Thursday, November 29, 2012

AIDS/Lifecycle 12 Fundraising Letter #2

            Hey there, I hope your Holiday weekend went well.  I know mine did, I must have read for 15 hours, at least.  Stephen King, wordy writer. 

There is another holiday coming up, one that does not get nearly as much media attention and love as Thanksgiving, Black Friday, or even Cyber Monday.  This Saturday, December 1st, is World AIDS Day.  There isn’t a better time to show your support to help end this global killer than now by donating to a great cause, AIDS/Lifecycle.

            Long story short, on June 2nd-8th, 2013, I will be riding my bike, with 2,500 other riders and 500 volunteer support staff, 545 miles over 7 days from The Cow Palace in San Francisco to The Vet Center in Los Angeles.  Our goal is to raise money for HIV/AIDS research, support, education and awareness.  My personal goal is to raise $5,000 by June, $1,500 of that before December 31st.

            That’s where you come in.  Your donation is tax deductible, so for those of you looking for an end of the year charity to donate to, this is a great one.  Any amount works, $5, $50, or $500.  Somewhere, someone will benefit significantly from your generosity.  Ever dollar counts, every dollar directly saves lives.  Both to folks living with HIV/AIDS now, and those who might contract it in the future. 

            There is also an incentive for donors:  To commemorate World AIDS Day, donate at least $125 dollars by December 1st and receive a free commemorative World AIDS Day magnet!

            Donating is simple.  Just click this link, also located at the top and bottom of this message, to go to my personal donation page.  From there, click on “Donate to Support Erik” to make your donation.  From that page, if you so desire, you can also download a mail in order form to fill out to donate by mail. 

            Again, thank you all so much in advance for any support you can show for this wonderful cause!  And please, pass this message on to anyone who might be interested.  The more people we get involved, the better!

            Thank you!

                        Erik Dabel
                        Rider #3492

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Davis Double Century

            Well, the Davis Double is in the books.  Some good parts, some bad parts, some things I’ve learned that I need to improve or simply totally change, and some things I will just have to put up with.  Let’s start with numbers:

208.1 miles (4.5 bonus miles, I’ll get to that)
15:11:07 total time, 12:45:04 time on bike
9,560 feet climbed
9,972 calories used
Leg #2 of my California Triple Crown in the books

            The night before, check in was at a park in Davis, right next to the US Cycling Hall of Fame.  I got to say hello to a couple of old school heroes, folks that got me not just interested, but head over heals addicted to, the sport of cycling.  Here's Ned Overend, one of the best of all time.  Now at 57 years old, he still schools young folks in off road endurance races.

I elected to pay for an all-you-can-eat pasta feed at the Cycling HOF, and I did.  While I was eating and people watching at the park, I overheard some folks talking to the owner of a tandem that was parked right outside the building.  Apparently, this guy was going to ride the Davis Double on a tandem with his 12 year old daughter.  I thought that was awesome, and then he said this year would be their 3rd year!  She was more of a grizzled vet than I was!

As he was talking to folks, she was off running around like any 12 year old would, running on the grass, exploring the jungle gym, and doing cartwheels.  All of this in cycling cleats, you could hear the usual click-click-click as she did cartwheels. 

            But she was all about it.  She had her whole set up on the back side of her dad’s tandem, and she was a vet.  She knew it all.  Awesome.

            The next morning, the ride started off great.  I was rolling out from the start just after 5:30, and I forced myself into a long, relaxed warm up.  It felt great, even in the cold.  The beginning of the ride was on long, flat, straight roads, so I took it easy knowing it would be a LONG day. 

           I started to feel like I wanted to pick it up, so I made the decision to hook onto the next tandem that passed.

            Tandems are interesting on these kinds of rides, especially in the flats.  I could feel like I’m cranking out a great tempo, absolutely flying, and a tandem can suddenly appear on my left, passing me 5-10 mph faster, with anywhere between 5 and 50 riders drafting behind it.  So, they say the best way to do a double is to find a tandem and hook right on. 

            Before long I get passed by a tandem in that early morning cold, and when the train already drafting it finally passes me, I hook on.  I’m maybe number 25 or 30 on the train, and we’re doing 25-30 mph.  A little fast for me, I had to struggle to hold on at times and that may have effected me later when I got to the mountains, but it was still fun!

            Then we reached Cobb Mountain.  I was not expecting that.  2000 feet of elevation gain in about 6 miles.  They said the grade doesn’t get much more that 8%, but I don’t believe them.  It had to get up to 10-12%, upwards of 15% in some spots.  For 6 miles.  Did I mention it was A) miles 96-104, and B) already well over 90 degrees?  Someone said it was between 95 and 97.  Yeah, Cobb Mountain hurt.

            Next came the descent, which is my forte.  I pass folks, but also got passed some climbing, and in the flats, because I ride solo and at my own pace.  Descending, it’s game on.  I don’t get passed descending.  I didn’t get passed descending all day at the Davis Double, or earlier this year at the Solvang Double.  I would have to think about the last time I did get passed.  Maybe not yet this year. 

