Reflections on Tiburon Loop

June 11th, 2018 by tony

I don’t remember my first Tiburon loop. I moved up to San Francisco in 1982 and although I was mainly into running at that point in my life I still rode my bike on occasion. As running injuries mounted I decided to go back to cycling and surely did the Tib loop on my own. I do recall that my first Different Spokes ride was—what else?—Tiburon loop! During the time I lived in the City I did the loop regularly as do many of you. It’s a convenient, medium-sized ride that gets you out of the urbanity of San Francisco into the sub-urbanity of Marin, which at the time seemed like a godsend. Plus, you got to ride over the Golden Gate Bridge; even on a bad day the ride over the bridge is scenic and rewarding. In those days the club had frequent Decide ‘N Rides on weekends—people met up at McLaren Lodge and jointly decided where to go—and more often than not we ended up doing the Tiburon loop. Why exactly Tiburon loop became the ‘default’ ride bears some pondering but other rides seemed either too short or too long. Even in those days before the tech explosion, life in the City could feel busy and pressured, and the Tib loop was long enough to feel like you did a “long” ride but short enough that you could get home and get your weekend shopping and chores done.

In the time I lived in SF it felt like I’d done the Tib loop a thousand times. It got to the point where I would grudgingly do it simply because it was there and not because it gave me much enjoyment. It was a convenient training loop if a little dull. Why we didn’t ride south of SF more often seems strange in retrospect. But I do recall in those days getting out of SF by Skyline or Highway 1 meant nasty car encounters and lots of broken glass and that likely discouraged us from heading south except in a car to get to the Peninsula to do some ‘real’ riding.

As I mentioned in a previous blog posting, when the Jersey Ride was created in 2001 initially there wasn’t a set route but it quickly settled on the Tib loop. I never went on a Jersey Ride exactly because it was the loop; it may have made the perfect route for an all-club ride but it had worn out its welcome.

With Joseph’s long tenure as Jersey Ride Coordinator coming to an end, we’re continuing the Jersey Ride/Tib loop but now any club member can volunteer to be the ride host. It’s the perfect ride to try out being a ride leader because just about everyone knows the route anyway and it’s hard to get lost! If you’d like to lead the Jersey Ride, shoot an email to me. Over the next few months we have board members volunteering to lead it. Last month Roger Sayre, our secretary led it, and this month Roger and I co-led it. In July and August David Gaus will be your host.

In the early Oughts I moved to the East Bay and I hadn’t gone back to SF/Marin to do the Tib loop more than two or three times. One time was to show it to Roger and another was—finally!—to attend a Jersey Ride about five years ago. So getting to lead it was–surprise surprise–something I had never done before. After a prolonged absence I can’t exactly say it felt like riding a new route; in fact it was depressingly familiar. Not depressing because it was unpleasant but depressing because I didn’t feel a blast of excitement at riding one of the signature rides of the Bay Area. It was as if I had just ridden it yesterday (for the millionth time!) Where was the awe? Another example of familiarity breeding contempt.

But that didn’t mean I didn’t notice the changes that have slowly washed over the ride. The passage of time has brought some changes into ugly relief. Crossing the Golden Gate Bridge is a lot more dangerous than twenty years ago. There were an unbelievable number of cyclists on the west sidewalk, practically an unbroken line both north- and southward in the afternoon. It was very difficult to pass slower cyclists without taking unwise risks, i.e. riding three abreast. Making matters worse the storm fencing along the outside reduces the rideable width of the sidewalk. The west sidewalk has always had an inordinate amount of “furniture” compared to the east sidewalk. But now there seems to be even more equipment piled up so that at times it feels exceptionally constrained. And lord help you if you’re heading southward and you’re foolish enough to draft someone and carelessly drift to the right because it’s hard to see those equipment bulb-outs until you’re almost on top of them! Although Blazing Saddles rentals have always been numerous, they’ve been joined by an equal number from Sports Basement in the Presidio. All we could see heading towards us were SB and BS handlebar bags. I didn’t see any crashes but the onslaught of casual cyclists mixing it up with testosterone fueled Rapha bros had me wondering how many ambulance calls are made on a typical Saturday. I especially loved the Blazing Saddlers who were rolling along iPhone in hand videoing their ride.

