Outdoor Rides

Race: Pine Flat Road Race, Womens 3 (P1/2/3)
Course: 62 miles, 4150′ vertical feet (
Teammates: Misha (cat 3) and Emily (cat 2)

Today I lined up for the first time in Cali, shivering as much from nerves as I was from the cold. As there were only 11 women on the start line, five w3s and six P1/2s, we very quickly agreed to race together (with the 3s to be scored separately.) Duh. The 15% grade, quarter mile climb out of the parking lot seemed like a reasonable neutral start, although I did find myself wondering why we couldn’t have just started the race up on the road.

At any rate, once we turned on to Trimmer Springs Rd, the race began. Apparently womens racing in Cali isn’t all that different from it is in Texas, and I soon found myself chatting in a double paceline with everyone sharing the “work.” A few pulls were harder than others and I got the sense that some of the women were sizing each other up, but general consensus seemed to be that it was pointless to start actually racing until we hit the first climb – at mile 51. Part of me was a little indignant that the ladies had chosen to have a 50 mile social ride followed by a 12 mile race, but given that my front derailer wasn’t shifting reliably from the get-go, I haven’t raced in 8  months, the hub cone in my front wheel was loose by mile 5, there were women with impressive pedigrees in the small field, and I’ve never raced 62 miles before, I happily settled in for the promenade. Really, it was a good thing, because more than anything, I needed to start meeting the women who race in NorCal.

<girlie moment> OMG, they’re super nice! That was so much fun! </girlie moment>

About 30 miles into the race the strangest thing happened. We stopped for a pee break. Personally, when I race, I’m always wound up so tight relaxing enough to pee would be impossible. Apparently, that’s just me. Instead of watching the gals squat, I looked down and realized I was almost done with one bottle and my flask was pretty full still. Not good. I finished up the bottle and took a hit from the flask, resolved to drink more consistently. Of course had I been paying attention, I would have realized that I was already in trouble.

Promenading up Trimmer Springs to Belmont was getting really old. I watched wistfully as a few groups of masters stormed past us. <sigh> Oh yeah, that’s what racing looks like. Misha and Emily were riding strong, taking good pulls. On Belmont I started keeping towards the front of the rotation. I was beginning to fear, at our current pace, we’d be out all the live-long-day. Nice, except my calves were twitchy. We turned on to Riverbend, mile 40, and I realized there were no neutral water hand-ups. What the?! Shit. I was down to half a bottle and cramping already. Wanting to at least finish today, I decided we’d better hurry so I pulled more, each time a little harder. Clearly, for some of the group, my attempts to turn up the heat were child’s play. Misha came along beside me and gave me a heads up about the course – one climb coming up soon where people will start attacking, go hard, there’s a long descent for recovery before the final mile uphill to the finish. Not having done my homework, e.g. mapping the route in Google Earth before the race, I was incredibly grateful for her recon on the course.

By the time we turned on to Watts Valley Rd, the field was getting strung out. Emily, who had worked hard for the team the day before, was fading. Misha was toward the front still, in smooth pedals. We hit the climb and Tanya (RED Racing) magically disappeared into the fog, with Korina (Metromint) on her wheel. Taking Misha’s advice, I hit the climb hard. Awesome! Unfortunately, it would have been a good idea to ask her how long the climb was. I began to pull away from the others and hammered off in search of the two up the road. A few minutes (that felt like hours) later I caught Korina, my lungs filling up with congestion at the onset of effort. “Nice work” she says as I pass her. I managed some inarticulate vowel sounds and wheezed past her. Legs on fire, lungs struggling, fog obscuring the road ahead, I looked down to watch my watts drop even though cadence and heart rate weren’t. Stupid asthma. The motor needs oxygen. Going backwards now. Not so awesome. I heard Misha behind me, “Not much further” and I fought to keep her wheel as she pedaled pretty circles away from me.

Ultimately, on the long descent that followed, we became a group of five, with Tanya still lost somewhere in the fog. (Which in all honesty was really cool.) My big chainring proved elusive and by now both calves and my left hamstring were writhing, threatening to seize up entirely if I eased off the effort too much. With nothing left in my bottles, I took a quick hit of EFS and spun out my small chainring trying to keep up as best I could with the chase group that was now flying downhill at 35 mph. In the interest of just about everything going wrong, my left contact lens decided to fly out of my eye, it too now lost in the fog at mile 59.

