Sunday, October 30, 2011

A Sunday with the Psycho-Lists...

Many of my fellow bloggers across the country, and around the world, have been mentioning things like cold temperatures, rain, even snow lately. Let me assure you, there is none of that around here. I am not necessarily implying that this is a good thing, or a bad thing, it's just how it is. Just about any day on the bike is a good day - 80º temperatures means that good day is also a comfortable one. Anyway nine of us chose to do the Psycho-lists ride this morning, and did so beneath a pretty amazingly clear, blue sky. A route from Claremont to Monrovia, and back through the foothill communities was chosen, so we got to do some low rollers spread out between longer gradual up and down hill sections. Just enough uphill there to keep me happy.

did I mention the sky was somewhat blue today

hamming it up for the camera. there were so many 1on1 Financial kits
it almost seemed like i stumbled into a team training ride

Some of the group was out Halloween partying until late the previous night, but somehow those at the front managed to set a pretty torrid pace early on, maybe not Montrose Ride torrid, but nice and quick none-the-less, and we made it out to the San Gabriel River in good time. From there we followed the route of the aforemetioned Montrose Ride into Monrovia where I was able to get my morning cup of coffee. Better late than never. I have done so much solo riding lately that I was looking forward to doing a group ride, and the Psycho-lists group is a good one to do.

crossing the bridge over the San Gabriel River

you have heard of the Bosburg, one of the famous hills of Flanders, well this here is the Vosburg, in Azusa. i noticed the sign as we went through the roundabout and circled around to get a pic of some of the group heading up with sign in the foreground. Bosburg - Vosburg, nothing in common, but they almost sound the same

Psycho-list rides take place on Friday and Sunday mornings, they mix up their routes weekly which helps keep the rides fresh. You can sign up with the group and receive emails on upcoming rides through their Meetup, or Facebook pages.

By the way, if you are still debating whether or not to do the Tour de Foothills, make up your mind quickly. Prices increase on November 1st. See the link in the upcoming events section to the right.

Friday, October 28, 2011

GMR Fridays...

Nothing like a compliment to boost your spirits, is there? During the morning climb of GMR I was fortunate to receive a double dose. The compliments were in regard to aspects of my cycling I have mentioned previously - climbing, and turning circles (or pedaling smoothly). My ability at the former has always been respectable, though rarely acknowledged; the latter, lets just say, is my strongest suit. The ability to smoothly turn the pedals, is the one thing that seems to stand out when people observe my riding, and with which I felt confident enough to compose a post about.

Why don't I ever mention my cycling weaknesses, you may ask? For one thing it would be boring; for another, they are classified secrets, protected flaws you will only find out by racing against me. Would I ever reveal those secrets? In the immortal words of Sean Connery, that's "not bloody well likely." I keep those cards close to my chest.

And GMR? It was glorious today, and people knew it. There was a flood of riders on the mountain, at least for a Friday. Conditions could not be better than they are right now, and it looks like they will remain that way for the next several days. Might as well haul yourselves up there. Sorry, there are no photos to go along with today's post; some big head kept getting in the way.

Don't mash your pedals, turn circles with them.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Marshall Canyon, the Palmer-Evey, and Ol' Mr. T(arantula) x2...

There is no doubt, autumn is my favorite time of year to head up to the local hills and canyons for some mountain biking. The air, especially in the morning, is nice and crisp. This particular morning was especially inviting following the little bit of drizzle we have had the past two nights. The trail through Marshall Canyon was nice and tacky. The rain had brought the fragrance of the woods out from the leaf litter of the ancient oaks and sycamores. It wafted up from the decay of poison oak leaves beginning to pile up alongside the trail. Even the soil of the trail has a scent, pulled to the surface by the moisture, and released to the air. The same conditions also made the way through Marshall more quiet than normal - a few trail runners/walkers, one equestrian, and three fellow travelers on knobby tires to exchange greetings with was it. The creek babbled on about something off to my left, then right side, as I crossed it again and again, but the damp leaves did much to shush my bike as it rolled along.

