Evil Stepsisters

April 7th, 2018 by tony

The “Pineapple Express” blew out of the Bay Area just in the nick of time for the Evil Stepsisters to sashay over Mt. Tam, deftly avoiding any puddles that would soil their gowns! Of course postponing the departure by one hour dearly helped. Here’s the report from Drizella (Jeff Pekrul) herself:

“It was just Scott Stephens and I today on the Evil Stepsisters. Too bad, it was a good day to ride as the rain stopped a few hours before we left Peet’s at 10. We did the loop clockwise (not the ‘Evil’ way). It never rained although it was really foggy on Ridgecrest between Rock Spring.

They have barricades on Ridgecrest at Rock Springs and at Bo-Fax Rd, however we went around it and rode it anyway. There was a mud slide across the road in the “seven sisters” (seven bitches?) area, but we were able to ride through it OK. It may be cleared by the time Roger rides it tomorrow. By the time we got to Fairfax it was sunny and beautiful. We had a late lunch at Perry’s deli and took our time on the return leg of the ride. It was after 5 pm when we finally reached the Castro area in SF. We saw some great wildflowers although not as many poppies as I’m used to seeing at this time of year. We saw literally dozens of waterfalls and streams along the side of the road that are not normally there, it was phenomenal. The stream in Mill Valley was really raging and the spillway at Alpine Dam was releasing an incredible amount of water (photo).”

Yet Another Road Update [updated 3/30]

March 27th, 2018 by tony

Can you believe we’re still talking about road closures?? We’re nearly through the rainy season and we *still* are dealing with closed roads due to 2017’s torrential rains. It’s hard to believe that it is taking over a year to get major roads open. Don’t forget there are still many minor roads (i.e. roads we cycle on!) which haven’t been repaired and are only open to one-way traffic. With county road budgets being stressed they’re unlikely to be fully repaired for many years and we’ll just have to live with roads slowly falling down the hillsides. But the positive is that they then become impassable to cars but not to bicycles! Here’s an update on the remaining major roads.

Pinehurst. The Canyon Road bridge was closed last April due to earth movement. A temporary bridge that is one-way and controlled by a signal was opened last November 22 while the City of Moraga worked on funding for a two-lane replacement in 2018. Well, that has now been pushed back to 2019. So the road is open but we won’t have a full replacement this year. Unfortunately the one-way bridge doesn’t seem to be deterring the commuter traffic that avoids the Caldecott Tunnel and zips along Pinehurst. It has been so much better with the bridge out!

Redwood Road. The opening date keeps getting pushed back. First it was end of January, then beginning of March. Now it’s supposed to open by end of March. The roadway has been buttressed and reconstructed along with repaving and a new guardrail. The striping is supposed to be taking place now. The weather is supposed to be good this week, so we might actually get a nice surprise before this weekend! [UPDATE: Botz dots were glued down this afternoon (3/30) and Redwood opened up to all traffic.]

Calaveras Road. This road is taking “forever” to be reopened, probably because SF Water is pushing to keep it closed because the dam repairs are way behind schedule and it would just prefer to keep it closed until it’s done, even if it is unnecessary from a safety point of view. It’s now supposed to be fully reopened at the end of this year but the road is supposed to be open to weekend use sometime beforehand. Exactly when that is is vague. The SF Water website—unlike Alameda Public Works’s for example—does not provide the status of repairs; it’s typical SF Water: keep everything mum. The mindset is very Soviet: we don’t have to tell you anything until we want to. If the road opening were postponed another year, I wouldn’t be surprised. However the Fremont Freewheelers have supposedly secured the use of Calaveras for the upcoming Primavera Century. Last year the event had to be cancelled because of Calaveras’s closure. But if the road is safe enough for over a thousand cyclists to use on April 22, why isn’t SF Water reopening the road for weekend use?? If you want to ride Calaveras this year, you’d best plan to do the Primavera.

Highway One. Pfeiffer Canyon Bridge was rebuilt and opened last October, which opened the Big Sur portion of Highway One to through traffic. But the Mud Slide near Gorda to the south, which is massive, is still under reconstruction with a projected completion being “late summer 2018”. Since every road repair done since the 2017 rains has taken longer than expected, I think we can safely assume that Caltrans won’t make that deadline and we’ll be lucky if they have it open by end of October. This is pretty far away from our regular stomping grounds but it does affect us in one particular way: David Gaus has planned a multi-day road trip down Highway One and over Fergusson-Nacimiento Road to Fort Hunter Liggett. Since Fergusson-Nacimiento is a main access road to Highway One, it’s a bit dangerous to cycle on with the additional traffic. Normally it’s quiet and it won’t return to its former state until the Mud Slide repair is done and traffic goes back to contentedly hurtling up and down the coast.