Besides the increase in cycling traffic I noticed the awful condition of Paradise Drive. In the late ‘80s it was mostly repaved and made for a smooth, fast run into Tiburon. It looks like it hasn’t seen a paver since. When you ride the same road day after day you hardly notice the slight deterioration—you just get used to it. But bouncing over the potholes and deep ruts after years of being away, well, let’s just say it wasn’t like it used to be.

On the positive side there have been some nice improvements. The Mill Valley-Sausalito bike path now has speed lights, a roundabout, and a 10 mph limit at the sewer plant. Having nearly been hit a couple of times by cyclists coming across from Strawberry or being walked into by clueless pedestrians, those are all welcome changes. Doug and Sal suggested we take the Corte Madera-Larkspur path on the other side of Camino Alto. Is this new? If not, no one in the club knew about it back in the day. Although Tamalpais Drive isn’t bad to cycle on, the path is a more pleasant alternative to get away from cars albeit more roundabout.

Of course the other part of a ride is the company, and this time it was very simpatico. We stopped for lunch at the Woodlands Market just across the street from the defunct Shark Deli. We sat outside for an hour noshing our sandwiches and talking about nothing of significance, the conversation wandering from the trials of airline travel, the state of the SF Symphony and SF Opera, where to get one’s bike repaired in SF, cycling in Japan, Doug’s wheel saga, and how awful traffic in SF is these days. Back in the day club conversations had a tendency to devolve to the latest club gossip and who was seen with whom. Another welcome change? Eventually we hoisted our sorry rears back onto our saddles and made back to SF with a short detour via Strawberry Cove. Like a supermodel who is past her prime, Tib loop may be overdone and overexposed but at least it’s easy on the eyes, still fabulous, and waiting for the next photo shoot.

Summer Time Means…Centuries??

June 5th, 2018 by tony

Riding a century, one hundred miles, is a watershed accomplishment for many recreational cyclists. It’s long but not crazy long  and is doable by most recreational cyclists with a little will power and some training time. (Note: it’s official that rides over 199 miles or involving sleep deprivation are totally fucking crazy.) But it pretty much kills an entire day especially if you have to drive to the start—which is all the time—and then drive home. Let’s just say that afterwards you’re not going to be eager to mow the lawn, cook dinner, or engage in social conversation with your significant other that involves uttering more than monosyllables. That’s where metric centuries come in. A metric century is 100 kilometers or about 64 miles. A metric is long enough to get a prodigious workout and see some great countryside but not so long that you’re wasted at the end. Well, that’s really up to you because you can do a metric at full bore and end up wasted. But you still wouldn’t be as wasted as if you had done the 100-mile route. And guess what? You don’t have to get up (as) crazy early to get to the ride (most centuries want you registered and on the road by 7:30 a.m.) Your morning may not be leisurely but at least you’ll get a normal night’s sleep. And when you’re done, you can actually get home and have enough energy to be a real human being!

Most of us are used to riding 30-40 miles at a time, so a metric is just double that—certainly something that is within reach without any special preparation. A full century is a much bigger reach on just a diet of weekend rides. On the other hand if you’re doing a hundred miles a week, you could do a full century but you’re likely to be in the pain cave for the last 20 miles or so. Keep in mind that in Northern California a full century is also going to have a lot more climbing than a metric, so it’s not just the miles that make it hard.

One of the nice things about organized century rides is that you get to ride in unfamiliar territory. Who wants to ride the same roads over and over? Plus, you don’t have to worry much about food or drink because it’s all organized for you. If you’ve picked a well-hosted ride you can be sure the snacks at the rest stops and the provided meal will be tasty. Fortunately that applies to almost all the centuries in NorCal! Both the Tour of Napa and the Marin Century, which take place in August, are club favorites and they both happen to have excellent mid- and/or end-of-ride meals. The bonus is neither is far away: the Marin starts at the Marin County Fairgrounds just north of the Marin Civic Center on 101 and the Tour of Napa starts in Yountville.

But what makes riding a metric century the best? Being able to ride with your friends so you can encourage each other and make the time pass oh-so-pleasantly. Join your fellow Spokers this August!

