Monthly Archives: October 2011

Scary Streets in the Neighborhood

Scary Streets in the Neighborhood

I was packing up to ride home from work tonight when Jon the CFO popped into my office with a newspaper clipping. “You have to check out the Halloween decorations on South Court. They’re so good they were featured in this morning’s paper.” South Court isn’t exactly on my way home, but I had to roll by, especially since bike speed is perfect for scoping out the neighborhood.

Even though it wasn’t dark yet, the decorations were ghoulishly impressive and photos turned out better for the fading light. It would have been fun to come back after dark, but I had my own street’s little trick or treaters that I needed to hurry home for.

Which excites you more: Halloween decorations or Christmas lights? Do you decorate for either?

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Posted by on October 31, 2011 in Around Town


Halloween with Passion

It was a dark and foggy night, when mountain bikers gathered and unleashed their true nature, with food and drink, stories and laughter, and devilishly naughty deeds. Who else could be behind this madness but my friends Charles and Patty, proprietors of Passion Trail Bikes, the bike shop with a cult-like following of the most passionate mountain bikers on the San Francisco Peninsula.

I do not make these claims lightly. Passion Trails has the hand-picked gear, the expert advice and the individual attention that makes the shop top-notch, earning it an exceptional 4.5 star rating on Yelp. But it’s their commitment to our community that sets them apart. From leading weekly group rides to spearheading trail building to advocating for trails with our local open space authorities, Charles and Patty are there with passion and it’s contagious.

Who did you hang out with on Halloween this year? Are your bike friends your party friends?

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Posted by on October 30, 2011 in Dirt Trails


Fashion Friday: Wild Wild West

When the witching hour comes and a fold in the space-time continuum occurs, you might just find me playing cards and drinking whiskey in a saloon, with Juliett tied outside to the hitching post.

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Posted by on October 28, 2011 in Cycle Fashions


Reservoirs and Water Temples in Calaveras Valley

There’s a famous quote: “The history of the West is the history of water.” In semi-arid land like California, those who controlled the water controlled the population. When we planned our ride around Calaveras Reservoir, it was for the scenery, however, not because it was a major water source for San Francisco dating back to the mid-1800s.

From the outskirts of Milpitas, we climbed straight uphill through horse farms and a county park with a green golf course that stands in sharp contrast with the surrounding brown hillsides just starting to recover from the dry season. After the final assault up a steep wall, we got our first glimpse of the reservoir. The water level was surprisingly low, given the exceptionally wet previous rainy season. I later learned that due to seismic concerns for the dam since the 1989 earthquake, the reservoir is restricted to 40% capacity.

Calaveras Road wends itself in and out among the canyons high above the reservoir. Since the road doesn’t directly connect anything, its travelers are all joyriders: bicycles, motorcycles, sport car enthusiasts and Sunday drivers. Beautifully remote and an ideal route for a rouleur like me with its rolling terrain.

From there we followed Calaveras Creek down to the town of Sunol, home of the Sunol water temple, which preceded the Pulgas water temple on Canada Road by 20 years. Who woulda thunk there was more than one water temple? And what’s the point of a water temple anyway?

Well, in an area that gets less than 15 inches of rain a year, a water temple honoring a carefully planned and expensively built aqueduct makes a lot of sense. Water is life, and therefore worthy of veneration. This particular water temple is located at the nexus of three aqueducts that once provided San Francisco with half its water supply, before the famous Hetch Hetchy aqueduct was built. (Look carefully to see the temple)

These days more people visit the Sunol store, home of all kinds of junk food and a customer-only port-a-potty. I’ll just write off my Drumstick ice cream cone as a small price to pay for a bathroom access.

From Sunol we headed back up to the reservoir, with a side trip to the Sunol-Ohlone Wilderess, yet another fabulous, but underutilized county park. It’s worth a visit if you’ve never been there: wildflowers, golden eagles, and large rocks in Alameda Creek deemed “Little Yosemite”, all feeding into a remote feeling you’d never expect so close to the East Bay.

Although it’s smack dab in the middle of a major watershed, the park has to truck bottled water in for campers. That’s how water is in a dry land. It flows uphill to money, and unfortunately a county park doesn’t have much pull.

How much do you know about the water that flows through your tap? Where does it come from? Where does it go?

