Wildflowers reaching their glorious best

April 15, 2017

Redwood Retreat Road has its share of wildflowers this time of year.


Judging from what I saw today, next weekend or two will be the peak of the wildflower season in the Bay Area. I saw plenty of clover on Redwood Retreat Road.

The downside with much of the area close to San Jose is there’s a lot of wild grass covering the flowers, especially after a wet winter.

That’s why the backside of Mt. Hamilton is worth the ride. There isn’t nearly as much grass, so the wildflowers have the ground to themselves.

Skyline Boulevard washout brings out the gawkers

April 9, 2017

Skyline Boulevard is closed a mile southeast of Castle Rock State Park. It’s going to be a while before it’s fixed.


Sorry, but I counted myself among the many gawkers who wanted to see the Skyline Boulevard washout at 16169 Skyline on Sunday.

I arrived as a drone pilot was launching his buzzing video camera into the sky. Needless to say, I was not welcome, nor is anyone else except, it would seem, drone pilots.

A semi-official construction person wearing a hard hat told me I had to leave but he let me take a photo and generally was nice enough about letting me have a look, but I can understand his concern. One guy on a motorcycle wanted to ride through, I was told. Looks like enforcement will be ratcheted up.

I was planning to continue riding southeast, but my itinerary was out the window. I could have taken the Skyline Trail, which parallels the road, but it was so wet and goopy, I decided against it. The washout probably didn’t bother the trail.

Instead, the direction of the slide was toward the Deer Creek drainage to the south. The trail is on the opposite side of the slide.

As a Sheriff arrived at the east side of the slide, I turned around, and saw a Sheriff driving up from the west as well.

Highway 9 has so many sags that it will be a while before they’re all fixed. There’s one signal-light work area. The Santa Cruz Mountains still feels like a place under siege by the weather gods.

Beauty shot from Skyline. Clear skies after recent rain and downright cold in the morning.

Refurbished Avocet GelFlex ready to roll

April 6, 2017

My ancient Avocet GelFlex saddle has been reconditioned, ready to go another 36,000 miles.


Today I saw an Avocet GelFlex saddle NOS for sale on eBay for $140. Fortunately, I have one left, newly reconditioned.

My second attempt at replacing the saddle cover with marine vinyl (those nylon covers didn’t last long) using a process described on the Instructables website, went easier than last time, but it still lacks polish.

I guess I lack the patience to make it look perfect. I’m happy with good enough.

This time the staples went in better, now that I have an electric staple gun and used shorter 1/4-inch (6 mm) staples.

I wasn’t as happy with the Loctite spray glue compared to 3M. I recommend the 3M brand described in Instructables. The Loctite glue sprayed out like that stuff used to make fake spider webs during Halloween.

This is my second successful attempt at adding epoxy to quiet that annoying front saddle creak. It’s like I’m riding a new saddle.

Last word on creaking saddles

April 3, 2017

Add epoxy here to stop saddle creak.


I’ve been battling the creaking saddle demons for several years and after lots of experimentation and research I found the cause and the solution.

I’m riding saddles made in the 1980s-90s so right there I’m already in trouble. All bike parts wear out, including saddles and I’ll explain why.

Saddle rails are springs, constantly moving up and down in their support structures within the saddle. Over time, which varies with the saddle model and manufacturing variables, the saddle will start to creak. Most cyclists don’t ride their saddles into the ground like me, so few riders experience saddle creak woes.

Of course, before trying to fix your saddle creak, you need to be sure it’s the saddle that’s at fault. Be sure the seatpost is well greased because it can cause creaks in the saddle area. Some people say to oil or grease the rails at the clamps, but those locations are not meant to move, so lubrication is not recommended, beyond a very light dab of oil to prevent rust.

When I first experienced saddle creak, I did what most experts recommend and added oil, all kinds of oil, but nothing worked. In fact, it sometimes made things worse. The bottom line is, if it’s not supposed to move, don’t add oil. Those seat rails are not meant to move.

[Seatposts are not meant to move and they absolutely need grease. So I imagine giving the rails a thorough cleaning and oiling would keep them from squeaking. Lack of access makes this impossible. Everything I’ve tried in terms of lubrication hasn’t worked.]

My next line of attack was to drill a hole and drizzle in Super Glue. That worked, for a while.

Then I tried a screw that rested up against the bend in the rail at the nose of the saddle. That worked, for a while.

I’ve never had an issue with the rails in the rear of the saddle, only the nose. I think that’s where the most stress occurs. Over time and constant movement, the rail loosens up inside the nylon mold. You can’t notice the movement, but it’s there. I disassembled a saddle to check the rail. It’s a single piece of wrapped steel alloy. I thought it might be welded there and the weld failed.

Finally, I decided to try epoxy. I carefully cleaned the saddle nose by dipping it in concentrated Simple Green, rinsed, and then sanded the nylon around the rails for the best possible adhesion.