Briefly I considered dropping out but decided I would profoundly regret it. We were so close to the finish. However, these ladies were now actually racing and I didn’t feel safe mixing it up without my good friend, depth perception. I fell to the back of the break and kept some distance in front of my wheel. I wasn’t going to jockey for position but keeping the group in sight was good motivation not to go fetal and cry on the side of the road until SAG came to get me. By the time we hit the final climb the distance in front of my wheel had grown. No worries, at this point I just wanted to finish this sufferfest. I stood and pedaled, trying to keep the cramps at bay just one more mile, pausing for a split second as I rode closer to Misha. After all, my race ended at mile 59 when my contact took flight, and the rest of the field was nowhere in sight. Maybe I should stay here, behind my teammate.

In that same split second my right hamstring started to twitch. I sat down. Time to finish this (sorry Misha.) Now on a 14% grade with cramps in both calves, both hamstrings, and in my right bicep (that’s weird) I turned the cranks over in the saddle, thinking I had a few choice words for the jokers that put the 200m sign five miles away from the finish line. I unceremoniously crossed the finish line and quickly pulled over to the side of the road and stopped before I fell over. Welcome back to racing. That hurt. A lot.

Lessons learned:

  • Bring a 3rd water bottle. Always.
  • Investigate vision correction options, although had I been properly hydrated, perhaps my contact would have stayed put.
  • Womens racing ain’t so different after all. There still aren’t enough of us, even here.
  • Eat more. Drink more.Duh.
  • Get routine with the FloVent, dummy. You’ve got asthma.
  • Upon inspection, Mark says my outer ring is warped. Look into options asap. That sucked.
  • Always recon the route.What were you thinking?

Two weeks ago, I drove to Berkeley, eager to attend the first in a series of CyclingSavvy workshops, which were being offered for the first time on the West Coast. I arrived to find a room full of equally eager people, from all across the state of California (and beyond.) There were some impressive resumes in the room, people who have spent years, decades, advocating for and educating cyclists. The kind of people everyone who uses roads in California should thank, but who rarely get the thanks they deserve, because bicycle advocacy isn’t as high-profile or glamorous as one might think.

For those of you wondering what CyclingSavvy is, it’s a new bicycling education program focused on teaching effective traffic cycling skills. If you’re wondering what the big dealio is, let’s just say that, in the bicyclist educators ring, there’s been a lot of buzz about the curriculum’s approach. Sure, you may not have heard of CyclingSavvy, but bicycle education gets about as much media coverage as bicycle advocacy. For a more thorough discussion of what CS is and how it’s different, you should read this.

In an effort to avoid a review so lengthy it requires an intermission, I’ll try to limit this post to broad impressions and save the nitty gritty for future posts. Having been certified by the League of American Bicyclists as a League Cycling Instructor, my comments will likely compare the CS material to LAB’s.

The inaugural West Coast classes were led by CyclingSavvy Co-Founder, Mighk Wilson, from Florida, and CyclingSavvy Instructor Gary Cziko, from Illinois. Friday’s workshop was a lecture on topics ranging from bicycle traffic code and traffic cycling principals to route planning and problem-solving strategies. First, let me say that no matter how you dice it, there’s a lot to cover in the lecture. And presenting the material to a room full of seasoned, outspoken cycling educators presented unique challenges, to put it mildly. While Mighk was presenting the second half of the lecture, Gary snapped a quick shot of the room:

Oh sure, they look soft and cuddly, but this crowd asked some tough questions.

So, general impressions: The helmet-cam videos were awesome. They serve as a powerful illustration of the traffic cycling principals being taught, more so, I imagine, when the audience is familiar with the roadways in the videos. But that’s a job for future California CyclingSavvy Instructors to tackle. Gary and Mighk are visiting from out of state so we’ll cut them some slack. The lecture is content-heavy. Even with certain commonly covered topics eliminated, CS introduces enough fresh content that it’s a lot to absorb in 3 hours. The slides are complex the presentation could use some streamlining. There were just too many words on the screen most of the time. Perhaps broad concepts could be covered in an online module similar to this one and the lecture used to reinforce the ideas and discuss details.

In the interest of getting this review published sooner rather than later, I’ll save the on-road review for another post. From what I saw in Friday’s lecture, the CyclingSavvy program offers some awesome, practical
information on how to plan routes and take advantage of patterns in traffic flow and clearly communicate with motorists to minimize potentially stressful interactions on high traffic roadways. There is a heavy emphasis on urban riding which is, for the most part, great, except that I would love to see the program delve further into strategies for the heavily trafficked narrow, rural roadways that we encounter here in Southern Marin. Sharing the roads in my little slice of California presents challenges for which I have yet to find a good solution. CyclingSavvy is a big step in the right direction and, with a few modifications to address certain West Coast conditions, is the type of course that all cyclists could attend and walk away from having learned something new and useful. This isn’t cycling 101, it’s dancing for cyclists. We could all stand to learn a few new moves.

About two weeks ago I signed up for group CompuTrainer classes at Velo SF, located in San Francisco. In case you missed my last post, I’m in Mill Valley, north of the City.

