Little Farm –> Alvarado

A while ago, Miles and I discovered that the fire road leading from Little Farm in the Berkeley Hills led all the way to Alvarado Park (a wonderful old WPA park) in Richmond, near his school – around seven miles through winding, rolling hills. After working out a detour for the section that doesn’t allow bikes, invited a bunch of parents and their kids to gather for a multi-family ride, which happened yesterday in absolutely gorgeous post-Thanskgiving weather.

Generally downhill on the way there, generally uphill on the way back, kids only had to get off and push a couple of times – was so proud of them for having the gumption to go for it and complete the 14-mile RT. Wildcat Canyon Trail still a bit muddy from recent rains, but getting mud stripes up our backs just added to the fun. Such a fantastic way to start the day, and way more fun than fighting crowds in the Black Friday scene.

None of my photos came out that great, but did manage to capture a usable GPS track. Here’s the live version.

Group photo by Rachel Hollowgrass:

Real World “Like” Button

Note left on my bike by an anonymous admirer (OK, “Nick”) this evening. Apparently Facebook idioms have suffused our lives so thoroughly that we now need to get creative with post-its when Real Life is absent a “Like” button.

Like bamboo bike

Chico Wildflower / Mildflower

My introduction to distance biking happened Sunday on the 31st annual Chico Wildflower Ride, though I actually did the 65-mile “Mildflower” loop rather than the full 100-mile Wildflower. But given that my previous longest ride had been 40 miles around Wildcat Canyon, it was vigorous enough for starters (though not as intense as I had imagined it would be). I had blown it up in my head, thinking it would be one of the most physically challenging experiences of my life – but once you get into a rhythm, the miles fly by quickly.

Continue reading “Chico Wildflower / Mildflower”

Wildcat Canyon Fail

Attempt to find a 25-mile route all the way around Wildcat Canyon pretty much failed. Turned from San Pablo Dam Road onto 24 West, then signs said I had to exit the freeway. No where to go, totally stuck. So ventured onto EBMUD land and ended up hiking with the bike three miles up a muddy path, pushing the bike. Road bike brakes got totally clogged with mud, had to take the wheel off and clean them out by hand at home. Has anyone done this? How the heck are you supposed to complete the circuit cleanly?

Metric Century

Less talk, more action! Just signed up to do a 65-mile (metric century) bike tour of Chico’s wildflower wilderness this April, with +Chris Tweney and whoever else wants to join. Could be up to 4,000 riders on the run.

Though I bicycle commute daily, have never done a ride this long before. Time to start training, but my commuter bike is too heavy, and wrong riding position. Hit up a friend for advice, scoured the craigslist boards, and ended up with a 2005 LeMond Tourmalet – tightly tuned and ready to go! Got what I consider a very good deal.

Next weekend will probably see what I can do on a 20-miler.

How to Talk About Cycling to a Conservative

Excellent piece at How to Talk About Cycling to a Conservative, making the case that it’s actually quite easy to make the case for bicycle commuting to a conservative, if you frame it right. What conservatives don’t want to hear: Knee-jerk blanket statements like “Oil corporations are evil” and “Cars are stupid.” Points to make instead: “Bicycling reduces dependence on foreign oil” and “Bicycling builds self-reliance” and “Bicycling reduces traffic congestion.” Worth a read. xxx

This response at the LinkedIn bicycle commuters’ group by Joshua Putnam sums it up well:

The conservative arguments for cycling are really quite strong — it’s an exercise in self-reliance, it builds character and physical fitness in a society where a majority of young adults are unfit for military service, it reduces consumption of foreign oil, it reduces public expense for roads and health care, it extends the productive working lives of bicycle commuters, and it increases the workplace productivity of bicycle commuters while reducing absenteeism. Those are all valid, documented benefits that make bicycle commuting beneficial to the health of the republic, as well as to individual cyclists.

Bicycle Commuters per Region

Just had a fascinating 2-hour session on working with, which lets you create all kinds of amazing map/data mashups, using publicly uploaded and shared data sets and shape files. The data behind this map of Male bicycle commuters per region is very old (from the 2000 census) – would love to do the mashup again when the 2010 data comes out in March, to see how it compares.

Takes some tweaking to get the population distributions to tell the story, but here you can see how dramatically bicycle usage increases in urban centers, i.e. where bicycle commuting is feasible, then drops precipitously as you head out toward the ‘burbs.

Be sure to enabled the Legend at lower right to make sense of the shaded regions. My only complaint is that the map has to load all of its data before it can draw shaded regions for the current viewport. But otherwise, wow – this was incredibly easy to do.