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Posted by on October 26, 2011 in Backroads, Local History


Six Tips for Bike Costume Success

It’s that time of year already, the start of the holiday season. Wait, you say, it’s only Halloween. That’s right, it’s Halloween, the start of costume season, which makes Halloween my favorite holiday. If you’re a bike person, there is no shortage of costumed bike events where you can express yourself and strut your stuff. So what to wear, and more importantly, what to wear comfortably and safely on the bike? Here are a few things to consider when choosing a bike costume, from a woman’s point of view.

Tip #1: Go Sexy
Not necessarily because sexy is the end all and be all with a costume, but because costumes marketed as sexy usually have short skirts that won’t get caught in your spokes. Most sexy costumes have full skirts that give full range of motion for pedaling. As for modesty, that’s what bike shorts are for.

Tip #2: Keep Your Head About It
Costumes that rely on hats or wigs to deliver the impact can be problematic, especially if you ride in a helmet. If you haven’t noticed, helmets are larger than your head, so you may have to slit that wig or precariously perch that hat on your helmet. I’ve had success attaching smaller items to the helmet, like cat ears, halos and wreaths. I also ripped apart a cheap gladiator helmet and reconstructed it on my helmet. Your best friends for helmet embellishment: zip ties, elastic stretch cord and double sided foam mounting tape.

Tip #3: Stay Grounded
Great costumes are “head to toe”. But if you’re headed to the coast with your mountain bike friends to buy a pumpkin or racing cyclocross at the annual cyclocross costume race, or riding a century with a few thousand girlfriends, your costume will require cycling shoes. Some commercial costumes, like my Batgirl costume, come with shoe covers that work just fine. If you’re doing an urban ride like San Jose Bike Party, there’s a little more leeway with the shoes, so go ahead with the stilettos or thigh high boots.

Tip #4: Accessorize (with care)
If the costume relies on a prop, make sure it works on the bike. The last thing you want is to be taken down by your own sword. While capes were banned for superheroes in The Incredibles, I found they worked ok even for a cyclocross race, so long as I did my running remounts into the wind.

Tip #5: Take One for the Team
If you’re lucky enough to convince a friend or lover to join you in a tandem team costume, make sure the captain’s wings, cape, sword or tail aren’t a slap in the face of the stoker.

Tip #6: Keep Cool, Stay Warm
As with all other outdoor activities, prepare for changes in the weather. Make sure your costume is not a sweat suit and that bundling up doesn’t ruin the look. How to do this: arm warmers, knee warmers and base layers work as well for costumes just as they do with your race kit.

What tips do you have for others preparing costumes for bike events? What was your a favorite costume?

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Posted by on October 25, 2011 in Cycle Fashions


Bike Date Friday: Paris on the Peninsula

For the past three years I’ve worked at a company with a headquarters in Paris. It sounds much more romantic than it is. I’ve only visited the Paris office once and due to company politics it was a miserable experience. But next month I’ll be headed back under much better circumstances, especially since Dick will join me at the end of the trip for some vacation time.

What better way to get excited about our trip than sampling French cuisine on a bike date? On Friday night, we pedaled through the old neighborhoods of Palo Alto up to Left Bank in Menlo Park. Left Bank has a small bar that’s very popular with the after work crowd, but I prefer the spacious dining room that manages to feel calm even when the restaurant is busy. And you can still get all the tasty vintage cocktails.

After the cocktails we shared a pâté de foie gras plate and green salad, then moved on to the main course. Dick ordered a Couscous with Lamb Stew that was artfully served up at the table. I went for the Canard aux Pommes, duck breast with apples. For dessert: chocolate mousse and coffee. All very tasty, making us glad we chose Left Bank for an elegant dinner to help us unwind after a busy work week.

But you don’t have to go high-end to experience French food on the Peninsula, there are several small cafés and bistros serving more modest fare. Like Bistro Maxine, a crêperie where we ate before a dinner-and-a-movie bike date last month. To say that Bistro Maxine is petite would be an understatement. Inside, there are four tables seating a dozen people and two cafe tables on the sidewalk serving four. So don’t try to book a table there for a rehearsal dinner or a going away luncheon.

The menu is simple: sweet and savory crêpes, soup, salad and house wines. After soup, crêpes and people-watching from our sidewalk table, we were fully satisfied.

Afterward, we walked over to the Aquarius Theater to see “Midnight in Paris” by Woody Allen. Now that got us excited for Paris. The romantic one, not the work one.