Saddle Challenge Spoken Here!

February 19th, 2018 by tony

Every March Different Spokes hosts the Saddle Challenge. Originally a not-so-serious intraclub competition to see who could rack up the most miles in March, it evolved into a fundraiser for Project Inform. I believe Saddle Challenge started in 2002 but I’m not sure who the originator was. It very well may have been Chris Laroussell, who was President at the time. The Ron Wilmot Ride for Project Inform started in the ’90s after Bike-A-Thon folded and it was still held when Saddle Challenge started even though Ron had passed on years beforehand. But like many fundraisers that lose their moving force, the RWRFPI disappeared around 2007, and at that time Saddle Challenge adopted it and added the fundraising component that it has to date.

In any case the goal of Saddle Challenge remains the same: ride as many miles as possible in March in order to kickstart your riding season. We also raise money from self-pledging or by persuading friends, family, or acquaintances to chip in, in order to donate much needed funds to Project Inform. How you pledge is up to you. You can do it per mile, lump sum, or any formula you choose. To participate in Saddle Challenge you do not have to donate to Project Inform, but you do need to register so that we can see all those miles you’re riding! And you’ll be able to see how many miles everyone else is riding too at the DSSF website. Yeah, it seems really dated how this is done—it was designed for the world before Strava became a thing. Wouldn’t it be nice if Strava or some other platform could host little mini-competititions like this!

To spur you on we have a robust calendar of club rides during March. Originally the plan was to have a club ride for every Saturday and Sunday in March so that you all could ride with other Spokers. But it hasn’t quite worked out (yet) since Sunday March 18 still doesn’t have a ride even though the day before has two. And it may work out yet! To be continued…

This year we are making our friendly competition a bit more interesting by offering prizes for members who do the most miles on our club rides and for those who donate the most money. Keep in mind you must be a member to be eligible to win a prize. We’ll be giving away a Spurcycle bell, a Bontrager Flare R taillight, a Bontrager Ion 100 R headlight, and the book Road To Valor: A True Story of WWII italy, the Nazis, and the Cyclist Who Inspired a Nation. And maybe some other mysterious goodies will appear before the end of March—you never know!

The number of miles you ride is counted on the honor system. But for the most miles ridden on club rides in March you will need to make sure you sign the ride waiver at each ride in order to get credit. The miles you earn on those rides is based on the ride listing mileage or its RWGPS route. If you ride extra miles before or after the club ride, they don’t count, alas. However if the club ride goes rogue and officially does extra miles (like the ride leader getting everybody hopelessly lost), they do count as long as the ride leader can confirm what happened.

To register go to the DSSF webpage  and hit the link ‘Saddle Challenge’ on the sidebar and fill in the details.

At the end of March when Saddle Challenge closes, send a check for your donation and/or collected pledges to the Ride Coordinator who will forward them all to Project Inform. Checks should be made out to Project Inform.

Finally, if you have other ideas to make Saddle Challenge even more interesting, share them with me.

Tubeless Update

February 5th, 2018 by tony

I wrote about my early experience with tubeless road tires last year; you can find that article here. Since last August I’ve put another 700 miles on those wheels and I experienced my third puncture a few days ago. As I mentioned before, one of the downsides of running sealant in tires (tubeless or otherwise) is that if you do get a puncture it often will not seal immediately especially if it’s more than a pinhole. In the meantime as your wheel is spinning around it’s ejecting sealant in every direction. Since it’s winter the bike now has fenders, so I didn’t notice I had a puncture until I got home and saw the Orange Seal sealant on the mudflap and on the inside of the fender. Upon inspection the 2 mm puncture was completely sealed. The astonishing discovery was that the tire had lost less than 10 lbs. of pressure; in other words, even though it looked like the contents of the tire had been massively spewed out, it must have sealed very quickly, so quickly that I didn’t notice the loss of air pressure. I was impressed—I was able to continue riding as if nothing had happened! Of course if there hadn’t been a fender in place I would instead likely be trying to launder dried latex sealant out of my bike clothes. Although it wasn’t raining when I got the puncture, you can imagine how miserable it would have been to replace an inner tube while getting drenched. I can see the advantage of running tubeless tires with sealant during our rainy season. So far, so good…

