Last month I posted about the passing of Andre Mahe, winner of Paris-Roubaix in 1949. I found this little video with footage and interviews. It is in French, naturally, and my eighth grade French just does not do me any good. However, the race footage is pretty fun.
The intersection of College Avenue and 5th Street, may not be the busiest biking intersection in town, but it is certainly high on the list. So, when I happen to be out and about, looking to take some photos I will usually include a stop of at least a few minutes here. As the name of that first street suggests, students predominate, but I would guess there are a goodly number of professors passing by, as well as college staff, local business people, and others heading to or from the Depot. One thing is clear, there is most definitely a diversity of riders and their rides. These are a few from yesterday (Monday). Technically, there really is no 5th Street here, it ends a short distance to the west (behind me in the photos), it is actually a mid-block pedestrian/bike crossing, and giving way to a broad promenade just visible in the second and third photos. There is no stop sign here, or traffic signal of any kind, just a sign in the middle of the street telling drivers they are supposed to yield to people in the crosswalk. It usually seems to work pretty well.
I heard bits of this brief story twice on the radio this morning. Encouraging story about commuting by bike, very positive perspective on the role of bikes in healthy transportation. Planetizen has a link, or you can listen to it here:
The SoCal Cross series headed to Verdugo Park in Glendale today for a nice little technical course that threw a little of everything at the riders. After a morning ride I only had time to take photos of a couple races. First up the Master Men 35+ race:
Of course there are more, just click here for a shorter than normal slideshow.
Even though I have been a member of this Facebook group for a while, today was the first opportunity I have had to hit the road with them. You can also find out about their rides on Meetup. Ride left from the Euro Cafe in Claremont at 8:00am heading west on Baseline, swung past Bonelli Park, took in a little climbing and descending in the hills of Covina, and then a brief stop for coffee and baked goods at Classic Coffee in the older downtown section of Glendora, before turning for home. About 31 miles plus or minus a few tenths. It was a good group of solid riders; not the quickest ride I have ever been on (which is refreshing this time of year), but no lolly-gagers either. If you have some decent fitness and know your way around a bike check out the ride some Sunday morning. As Arnold Schwarzenegger might say "I'll be back."
having refueled in Glendora, we get ready to head for home.
cresting the last hill before home. and look how clear it is; yes that is downtown LA back there.
One of the frequently uttered complaints about cyclists made by the non-cycling or even, infrequently cycling public, concerns the amount of space the peloton takes up on the road - you know, things like "why can't those damned cyclists ride in single-file, etc. These are largely the utterances of people who have been conditioned by their auto-dependence, where single-file procession is a fact of the activity. Sure you can change lanes, but really that is just moving from one line to another. The peloton operates under entirely different conditions. These conditions are influenced by 1. physical features in the environment, 2. the competitive nature of the activity, and 3. vagaries inherent in any large group of individuals.
Take relatively minor things in the physical environment - cracks, rocks, glass, nails and other debris - these are things too small to even be noticed by drivers, let alone be of concern, but can be serious obstacles to a rider, capable of knocking a bike off course at the least, and laying it flat at the worst. Obstacles such as these will require an avoidance action on the part of the rider, anything from briefly lifting the front wheel, to bunny-hopping the offending object, to swerving around it. When a rider is pedaling along solo, there is usually little problem; but when riding in a group the reaction is compounded. We are all somewhat familiar with the saying "for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction"; you may have first heard this in high school science class. If one rider in the middle of the peloton moves left to avoid a pothole, for instance, the movement may put him into a space already occupied (which is of course another rule of science, that no two objects can occupy the same space at the same time) by another rider, thus forcing that rider to move left in turn. This action and reaction may be repeated any number of times until reaching the rider on the outside of the peloton.
The action of slowing will cause similar reactions and, if the slowing happens suddenly, riders especially those riding along the sides, will often move even further out, provided space to do so is available. Consider a barrel-type spring for a moment - a spring, when under load will be narrower at the center as it stretches out to hold the weight; remove the weight and the spring will contract, widening out at the center until it returns to its non-load bearing shape. The peloton operates much the same, though for a different reason. As the speed of the peloton increases the group tends to become stretched out. One of my few moments of glory came in a local road race when I accelerated fast enough and long enough to look back and see one long line stretched out in my wake. Of course that speed cannot be maintained indefinitely, and as the speed is removed (just as the weight of the spring) the peloton will bunch up and spread out at the middle.
