Archive for the ‘Ride reports’ Category

Bike riding in the Big Apple

September 23, 2019

Williamsburg Bridge on a mild September day in NYC.


My plan was to visit Dave Perry, author of Bike Cult, who lives in Brooklyn near Williamsburg Bridge.

I’ve never visited New York City, but I’ve watched enough YouTube videos to have a good idea what it’s like riding a bike there, and getting around Manhattan where I was staying.

After touring the Statue of Liberty (a must see), I could rent a Citibike and pedal over the bridge, a five-mile ride.

With mild weather, there was nothing to prevent me from a quick trip to visit a Jobst Rider from way back (mid 1970s) who I had never met.

Dave lived in Palo Alto near Keith Vierra, Tom Ritchey, Bill Robertson, and others. He raced and had some success, but then Greg LeMond came along and gave all of these talented Northern California riders reason to pause. “And I thought I was hot stuff.”

I downloaded the Citibike app on my Android phone and proceeded to stumble through the registration process. That wasn’t so bad, but when it came time to unlock the bike, I had to read the instructions printed on the rack to figure out how to enter the five-digit code sent to my phone.

There is a keypad with “1, 2, 3” and LED lights next to each number. You punch in the combination to unlock the bike.

As soon as I pulled the bike out of the rack located in Battery Park, I knew I wasn’t going to be speeding around town. These bikes weigh about 45 pounds. They’ve got fenders, a bell on the left twist grip, and automatic-gear twist shifting on the right hand grip.

The seat was too high, so I lowered it using the convenient quick release. It could be difficult to adjust for someone with weak hands.

I shoved off and noticed the sluggish steering. At least the tires are wide and thick, because you wouldn’t want a flat.

Compared to riding in San Francisco, NYC has a lot going for it. There’s a comprehensive bicycle network, including protected bike paths on some streets.

I followed a bike path along the East River, although it doesn’t go all the way to Williamsburg Bridge. I had to take Clinton Street, but it has a protected bike lane.

There’s no relaxing while riding in NYC. I had to watch out for other riders, walkers, joggers, cars. Most cyclists knew what they were doing. The boldest of the bold weave in and out of traffic with a death wish.

They make a sport of it and hold races through Manhattan, which you can watch on YouTube.

I was just trying to keep out of everyone’s way and make it in one piece to my destination. It’s intimidating riding in crowded cities, especially when you’re old and riding an unresponsive tank. In my youth it wasn’t a concern.

Riding over the Williamsburg Bridge, I appreciated the lengths that the city went to to accommodate walkers and cyclists. It has a separate lane above the cars and next to the subway/train that whizzes by every few minutes.

I enjoyed the ride in mild weather and saw nice views, but I wondered what it would be like to deal with snow and ice.

The one comparison between the Bay Area and NYC that stands out is the kind of cyclists I see. In NYC it’s utilitarian riding with an assortment of bikes, no helmets. Riders are dressed in street clothing. I saw a young woman wearing stockings and a miniskirt.

Bike lane on 8th Avenue near Central Park, minus the bollards.


Downtown I witnessed something out of a magazine advertisement — a Wall Street “suit” riding on a Citibike!

In the Bay Area it’s all Lycra and Spandex, sunglasses, and shiny helmets.

I made it to my destination and had a brief conversation with Dave, who had been out riding. He looks fit.

After sharing memories of days gone by, I headed back the way I came, this time feeling more comfortable with the riding and the bike.

At least I didn’t get lost and survived the ride. The cost came to $13 for a 10-mile ride. The day pass is the best option. It can get expensive if you pay for a 30-minute ride and go over the time limit.

Considering the difficulties of getting around in Manhattan, riding a bike can be a good option in some situations.

Since car traffic was banned in Central Park, there has been an explosion of cycling here. However, that doesn’t mean it’s safe. There are daily bike-to-bike and bike-to-pedestrian accidents.

Best way to see Central Park is via a pedicab. Look for the guy who hails from Uzbekistan.

Pedicabs ply the streets of Manhattan, offering rides after Broadway shows, etc.

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.

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.

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.

Avenue of palms also a good bike route

May 20, 2019

If you’re headed to downtown San Jose, there’s no better route than Park Avenue and then Martin Avenue, where you can check out dozens of palm trees lining the bumpy street.

Martin has some of San Jose’s more eclectic homes dating back to the 1930s. It’s a good route to take to avoid The Alameda and its traffic.

If you do have to ride through downtown, going west to east, take San Fernando Street, which has a bike lane. The best, most direct route under the train tracks is Santa Clara Street.

Downtowns offer cyclists an opportunity to dodge a flurry of obstacles while sharpening their riding skills.

Martin Avenue in San Jose has plenty of charm with its many palms.

