Wednesday, 28 October 2009

Fall Back

Taking the weekend off the bike does amazing things for my legs. Monday spin class was brutal as usual, but I was able to hang on with a high heart rate throughout. The class was full, a sign of winter. The competitive racers are starting to show up again, too, including a huge guy with a full Clif Bar kit and calves like cantaloupes.

Today was the last after-work ride before the clocks fall back on Saturday night. Although I started off in full sunlight, I had to click on the lights before the top of Tunnel.

There's nothing like an after-work ride to blow the stress out of my brain. I left the office with deadlines dancing in my head, and by the time I was on the ridge, everything was better.

Another plug for Specialized stuff - I love the BG gel gloves. Just like the Specialized knee warmers, they're cut perfectly. I've tried a bunch of gloves over the years, but none of them fit as well as these. Also, there's just enough padding on the palms to dull the buzz, but not so much that it creates pressure points. And while they're not cheap, they're not over the top spendy, either.

It was cold out, and all through the ride I was looking forward to a hot shower and dinner. I fried up some chicken breasts with panko breadcrumbs, and tossed them into a salad with greens, figs, peppers, carrots, and red onion. They I stole some of La Roleurette's strawberry-banana smoothie while watching the Warriors lose to Houston in the season opener.

Golden State - why do you tease me with incredible plays, then torture me with the predictable flurry of missed three-pointers and poor decisions? I'm like a battered wife, I swear.

Got my first comment on the blog today. Alert the press!

Saturday, 24 October 2009


We made great time on Friday night, pulling into South Lake only 3 hours after we left Berkeley - a nice change from the usual 5-hour wintertime slog up I-80.

The Paradice Motel had been rated the #1 hotel in South Lake Tahoe by Trip Advisor, and it earned the rep with the most friendly staff ever. Jason and Perrine, a young couple, have decked out each room of an otherwise unimpressive motel with enough Ikea to merit the "boutique motel" status. They also plied us with piles of complementary crap, including bottled Perrier, fruit, candy, chocolates on the bed, and - this is the highlight - a Nature Valley Outdoor Adventure gift pack containing two granola bars, Advil, and....a package of tampons. Because nothing says "outdoor adventure" like being unprepared for your period.

We got back on Saturday evening to find an elephant on our bed, sculpted from hand towels. It's the little touches, really. In case you're wondering, "paradice" refers to the South Lake gambling theme. It took me a while to catch on, too.

On Saturday, we took JK's suggestion, and opted for a hike in the El Dorado Forest off Highway 88. TONS of flaming red and yellow aspen along the way. Leaf peepers, ourselves included, swerved wildly off the road with no warning to stop and take photos. I enjoyed the drive up Carson Pass, in particular, since it reminded me of the Death Ride a few years ago. What had seemed like an interminable climb was over in all of 10 minutes in the hermetic warmth of the Honda Avocado. I was surprised that it looked at all familiar, considering my hypoxic haze the last time I was up there.

The hike - a gradual climb to Round Top Lake - exceeded all expectations. It had stormed two weeks ago, and enough snow remained above 8,000 feet to make for spectacular views and a little route finding hijinks. We had lunch at the lake, then kicked steps up a drainage to summit Round Top itself. Well, not really summit, which would have required some death-defying scrambling, but we poked our heads above 10,000 feet. At the top, I was reminded how much I love the mountains. They make me feel peaceful and exhilarated all at once, in a way, admittedly, that cycling never does. Man, I need to get out there more. Backcountry snowboarding this winter?

In terms of food, South Lake isn't exactly a hotbed of good eats, but we managed to track down three nice spots, and one dud:

Freshies. I have no idea how this place survives, tucked deep in a dumpy strip mall on an anonymous stretch of Lake Tahoe Drive. Across the hall are a pirate-themed store and an insurance agent. I guess incredibly friendly service, a great selection of beer, fresh (but f-ing weird) food, and over-the-top Hawaiian kitsch goes a long way. The menu can only be described as Cali-fusion vegan stoner. Our dinner:
- Potato-quinoa cakes with maple-coconut dipping sauce
- BBQ tempeh taco
- Grilled chicken salad with Italian herb dressing
- Indian spinach salad with curried tofu cubes
- Basil tomato soup
Really, all those things on the same menu is an affront to God, but somehow it works. The place has over 100 reviewers on Yelp and and a 4-star average.

