Monday, April 28, 2014

Revisiting the "Ride of the Year"

Your beloved bikeist is TAD today.  That's Navy talk for "I'm on a business trip and don't have time to properly blog."

Driving north up the coast today, though, reminded  me of my ride from L.A. to San Juan Capistrano last Fall, so please tide yourself over with this exciting re-run of The Bikeist's "Ride of the Year" until I'm back in the saddle:

Monday, December 30, 2013

The End is Nigh!

Those of you tuning in to find out how my Topeak iPhone "Drybag" performed will have to wait -- needs a little more field testing with a variety of apps before I'll be ready to weigh in.

Besides, this is my last post of the year, so I'm obligated by the laws of media to do something gimmicky.  No lists, though -- too many folks out there doing end-of-year lists.  Instead, I'm going with "The Ride of the Year."  By default, it should probably be my journey from the CA/OR border to San Francisco, but you have already heard all about that ride in infinite detail via the epic, neverending Bikeography.  Plus, that was really more a "trek" than a ride.  To be eligible for "ride" of the year, the sojourn must have been completed within the bounds of a weekend or less.

So many rides to choose from, but there is one that stands out for so many reasons -- L.A. to San Juan Capistrano (southern Orange County).  Part of my quest to conquer the entire Pacific Coast from Canada to Mexico, this ride was spawned from a "basic" errand (as so many of the best bike rides are).  My littlest bikeist is actually a genuine "ist" - as in "violinist."  She's been playing since she was just shy of four, and graduates to a new sized violin every couple of years.  As it so happens, one of the very best violin shops anywhere, Robert Cauer Violins, is in West Hollywood.  Normally, we turn our bi-annual violin trip into a mini-vacation, spending the weekend in LA in conjunction with the violin trade-in and purchase.  This year was no different with us taking advantage of a generous military discount at the Beverly Hilton:

 . . . and hitting Universal Studios the morning after.  But what about the errand?!  -- you ask.  Be patient, I'm getting there.  For the first time in many journeys, my little violinist couldn't make up her mind about which violin she wanted.  So, after hours and hours of trying to pick the right one, we decided to bring two back to San Diego, so she could get help from her instructor in making the choice.  Thus, it became necessary for us to get the rejected violin back to Hollywood the following week.  Since nobody in my family was anxious to drive all the way back up the I-5 a second weekend in a row -- I pounced on the perfect solution -- I'd deliver the violin by bike!

This should come as no surprise to anyone.  I did not actually have enough time to complete the whole trip by bike, but with the help of Amtrak, I could get the whole delivery done over a Saturday and Sunday.  I set out early on a September Saturday morning with two violin cases strapped to the back of the newly re-furbished Red Cannondale, do-anything, urban-assault bike.  As I said above, there are many reasons this ride stands out for me.  The fact that it allowed me to incorporate my trusty old Cannondale into a significant portion of my Pacific Coast conquest is one of the biggest.  This ride provided the perfect opportunity to test how she would perform on an extended journey (after so many years relegated to trips for groceries, etc.).

Here's how she looked, geared up (those are surfboard straps securing the cases) early on a Saturday morning as I headed out:

The metamorphosis was not yet complete (new Shimano pedals and Brooks saddle yet to come), but the most important upgrades were in place -- skinnier, Specialized All-Condition Pro tires and "bullhorn" handlebars (didn't even have time to add the Roubaix tape they are now adorned with).  The all-important rack, though, is what made the Cannondale the bike for this job.

The first nervous moment of the trip came early, as I secured the fully loaded bike into a bus rack to get us over the Coronado Bay Bridge to San Diego proper.  I've been doing this for as long as MTS buses have had racks, but was a little worried about the added weight:

No problem, though, as the rack easily held my violin-laden bike.  After getting off at 12th and Imperial Transit Center, I zipped past Petco Park and along the bike path that parallels the Trolley along Harbor Drive to Santa Fe Station to catch the "Surfliner" north to Union Station in LA.  About 2.5 hours later, I was walking my bike through the venerable old lobby:

Not, quite, Grand Central Station, but beautiful nonetheless!

Now, it was time to get serious -- needed to knock out eight miles across the heart of L.A. to get to the violin shop.  Luckily, traffic in downtown LA is pretty light on Saturday mornings, so the (surprisingly hilly) ride was much easier than I anticipated.