Different Spokes Seattle Folds

May 22nd, 2018 by tony

Our club Different Spokes came into being in 1982 and was the forerunner for an efflorescence of LGBT cycling clubs. In general the 1980s was a spawning period for LGBT social groups and with that came an onslaught of athletic clubs—softball, tennis, bowling, swimming, running…and bicycling. I suppose we were the catalyst, as LGBT communities around the US quickly had their own cycling clubs. In those days sustaining a club probably wasn’t too difficult because the competition was, well, nonexistent and the newness of it all had its own enthusiasm. Our communities weren’t yet politically legit nor organized as well as they are today and social oppobrium was the widespread norm (as opposed to the not-so-widespread today). So naturally we sought out each other for sustenance. In essence, we were ghettoized but perhaps that drew us even more tightly together.

Different Spokes LA (now Southern California) still exists but who remembers Rainbow Cyclists in San Diego or Different Spokes Sacramento? For whatever reasons they faded away. Fast and Fabulous in NYC dissolved about a year ago and became a Facebook “club”. At least NYC has another LGBT club, Outcycling. Now I find out that at the end of 2017 Different Spokes Seattle came to an end. You can read its farewell message at the website.

Why have some LGBT cycling clubs gone belly up? We are in an era when cycling is more popular than ever and LGBT acceptance is more mainstream so that being out incurs fewer penalties. Shouldn’t we expect clubs to grow rather than dwindle? Some have speculated that as acceptance has grown there is less need to self-ghettoize and LGBT cyclists, if they ride with others at all, find friends and cycling companions in mainstream clubs. Our communities are so much stronger now that perhaps we find sufficient sustenance in other LGBT spheres, i.e. we compete with other LGBT social circles for attention. It’s difficult to discern if the fading of DS Seattle is part of a pattern or just an idiosyncrasy. Perhaps the explosion of LGBT cycling clubs was merely the result of social conditions that have changed so much that our clubs no longer serve a meaningful function.

What of Different Spokes San Francisco?

The Jersey Ride

May 18th, 2018 by tony

The Jersey Ride is our “all-club” monthly ride on the second Saturday of every month. It’s easy to forget it’s there because its ride listing is the same every month and it doesn’t have a cute, fey title to get your attention. Like Coit Tower it seems the Jersey Ride has been there forever. However the Jersey Ride is actually a rather recent innovation. The very first Jersey Ride was on August 18, 2001—almost 17 years ago. My recollection is that the idea came from Chris Larussell, who was secretary at the time and then became the club president.

There were likely two influences. First, other local cycling clubs had all-club rides, the idea being that there should be an opportunity for all the different ability levels and subgroups in the club to get together on a regular basis. In my neck of the woods Grizzly Peak Cyclists have “Alex’s Second Saturday Ride” and it has exactly that origin. GPC is a considerably larger club than Different Spokes and probably was even during our heydey in the late 1980s and 90s when we had a membership well north of 300. Grizzly’s ASSR currently gets 30 or more participants, which is still less than 5% of its club. Even in the early Oughts when GPC was smaller it likely had a good turnout and would have impressed anyone. Second, at the time the first Jersey Ride appeared on the calendar we were undergoing a serious decline for the first time. Membership was sinking and ride listings were becoming sparse. The Jersey Ride was a way to generate club spirit: everybody show up in your club kit and let’s ride together! Apparently it worked because the club did not fold and resurged dramatically. Perhaps the Jersey Ride played an important role in unifying the club and aided in the rebuilding.

The Jersey Ride was probably just a modification of the Decide ’n Ride, an irregular club ride that goes back to the very beginning of the club. In 2001 the Decide ’N Ride had a slightly different form than when it started in the early ‘80s. It still started at McLaren Lodge and the route depended on the consensus of whomever happened to show up. However unlike the original Decide ’n Ride, which didn’t have a specific date during the month and usually was put on the calendar by the ride coordinator when we had an empty weekend date with no scheduled ride, it now was scheduled for the first Sunday of the month. It wouldn’t be much of a reach to rebrand the DnR as the Jersey Ride. In fact, after the appearance of the Jersey Ride there were no more DnRs. The Jersey Ride, like its DnR predecessor, would always be on the calendar on a specific date free of the vagaries of member posting.

