Berd spoke might be the “wheel” deal

February 18, 2018

Berd spokes are made from a polymer, strong and light. Berd photo.

Ninety-nine percent of new technology isn’t new and it isn’t an improvement, but the Berd spoke might buck the trend. The jury is out.

Berd, based in Minnesota, specializes in polymer technology. I’d bet a few employees used to work for 3M.

The spoke looks like a piece of string, literally. It’s called PolyLight, a marketing term. Whatever it is, it isn’t steel or carbon-fiber.

I’m drawn to it for two reasons: 1) it works with today’s hubs and rims and 2) wheels using Berd spokes absorb road shock better than steel-spoke wheels. They’ve been approved for use in international bicycle racing.

Looking around, I found a wheel with three-cross configuration using Onyx hubs, which look like they have traditional drilled holes, standard construction.

I don’t know if they’re more durable than DT spokes, which I consider the best in the business. If these spokes turn out to be as goods as advertised, I’d consider rebuilding my wheels and giving them a try.

Haul Road becomes a day’s labor

February 5, 2018

Brian checks out the Haul Road on our way to Loma Mar.

It used to be we’d ride from Palo Alto over the ridge and down to the Haul Road on our way to more distant venues. Today it’s a destination.

With temperatures more like May, I thanked Climate Change and headed up Page Mill Road. On the way, we saw a bike accident, the victim resting peacefully under the eye of a doctor cyclist. The rider was conscious.

In the next 15 minutes no fewer than four rescue vehicles drove by. We continued to Skyline Boulevard to check out the brisk winds, suddenly cool.

One of the best descents is Alpine Road and then Portola State Park road into the bowels of Pescadero Creek canyon. The air turned decidedly cold.

We rode over the creek’s new steel bridge, passed the aging ranger cabins, and walked up the steep section to the Haul Road. Back in the day some riders muscled up that slope. Not me.

We wondered what the railroad looked like in the 1940s when it was still operational. It reached from the mill at Waterman Gap to…where? Maybe all the way to a point just past Harwood Creek, near the road’s end. It followed the current Haul Road. Derek Whaley has details. Trucks took over log-transport duties and turned the dirt road into a highway. People who rode motorcycles could do 60 mph. Smooth, like pavement.

Today, not so smooth. We had to get around some mud holes the first part of the ride going northwest. Things improved about a third of the way along. Washouts from last winter’s deluge were fixed.

Rome wasn’t built in a day, and neither will the Loma Mar store.

We stopped at the new Loma Mar Store to check on progress. We’ve got a wager. Will it be finished in one million years, or two million? It’s going to be a palace compared to the old store.

The fun part was riding up Pescadero Road. Along comes Tom Ritchey and wife Martha on a tandem, bound for Pescadero. We stopped and talked about riding our favorite off-grid roads, mostly griping, and continued on our way.

On the climb up Alpine Road, the temperature warmed in the late-afternoon sun. Looking down at the peaceful redwood forest and the blue Pacific, all seemed right with the world.

Mt. Hamilton road repair completed

January 19, 2018

A retaining wall near Crothers Road on Mt. Hamilton is officially complete.

Last year Mt. Hamilton Road underwent two big repairs, the slide just before the descent to Grant Ranch Park, and at Crothers Road, just completed.

The Crothers Road retaining wall work didn’t close the road like the big slide farther up, but it was a hassle nonetheless.

That’s not bad for road repairs considering all the rain we had last year. The recently completed repair on Skyline Boulevard just east of Castle Rock State Park cost a whopping $30 million.

There’s going to be some offices built on the McCarthy frontage road near the gas-fired power plant and Coyote Creek. That brings back memories when Jobst Brandt and I took this route on one of his really long Mt. Hamilton rides.

We started from his house in Palo Alto and went over to Livermore, then back on Calaveras Road. We found our way on Hwy 237 picking up frontage roads where possible. There was a big fruit stand at this location. That ride will never be repeated.

At the Hwy 237 frontage road near Coyote Creek and Hwy 237, new office buildings are going up.

Santa Clara parking garage misses the mark for bicycles

December 28, 2017

A bicycle rack exposed to the elements next to a $24 million parking garage. What gives?

In case you didn’t know, Santa Clara spent $24 million on its six-level, 1,821-space garage off Tasman Drive, complete with charging stations, but the bicycle accommodations fall short.

It looks like an afterthought, the lone bike rack at the entrance. I can see the planners looking at a long list. “Bicycle parking — check.”

The wave style rack is exposed to the elements. Santa Clara can do better. If nothing else, put a roof over the racks. More could be done, of course.

