Saturday, December 31, 2011

From the Library: Team 7-Eleven

Two icons in bicycle racing during the 1980s ushered in a surge in American presence in the professional peloton at that time, as well as over the succeeding years - Greg Lemond, and Team 7-Eleven. Both, in their own ways, are regarded as setting the stage for American racers and team organizations who have made the jump to European competition in the years since. This book, by Geoff Drake, is a quick read and fascinating look at the development of Team 7-Eleven and many of the team's top riders. Highs and lows, anecdotes, triumphs and tragedies; it is loaded with tidbits of information, and insights into the sport. It is a wonderful account of a historic period of cycling when Americans (as in North Americans - Canadians and Mexicans, as well as riders from the United States) were beginning to make their presence felt on the international scene. A worthy addition to anyone's cycling library.

Drake, Geoff with Jim Ochowicz  Team 7-Eleven: How an Unsung Band of American Cyclists Took On the World - And Won  Boulder, CA: Velo Press, 2011

Friday, December 30, 2011

I'm Back (from Death Valley)...

Well, that was a fun few days. My little family trio has been doing this Death Valley trip every other year during the Winter break and this was one of those years. I don't know how many of you visit the Park, but it is so big that you could visit for years (this was our fourth winter trip) and still only see a fraction of what is there. Between the natural wonders, the mines, ghost towns and mining camps, and other remains of human activity, we'll be busy for years to come. Anyway, I will get a little post up on my other blog in a couple days rather than here, since I simply did not turn a single pedal during the four days there. There were plenty of people doing so, but not me. So it was fun, it is now done, and I am looking forward to getting back to the bike.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Light up the Night...

To all of you, however you celebrate,

Enjoy the holidays
(and thanks to my sis for providing this years holiday photo of one fully decked out
rider and bike up in the Seattle area)
I am going to enjoy a week without opening up the computer.
See you back online on the 30th.

Virtually Traffic-free Travel...

Well, a few of us did not want to contend with Village Christmas traffic on the last full day of shopping, and chose to ride into town instead:

rolling a nice looking Moser up Yale Avenue

it would have been really impressive if he had been
strumming some Christmas carols while riding down the street

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Cycle Claremont...

It is coming up quickly, and you can now rsvp from the Inaugural Ride Facebook page.
Bring your family, bring your friends, don't forget yourself.
It will be the start of something big.

Wind in the Morning, Riders Take Warning...

Claremont generally seems to miss out on a lot of the high winds that periodically punish the cities a bit to the east. The big windstorm of a couple weeks ago was an exception, as was this morning. I was getting pushed around the little bit of road I occupied. The winds may be back tomorrow morning as well; if so, be careful out there. Thing about riding into the wind - it will make you a stronger rider - but I am glad we don't have to deal with it all that often.

Claremont Safe Routes To Schools: Safety Training...

Received an email today about a bicycle safety course being offered by the BASE+Birge Engineering Claremont Safe Routes to School Team. The class is geared for adults and is being offered free to Claremont residents on two consecutive Saturday's at the end of January. The program, approved by the League of American Bicyclists, will provide classroom and practical on-the-road training relating to rules of the road and safe riding practices. Classes such as this also help communities raise their bicycle friendliness rating (Claremont currently has a bronze rating). Bicycle friendly communities tend to have higher standards of living and, as we hear more and more, increased levels of bicycling provide increased economic benefits.  Click on the flyer for additional information and contacts. 

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

If Frame Stickers Were Collectable...

(which they are, especially sets) this one would be near the top of my wish list:

The sticker was added to Bianchi frames to celebrate the 1986 World Road Race championship, won by Moreno Argentin. This particular one is the Sport SX model, I think manufactured in Japan, rather than in Italy, for export to the United States.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

End of Year C&V: Peugeot Canyon Express...

For your viewing pleasure:

A Peugeot Canyon Express, dating to somewhere between 1986 and 1990 from what I can tell by looking at the Peugeot catalogs. In 1986 Peugeot started placing the rear brake below the chainstays (as you see in this example) and by 1989 had apparently received enough complaints about that placement, that they gave up on the idea and brought them back up to the seatstays. This is a nice clean frame, a beautiful example of what was being produced in that era. It is built with Shimano Deore derailleurs, Suntour roller cam brakes, and Suntour AX pedals, which are pretty sweet for flats. If you are in the area, check it out, it is at the Velo.