Sprouts. Take Coyote Ugly, turn it into a vegan-friendly sandwich and juice bar, and you have Sprouts. Great organic sandwiches, soups, and salads, served up by cute 20-something girls (and one guy). For lunch I had an excellent egg salad sandwich with yogurt, instead of mayo. Sounds gross, tastes good. Especially with the carrots and red cabbage in there. Also fresh-squeezed carrot and ginger juice. Delicious and virtuous.

Ernie's Coffee Shop. The local's spot. Solid brunch food, with pretty good coffee. My walnut waffle was super light and crisp.

Red Hut Soda Fountain. La Roleurette had a sundae craving, so we stopped here for dessert on Saturday night. We were disappointed to find cheap ice cream served in gut-busting quantities, with SYSCO-brand "chocolate" syrup pumped on top. Nasty stuff. But, hey, the waiters wear those 1950's -style paper hats, so there's that.

Anyway, I highly recommend Tahoe as a fall getaway spot. No crowds, nice weather, easy drive, and actual red and yellow leaves.

P.S. I owe a shout out to Beth over at beth bikes! for her feature of my saddle sore post. Also, she called me "polite" which I'm a sucker for. Beth is Bay Area track racer with a passion for cultivating her bazookas. By "bazookas" I mean enormous powerful thighs. More importantly, she's the first hit when you Google "Michael Ball stalker," a claim to fame we can all aspire to. Thanks, again, Beth!

Friday, 23 October 2009


Oh-dark-thirty. Up early this morning for a pre-work spin. Did the Arlington, Wildcat Canyon, Shasta, Golf Course, Grizzly Peak, Spruce Loop. The "Arlie-Cat Golf" Loop.

Although it was pitch black when I headed out at 6:30, the sun had risen when I got back an hour later. I dressed well, with arm and knee warmers, heavier base layer, and a vest in my pocket. I didn't overheat on the way up, and put on the vest for a nice and toasty descent.

Speaking of which, I heart my Specialized knee warmers. Unlike many knee warmers which are straight uninspired tubes, the panels on these are cut perfectly to contour to my calves, sag-free. The close fit, plus a band of silicone, means they grip really well under the shorts, with zero slippage. Like La Roleurette, the Therminal material is tough, but supple. If I had to draft bike gear, these may be my number one pick. Definitely in the lottery.

The Quest for Foliage. I'm headed up to South Lake Tahoe for the weekend with La Roleurette for some hiking and maybe a leaf peep or two. Really, we'll be lucky to catch even two leaves to be peeped, much to La Roleurette's frustration. I fear it's the lack of seasons in Northern CA that eventually drives her to move back to New England. Although we discovered two years ago that global warming has shortened the foliage season there as well.

So no weekend ride, unless we get back in time on Sunday for a little runaround. It's good. I'll be that much more energized to get on the bike next week.

Tuesday, 20 October 2009

In the Soup

Pea soup fog on Grizzly Peak today. The kind where water collects on my eyelashes and my bike is sopping wet when I get back home. A number of cyclists, including myself, weren't prepared for the low visibility and had totally inadequate lights or no lights at all. I think the days of after-work rides with just a small blinkie are over. Time to charge the big gun. I'm still thinking of getting a new light for the winter, but good lord they are expensive.

Monday, 19 October 2009

Medical Advice

The warm nights have left me tossing and turning in bed all week. That, coupled with a bad habit of going to bed late, has left me totally knackered. I was so tired today that I actually slurred my words while on the phone with a client.

So I decided to listed to my body for a change and go home instead of spin class. I'll ride tomorrow.

It's probably for the best, since I developed a saddle sore over the weekend, and lanced it last night. If you're the squeamish type, you can stop reading now. If you like reading about lancing sores, then you can continue, after which you should seek professional help.

Perhaps due to an unfortunately hairy backside (Still here?) I seem to get saddle sores about two or three times a year. It used to be worse with the higher-bar Atlantis, since more of my weight rested on the saddle. I think this particular sore developed on Friday when I was doing errands on the Cross-Check after work. Cotton shorts and boxers + warm weather = rain forest in my pants.