Once I left Marshall Canyon, I continued along the Palmer-Evey through Claremont Hills Wilderness Park to Potato Mountain. Without the enveloping protection of the canyon oaks, the air got colder, and I actually wished I had brought my vest during the descent back home. Instead I pulled up my arm warmers and got on with it. It was a beautiful morning.

the old stable with fallen trees
has become a requisite photo op stop

this massive branch blocking the trail fell since i was last here (2 weeks)
there is a well trod detour to the right, so i didn't really have to attempt
to ride through or over

clouds wreathed the upper slopes of the mountains, i stopped to watch

first encounter with ol' mr. t(arantula) this one was confident of its superiority, stubborn, playing possum (your guess is as good as mine) and didn't twitch as i moved my wheel right up next to him

this second one, which i calculated to be slightly smaller, and a little more reddish was not going to take any crap from me and quickly struck an offensive pose with abdomen and front legs held high. there was no doubt, this section of the Palmer-Evey belonged to him

masses of buckwheat paint the hillsides in rust

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

The Velo Cult Bike Swap...

sounds like the place to be on Saturday, November 5th, 11:00am.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Monday's Mural: Genesis...

Located above a portico of Frary Hall, Pomona College, the Genesis mural, painted by Rico Lebrun, was painted during the autumn of 1960. Lebrun created this monochromatic work in response to viewing the monumental Prometheus, by Jose Clemente Orozco, painted inside this same building, during a campus visit in 1956. The following description is from Claremont Heritage:
Standing on the center of Frary Hall’s entry arch, the monumental figure of Noah, expanded in stature by the folds of his patchwork cloak, bows his head as he tightly embraces the smaller figure of his son beneath the skeletal ribs of the wreckage of his ark. The scene, the event following the destruction by the flood, represents both the survival of the human race and the redemption of mankind. The focus of the composition, the scene is flanked by other events from the book of Genesis. Lower left, Adam and Eve depart the Garden of Eden, anguished and writhing in shame as the images of their sons, Cain and Abel, issue forth from their heads. The figures, locked in embrace, perhaps symbolize the fusion of the tendencies toward both good and evil which dwell in the souls of all mankind.
The destruction of Sodom and Gemorrah occupies the rounded lunette above Cain and Abel. Punishment is loosed upon those who stray from the moral laws of a just but vengeful God. The lunette to the right of the mutilated pile of Sodom and Gemorrah’s victims depicts Job, also a biblical victim of God’s judgment. But here the motive for punishment remains ambiguous, as though human misery so often has no reasonable or rational foundation. This scene is the only one in the mural not drawn from the book of Genesis.
The lower right scene returns the viewer to the central theme: the flood. Here doomed victims struggle in vain to escape the rising waters. God’s destruction of all people is indicated, save for the faithful Noah and his kin.

I took the overall photo a number of years ago (I can tell, because that is my very first mountain bike which made its way into the view), but the space is too dark to get any decent shot with a handheld camera. I went back more recently with a tripod to get the detailed photos. This one is so big, it really needs to be seen in person, so ride on over and check it out. Actually, I think we need to do a mural ride one of these months.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Trios, Quartets and Steel Plates...

Just a few interesting things I noticed during a quick ride this morning. First came the trio, their own little self-contained bike train. Dad in front, young son on a trail-a-bike behind, and attached to that, the youngest in a trailer. Perfect way for a family to spend some time together. As they passed an older gent, walking along the sidewalk, he turned to watch them go past and exclaimed, "well what do you think of that?" I passed them with a "good morning", and then at the next light they turned the corner with "have a good ride." Another half mile along I was still thinking about the trio, when I just noticed a quartet of riders headed the opposite direction, another family, this time on a bicycle built for four. I didn't get a photo of them, but have seen them around before, so will have to wait until next time.