Monday, December 19, 2011

A Return to Griffith Park...

There was a period of a few years when I lived in Burbank. During those years I could often be found riding around Griffith Park, either during one group ride or another, or solo after work. The Wednesday Night Training Race and the Bicycle Doctor shop ride, both extensively used the roads of the park. I probably rode so many miles there that I knew each crack in the pavement, pothole, or root-raised ridge of asphalt, heck even every newly-fallen pine cone. In the past nine or so years I have only ridden in Griffith once so, since I was there this past weekend for Santa Cross I figured I had to ride some of those old familiar roads. From the Greek Theater I took Commonwealth Canyon Road, Vista del Valle Drive and Mt. Hollywood Drive down to Griffith Park Drive in Oak Canyon, then back the same route. It wasn't long, but I laid down a lot of riding memories along those roads; it was kind of like a homecoming. Some amazing view of the city from up there - take some time these next couple holiday weeks to get some riding in and enjoy the views where ever you ride.

Not sure how this relic from the '84 Olympics made it here

Los Angeles

from the hills to the sea

Burbank and the east Valley

top of the Short Hill, beginning of Trash Truck Hill, curving away to the left (technically Mt. Hollywood Drive branching off from Griffith Park Drive)

I know this point as "Look-back" for perhaps obvious reasons - it's a switchback where you coan look back to see how big a gap you have on chasing riders.

Pinecone Turn with its view of the Valley

The Summit; I think the sprint was to the second gate.

A view of Glendale on the way back down.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Santa Cross 2011...

A little taste of Santa Cross on Saturday. Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays all you crossers. Time to take a break before Crossing into 2012.

there were plenty of santa hats in view throughout the day including this one in the days second wave, master men 'b' 35+ CX3/4, 45+ CX3/4, and 55+ CX1-4. slideshow here.

using a little body english to get through the deep sand

the victor of the master's men 'b' 35+ race

to find out what her smile is all about, check the slide show for the elite women
(hint: sometimes things can be more fun when they go wrong, than when they go according to plan)

the day's elite women's victor, Christina Probert-Turner, smiles at the heckling by the Cadence boys

the day's Junior 15-18 victor, and series leader, Tyler Schwartz of Surf City Cyclery.
more juniors and kids race photos, including podium shots, here.

the third wave takes off in an almost perfect 'v' formation. other photos from wave 3, men 'c' cx4, master's women 35+ and 45+, and the women 'c' cx4 are here.

finally, a podium shot to end things.
notice especially that someone couldn't wait to get at that podium brew.
a few photos from the singlespeed race are here, and some misc. photos here

Friday, December 16, 2011

Colorful Caps all in a Row...

The modern peloton, when in full flight, has long appeared as a blur of colors. I can't think of another sport that has so many teams in competition against one another at the same time, on the same field of play. After having the interior of the place painted a week ago, I was faced with a stack of cycling caps taking up a bit of needed space, so swiping an unused hat rack from the boy's room, I got them up on the wall and out of the way. And all those colors are no longer a blur. And yes, I like one enough to make it the new banner for the blog.

Contrary to Velominati's Rule #22, I wear mine all the time - on and off the bike. Don't like it, tough s**t.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Epic Rides...

Hang out with a group of cyclists for long enough, or at least within earshot for an extended period of time and you are, sooner or later, bound to hear the term epic ride entering the conversation. What is this thing of which people speak with reverential tones, a note of awe in their voice, and a certain gleam in the eye? Ride for a few years and you may begin to accumulate a list of epic rides of your own. It is likely to be a fluid list though, at least at first; a ride that you regard as epic one year, may not be looked at with the same regard a few years later. The memory of a truly epic ride, though, is likely to stand out across a lifetime, no matter when in that lifetime it took place.