I used JB Weld quick-setting epoxy. It couldn’t be easier to apply. Just squeeze out the two mixtures, stir together with the enclosed wooden stick and drizzle it into the saddle between the rails. Every saddle is different, but this one for a Bianchi (Viscount saddle) had a wide opening ideal for adding epoxy. Your results may vary with different saddles based on how they are built. Some saddles have small or no openings to speak of, so adding epoxy may not work well. You might have to drill a hole.

Now my saddle is completely quiet. I don’t know how long it will last, but if it’s not at least a year, it’s time for one of those new saddles that looks like it was made by space aliens.

Mtn. Charlie Road survives the winter, barely

April 2, 2017

Some fields are still flooded on Cloverdale Road.


I figured Saturday would be as good a day as any for a spring ride along the coast to Santa Cruz, with all the wind we’ve been having.

I wasn’t as lucky as I’ve been in some years, but the tailwind was enough to make the ride as enjoyable as possible on a day drenched in sunshine and temperatures in the high 60s.

One year I averaged 20 mph all the way to Santa Cruz, pushed by a strong tailwind. Those days are behind me as I grind out the miles in my usual survival mode.

On Cloverdale Road I saw evidence of the heavy winter’s rain and understood why strawberries from Watsonville will be in short supply. Some fields are flooded, although the Swanson pick-your-own strawberry patch looks to be in good shape. A tractor tilled the soil next to one of the large plots planted with strawberries.

I blasted through Santa Cruz on the always busy Hwy 1 and then made my way to the San Lorenzo River path and bridge where the homeless congregate in large numbers.

On the way up El Rancho Drive the stop sign and slide has finally been fixed and local residents have the good fortune of not having other slides to deal with.

As I made my way up Glenwood Highway I saw plenty of warnings that there’s no access to Hwy 17, but I was headed up Mountain Charlie Road, which I heard was open.

Sure enough Mt. Charlie was open, although the “road closed” signs are still there. The road is looking more and more like the goat path it was in the 1980s, pavement crumbling everywhere.

I came across a slide that had been repaired (closing the road) about halfway up. Near the summit I saw another big culvert blowout that took out half the road and will surely need fixing.

Old Santa Cruz Hwy survived the winter in good shape, as did Los Gatos Creek Trail. There’s still a lot of roadwork to be done in the Santa Cruz Mountains, Skyline Boulevard southeast of Castle Rock State Park, and Zayante Road are closed.

Making a case for an ancient side-pull brake

March 31, 2017

Aging Campagnolo rear brake caliper finds new life on my road bike, solving several problems.


I’ve always been a fan of Campagnolo Nuovo/Super Record brakes because they were built to last and looked nice.

But with age comes weaker hands and I have difficulty squeezing the front brakes hard enough to stop quickly. It’s an issue with those old Campagnolo brakes because they had a 1-1 cable pull ratio.

I can’t begin to explain how brakes work, but suffice it to say they use cables and fulcrums to create mechanical advantage. The bottom line is that the higher the mechanical advantage, the easier it is to exert force. Today’s brakes mostly use a 3:1 mechanical advantage.

But it comes at a cost. As Jobst Brandt so often pointed out in the biketech forum, Campagnolo brakes of yore had the advantage of working even with a wobbly wheel, say after breaking a spoke. As brake pads wore, you didn’t have to adjust your brakes so often. Finally, Campagnolo brakes could accommodate fat tires with ease due to a quick-release that opened the brake calipers plenty wide.

All that said, I decided to try Campagnolo brakes on my modern brake levers. The result was not good. I found the front brake hard to use. I had to pull especially hard to stop. The Campagnolo brake arms work better with their original levers, but they’re still harder to use than Shimano Ultegra or other modern brakes.

After giving it some thought, I tried using the Campagnolo brake caliper in the rear only. That worked well. It’s still not quite as easy to use the rear brake, but 90 percent of your stopping power comes from the front brake. No big deal.

I gained the advantages of using Campagnolo calipers, and that is a big deal on the rear wheel where most flats occur and spokes break much more often. I especially dislike Shimano brakes when it comes to removing a wheel with a 28 mm wide tire. That’s no longer a problem with the Campagnolo rear brake.

Doing the research made me realize that brake ratios are not something taken lightly by the bike industry. Bike companies are constantly fiddling with brakes by changing ratios and designs that try to fix problems. However, like so many well-meaning engineering efforts, the lack of understanding about how things work has delivered us some less-than-satisfactory solutions over the years.

More reading here:
Arts Cyclery; Park Tool; Bike Forums; Cycling UK

Safe cycling a matter of political willpower and a change in values

March 23, 2017

A short stretch of Pruneridge Avenue in Santa Clara was restriped from two lanes to one in 2012.


San Jose Mercury News columnist Scott Herhold delves into the reasons why more cyclist don’t commute to work in today’s paper. The answer, he says, and as we all know, is that it’s not safe.

Robert Ford, the late mayor of Toronto, summed it up best when he said cyclists are “swimming with sharks.” He said that as downtown Toronto eliminated a bike lane, putting the cyclist even more at risk for being hit by a car.

I’m no longer a cyclist who believes that safe cycling is simply a matter of learning to ride your bike in traffic. I’ve concluded that the only way for there to be safer cycling is to separate bikes from cars. One way to do that is by putting some busy streets on a “road diet.” It’s a term many people disparage, myself included.

