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.


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)

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.

Cheating old age

July 29, 2018

Bean Creek Road has it all for remote country roads. Cool and refreshing in the morning.


Yes, I took a bus to Scotts Valley this morning so I could enjoy my ride. That means fewer miles.

In the days of yore, we’d ride from Palo Alto over to the coast, then back up Mountain Charlie Road, Summit Road, Skyline. It was a long day. Jobst Brandt led the way and kept things interesting.

Taking the Highway 17 Express from Diridon Station was a close thing. It carries three bikes. I was bike number three. A fourth rider wasn’t allowed to bring on his bike. Rules are rules.

I can’t tell you how much more enjoyable it is riding up steep roads with fresh legs. I could enjoy the climbs without suffering.

Silo house on Mountain Charlie Road.


After the Mountain Charlie Road climb, I can say with certainty that the hardest part is the section before the blue silo house. The Old Japanese Road section is not as difficult.

Summit Road has some stiff climbs, but they’re a shade easier than Mountain Charlie, topping out at 15 percent. The first 0.4 miles after leaving the Bear Creek Road junction have been paved, long sections of guardrail added and hillsides reinforced.

One of the reasons I like this ride is the lack of car traffic. It’s sparse, but I’m seeing more cars than I did 30 years ago.

The real problem with cars in the Santa Cruz Mountains is Highway 9, which has become a gateway road where all the traffic goes. Castle Rock State Park is the biggest magnet. Parking lots keep expanding along Skyline.

I headed down Hwy 9, but if you’re planning on turning left onto Redwood Gulch Road or Pierce Road, hope for a break in traffic. It’s bad enough now that there’s no guarantee you can make a safe turn.

A grim reminder that Mountain Charlie Road needs ongoing maintenance.


All of this reminds me of Marin County and Panoramic Highway. If you want to see the future on Hwy 9, this is it. Panoramic Hwy is lined with cars for miles, everyone trying to get to Muir Woods.

Looking out to the Pacific Ocean and a layer of brown haze reminded me of how lucky we are here. Forest fires are a rarity in the Santa Cruz Mountains, thanks to the fog. Let’s hope it stays that way.

You’re gonna need a bigger parking lot

July 21, 2018

Skyline Boulevard road repair south of Castle Rock State Park. Looks nice.


On what is becoming an increasingly rare occasion, I made it up to Skyline Boulevard to check out the road. This being a Saturday, I didn’t have much hope for minimal traffic, and I was right.

Weekend traffic is becoming so bad on Hwy 9 that the break in car platoons is becoming less and less frequent. So where are these people driving to and who are they? They’re hikers and cyclists going to recreate in our mountain parks.

If I had my way, I’d ban cars in the Santa Cruz Mountains, except for local residents, and make everyone headed to a park take a shuttle bus.

Which leads me to the new visitor center under construction at Castle Rock State Park. Not that I’m against it, but they’re gonna need a bigger parking lot. Visitors are already unable to find parking on weekends. It’s only going to get worse.

Castle Rock State Park’s new parking lot and visitor center under construction.


I headed to see the Skyline Boulevard public works project a mile or so beyond the park. It’s a masterpiece of road repair where a year and a half ago heavy rains washed away the road. I’m sure a culvert was involved. They always are. It looks like it was designed against such a catastrophe. There are actually two repairs, a smaller one close to Las Cumbres.

I heard there was also some public works going on at McKenzie Reservoir, so I headed down that way on Black Road. Sure enough, the road has been smoothed out from lots of heavy truck traffic. San Jose Water is doing something to improve the reservoir’s outlet. The water level is low, although I’ve seen it even lower.

McKenzie Reservoir is undergoing maintenance to improve outlet structures that meet dam safety standards.


Finally, the last public works project was a couple of slides fixed on Sanborn Road.

Road repairs continue from the previous winter’s storms. Schulties Road, I’m told, is being fixed, but I haven’t heard about Redwood Lodge Road’s slide. Cyclists can still walk through, but cars can’t make it.

I’ve only mentioned a few roads that took a hit in the El Niño storms two winters ago. Santa Cruz County has pics of all the damaged roads in a PDF file.

Angel Island no picnic

July 20, 2018

Nice view of San Francisco from south side of Angel Island.


I don’t know where I got the idea, but I always assumed the paved road circling Angel Island was flat. Wrong.

A visit to the island made my bucket list, so we headed for Tiburon to pick up the ferry; it’s a 10-minute ride to the island, which costs $15, plus $1 for hauling the bike. Tiburon is preferable to San Francisco when driving from a distance.

I considered renting a bike, but the cost of the rental, around $50, convinced me the logistical inconvenience was worth it. However, if you’re interested in renting an electric bike, this is a good time to try one out.

With beautiful weather, the bay crossing couldn’t have been smoother. We exited the ferry and I started riding on the fairly steep and unpaved single-track trail that climbs up to the perimeter road. It’s not a very friendly route for a tourist.

What’s odd is that there’s a paved road at the wharf that goes to the perimeter road. I’m guessing the park service doesn’t want to deal with yahoos blasting down the steep paved road into crowds of tourists.

I took a clockwise route so that the view of San Francisco and the Golden Gate Bridge would be my reward on this five-mile loop.

There’s a climb of about 7 percent for a ways before the road levels near the immigration station. A lot of history comes with the island, but I won’t bore you with the details.

The road begins climbing once past the somber-looking buildings of Fort McDowell. The south side of the island has the steep spots. I didn’t sign up for a 16 percent grade, but that’s what I read on my Garmin. It’s followed by a steep descent.

The best views of San Francisco are at the Battery Drew pullout, followed by Battery Ledyard. Skies were clear, so I enjoyed the spectacle.

In less than an hour I finished the loop, after another descent. I didn’t check out the dirt road higher up that circles the island, but based on what I saw of it, it’s best suited for a mountain bike.

While the ride itself is no picnic, I can recommend Angel Island as a place for a picnic.

Maybe in another dimension where bikes rule the land, this island is the site of a bike race. I can see that happening. It would be an interesting course.

View of Angel Island using a heightmap.