Ride Recap: Social A Ride—Brunch at Hideout Kitchen

February 4th, 2018 by tony

Continuing our strange waterless winter we had another stellar warm and sunny day, perfect for a comfortable Contra Costa ramble and a killer brunch. Temps in the mid-seventies in February? Not unheard of but truly unusual especially when it’s not just a single day but a week of it! Six of us rolled out of Orinda BART heading to Moraga to take the Lafayette-Moraga Regional Trail to Walnut Creek. We met Derek at the edge of Rossmoor and rolled through the back neighborhoods of Alamo and Walnut Creek. The only untoward incident of the day was the explosive flat Peter had just before the second rest stop. I was impressed with how his eensy-weensy Lezyne pump managed to get his tire pumped up hard without a jillion strokes.

Well, the point of the day was to get to Hideout Kitchen for a delicious Sunday brunch. It’s always hard to estimate when the group will get to the lunch stop so I didn’t make a reservation. Unfortunately Hideout Kitchen is now a popular spot and we ended up having to wait over a half-hour for a free table. Comfortably ensconced in their outside patio we passed the time in idle chitchat. After a multi-year absence Ryan returned to Different Spokes and hopes to start riding more regularly again; Peter had ventured all the way up from San Jose for our little ride. Soon we were seated and service at Hideout was quick and thorough. Roger and I had omelots; Derek, Ryan, and Stephen various kinds of panini; Peter, a very healthy looking Cobb salad. Only Greg went for the speciality of the house, a waffle sandwich (!)

With brunch dispatched it was a short hop back to Orinda BART. Next month: Ryer Island for some very flat levee roads and hopefully spring blossoms!

Ride Recap: Four Bears & A Happy Pig

January 29th, 2018 by tony

In two words: [x] building, where x = {character, muscles, VO2, confidence, ego, delusion}

It was really the wrong time of year to lead a ride like this; it was short and sweet but long on the climbing. RideWithGPS said over 4k of vertical but when the day was done it was “only” about 3,700 in under 35 miles. How did we do that? By climbing the Three Bears, Pig Farm, Reliez, Deer Hill, Happy Valley, and then Papa Bear. It wasn’t the total vertical that made the ride challenging; it was the steepness of the grades. They are all short but they are all double digit (well, not Baby and Mama Bear perhaps). The worst was Deer Hill, where Garmin said it was 15% (and I believe it!) But all the others were well north of 10% too.

Roger surprised me by saying he was game to do the ride after we had ridden a 40-miler the day before. The only other person mad enough to do this ride was Dylan, a former Spoker, who was awesomely enthusiastic about doing such a tough ride. We kept it at a B-pace and ended the day with an average of 11.5 mph, which is right on the spot. We survived those climbs by doing them all at a reasonable pace and not gunning it. We also rested at the top of each and every climb, taking plenty of time to imbibe and chat. Dylan hadn’t done most of these climbs before so I inflicted the full history lecture on him. Maybe that increases the TSS?

We lucked out with a cold but very sunny day with calm air, perfect for all those hills. We got back to Orinda and Dylan had to run. But Roger and I got lunch at one of our local and favorite eateries, Geppetto’s, which has delicious sandwiches and soup.

My legs were very tired afterwards!

Ride Recap: Social Ride Treasure Island to Assemble

January 21st, 2018 by tony

Treasure Island Tourists!


It was a classic “you couldn’t ask for better weather” ride yesterday. After a night of mild rain we were greeted by clear skies and bright sunshine. As well as chilly temperatures. But the wind was calm and the Bay was classic flat water. The January Social Ride went to Treasure Island by the eastern span of the new Bay Bridge, explored the island, returned, and then went up to Assemble in Richmond on the water. Derek was the only casualty of the day when his e-bike battery mysteriously gave up the ghost not long after the start. By trading batteries and head units we were able to pin the problem down to his battery, which oddly enough indicated it had a full charge yet would not provide any power. So he had to return to MacArthur BART while the four of us—Roger, Jim, Roger Sayre, and I—proceeded on. It was Roger Sayre’s first time on the Alex Zuckerman path and he proceeded to take photographs liberally. With the old span completely gone, the view to the South Bay is unobstructed and marvelous now. There still isn’t much to see on Treasure Island except for the exceptional views of both SF and the East Bay from the shoreline. Afterwards we went back to the East Bay and headed up the Bay Trail to Assemble. Because we had dawdled we got there pretty late—2 p.m.—but there was still a hefty lunch crowd. Needless to say the food was pretty damn good. I had a bowl of homemade clam chowder, the others had omelets or other breakfasty food. Roger complained that his house fried potatoes were not fully cooked—an unusual error at Assemble. On the other hand I had to have a plate of fries and they were perfect. Back to MacArthur BART after a pleasant jaunt along the bayshore!