I used to try and wait out the saddle sore, applying diaper rash ointment every evening to calm its hotheaded fury. "There there, little one," I cooed. That kind of diplomacy only proved slow and ineffective. Nowadays, I take the shock and awe approach. Steps below:

1. Clean your hands thoroughly with Purel or a similar antibiotic.

2. Apply isopropyl alcohol liberally to the "affected area." Fortunately, we now have 150 alcohol prep pads from our Go Bag shopping, so no shortage there. You can also use cotton balls or shop rags. Whatever you have lying around. Ok, not shop rags.

3. Take a clean needle and clean it again with more with alcohol. Last night I used a safety pin. I don't recommend this particular tool, but it's all I had handy.

4. Using a mirror to view the sore, gently lance the living hell out of it. It will hurt. Hurt so good.

5. If it starts to bleed or emit any sort of liquid, you've done well. Encourage the bloodletting with a little squeeze. The idea is to get the crap out of there, and get it to dry up and turn into pain free scar tissue.

6. Clean the area again with alcohol.

7. Give it another poke (clean needle!) to get even more liquid to release. The more the better. This is weakness leaving the body.

8. Give the area a final alcohol wipe down, then apply antibiotic cream liberally. Really, you can't get enough in there.

9. I like to leave the area uncovered to get it to dry out. The last thing I want is to cover it up with a bandage, only to create another moist environment for bacterial orges.

10. Go to bed. I like to do this all at night, so the cowering sore has time to retreat into submission.

I performed this little surgery yesterday, and I'm happy to report that things are much better this evening. I probably could have even gone to spin class without a problem.

Anyway, take this route at your own risk. Certainly, doing Civil War-style surgery that close to an open sewer pipe is risky at best. But it works for me every time. So until my ass cheek swells to Serena-like proportions due to an infection (and I now have a healthy respect for infections) I'm a gonna stick to this method.

Sunday, 18 October 2009

Napa in the Fall

The Professor was up from LA this weekend, so he, JK, and I loaded up the Honda Avocado on Saturday morning and made our annual fall pilgrimage to Napa. Our route started on the Silverado Trail, headed up to Lake Berryesa, contoured the western shore, then took Pope Canyon Road towards the Ink Grade (shown on left).

Napa is actually not one of the most best areas to ride only because it inevitably involves a stretch on the Silverado Trail, a noisy and heavily trafficked road on the east side of the Valley. This particular route, though, limited our Silverado exposure to only two miles, leaving us 50 miles of back roads, which are particularly empty this time of year.

Soon after our 10am start, we took off our arm warmers and were sweating in the humidity. The leaves and gentle breeze made for a great fall day. Grapes hung low on the vines, and the air reeked of rotting fruit.

With a 4-month old and a terrible workload, the Prof doesn't get out on his bike much, and suffered mightily. Even midway through the ride, the rollers along Berryesa had turned his legs to pudding. Ink Grade pretty much did him in. Nonetheless, riding with the Prof is always a pleasure. He never makes excuses or talks about how slow he's going. Best of all, he doesn't apologize for making us wait. He knows we really don't care, and are happy just to spend some time on the bike with an old friend.

The Professor is also the most non-gear head cyclist I know. He rides a 9-year old KHS that cost $600 back then. I don't think he's changed anything besides the cables and chain on that thing, and the Shimano Sora 8-speed gruppo refuses to die. He doesn't put that many miles on it now, but when he lived up here he did a decent amount of riding every week. Whenever a new cyclist asks me for advice on how much to spend, I think of that bike and how it's stayed solid all these years.

This is Napa's peak season, and while our route saw little traffic, Highway 39 and the Silverado Trail were packed with tourists. We stopped at the Oakville Grocery for a post-ride snack, and watched the wine tasters spill out of limos in their $300 jeans, striped shirts, and high heels. We gaped in horror/fascination as one particular woman exposed the thong on her somewhat meaty backside as she ate her sandwich outside the store. Always a good time.

Today, I took it easy, spinning up Tunnel, along Skyline for a while, then back down Claremont. No big thing.