"Sommers, hold your line" is perhaps the most oft quoted line from the most well-known cycling film, Breaking Away. Of course "line" in this case does not refer to an actual line persay, as if the race were proceeding along in nice ordered rows. No, what it refers to is following a predicable course and not making any sudden or unexpected moves necessitating a contrary reaction from other riders. I have often thought that, when viewed from above, the peloton must resemble a single living organism, such as an earthworm, that expands and contracts as it moves along. The problem is that this resemblance is one of appearance only. Since the peloton is composed of many individuals of differing abilities it cannot be expected to operate in an entirely predictable manner. On any given day, on any given group ride, the riders in the peloton will have a wide range of physical ability, practical experience, and what I term "comfort level". These vagaries and differences can have as much effect on the entire group as do physical features encountered along the route. Outsiders looking in will often wonder at how close the riders are to one another. Not infrequently this proximity results in harmless bumping, and yes, even crashing in the middle of the peloton. Newer riders, lacking in experience or the fortitude to ride in the middle of such a seething mass, will often ride to the sides of the group. This can be safer, but is also more difficult and tends to further spread out the group.
Cycling is a competitive activity, and most group training rides effectively simulate race conditions with riders doing what is necessary to succeed, within reason. During any training ride there will thus be occasions when the peloton becomes strung out in a long line due to increased speed, and there will be other times when the speed slows and riders bunch together to conserve energy. Single-file does not happen during a race, unless there is a team time trial taking place, or a smaller group of riders gets away from the larger group and forms a paceline to maximize their efforts. Expecting that a group of riders will follow one another in an orderly single-file line, and confining themselves to a narrow ribbon of asphalt along the margin of a road or street under these conditions is anything from optimistic to delusional, depending upon perspective.
It was one nice winter day, just right for vest, arm warners and sunscreen, and a nice long ride to the coast for lunch. It was about as clear as it gets, and from the top of the Santa Fe Dam I looked north to the snow covered pate of Mt. Baldy,
I looked east toward home in Claremont, and the more distant peaks around Big Bear,
I looked south along the San Gabriel River Trail, at the end of which, and some 30 miles away, lies the Pacific Ocean,
And lastly, I looked west where the buildings of downtown Los Angeles figured prominently on the horizon.
One of the best things about winter rides is how clear the sky is and how far you can see.
and why can't all mornings be like this. i swear there were more people out riding, jogging or walking, than there were driving. i am sure it will change later as everyone hops into their cars to get to wherever turkey dinner is being served, but it sure was nice while it lasted.
with her bright pink bike and helmet to match she is easy to spot cruising Claremont's streets, and i frequently do. finally i had my camera ready to snap a pic
another smiling rider on a beautiful day
i stopped at the local park to take some photos when i noticed this furry guy running down the middle of the street. he hopped the curb and cut through the park, probably in search of its own turkey feast
wherever you are, whatever you are doing, have a good Thanksgiving.
The business occupying the pretty cool looking older building pictured is Jax Bicycle Center, the one full-service bike shop located within the Claremont city limits. They have a prime location in the Village, and directly across the street from the Claremont Depot. Those of you from the local area know this as the location of Bud's Bike Shop, until the business was sold to Jax in 2006. The name Jax has long been familiar to me due to their involvement in the SoCal racing scene during the 1990s, but until they took over ownership here, I had never had experience with any of their shops (there are eight Jax Centers throughout the Southland). Because I race with a club from a rival shop I do not frequent Jax as often as I otherwise might; but don't let that stop you. My past experience with the shop and the employees has always been amenable - they have been friendly, quick and, most importantly, helpful. Even when I have been in full team kit, either stopping into the shop (which has always seemed a bit awkward), or seeing one of their employees on the street, they have been willing to give me a moment of their time.
One way or the other, people tend to have some strong opinions about Jax, and I am not going to get into that here. If you visit you can form your own opinion. Jax is an exclusive dealer of Trek bicycles, and that would be my one knock against them; I do like a shop that has a wide selection to choose from, to test and compare. That said, Trek is a respectable manufacturer, and if a new Trek is what you are interested in, then this would be the place to go. Of course it is not all about the new bikes, you can also find components and parts, clothing and accessories. They have also expanded beyond the Trek line, offering Gary Fisher road, mountain and hybrid bikes, as well as Electra and Nirve cruisers, and MirraCo BMX bikes.