2018 Fast ‘N Fabulous Kit!

January 8th, 2018 by tony

2018 Fast ‘n Fab kit


FastnFab, our sister club in NYC, has a new kit coming out this June. This year’s iteration features a very New York graffiti design. The kit is made by Verge and you can see sizing here. Bob Nelson at FastnFab wants to have all orders no later than January 31 and delivery will be June 1. Cost is $80 for the jersey and $86 for the bib shorts. There are upgrades available too—contact Bob for more information: fastnfab@gmail.com

On the right side of the pic Bob is modeling the full kit.


Fast ‘n Fab Jersey 2018

2018: Welcome to the Pleasuredome

January 3rd, 2018 by tony

Good riddance to 2017! Last year started with a whimper: after a nice New Year up Mt. Diablo we got tons of incessant rain. In contrast we seem to be heading into a dry winter—bad news for long showers and green gardens but great news for cyclists! Last year was also a quiet year for Different Spokes. Whether it was due simply to constant bad weather in the first third of the year who knows. In any case we have some great changes in store for 2018.

First, we are soon going to able to offer official club dirt rides again. Our insurance has not covered off-road riding but that will change by the beginning of February. After that expect to see mountain bike and mixed terrain rides appear on the ride calendar. Of course those of us who are non-asphalt inclined have been riding where we please. But now we’ll be able to do it officially rather than on the down low. If you’re a mountain biker or just like to ride on unpaved surfaces, you’ll have even more reasons to ride with Different Spokes.

For those of you who like to ride less quickly you’ll be happy to know that Roger and I have a full schedule of Social A rides for 2018, at least one ride a month. We will be taking in some new routes, sights, and naturally fab eating places such as Treasure Island, Angel Island, and dining at Gaumenkitzel (yum!) as well as old favs such as the American River Bike Trail, the Arastradero Preserve, and eating at Sogno di Dolci in St. Helena and Assemble.

Saddle Challenge is coming in March. Need some incentive to get in the miles? You can look forward to Saddle Challenge Mile Eater rides to get you to your mileage goal for the month and kickstart your season. Will they be the usual boring routes like Mt. Tam or Tiburon loop? Well, maybe a couple will be but you also can look forward to some unusual rides such as out to the Spirit Ship on Mare Island and riding on Delta islands! Why ride the same roads over and over?

Last but not least we might actually see the return of the Lake Tahoe Spectacular Weekend this summer. I’ve been receiving moderate interest. If I can get at least ten firm confirmations, then I think it will be a go. Stay tuned.

What else can we look forward to in 2018? Last summer after several months delay we saw the opening of the SMART commuter train in Marin that now allows for extended riding in Marin and Sonoma without getting in a car. BART managed to open the Warm Springs extension in Fremont after an even longer delay. Hopefully that won’t happen again with BART’s Milpitas and Berryessa stations, which are scheduled to open this June. At last we might actually be able to do our Mt. Hamiton in the Fall ride without using a car to get to the start at Berryessa Creek Park! The SF-to-SJ ride has always ended at the Diridon Caltrain station. But for those of us who live in the East Bay and don’t want to take the Caltrain back to SF, the lessened mileage to Berryessa will be much better than to Fremont or Warm Springs. But wait there’s more: BART’s Antioch extension will open this May. Getting to Black Diamond Mines Regional Park for righteous fire road rambling will be easier. Getting to the Delta to enjoy levee roads will be easier too but it will require you to ride your bike over the Antioch Bridge, which is indeed open to bicyclists and even pedestrians. Brannan Island State Park is just across the bridge as well as Rio Vista and beautiful rides such as Ryer Island. Getting across the Antioch is a bit hairy: there is a shoulder but the traffic (including semis) ostensibly is going 55 mph. There is often a numbing crosswind or headwind off the Delta. Nevertheless it is possible to bike it and it’ll be a lot closer than starting from Bay Point.