This afternoon, La Roleurette and I, inspired by all the Loma Prieta anniversary coverage, finally put together our earthquake Go Bags. I only hope that many years from now we will open that thing unused and celebrate with the petrified Clif Bars. She also convinced me to throw in a bag of chocolate covered pretzels. Hey - if you're going to be fleeing your house as it collapses around you, you might as well have some nice snacks.

Cleaned, greased, and tightened stem face plate. Still creaking.

Thursday, 15 October 2009

My First Lunchtime Ride Ever

I set the alarm for 6:30 with the full intention of getting in a pre-work ride. At 6:15 I decided to head out at lunch, instead, and stay in bed for a little while longer. I'm a very good negotiator like that. And it's amazing how my enthusiasm can evaporate overnight.

So I worked from home in the morning, finished a project, and headed out at 11:30 for a one hour quickie. The air was still warm and heavy from Tuesday's storm, and I quickly shed the arm warmers. My route went up The Arlington, climbed sharply to the reservoir on top of Spruce, then followed Wildcat to the Brazil Building. A little huffing up Shasta and Golf Course, then coasting home. I don't know if it was the lack of food or what, but my legs felt dead and weak. I remedied that by lunching on some lentil soup and an open face pesto, mozzarella, and tomato sandwich on crusty walnut bread. Yum. Lunch at home on a workday feels incredibly indulgent and illicit.

Oh, after all that messing with the bike, the creak persists.

Tuesday, 13 October 2009

Every Boy Needs a Hobby and a Better Raincoat

On Passions
Today, BSNYC reminded me how lucky I am to have cycling. I look forward to every weekend ride the same way people live for their vacations. By Wednesday evening, I'm plotting the route, tweaking the bike, exchanging plans with JK, and generally getting excited. Come Thursday I might tone down the workout to leave me fresh. On Friday night I love the ritual of packing my bag, laying the bottles, bar, and gel on the counter, and setting up the steel cut oats in the slow cooker. Then, on Saturday morning, I like to get up early and have a hot breakfast with tea, while brewing a mug of coffee for the road. In fact, I love this routine so much that I can go for long stretches without a proper vacation only because it means I get to ride more. (Obviously, though, vacation + La Roleurette + bike is the best, so I had a great time in Portland this summer.)

This is why when my feet were troubling me a year ago, I dove into a mini spiral of despair. Riding was a fulcrum to leverage so many other good things in life. One little arthritic joint took away my entertainment, exercise, therapy, connection to the seasons, chance to be outside, opportunity to eat a lot, confidence, and, frankly, identity. For a while, I was no longer a cyclist, and wondered if I would ever be one again. I grudgingly attempted to swim. I put my bike magazines into an old suitcase, stopped wearing my bike t-shirts, and generally avoided looking at anything bike-related. I went to the gym on Saturday mornings. I had brunch. Brunch! (La Roleurette did like the brunch part.) The fact that I had a brand new unbuilt Indy Fab frame only added insult to injury. I wrapped it in a blanket and stuck it behind the couch - out of sight, out of mind.

Thankfully, new orthotics (and quitting all ultimate) put me back in the saddle this year with an even greater appreciation for riding.

So what of the people without cycling, knitting, running, cooking, or Something You Love to Do? Are their lives a soulless vacuum? Everyone needs a passion they can point to. Otherwise, what do you read about on the internet?

On Being a Piss Poor Mechanic
Speaking of hobbies, I generally like to do my own wrenching, particularly with the Mancave fully operational. But, god, I suck at it. On Sunday night, I cleaned the bike and disassembled the crank to clear up a persistent creaking. In the process, I managed to strip the crank arm bolts and screw up the new chain. Yesterday, after running around to get replacement bolts and asking dumb questions at the shop (Performance Bikes!!! I'm so humiliated.), I fixed it all up, then almost overtightened my seatpost clamp. Sometimes I'm just not in synch with my torque wrench. Was that the click? Was that it? Shouldn't it have clicked by now? Better start again. Um, hello? Click? What's going on in there? Not clicking, that's what.

In Cycling News
Last night saw the usual Monday Tempo Ride of Terror with Mistress Wendy. Despite some unusually friendly pre-class banter - perhaps to make the newbies feel welcome - she ended the class by yelling at us NOT TO TAKE OUR HANDS OFF THE BARS while cooling down. In retrospect, that may have been to save the newbies from being bucked off by their wildly spinning pedals. Still, classic Wendy.

