Nimitz Way / Conlon Trail Loop

New favorite mountain bike trek in the east bay – our usual 4-mile section from Inspiration Point to the old concrete overlooks, then beyond on dirt along “Old Nimitz Way.” Bumping on down the Belgum Trail till my wrists ached all the way down to Wildcat. Heading back, branch off on Conlon for the insane diagonal back up from 400 to 1100 feet (I admit to walking the bike through part of that one). I’m spent! And blissed.

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Levi’s GranFondo, 2013

Feel so blessed to have found a family activity we can all enjoy together. Spent the weekend in Santa Rosa with Amy and Miles, and rode the Piccolo route of the Levi’s GranFondo – a ride first through the rolling hills of Santa Rosa wine country and then out along the coastal cliffs. Since our son has just turned 11, we did the shortest ride (the Piccolo). It was definitely a challenge for him, but he applied all his willpower and muscle and made it the entire way – his longest ride yet. So proud of him!

Levi's GranFondo, 2013 - 25

Absolutely gorgeous countryside, with a solid 1-mile climb at the end that sapped every ounce of M’s strength. Recharged on watermelon, PBJs, and nuts, then the return voyage. I bolted the GoPro onto the handlebars and set it to capture one image every 60 seconds. So photos are not as “intentional” as they might be, but I did end up with a really nice random sampling. Unfortunately, I left the wifi feature enabled, which chewed up the battery. Camera went dead about halfway through, so you don’t get any of the high-speed downhill or the traipse over the Greenway toward the end – corn fields on one side and a babbling brook on the other.

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One of the highlights of the day: Barreling down hill at 35mph into the 2nd half, guy whizzes past us yelling at the top of his lungs JESUS CHRIST I’M HAPPY!!!!

Truly incredible day. A few of the keeper images:

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Old San Pablo Dam Road – GoPro

Not the main road you’re used to, but the old / abandoned one that runs down near the water. Not exactly easy to access, but blissful once you do. Combination paved/unpaved (you’ll want a mountain bike), and extends the entire length of San Pablo Dam, around 4 miles each way.

Doing a father/son ride with Miles on his 11th birthday.

Old San Pablo Dam Road – GoPro Mountain Bike from Scot Hacker on Vimeo.

Music: Emahoy Tsegue-Maryam Guebrou :: The Homeless Wanderer

Schmidt Lane Descent

Five-minute descent through the Hillside Nature Area in El Cerrito CA (our family affectionately calls the area “Schmidt Lane” for the name of the street you enter from).

Shot with GoPro Hero3 Black + helmet mount, edited in the new GoPro Studio software. Sorry about the abrupt music ending – Studio currently has no audio envelope controls.

Ironically, I wiped out on the way going up and wracked my knee, though managed to stay upright on the descent :).

Music: Can – One More Night (Ege Bamyasi)

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.

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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.

Balance Bike

Balancebike Seeing more and more of these Skuut balance bikes around – kids learn to balance with their feet from the get-go, and never have to go through the training wheel stage at all. Here’s a higher-end option. Seems like such an organic, natural process to me – wish I had known about these a few years ago. Just watching kids on them makes me jealous — wonder if they make them in grown-up sizes? Should hook up with the gang at woodenbikes, maybe they have a kit? I can just see myself hurtling down Hearst Ave., trying to stop with my feet.

Music: John Fahey & Cul De Sac :: Gamelan Collage

Twice Shy

Fun way to get your day started: Biking into work along the Ohlone Greenway this morning, suddenly felt a *thwap* against my teeth, followed a half second later by a stinging sensation in the lower lip. Durn fool bee (wasp? – never saw the critter) had flown straight into my mouth and wigged out when he hit my teeth, reacted by plunging its stinger into whatever it could find nearby. Toxin from the sting spread quickly into my lower gum, and the whole areas now feels like I’ve been visiting a dentist with very bad aim.

Speaking of dentists, heard a great idea for DIY fugu the other day — rather than risking your life with potentially deadly blowfish, just inject a slab of halibut with novocaine. Apparently it tastes very similar, and the anesthetic will give you that nice stinging/numbing/tingly sensation you get from the real deal.

Music: Marc Ribot y Los Cubanos Postizos :: Fiesta En El Solar