The initial Jersey Ride was a little bit different than today’s. First it didn’t have a set date. It moved around at first simply because there wasn’t someone available to lead it on the second Saturday. The set schedule didn’t take place until November 2001. But it also varied between the East Bay, Peninsula, and San Francisco before settling on the Tib loop forever. The initial Jersey Ride’s three options were slightly different than today’s. The easy route never went to Tiburon; instead riders went to Sausalito and then turned around to go back to SF. The nice thing was it made the easy ride only 17 miles instead of 27, but those folks never got to hang out with everyone else for a bite to eat in Tiburon.

The conundrum for the creators of the Jersey Ride was that a shorter, easier ride doesn’t sate the appetite of stronger riders but a longer, harder ride puts off those who either can’t or don’t want to do something that pushes their limits. The Tib loop was in essence a compromise albeit flawed. Adding the Conzelman loop to the Tib loop was a way to keep the ‘serious’ cyclists involved. The Jersey Ride faces the same problem that the Orinda Pool Party has: how do you create a single ride that is appealing and doable by the majority of Spokers? And like the Jersey Ride the OPP standard ride is also a compromise. Of course this doesn’t even address the issue of pacing. Without multiple leaders or a sweep, the group if large enough is bound to fragment. And then you have the problem that the DnRs faced: part of the group takes off never to be seen again and slower—usually newer—riders feel left out. From the beginning of the club one of the perennial criticisms is that the club caters just to “serious” cyclists. There is another history here about attempts the club has made to broaden its base but I’ll save that for another time.

Riding With The Den Daddy

April 22nd, 2018 by tony

Roger and Derek brunching

Like the Energizer Bunny the ‘Den Daddy’ Derek Liecty just keeps on running and running. We had the pleasure of his company on our most recent Social Ride where we sauntered up the Ohlone Greenway in Berkeley all the way to Richmond and then motored down to Lafayette for a fabulous lunch at the Creekside Grill in Rossmoor. (Dining in Rossmoor?? Yes people, there is excellent fab food in the retirement center of the universe!)

Derek is amazing. When others his age are rockin’ a rocking chair rather than a road bike, he just keeps churning out the miles. Approaching his 86th birthday he now relishes riding his Felt e-bike rather than the Mikkelson or the bizarrely painted Vitus 979 he used to sport. But he still puts down the miles and shames many a Spoker with his prolific riding. Of course with his new e-bike he’s still able to put you to the sword if you choose to challenge him just like he did when he was much younger. But he’s more intent on enjoying the ride and your company, chatting away, than he is on getting up (or especially down) the hill in first position.

On the recent Morgan Territory ride, which Derek and I both attended, some much younger (well, much younger than I) Spokers asked, “Who was that old guy?” That old guy happens to be the oldest member of Different Spokes. Not only is he the oldest in years and still riding strong but he’s also the longest extant member of our club, having joined immediately after we formed in the fall of 1982. Not only was he a prolific ride leader and creator of an inordinate number of rides particularly over here in the East Bay but he’s been actively involved in Different Spokes for decades. I don’t think I can recall all the roles he’s taken on but I do know he was the Men’s Outreach Coordinator for eons and he was the AIDS Bike-A-Thon Coordinator (a hellish job) in the later years of the fundraiser. He’s also been a multiple medal winner in the Gay Games over the years. Promoting the Gay Games has been one of Derek’s other avocations. He was involved with the very first one in 1982 when he volunteered to officiate the soccer games. Prior to diving into cycling he was involved in soccer officiating and FIFA—all that running certainly helped make him a fast cyclist! He’s planning to go to Paris for this year’s Gay Games although not as a competitor this time.

But I digress—it’s easy because Derek’s history is long, deep, and interesting, and goes well beyond just Different Spokes. Among other things Derek has always been a peripatetic world traveler, usually lugging his Bike Friday along whether it be in the hinterlands or the megalopolises. Years ago he recounted traveling solo in some Southeast Asian realm where he was on his bike, teased some monkeys on the roadside who were following him and eyeing him (probably for a handout), and suddenly they becoming irate and chasing him tooth and fang bared—one of many of his adventures! This winter he and his friend Denise did a month-long trip through Chile and Argentina through the Lakes District and up into the Andes (mostly by car this time, not bike; although he has done that same route twice before by bike). When Derek isn’t riding his bikes fast, he likes to drive his cars very fast. Derek has two hopped up hotrods in his garage and if you’re (un)lucky he’ll show you exactly how fast they can go.