In a day and age when we desperately need commute alternatives, I can think of ways to put the garage to better use. Someone might want to drive to the garage (parking is free) and then ride from there to work on the bayland trails, avoiding traffic. They could keep their bike in a locker at the garage.

About 20 lockers are located at the train station at Lafayette and Tasman, but it would be inconvenient since there’s limited parking close to the lockers.

Jobst Brandt calendar raises $110 for open space

December 12, 2017

Your contribution added $110 toward open space in the Bay Area through POST.

Yesterday I donated $110 to Peninsula Open Space Trust (POST) to go toward its mission of preserving open space and farmland in the Bay Area.

Thank you to all who donated with the purchase of the 2018 Jobst Brandt tour of the Alps calendar. Jobst was a long-term contributor to the land-preservation fund founded in 1977, based in Palo Alto on High Street in the same building as Wheelsmith bike shop. Back in the day.

I may make this an annual event to go toward the POST cause. Recently POST preserved beach property at Tunitas Creek, a location where many cyclists pass by on their rides up and down Tunitas Creek Road.

One of their campaigns is to create conservation easements on private property, something the freewheeling, adventuresome Brandt advocated.

First ride to Mt. Umunhum Cube — Legal or otherwise

December 5, 2017

The concrete cube at Mt. Umunhum, up close and personal.

Mt. Umunhum summit, bathed in warm December sunshine and light winds to push away the smog proved too much of a lure, so I set out from Santa Clara and headed for New Almaden and the southeast climb of Horrible Hicks.

As I had planned, there was virtually no traffic, just the occasional car and a few bicycles. Hicks from New Almaden is less of a grind with sections of 16 percent. It goes on for a mile to the Mt. Umunhum Road intersection.

Riding on the newly paved road, I would appreciate the improvement during the descent, one of the most dangerous I know of in the Bay Area, after Hicks Road, where a cyclist died in 2004.

Summit shelter offers views of the Bay Area that can’t be beat.

The first mile climbs relentlessly with long stretches of 13-15 percent. It lets up at the Bald Mountain Trail parking area for a half mile before resuming its leg-burning grade of 13-15 percent for a mile. Beyond the point where the road was closed to the public for an eternity things get more civilized with the grade of 7 percent.

I stopped at Loma Prieta Road junction to pay tribute to past rides there. One of these days.

From here it’s a delightful downhill and flat ride with the blue waters of Lake Elsman visible far below in the deep redwood canyon where Los Gatos Creek originates.

At a junction I turned right and started climbing steeply once again, the final assault to the summit and the now ugly concrete cube. Surrounded by the elegantly manicured hilltop it truly does look out of place.

As I walked around enjoying the spectacular views of Santa Clara Valley and San Francisco’s building spires I could appreciate why this mountaintop offers a better view than Mount Hamilton. It has the shining blue waters of the Pacific to its credit, but also it’s much closer to the valley, making for a more memorable view.

Contemplating my past rides here, I came to realize that this was my first time to the cube. In 1982, 1985 and other times we rode through the lower base, never up to the cube.

As my cycling days wind down, I can take satisfaction in making it to the summit. Best done on a weekday, or leave early in the morning on the weekend.

Jobst Brandt shows good form on Mt. Umunhum in 2007, age 72.He started riding there in 1957. It was on one of these rides up Umunhum when he realized childhood scarlet fever had damaged his heart. He got a new heart valve.

That sign on the road. Now a memory.

China pedals toward Copenhagen lifestyle

December 1, 2017

A 7.6 km bicycle skyway opened recently in Xiamen, China. (Dissing+Weitling photo)

It comes as no surprise to me that China now has the world’s longest elevated cycle path at 7.6 kilometers. The world’s most populous country also happens to have the world’s worst traffic, so you can bet the country will be the champion of transportation alternatives for years to come.

Dissing + Weitling Architecture, a company based in Copenhagen (of course), sold China on the concept and design of the futuristic bike path.

Denmark has similar structures, but not nearly as long.

Lest we forget our bicycle history, the California Cycleway opened in Pasadena in 1900. It was supposed to be six miles long, but only 1.3 miles was ever built. The bike craze ended and that was that.

California Cycleway in 1900. (Wikipedia)

Judging by what I’m seeing on YouTube, China’s elevated bike path is being used, maybe more out of curiosity than anything else at this point. There’s also an elevated bus road next to it.

The cycleway is located in Xiamen, population 3 million, a port city about 300 miles north of Hong Kong.