A short distance later I came upon a new housing project being built. As usual there was a trench cut half way across the street, water main poc, or sewage connection with, typically, a steel plate covering the trench. As I rode over the trench and plate, I noticed something was missing - that jolt you get as you hit the edge of the plate, or the asphalt built up along the edge. I had to turn around for a photo, I don't think I have ever seen anything like it before. You know, usually the plate is simply laid on top of the roadway, covering the trench, and you have to bunny hop it to avoid a pinch flat. In this case, the contractor had fit the plate perfectly to the trench, and recessed it, so that there was a nice smooth transition. A little asphalt filler in the gap between plate and roadway, but level across. Not sure if this was some new regulation, or a little extra effort on someone's part, but it is appreciated. Slainte!

Friday, October 21, 2011

Cyclocross 101: Dancing at the Barriers...

If you are like myself, more a cyclocross novice than anything else; if you have watched from the side far more than you have actually raced, you may view some of the typical cyclocross (cx) obstacles with varying degrees of trepidation. The barriers are one such obstacle. These are usually simple wooden planks placed across the entire width of the course, which force riders to dismount and, with bike in hand, jump them like a hurdle.

There are a number of ways to familiarize oneself with things such as the barriers - you might solicit advice from friends and teammates, you might ride over to the local park and practice, or do so in your own backyard where there is unlikely to be a witness to any unintended flubs. You might even participate in one or another of the practice sessions that are held locally from time to time. I suspect that many of us also pick up tips by the tried and true method of simple observation.

It is with this thought in mind that the idea for this post developed (though the photos shown below clearly had something to do with it). Make of this what you will, but I hope you will realize my intention of providing one of those learning experiences through observation.

I am going to ignore the fact that there are certain talented riders who can bunny hop the barriers with not so much as a flicker of doubt entering their mind, nor a raised heart rate to give pause for thought. Neither I, nor, I believe, are most riders in this category. Instead we must content ourselves with the more common method of clearing the barriers by dismounting, lifting the bike and jumping the hurdles while at a run, or walk, as the case may be. The first photo below shows two of the most common ways to accomplish this, with one hand holding the handlebars still, and the other grasping the top tube, from either the bottom or the top, and lifting. Another successful technique you may notice is for one hand to grab the seat tube, while the other steadies the handlebars; the hand on the seat tube then slightly rotates the bike out away from the body, just enough to clear the barrier. With this method, the shoulder kind of acts as a hinge (second photo).

A less successful method, the third and fourth photos lead me to believe, is to only grasp the handlebars. Unfortunately, this does not offer as much control, so the bike can swing around, hit the barriers. Almost looks like you might be trying to dance with your bike. As usual, practice makes perfect, and in cx there is a lot to practice in order to get it right.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Cycle Claremont, the Community Bike Rides...

As I mentioned in an earlier post, I was hoping to have some news concerning bicycling in Claremont by the end of the week. That news is the announcement for the start of Cycle Claremont. I was one of about sixteen people who met this evening to begin the process for organizing a monthly community bicycle ride, following the impetus of two of our community members, Denise Spooner and Larry Scheetz, and in the wake of the successful Moving Planet ride, held last month. Sustainable Claremont is the sponsoring organization for this new series of rides.

The first scheduled ride has been penciled in for Sunday, January 8, 2012 at 10:30. I have volunteered to serve in some capacity on the steering committee, so as details are worked out over the next couple months you can expect to see more information posted here. Plans are for the ride to eventually have it's own web page, in one form or another, which will make the dissemination of information easier. There may be some general information available at this Saturday's Village Venture, at November's Pilgrim Festival, and various other events and locations in the near future.

For the first ride at least, expect the route to be a kind of "tour" of the city's Bicycle Priority Zone (BPZ), think short and easy. It should be perfect for families with younger children, people who are looking for a low-key opportunity to start bicycling, or are perhaps coming back to the activity after a time away, or just want to spend a relaxed hour or so on a morning ride.

One additional note out of this meeting. Among the individuals in attendance was Gary Bradshaw, an organizer for the Claremont Safe Routes to School program, who reminded everyone that it is still not too late to sign up for the bicycle safety training classes, geared towards adults who wish to participate in the Safe Routes program. The two classes are free of charge, thanks to the city, and will be held on successive Sunday's, November 5th and 12th. More information can be found here.

From the Library: The No-Drop Zone...