The idea of an epic ride has been on my mind for some time now, largely I think, because I have to look back many years to find the last ride I was on which I consider to have been truly epic. Anyway I have been compiling a list of characteristics of the epic ride, a list of tangible and intangible elements which, together or perhaps separately, constitute a description of what makes a ride epic. Prior to working out any kind of list I had to overcome the possibility that attempting to define epic ride would be futile. The dictionary might provide a clear definition of epic, one that uses words like narrative and heroic, tangible elements which should have made a definition combining epic and ride easier, but which fails to consider the subjectivity of individual experience. Could a term like epic ride even be defined? After all, what a novice might consider epic would likely be regarded as an easy Sunday cruise to a more seasoned rider.

The list:
  1. This first characteristic has to do with that bit at the end of the paragraph above. Epic rides transcend ability levels, they are not limited to one or another. One need not be a seasoned rider to experience an epic ride, they exist at the moment in which they take place. In other words an epic ride that someone experiences as a novice remains epic even many years later when the rider has become more seasoned. Epic rides are defined as such at the time they take place. Consider it this way - think back to your youth, and the first time you hopped on your bike and rode outside your immediate, familiar neighborhood. Really, that is about as epic a ride as they get. That kid is crossing a boundary, leaving behind everything familiar, everything they have known up to that point in time, and traveling into a realm of the unfamiliar. Twenty years later, that ride might look like little more than a spin around the block, but at the time it was monumental, it was in fact, epic.
  2. Epic rides are based upon the individual experience. This may seem obvious but, though the group does play a role (as I will show later), it is ultimately how the individual experiences the ride which determines its epic nature. As an example, at some point in the mid-1990s I participated in one of the 'Mark Rich Invitational Rides' (I don't think they had a formal name really, that is just what I call them) which rode out to distant points from the San Gabriel Valley every so often. This particular one went out to the Agua Dulce area, via Little Tujunga Canyon, the back over Mill Creek Station on Angeles Forest Highway, and on home down the Angeles Crest. I was pretty much at my cycling peak those years and normally this ride would have been pretty run-of-the-mill, long but standard stuff. Well, for what ever reason, I really struggled with the climb up Little T, and then fighting the wind into Agua Dulce; I was dreading the second half of the ride, and not really sure I would make it. Thankfully, after replenishing my energy at a local store, I recovered and rode much improved the rest of the way. For most of the others on the ride, it was a pretty typical training ride. But because I had an obstacle to overcome, did so, and finished stronger than I started, the ride makes my epic list. Not the top of the list, but up there.
  3. Epic rides tend to also be unsupported, self-sufficient rides. It is no surprise that history tends to bestow the term epic to stages of the earliest Tours de France. There were no teams following the race to support their racers, each man was a team of one, improvising when necessary, but otherwise self-sufficient. Calling for a ride home during what might otherwise have been an epic ride, negates that ride being added to an epic list. Limping home with a busted bike, patched together with bits of whatever found alongside the road or trail, or in a jersey pocket - epic. That said, once the ride proper is done, it is okay to accept a ride home.
  4. Epic rides are not limited by length in distance, nor duration of time. The likelihood of a ride becoming epic increase with distance or elapsed time, but circumstances can make shorter rides epic as well. True, the likelihood of a ride becoming epic increases with length, and distance and time often become contributing factors in turning a ride into an epic one, but they are not hard/fast requirements. Of the numerous 100+ mile rides I have done, only one of them stands out as worthy of being termed epic; of the rides on my epic list, most have been shorter, some far shorter.
  5. Weather often plays a factor in making a ride epic. The more extreme weather conditions are, hot, cold, rain, snow, wind, all can be contributing factors in making a ride epic. At the same time, extreme conditions are not a requirement; epic rides can take place under perfect conditions. There is no doubt that Andy Hampsten's ride up the Gavia during the 1988 Giro d'Italia, with snow falling all around, obscuring the view any more than a few feet ahead, was an epic ride. One might even argue that Andy's ride that day moved beyond the realm of epic and into the realm of legendary. But that is another story. Extremes of weather can be all it takes to turn an everyday ride into an epic one. Rain is a relatively rare occurrence in these parts, and snow even more so. Rides that I have taken during during storms, therefore, tend to be more memorable and epic in nature.
  6. Epic rides are hard rides, but it is not a requirement that they be difficult. Look, if you are having a great day, so much the better. There is nothing wrong with riding an epic when everything clicks.
  7. This may be stating the obvious but, epic rides must go beyond routine. I don't believe those laps we race during training at the Rose Bowl twice a week, no matter how fast the peloton goes, nor how many professionals are there pushing the pace. A particular night may be memorable, but epic? No.
  8. At first glance this point may seem to contradict point number 2 but, epic rides are usually also group rides. I say this based on the idea that the epic aspect is enhanced by the shared experience that takes place on group rides. I think several factors come into play here. First, on most any group ride rivalries and competition usual conspire to push individual riders up to, and maybe beyond their normal limit. A second factor surrounds the camaraderie amongst riders. Bonds created through the shared experience are some of the strongest connections we make during our lives. I was on a team training ride once through a mountainous area with a lot of ups and downs in the road. One rider broke his chain and no one carried a tool to repair it. He could coast down the hills just fine, but going up was of course another matter. We ended up trading off turns pushing him up each hill. We all were able to share in that experience; overcoming that incident, shared by each of us in turn contributed toward the creation of an epic ride. That one 100+ mile ride I mentioned in point number 3, was an organized century I did with a small group of buddies. On a ride of such duration it is unlikely that one rider will be the strongest for the entire ride, and as such riders end up helping each other out, contributing individually to a group effort. The concept of being a part of something bigger than ourselves is very often one of the main facets of an epic ride.
  9. Challenge. Simply put, every ride on my epic ride list involved a challenge to meet, or obstacle to overcome. Sometimes that means excelling, and exceeding expectations, other times it may mean simply surviving. I feel fortunate enough to have lived my entire life within close proximity of numerous mountain ranges and, as a result, mountains figure into every one of the rides on my epic list. Now, of the various factors I have listed this is the most problematic for the reason that not everyone is geographically situated within striking distance of a range of mountains. I have no doubt that people who live in the middle of the Great Plains, or the steppes of Russia, have epic ride lists which do not include miles long climbs. I am also sure that, were I to transplant to such a region, I could easily slot a flatter epic ride into my more mountainous ride list. What this says is that you don't need mountains for challenge; challenge can come from any number of directions, any of which could be a valid building point for an epic ride. An epic ride can never be an easy spin through a park - ease is one factor that has no role in the definition of epic.
This kind of brings me back full circle - that original dictionary definition: A narrative of heroic proportions, or that contains aspects of the heroic in the telling. The narrative part is pretty clear; every ride is a narrative, the story unfolding as the miles pass by. The heroic part is met by overcoming a challenge which takes the rider beyond the norm.

