire Road.
4.16 Gate.
5.08 Right onto West Ridge Trail at post. Kiosk visible from fire road.
5.7 Corral Trail
6.64 Sulphur Springs Road
7.15 Braille Trail
7.25 Right onto Flow Trail
9.3 Segment 4.
9.37 Logs across trail
9.62 Segment 5
10.11 Segment 6
10.88 Right onto Hihn’s Mill Road.
11.1 Keep left at junction with Tractor Road.
11.4 Braille Trail
12.34 Sulphur Springs Road.
14.63 Gate and toilet.
14.81 End ride at Demonstration Forest entrance.

Garmin GPS mileage:

1.88 Right onto unpaved Buzzard Lagoon Road
2.78 Keep right at junction, continuing uphill on Aptos Creek Fire Road.
4.91 Right onto West Ridge Trail at tall post. Kiosk behind bushes.
5.45 Corral Trail.
6.28 Sulphur Springs Road.
6.74 Braille Trail.
6.81 Flow Trail.
9.74 Right onto Hihn’s Mill Road.
9.92 Keep left on Hihn’s Mill Road at Tractor Road junction.
10.31 Braille Trail.
11.18 Sulphur Springs Road.
13.49 Gate and toilet.
13.51 End ride at Demonstration Forest entrance.

Dream rides that will never be…in my lifetime

August 27, 2018

Last Chance Road in 1975, crossing Waddell Creek. Bud Hoffacker, in back, and Bill Robertson, far right.


As you grow older, you begin to think about unfulfilled dreams, like bike rides on roads that do not exist or are off limits.

I’ve compiled a long list, but these gems rise to the surface. At least we can dream about what might be. Some of these roads might come to pass, but too late for me.

Niles Canyon Trail. I stopped riding through Niles Canyon a couple of years ago. I’ve probably ridden it 30 times, and each time I swear is the last.

The good news is that there’s a way to build a recreation path through the canyon, and county officials have expressed their support. It’s just going to take money. It will happen, in a couple of decades. My guess.

Bear Gulch Road. Why, why, why did San Mateo County give up on this gorgeous road? It’s another version of Old La Honda, only it goes to the Pacific Ocean, almost. I’ve ridden it on the east side a few times, on the west side only once.

Old Cañada Road. Most people don’t realize there’s an old Cañada Road, hidden away in the San Francisco Watershed. It goes from Edgewood Road to Highway 92. But there’s more. It’s a short hop on Hwy 92 to access roads into the San Francisco Watershed north of the highway. I’ve ridden Old Cañada a couple of times, the watershed, just once. It’s magical, delightful, inspirational, beautiful. Sigh.

Loma Prieta Road. It spans the wild and scenic countryside between Mt. Umunhum and Summit Road in Santa Cruz County. The views from up there take your breath away. I’ve ridden it about 16 times since 1980. MROSD owns a lot of the road. The agency promises to open it one of these days. I’m guessing it will be open for bikes 30 years from now. What’s so frustrating is that the MROSD signs are already posted along the way.

South Pacific Coast Railroad right of way. The tunnels that cut through the Santa Cruz Mountains were blasted shut in 1942 by Southern Pacific. I often dreamed about those tunnels when climbing steep grades on the way to Santa Cruz. It’s such a tragedy, but the Santa Cruz Mountains can be a harsh mistress.

Mill Valley to Fairfax. Sure, mountain bikers can make the trek, but it’s a grind. Widen Camino Alto/Corte Madera or build a nice paved trail for the road riders. So frustrating.

Last Chance Road. Still doable between Big Basin Redwoods State Park and the Pacific Coast, but it’s not legal and it’s a narrow trail today. I’ve ridden it about 20 times and watched the road degrade into a wisp of a path. It’s much better than taking Highway 9, but what isn’t?

Highway 9 from Felton to Santa Cruz. Speaking of Highway 9, it’s about time something was done to make cycling safer between these two towns. If only the railroad right of way would accommodate bikes. I’ve ridden lower Hwy 9 maybe 20 times, but each time I swear will be the last.