A note of interest: When the shop was reconstituted, and Jax held their grand reopening, they threw a great party with food, a raffle, grab bags, and then topped it off with a question and answer session and autograph signing with George Hincapie, who, of course, was riding for a Trek sponsored team at the time. The store came in with a bang and seems to be aging respectably.
I don't normally take much notice of older model mountain bikes, but this Bontrager Privateer S that I saw at the Velo seemed kind of worthy. I think the frame is from '97 (at least I have seen others with that date and the same color and decal scheme while researching), I think the Rock Shox Indy fork is from the late 90s as well. Bontrager bar and stem combo, and seatpost, and if I remember correctly Shimano everywhere else. Not really old enough to be true classic material, but maybe unique enough that it will get there.
And then there is this smartly matched couple. His and her Schwinn errand runners.
Is it stupidity? Is it a dimming of brain cells? Could it be spite? Maybe indifference? What about a simple case of ignorance? How does someone drive the length of the street in a bike lane? We can disregard ignorance right now; this is not a bike lane that suddenly appeared overnight, it has been there for years. It is also clearly marked with both lane lines and bike lane symbols. And then there is the signage saying "bike lane." For those locals, I am talking about Mills, and this is not the first time I have observed this taking place. In the past it has been an elderly woman I have seen, on more than one occasion I might add, driving where bikes, and only bikes, are supposed to be. Why she was driving when she could not distinguish that fact is beyond me. Scary enough.
This afternoon riding back up Mills from a trip to the Post Office a white pick-up comes by me and pulls over into the bike lane, and then continues on up the street, finally making a right on Baseline, a good 1/2 mile drive which should not have taken place where it did. I had my camera on my back and could have swung it around front and snapped a photo but I kept expecting him to turn right onto one of the side streets. You know how certain types seem to be moving over to the right earlier and earlier in preparation to make a turn - I see it more and more frequently. But no, he simply chose to drive up the street in the bike lane. There were no other cars headed up the street, no one he had to get around, so I can rule out impatience. Did this driver think he was in a motor vehicle lane? No, he was in a full-size pickup; they don't fit in bike lanes. So, did he do it because he wanted to show me that he could. That would be stupidity, spitefulness and indifference all rolled into one. What about impairment? It is, of course, all just conjecture. Only the driver knows what was going on for sure. No harm was done. But if someone cannot follow a simple rule of the road, a rule intended to provide for the safety of other road users, should the driver of that vehicle even be granted the privilege of sitting on the controlling side of a steering wheel? I am sure you know my answer to that question.
SC Velo and Incycle have organized a Christmas Toy Ride on Sunday, December 5. Ride will leave from the San Dimas Incycle location at approx. 8:45 and deliver the toys to a collection point at the Via Verde Plaza, San Dimas. Toys can also be dropped off at any Incycle store until December 4. More information at the Facebook event page.
the Misunderstood World of a Bike Racer. If you have been around the sport of bike racing for a while, or know someone who has, you may not find much of revelatory worth here - this is mostly stuff you already know and understand. However if you are new to the sport, or know someone who is, or are an interested outsider just trying to figure what the obsession is all about, this book may provide the answers to some of your questions. Long a fan of the book's illustrator, and his Frazz comic strip, I had wanted to give this book a peek for a while and finally did. I did come away from the read a bit unsatisfied, but understood that this was due to the nature of the book; I am not in its intended demographic. However, for those already in the know, it does provide opportunities to rehash similarities in our own cycling "careers", nod our heads in affirmation, and mutter "mmm hmmm, how very true" when one incident or another cuts close to home. For example, anyone who has done group training rides knows that they sprint at any and all city limit signs, and we have all been on that ride for the first time, where as the author puts it "the locations of these signs are never disclosed to the new guy. Let him figure it out on his own."
Smith, Jamie Roadie: the Misunderstood World of a Bike Racer Boulder, CO: Velo Press, 2008
Even long-time racing stalwarts like myself sometimes forget that racing goes on beyond the bounds of the developed world. Of course it does not help that races such as the Tour of Rwanda are never picked up by the mainstream media, and only get minor mention by cycling media outlets. It is awesome to see crowds lining the roads for such races, just as you would expect for the Tour de France, Paris-Roubaix, or any number of well known races in Europe, North America or Australia. From what I have been able to gather this race is contested primarily by teams and riders from Africa (as might be expected), and provides an opportunity for local riders to showcase their abilities, as well as grow the sport beyond what we tend to consider as traditional cycling strongholds. I have been following the race here.