Finally, the last of the roads closed by 2017’s storms will open. Calaveras will reopen to weekend use in the near future (before the Primavera Century in April) and by October should be open daily. Skyline Boulevard (Hwy 35) just south of Castle Rock State Park should also reopen this spring. Further south Caltrans hopes to have Highway 1 at Mud Creek open by late summer, which will finally allow David Gaus’s long-delayed Big Sur Adventure to be held.

The Return of the Lake Tahoe Spectacular Weekend?

December 22nd, 2017 by tony

Long time members will recall that one of the annual events that the club put on was the Lake Tahoe Spectacular Weekend. This two-day event took place during the summer allowing for warm, sunny weather not only to enjoy cycling but also the lake itself. Members drove up Friday or early Saturday and spent two days of cycling in the Lake Tahoe area. We rented an odd house, “the Octagon” and cooked a group dinner Saturday evening.

The earliest versions of the weekend had riders drive half-way around the lake, park the cars, and then cycle back to the rental house; the second day we rode to the cars and then drove back, about 35 miles each way. This quickly evolved to riding around the lake in one day—70 miles—and then doing something else on Sunday, usually riding up Brockway Summit to Truckee and then back on Highway 89. Later when mountain biking became popular, some would instead do the Flume Trail.

The last time this trip was offered was around 2006. What killed the trip was the loss of “the Octagon”: it was taken off the rental market and there was now no easy way to house a large group inexpensively. The Octagon was an otherwise semi-decrepit ski house but it had one exemplary trait: it had a crapload of beds making a weekend at Lake Tahoe immensely affordable. There were four bedrooms that could sleep two couples each, a couple of bunk rooms that could accommodate four or so each, a hallway area with two beds (!), and then an upper seating area where at least a couple of folks could crash. It wasn’t uncommon to have more than 15 people attend; I recall at least one occasion when there were well more than 20.

A few years ago I attempted to rent the Octagon but was unable to get a response from the previous agent. About three years ago I accidently ran across it listed on VRBO. It had changed hands, had undergone a serious remodel and update, and of course was now a lot more expensive! But in its new incarnation it can still handle 12-16 people.

I ran the Tahoe Weekend at least once (and had even written a ‘how to’ document on how to organize the Weekend) but I no longer recall how much it cost back then. I think it was something on the order of $50-$75 per person for the entire weekend. That included two nights at the Octagon, breakfast Saturday and Sunday, a big Saturday dinner, and plenty of snacks.

To rent the Octagon for a weekend in August will now cost about $1,400 rather than $700 (= 2006 cost). On the immediate plus side is the much nicer digs as well as we no longer have to clean the place before we leave (we instead pay a cleaning fee). With a rough estimate of $35 per person for food and 14 participants, the average cost would be about $135 per person for the weekend. A quick perusal of motel costs in the Tahoe City area shows that one night alone would cost about that amount and of course no food would be included.

The room arrangement of the Octagon is such that filling every bed requires that we have exactly the right number of “couples” and singles. If not enough couples, then two people who don’t mind sharing a bed; if too many couples, then some who don’t mind sleeping separately for two nights. If there is ample interest, then we may be able to squeeze more people in to lower the cost but it will involve sleeping in the common areas (either the TV sitting area above the living room) or on the sofas in the living room. If there aren’t enough couples and someone doesn’t want a bedmate, a single supplement would be charged proportional to the house rental.

I would like to see the Lake Tahoe Weekend Spectacular done again and would like to get some feedback on the interest level and cost from members.

Here is my proposal:

Lake Tahoe Weekend Spectacular

August 17-19, 2018


  • Drive up Friday. For those who arrive early enough, go out to a group dinner near Tahoe City.
  • Saturday: ride around Lake Tahoe (70 miles), group dinner at the Octagon. Hang out at the Octagon; those inclined may go gambling, bar hopping, etc. in the evening
  • Sunday: ride to Truckee and return by Highway 89 (35 miles?? I can’t remember). Depart sometime in the afternoon.

Includes food for Saturday and Sunday breakfast, Saturday group dinner, and snacks.

Cost will depend on number of participants. If 10 people, then about $175 per person; if 14, then about $135; if more, then even lower.

If you want to view the Octagon, you can see it here.

I would like to get a reading on the interest for this trip. Would you be interested in participating under the conditions of this proposal? If not, what modifications would better fit your needs? Do you consider the price reasonable and affordable? Is this a good time for you to participate or would a different weekend be better?

Keep in mind that this is a general proposal and it can be modified. If you are interested in helping organize the weekend, let me know. Post your feedback either to the DSSF Yahoo! Group listserv or email me directly at handtalksf@yahoo.com