Alright, so what is at the top of my epic ride list? It was supposed to be a group ride, but the day dawned grey and threatening rain, so at the appointed time only a trio of us were committed. We rode from Griffith Park to Santa Monica via Mulholland Drive; it rained from the time we clipped into our pedals, to the time we arrived at Ye Olde King's Head for lunch where air conditioning made things even more uncomfortable. It rained the entire way back through the city center and Silverlake, where my front wheel found a gap in the roadway and decided to lodge itself in there rather than keep rolling. It was a sudden and hard hitting, but thankfully temporary stop, and we were rolling along again soon enough. The conditions were poetically miserable, our bikes had to nearly swim through some intersections, pouring rain and spray back up from the road blinded us, it took days to completely dry out, people who saw us thought we were absolute nuts. But it was the most fun I have ever had on a ride.

So there you have it, I have given you my opinion about what factors go into making an epic ride. Assuming you have read all the way through, do you agree? What about you, in your mind what makes a ride an epic one? Can there ever really be a true inclusive definition, or is it too subject to the vagaries of individual perspective? I have left the list off at 9 characteristics,round it off for me by providing a tenth.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Snow, and an Unsolicited Plug...

Look what we woke up to this morning: 

I know it is not the same as waking to it on your doorstep, or covering your roads, but it is usually the best we get. Literally. We still get to ride, while enjoying it from a distance. Anyway, the point is that the morning was cold enough for me to put on most of my winter gear. That meant a cycling cap (just in case there were any lingering drops of rain) and a cycling (Domo-Farm Frites) beanie over that for warmth. It is a bit thick cramming both into my helmet, but I make do a few days each year. 

