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Book Review: Merckx 525

By Gary J. Boulanger,

 

Belgian road racer Eddy Merckx packed the athletic power of Michael Jordan, Babe Ruth, and Walter Payton into his 6’1”, 180-pound frame, demolishing his rivals consistently between 1965 and 1978, where many raced for second against the one they called ‘The Cannibal’.

 

Merckx, who first tasted victory as an amateur on October 1, 1961, continued his victorious ways throughout his professional career, eventually tallying 525 wins, for which a new book has been named.

Merckx 525, published by VeloPress (222 pages, $60), is a hefty book, befitting the hefty career the now 67-year-old Belgian. After all, he won the Tour de France and Giro d’Italia five times, the world road championships three times, Milan-San Remo seven times, and Paris-Roubaix three times, and set the hour record in 1972, which stood for 12 years. His first Tour victory in 1969 included winning the general classification (yellow jersey), points classification (green ‘sprinter’s’ jersey) and the mountains classification (now polka dot).

Despite Merckx’s vise-like grip on the podium, his adversaries were formidable; many, including Joop Zoetemelk, Felice Gimondi, Luis Ocana, Raymond Poulidor, and Roger De Vlaeminck, would’ve been ultra superstars if Merckx hadn’t lined up in their era. Many dared to go toe-to-toe with Merckx, and many beat him, but not regularly. Merckx 525 does an excellent job chronicling Merckx’s career in words and pictures, providing the wonderful minutiae and insight behind his greatest achievements.

Several books on Merckx have been published since his retirement, but Merckx 525 gives the reader an intimate view of the Belgian’s life on and off the bike during his prime years, sideburns and all. Vintage bicycle aficionados will appreciate the lugged steel bikes, leather saddles, wool shorts and jerseys, metal toe clips and leather shoes.

What I found most interesting was the quick metamorphosis of Merckx’s physical appearance on the bike as he won the Classics and Grand Tours; his round-cheeked face became more chiseled, as did his thighs and chest. He morphed into a machine of sorts, pounding out the RPMs like a metronome clarion as a reminder to his adversaries of who was in charge. The burden climaxed by March 19, 1978, Merckx’s final race. He came in 12th at the Tour of Waaland, which finished in Kemzeke, just 100km from his birthplace of Tielt-Winge, Belgium.

Merckx 525 captures the raw effort of bike racing, with the backdrop of Europe as Merckx’s canvas. His life, both private and professional, is laid out for the world to witness. I can picture a slight Flemish smirk creasing his face as he reads it, and a familiar frown of resignation on the faces of his adversaries, at least those who care to relive their glory years.

 

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A first-time racer’s tough introduction to cyclocross

Editor’s note: We’re happy to share this great submission by reader Dave Hodgson about his first attempt at racing ‘cross. Have a story you’d like to share with readers? Send it to web@bicycletimesmag.com.

By Dave Hodgson.

I have read some great race reports over the last year of heroic deeds by ‘cross riders. This, my friends, will not be one such report. This is on the other end of the racing spectrum.

After spending all year training to ride long road races, I thought I would try my hand at cross this fall. High intensity sprints in field— a natural choice for a roadie. I mean, it’s only 40 minutes long. How tough could it be? That idea would come back to haunt me.

My first cross race was at New Brighton Park in Vancouver, B.C. Along with the usual obstacles of barriers and small hillocks there was a 25 foot sand pit—not bad the first time you rode through, but decidedly dodgy after 30 people had been practicing on it for 45 minutes.

I thought I would go to the very back at the first race, so my inexperience would not cause any mayhem. There I meet a girl in a pink tutu, a fit looking 20-year-male and, I believe, a blind guy.

“I got the blind guy," I thought.

Well the race started, and someone promptly fell at the first corner in the leading group, leading to a bit of a pile-up.

“I could have done that!” I chuckled.

I was happily hanging on at the back until we reached the sand pit. I figured I would run the pit, as it might be quicker. What I didn’t figure on, was putting the bike on my shoulder, immediately falling over and having the big cog take out a chunk of my right ear. Picking myself up, and dripping blood, I thought “Great, a smaller ear will make me more aerodynamic for the second lap.”

Already the transformation to cross racer had started.

Passing the pits, some bloke yelled, "Pick it up, you’re getting beat by a girl in a tutu!” and you know, he had a point.

The second lap involved another fall against a tree stump, but at least I negotiated the sand pit without the need of a surgeon.

On passing the start/finish line, I must have looked a bit of a sight because a marshal asked me if I wanted some bacon. I grabbed it most heartily and shoved it in my throat. Unfortunately, in my throat it stayed, as I spent the rest of the lap choking and praying maybe someone might know the Heimlich maneuver.

By the 4th lap I was completely shagged and not very impressed with the lady who cheerily told me there were still 2 laps to go. By this stage I was looking for a friendly face, and I spotted one of my club riders on the sidelines. I was just about to acknowledge him, when he shouted “Come on Jason, don’t get stuck there," and with that, Jason promptly overtook me, although he at least had the decency to say sorry when he passed.

By now the finish line couldn’t come fast enough, but on the last lap I was able to get by the tutu girl in what I thought was sprint, but was more accurately a crawl.

As I was dry heaving at the finish, she came over to me and said “Nice stamina, how long have you been training?" That was when I realized that maybe a bit of training might not have been a bad idea.

She looked me in the eye and said, "There’s race a tomorrow at Vanier park, are you going?” And before I could help myself I said, "Hell yeah, that was fun!”

And really, that is what cross is all about—the winners and losers all suffer in their own way, but in the end, everyone has a bunch of fun. I would thoroughly recommend it to those of you thinking about giving it a try.

I think the only way I can accurately describe the new fever I have for ‘cross, is the look of total political incorrectness and horror on my wife and daughter’s face a few weeks later when the results were posted and I jumped on top of my chair and screamed out loud "Yeah baby! I beat the blind guy!"

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The rebirth of Bogota as a cycling city

A Ciclovia day in Bogota. Every Sunday and holiday, the city closes 75 miles of streets to car traffic from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. In all, 1.3 million people attend the weekly event. 

By Klaus. Photos courtesy of Gil Peñalosa and the author. 

By the mid-1990s, Bogotá, Colombia, was an incredibly difficult place in which to live. As the city’s population grew closer to the 10 million mark, its endless neighborhoods continued to spread into the Andean peaks that surround it and the quality of life in the city dropped precipitously. Crime was rampant, as an overall sense of disdain grew within Bogotá’s population.