            I think I frustrated some folks as well, they would work and work and work to catch and pass me going up, and once over the top I would catch, pass, and have a ¼ mile gap by the bottom of a small hill. 

            This is also where I may or may not have made a large mistake.  I passed a group descending, came around a corner and saw a sign pointing to a right turn.  I had seen these particular signs several times pointing the same direction my cue sheet told me to go, so I made a split second decision, signaled right and went for it. 

Two guys followed. 

About two miles down that road, without seeing anyone else in any direction, I started second guessing myself and my decision to turn.  So I told the other guys I didn’t think this was right, and we went back and sure enough, it was a wrong turn.  I’m glad I noticed and was able to catch one of the guys that had passed me, the second guy was still with me.  That would have been bad.  I felt horrible, so I tried to convince myself that I at least partially redeemed myself from the wrong turn by also figuring it out and minimizing our losses.  I don’t think the other two guys were all that stoked.

            After Cobb Mountain the rest of the day was a game in ignoring, and dealing with, pain.  Everything hurt.  I probably overate at lunch, so that didn’t help.  My back hurt, my right side felt like I pulled a muscle and would scream at me every time I breathed in, my legs where al dente, my neck hurt, my shoulders hurt, and my feet hurt so bad that later I would have to stop a few times to rest them.

            Then came Resurrection.  900 feet up in about 5 miles.  But it was consistent and not as steep over all as Cobb.  This was my kind of climb.  Get in a groove, get a good song in the head, sit and spin.  Even at mile 136 it wasn’t too bad.  I could even push my groove some.  And before I knew it I was at the top and ready to kill another descent.

            The rest of the day was a game of trying to relax and stay comfortable, keep my cadence up, and deal with excruciating pain.  The pain in my feet, in particular my left foot, got so bad at times I simply couldn't pedal.  I would un-clip, stretch it, bend it, point it, clip back in a keep going.  It’s all I could do.

            Now, at this point the route was following Cache Creek.  It looked amazing.  Cold, clear, beautiful water.  For about 20+ miles I watched the creek on my right and thought about stopping.  I kept looking for a good spot to pull over and dunk my feet and head, hoping in the process to see others who where doing the same thing.  Never did….

            HOWEVER…  I got to the next rest stop in Guinda at their little fire station, and what do I see?  KIDDIE POOLS!  Two of them, full of cold water and surrounded by chairs, many of which where already occupied by barefoot riders talking about the same thoughts I had:  Of stopping to dunk feet and head in Cache Creek.

            I did this for about 20 minutes while Facebooking. 

            A few more miles and we were out of the hills, back on the long, flat, straight roads of the central valley farmlands.  40 miles to go, and I was feeling pretty done.  A bit heat exhaustion, probably some dehydration, cramping feet, a left foot that screamed every pedal stroke, a right rib that did the same on every breath, legs that felt weaker then the spaghetti I had for dinner the night before. They were well beyond al dente at this point. 

            But I would keep pushing.  I hooked on to a few trains passing here and there to draft and get a short respite from the wind, but I’m more of a solo rider, so after a few miles I would tail off, get comfy on my aero bars, (In my head I call them my La-Z-Boy) and regain my rhythm. 

            And then I saw it.  Just a simple little sign, but it was enough to lift the spirits and keep them high and happy all the way in. 

            All in all, the Davis Double was pretty amazing.  Some of the roads absolutely sucked, like they had not been paved in 30 years.  Some were awesome.  The scenery was amazing, and I actually like riding in the heat, so that was fine.  And, now that I know what to expect, if I plan to do it next year, I’ll have a much better and easier time.

            I’ll just make sure not to try to draft the fastest tandem train of the day in the first 25 miles. 

A few notes:
I need inserts for my cycling shoes.  That pain is not something I can deal with again.
I need a new seatpost so I can move my saddle forward and alleviate some stress on my sides and back, as well as my knees.
I need to trust my hydration and food schedules.  No more sandwiches for lunch.  Fruit only.  Hammer to do the rest.  That turkey sammich hurt…
Don’t hook onto the first train that flies past.  Wait for one my speed.

           Now all I need to do is figure out what will be my third Triple Crown ride.  It's looking more and more like it will have to be a climbing double, so I guess it's about time to hit the mountains and start training!

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Todays' Rant: Earphones

-Sorry if this offends any of you.

/start rant

I regularly ride on the Los Alamitos Creek Trail in Almaden for a short time, under 2 miles, between Camden Avenue and Almaden Lake.  It’s either that or ride on Almaden Expressway, which I am not a fan of.  However:

I am so sick and tired of seeing every other person on multi-use trails with headphones stuffed into not one, but both, ears.  There’s a very good reason this is illegal while driving (or cycling, yes it is) on the road, and I am a strict believer that it should also be illegal for all users on multi-use and wilderness trails as well.

It’s not just that these folks have both ears plugged, taking them away from the scenery and beauty of simply being outside.  There are responsible ways to use them, i.e. having a bud in one ear, so the other can keep track of outside sounds.  I see many people doing this.  Great.  Even having them turned way down but in each ear doesn’t really work, since not only is there music, albeit soft, but both ears are plugged.  Even with the music off, having something in each ear still blocks sound, creating a dangerous situation.