Now what would really be nice (and while this is mostly directed to those people who know me and may be buying me a gift this Christmas, it could also apply to anyone who knows or loves a cyclist), yes, what would really be nice, would be to own one of these beauties:

A cycling cap with adjustable ear flap all in one. Luxury and simplicity. Fellow cyclist and blogger over at Cycling Art Blog and his [I think, wife] at Galstudio, make these by hand, just north of the border where they know a little bit about cold winter weather. Hopefully someone who loves me will read this and make me a proud and very happy recipient this year. By the way, those top two photos are in reverse sequence; the sky started out cloudy and turned progressively more blue.

Monday, December 12, 2011

My Favorite Routes VI: Bonelli Park Loop (Road)...

Puddingstone Reservoir with Mt. Baldy in the distance

I imagine that pretty much everyone who lives local to eastern Los Angeles County, or the western edge of San Bernardino County, has a loop that takes in Frank G. Bonelli Regional Park. It is such a year-round attraction, that it is only natural to include it as some midway point in a loop, or out-and-back ride. The park is a standout jewel in Los Angeles County's park system.

As is typical of all my local favorite routes, this one starts from my front door, but to make the route more relevant for everyone else, I will use the Euro Cafe start point at the corner of Mills and Baseline as the staging/kickoff reference point. Start out by heading west on Baseline, a mostly down grade through Claremont, La Verne and into San Dimas. The easy grade gives your legs a nice chance to warm up; it is also pretty fast, the last time I rode this route I averaged over 21 mph into the park. At the end of Baseline briefly merge onto Foothill and then make the left onto San Dimas Canyon Road and take this down to Bonita Avenue where you make a right, riding along this street to the edge of old San Dimas, where you make a left on San Dimas Avenue. You will take San Dimas Ave around to Puddingstone Drive which you reach after descending into a shallow wooded canyon; you will make a left on Puddingstone - there is no traffic control here and cars can move fast, and while I have never had any problems, you should be aware when you go to make your turn. This section of Puddingstone has a gradual upslope; after a quarter mile look for a yellow steel pipe gate and turn right. 

This is Raging Waters Drive, and a back entrance to Bonelli Park. This used to be a two way road, though normally closed to cars. Now it is a one way road and you will be riding against traffic across the dam - when there is traffic that is. Occasionally local residents use this as a short cut, but it is quite rare, just be aware of the possibility. The one exception is during the summer when Raging Waters is open, I don't recommend riding this route at this time of year. Anyway, you will cross the dam at which point the road will become two-way again. Continue along to the stop sign at Via Verde, turn left, ride past the entry booth (bikes are free) and you are now in the main part of the park. It is amazing how quiet this part of the park can be, even on a weekend morning. Continue along, pushing up some low rollers and then freewheeling down, until to get to the one big obstacle of the day, the steeper side of Via Verde hill. Whether you are or are not, people will think you are hard core when they see you going up this side rather than down it.

At the top of Via Verde, just past another entry shack, make a left and continue climbing for a short way. Notice the nice little single track trail off to the right and running above the equestrian trail - that is part of my mtb loop which I will cover at a future time. After you top out on this climb you will descend a short ways to another entry shack, this one for the public campground rv park (sometimes you will see tents on the grassy verges, but mostly you see massive rv's, and we all know that is not camping). Go around and continue down into and through the campground rv park; at the store make a right and then an immediate right again on a road into the lower campground. This is a fast descent, but there are speed bumps so watch out. There is a stop sign at the bottom where you make a left. Continue through the campground until reaching a service road going to the left and take that through the narrow bike / pedestrian access opening. Enjoy the views over the reservoir to the San Gabriel Mountains beyond all along this stretch - eventually you come out at the East Shore area where, chances are, there will be people fishing from a couple piers or from the shore, or picnicing. It is a nice place to take a moment or two to enjoy the views.

