Homeless encampments a fire hazard

July 20, 2019

A grass fire consumed most of a homeless encampment at the Guadalupe River Trail and Hwy 237.


When you think about it, humans were all homeless fifty thousand years ago. We’ve come a long way since the stone age, but homelessness still has its place in our society.

A scorched field next to a homeless encampment along the Guadalupe River trail at Hwy 237 brought this sad reality into focus once again during my bike ride.

The grass fire broke out Thursday afternoon around 2:30, cause unknown. KPIX 5 has some footage, no audio.

I reported this encampment to San Jose officials in December 2017, but what can they do?

Meanwhile, there’s also dredging underway along the river that will close the trail occasionally near Montague Expressway. The other side of the river has a dirt road that can be used during closures.

I hope the dredging takes into account all the turtles living in this location. I’ve seen more than a dozen at a time along the shore.

Marin Museum of Bicycling pedals history

July 3, 2019

A velocipede built around 1865, from the Ralph Igler collection.


I have to admit I’m a fan of history, so a visit to the Marin Museum of Bicycling had me from the get-go.

The museum opened four year ago in Fairfax, a town at the foot of Mt. Tamalpais in woodsy Marin County.

This location is sacred ground for the first mountain bike, and just about everyone involved in fostering the pastime and perfecting the bike technology still lives nearby.

Let’s start with Joe Breeze, museum curator, and his wife Connie. The other board members are Ojeda Bodington, Lena Maria Estrella, and Marc Vendetti. Breeze built the first “modern” mountain bike frame in 1977.

I’m not going to try to mention everyone involved with running the museum, because it’s a long list — all volunteers, including the board.

For details about what’s inside, I’ll refer you to their website and a YouTube video.

A curator is usually available to give a guided tour. The museum promotes the Mountain Bike Hall of Fame and an extensive collection of historic and one-of-a-kind bikes, but not just mountain bikes.

Breeze, who happened to be on site, expressed pride in having some of Ralph Igler’s bike collection.

That brought back memories. I met Igler in 1988 when I had a bicycle column with the San Francisco Chronicle. He lived in Palo Alto.

He invited me to see his collection — dozens of bikes stored in his modest-sized ranch house. He had bikes in every room but the kitchen and bathrooms.

This wasn’t a hoarding situation, rather, well organized and neatly arranged artifacts with documented histories.

I wrote a column about Ralph’s passion, published in September 1988. Breeze hadn’t seen the article, so I sent him a copy.

Breeze revealed that the museum came about after he worked with the San Francisco International Airport to create a mountain bike history mural.

“The artwork you see here was donated after the display ended,” Breeze said. A few years later they opened the museum in a former grocery store in downtown Fairfax.

I saw that mountain bike history mural, located in the international terminal, while on a trip to the Philippines.

Next time you’re north of the Golden Gate Bridge, stop by and see the museum. It’s open Thursday – Sunday, 11 a.m. – 5 p.m.

Mountain bike mural at SFO in 2012.

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.

Saratoga’s brick road has that Paris-Roubaix feel

June 8, 2019

Saratoga’s brick road can be ridden on Austin Way, just off Los Gatos-Saratoga Road.


Next time you’re cycling to Los Gatos from Saratoga on Los Gatos-Saratoga Road (Hwy 9), and you’re interested in riding “the bricks,” turn right on Austin Way.

It’s also called Heritage Lane. The brick portion goes for several hundred yards. I was going to post a video but the footage was so shaaakkkyyyy that I decided against it.

I don’t know the road’s history other than the brick has been in place for about a century. This was the main road back in the early 1900s. Hwy 9 was straightened to its present alignment in the 1920s or so.

Peninsular Railway, an electric car line, ran by here in the early 1900s. Throughout the day, passengers could take the light rail between Los Gatos and Palo Alto, service ending around 11 p.m.

Southern Pacific ran its steam trains on the same track. Peninsular folded in 1930.

I don’t know the exact alignment of the rails, but it generally followed Los Gatos-Saratoga Road.

The road has several hills that would make it difficult for a train, but back then they built trestles to level things out.

Pruneridge sees 50 cyclists during 2-hour survey

June 4, 2019

Cyclist pedals to work on Tuesday. Note that one ear bud is OK, but not two.


Is 50 cyclists riding to work on Pruneridge Avenue in a two-hour time span a lot or a little? It depends on who you ask.

My informal survey took place this morning (Tuesday) from 6:43 a.m. – 9 a.m. at the corner of Pruneridge and Pomeroy Avenue. That’s a T-intersection. Perfect cycling weather.

A local grade school was in session, but I didn’t see a single child riding to school. That’s understandable. Pruneridge is recommended for experienced riders.

I counted only 30 cyclists on Hedding a couple of years ago in another informal survey. However, it was colder than today and it had rained.

I also counted pedestrians on Pruneridge/Pomeroy, which totaled 55.

All but four cyclists were westbound on Pruneridge. My guess is that most cyclists were headed to the Apple HQ.

Most of the Pomeroy traffic turned right onto Pruneridge.