Alpine Road. I’ve ranted about the loss of Alpine Road (east) for years. It’s still rideable after a fashion, but I like to remember it as it was in 1990, the last time San Mateo County graded the road. So many great memories riding up Alpine.

These are niggling obstacles that should be fixed:

Diablo Road. This is the only route available for accessing Mt. Diablo’s South Gate Road from Danville. Is it too much of an imposition to give up a few feet of land for a bike lane? I guess so. The road is way too narrow for today’s traffic.

Highway 92. There’s no shoulder for three miles to Half Moon Bay. I rode it in 2010 on a weekday, thinking it would be better. Big mistake. Garbage trucks ply the road. On a weekend it’s a parking lot all the way to Interstate 280. A shoulder would help, but the best option to visit Half Moon Bay is to take the Coast Highway from the south. Residents refuse to widen the road, not even for a bike lane.

More rides later, maybe.

Last Chance Road in 2011. That little thread of dirt is the road, such as it is.

Tire pressure test results

August 16, 2018

Avocet FasGrips were rated for 105 psi. Lowering tire pressure to improve rolling resistance might work on some roads.


I’ve ridden enough miles now to offer some results on what tire pressure works for me, after research indicated it’s better for lowering rolling resistance to run lower tire pressures.

Your results will vary, unless you weigh the same as me and run the same tire and rim. I’m a little over 150 pounds, and my tires are Continental Gatorskin, 28 mm width, mostly, and 36 spoke Mavic Open Pro rims. Even then, there’s personal preference.

I’m told that these rims are old fashioned, but I sure like them. I built my own wheels eight years ago and after 40,000 miles they’re in perfect shape. No wobbles.

I started with 65 pounds rear pressure, 60 psi front. After struggling through 50 miles of riding, I decided this was too soft. The bike felt sluggish and steering was a chore. Believe it or not, that’s the recommended pressure on some charts.

I can’t imagine that this pressure would be adequate under any circumstance, even with wide rims. The Mavic rim is 20 mm, but today’s wide rims run 23 mm outside.

From what I’ve read, a narrow rim and wide tire causes the tire to squirm more than on a wider rim. I can believe it.

I increased the pressure to 75 psi rear, 70 front. That felt good. I have full control over the bike in all situations and it doesn’t feel like the lower pressure is slowing me down.

I’m thinking a pressure of 75-80 rear, 70-75 front is best for me. Of course, you can run higher pressures. I was at 95 rear, 90 front, or higher, for decades and never had problems. Backing off on the pressure might help reduce tire rolling resistance, but at my age it doesn’t matter, much.

Pressured to resolve tire pressure debate

August 11, 2018

What’s the ideal tire pressure? It depends. More may not be better.


Recently I’ve been reading that cyclists are running their tires with too much tire pressure, believing that the higher the tire pressure, the lower the rolling resistance.

The late Jobst Brandt, bike expert, believed this axiom to be true and never questioned its validity. He had another reason to keep his tire pressure high. He weighed a lot and that made him prone to pinch flats. He also rode on bumpy trails.

One lab study in 1999 shows that running higher pressures on tires decreases rolling resistance. The exception is riding on rough surfaces or gravel.

A wider tire running at a lower pressure will do better on rough roads, according to test results reported in Velonews and elsewhere.

Tires themselves have been thoroughly tested for rolling resistance by brand on bicyclerollingresistance.com.

Off The Beaten Path beats the debate into the ground with its analysis. A study done by Frank Berto in the 1990s is cited and is pretty much the first published word on the wisdom of lowering tire pressure for reduced rolling resistance.

Wider tires might improve rolling resistance. That’s another hot topic. At issue with running wider tires is that narrow rims and wide tires are not a good combination, as the tire squirms on the rim much more than on a wider rim. I’m guessing that they mean a rim less than 23 mm outside diameter qualifies as narrow.

GCN, the YouTube bike channel, has run several shows on the topic, so that’s what prompted me to look into it and try out lower tire pressures.

I’ll share my results in a future blog, once I’m done testing.