Robert, et al, were quite amused with my delivery method, and couldn't recall anybody (even a local) delivering a violin back via bicycle.  We got the transaction done, quickly, and I was then on my way through West Hollywood and Beverly Hills to Santa Monica where I'd start my trek southward along the coast.  Have to admit, though, that I was waylaid, by a burger calling me from this West Hollywood, upscale diner:

The waiter was, probably, the most attractive man I have ever encountered in person, yet I left the restaurant just as hetero as when I walked in --

As I headed along Santa Monica Boulevard to the iconic pier, I had to admit to myself that I was surprised at how easy it was to cross LA on a bike.  This busy thoroughfare had a dedicated bike lane the whole way and the drivers were actually fairly courteous and attentive to this bikeist (of course, the most dangerous drivers were probably still dead asleep recovering from Friday night revelries . . .).  Best of all, though, I came along this unexpected treasure:

YES!  The actual Little League field and complex where they filmed the Bad News Bears -- not only one of the best baseball-themed movies ever filmed, but, IMHO, one of the best movies ever -- period.  I know, I know -- you may think of it as a farcical tale of foul-mouthed adolescents and their alcoholic coach, but I beg you to revisit it,  There is genuine pathos there.  The kids are actually way more REAL than I remembered them, and Matthau was simply brilliant as Buttermaker.  Worst of all, the horrible coaches/parents weren't nearly as bad as the worst I experienced on my way up to playing D-1 ball.  So, it was with great excitement that I briefly abandoned my journey to explore the situs of one of the greatest movies in film history:

I couldn't get out on the field to get a proper vantage-point (since there were authentic little-leaguers actually using the field), but the billboard in the corner has a faux advertisement for "Chico's Bail-Bonds" -- the supposed sponsor of Matthau's "Bears."

14 miles later, I hit the Pier and started following the boardwalk south.  Here was my second big surprise (which continued for miles and miles).  The boardwalk (which separates bikes from pedestrians along separate paths) allows bike riders to traverse, pretty much, the entirety of Los Angeles County right on the beach.  How awesome is that?!  This was some of the best scenery I have ever experienced in the saddle.  Endless stretches of Pacific coastline, the weirdos amassed at Venice Beach, world class volleyball players almost the entire way, and the blue, blue ocean stretching on forever to the west . . .

In case you're wondering, I still have a violin case (vice the two I biked in with), because I needed a full-sized case for the new violin waiting in San Diego.

Surprisingly, with the need to take care of business first, and several pit-stops, I was only able to make about 17 miles southward before the shadows started getting a bit long.  I had hoped to get to Seal Beach in OC, but was pleasantly surprised by my locale as the sun began to set in Redondo Beach in southernmost LA County.  Great pier, great restaurants, lots of happy young people, great vibe!  I found a motel near the beach and partook of a sushi feast (see a pattern hear, loyal readers?) before hitting the hay.

The next morning, I got out early, and was immediately gratified with my decision to stop in Redondo Beach as I had to cross the living hell that is Carson City in order to get to the OC Coast and the type of riding I had been enjoying.  For those of you unfamiliar with this ungodly stretch of sprawl, it is a conflunce of oil refineries (think North Jersey) just south of Los Angeles proper.  The acrid air I breathed in for a good fifteen miles is indescribable.  God help the poor souls who live within the confines of this polluted wasteland:

Once I got past this purgatorial stretch, though, it was miles and miles of wonderful OC beach riding that welcomed me.  The same LA-style boardwalks stretch along the coast, with a brief, although arduous, detour through Laguna Beach, which may be the most bike un-friendly town in all of So-Cal.  Taking the advice of "the bible," I got off the 1 for a good stretch of Laguna Beach, but the parts where I was forced onto the main road offered no bike lane and seriously obnoxious drivers in multi-hundred thousand dollar cars. 

The steep hills through LB definitely enhanced the difficulty, but once I cleared it, there was nothing but smooth sailing to Dana Point and on along a great bike path to San Juan Capistrano and its Amtrak Station.  

60, tough miles on my rigid Cannondale down, after 40+ tough urban miles the day before had me pretty pooped, but, luckily, I still had my wits about me as I lingered on the train platform.