On a track or at the gym, fine, there is little to no danger of being passed by folks moving at much higher speeds, and for the most part everyone is going the same direction and there aren’t line-of-sight problems or issues.

My pet peeves about these damned things lie in the irresponsible ways many people use them. 

Parents/Pet owners:

People with headphones in both ears with children or pets.  Seriously.  I see this quite regularly.  And when I see it, I am dumbfounded every time.  It’s unbelievable how irresponsible and dangerous that is.  If you're out walking your pet, or out for a walk with small children, you are in charge of their safety.  How can you possibly do that without being able to hear past your own earlobe? 

Kids, and obviously, animals, don’t understand the rules or dangers of using a multi-use trail, so it's the job of the adult with them to pay extra attention to what's going on, where other users are passing in either direction, and what their kids are doing.

For this very reason, I once had to bunny-hop a poodle, because the owner didn’t hear me call out, and the dog darted out in front of me just as I passed.  

Sudden Mergers:

If you're going to make a lane change on the road in your car, you would look first, yeah?  At least to make sure there isn't a car right there?  So many folks out on these trails randomly pull into the left lane with no warning, without looking, no signal, no glance back, or forward for that matter, they just suddenly go for it.  For whatever reason, to pass someone slower, to look at a flower or stream out to the left, whatever.  My favorites are the people with headphones stuffed in that merge into the passing lane after I have called out "On your left", and then get mad at me at the ensuing near collision.  

Or simply people that can't walk a straight line.  Wandering all around the trail, left to right, back to left, over to center, suddenly stopping, then going again in who-knows-what direction.  Of course, with their ears full.  Um, wow.


Wearing earphones and walking down the middle of the trail.  Really?  Are you assuming you're the only person out here?  That no one could possibly be going faster and thusly might want to pass?  There are reasons there are signs posted at every trail entrance that talk about STAYING TO THE RIGHT!  I’ve been stuck behind these people as well, with bushes overgrown on both sides and some jerk walking down the middle of the path with music blasting in both ears.  I yell, more than once, “On your left!” and “TRAIL!” but it does nothing.  Finally I pass very slowly on their left, squeezing between them and nature, and after scaring the piss out of them, they give me an angry glare.  A few times they even say something.  Like it was my fault they were blocking the entire trail.

The Oblivious:

Having ear buds/phones turned up so damn loud the listener can’t hear anything outside of them.  I yell “On your left!” as loud as I can, and sometimes people don’t hear me, even after a second or third calling, and are startled when I pass.  Several times the person has been so startled after not hearing me call out that they stumble or jump, endangering themselves as well as me.  If I can actually hear your music through your ear buds as I pass you, they are WAY too high. 

To all these people I now have a ritual. Whenever I call out and then pass someone with headphones in who is then startled or says something to that effect as I pass, as soon as I am in front of them, I sit up, take both hands off the bars, and imitate me taking something out of both ears.  Overdramatic, overacted, and exaggerated, of course. Maybe eventually they’ll get the message.  Probably not.

Today's Examples:

Hell, just today in the 1.5ish miles I'm actually on the trail, I saw 3 people, all with buds in both ears, walking down the center of the path.  Right along the dotted yellow line.  2 of them heard me, although one of them I startled.  The third person did not, even after I called out a louder, closer second time.  He jumped as I passed. 

Then there was the two cyclists, riding together, each with buds in both ears.  Really?  Riding with someone else and you still have to have your ears full?  Whatever.  Had to call out to them 3 times and one of them still didn't hear, as they rode side by side taking the whole trail. I had to sneak up next to them, and then they finally let me pass.

Then there was the group of moms pushing strollers coming straight at me from the other direction.  OK, they didn’t have buds or earphones in at all, but they were taking up the entire trail, side to side, three wide, all the while making eye contact with me as I rolled towards them, never budging an inch to give me room.  To the dirt I went. 

And how about the runner running the wrong direction?  The signs say all users need to stay right for a reason.  Not like it mattered, she had buds in both ears, and even going the opposite direction and running straight toward me in the same lane, I don’t think she saw me until the last second when she looked up from the ground for some random reason.  And no, she still didn't bother to move. 

Sometimes, people amaze me.  I’m surprised I haven’t hit someone yet.

(Yet, cause I missed that poodle)

/end rant

Thursday, April 5, 2012


Goals. They’re like dreams that you have to work for. More accurately for me, it' putting just the idea of a challenge into the head of someone with a bit of OCD. It would be like saying to an alcoholic, “Hey, I bet you can’t drink 12 beers at the party tonight.” Challenge accepted.

Two weeks ago I rode the Solvang Double Century, my very first organized double. OK, OK, my first double ever, boosting my 1 day record for miles from 180.6 to 203.3. Good numbers.