It was around that time, however, that several key changes took place in Bogotá, changes that would positively alter the course of the city’s history in ways that no one imagined. In a matter of years, the city changed dramatically. Through the work of several visionary leaders, Bogotá lowered its crime rate significantly, delivered much-needed services to its poorest citizens, and improved congestion through an innovative mass-transit system. The bicycle also emerged as a centerpiece in the city’s renaissance. As this happened, Bogotá’s citizens began to take pride in a city they previously loathed.

A key visionary in Bogotá’s rebirth during that time was Gil Peñalosa, who worked as Commissioner of Parks, Sport and Recreation. Under Peñalosa’s leadership, the city designed and developed over 200 parks, as well as the “new Ciclovía,” in which 1.3 million people enjoy over 75 miles of car-free streets throughout the city every single Sunday and holiday. Additionally, it was during this time that Bogotá built over 185 miles of sheltered bikeways, and instituted a once-a-year event known as Car Free Day, in which no privately owned vehicles are allowed on city streets.

Gil Peñalosa, on the streets of Bogotá, Columbia. 

Today, Gil Peñalosa is the executive director of the Canadian non-profit organization 8-80 Cities, which seeks to create vibrant and healthy communities by focusing on the needs of cyclists and pedestrians through the design of public spaces. In that role, Peñalosa has helped numerous cities around the world learn some very valuable lessons from a seemingly unlikely place: Bogotá, Colombia.

Klaus for Bicycle Times: Growing up in Bogotá during the 1980s, the city was a disorganized and often frightening place. Do you see the city’s willingness to accept the bike as a viable method of transportation—and in doing so respecting cyclists—as proof that there’s been a fundamental change in how the city operates, and how its citizens think about one another?

Gil Penñaloza: I do, without a doubt. I say that because the bicycle is a very egalitarian tool. Yes, one bike can cost fifty dollars while another can cost five thousand. But when you are riding through the city, and people are going places, that doesn’t really matter. Riding a bike becomes a common ground, and the person is very visible. The bike can become secondary. You engage with people face to face, you see their eyes, and the interaction becomes very real and very human. Things happen at a human scale.

Cars, on the other hand, are differentiators. They are large, and are not merely used as transportation. If people used cars to get from A to B, and had no other reason for owning one, they would all own Honda Civics. But that’s not the case. Cars are status symbols, and they are used to differentiate the owners from one another. By and large, that’s just not the case with a bike.

Another powerful aspect of riding a bike is that public spaces are safer the more they are used. Bikes play a big role in this, but cars don’t. This is certainly true for roads where bikes are ridden because they instantly become safer as more and more people use them. Parks become safer if people ride their bikes and walk in them, but not if cars go by them at forty miles an hour. Cars are unable to have that kind of positive effect on their environment because they remove humanity from the equation. Bikes put it back in.

BT: Would you say that applies to Bogotá? That more bike use, and thus more people at a human scale and at a slower pace, have made the city safer and thus better for its citizens?

GP: I would. Absolutely. It’s far from ideal, but more people walking and cycling and using public spaces have improved safety and quality of life.

BT: How did you first become aware of the value of the bicycle, not only as an ideal method of transportation, but also as one that could have a valuable democratizing effect upon cities?

GP: This is something I always thought about, because I’ve always seen bikes as part of a bigger suite of solutions, which includes the needs of pedestrians, as well as city parks and gathering places. As such, today I am clear about the fact that bikes are not the end, but rather a medium. Bikes are not the end result of any of these initiatives, but they are a way of making cities more equitable and livable. There’s some general confusion about bike initiatives, because people see them merely as transportation, something to take people from point A to point B. A goal is to make cities more human and more equitable, and the use of bicycles plays a role in the process.

BT: Large cities in wealthy, industrialized nations have had great difficulties in implementing initiatives that Bogotá has not only put in place, but also invented. Things like the Ciclovía, sheltered bikeways, and a car-free day are all impressive undertakings for any city, particularly one in a place that many see as undeveloped and potentially dangerous, like Colombia. How did Bogotá come to be a leader in these initiatives?

GP: My sentimental side would like to believe that things—changes that are worthwhile—must grow from the bottom up. But the reality is that cities are often transformed by leaders who are able to change things from the top down, simply because that’s where the power lies. That’s been the case in New York City, where they have a great commissioner who is willing to lead these changes.

BT: Within the context of a city like Bogotá, that mentality certainly makes sense. It takes a great deal of vision, and the power to implement it, when you’re talking about launching something like a car-free day.

GP: It does. When my brother Enrique Peñalosa [Mayor of Bogotá, 1998-2001] first introduced the idea of having a car-free day, no one was talking about the topic of cars, or alternatives in transportation. He introduced that theme by talking about having a car-free day. It got people talking about the problems that the city was facing.

Similarly, when I worked with Antanas Mockus [Mayor, 1995-1997], the topic of the Ciclovía was not discussed. We had about 10 kilometers, and only a few thousand people using the Ciclovía. I have to admit that I became obsessed with the subject, and within two years I had over 62 miles (121 kilometers) of Ciclovía in the city. We went from having a few thousand users, to having over a million users every Sunday, and every holiday. We built an infrastructure, and a reproducible model that can be used all over the world.

So this idea of a Ciclovía, of letting people use the street for fun and fitness, became something that cities all over the world took up, and it all came out of Bogotá. But it wasn’t anything that the city was talking about; it was introduced into the discourse.

I was speaking with some students from the Andes University in Bogotá not long ago. They asked me what the socio-political climate was that gave birth to the growth in the Ciclovía, and the growth in bike paths in Bogotá. I told them there wasn’t one. Really. I challenged them to look at the newspapers in Bogotá from the two years leading up to the growth in the Ciclovía. They can even make it three or four years. They won’t find a single article where anyone voiced an interest in increasing the program or even concern about this topic. So, I have to put modesty aside and tell you that this happened and came to the forefront because I became obsessed with the objective and surrounded myself with a great team of people. That’s why I believe that change can happen from the top down, because I’ve seen it happen.

BT: As part of the changes you put into place, the Ciclovía finally arrived to poor neighborhoods in Bogotá, which had never been the case before.

GP: Right. We not only grew the system of the Ciclovía, but we did so in a way that would integrate the city in a system. That’s what the Ciclovía does; it integrates and unites the city and its citizens. It takes you to vastly different neighborhoods; it brings the young and the old, the poor and the rich together. This is no small feat, when you consider how often we engage and spend time with those who are unlike us. In Bogotá, you will find the wealthiest owners and presidents of the most prestigious companies with their families, running into their workers who make minimum wage, who will also be with their families at the Ciclovía.