As I was standing there with my bike, I noticed a woman sitting down on the platform (literally on the area painted yellow for caution) with her legs dangling down toward the track. I thought of saying something to her about the wisdom of sitting that way, but figured she would notice when a train was coming and move -- not the case. About ten minutes later, the bells and lights started going off at the crossing, but she just sat there, obliviously smoking. I calmly got her attention and said that she should get up. As she looked at me with a confused expression, I saw the train swooping into the station behind her, triggering my loudest and most commanding: "MOVE NOW!!" She jumped up and back about five seconds before the train crossed where she had been sitting -- partially hanging over the platform. Dude next to me, looked at me and said it was a good thing I said something, otherwise she would have been dead. I'm still not sure the clueless woman has any idea how close she came to the end --

There you have it, folks, indisputable evidence that bikes save lives.  If I had taken the easy way out, and driven back to LA, that lady would likely be dead.  Further, I might have never seen the field where my favorite movie ever was filmed.  My bike saves my life every day, and, I hope, will continue to do so into 2014 and way, way, beyond . . .

Happy Biking to all, and to all a great ride!

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Saturday is Bikeist Day (Part Tré)

Here it is loyal readers -- the epic conclusion to the Bikeist's three-part series detailing every excruciating detail of my Saturday bike routine.  Could I have done this in a single post?  Probably.  But, what fun would that be?  It's much more enjoyable to get carried away (pretty much describes my approach to both biking and blogging, and, well, just about everything) --

When I left you last, we were about to embark on the (insert negative adjective here) Rose Creek Path on our trip up to UCSD and back along the coast through La Jolla:

This path is a necessary evil.  It connects Mission Bay Park to Damon Ave and the I-5 frontage road that leads to the Rose Canyon Path and points north.  Taking it allows one to avoid fighting with the "bros" on East Mission Bay Drive (if you think they're bad in the park just imagine how they treat bikeists when in their natural habitat), but presents an obstacle course of broken grass, narrow uneven pavement, potholes, roots, feral animals and humans, and overgrown brush.  If I hadn't had so much experience on the Pearl Harbor Bike Path, I might just declare this the worst bike path in America.  Worst in San Diego will just have to do, then.  

Thankfully, the path isn't much over a mile.  It pops you out onto East Mission and the longest cross-walk light on the planet.  It has the obligatory button to (supposedly) let the light know you're there, but, whether you push it one or a hundred times (and, believe me, you'll have time to push it a hundred times), you're going to spend a good five minutes waiting for your window to cross safely to Damon.  Once, you do, though, it's time to crank -- there will be few obstacles and little traffic all the way to La Jolla Shores.  Pass the (secret) In-N-Out on the left (shhh, don't tell anybody about this hidden -invisible from any and all freeways and thoroughfares- jewel) 

 -- cross under the overpass, and then hang a left on Santa Fe, which parallels the 5 until it dead ends at Rose Canyon.  If you are in need of anything bike-related, hang a right instead and The Bicycle Warehouse (which IS visible from the freeway) will be up the short hill on the right.

Thanks to being a dead end with just a few businesses and an RV Park, Santa Fe is almost car free on Saturday mornings.  Before you know it you will be on the Rose Canyon Path (wider than the Rose Creek Path, but also uneven and poorly maintained with several sandy spots).  

The nice thing about this path, though, is that you often see locals out removing trash and debris from it.  Thus, despite the complete lack of professional maintenance, it is cleaner and less foreboding than the Creek Path.

The path ends with a quick climb up to an I-5 exit ramp that empties onto Gilman.  Now that you're in La Jolla, you get your first glimpse of what nicely maintained roads look like (especially interesting to me because La Jolla is actually part of the City of San Diego -- I guess certain voter's tax dollars are worth more than others).  Anyway, Gilman provides nice, smooth asphalt and a wide shoulder along a steady climb up to UCSD.  Pass by the (empty) guard shack and the sleepy Saturday morning campus awaits.  Gilman rolls for a few miles around the east perimeter of the campus until it hits Voigt with a bunch of soccer and rugby fields to the left.  Keep them on the left as you make a left on Voigt.  The water polo natatorium will soon appear on the right.  Wave to the beautiful people inside the fence as you head to a "T" with Warren.  I cross the road and follow the walking path straight ahead here taking me through "Warren Mall" and the heart of the campus.  UCSD is a gorgeous, sprawling, woodsy campus with some amazing pieces of architecture.  One of my favorites sits atop the School of Engineering:

I half expect to see a woman's legs with striped stockings sticking out from under this mis-placed house every time I pedal by.  It's hard not to love this bit of whimsy.  Is it the result of one engineer's dare to another?  A lost bet?  Come on UCSD grads -- fill the rest of us in on the story behind how this house got here.