Now, my time on the Solvang Double wasn’t great, but it was my first ride, so I took it easy in some spots, and was patient and relaxed at the 5 rest stops. My total time was 14:25:31, which was nearly 1.5 hours longer than my goal of 13 hours. There are good reasons for that, it was extremely windy that day, and on these distances, that can mean having a headwind blowing in our faces for 80+ miles.

Which we did. They say the winds were 20+mph sustained, with gusts to 30-35. It was the worst wind they have had on the Solvang Double in many years, some said.

So, I’m not too surprised that my time was on the low side, since I spent hours out there struggling to keep my speed over 12, and at some times found myself cranking full out and cruising at just over 8. In the end, I figured it was a good thing I train so much in the wind down in South County. A LOT of people sagged and got a ride back after rest stop 5, some even after 4. It was a tough day all around.

Of course, people were doing whatever they could to keep spirits up. I over heard a guy with a thick German (?) accent who was standing next to his fixie at Rest Stop 4 getting ready to head back out say, "Yeah, it's time to head out and help pull people through this wind. It all feels the same on the fixie, headwind, tailwind, uphill, downhill, it's all the same old shit. It all sucks." Everyone around laughed as we realized just how shitty it would be for us all very soon.

It was just a tough day. It was the first 100 miles that I did in just under 5:15:00 that saved my day. Hot damn that first half felt great.

And I won’t even get into my bonus miles. I stopped to read my que sheet (directions) at a turn with about 10-15 miles to go, when I rider passed me who said, “You’re going the right way, trust me, I used to live here.” Famous last words. He did know the roads, so we did get back into town, but it added about 3-4 miles to our total. Also more hills. Glad I like climbing...

That being said, my total ride time was 12:26:14. So, I lost about 2 hours in a combination of rest stops, an early stop to help a tandem fix a broken chain, and a couple other short pauses. In the end, even with the wind, I managed to keep my moving average at 16.3 mph for the day.

So, the next double I’m signed up for is the Davis Double Century on May 19th. The Solvang and Davis Doubles were the two I really wanted to do first in order to get into this part of the sport, since I’m a huge fan of both towns, and have heard great things about both rides.

So, my goal for Davis is as follows: If the wind isn’t a killer the day of the ride, I’d like to beat 12 hours. That’s the lofty goal. Screw 13. If I’m going to make a goal, I’m at least going to make one I have to work for. My mild OCD will take care of the rest.

If it’s windy, well, we’ll just have to see what happens.

Now for the fun part of training. I took last week off to chill and relax, and then I ended up taking this week off as well. Next week I’ll be in Hawaii with the STHS Band. Which means I will have had 3 weeks off, and then 5 weeks to train for the Davis Double. Hopefully that should work out just fine, if the weather can be nice enough to cooperate.

Knock on wood.

In the hotel getting ready to head out.

Rest Stop 4, 10+ miles into the crazy wind.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Training Plan Curiosity

Oh, the things that run through my head during long rides. Welcome to the thought of the day. (One of the many)

When I teach private music lessons, one of the first things I work on is setting the student up with a good practice technique and a consistent practice schedule. Without those two things, never practicing and practicing 10-12 hours a day will give the same result. You can’t just have a regular practice routine, you have to have good practice technique, and vise versa. Without both of those things present, you’re just spinning your wheels. (waka waka)

The same thing goes for training for an event. I feel like in the past I have had a good training technique, but not always a consistent training schedule. So, this year I’m trying something different.

Granted, I’m also training for something different. Seeing how far and how long I will be pushing myself for these events, I’ll need some help on the training front. So, for the first time, I downloaded a basic 16 week training plan for riding your first double century.

It’s just a day by day schedule that gives you a certain mileage to aim for, and a weekly total for each of the 16 weeks. It’s definitely not a modern training program, and if I really wanted to get everything out of myself and my body that I can, I would hire a human trainer, or pay big bucks for training software. And get a human trainer. You can’t beat real, human feedback.

But I wanted to keep things simple. (Also I’m cheap) So, I found and downloaded this little free 16 week training schedule, entered the date of my first event, the Solvang Double Century, and realized I was, at the time, already on week 3. Time to get cracking.

Now, it seemed to be set up for non-distance riders that are unfamiliar with and have not attempted long distances in the past. That’s not me; I did a 180 mile ride last August in under 12.5 hours. But, I still wanted to try going the structured way, just to see how it worked. After all, I tell every one of my students these very things, I might as well try some of my own medicine.

I’m currently in week 13, and things seem to be going pretty well. Sure, I missed part of week 5 due to weather and nearly all of week 6 due to sickness. Rain again took out most of week 8. So, sometimes I missed my daily/weekly mileage goals, but other weeks I went over. (Definitely more under then over, I’ll admit)

All of that being sad, when I first started on this program, I told myself I didn’t need to ride everyday. That this plan would be an encouragement, a helpful, albeit silent, plan, prodding from the depths of my computer, pushing me by forcing me to think about how my real miles add up to those on paper. My mild OCD certainly helped.