In Bogotá, the gap between these people is great, but that’s the case in other cities as well. But through the Ciclovía, they are in the same place, doing the same thing. These are people who don’t live in the same neighborhoods, their kids don’t attend the same schools, they don’t shop in the same stores, and they don’t eat in the same restaurants. But they are in the Ciclovía together. One can have an imported bike that is three thousand dollars, while the other has one that is 30 dollars…so be it. They are both having the same fun with their family, and they stop and chat. It’s a rare activity that can allow this integration to happen. The Ciclovía becomes an exercise in social integration; it is much more than cycling, walking and skating.

BT: When you talk about the social value of the Ciclovía, I can’t help but think about the bike trails that are common in North American cities. These are often in suburban neighborhoods. They go from nowhere to nowhere, and are not inclusive in any way, nor do they serve the purpose of potentially getting their users to any place in particular. Similarly, many cities seem selective about which neighborhoods get to have bike lanes or sheltered bike routes. The needs of poor, and often minority populations, are very seldom taken into account.

GP: This is certainly a problem. You’ll often find that the best places for recreation and the amenities that allow for best transportation are in the wealthiest neighborhoods, but not in the places where they are most needed—that usually means poorer neighborhoods. People start to make excuses, and I’ve encountered this. They may not want a route, for example, to be connected to an area because it’s poor, or because it’s a primarily Black neighborhood. The reality is that these bike routes, parks, and things like the Ciclovía should connect people, but also connect places that people want and need to go to.

So as much as I like small neighborhood parks, they are usually limited to people in that immediate area. But if you have a long bike path, it can start to cut through numerous neighborhoods, and all kinds of city areas. It can also get you to a destination. This is a big part of making something like this useful, and helping to bring people together. Connecting people and places.

BT: In Bogotá, the poorest neighborhoods are serviced by the bike routes that were put into place during your time working there. This is hugely important, since people in poor neighborhoods need bikes not only as a form of entertainment and fitness, but also as a way of getting around, while wealthier populations may have more options. Was this taken into consideration when planning out these routes?

GP: Certainly, but this is something that could be said of all cities in all countries. Similarly, keep in mind that it costs thousands of dollars to maintain a car, and it only costs more the longer you own a car. There are people in wealthy nations who barely have enough to feed a whole family, not enough to take a small vacation, but they have one or more cars. They end up working just to pay for their car. So these concerns are universal. BT: Sadly, many cities seem to be wasting time and effort into putting single bike lanes here and there, where there is room for it, rather than where they are needed.

GP: Right, and that’s because people talk about a bike lane, or a bikeway. No. They should speak about a network, a system of bikeways and bike lanes. Plural. You can’t have a bike lane that goes from nowhere to nowhere. It won’t be used. Imagine if the mayor of a city put up one goal post and one end zone, and then complained that it wasn’t being used by the football team. Two years later, they could put in the first few yards, and then some more yards. Of course it won’t work, and it won’t get used—it’s not complete or usable for the activity. So cities will put in two bike lanes, which are one mile each. Then they’ll stop putting more in, because they’ll simply say that they don’t have a “bike culture,” and that no one is using them. Well, you didn’t build a system that people could use—of course it wasn’t used. Connectivity is critical in order to have positive results.

In Bogotá, we created a network of bike routes. We were a city that lacked the “bike culture” that many talk about. But when we built a network that people could use, that connected them to the places they had to go to, we went from having 28,000 people using a bike as a way of getting around, to over 350,000. So today, for every four cars in Bogota, we have one riding a bike. That becomes a substantial and important part of the population that has to be accounted for, and cared for. This has happened in other cities as well. In Seville, Spain, four years ago almost no one used a bike as their method of transportation. It was 0.2%. They built 100 miles of bikeways, separate from car traffic and separate from pedestrians, in three years. As a result, they now have 6.6% of the people using bikes. Now they want to get to 15% by 2015. And a big part of this is connected points where people originate from, to places they are going to. It’s that simple.

BT: It’s worth mentioning that in many North American cities, “bike lanes” are nothing more than a white stripe of paint on the road. That’s vastly different from the fully sheltered bikeways that are the norm in Bogotá. Do you think that bike lanes as they are implemented in the United States are of some value as a first step, or should they be rejected in hopes that we’ll get proper solutions from the start?

GP: You have to get the real solution, and not settle for paint on the road. The reality is that if you paint a line on the road, you’ll only get a few more people using that route. So again, you’ll fall into the same problem that I mentioned before. Few people will use it, and the city will say that they don’t have a “bike culture,” that no one is using it, so they won’t invest in more bike lanes.

I saw this exact thing happen in Orlando, Florida. They put in a bike lane, which was nothing more than paint on the road, along a six-lane road. The cars there were going 45 to 50 miles an hour. Those who fought to have that line of paint put in told the city that the number of users would go from 100 to 1,000. The reality is that it went up to only 150, and the politicians said, “It didn’t work.” But of course it didn’t! All that was separating people on their bikes from cars going 50 miles per hour was a line on the ground. So better solutions are needed. And in residential neighborhoods, we need to lower the speed limits. All streets in neighborhoods should have a maximum speed of 20mph; 20 is plenty. This allows people to safely exit their cars when they park, people can cross the street with their babies and their dogs. But in larger routes, we need bike lanes that have a physical border separating cyclists from traffic and from pedestrians. These three modes of transportation differ in speed, and can’t be expected to work seamlessly together in the exact same environment. The idea of a bike lane that is nothing more than white paint on the road is disrespectful to cyclists and to all citizens.

BT: Then I must ask you, what is your opinion regarding the lack of sidewalks in so many American neighborhoods? Is this not a statement that the city is making about the value of certain citizens who can’t afford a car, those who take public transportation, or maybe even the elderly who can no longer drive?

GP: Absolutely. In the last ten years, 47,700 pedestrians have been killed in the United States by cars and 679,000 pedestrians have been injured. These are numbers from the Department of Transportation. So one has to ask, how is it possible that neighborhoods are still being planned out without sidewalks? BT: So the message to those who walk, be it for pleasure or need, is clear.

GP: It is. And at the same time, the United States has an obesity problem that is costing taxpayers billions and billions, along with environmental issues that are now becoming more known. But all this aside, how can cities not care for their citizens, and allow pedestrians to be killed and injured?

BT: Keeping in mind that change often comes from the top down, what can we as citizens do in order to bring solutions to those obstacles to the forefront?