At the end of the mall, I do as the students do and bike past the sign saying no bikes, skateboards, etc. (although, there is a large bike-rack in the very area where bikes are supposedly banned), and follow the short, steep, sidewalk up to the Thurgood Marshall School.  Here, we follow Scholar's Lane to the left as it parallels Torrey Pines Road for a bit before crossing it onto La Jolla Shores Drive and the highlight of the ride.  Ahead is one of the best descents in San Diego.  After a big curve, it screams along the ocean past Scripps Institute with no intersections and little traffic until the bottom. Like all thrill rides, it's over in the blink of an eye.  Make a right at the light to continue to hug the coast Past La Jolla Shores beach-park until you come into the quaint little business area of the Shores.  Here, I make a quick right onto Calle de la Plata and the next right onto Paseo Dorado which goes by the Tennis Club and the famous Marina Room Restaurant where it becomes Spindrift which is steep but short.  It ends at Torrey Pines Road which you make a right on to climb up to the Village (in a newly renovated bike lane that will suddenly disappear as it spits you into the right turn lane at the top of the hill).  Take the lane aggressively and pedal like hell for the right turn onto Prospect which takes us directly into La Jolla's fabulous shopping and dining district.  The Living Room, on the right, is a good place to stop to refuel on espresso (and, perhaps, a pastry). 

There are several choices of roads to navigate down to La Jolla's gorgeous coastal park.  

From here on, the ride is sheer bliss all the way through PB.  No need for a road by road account, just hug the coast where you can, following the bike route signs.  The route rolls and turns easily along the coast through ultra-chic neighborhoods all the way through Bird Rock to PB.  My favorite stretch is along Windansea Beach -- great view -- beautiful people -- iconic surf spot.  Love it.

Once the road west of La Jolla Blvd dead end's with the Blvd (with a convenient bike connector between the dead end and the road), head right for about a quarter mile past a couple of apartment buildings, then follow the bike route to the right where you'll connect with the northern end of the PB Boardwalk.  Now, there are much faster ways to bike through PB, but none more scenic.  Just be patient and drink in the long beach and the sea of people (still thinly spread out enough to allow biking on a Saturday morning).  If you're lucky, you might just see Slomo:

Locally famous for a while now, this retired doctor, who gave up the rat-race for the joy of slow-motion roller-skating, has hit the big time after being featured in The New York Times and a new documentary.  I would do exactly the same thing (substituting long-distance biking for slow-motion skating) if I had a neuroseurgeon's nest egg.

Once you clear the throngs near Crystal Pier, the boardwalk broadens and you can actually pick up a decent head of steam.  Make sure to exit the path after a few miles, though, at Belmont Park, home of the "Giant Dipper" wooden roller coaster -- almost as thrilling as riding down la Jolla Shores Drive.

Here we get on West Mission Bay Drive, which has an excellent, wide shoulder -- go over the bridge, and then make the first right (and quick left) onto Quivira, which dead-ends, but has a short access path to the Sunset Cliffs Bridge.  At the end of the bridge, I pedal for dear life again as I merge into the traffic exiting the 8 and heading to OB.  The merge is necessary in order to catch the left fork onto Nimitz which has a decent bike lane and takes you all the way back to the Bay and Harbor Drive.  From here it's a nice warm-down through the Embarcadero until I get back to Little Italy for lunch.  My favorite spot there these days is Underbelly on the corner (literally) of Kettner and Date.  Awesome Ramen, great beer selection and cool staff.  Best of all, though, they give 10% off to any customer who arrives on a bike!  Nice reward for 60 miles in the saddle on a Saturday morning.