Mt. Umunhum’s popularity puts cyclists in peril on Hicks Road

November 24, 2017

Hicks Road at Guadalupe Reservoir in 2010. Need shoes?

UPDATE, Sunday, Dec. 17, 2017: I rode Hicks today to see if Black Friday was an anomaly. It looks like it was. Not as much traffic today. Still much more than a weekday, with 44 motor vehicles observed in about six miles mid-day. There’s only about 125 parking spaces on all of Mt. Umunhum. If it does get crowded on a summer weekend, that could be an issue. Who wants to drive all that way to find there’s no parking?

Imagine my surprise riding Hicks Road today as car after car whizzed by on the narrow road with no shoulders bound for, no doubt, Mt. Umunhum summit.

Was there a Black Friday sale underway at the summit? I can’t think of any other reason for so much traffic. Now that the summit is open and this Friday being a semi-holiday, it makes sense. I didn’t find any planned events in New Almaden that would cause traffic.

If this is going to be the pattern going forward, then cyclists must avoid riding on Hicks Road weekends starting at Camden to the Mt. Umunhum junction. I’m guessing the New Almaden side of Hicks will have less summit traffic.

It’s really sad to see yet another country road turned into a Laguna Seca training course.

Midpeninsula Regional Open Space District (MROSD) needs to take responsibility for managing traffic to the summit. There should be a car limit and registration for access, similar to what is happening at the popular Muir Woods National Monument.

While I’m on the topic, why doesn’t MROSD/county/state arrange for a shuttle bus service on weekends to the more popular parks in the Santa Cruz Mountains? I’d wager that half the traffic on weekends is generated by well intentioned mountain bikers and hikers out to enjoy park land.

Road diets and protected bike lanes the new norm

November 22, 2017

Tantau Avenue and Apple HQ looking north. Will employees ride bikes to work?

While I don’t think road diets and protected bike lanes will make much of a dent in the way people get to work, those who do ride bikes today will not be complaining about changes coming down the road.

Local residents (read Nextdoor) were up in arms about the road diet that went into effect on Hedding Street in November between Coleman Avenue and Winchester Boulevard in San Jose.

Some people who contributed their thoughts favored the change, but most were against it. The main argument — and a valid one — is that too few cyclists take Hedding and the road change would have little effect.

On Nov. 14, from 6:43 a.m. – 9 a.m., I conducted a traffic count of bicycles and pedestrians at the Hedding – Park intersection in San Jose. Here’s the result:

Hedding – 30
Park – 27

Hedding – 21
Park- 52

The transportation/housing problems we face today are systemic and a road diet for one street isn’t going to make much difference. However, it certainly does make the pedestrian’s walk and the cyclist’s ride safer. I noticed minor backups on Hedding eastbound, but it was hardly apocalyptic as characterized by some who posted comments. By 9 a.m. there was no traffic to speak of.

Apple backs protected bike lanes

Now Apple is pumping $1.8 million into Cupertino city coffers for protected bike lanes on Stevens Creek Boulevard. With their spaceship HQ about to open, they must be nervous about its affect on commuters.

Over the years I’ve slowly changed my thinking about protected bike lanes and multi-use trails from neutral to all-in. It’s the best way to reduce the number one objection to bike commuting — dangerous in traffic.

The plan is to head west from Tantau in phases. Details have yet to be worked out.

I’ve long advocated greater commitment by corporations for supporting non-auto commuting. They should flat out pay employees to ride to work, as well as cover bus and train expenses. The use of corporate buses is a step in the right direction.

As far as systemic changes, we need to see more people living close to work. City governments are doing their part now by requiring sufficient housing near business parks. Our sacred American way of life– single-family homes — is a big part of the problem. European and Asian communities don’t have them. Concentrating populations makes commuting by bike and public transit less of a burden without urban sprawl.

In the meantime, our governments are doing their best with what they have to work with. They look to the bicycle. It’s a fantastic machine, no doubt, but making it the commuter silver bullet is asking a lot.

San Tomas Aquino trail link a bright idea

October 21, 2017

Looking north, new ramp off San Tomas Aquino Creek trail makes for easy access to nearby stores.

A new office building/parking garage bordering San Tomas Aquino recreation trail near Hwy 101 was designed with the handicapped, pedestrians and cyclists in mind. Bravo.

The ramp and short staircase connects the trail to Augustine Drive in Santa Clara.

So what? It’s a way for someone wanting to avoid taking busy city streets to access the Whole Foods Market, the new AMD buildings, new apartments and other stores at Scott Boulevard and Bowers Avenue.

That’s a big deal in the scheme of things. It must have cost at least $25,000, but money well spent.