South bay reservoirs have something to hold

May 13, 2019

Agencies listed on the sign collaborated to make Blair Ranch public open space, near Uvas Road (ranching continues).


I hadn’t been south on McKean Road for two years, so I headed out to check the reservoirs and enjoy the scenery.

After a normal winter for rainfall, all the reservoirs are full, except Calero at 43 percent.

That reservoir, built in 1935, has earthquake stability issues, so it cannot be at more than 55 percent capacity.

Green hillsides are rapidly turning brown and the wildflower season is kaput.

McKean, which badly needed paving between Calero Park entrance and the Cinnabar Hills Golf Course, gave a smooth ride today, a welcome change.

I noticed lots of roadside garbage in normally pristine places. We’re drowning in garbage.

The good news for the day was a sign on Uvas Road indicating Blair Ranch has been added to Cañada Rancho del Oro Open Space Preserve.

Mind you, this transaction/donation happened back in 2007, but this is the first I’ve seen the sign.

The plan is to build a bridge over Llagas Creek in the Rancho parking area this year so access can begin to the 860-or-so acres of cattle ranch land.

Lots of photos can be seen on this website. It looks like it will give more room for mountain bikes to roam the hills on old ranch roads, but I’m not aware of any plans for trails being built.

This was my first time riding on Uvas Road, Oak Glen, McKean on a weekday. It’s a mixed bag. There’s more traffic up to Cinnabar Hills Golf Course, compared to a Sunday, but a little bit less in other areas.

In general, weekday drivers are in a hurry to get somewhere. It’s not so bad that way on Sundays.

Crystal Springs Reservoir bridge does it right

May 7, 2019

Crystal Springs Reservoir Bridge in 2019 and 2008.


Today I rode over to check out the new Crystal Springs Reservoir bridge, which has been under construction for about a million years.

It was finally open to the public on January 11. It was supposed to open in 2011. At the same time San Mateo County and other agencies opened a 0.8 mile extension of the Crystal Springs Trail.

The flat trail follows the reservoir shoreline, eliminating some hills on Skyline Boulevard, which also has traffic moving at 45-50 mph.

I dredged up some photos from 2008 when I was last there. The reservoir remains the same, but it’s seven feet higher now.

It’s really worth a visit, especially considering Cañada Road is closed to cars every Sunday, except holidays. Does that include Mother’s Day? Call the Bicycle Sunday Hotline at (650)361-1785 on the day of the event for an update.

There’s a transition on Hwy 92 for a short distance to reach Skyline Boulevard, which requires caution. On weekends it’s usually a zoo here as motorists drive to Half Moon Bay and the coast. It’s also busy on weekdays. The good news is that there’s a new layer of asphalt and striping.

The Cañada Road/Skyline Boulevard route is probably the best way to get to San Francisco by bike, although it’s not great. I’ve ridden to San Francisco from Palo Alto and Santa Clara a half-dozen times.

It would be nice if we had a bike path all the way, but it’s not quite there.

The big downer is the Hwy 1/Skyline Boulevard interchange with its cloverleaf. It’s a nasty stretch of merging cars going fast.

There are alternatives next to the interchange, although they involve more hills. I’ve always stayed on Skyline.

Those days of riding to San Francisco ended in 2009.

New section of Crystal Springs Trail, opened in 2014 or so according to the sign.

Haul Road Memories

April 30, 2019

Beautiful day on the Old Haul Road. Note the colorful new trail sign next to the old brown.


I didn’t sign up for this — 48 degrees and a strong breeze that gave me the shivers on Skyline Boulevard.

But it was Monday, time for a longer ride. There’s no worse experience than descending at high speed while shivering. Must be something wrong with the bike.

Nope. It’s just the body creating disharmony.

As I descended Portola State Park Road, its steepness reminded me of why I haven’t ridden up it in 20 years. Only for the crazies.

The descent has its appeal. I coasted into the park, riding past the headquarters, crossing a creek bridge and turning right for the access road to the Old Haul Road, as I have been doing since 1980.

I arrived at the new steel bridge and took the obligatory photo of Pescadero Creek where Jobst Brandt always lamented the absence of big fish.

Jobst steered dozens of us his way onto the Haul Road, which today would be the wrong way. We turned left after climbing the hideously steep access road past Iverson’s Cabin (gone) onto the Haul Road.

In three-tenths of a mile we arrived at a gate (never took photos there) and continued on our way to the fabled Gate 10 road. Today it has decorative road signs to guide the logging trucks, but back then you had to know your way around.

Never photographed, the end of public access to the Haul Road going east.


It’s no ride for the faint of heart. We faced three miles of unrelenting climbing on a dirt road that could be muddy or dusty. It had sections of 16 percent, probably more in places.