After filling my belly with noodles, it's back over to Harbor to catch the ferry home to Coronado and my little bikeists as they return from theater rehearsals.  Perfect end to a perfect bikeist Saturday morning . . .

Monday, April 21, 2014

Saturday is Bikeist Day (Part Deux)

I hope you've all recovered from my thrilling account of doing the "Donut Ride" with the world-famous Crown City Cyclists.  This week you get to join me for what happens most weeks when I allow them to domestique me (yeah, that's right, I used domestique as a verb - deal with it) as far as IB where I splinter off from the group and head north on the bay side of the Bayshore Bikeway.  Don't worry, I will soon return to spewing pure nonsense, but tonight we ride!

So, since my delicate constitution can't handle the race back every week (and because my long-suffering wife is not about to tolerate me doing rides on both Saturday and Sunday mornings), I generally use Saturdays to get in a ride of 60 miles or more.  I treat the first twenty-three miles around the bay as my warm-up, followed by a more challenging 40 or so after I pit-stop (yeah, I just used pit-stop as a verb, you know what to do) at Caffe Italia for some nourishment, espresso and conversation with my buddy Chuck (read HERE to learn more about Chuck and Caffe Italia), regulars Errol and Rosemary, and Chuck's legions of admirers.  

Love the breakfast panini with egg, cheese, and prosciutto here (it's no "Breakfast Pizza", but it's pretty good), and they brew freshly ground Lavazza espresso -- nice --

Once I'm fueled, I bid adieu to my friends and head north on India toward the wilds of North County.  The ride I'll describe here actually takes me only as far as Torrey Pines, but when I'm starting to build mileage to get ready for the big summer trek, I'll push beyond to do 80 (Encinitas) to 100 (Oceanside pier) miles rather than my usual 60.  India is actually pretty calm on Saturday mornings, and SOOO much more pleasant than Pacific Highway.  I have always been amazed that Pacific Highway is designated as a major bike route.  Sure, it sort of has a bike lane (in most parts), but the lane is in complete disrepair, forcing riders to edge even closer to the traffic whizzing by at 70+ mph.  India is much more calm, taking me along the east side of the airport (with a great view of the constant comings and goings of jet-liners).

After a quick climb through the tunnel that separates Little Italy from Middletown, I crest (crest as a verb!) the hill and zip down toward the restaurant row at the end of India where it intersects Washington.  No time to stop this early in the ride, but I still glance longingly at Saffron and Lucha Libre after I bear left right before El Indio and cross Washington onto San Diego Avenue.  Almost immediately on the right after climbing the short hill from Washington is one of the best little secrets in San Diego:

Dos Brasas has the best carne asada breakfast burrito on the planet.  There I said it - now I can't take it back.  I know this is a bold statement considering that we live in breakfast burrito heaven, but I dare any of you to find a better steak and egg breakfast burrito.  Some say this classic taco stand has the best Mexican food in San Diego (an even more bold statement), but my certified expertise is limited to breakfast burritos, fish tacos, and pizza, so I'll just have to take their word for it.  On weekends when I don't spy my friends waiting at Caffe Italia, I pedal the extra few miles here before pit-stopping (did it again, yo!).  Most weekends, though, I pedal past, but not without some Pavlovian salivation triggered by the aroma  of tortilla and grilling meat wafting into the cool morning air . . .

Less than a mile from Dos Brasas, I crest (again!) this hill (past the former Thomas Jefferson Law School), and head down the other side toward Old Town.  Bear left onto Congress and head right toward the Old Town Transit Center to avoid all the clueless tourists looking for parking near Old Town Mexican Cafe on San Diego Ave.  Congress "T's" (used T as a verb!) with Taylor, where I hang a left and then make a quick right onto the calm part of Pacific Highway.  Perry's (awful) Breakfast Cafe is on the left and the world's most unfortunately located motel fast approaches on the right:

Yes, the "EZ 8" Motel sits directly underneath the freeway.  I always pedal extra fast as I pass the entrance due to all the derelicts who always seem to be gathered there.  I also snicker to myself a little imagining the poor fools who thought they booked an incredible bargain on an Old Town motel only to find themselves in this dump (not about to find this photo on the EZ 8 website).  Here's my favorite TripAdvisor post on the EZ 8:

1 of 5 stars Reviewed October 25, 2013

"Mir fallen keine passenden Worte für dieses Motel ein... es ist ein grauenhafter Ort - hier halten sich augenscheinlich nur gescheiterte Existenzen und Besucher mit kriminellen Absichten auf. Wir sind kurz nach dem Check In "geflohen" aus Angst um unsere Gesundheit und Sicherheit! Im Übrigen liegt es DIREKT unter zwei Freeways, neben einer Eisenbahnstrecke, das Lärmaufkommen kann man sich also vorstellen"
Stayed October 2013, traveled as a couple
Copy and paste into Google Translate for a literal translation, but I think "DIREKT unter zwei Freeways" kind of speaks for itself.  Sheer Deutsch awesomeness . . .
From here it's past the CHP station on the left, over the San Diego River, and on to Mission Bay Park where there are ALWAYS hordes of outlandishly dressed people with numbers pinned to their costumes finishing some arduous 5k or other.  I absolutely loved the lady squeezed into her lycra fitness costume with obligatory "athlete's" number who blew smoke on me as I pedaled by this past Saturday.  Just hope it wasn't a Cancer Society "run."
East Mission Bay Drive is busier than one might expect for a road that runs through a park.  Most of the park-goers are pretty courteous to us bikeists (especially those with bikes on their roofs), but some of the "bros" using it as a short cut back to PB from wherever they passed out on Friday night can be infuriating as they try to pass you with a constant stream of on-coming traffic and a steady row of cars parked on the shoulder to the right.  A bike lane would be nice.
East Mission Bay Drive becomes North Mission Bay Drive until it dead ends (for cars) at the new Mike Gotch Bike Bridge (opened by our Bikeist Mayor himself):
 right next to the entrance to the (decrepit)  Rose Creek Bike Path:

I absolutely love the juxtaposition of these, contrasting, adjacent trail entrances.  One, shiny and new, represents the optimism and hope surrounding the completion of an ambitious civic project.  The other shows what happens once the ribbon cutting is over and the new infrastructure is left to our apathetic public works "professionals" to maintain.  And, believe me, the entrance, is the nicest part of the Rose Creek Path, but more on that next time as I have already run over!

That's right loyal and intrepid readers, my two-part series just became a three-parter!  Lucky you!  Tune in on Thursday as we brave (yes, brave as a verb people!) the Rose Creek Trail to get to the really fun part of this ride.  I can hardly wait!

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Saturday Is Bikeist Day (Part I)

Relax, relax, people -- I'm still here.  A guy misses a single post in six months and they start sending out search parties.  Yeesh.  My day job, defending truth, justice, and the American way, kind of got in the way of my blogging on Monday.  Hate when that happens . . .

Anyway, I'm going to try something completely out of the ordinary this time and actually write about the riding of an actual bicycle.  What a novel idea, right? 

As my hardcore readers already know. this is my regular ride:

It's a Specialized Secteur or "Poor Man's Roubaix" as I like to call it.  It has the same geometry as the all-carbon Roubaix, but with an aluminum frame (at a fraction of the price) and carbon fork with "Zertz" technology.  I'm still not exactly sure what zertz is (may be from a downed alien aircraft), but it does seem to add to the cushion provided by my fork as I have happily logged thousands of miles in and around San Diego and all over California on this bike with much less wear and tear to my joints than I have suffered on past bikes.  My Secteur is my daily commuter, trekking bike during the summer, and, most importantly, my ticket to freedom every Saturday morning.

As described previously, I begin most Saturday mornings at about 6:55 am with these folks:

Yes, this a rare glimpse of the world famous Crown City Cyclists, getting "organized" for our Saturday morning "donut ride."  What started as a small group of friends riding to get donuts in IB in 1980 has grown to a 25 - 70 rider strong peloton that whizzes down and back up the Silver Strand every Saturday morning at "7:00 am sharp."  We meet in front of the home of two of the original members, Pat and Debbie Callahan, and take off when Pat rings the bell on his bike.  It's an eclectic group of locals, Navy folks, off-islanders, and racers and novices alike.  All are welcome.  I love seeing my friends and meeting new riders first thing on Saturdays and especially love the ease of riding in the middle of a large group as our shared momentum propels us almost effortlessly down the Strand.  That changes to max effort, though when the group turns around at Stardust Donuts in IB --