A great example of road restriping is Hedding Street in San Jose. It went from two lanes each direction to one lane with a center turn lane and wide bike lanes. I use it all the time and I feel safer here than on, let’s say, Pruneridge Avenue, the extension of Hedding through Santa Clara.

It’s not that Santa Clara doesn’t appreciate the value of this road restriping on Pruneridge. The city has the street listed for restriping in its 2009 bike master plan. However, these days it’s looking more and more like it won’t happen anytime soon.

The reason is pretty simple. It’s not politically popular, considering the hue and cry raised by the January 2012 restriping for a short distance on Pruneridge between Lawrence and Pomeroy. I guess the city decided it would dip its toe in the political water. It got burned. Lots of motorists complained.

I can see why. Lawrence is a huge bottleneck during commute hours. Cars stack up both sides of Pruneridge. I would have started at Hedding and worked my way west for the restriping.

While the complainers were loud and numerous, a study proved them wrong. Kimley-Horn Associates concluded that traffic volumes dipped by less than 5 percent after the restriping. Bicycle counts went way up, weekday usage increasing 350 percent. Admittedly, the numbers are small, but it means fewer cars on the road and that’s the lesson we need to take from the road diet.

Given a chance, restriping encourages more people to ride bikes to work and that means fewer cars on the road. If just 15 percent of all commuters biked to work you’d see a noticeable improvement in traffic.

The reason this matters now is because the new Apple campus is weeks away from opening. More commuters will be using Pruneridge. Wouldn’t you rather see those Apple employees riding bikes?

Mt. Hamilton Road repair underway

March 18, 2017

Mt. Hamilton Road is closed for repairs about 1.5 miles up from the Grandview Restaurant.

UPDATE (March 30, 2017): The road will be closed another 4 weeks. Don’t try to get by because there’s a cliff at the construction site. Caltran is building a steel-reinforced support wall and will fill it in with dirt before paving. A couple of mountain bikers didn’t take “no” for an answer and headed off-road down the steep embankment. It’s unknown what happened to them, but they didn’t come back up. At the bottom of the ravine there’s a creek and conceivably they could have taken Alum Rock Falls Road back to Alum Rock Park, or hiked uphill over to Grant Ranch Park’s dirt roads.

California state highway 130, otherwise known as Mt. Hamilton Road, is closed for repair about 1.5 miles up from the Grandview Restaurant. Estimated completion is six weeks from today.

Quimby Road is the only alternate route and believe me, you don’t want to take it.

A culvert got plugged or gave way and so went half of the road on the steep embankment’s eastern slope.

I can’t tell you if road crews work on Sundays or give any insight as to whether or not you can get through as the days go by. Right now though it’s impossible. There’s someone there at all times during construction assigned to keeping people out.

Mt. Hamilton Road is open up to the slide construction area, so you can still enjoy rides on Crothers and Clayton roads.

Brake hoods stretch with use

March 16, 2017

When the brake hood starts to shift to one side it’s time to replace.

Have you ever found your brake hood loose to one side? While riding?

Time for new ones. My Shimano Ultegra 6700 hoods lasted about 36,000 miles, 6 1/3 years. I’m a heavy user of the hoods since I do a lot of climbing and descending.

My only experience with gum hoods was Campagnolo Nuovo Record from the old days. They cracked with age. Shimano doesn’t crack, but when they’re loose they’re just as worthless as cracked Campagnolo.

It’s an easy fix that will set you back about $12. I just cut off the old ones. You’ll need some muscle to get the new ones on. Use some hand sanitizer for lubrication. Liquid soap, Dawn or the like, also works, but the sanitizer evaporates better.

The primary concern is with the rubber lip in the front. The little bumps inside fit into holes in the handle. There are MANY different styles. Some may overlap for use, but I didn’t want to take a chance so I found the exact match.

Spring weather favors Pescadero

March 13, 2017

Pescadero from Bean Hollow Road overlooking the flood zone.


I decided to check out Pescadero and the area after the recent flooding downtown. Pescadero Creek wraps around the town, so it’s always at risk during wet winters like this one.

Fortunately the damage was minor even with the downtown flooded. Dozens of families visited the town to enjoy a Spring day with plenty of sunshine and gentle breezes.

Having ridden Bean Hollow Road only once, I tried it again to get a better view of Pescadero below. The road, I believe, is part of the old Coast Highway, and it sure looks like an extension of Stage Road as it climbs quickly to a plateau where I found farmland in abundance.

Wildflowers on Haskins Hill.

The view did not disappoint. It’s a great place to see Pescadero.

I headed south on Hwy 1 to Gazos Creek Road. As you might expect, the road has plenty of sags and creek erosion of embankments. This is one of my favorite roads. Too bad it’s always at risk from the creek.

Finally, no ride report on Pescadero Road would be complete without mention of the Loma Mar store. It creeps toward completion. I’m wondering if it will be a private residence and a store, or just a residence?

Loma Mar store creeps toward completion.