Truth be told, I'm really feeling spin class. I find myself consistently entering a blissed out endorphin state at some point during the hour - usually right after my heart rate reaches AT1, and before the extended forays into AT2. In that brief window, the legs feel strong, the circles are smooth, my breathing is controlled, and the music has me psyched.

For extra entertainment, spin class also offers up wacky hijinks. Last night, Courtney (Triathlete? I'm thinking yes. You can just tell sometimes.) dismounted mid-class, pulled a Clif bar out of her bag, stuck it IN her shoe, remounted, and resumed pedaling. Edible orthotic? Warming up dinner? I asked no questions.

After class, I showered, walked out of the gym, and felt a wonderful sense of well-being, enjoying the smell of rain on the pavement, and the breeze announcing the arrival of the season's first storm.

Speaking of which, I got soaked this morning. The old Marmot Precip just isn't shedding water like it used to, despite retreatments. The plastic bags over the socks also did little to stop the water running down my ankles. On the plus side, I felt nice and cozy when I changed at work and settled into a cup of tea and a spreadsheet. On the minus side, putting on wet socks for the ride home sucks.

Sunday, 11 October 2009

Marin again?

Saturday. JK had recovered enough from her head cold to ride on Saturday, but wouldn't be up for an assault on Hamilton. So, once again, I found myself crashing a Saturday club ride, this time with a slightly larger group of Marin Cyclists.

Fairfax was buzzing, with Biketoberfest descending on downtown. But the festivities hadn't started when we headed out to do a 47-mile loop through Nicasio, Pt. Reyes Station, and Bolinas-Fairfax Rd. The group had some stronger riders, and we made great time through the Nicasio Reservoir wind tunnel. "Too slow for you?" a woman asked. Not at all! I was stupidly saving myself for a much longer and harder ride, confusing Bo-Fax Rd with the Marshall Wall to the north. It wasn't till our bakery stop at Pt. Reyes Station that I realized my confusion, and that the ride was a lot shorter than I'd thought.

Still, the rollers on Highway 1 between Olema and Bo-Fax did a number on my legs, particularly since I was caught between two groups, and fought like hell to latch onto the back of the front trio. We regrouped at the base of the climb, and I shed my vest. Although the coast was solidly socked in, I anticipated some friskiness on the climb, and would warm up quickly.

The ascent started all civilized. We chatted comfortably about the closure of Market Street in SF, tan lines, and other bikely subjects. A guy explained that squirrels are "basically tree wolverines" when I said I saw one eating a checken leg last week. "Now this is nice, " I thought. "Tree wolverines?" Then, a fast skinny guy on a lugged steel Bianchi decided to "attack" about halfway up the climb. I responded, but the effort put me well into the red zone. I wondered if I could keep pace till the summit. Another fellow in a Seaco jersey bridged up and hung on.

We stuck together, and I kept the cramps at bay by getting out of the saddle and keeping the circles smooth. Despite my whingeing, I enjoyed the challenge, and reveled in the work. We were rewarded with a gorgeous break in the fog up top, and a sunny return via Alpine Dam Rd into Fairfax.

Biketoberfest was in full swing. I got a brat and potato salad and ogled the gorgeous bikes from Rivendell, Sycip, Soulcraft, and other local builders. I admit my bike obsession is a source of some embarrassment. Much like people who are afraid to profess their love of Felicity, US Weekly, or Twilight, I consider bike shows a guilty pleasure best kept in check. Maybe I should just yell out at the top of my lungs, "YES!! I LOVE BIKES AND I'M NOT AFRAID TO SAY IT!!"

Check out the cauldron of paella. It's so eye of newt.

Sunday. Recovery ride. Freezing cold on the ridge. Fog blowing across the road. Opted to descend Claremont and go home on the flats, instead of frigid suffering on Grizzly Peak. Listened to the Two Johns Podcast, where they discussed this clip.

Thursday, 8 October 2009

Berkeley Hills Death Ride 1

I left work this evening with every intention of taking it easy, since I'm thinking of riding up the backside of Mt. Hamilton this weekend. So I cruised down the Berkeley marina for a change, then back through the flat part of Marin Avenue, planning on coming home early.