This section of Pruneridge has a Class IIB bicycle lane, from Pomeroy to Tantau. It’s made possible by reducing two-way traffic from four to two lanes.

As I watched traffic, I thought to myself. “This is a lot safer than two-lane streets with no bike lanes,” which is true for Pruneridge between Pomeroy and Winchester.

Traffic backs up from the lights at Lawrence Expressway. I observed peak traffic at 8:40 a.m. I’m sure the light cycled once for some cars. However, it wasn’t as bad as drivers like to complain about.

We have absolutely no reason to complain about traffic here. It’s a million times worse in any large Asian, African, and many European cities.

Back to Pruneridge. According to the 2018 Santa Clara bicycle plan update, it is number two on a priority list for bicycle street improvements, behind the number one priority of a separate bikeway on El Camino Real.

What’s envisioned is an extension of the Class IIB buffered bicycle lane to close the gap between Winchester and Pomeroy.

Will it happen? We’ll have to wait and see. I have my doubts. The opportunity presented itself last year when Pruneridge was repaved. The public was asked what it wanted in the way of improvements. The Class IIB lanes didn’t materialize.

It’s too bad there isn’t another street with as direct a route as Pruneridge. Forbes Avenue comes close, but it has terrible light sequencing that dissuades cycling there.

I’ve also found that with all the parked cars and “speed limit 25” signs planted in the middle of the street, it doesn’t feel any safer than Pruneridge.

A little trivia regarding the survey: I saw one e-bike, one recumbent. A squirrel survived its dash across the street.

One rider, with a child carrier on back (no child), was on the phone while pedaling. It takes all kinds.

Drivers have their issues as well. A jeep blasted down the center turn lane at high speed, no doubt frustrated by the road diet.

So, what do you think about 50 cyclists riding to work? How many cyclists would it take before you believed the road diet was having a positive impact on reducing car traffic? Or is 50 enough?

Hwy 84 straightening marked progress back in the day

May 31, 2019

Western exit for the abandoned section of Hwy 84, and MROSD trail access


As the automobile gained a stranglehold on the American psyche, California road planners responded in the 1960s with freeway proposals that sound crazy today, like Highway 84.

On the Pacific Coast side, Hwy 84 is known as the two-lane La Honda Road, winding through pastoral farmland and woodsy nooks where redwoods reign.

Thankfully the Hwy 84 freeway scheme got shelved along with a dozen other crazy freeway proposals, but efforts were made to straighten Hwy 84.

The straightening I know about (there may be others) occurred sometime between 1955 and 1968, according to USGS topo maps. If anybody knows a more exact date, please let us know.

Old Hwy 84 alignment in 1955, map on right, and after straightening, 1968.

Jobst Brandt pointed out the straightened section decades ago during a ride. I finally got around to taking a photo. It’s at milepost 5.50.

What’s interesting is that this section of abandoned road, a mere quarter-mile, is used by Midpeninsula Regional Open Space District. Signage is visible from the road behind a gate.

It turns out this land is part of the La Honda Creek Open Space Preserve, kind of. The land where the old road runs is still privately owned, but there’s equestrian only trail access to Harrington Creek Trail from here. Use permit required.

Hikers wanting to visit Harrington Creek Trail start at the staging area off Sears Ranch Road. Bikers, you’re out of luck. There’s no access to this preserve, a lot of which is still a working ranch.

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.

Shimano Ultegra hubs give me the shimmies

May 14, 2019

Shimano Ultegra hubs, not so easy to adjust.


If Campagnolo made one product well, it had to be their Nuovo Record hubs. Mine are still going strong after 40 years of hard use.

What I like most about the hubs is their ability to be adjusted precisely with relative ease using hub wrenches.

I’m old-fashioned when it comes to hubs. I prefer unsealed bearings, although if I had it to do over again, I’d probably cave and go with sealed hubs, just for their convenience.

During maintenance, after installing new bearings and adding grease, there’s the final step of adjusting the bearing race. It’s an acquired skill, but once you’ve got it down, it’s easy.

The key is to tighten it such that the bearings don’t have too much play inside the hub, but not so tight that the bearings are binding.

Test for looseness: After installing the wheel and locking the quick release, try to wiggle the rim side to side. If there’s any play, it’s too loose.

Test for tightness: Spin the wheel and see if the hub turns freely for a fairly long time before coming to a stop. It should turn for quite a few revolutions before stopping.

Ideally, the wheel will rock back and forth at the valve stem before stopping, but that’s difficult to achieve. Consider yourself the bike repair whisperer.

The problem I have with my Ultegra hubs is that they’re hard to adjust. They don’t give me the same tactile feedback I got from the Campagnolo hubs during adjustment.

I recently serviced the Ultegra hubs (for about the fifth time), but during descents I noticed squirrely steering. The bike seemed to wander.

Sure enough, the hubs were a bit loose. I could rock the rim back and forth. It’s not much, but it doesn’t take much to notice wheel wobble. I needed lots of trial and error to get a good adjustment.

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.