GP: The biggest obstacle is a political matter. It’s not a financial problem. It’s also not a technical problem. The budgets that cities have for roadways, and to make things better for cars, are huge. It takes very little money to improve things for cyclists. If a city doesn’t know how to build appropriate bikeways, it’s very simple and easy to find someone who does. So, as a citizen, you have to speak about this subject if no one in your city has put this topic on the table. You have to write newspapers, you have to start blogs, you have to call in to radio stations, and you have to go to public meetings.

Politicians are sometimes afraid to lead, but if they see that the public wants and needs something, they’ll listen. Similarly, these things have now been tried out in numerous cities of all sizes around the world. So, politicians can be shown that these initiatives work, and that will help ease their fear about change.

But really, at the end of the day, citizens have to become involved. They have to understand that a spaceship from Mars won’t magically land in their city, and build this infrastructure overnight. It just won’t happen.

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Bike Overnights: An overnight commute

By Giles Snyder.

I had hoped that a nice, sunny day and cool spring temperatures would combine to help make my first-ever bike overnight memorable. While my companions and I did get a remarkable trip up the C&O Canal Towpath from Washington, D.C., the weather we got was far less than remarkable.

It started raining the moment we left our starting point in downtown D.C. It rained as we cycled through trendy Georgetown, got a little lost, and almost got mowed down by a big delivery truck in rush-hour traffic. And it rained long past the time we shivered ourselves to sleep. Sometimes it came down as a bearable drizzle. Other times, it splashed down on our heads in big pregnant drops. It rained despite assurances from one of my companions that the day we planned to go is always “a beautiful day.”

Except, apparently, when you plan to spend it on a bike. I often cycle portions of the C&O Canal Towpath. It’s easily accessed from where I live in West Virginia’s Eastern Panhandle. But, like many who make their homes in this region, I work in D.C. From my driveway to where I park my car downtown, it’s about 90 miles. That’s a lot of ground to cover each workday. I wanted to slow down and see what I’d been missing.

The towpath snakes its way alongside the Potomac River for more than 184 miles from Washington, D.C. to Cumberland, Maryland. If you have time, you can go on for another 141 miles via The Great Alleghany Passage Rail-Trail all the way to Pittsburgh. (Read about our trip along the GAP and C&O. – Ed.)

The idea for the canal dates back to the earliest days of our nation. George Washington himself championed it as a way to connect the western frontier with the more populated east. Workers started building the C&O in the 1820s and canal boats used it to bring lumber and coal to market into the early 20th century. The canal was a lifeline for communities up and down the river, but it couldn’t compete with railroads. It would have fallen into obscurity if not for Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas, who led efforts to convince Congress to turn the canal into a National Park. Today it’s a haven, not only for cyclists, but for hikers and others who want to take in its natural beauty and gaze at history first-hand.

On our trip up the towpath, though, we had to work hard to find the bright future that Douglas saw. It was not only wet; all that rain made it seem much colder than it was. When we stopped from time to time my teeth started to chatter. One fellow who briefly rode along with us suggested he just might spend the night in one of the towpath’s port-a-johns. From then on, every time we passed a port-a-john, I seriously considered curling up in it, but I couldn’t get past the heat source. Besides, our goal was a lockhouse near Point of Rocks, Maryland.

According to the C&O Canal Trust’s website, there used to be 57 such houses. Lockmasters lived in them with their families, helping boats deal with the elevation change as the canal made its way into the Maryland mountains. Less than half remain, but the Trust has made a few available for overnight stays. They’ve been restored to reflect separate time periods in the life of the canal.

The lockhouses are rustic by modern standards. Ours had no heat, no electricity, and no running water. But it was well-appointed with period furniture, and a welcome sight after a full day of cycling in the rain. If you are looking to unplug from the hustle and bustle of city life, this is it. It’s also a great way to experience how life was lived along the canal in bygone days.

After spending the night snug in period beds, we got up the next day in relatively good humor. The morning sunshine renewed us and it wasn’t long before we were back on our bikes.

Two of my companions went back the way we’d come, leaving me and another to move on to Harper’s Ferry, West Virginia, where abolitionist John Brown staged his famous raid aimed at sparking a slave revolt. My remaining companion lives there, so that’s where we parted ways and I cycled the final dozen miles or so by myself, ending my trip at Shepherdstown, West Virginia. Confederate forces retreated through there after the nearby Battle of Antietam, the bloodiest one-day battle in American history.

While the second day’s sunshine was reinvigorating, the constant rain of the previous day should have made my first overnight cycling trip a miserable failure.

It didn’t.

In fact, the adversity only whetted my appetite for more, if only to see what a cycling trip is like in a dry pair of shorts.

We left more than 100 miles of the towpath undone. I’m hoping to tackle the Shepherdstown to Cumberland stretch later this summer. Once our plans come together, it’s a good bet I’ll be keeping an eye on the weather. But since I’ve already cycled through one deluge, a little more rain won’t be enough to scare me off.

Learn more

Check out Adventure Cycling Association’s new website, Bike Overnights, aimed at providing inspiration, resources, and tools for short bicycle tours (one to two nights). You’ll find stories, tips, and how-tos about embarking on short overnight cycling adventures, whether you’re traveling to a beautiful state park solo, lounging at a B&B with friends and family, taking your child on their first overnight bike adventure, or anything in between. Plus, you can submit your own trip report for possible publication; Adventure Cycling hopes to collect bike overnight tales from all 50 states!
 

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Scenery and celebrity meet at King Ridge GranFondo

Words and photos by Gary J. Boulanger

The fourth annual Levi’s King Ridge GranFondo attracted an estimated 7,500 riders and 20,000 festival attendees to Santa Rosa, the charming northern California town chosen by both Alfred Hitchcock and the Tour of California.

While Hitch had murder on his mind filming “Shadow Of A Doubt” in 1943, event organizers VeloStreet/Bike Monkey hoped to expose cyclists of all stripes and types to the unlimited riding opportunities on the roads streaming out of their town of 167,000. The economic impact of the King Ridge GranFondo has brought more than $6 million to the area since 3,500 riders first clipped on and rolled out of Finley Park in 2009.

The event, based on the popular gran fondos (big rides) of Italy and Spain, was hatched by professional road racer and multiple Tour of California winner Levi Leipheimer, who lives and trains in Santa Rosa most of the year. Instead of making it an event for advanced riders only, Leipheimer and VeloStreet decided to make it a family affair, with a huge festival coinciding with the ride options of 35 (piccolo), 65 (medio) or 103 (gran) miles. All three routes use the same roads raced by the pros during the Tour of California. This year, medio and gran riders could choose a dirt road alternative route up Willow Creek Road, off Highway 1 near the Russian River, bypassing the infamously steep Coleman Valley Road.