(no posted hours -- open when they feel like it) and heads back north.  Three groups form that all race back to the Callahans' house for coffee, donuts, bagels, and tall tales of exploits during the "race" back (after contributing to the honor bag of course).  As I've mentioned before, and will discuss in Part II of this fascinating two-part account of my Saturday riding routine, I normally break off from the Peloton as we near the donut shop and continue around the bay and beyond.  However, some Saturdays I'll stick with the group and race back.  While I can occasionally hang with the group I refer to as the "A" riders as far as the Cays, I always, inevitably, fall off the back and then fall in with the "B" group which does a good 20 - 25 mph (when the winds aren't hellacious) as opposed to the 26 - 30 the A group seems to be able to maintain regardless of wind conditions.  I have pretty much resigned myself to not wasting the energy chasing the A riders anymore and form up early with the B riders instead.  However, once I get back to mid-summer form it will probably be tempting to give chase once again just for the fun of it.  We'll see.

Because of the large size of the groups, and their speeds, the A and B groups abandon the bike path and ride on the wide, nicely paved shoulder of the Silver Strand Highway as they race back to Coronado.  I've heard that things can get a little hairy out in front of the A group ("heard" because I've never actually been up there in that mix to witness it myself).  The B group, though, typically falls into a fairly organized paceline where we all take turns "pulling" up front while the riders behind save their energy until their turn in the lead.  For a quick tutorial on how to ride in a paceline, check out this short article from Bicycling Magazine:  "Bike Skill: How to Draft."

Interestingly, your position in the paceline determines the percentage of energy you save from wind-blocking, but the furthest person back doesn't get the most benefit (as anyone who has lost the battle to hold the wheel of the second to last rider in line can attest to).  There is actually a "sweet spot"in the middle of a large pack, and even the puller gets a boost of up to 3% from the pressure of the air "bubble" that forms around the group as it moves in unison. 

I will credit the organization and overall good manners of the "B" group to my friends Jeff and Francine, who actually lead bike tours of Europe every summer and police the group in the most friendly way possible - always complimenting fellow riders for a good pull and helping with communication up and down the line.

Good manners are thrown to the curb, however, once we leave the Strand and enter the home stretch along Glorietta to the painted finish line at Sixth Street (hidden right behind a speed bump).  From here on its every rider for themselves, as individuals try to break free and the group tries to reel them in right up to the final sprint.  I'm usually in the mix in the final push to the line, but never, quite, have what it takes to eke out victory.  Maybe someday I'll get lucky . . .

After crossing the line, we pedal, leisurely, back to Pat and Debbie's house for the aforementioned refreshments, where we meet the "C" group (which stays on the bike path and foregoes the race to the line on Glorietta) and proceed to make excuses for why the fates have, once again, conspired to deny us of our much deserved victory this week (well, at least I do).   We also talk about bikes, rides people are planning, Le Tour (when it's happening), and whatever else grabs our fancy that morning.  Truly bikeist heaven to be around such a great, welcoming,  group of people who love to ride, and especially love the camaraderie of doing it in a group.  I also cherish the solo time I get on my bike, but will NEVER give up the thrill of riding with this Club on Saturdays -- truly the best of both worlds!

Thursday, April 10, 2014

And Now They're Attacking Us With Baseball Bats . . .

March Madness is finally over, but, on cue, we have the annual rite of Spring, baseball, to fill the sports void evacuated by college hoops.  It appears, however, that baseball season (otherwise known as open season on bikeists) started early in New Orleans.  

As reported in the Times-Picayune of New Orleans in February of this year, some teens there decided to get a little batting practice in on random bike riders.  In two close-proximity incidents on Esplanade Ave, a team of two thugs randomly attacked riders -- one stepped in the path of the riders and the other bashed the unsuspecting  bicyclist in the head with an aluminum bat as he slowed to avoid hitting the first degenerate.  The first victim suffered a fractured jaw while the second had his skull fractured.  OK, New Orleans -- we surrender, you win -- you have us and LA beat for worst random attacks on bikeists.  There's just no competing with that sort of random depravity. 