Derek and I go way back. Although since I joined Different Spokes “much later” (I think it was in 1983) I’m always going to be the Johnny-come-lately to the club, the “youngster”. I recall he, I, and bunch of other Spokers were riding the Tierra Bella one year; we were riding together and he casually mentioned to me that he had an 11-tooth cog on his cassette. In those days the standard small cog was a 13. An 11? No one had an 11—It was unheard of. I couldn’t imagine anyone needing an 11-tooth cog! As we approached a downhill he proceeded to show me how he used that 11—he vanished downhill at bobsled speed.

On our Social Ride we weren’t breaking speed records and wisdom has come to Derek: he has finally tamped down on his hellbent descending, which is good because at his/our age Humpty Dumpty is very hard to put back together again. When we got to Lafayette the plan was to get brunch at Hideout Kitchen, a gem that is apparently no longer a hidden secret. When we were told the wait was 45 minutes, Derek suggested we instead get lunch at Rossmoor, where he presently abides. Rossmoor, seriously? Seriously! What the hell, why not? So off we go to Rossmoor, which was just minutes away. And then we were at the fabulous Creekside Grill—among our peeps, i.e. oldish farts—in a serene island away from suburban bustle. Any skepticism or disparaging thoughts I wisely kept to myself. When our lunch arrived I was very happy to eat not only my unspoken words but every bit of the delicious cream of broccoli soup and grilled chicken breast sandwich. Alas, you have to be either a resident of Rossmoor or an invitee in order to eat there!

Over lunch at Rossmoor after our Social Ride in half-jest I asked him what his future travel plans might be. He pronounced he was working on a “four year plan” of adventures at which point he would be 90. I told him I hoped his four year plan would be more successful than Mao’s second Five Year Plan (FYI: millions starved to death miserably). Derek’s already traveled through over half the countries in the world, usually by bike, and in his golden years (which he claims “suck”) I’m not sure he’s up for roughing it anymore. If he plans to haul his e-bike along he won’t be able to take the battery—carriers won’t allow lithium batteries on planes—so he’ll have to rent an e-bike at his destination or just do with the Bike Friday. But don’t underestimate the Den Daddy: he always finds a way.

Saddle Challenge 2018

April 16th, 2018 by tony

This year’s Saddle Challenge had six official participants, rode a total of 2,346 miles, and raised about $373 for Project Inform. Here is how this year’s event compared to the past few previous years:

 

2018            2,346 miles            6 riders            $373

2017            2,381 miles            10 riders            $452

2016            2,835 miles            14 riders            $523

2015            4,435 miles            11 riders            $493

 

As was the case last year, we had another very wet March that inevitably diminished enthusiasm for logging miles yet participants still managed to raise a good chunk of change. We had nearly a full calendar of rides set up this year—nine rides, almost one for every weekend date—but five were rained out. Ironic to say, but drought years may be good for Saddle Challenge although probably for nothing else!

This year we offered incentives for Saddle Challengers, some for those who raised the most money for Project Inform and some for those who participated in the most Saddle Challenge rides.

 

Sal Tavormina            Most $ 1st            Spurcycle bell

Matthew Bittleston            Most $2nd             Bontrager Flare R taillight

Gordon Dinsdale            Most $ 3rd            Bontrager 100R headlight

Gordon Dinsdale            Most miles 1st            Road to Valor by Aili & Andres McConnon

Jerome Thomere            Most miles 2nd            Mountain Biking the San Francisco Bay Area by Lorraine Jackson

Special thanks to ride leaders for hosting a Saddle Challenge ride—David Gaus, Tony Moy, Roger Hoyer, Joseph Collins, Stephanie Clarke, Ron Hirsch, Gordon Dinsdale, David Sexton, and David Goldsmith. Thanks also to David Gaus and Tony Moy for the donation of the prizes.

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…