As with most gran fondos, a dose of celebrity participation is de rigueur in these parts. This year, Grey’s Anatomy star and avid cyclist Patrick Dempsey joined 2008/2012 Olympic gold medalist Kristin Armstrong, 2000 Olympic medalist Mari Holden, Garmin-Sharp pro Tom Danielson, multiple World Champion mountain biker Brian Lopes, Team Exergy pro Freddie Rodriquez, current world downhill champion Greg Minnaar, and former San Francisco Giants slugger Barry Bonds, a recent convert to cycling who’s lost more than 20 pounds in two years.

“My doctor told me to choose cycling and swimming after a series of surgeries two years ago,” the 48-year-old told me at lunch following the ride. “I bought a road bike and was passed by an old dude the first day. After several tries, I figured things out and now I’m hooked.” Bonds rode the 65-mile route with Holden and Specialized Bicycles owner Mike Sinyard.

With an average age of 45 and a healthy male/female ratio of 70/30, the King Ridge GranFondo caters to each rider as if they were the celebrity. Nearly 2,000 volunteers prepare, set up, and provide rest-stop nourishment with a smile, and dozens of course marshals are on the bike, clad in easily identifiable jerseys to lend a hand and keep it safe. Official number plates with timing chips, a Tyvek number for pinning on the back of one’s jersey, and a seatpost sticker number ups the pro look of everyone’s bike, whether it’s a sleek racer, hybrid, or in some cases, recumbent. Several young families enjoyed the ideal 80-degree weather.

I hopped on the NorCal bicycle builder train of Jeremy Sycip, Curtis Inglis, and Steve Rex where the medio and gran routes diverged. Our small peloton of 10 riders zipped along the Sonoma County roads two-by-two when possible, and we made sure to enjoy the rest stops, bumping into Dempsey, who posed with excitable middle-aged women and the local Girl Scout troop, enjoying the day like everyone else.

We opted to climb Willow Creek Road, an ideal mix of beat-up asphalt, gravel and sand, which rises to the top of Coleman Valley Road. After answering the call of nature, a member of our peloton thought he’d impress a recumbent rider by passing him riding a wheelie, losing his balance (and a bit of his pride) and falling over. Dusting himself off, he rejoined our laughing crew (the recumbent rider was good natured, thankfully, and a beast up the dirt climb), as we snaked our way to the top.

Despite the large volume of cyclists sharing the road, it never felt like 7,500 people were getting in anyone’s way the entire ride. There’s plenty to notice in 65 miles, and I was impressed by the number of people visiting from Vancouver, Colorado, Idaho, and other locales. Several riders told me they look forward to riding the King Ridge GranFondo every year because they never tire of the scenery.

Leipheimer and his wife Odessa Gunn are highly visible within the Santa Rosa and Sonoma County communities. In addition to supporting the regional Humane Society’s Forget Me Not Farm with proceeds from the King Ridge GranFondo each year, more than $400,000 has been raised for charities and cycling support programs.

As the 38-year-old Leipheimer enters the twilight of his racing career, it appears his commitment to the community and his passion for cycling has laid a strong foundation for generation of cyclists to come, whether they’re local or visiting from another part of the world, just like those I met in Santa Rosa on September 29.

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Bike overnights: Going big close to home

By Sarah Raz, photos by Josh Tack.

Whenever I think of bike tours, I think of months on the road. I think of cross-country excursions and miles and miles of pedaling and so much time on the saddle that the days run into one another and time is measured in peanut butter sandwiches. I picture tents growing weathered, tires being swapped out, calf muscles becoming staggeringly large and powerful.

My boyfriend, Josh, and I are lucky enough to work at the Adventure Cycling Association, so we can usually swing one long-ish bike trip a year. We love to take trips abroad and spend weeks on end investigating a foreign countryside by bike. The rest of the year, however, we have this thing called work to consider, so long bike tours are out of the question. But since we still love to get out and explore, we’ll often spend a weekend on a mini-bike tour or a bike overnight.

We live in Missoula, Montana, a sweet, laid-back college town just a hop, skip and a jump from the border of Canada. It’s a wonderful place; it’s surrounded by snow-covered peaks and has a long growing season (for Montana) that earned it the nickname “The Garden City.” On the three-day weekend of July 4th, we decided to check out the Rattlesnake Recreation Area. We’d pedal up the 15-mile dirt road corridor to the wilderness boundary with our backpacks in tow. From there, we’d make yet a deeper hike to visit the still snowed-in lakes of the pristine backcountry.

We started out with a technical difficulty. We were using trailers to pull our backpacks and my trailer had been having problems ever since I’d had the bright idea to pull my 180lb. friend home from a party (the weight limit is 80lbs.). We’d made it home all right, but the left back wheel hadn’t been the same since. Before we hit the trail, we had to abandon my broken trailer at the Adventure Cycling office. “Don’t worry, Josh, you’re so strong!” I said. “You can just pull both of our backpacks!” Josh is a good sport, but he didn’t look too convinced. The corridor up the Rattlesnake gets extremely steep, and our packs, loaded with food and camping equipment, were heavy.

Finally, we were off. Montana summers can be hot, but it got nice and cool as we started to climb away from town and into the mountains. The creek was bubbling next to us, and the air smelled good and fresh. At first we saw some other cyclists and hikers, but as we headed up there was just Josh and me and the flutter of birds and insects in the air. The pathway opened before us and the landscape became more rugged and high alpine. I noticed a waterfall from snowmelt to our right. I thought about how easy the riding felt and then remembered that  wasn’t carrying anything. I looked over at Josh and he just laughed. “Next time,” he said, “you’re carrying everything!”

Before I knew it, we’d reached the wilderness boundary. We stashed our bikes and trailer, strapped on our backpacks and hiked upwards a few more miles. I wished for boots instead of my light trail runners—although it was still warm, there was snow everywhere and within minutes my shoes were soaked through. Before dark, we found a place that met our three requirements to camp (flat, with a view, bear-hang tree readily available) and promptly conked out.

How much snow is there in the mountains in Montana in July? More than I’d ever imagined! The next morning after we packed up and started walking, it wasn’t long before we couldn’t locate the trail any longer due to heavy snowpack. “I think we go this way,” I said, pointing to the right. “I can just feel it!” Josh studied the map.

“Actually, I’m pretty sure we go in the other direction,” he said. “It doesn’t have anything to do with feelings, but that’s what it looks like on the map.” We headed off with just the hush-hush of snow all around us.