So, I had the opportunity to meet writer, author, blogger, cyclist (not necessarily in that order) Patrick Brady, last night at our local REI in Rancho Cucamonga. Not only that, but I had my yearly REI dividend notice in my pocket, and actually had some money to spend. I was expecting to find a simple book signing - you know the kind, author sitting behind a table with a slowly moving line of people waiting for a quick greeting, flash of the pen across the title page, and head home. 

Instead, the book signing was preceded by a short talk and Q & A session. I arrived a little late but listened with interest to some of the questions being raised, and Patrick's responses. We have both been riding for many years and so I was not surprised to find myself nodding in agreement with much of what he was saying. If you ride long enough your experiences tend to become shared ones; even if meeting someone for the first time, commonalities quickly become evident. It seemed as if the others in the audience were mostly newer riders, or maybe people who had come back to cycling as adults, and it was informative to hear their questions and concerns. I figure I have been turning the cranks long enough, that I have seen and heard it all, so it was good to be reminded of that different perspective.

If you are not familiar with Patrick Brady, he has been writing about cycling for considerable time, and after years of riding and racing across the States and Europe, has acquired a considerable wealth of cycling knowledge. He has written and edited for numerous cycling magazines, written a bicycling guide for Los Angeles County, and still finds time for his top rate blog, Red Kite Prayer. If you have the opportunity to hear Patrick speak, take it (he will be a the Arcadia REI tonight at 7:00), it is worthwhile.

As for the book, since I just picked it up at the signing, I can't give a qualified review, but I took a quick overview when I got back home, and can say that I wish there had been something like this when I was starting out. If you are a newer rider, I suggest that checking this book out may be worth your while, it will likely provide some answers, or guidance concerning equipment, nutrition or riding, saving money and aggravation. 

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Over the Notch In Search of Autumn Ride...

Good to my word, I did indeed ride Manker Flat to Stockton Flat, and back to Manker Flat yesterday morning. It was a beautiful morning for it, with the sky a most brilliant blue, and the temperatures in the very comfortable range. For those not familiar with the route, it is ridden entirely on dirt service roads in the Angeles and San Bernardino National Forests. The road from Manker Flat up to Baldy Notch serves the ski area up there, and so for the most part is pretty well compacted, with just enough loose stuff to keep you focused. The road on the other side, between the Notch and Stockton Flat, is a different daemon altogether. It is only infrequently used and so is littered with loose material - rocks, pine cones, branches, and the occasional boulder. Maintain some momentum headed down this side and it is entirely rideable. It is that long climb back up where you run into complications; you're going fairly slow to begin with and trying to stay upright as you slip and slide over the loose rock. It definitely wears you down. As a result I end up hiking considerable portions of this side of the mountain, pushing my bike beside me. I expect it by now, and it's all good. Just a part of the adventure, though it does add some time to the journey. 

So did I find Autumn? There were clear signs of it: The cooler temperatures, great mounds and swaths of newly fallen or well chewed pine cones, chunky squirrels with big, bushy tails, yellow colors - in the willow leaves and rabbitbrush flowers. It was mostly evident at the beginning of the ride, at Manker Flat, where the Maples were vivid, especially set against the dark green of the pines. Sadly, speaking of pines, many of the ones growing at Stockton Flat had a sickly yellow pallor in their needles. I finished the ride foot-sore, hiking in cycling shoes, even those made of mountain biking, is just not ideal, but it was well worth the effort.

I didn't leave quite a early as I had wanted, but early enough that 
long shadows were being cast down the slopes as I neared the Notch

That's Stockton Flat on the North Fork Lytle Creek whose boulder-strewn
wash cuts a wide swath through, completely obliterating the road in places

Taking a bit of a rest at campsite #12, Big Horn Campground, Stockton Flat

Rabbitbrush and pines at Stockton Flat

This wash coming down from Mt. Harwood had strewn boulders across the road,
making it impassible the last time I was here. The road was clear and rideable
this time, so someone has done some work.

Ghost trees, remnants of the Grand Prix Fire of 2003

I always liked this view of the road cut headed back up to Baldy Notch
from Stockton Flat - the blue sky and pines on the edge

Maples at Manker Flat

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Spooky Cross Saturday Review...