Instead of turning towards home, though, I just kept going up Marin, and before I knew it I was gasping for air on the steepest road in Berkeley, my heart rate pinned to 100%. (Ironically, I was wearing the monitor to keep my effort low.)

Marin Avenue is the toughest of the Berkeley Hills Death Ride series. So tough, in fact, that I never thought to give it a go. The "easy" bits are around 14%, but it hits 30% towards the top. About 624 feet of elevation gain over one very narrow mile. I would never start a ride, planning on tackling Marin. Apparently, the only way to get up this thing was to fool myself into it.

The lower parts of Marin aren't actually that steep. I could maintain a comfortable standing pace. Each section lured me up a bit more, till I found myself halfway up the climb. At that point I wasn't going to stop, still feeling pretty strong.

About a third of the way up, though, my legs hit the anaerobic wall, and I had to unclip, lest I find myself staring at the bumper of an oncoming Prius while pinned under my bike. I walked up to the next cross street and let my heartrate come down. Looking up the road, I thought I could just gun it to the next resting point, then decide whether to go any further. So I got a little momentum and bumrushed the hill. Upon reaching the next cross street, I keeled over the bars, gasping, till the nausea subsided. Then I looked up and thought, "I can do that one more time." And so it went till the top.

I enjoyed the descent on Grizzly Peak, spinning lightly to keep from tightening up. Then, a nice hot shower, stretch, self-flagellation with The Stick, and dinner with my old friend, Costco Ravioli.

I'd actually try this again, next time stopping to gather myself at each cross street without getting off the bike. Definitely a great anaerobic workout. My legs still feel wobbly, though.

Tuesday, 6 October 2009

More Silicon Valley Dullness

I find myself in yet another Silicon Valley Starbucks (chocolate banana smoothie), using their wi-fi connection while waiting for a meeting to start. I am simultaneously appalled by how often this is happening to me, and thrilled by my ability to access my work desktop remotely.

Given this state of affairs, it's probably not good for my mental health to be listening to a new travel audiobook in the car. Travel memoirs tend to spark my dissatisfaction with the banal work life, and often leave me feeling that I'm living a "life of quiet desperation."

Fortunately, The Sex Lives of Cannibals by J. Maarten Troost is about a place so bleak, so inhospitable, so ridden with giant cockroaches, that I'm actually happy to be in an air-conditioned mega coffee house, instead. The book reminds me (with dry British wit) how boring, uncomfortable, and lonely some exotic places can be. And I just have to evoke memories of miserable guest houses across two continents on my extended honeymoon with La Roleurette to show me how nice it is to be home.

Monday, 5 October 2009

Sweet Buzz

Mistress Wendy laid down her unique brand of tempo riding torture tonight, and hit us with the most bizarre soundtrack ever. I was psyched for Glory Days, surprised, but pumped by Walking on Memphis by Marc Cohn, amused by the Crash Test Dummies (I turned to the girl next to me and said, "This is the kind of album you can buy at a gas station), and appalled by the God pop during cool down. I actually looked up to see if anyone else thought it was weird. Could Wendy be a gay ultra-marathoning Bible-thumper? I inspected the chains around her neck and thought I saw a cross in there somewhere. Marty, a regular, piped up. "Having some fun with the music, eh?" In the locker room, Lawrence speculated that Wendy was finding religion.

The legs felt great tonight. My heart rate went up effortlessly, the sweat rolled off me, and the endorphins made for an amazing buzz. Sometimes spinning is fun.

Incidentally, I got DIRECTV to cough up two months of Premium channels (including soccer coverage) and a WHOLE SEASON of NBA League Pass. Not bad!

Sunday, 4 October 2009

The New Guy

Friday night, La Roleurette, some friends, and I checked out the Oakland arts walk in Old Town and Uptown, two neighborhoods the City has been trying to jump start for years. Momentum is growing, with a middling artist presence and nicer restaurants starting to gain a foothold. But the local market is awash with empty condominiums, so things will be slow for a while. A decent number of hipster fixies and other cyclists cruising around.

On Saturday morning I hitched on the Mission Cycling club ride, which started at the south end of the Golden Gate Bridge, and sheared off into three separate routes in Marin. Around 25 people showed up, and folks described it as a medium-sized group. Apparently, several regulars had headed north for Levi's Gran Fondo.