I'm up here and Velo SF is down there.

So over the weekend I decided it was pretty silly driving my car to a cycling class in hopes of getting fitter on the bike. Much better to ride to class. I’ll be leaving at 6am when it is still dark outside which of course means I’ll need gear. I have lights but what I don’t have is a good hi-vis jacket and a backpack. While florescent hi-vis yellow may not be fashionable, it is easier to see at 6am before the sun is up and the coffee has kicked in. In low light, our eyes are particularly perceptive to bright yellows and greens. I’m so behind the haute couture curve, I don’t really care how cool I look in a jacket, but I do care about getting to where I’m going safely and being seen by sleepy motorists is an important part of the equation.

So I headed off to Studio Velo where I found a Rapha jacket and backpack with some cool visibility features. The chartreuse colored jacket with reflective accents is a shade hipper than florescent yellow but still very easy to see in low light. The backpack is pretty cool. In normal light it looks like a rather plain black backpack:

Back of jacket, side of backpack without the camera flash.

But when a a light hits the reflective stitching and details, the backpack looks a little different…..

Front of backpack and jacket, with camera flash.

Back of jacket, side of backpack with flash.

Nice! Visibility? Check.

The jacket is windproof, water resistant, and easy to wash. Sorta.

I'm pretty sure there are no othems of like colour in my closet.

There’s more to the San Francisco Bay Area than just San Francisco. A lot more. The Bay Area is made up of zillion* other cities, towns and hippie holdouts.Some of them you’ve probably heard of – like Oakland or Palo Alto but others not so much – Komandorski Village, Dogtown, and Farwell, for example. We’ve got all kinds of towns in the Bay Area that sound like they belong somewhere else, Pittsburg, Newark and, in case I’m homesick for Texas, there’s a San Antonio and Alamo right here, just a short drive away.

When I talk to friends back in Dallas about my life here, I can’t help but think most have no concept of where I actually am in relation to the places they may have heard of in the Area. So, to put things in perspective, I created a map. Given my unfamiliarity with the Bay Area, there’s a strong possibility that this map is highly inaccurate. It is not at all intended for navigational purposes.

Enjoy and check back, updates to come as I continue to explore my new home.

*Note: not an actual statistic.

My map of the San Francisco Bay Area, with important (more or less) landmarks.

Bolinas-Fairfax Road, typical of many of the roadways along the area's popular cycling routes. Note the narrow lanes, poor shoulder conditions, and my lane position. (Photo by Chris Hobbs)

California’s commonly misunderstood “Far to the Right” law reads:

C V C Section 21202 Operation on Roadway

Operation on Roadway

21202.  (a) Any person operating a bicycle upon a roadway at a speed less than the normal speed of traffic moving in the same direction at that time shall ride as close as practicable to the right-hand curb or edge of the roadway except under any of the following situations:

(1) When overtaking and passing another bicycle or vehicle proceeding in the same direction.

(2) When preparing for a left turn at an intersection or into a private road or driveway.

(3) When reasonably necessary to avoid conditions (including, but not limited to, fixed or moving objects, vehicles, bicycles, pedestrians, animals, surface hazards, or substandard width lanes) that make it unsafe to continue along the right-hand curb or edge, subject to the provisions of Section 21656. For purposes of this section, a “substandard width lane” is a lane that is too narrow for a bicycle and a vehicle to travel safely side by side within the lane.

(4) When approaching a place where a right turn is authorized.

(b) Any person operating a bicycle upon a roadway of a highway, which highway carries traffic in one direction only and has two or more marked traffic lanes, may ride as near the left-hand curb or edge of that roadway as practicable.

Out of all the reckless cyclist and motorist behavior I’ve seen in California, I think a majority stems from the misunderstanding/misinterpreting of this portion of the California Vehicle Code. The misunderstanding is across the board – cyclists don’t use the rights this law gives them, motorists don’t seem to think it gives cyclists any rights to the roadway, and perhaps worst of all, law enforcement doesn’t seem to think so either.

Honestly, this section of the CVC should be an empowering, liberating bit of law for cyclists. After all, it reinforces a previously given right – to ride on the roadway. Here’s a newsflash: Shoulders are not roadways. Per CVC 530: “A ‘roadway’ is that portion of a highway improved, designed, or ordinarily used for vehicular travel.” Shoulders certainly aren’t designed or improved for ordinary vehicle travel. I cannot help but wonder if cyclists are dooming themselves to the shoulder by making it a place “ordinarily used for vehicular travel.”

There are some common-sense items written into the code, such as moving left to avoid hazards, moving to the left for left hand turns and when approaching right-turn only lanes. Aside from being not-so-common-sense for some, these are topics I’d prefer to save for future discussions. Back to the liberation….