You may have already seen the previous post about the costumed racers at Spooky Cross, but that was just the beginning of the days (and evenings) festivities. Saturday evenings races also served as the final competition in the Cross After Dark series, and both of the final waves carried UCI ranking points. The organizers did their usual bang-up job at laying out a super challenging course; though I don't recall any mud, it had pretty much everything else - fast straights, tight turns, off-camber corners, barriers, steps, sand, gravel, steep up and down slopes, even a massive over-and-under construction. It could be very tricky. Besides all that, there was live music, pumpkin carving, savory Korean bbq burritos, a big expo area. Just a full day.

There were three groups racing in the first Wave of the day, Jr. Men 15-18, Jr. Men and Women 10-14, and Youths U10. There are some strong riders up and coming, and the depth of the fields suggests a strong future for cyclocross in the U.S. I saw some crashes at some of the tricky sections of the course in the younger category, but every rider picked themselves up and carried on. You can see some of those crashes, as well as other photos here.

the eyes don't lie, she is focused

hold on, you mean i have to go up there now?

when you are first across the line, like junior Tyler Coplea
you can give a victory salute

The second wave on the day was the Men C, CX4 beginner race. I see some people moving up a category pretty soon. A couple photos are below, more in a slideshow, here.

eventual men's 'c' victor, Roman Cantelorist, charges the steps

top of the fly-over headed down, whooooo

Wave three, the Master's Men 'B', consisted of three groups, 35+, 45+CX3/4, and 55+. Some big fields with tough competition. A couple shots below, and click here for the slideshow.

like twists and turns? this course had plenty, including this
one with a nasty, off-camber slope

eventual master men's 'b' 35+ victor, James Sabelis, clears the barriers

The 4th Wave had a whole lot of riders circling the course, and consisted of the non-UCI Men A 1-4, the Men 35+ A 1-4, 45+ A, and the Men B 3/4 groups. Could you imagine keeping track of all that without a computer? Anyway, fast and furious, describes the action. Three photos below, and slideshow here.

eventual non-uci men's 'a' victor, Oliver Hutchinson, in the sand

while Johnny O'Mara churned through the sand on this pass,
everyone else ran. O'Mara went on to win the Master Men 45+ race

my only podium shot from the day - non-UCI Men 'A'
1.Oliver Hutchinson, 2. Alex Darville, 3. Josh Cady

The non-UCI Women A CX1-4, B CX3/4, C CX4, and the Women 35+ and 45+ groups comprised Wave 5. It was beginning to darken by this time, shadows were lengthening, but that certainly was not stopping the racers from charging the course full on. A couple pics below to get you in the mood, and a slideshow of more, here. Wow, I almost forgot, actually did forget, but then remembered after the fact, in that Women's A race Katrina Baumsteiger built up a sizable lead for herself. All of a sudden the announcers start getting all excited and yelling, so everyone looks down the finishing straight, and here comes Katrina running and carrying her bike. She had an impossibly far distance to go in order to make it back to the pits, but managed to finish 4th anyway. Never did find out what the problem was. It was quite a race.

dollar hand out

Wave Six was all about the single-speed, that group I keep wavering about running with. You can check the two photos below, and jump here, for a slideshow.

Dorothy Wong, rocking on the s.s.

they emerged out of the darkness, riding single-speed 
bicycles, and hell followed in their wake

The UCI races ended the festivities, with the Women taking the course first. Some familiar names challenged for the points including Teal Stetson-Lee, Sue Butler, Allison Mann, and from all the way across the Atlantic, French National Champion, Caroline Mani. Check the pics below, and jump to the slideshow here. Mani finished 1st, followed by Butler and Stetson-Lee.

running through the sand with bike on shoulder,

or by your side

they emerged out of the darkness, and at the end of the night
they returned to the darkness

Yes, there was a Wave 8, UCI Men, but it ran without my presence, so I have no photos of the racing. There are a literal handful of warm-up photos here, if you want to see those.
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