a quiet cove near the campground

view out across Puddingstone from the service road after leaving the campground

the East Shore

Where the service road you have been on comes out at the East Shore make a left onto the East Shore access road and take it a short distance back to Via Verde and make a right. You will be at the bottom of the big hill you climbed up a few minutes previous and will now head back, retracing the route along Via Verde and Raging Waters Drive through the park, over the dam, and back to that yellow gate at Puddingstone Drive. Turn right here and punch it up a short rise. Puddingstone is a mostly quiet road, one of those roads that feels like you are out in the country somewhere rather than in the middle of a city; I love this road and wish it were longer. Puddingstone eventually runs alongside Brackett Field, and at the first actual street (Wright Avenue, which is just past the airfield tower) make a left. This little detour takes you through a business park, but more importantly allows you to bypass a lengthy section of Fairplex Drive which I dub the Speedway for perhaps obvious reasons (see photo below for more). When you do come out at Fairplex make a left and continue back into La Verne, the road changes its name to E Street after crossing Arrow Highway.

Make a right on Bonita, which you will take all the way back into the Claremont Village. When you cross into Claremont this route becomes the Citrus Regional Bikeway. Who knows maybe someday the Pomona, La Verne and San Dimas sections of Bonita will also carry the same designation. Once back into Claremont there are any number of ways to get back to the start point, in fact I don't think I ever take the same route twice in a row. But, for the sake of directness, you can make a left on College, a right on 12th which takes you through the Colleges, and then a left on Mills, which you ride back uphill to finish the ride. You will end up with about 25 miles (assuming you don't stray from the path) and about 1400 feet of elevation gain. Riding time is about 1 hour, 20 minutes, maybe 1.5 hours; stops to take in the view, for coffee or whatnot can add to that. Honestly, Bonelli is so beautiful any time of the year that it is hard not to stop at some point.

even the inland areas away from the lake are nice, with shaded grass expanses,
play areas, picnic tables and barbeques

park roads are about as quiet as you can get

you will never not see riders in Bonelli

autumn colors (still) and fisher folk

Puddingstone Drive, outside the park, but still quiet

Fairplex Drive, aka the Speedway, and not just due to the NHRA speedway along the one side there. with just one light (which rarely turns red) cars drive super fast along here and rednecks in pickups are unwilling to give even an inch of roadway.

Others of my favorite routes:

Sunday, December 11, 2011

See You at Santa Cross...

Southern California cyclocross season is drawing to its inevitable end, with a handful of weekends left on the racing calendar. If you have ever wanted to check into what all the cx hype is about, next weekend (December 17 and 18) would be a good time to do so. Santa Cross will be two days of racing and other assorted fun at the Greek Theater and Griffith Park. That is two days of bike action, two days of costumes, there will be live music, food, vendor expo (think Christmas presents for all the cyclists on your list). Fun rides, canine races, kids races, a Sunday toy ride are also scheduled, and since it is Griffith Park, you can bring your bike for a loop through the park (in between taking photos, that is my plan for Saturday). Bring your favorite Santa or elf hat, your holiday spirit, and have some fun. Racing starts at 9:00 both days; for more info check the So Cal Cross website, here.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

A Bit of Sean Kelly at An Droichead Beag...

All across Europe fan clubs of professional cyclists, no matter how great or mediocre, have a long history of showing support for their favorite rider. These clubs are often formed by a family member, a neighbor, or just a dedicated follower from the riders' hometown or wider home region. A pub will often serve as a meeting place for the club, whose owner will likely be a member, perhaps even founding member. There is no obligation on the part of the rider, it is more a kind of unwritten rule, a show of appreciation, that at some point during the year, the rider will hold a get-together with the fan club as thanks for their show of support over the year long season of racing. 

the jersey at An Droichead Beag

Riders will often leave artifacts or mementos, things like photographs, framed jerseys, trophies, medals, etc, until over the years some pubs can resemble a shrine, or at least a museum, dedicated to a particular rider. It is one of the great old traditions of the sport; the rider, no matter how great in stature, no matter how lengthy his list of victories, meeting personally with his dedicated supporters. Now I don't know if Sean Kelly ever had an official fan club in Dingle, Ireland, but that is where I came upon this framed jersey during a trip to to the isle in 1997. It is from the 1990 Tour de Suisse, a race at which King Kelly won the general classification. The pub is An Droichead Beag (the Little Bridge). Needless to say it is quite a fun surprise to stumble upon things like this when you are not expecting to. 

typical seisun night at An Droichead Beag, standing room only
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