21202 (3) empowers cyclists to take the lane on narrow roadways: “For purposes of this section, a “substandard width lane” is a lane that is too narrow for a bicycle and a vehicle to travel safely side by side within the lane.”

Many of the roads on which I, and countless others, cycle are narrow roads, with one lane in each direction and a disappearing/re-appearing, debris filled shoulder. Speed limits range from 25mph to 55mph on these twisty, hilly roads and traffic can be quite heavy on a warm sunny day. More often than not the cyclists are crammed, single file, into the shoulder as motorists pass, often alarmingly close. Seriously, alarming. Perhaps the worst was a ChPs patrol car who passed within 3 inches of me along Hwy 1, where the speed limit was 50mph.

I don’t know if I have a point for this post yet. It’s a warm, sunny day today and I did a humbling, crippling set of intervals this morning. I think I will take my bike for a walk, perhaps take a few photos of the road conditions (assuming I can make it up Mt Tam to get to these roads) and I’ll take note of the motorists’ responses to my lane positioning. I can tell you from previous experience, it’s not what some of you will be expecting….


Alpine Dam, smooth as glass.

A few photos from my Saturday of riding. First ride, the Studio Velo Saturday ride which normally goes to Olema but it was so cold this morning we decided to get to the climbs as fast as possible. After climbing up BoFax Road and Ridgecrest, we all felt quite a bit warmer. We also all agreed we were pretty amazed we lived in such an amazingly beautiful area. Breathtaking.


The SUN! Suddenly Jeff and I didn't feel so underdressed.


Alpine Dam is one of my favorite loops. It never gets old and the views are always spectacular.

After a quick bite to eat Brian and I rode into the city to scout out his commute to the office via bike. It was pretty beautiful along that route too. All the bitching aside, I do love living in Marin. Not a day goes by that I don’t find myself staring at my surroundings, awestruck by the majesty of it all.


Have a seat. The urban landscape around here is pretty cool too.


Looking out at the Bay from underneath the Golden Gate Bridge.


The Golden Gate Bridge, viewed from Fort Baker in the Marin Headlands.



Recently I moved from Dallas Texas to Mill Valley, California which is just on the other side of the Golden Gate Bridge from San Francisco. While there are many things I love about riding here, there are just as many things I hate, bike lanes being one of them. Many of the bike lanes I’ve experienced here are Door Zone Bike Lanes, DZBLs, consisting of a bike lane installed adjacent to parallel parking. It looks something like this:

Bike lane along Bridgeway, a busy thoroughfare in Sausalito, CA. Photo by Joshua Hart.

In less than four weeks I have been in so many hazardous bike lane situations that I have lost count. They are fraught with danger, these bike lanes. Some are relatively obvious, such as debris the bike lane, parked cars in the bike lane, drivers side doors opening while you pedal along in the bike lane, and cars turning right at intersections without checking for traffic in the bike lane. There are also some less obvious hazards such as getting cut off by a motorist who suddenly sees an open parking space and jacks their car into it without remembering there was a bike lane between him and that parking space. Or getting cut off by a motorist turning right to enter a driveway or parking lot, especially the motorist who has just realized THIS was the parking lot and quickly brakes then turns into the lot.

I find it ironic that for the two years that I lived and rode in Dallas, Texas, with all it’s busy streets and cyclist-hating rednecks, I hardly ever felt like I was in danger of getting hit by a motor vehicle. The streets where I rode in Dallas had no bike lanes, I rode on the road in a lane just as any other vehicle. Yet here I am in Northern California, well known for it’s cycling culture, and I am absolutely convinced that I will be hit by a car here. Pretty much every time I ride my bike here I encounter at least one situation which could have resulted in a collision had I not been riding alert and defensively, aware of potential dangers. Now I suppose you could argue that one ought always to be riding alert and defensively, and you’d be correct. I agree, knowing what potential dangers exist and how to avoid them is a very important element of bicycling safety. However, I think minimizing these dangers by not creating hazardous conditions in the first place is equally important.

California has a mandatory use law that states that if a bike lane is present, cyclists must use it. The law does allow cyclists to leave the bike lane under certain conditions, one of them being to avoid a hazard. Lately I have wondered if I am riding on a street with a bike lane, which I have come to view as hazardous by their very nature, I am legally justified in taking the lane with the rest of traffic since the hazardous condition that exists is the bike lane itself. Personal experience has taught me that I am far safer driving my bicycle as a vehicle on the road with the rest of traffic, than I am riding in any bike lane. Hmmm….now that I think about it, that sounds vaguely familiar…

“Cyclists fare best when they act and are treated as drivers of vehicles.” – John Forester

Door zone bike lane on Bridgeway in Sausalito. Photo by Joshua Hart.