And now that I look back on all the riding I have done up to this point, with 4 weeks still remaining, it has been incredibly effective. Even with viewing the whole thing as loose encouragement, and that missing rides or days don’t really matter. After all, no one is paying me to ride, it’s not a living, just a hobby of mine. A self-possessing, time-swallowing, all-encompassing hobby of mine. Nothing really depends on me completing all these miles and training rides. I’m not letting a team down, or in danger of failing to meet a goal. Or worse yet a paycheck or someone else’s goal.

So, with that loose of a grip on this whole training program, with an attitude of, “It’s OK to miss, to not ride” but still having a schedule to follow in general, I compared my fitness and the amount of miles and hours riding I have completed this year compared to last.

2011 through February: 733.9 miles in 52:08:48, 16.1mph, 36,170 feet altitude gain

2012 through February: 1,508.7 miles in 88:23:14, 17.18mph, 63,460 feet altitude gain.

It’s amazing what a loose, partially ignored plan can do for you.

Now if I can just figure out how to like riding in the cold...

Monday, February 13, 2012


OK, I’m going to complain a little bit. It’s raining, so here I sit a little grumpy. Sorry ahead of time.

Yesterday’s bike ride was incredible. One of the better rides of the year so far. My legs felt great, I was able to push hard all day. Everything seemed to be falling into place. I caught, passed, and demolished a pack of 15 riders, leaving only 2 that could keep up with me by the time we hit Gilroy, and my turn off. Even my flat tire at the beginning of the ride rewarded me with a quick trip over to Concept Cyclery in Morgan Hill for the use of their floor pump to top off, which gave me time to drool over new fun bikes and bike parts. Geek. Yes.

Yet, despite all of that, one little thing can throw off all my good juju. Cars passing too close and unsafely, or simply not understanding how to act and drive safely around cyclists or other slower moving vehicles.

Seriously. Is it really that hard? It seems like some folks out there are so self-centered, so caught up in the own heads, that they can’t be inconvenienced to budge even the tiniest bit, and that putting someone else’s life in danger is a better option that simply moving over the tiniest bit to pass, or waiting until it is safe to do so.

So, for anyone out there that may not realize how dangerous it can be, here are some tips:

1. Hearing: Some cyclists actually like it when you honk as you come up behind them. Even though it may seem like a rude thing to do, it can save a life. Here’s why: Get going 20 miles per hour in your car and stick your head out the window. Now tell me if you can hear the car behind you. Or your passenger 3 feet away, for that matter. That’s how loud wind noise can be.

So yeah, a lot of the time we actually don’t hear you, and when a car suddenly appears next to us going 20-40 mph faster, it can be frightening. Yes, I can hear your Harley, and I can usually hear larger trucks. But smaller cars, Hybrids especially, are silent as they approach me. Yet another reason cyclists should NEVER wear ear phones. (See previous blog post)

2. Passing: When passing a cyclist, or pedestrian, equestrian, skateboarder, rollerblader, or any other “slow moving vehicle”, give them some room. It’s not that hard. You don’t have to cross all the way over into oncoming traffic. The vast majority of the time, simply feeling the Botts’ Dots under you left tires is more than enough, especially for drivers of smaller cars.

In the Sate of California, according to Chapter 11 of the Local Assistance Procedures Manual, which “describes the various procedures required to process Federal and State funded local transportation projects”, the minimum lane width is 10 feet on low traffic country and city roads, and 12 feet on higher traffic versions. That means if I am on the white line, and you put your left tires on the Botts’ Dots, or better yet onto the center stripe, there is more than enough room for both of us, and everyone is happy! And if there isn’t enough room for me to safely ride to right of, or even on, the white line and I have to take part of the lane, it is your job to move over enough to safely pass.

For example: My car, a 1993 Ford Ranger pickup, is slightly over 6 feet wide at it’s widest point, mirror to mirror. (6’3”) That means if I ride the Bott’s Dots to pass a cyclist on the white line, there is slightly under 4 feet of leeway. Plenty of room. If I don’t, if I drive down the center of the road, there is under 3 feet, or even less. That just isn’t safe enough to justify. It’s really not that hard to move over that 1-2 feet, so why do so many drivers insist on not doing so?

3. When NOT to pass: I can’t count the number of times I’ve been out on a country road, and a car or truck coming up behind me decides to NOT wait for oncoming traffic to pass by before overtaking me. That makes a three-wide scenario on a two lane road. Now, granted, if both cars in this scenario are small (say, Prius sized) it can work. But I have had several experiences where BOTH vehicles are pickup trucks or larger, which means with 10 foot wide lanes, there is less than a foot from a multi ton vehicle traveling at twice my speed to my elbow.

Now, imagine this: How much time would you realistically loose if you were to slow down just a bit, let the oncoming car pass, and then proceed by the cyclist safely? A few seconds? 10-20 at the most?

4. 3 foot rule: Some states have initiated a “3 foot rule”, meaning it is illegal to pass any slower moving vehicle if you cannot give a minimum of 3 feet of space between you and them. Cyclists, pedestrians, equestrians, motorized bikes, slower cars, everything. If you can’t give them 3 feet, you have to wait until you can. California tried to pass this, but it was defeated for a questionable reason. Hopefully some day it will pass, but for now, I’ll follow it anyway, and I ask that others do so as well. It’s not hard, and does not inconvenience you in the slightest, especially compared to the safety and lives of other road users.