Check out this video for the reactions of local Le Bikeistes:

I love the first guy interviewed -- he preaches about how important it is to be aware of one's surroundings as the earbuds he took out to give the interview are dangling from his helmet straps.  Really dude?  Even if these psychos gave you fair warning by shouting "Cowabunga!!" before clobbering you, you'd still be dead meat!

What is it about getting on a bike that makes people suddenly hate us so much?  Does it have anything to do with the fact that we defy the laws of gravity and nature by propelling ourselves through space on a vehicle that lacks the capability of standing upright on its own?  I have read stories of bike trekkers getting pelted with stones as they entered villages in places like Afghanistan, but aren't we supposed to be the civilized ones?  Maybe the behavior of some of the unrefined inhabitants of the Hindu Kush provide some insight on our own primitive impulses.  Do we defy the gods when we mount a bike and travel farther and faster than horses without our feet ever touching the ground?  I can't really say, but I do think that the behavior of some of these senseless attackers provides me with a little insight into some of the drivers I encounter on my daily commutes and weekend rides.  Hating Hateists.

If we're going to combine biking and baseball, wouldn't this be a much better approach?

Or, how about this?

That's Jose Cardenal in 1975, riding a pennyfarthing in the Cubs' left field to promote a Cancer Society Bike-a-Thon.  Classic.  #7 in the background is Rick Monday, in case you were wondering.

And here we will end the Bikeist's three part series on random, senseless, nation-wide violence against people on bikes.  I actually had no intention to continue the series today until a loyal reader brought the baseball bat story to my attention as I was mulling over a baseball-themed post.  Just couldn't resist.  Noticeably absent from this post are any references to our hometown San Diego team.  This is has a direct correlation to the noticeably absent W's in their wins column.  It's looking like another long season in baseball paradise for us rabid fans.  Good things we have our bikes to help us work off the frustration . . .

Monday, April 7, 2014

Bikeist on the Bus

Biked 12 harrowing miles up (and I so mean UP) to Allied Gardens to watch the true Requiem for the Big East in my buddy Craig's garage.

Watching UConn takes me back to my earlier biking days when I used to drag my long-suffering wife around the state trying to complete every single ride in this great book:

And people wonder why I refer to her as "long suffering" . . .

Now, I'm on the 15 Bus making my way back Downtown, and eventually, to Coronado.  Did you know that if you scream "nobody rile him up" as you board you can ride San Diego buses with your hyper-active pit-bull?  Who knew?

Running out of battery, so I'll have to cut this one sho

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Half-Baked "Halfbike"

This is just plain stupid:

So, why do I feel compelled to ride it then?

What the hell is it you ask?  Good question.  As discussed in The Week, and Gizmodo, it's an invention they found on Kickstarter, called the "halfbike."  

First of all, it's not a "bike."  It has three wheels, making it a "trike" or "halftrike."  

The inventors (who are trying to raise $80,000 in order to mass produce it for hipsters too cool for conventional bikes or even fixies) are trying to market it as a commuter.  Does this really look like a useful or convenient way to get to work?  They also point out that it is small enough to fit in an elevator (my Secteur fits fine in the elevator at my office, thank you) and light enough to carry up stairs.  Hey, I'd be the first one to point out that hipsters are generally lacking in upper body strength, but I daresay that even they could probably handle lugging a twenty pound bike up a few flights of stairs.

The halftrike pretty much abandons all the things that make a bike a bike (including two wheels):

"The Halfbike completely does away with a seat, and even handlebars, requiring riders to remain standing while they grasp a vertical shaft to help keep balanced."

Nothing quite as invigorating as grasping a vertical shaft in order to maintain balance first thing in the morning I always say!

Disclaimer:  the following video is not a Portlandia or SNL skit.  It is an an actual attempt to make you want to fund  this project and/or buy a halftrike.

(If you are accessing "The Bikeist" from a smartphone, you may need to follow this link to watch the embedded video:

Why would I want to commute on something so uncomfortable and that I could probably outrun?  This thing makes less sense to me than that crazy Elliptigo contraption:

Not buying it.  But, if someone sends me one, I'll be glad to test-ride it and post video right here on this very blog-site.  So, if you have about $800 or so you don't know what to do with, let's have some fun with the halftrike!