The only other time I'd joined a club ride was a couple of weeks ago with the Marin Cyclists. That was a much smaller group, and having JK as a wingman greased the social gears. This time it felt a bit awkward being the solo stranger, standing around waiting for the ride to get going as everyone chatted up their buddies and tourists swarmed around taking photos in front of the bridge.

When you show up on at an ultimate pick-up game, you HAVE to interact with other people on the field, making for a good entree. Although the culture (and sometimes rules) of the game occasionally vary, you catch on within seconds, as long as you have any basic experience in organized ultimate.

In contrast, the normal new guy vibe, coupled with the unspoken rules of group cycling (how fast, do you stop and wait, where do you stop and wait, do you sprint for town lines, etc.) makes for a more tricky situation.

I rode with the A-group at first. After weaving through a charity walk (pink cheerleaders! disco music! fanny packs!) and climbing and descending Camino Alto, they broke off for Paradise Loop, a flat 35-miler. I got some satisfaction from not being the slowest climber, and even passed one guy with impressive legs, and a high-end carbon rig with a Powertap. I wanted to see if I could hang, but also hoped for a longer ride, so I dropped back onto the B-ride to Nicasio.

These guys moved slowly through town, pissing off three drivers on the way (at least pretend to come to a stop?). We hung around Fairfax Coffee Roasters for a bit, refilling bottles and using the bathroom, then most people just turned right around and went back to SF. Very weird to navigate 20 miles of flat suburban bike path riding, just to do a 180.

Five of us kept going north to Nicasio. The crew went slow on the climbs, but kept up a decent pace on the flats, which was a huge help with the insane wind. At one point, I went hands-free to put on my vest, and almost got blown over. I eventually had to stop, then had a bitch of a time clawing my way back onto the paceline. On the return leg, we took the bike path through Samuel Taylor State Park. Slow, but gorgeous. You can almost hear the leaves about explode into fall colors.

By the time I got back home I'd done a solid 80 miles, with some good efforts on the flats and mini-hills.

This experience confirmed that living in SF is a drag for cyclists. The GG Bridge and Sausalito, are ok as novelties, but quickly become a hassle on every single ride. Still, I liked the group - younger and hipper than the standard club riders. Also, their kit rocks. It would be more appealing if I didn't have to deal with BART just to get to the start. For city riders, I can see the allure of just showing up and making a plan on the spot.

Today I took it easy like Sunday morning. Great fall weather. Instead of the usual routes, I just wandered straight up the steeper Berkeley hills at a casual standing climb, never letting the heart rate get up. Lots of cool houses and one-lane roads up there. I carried the bike up one of the narrow staircases that crisscross the hills, and saw Bambi.

Thursday, 1 October 2009

Mid-Week Miscellany

On Competition II
After my post about why I don't compete, Embrocation made a good case in favor of stepping up to the line, also in the context of cyclocross. I have to admit, it's a pretty compelling argument.

Pillow Talk
Instead of the usual spin class, I got up early to ride before work. Somehow, I have no problem setting the alarm on weekends to have fun outside. Gravity must be stronger during the week, because the battle was epic this morning. I try to prep everything the night before, and get out the door without breakfast. Otherwise, any excuse to slow down just drags out the hard part. Once I'm on the bike, it's fine.

Cable Sadness
Apparently the Universal Sports promo was just for a month on DIRECTV. I now find myself with no cycling coverage at all. Damn, that was an awesome channel. The Vuelta, one day classics, World Championships, small stage races, cyclocross champies, curling. Curling!!! So good! I'm actually considering making the switch to Comcast. DIRECTV would have to woo me with a pretty sweet package involving Premier League soccer and premium channels to convince me to stick with them. Ironically, if they hadn't given me the free taste, I wouldn't be jonesing for it now. Um, guys - bad decision to give me a free sample of a channel you don't carry.

Problem is I have a deal with AT&T because of the DIRECTV service, and AT&T is super handy when I'm on the road and want access to wi-fi at St*rbucks. St*rbuks everywhere = wi-fi everywhere. Plus, I have the damn dish, and it's a hassle to return the DVR. Inertia, like gravity on weekdays, is a force to be reckoned with.

DIRECTV. I wish I knew how to quit you.