5. Sight: Cyclists (and all those slow moving vehicles) can see things better than a motorist can. So as you pull up to that cyclist that is not to the right of the white line, or is making strange movements, there might be reasons for those that you cannot see. Yes, that cyclist could also be new, or drunk, or just dumb. Or, they could be seeing things in the road that you cannot see. Things like glass, rocks, debris, piles of dirt, plants growing over the bike lane, potholes or cracks in the road, some assholes trash, trashcans, roadkill, live animals ranging from cute little squirrels that could dart out and get sucked up in to your front tire sending you over the bars to Oh-crap-a-mountain-lion, road construction signs in the middle of the bike lane, bike lane signs in the middle of the bike lane (seriously...), idiots in general, or a plethora of other things. You might be surprised at the things I’ve seen in bike lanes over the years.

There is a reason many cyclists call the bike lane the danger zone, or door zone. It takes a very small amount of trust to say, “That cyclist is not in the bike lane, maybe there’s a reason for that I can’t see. I should try to be safe while passing”.

6. Where cyclists must actually ride: I can’t count the number of times I’ve been told that I need to be riding at all times “to the right of the white line” or “in the bike lane” or “on the sidewalk”. All of these are incorrect. The California Vehicle Code Section 21654 clearly states:

“any vehicle proceeding upon a highway at a speed less than the normal speed of traffic moving in the same direction at such time shall be driven in the right-hand lane for traffic or as close as practicable to the right-hand edge or curb, except when overtaking and passing another vehicle proceeding in the same direction or when preparing for a left turn at an intersection or into a private road or driveway.”

“…as close as practicable”. All those things I mentioned seeing in the bike lane? They make that lane not “practicable”. Which means if we are not to the right of the white line there’s a reason for it. Many times the motorist cannot see or be made aware of that reason. So, please, for the safety of all of us out on the roads, just trust that we are riding where we are for a reason.

Yes, a lot of times cyclists are acting like they own the road by riding multiple wide, taking the full lane when they don’t need to, or simply riding like jerks and not allowing cars to pass. I really do wish cops would ticket unsafe cyclists more often. After all, we follow the same rules and regulations set forth for motorists. That would be the California Vehicle Code.

But not all of us are those jerks. Some of us are actually very adamant about safe riding. So PLEASE, in the future, for all of our safety and sanity, don’t treat every cyclist like the jerks you have seen in the past, and in turn we cyclists will not treat you like the motorist jerks we have all experienced in the past.



Tuesday, January 31, 2012


People often ask me what I think about while riding. Well, the answer depends on the ride, or even the particular part of the ride at any given moment.

During long, tricky, technical descents, there are only two things on my mind. 1: ohmygawd, this is TOTALLY RAD. 2: What do I need to do to not die? Really, that’s about it. You don’t have time for much else.

Much the opposite, when climbing, especially those long, seemingly never ending climbs, my mind races between telling my body things like, “Keep pedaling!” “Keep spinning!” “Cadence!” “Spin to win!!” (with more potty mouth and violent statements directed towards myself, of course) mixed with trying to keep the right song stuck in my head. Which is always an adventure. No matter what songs I listen to while I get ready to ride, it’s always something else that pops in there when the pain actually starts. For example, on yesterdays ride, even after listening to great jams like "Hoosier Love", "Ten in 2010", Miss Alissa, "Indians" and “Aloha Means Goodbye”, the 3 songs I remember actually popping into the noodle were “Karma Chameleon”, “Footloose”, and a plethura of Sousa Marches. WTF?

I can’t count the number of times I’ve been climbing and all of a sudden burst out (yes, out loud) with The Bumble Bee Tuna Song. You in the know, you know.

On a side note, I have the same problem with belting out song lyrics that I do with seeing cows. I moo at them before I look around to make sure I’m actually alone. Yes, that has caused me a couple of possibly embarrassing moments in my past. A couple as in several. Several as in nearly every ride. Good thing I don’t mind looking like a complete dork while riding!

Now, the flats are a different world. Those long, never ending, straight, flat roads that take you to the mountains. Or not. This is where your mind can really start to wander. It’s nice to imagine songs, or even run stories through your head in between running through your cycling checklist. But in reality, your mind just floats around from subject to subject, like a kid with ADD at the County Fair.

These subjects can run anywhere from fantasies of your own future, to rehashing memories of your past, to conversations or arguments from earlier in the day or week.

Well, there are a lot of long, flat roads between South San Jose and the beginning of the climb up to Gilroy Hot Springs, so a couple days ago I had a lot of thinking to do. For some reason, I wondered how I got addicted to this long distance, endurance cycling thing in the first place, and my brain flashed back to my first foray into long distance.

Of course, it wasn’t really long distance at all; today I would consider this ride in particular a short, flat, spinning recovery ride. But back then, it was epic. Legendary. Heroic. Larger than life.