Suddenly, I sensed a bit of movement in the woods and turned my head. An animal, smaller than a deer, was running along the ridgeline in near-silence and with incredible grace. Was it really a wolf? I almost couldn’t believe it. His silver-gray hair glistened and his legs seemed longer than I would have expected, almost gangly. He padded along, not really in a hurry, but not lingering either. Then he was gone. I realized I’d been holding my breath for a solid minute. I let out all the air in a giant rush.

There we were, not twenty miles from our back door, surrounded by snow and wilderness and a magnificent wild animal. I suddenly felt small and very humble. When we camped next to a frozen lake that night, I lay awake in my sleeping bag for a while, looking at the stars through the bug net. None of my worries seemed of consequence anymore, and I felt grateful for the shift in perspective.

The way home was all downhill. We crunched our way through the snow, then pulled our bikes out of their hiding spot and hooked up the trailer. “Hooray!” I said, piling my pack on Josh’s trailer, then zooming away, unencumbered. But I think it was more than the freedom from the packs that made us feel lighter. It hadn’t taken a grueling airplane ride and a month away from work to discover some remote backcountry. All we needed was a long weekend.

Check out Adventure Cycling’s new website: www.Bikeovernights.org, aimed at providing inspiration, resources, and tools for short bicycle tours (one to two nights). You’ll find stories, tips, and how-tos about embarking on short overnight cycling adventures, whether you’re traveling to a state park solo, lounging at a B&B, or taking your child on their first overnight bike adventure. Plus, you can submit your own trip report for possible publication; Adventure Cycling hopes to collect bike overnight tales from all 50 states!

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D2R2: Learning what it means to be tough

By Molly Hurford,

When I was down in Georgia back in February, I raced Southern Cross: 54 miles of some road, some dirt, some gravel, some fast descents, some wicked slow hills. It was a grind, and when I finished that race, I was exhausted. THAT, I thought, was a hard race.

Then, I did D2R2, which, consequently, is not even technically a race. It is a "fun ride" where even the shortest distance is longer than the Southern Cross distance, with more climbing and infinitely more dirt. And while it is billed as a "fun" ride, I don’t think my heart rate went under 150 the whole time, mainly because even on the screaming downhills, I was fervently hoping that I wasn’t about to eat it and roll off the edge into the woods or streams below. I’m sure there is a way to ride with “easy,” but I have yet to meet a New England cyclist that believes in riding anything easy, let alone roads where there are “competitors” out ahead of you.

Moral of the story: New Englanders don’t mess around. I know this because, in Georgia, the racers were all fit, tough-looking hard-core riders. D2R2? There were people of every age, shape and size on every type of bike taking to the start line. The casual way that the racers approached what was — for all parties, no matter how fast you chose to ride — going to be a hard day was nothing short of incredible.

The Deerfield Dirt Road Randonnee, or D2R2 to those who know it, was started in the ’90s as just a fun ride through the heart of Western Massachusetts. Maybe because it came at the end of road season when racers were ready to shift to knobby tires, or maybe it was just the fun-loving vibe of a race where you can camp on site the night before, but whatever the reason, its popularity has grown considerably. Now, with four different distances to choose from (100K, 115K, 150K and the hard one, a 180K for the masochist crowd), it has become part of the legend that is New England cycling.

The course is spectacular: back roads in New England showcasing the entire Pioneer Valley, complete with rivers, streams, cliffs, mountains, fields, meadows, quaint New England towns, covered bridges… It’s like someone took a set of a Disney movie and plunked it down on the Massachusetts/Vermont border. I very nearly expected to have birds start singing in chorus with me as I toiled along. A llama even stuck his tongue out at me, which is literally a scene out of The Emperor’s New Groove (Anyone? Anyone?). Of course, this fairy tale beauty does have a caveat: it’s flipping’ hard. Even on the shortest of the loop options, there is 7,000 feet of climbing, mostly up dirt roads.

So, I admit: there were dark times: the first grinding hill, the second grinding hill, the third grinding hill; the moment when I asked "how far along are we?" and got the answer of, "11 miles"; and the moment when I was triumphantly thinking that I was digging deep, really reaching into myself and shredding, only to have my ride buddy blaze by me while chatting with another rider.

But of course there were good times too: the sandwich I wolfed down at the lunch stop while admiring the beautiful view of the covered bridge; the last screaming dirt descent, even though I thought my hands were about to fly off of the hoods where I was feathering (clutching) the brakes for dear life; the beer I got to drink after pulling through the finish line.

It was, in short, fabulous. And anyone that finishes it — from the father-daughter tandem team to the speediness that is the Boston crew to the woman who was at least three times my age and on a mountain bike — is one seriously tough cyclist.

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A Ruota Libera: Pizza + bikes + music in San Francisco

By Gary J. Boulanger,

Take a pinch of steel, add a dash of jazz guitar, throw in a few hundred bicycle lovers, and mix it all with wood-fired Neapolitan pizza and you have a party, San Francisco style.

Una Pizza Napoletana owner and avid cyclist Anthony Mangieri teamed with Soulcraft Bikes’s Sean Walling to throw the second annual A Ruota Libera, an officially unofficial NorCal Handmade Bike Show at Mangieri’s South of Market pizzeria on Sunday, August 12.

The industrial retail space was alive with conversation, centering around bicycles on display from several regional frame builders and designers, including Ahrens, Black Cat, Black Mountain, Blue Collar, Bruce Gordon, Caletti, Falconer, Frances, Hunter, Inglis/Retrotec, Rebolledo, Rock Lobster, Soulcraft Steve Potts and Steelman. Local component makers Paul Components, Pass and Stow, and White Industries balanced off the exhibits. Santa Cruz filmmaker and photographer Brian Vernor’s work lined the walls, while Mangieri and his crew served authentic Neapolitan pizza with Italian beer and wine all day long.

For Walling, the small venue and low-key atmosphere is a nice change of pace compared to the North American Handmade Bicycle Show that pops up around the country each late winter. Plus, Mangieri has befriended several of the framebuilders, and enjoys throwing a party. Several local enthusiasts showed up on bikes, which were tended to by the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition’s free valet parking service.

Former Bridgestone Cycles icon, cyclo-cross legend and longtime Rivendell employee Pineapple Bob rubbed shoulders with another East Bay legend, Bob Roll, in town on vacation with his family. Bobke, as he’s called, was tipped about the event by former endurance mountain bike racer and current popular chef Chris Cosentino, who spent the afternoon at Una with his family as well.