When we rolled up to Gate 10, it meant the hard riding was over (Gate 10 was gone in 2009). Time for a celebration photo. Jobst took many over the years.

Hard riding to Gate 10, around 1977. Jim Westby, (rider hidden), Smokey, Rick Humphreys. (Jobst Brandt photo)


These rides drew Gary Fisher, Tom Ritchey and other elite competitive riders. No doubt the rides inspired them to pursue their dreams of winning races, building the ideal off-road bikes.

Gate 10 ride about 1977. ?, Keith Vierra, ?, Marc Brandt, Peter Johnson, Gary Fisher, Bill Robertson, Tom Holmes, ? (Jobst Brandt photo).


Why the Gate 10 route? Jobst liked to avoid Highway 9. He preferred off-road riding whenever possible to reach a destination — Big Basin Redwoods State Park in this situation.

Celebrating the climb at Gate 10 circa 1981, Ted Mock, Keith Vierra, Dave McLaughlin, Sterling McBride, Dave Zanotti, Tom Ritchey, John Pinaglia. (Jobst Brandt photo)

Jobst scoffed at the notion of a mountain bike, but he was like that. He figured a road bike was good enough.

You’re not welcome here now. The signs say it all. It wasn’t as bad back then, but Jobst and his cadre hid from the logging trucks on rare occasions.

One of these days the Haul Road might be open to the public, extending from Highway 9 to Pescadero Creek Road. It’s going to take a lot of negotiating and public pressure, but it could happen.

I turned around and headed northwest toward Loma Mar. Note that Pescadero Creek County Park added new trail signage. Bridge Trail is now Baker Fire Road. They need to update their online map.

Over the years the road has seen its share of trauma from heavy rains. This past winter left the road rutted in places, but otherwise in good shape.

At Loma Mar I greeted the bearded fellow, Steve, doing all the hard work to build a fabulous new Loma Mar Store, soon to open. It has been closed for eons.

Jobst liked to stop here and talk with previous owner Roger Siebecker. Roger was also a volunteer fireman, and on more than one occasion, helped Jobst Riders who had taken hard falls, most notably the Wurr Road Bridge disaster.

I continued on up Highway 84 and Old La Honda Road to check out the slide. Still no repair underway, but the road is open for bikes.

Riding southeast on Skyline Boulevard the temps turned favorable as I ground my way back to Saratoga Gap. The temporary road repair past Horseshoe Lake has a stoplight. It could be a while before it’s permanently fixed.

At the end of my ride I reflected on the day’s effort and counted myself lucky that I could still do all the climbing. It doesn’t get easier with age.

Old Haul Road map

Mt. Hamilton blows on Monday

April 22, 2019

Lick Observatory summit on a clear day. Nothing beats it in the South Bay, except Mt. Umunhum.


Nothing beats a ride up Mt. Hamilton on a weekday, although Sundays are a close second. Not much traffic.

I started from Alum Rock Avenue about 8 a.m. in time to greet the commuters living on Mt. Hamilton Road rushing to work. For the first several miles there’s a fair amount of cars, but traffic thins out after that.

I noticed county crews clearing chamise (greasewood) across from the Grant Lake parking lot in Grant Ranch County Park. Don’t quote me on the type of bush, but it looks like chamise.

In the past, wild pigs rooted around in this area.

The crews certainly wouldn’t be doing controlled burns on a day like today with high winds in play.

I enjoyed mostly tailwinds climbing to the summit where 25 mph gusts made for shaky standing at the observatory parking lot.

On the way up I did my civic duty by tossing large rocks off the road and saved a young bull snake from certain death by car wheels. The critter refused to budge as it sunned itself on the road.

Three miles from the summit. Glorious views.


Considering the cool breeze, it took a while to wake the snake from its torpor.

In the last section before turning up the observatory road, Caltrans workers were installing a large culvert, which is always good to see. Preventative maintenance pays off.

I counted my blessings that I can still ride to the summit in this my 40th year.

My numbers pale in comparison to Jobst Brandt, who holds the record for most 100-mile loop rides around Mt. Hamilton. Starting around 1957 he must have done well over 120 rides, ending the tradition when he was in his 70s.

Mt. Hamilton Road opened in 1877 to immense fanfare as more than 5,000 valley residents flocked to the summit for a grand celebration. Here’s a view of the road in 1876, shortly before it opened. I don’t know the location.

First Cyclists
As reported in the Oakland Tribune, the first cyclists to the summit were Ralph Coxhead and Al Bouton of Oakland, Jan. 1, 1888, on safety bikes.

Imagine a modern mountain bike bombing down that dirt road right after it opened. If only we had time machines.

Mt. Hamilton Road in 1876 looking more like a mountain bike trail than a road.