It was somewhere between ‘92 and ‘94. I don’t remember, but I do remember a few details. The bike was a Specialized Hard Rock. This was before every mountain bike came with suspension, even front shocks. That sort of thing was only for the extreme high end rigs, and this was not. This was my first transition bike from the BMX bikes of my childhood to the mountain and road bikes of adulthood. So, no shocks, front or rear. Which, on this ride, on this day, helped.

I don’t know why we decided to do this, but a good friend and I decided to go on a ride. It was winter, so it was a bit cold and looked like it might rain. So, I put on hiking boots, jeans, a baseball hat under my helmet, and a flannel shirt over my tee shirt, and we set out.

The idea was to ride from my house in South San Jose to Morgan Hill and back. I think we even had a goal in Morgan Hill, some certain shop or restaurant. Thinking back on it, it was probably Sno White’s Drive In. Remember that place? Me too. Sweet.

Anyway, that was the plan. We filled up our water bottles with Coke and set off. I don’t remember much about heading south towards Morgan Hill, it must have been pretty uneventful. I do remember heading back home. That was the day I figured out that the wind in Coyote Valley is strong and consistent, to say the least. And more often than not, it’s going North to South. Or, more accurately, North-West to South-East. Which set up a perfect headwind for the entire way home.

But that wasn’t enough. Right as we set off from Morgan Hill, the rain came. And stayed. The entire ride home was a constant pelting of wind and rain. It was like getting punched in the face, not over and over, but continuously, for nearly an hour. We took turns drafting on one another, but it didn’t do much good. The poor choice of clothing pretty much stole every amount of hope and promise I had for ever reaching home again. If you’ve ever been stuck in a downpour for 30-45 minutes wearing jeans and a flannel shirt you know what I mean. They soak up water and hold it better than anything I can think of. Vince Shlomi could have made some money.

So, after what seemed like an eternity, we FINALLY arrived in my driveway. We were so soaked and covered in road grit and grime that my mom would not allow us into the house. My friend took off for home, he lived down the street, and I changed in the garage and went in to shower.

During that time sitting in the shower slowly but surely defrosting and recovering from this epic(ly stupid) event, I got to think about what I had just been through. It was frightening. It was the most excruciatingly painful, exhausting, grueling, agonizing thing I had ever put myself through. At times it was depressing, even heartbreaking. It seemed like all hope had vanished. Every pedal stroke felt like the end of the world, like it would be the last one I would ever turn over.

And I learned at that moment that I loved every bit of it.

And for nearly the last 20 years, I’ve been stretching that pain out for longer and longer. I’ve replaced the jeans and flannel for lycra and racing jerseys. I replaced the hiking boots with carbon fiber soled cycling shoes. I’ve replaced the Specialized Hard Rock with a RockHopper Comp, then a StumpJumper FSR XC, then a Performance R-101 (my first road bike), and now a Specialized Tarmac SL3. I’ve replaced the water bottles of Coke with bottles of Hammer Nutrition.

But I haven't replaced the search for epic, painful, exhausting rides. I learned that day not only how to push myself so far beyond the point of painful exhaustion that dying is an option in order to reach a goal, but also that I loved every second of it.

And now that I have this down, it’s time for a ride!

Friday, January 20, 2012

Safety First! Or, Luck Be A Lady

There’s a woman I often see around my neighborhood at the beginning or end of my bike rides. Other than a few mind boggling nuances, she is just a normal cyclist out for a ride. She has nearly all the gear, good shoes, cycling clothing, the right bike, nearly everything one would need to be successful in this activity.


Ignoring her cadence, which turns at about 30-40 rpm, (uber slow) which in itself is not at all annoying, just a little odd, there are a few other aspects about her riding style that annoy the living hell out of me.

Let’s start with what she isn’t wearing. Aside from having all the right cycling gear, she lacks a helmet. I have NEVER seen her wear one, and I see her regularly, and have for several years. There’s no law saying you have to wear a helmet if you’re over 18, per California Vehicle Code Section 21212. But seriously, anyone who rides on the street, specifically on streets as busy as Santa Teresa Blvd, has got to be pretty dumb to not use one. OK, maybe ignorant, but still.

Match the non-use of a helmet with my next quip about her and, well, you’ll get the point. She rides slow. With that ultra-slow cadence, you’re not going to gain much speed. No problem with that, that’s not my quip. She rides at the far left hand side of the bike lane, which makes passing her extremely difficult and dangerous, since I have to enter a lane of traffic to get around her. But she just keeps chugging along, oblivious to anyone else who might be out there.

Now for the best part: Once I do get passed, if a light ahead of me changes and I have to stop, she rolls through the red light, passing me. Granted, I do see her look both ways, but she usually doesn’t even touch the brakes and rolls right on through. Now, one complaint I have is that now I have to try to get around her again, but my other complaint is much more important.

Riders that ride like this don’t just make it dangerous for themselves. They make it dangerous for ALL of us. I can’t count the number of times I have been yelled at, honked at, received amusing gestures, buzzed (passed by a car at a very high rate of speed inches from my left elbow), cut off at the last second on purpose, or even the few thrilling times when objects have been hurled at me from automobiles. For having done nothing but ride down the street.