Mangieri relocated his popular pizzeria from New York’s East Village in late 2010, after spending several vacations riding mountain bikes in the Bay Area. His friend, filmmaker Mike Evans who’s also a New Jersey native, helped organize the event. Evans debuted a short film about Walling at last year’s A Routa:

Former professional skateboarder Tommy Guerrero provided the event’s music, a solo fusion of looped jazz guitar mixed with his own take on several classic obscure rock songs. He also provided the soundtrack for Mangieri’s documentary by Evans:

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Bike infrastructure booming in Indianapolis

By Robert Annis, photos by Jeremy Albert.

After decades of little or no attention paid to cyclists, Indianapolis has made massive strides over the past three years to encourage two-wheeled transportation, thanks in large part to a bike-friendly mayor and a small but dedicated group of advocates.

Before Greg Ballard was elected mayor in 2007, the Hoosier capitol had less than one mile of bike lanes within the city. During Ballard’s first term, road crews painted nearly 64 miles of bike lanes, and shortly after his November 2011 re-election, the mayor pledged $20 million to create an additional 75 miles of trails and lanes by 2015. Once completed, Indianapolis will have more than 200 miles of trails, greenways, and bike lanes, allowing commuter and recreational cyclists to travel nearly anywhere in the city almost entirely via the bike network.

A jaded observer might call the Republican Ballard’s courting of area cyclists an attempt to grab votes in a Democratic-leaning city, but it’s obvious after spending any time at all with him that he truly loves bicycling. Unlike many mayors who dust off their rusty Schwinn for the annual Bike to Work Day, Ballard rides as often as he can before heading into work in the morning. He’s also a fixture at organized rides, bike races, and trail openings, and even rode in the legendary Little 500, the race made famous by the movie Breaking Away. Ballard also sponsored the city’s first Polar Bear Pedal last January, which attracted nearly 500 riders on a snowy, sub-freezing day.

Ballard is already thinking past 2020 and beyond Indianapolis’ city limits. He and other mayors and leaders from the surrounding counties have been working on a proposal that would expand the trails to the suburbs and legions of potential bed- room community commuters.

Ballard’s Democratic predecessor Bart Peterson didn’t do much to encourage bike commuting, but he did help shepherd the 10-mile Monon Trail, which stretches north from Indianapolis to Westfield, to completion in 2003. Not only did the trail increase cycling’s visibility, but it also serves as the primary spine for the city’s northbound bike network.

“Anytime you create cycling infrastructure, it feeds upon itself,” said local advocate Tom McCain. “Trails lead to more cyclists which leads to the need for more bike lanes which again leads to more cyclists…the Monon has become more than just a piece of transportation infrastructure, it’s become a way of life for a lot of residents. It was an important first step that laid the groundwork for expansion.”

Part of that expansion is the eight-mile Indianapolis Cultural Trail, which, when completed later this year, will weave through several of the city’s hip neighborhoods, including Broad Ripple and Fountain Square. It also includes the new $1 million Indy Bike Hub, which opened to much fanfare last fall.

The Hub is located in City Market, a historic, city-owned building that had been struggling to keep tenants for much of the last decade. Officials had toyed with the idea of building a fitness center in the building’s east wing, but the idea quickly gained momentum after the bike proponent was added. In addition to showers and a locker room, the bike hub includes a full- service repair and retail shop, operated by Bicycle Garage Indianapolis.

“The Bike Hub sends a pretty strong signal we want people to ride to work, to have a place where they can get cleaned up and hit the gym if they want,” Ballard said. “We’re putting the pieces together to make bike commuting as easy as possible.”

Ballard claims he’s not a micromanager, but admits he was insistent on at least one aspect of the Bike Hub—lockers large enough for several days’ worth of work clothes and toiletries. The largest lockers available for monthly rental were reserved within weeks.

Ballard sees the infrastructure improvements as a much-needed form of alternative transportation in the growing city, and as another enticement for the young, creative class most regions are trying to at- tract. “There’s a cultural change going on in the city,” Ballard said. “As we see more physical changes [to the city and its residents], we’re going to continue seeing young and middle-aged people really respond to what we’re doing. By offering lots of activities and options, people are going to change the way they move around town.”

The hard work is getting noticed. In 2010, the League of American Bicyclists named Indianapolis a Bicycle-Friendly Community.

The city doesn’t yet have a solid grasp of exactly how many people are using the lanes, but the League of American Bicyclists estimates a 62 percent increase in commuter cyclists from 2008 to 2009. City Planner Jamison Hutchins said the city plans to hire an outside contractor to create a count sometime this year. McCain, who heads the local Pedal and Park non-profit, claims all-time highs last year for events worked and the number of bikes stored.

“A few years ago, demand for the program really took off,” McCain said. “We’re seeing a huge increase in the non-traditional cycling crowd, mostly young families who want to go to an art festival (or other event) and want to have fun and exercise at the same time.”

That’s not to say there haven’t been any hiccups. Some critics believe the city’s efforts on bike lanes are actually making commuters less safe. Local attorney and blogger Paul Ogden argues the design of some of the bike lanes leave cyclists open to getting hit by motorists opening their car doors, while other lane markings are too confusing for many drivers. Ogden also criticized the lack of upkeep of many of the lanes, saying they’re frequently covered in glass and road debris.

“These bike lanes are giving riders a false sense of security,” said Ogden, himself a frequent bicycle commuter. “They think they’re safe, but it’s only a strip of paint separating them from vehicle traffic. I wouldn’t want my son or daughter riding them.”

Although Ogden claims they’re dangerous, city officials aren’t aware of any motorist-cyclist accidents involving the bike lanes. By contrast, elsewhere in the city, there were 160 vehicle-bike collisions between January 1 and October 1 of last year.

Ogden and others prefer a greater emphasis on greenways or segregated bike lanes, both of which are more expensive than traditional bike lanes and not as financially practical for the cash-strapped city. Hutchins understands their desires, but believes they’re missing the point, arguing that most cyclists realize that just because they’re in a bike lane, they’re not magically protected from traffic.

Hutchins acknowledges some of the earliest bike lanes aren’t perfect, but claims city engineers are learning from previous mistakes. Local advocacy group Indy Cog recently created a list of suggestions for the city to help improve the existing lanes, many of which the city were already implementing.

City planners have gone out of their way to avoid controversies, declining to move forward with at least one bike lane project that would take away on-street parking for surrounding businesses. In- stead, the city went with sharrows.

“There’s still a bit of confusion every now and then,” Hutchins acknowledged. “But typically traffic continues to roll smoothly. There’s just one or two lane shifts; it really doesn’t change the way people drive.”

Ballard has heard complaints about the lanes from constituents, particularly those who are a little older, but is quick to point out the designs were created according to federal standards.