View full map

Bamboo Bike – Renovo Pandurban

Back in January 2010, I donated my old Gary Fisher mountain bike to the Peace Corps in Africa and took a leap for my next ride – decided to buy a custom-built bike from a small shop in Portland called Renovo, who specialize in wooden and bamboo bikes (laminated, not raw bamboo stalk like some other bike makers do). Renovo sent me a body measurement chart and the wife diligently took to me with a tape measure, so the resulting frame and parts would be dialed in perfectly for my dimensions.

Renovo builds some incredible stuff – every one of their bikes, from road bikes to mountain bikes to commuters, is a work of art, made with love and incredible craftsmanship. These guys know what they’re doing – in a former life, the Renovo guys were building wooden airplanes.
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Africa Bike Drive

For the last 12 years, I’ve been riding this 1996 Gary Fisher Kaitai – a bike I bought from my editor during the BeOS Bible project. We’ve been through thick and thin together: A lot of rain and mud, a bunch of repairs, and countless daily commutes from El Cerrito to UC Berkeley and back. But despite the fact that my body and this bike are virtually united, I’ve been hankering lately for a new ride — something actually fitted for my body.


But every time I get on that bike, I feel guilty for even contemplating giving it up. There’s nothing wrong with it. I have a relationship with this bike. Just a few days ago, finally decided to keep riding it until it wore out.

Today, riding a few miles along the Bay Trail with friends and family, coming down off one of the amateur wheelies I like to pop from time to time, I heard a loud cracking sound. Suddenly, the handlebars didn’t turn the front wheel anymore. Uh oh. Got it home and opened up the top tube to find the handlebar stem badly cracked. Took off to find a replacement stem at local bike shops.

It was then I was reminded why standards matter and proprietary variants suck. For a couple of years, Gary Fisher had experimented with a non-standard stem size of 1 1/4″, rather than the typical 1 1/8″ or 1 1/2″. One shop after another gave me the same bad news: “I’ve never seen a stem that size.” “Good luck finding a replacement.” “I doubt even the Gary Fisher company themselves have them in stock.”

Was beginning to contemplate an internet hunt, when the sales manager told me about Mike’s Bikes Africa Bike Drive, which takes tired old Bay Area bikes and sends them to Namibia, where mechanics piece them back together and give them to Africans in need of reliable, inexpensive, eco-friendly transportation.

A remote village in Namibia is the location of our new Sister Shop, a place where there is little access to telephones, much less bicycles. Erasmus and Ludwig are our point-men on the ground along with Peace Corps Volunteer Kami. They are thrilled to have an opportunity to bring a better life to their community through the power of the bicycle, which is our philosophy exactly. With your help and generosity, it’s going to be a beautiful partnership.

Tax-wise, it worked out pretty well. We estimated that the tax savings would approach what I would have made by selling the bike on craigslist — after going through the twin hassles of fixing the stem and finding a buyer. Decided then and there to let the old Kaitai go. In a few weeks, it’ll hopefully have a new home with a person in Namibia who needs it more than I do.

And, of course, this was exactly the sign I’d been waiting for that it’s finally time to go bike hunting. The Renovo Panda makes my heart skip a beat, but eyes and ears are wide open to other options. Got a favorite commuter bike to recommend?

Unloading the shipment from last year’s Africa Bike Drive.

Ditch Your Car for a Better Life

In the United States, 220 million adults own 247 million vehicles. Do we really need all those cars? Many of us do. And many, I suspect, only think they do.

According to Jane Holtz Kay’s book “Asphalt Nation,” by the time you finish this sentence, [all those cars] will have traveled another “60,000 miles, used up 3,000 gallons of petroleum (products) and added 60,000 pounds of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere.”

The Orange County Register has an inspirational story about an average family (not a family of athletes or outdoor enthusiasts) that got sick of dumping money into their car, bought a couple of bikes and a bike trailer, and dove in feet-first.

Within two months they paid off two credit cards. No car meant no car bills. It also meant no quick trips to Taco Bell. No morning jolt of Starbucks. No impulse buys of jeans or toys at Target.

One day Jess had a strange complaint: too much money in her wallet and no place to put it. Erick figured out they were recouping more than a third of their income.

“It’s as if your boss came in,” he says, “and asked if you wanted a 35 percent raise.”

Sometimes I wonder what aliens arriving on Earth would think of the way we’ve let cars completely take over our landscape. I wonder if it’s even possible to measure what percentage of vehicle usage is avoidable. How much of it is necessary, how much is merely convenient but negotiable, and how much is just plain habit? For example, a lot of people seem to think they need to use a car to go on quick grocery trips, even when buying less than two bags of groceries, even when they live less than half a mile from a grocery store. A trip like that is easily done by bicycle w/backpack. But many grocery stores don’t even have bike racks outside. How did we get to this point? What will it take to get Americans to re-examine their habits? Why is the Cave family an anomaly, not the rule?

Via Neat-o-Rama

Music: Kraftwerk :: Franz Schubert