What are motorists' biggest complaints about cyclists? A quick innerwebs search, mixed with over 20 years of cycling experience, tells me these include cyclists that run red lights and stop signs, and riders that ride in the lane, or two or more abreast, making passing difficult. When cyclists do this, it doesn’t just endanger themselves. It gives motorists that see them doing these things a “here we go again, yet another cyclist that’s too good for the rules of the road” attitude. They then think this same statement the next time they see a cyclist, whether or not that cyclist is actually guilty of that infraction.

Because of this, when I ride, many drivers see me as, “just another one of those asshole cyclists that run red lights and stop signs, and are always in my way.” I know they do, they let me know all the time, between arguments in person or online, or out on the road shouting at me out of their car windows. And guess what? It’s DIRECTLY the fault of the many riders out there that ignore these rules and regulations.

Now for the best part, Are you ready? I can’t tell her about what she is doing, or how it endangers me. Hell, I can’t even call out to pass her when she's hugging the left corner of the bike lane, blocking anyone else from passing safely. Why? Headphones. Ear buds. Ear plugs. In both ears. I call out anyway, but she doesn’t hear. I know she doesn’t because no matter how loud I call out, “ON YOUR LEFT!” she is still startled and surprised when I pass her. Sometimes to the point of nearly crashing. Here’s my viewpoint:

1. Ear phones/buds/plugs are illegal. In the state of California, as stated in Vehicle Code Section 21200, “A person riding a bicycle… has all the rights and is subject to all the provisions applicable to the driver of a vehicle by this division…” Going on, Vehicle Code Section 27400 states, “No person operating any vehicle, including a bicycle shall wear any headset covering, or any earplugs in, both ears.” Pretty plain and simple, yeah?

2. They are just plain unsafe. VERY unsafe. As a cyclist, our ears are our second lifeline, right behind our eyes. If we block that sense, we make our every day average bike ride infinitely more dangerous. We NEED to hear what we can’t see, be it a car coming up behind us or honking at us, another cyclist trying to pass or get our attention for something, or the sirens of emergency vehicles. It’s bad enough seeing the amount of folks on multi-purpose trails with plugs in both ears. But on a busy major road? Really?

Just take them out. Enjoy the outdoors, or ride inside.

I see this lady all the time. At least once a week, for several years. Always the same. Chugging along at a snails pace due to the ultra low cadence, no helmet, ear buds in both ears, running stop lights and stop signs. Granted, she’s not the only one. There are lots of cyclists out there that ignore the rules, making the lives of those of us that don’t that much harder, but she is the one I see most often. Completing the tri-fecta of douche-baggie cyclist stereotypes. And when I hear or read stories of the stereotypical cyclist scofflaw, I always think of her first.

I just wish motorists would think of her, and others like her, and not all cyclists. Because most of us out there try very hard to not have to tangle with multi-ton automobiles carrying angry, road-raged drivers. The vast majority of us really are safe riders.

Perception is a bitch.

Added: Expect another blog later on the importance of helmet laws, earphone laws, and other rules of the road followed by both cyclists and motorists.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Baby You’re A Rich Man

Goals. Life would be so much easier without them. Just cruise through and take what comes as it does. No planning ahead, no working towards an end purpose. No last minute scrambling to meet a particularly lofty goal set at a particularly lofty point in life.

However, life would be pretty boring without goals. Never pushing yourself past your current potential, never realizing just what really is possible, all the while settling for the mediocre, the mundane, the humdrum, the routine.

99% of what we do day to day is just that. Survival. Wading through the bog that is life alongside everyone else. But that extra 1%, that little bit that gives you that excitement, that thrill, that hyper-sensitive feeling of accomplishment. That is what really matters. That is what defines us.

Eleanor Roosevelt once said, “Do something every day that scares you.” That phrase was used again in the “Wear Sunscreen” speech, written by Mary Schmich and published in the Chicago Tribune, remixed by Baz Luhrmann, and often mistaken for Kurt Vonnegut. Pretty much everything that piece inspires and encourages me, but that one phrase sticks out a little more then the rest.

So here I sit, 9:09 PM, The Beatles’ “Baby You’re A Rich Man” playing on the iTunes, thinking about what I can do tomorrow that scares me. 80 miles isn’t an extremely long ride for me any more, even in January with the colder weather, the wind in the valley, the shorter days, and the winter legs. Last year there is no way I could ride 80 miles on January 10th.

“Do something every day that scares you.”

My goals this year are as lofty as they have ever been. Last year was the first year I topped 5,000 total miles, and reached triple metric (near) miles logged in a single ride with 180.6 around Lake Tahoe in late July.

This year? 6,213.71 miles. Or, 10,000 kilometers. Seems a bit lofty, yes, as it took three years with 5K as a goal to finally hit it. But, that’s not the part that scares me. That would be the California Triple Crown. I barely passed 180 in a ride last year and my new goal is to pass 200 three times. Three times. Not once, not twice, but thrice. Three. 3.

This should be interesting.

Let’s see how this 1% turns out.