Education efforts are underway as well. Over three weeks last summer, Indianapolis police held a special enforcement campaign, issuing warnings to both drivers and cyclists they noticed breaking the law. As the bike network continues to expand, city officials hope to do more of the campaigns.

“Drivers were driving partially in the bike lane or not giving three feet to the riders; cyclists were riding on the wrong side of the road or running stop signals or signs,” Hutchins said. “Cyclists have the right to be on the road, but they also share the same responsibilities as a car. No one’s immune to the law.”

League of American Bicyclists spokeswoman Meghan Cahill says the best thing cyclists can do to promote safer riding conditions is multiply: “The more cyclists you have on the road, the more awareness you’re going to have.”

Bicycles will likely never outnumber pick-up trucks on Indy’s streets, but the city will continue the last three years of amazing progress. City officials and bike advocates admit Indianapolis still has a way to go before it can join the pantheon of bike-friendly cities like Portland or Minneapolis, but with Ballard leading the way, don’t bet against it.

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We met our maker – our bike’s maker, that is

By Gary J. Boulanger

Northern California has been the epicenter of bicycle innovation and manufacturing for decades, with the surrounding terrain and ideal climate providing a near-perfect fusion for saddle time with friends and strangers. As a result, Soulcraft Cycles owner Sean Walling organized the ‘Meet Your Maker’ Tour, a series of Saturday group rides designed to bring frame builders and parts makers together with friends, customers, and like-minded riders.

“Sometimes we lose sight of what our industry is all about,” Walling, pictured above, said. “Handbuilt bike shows are good, but sharing a ride with friends and customers brings it all together. The Meet Your Maker Tour is about providing access to the people who make great bikes and parts. This Tour makes it easy for riders to meet the NorCal builders who they hope to do business with locally. Our goal is to see as many local brands under riders as possible.”

The second MYM Tour was hosted and organized by Mark Norstad, owner of Paragon Machine Works in Richmond, Calif., on July 21. Paragon designs and manufactures dropouts, bottom bracket shells, seat stay caps and other components used by Walling and his manufacturing brethren.

The 26-mile ride route was designed as a historic tour of a region known for its World War II manufacturing output, with several stops planned by Norstad, including one at the Rosie the Riveter museum in Richmond, Calif.

By 9:15 a.m., 36 people had assembled in Paragon’s parking lot. Framebuilders joining Walling and Norstad included Steve Rex (Rex Cycles – Sacramento), Josh Muir (Frances Cycles – Santa Cruz), Mauricio Rebolledo (Rebolledo Cycles – Sonoma), Bruce Gordon (Bruce Gordon Cycles – Petaluma), and Robert Ives (Blue Collar Bikes – Sacramento). 

The sky was a crisp blue and the wind was minimal, with temperatures in the high 60s when we rolled out of the Paragon Machine Works parking lot. Riders came from Sacramento, Santa Cruz, Mountain View, Oakland, San Francisco, Sonoma, Petaluma, and San Bruno, and the collection of bikes included Soulcraft, Hunter, Retrotec, Rex, Bruce Gordon, Charlie Cunningham, Gianni Motta, Frances, Engin, Peugeot, Rivendell, Ibis, Bianchi, Pashley, Blue Collar, and Rebolledo. The tribe was almost equally split male and female, with Walling’s young daughter Lucy keeping us company in her dad’s Burley trailer.

Richmond is an industrial, gritty town of 93,000-plus, with brightly colored homes with low fences and cars galore lining the streets. Norstad designed a route using the Bay Trail and connector bike paths, linking us to Shimada Park, Vincent Park, and Marina Bay Park, home of the Rosie the Riveter memorial. Richmond’s ‘Rosies’ played a significant and nationally recognized part in the World War II home front. The four Richmond shipyards, with their combined 27 shipways, produced 747 ships, more than any other shipyard complex in the country. Richmond was home to 56 different war industries, more than any other city of its size in the United States.

From there, we pedaled to the former Ford Motor Company Assembly plant, a 500,000-square-foot architectural marvel of Albert Kahn’s ‘daylight factory’ design. President Franklin D. Roosevelt banned the production of civilian automobiles during World War II, so the Richmond Ford Assembly Plant switched to assembling jeeps and putting the finishing touches on tanks, half-tracked armored personnel carriers, armored cars, and other military vehicles destined for the Pacific Theater. By July of 1942, military combat vehicles began flowing into the Richmond Ford plant to get final processing before being transported out the deep-water channel to the war zones. The adjacent Craneway Pavilion hosts the Bay Area Derby Girls Championships on August 4.

Cruising through the port, we made our way to the S.S. Red Oak Victory shipyard, where Walling’s grandparents met decades ago.

We continued along Highway 580, then dropped onto Western Drive for nearly four miles, rising past a rifle range that paralleled the San Pablo Bay north of the San Rafael-Richmond Bridge before climbing the uber-steep Point San Pablo Marina Road, which Norstad referred to simply as a ‘grunt’. The more than 20-percent grade had several in the group grunting…

Norstad’s plan was the reward of ripe blackberries on the backside of the hill near the marina, which several in our posse enjoyed before we reversed course and returned to Paragon, passing brightly-painted graffiti and more industrial building along the bike path.

Highlights of the ride include:

  • Watching Josh Muir coast down a steep grade no-handed on his custom cargo bike as he made adjustments to his helmet, then climb the grunt while most of us walked.
  • Chatting with Bruce Gordon about his relaunch of the popular Rock ‘N’ Road tires.
  • Getting to know folks from the Bay Area who are relatively new to the area and are excited to talk bikes with professionals.
  • Drinking in the antics of Stevil Smith.
  • Listening to Sean Walling, Steve Rex, and Bruce Gordon talk casually about their craft – they have nearly 90 years combined experience.
  • Watching the guy with the full-face helmet pilot his 40-year-old Peugeot through dirt, gravel, and grass, with one cargo pant leg unzipped.
  • Sweating one-third my body weight on the grunt.
  • Watching Bruce Gordon patiently answer ‘no’ to a well-intentioned older woman in a car ask if we were part of a club, Meet Up, or race.
  • Riding down the bumpy backside of Point San Pablo Marina Road, the second worst road in the world after the one in front of Steve Jobs’ Palo Alto house, which looks like it came from the “Lord of the Rings” movie set.
  • Laughing with Stevil and his cohorts while Lanie Walling tried her best to calm a rather unhappy Lucy after Sean scarred her for life riding down Point San Pablo Marina Road.

Want to get in on the action? The 3rd Meet Your Maker Ride is scheduled for early October, hosted by Paul Components in Chico, CA.

 

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