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About Bike Date Friday: Since September 2010, my husband and I have had a standing date every Friday night. We eat at a different place every week and arrive by bike. There’s no better way to end the work week.


Posted by on October 23, 2011 in Bike Date


Fashion Friday: Dress Pants with Flare

A bicycle like Juliett that’s properly equipped with a chain guard makes cycling with wide leg cuffed pants a “no muss, no fuss” riding experience.


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Posted by on October 21, 2011 in Cycle Fashions


Wheels of Change at Public Bikes

“Don’t be a fright, don’t carry a flask and don’t forget your tool bag.” That’s the advice the Omaha Daily Bee gave women wheelers in 1895. We didn’t learn what it means to be a fright, but Katie and I learned a few other things at a book reading for Wheels of Change: How Women Rode the Bicycle to Freedom at PUBLIC Bikes in San Francisco.

We learned how women were riding centuries before the turn of century, how women were off racing from the moment they mounted their steel steeds and how aggressive campaigns by conservative community members couldn’t keep women off their bikes, or off of the road to independence.

We learned how parents who wouldn’t allow their daughters to go to the theater with young men unchaperoned would allow them to go bicycling alone with young men. Could it be that the bike date was the original date? All very interesting to see where we came from as women cyclists.


To see where cycling is headed, all we had to do was look around at the venue, the headquarters of PUBLIC Bikes. PUBLIC manufactures and sells European-style city bikes. Since the founder is an designer and an urbanist, not a bike geek, they are elegantly artful as well as perfectly functional for city riding.

PUBLIC has tapped into a new market of bike riders who probably wouldn’t ever call themselves cyclists, much less women wheelers. Like Kirsten, who I met at the book reading. Kirsten lived in Copenhagen for a few months, where she learned how easy and fashionable it can be to get around on a bike. When she moved back to San Francisco she bought a Dutch style bike from PUBLIC for her four mile Cow Hollow-to-South of Market commute to work.


Kirsten stopped in at PUBLIC on her way home to buy lights since it’s getting dark earlier these days. She also wanted to get her tires pumped because she didn’t really know how. She also asked when she should come back to get them pumped again. I was surprised that the sales guy didn’t immediately try to sell her a floor pump. But I realized that for bicycles to become widespread as transportation, operating them shouldn’t require any more mechanical skill than owning a car.

The PUBLIC headquarters also serves as showroom for hand picked, positively delightful accessories. It’s where I bought my favorite Nutcase helmet, my Basil shopper pannier and a new pair of flat pedals for Zella to replace her ugly plastic ones. The plastic ones work great, but have absolutely no style.

And style has been important since the era where women traded skirts for bloomers and were cautioned “don’t wear clothes that don’t fit” and “don’t try to ride in your brother’s clothes.” Being a woman wheeler these days, as in the 1890s, doesn’t mean trading in your femininity for your freedom.

What kind of freedom does you bicycle give you?

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Posted by on October 20, 2011 in Around Town


The Great Pumpkin Ride

After a stressful week at work and a busy Saturday coordinating volunteers at a bike race followed by my own ride with friends, I knew I needed to give my body a rest and spend some quality time with my sweetie. The solution: renting a big Harley cruiser and taking a ride to the coast.

The only thing that compares to a bike ride over the hills to the coast is a ride on the back of a motorcycle, especially when you need to chill. So when I asked my dear husband to take me out to Half Moon Bay so I could get a pumpkin, he gladly obliged with a ride on a Hawg.

Careful to avoid the heavy traffic on Hwy 92 for the Half Moon Bay Pumpkin Festival, we took Hwy 84 up and over the hill, then turned off on Pescadero Road ’cause I was craving coastal cuisine: artichoke bread at the bakery and pepper and artichoke soup at Duarte’s Tavern. The added bonus was hanging out with bikers at Duarte’s tasting “French fries with eyes,” aka fried smelt. (They were ok, but would have been better with a Southeast Asian sauce)

With full bellies in us and half-full saddlebags on the bike, we motored north, past the San Gregorio Store up to Arata’s pumpkin patch. We passed on the corn maze, the gladiator battle, the hay ride and even the pumpkin pie. Instead, we picked out a bright orange pumpkin and a couple of little white ones, for no good reason except to make me smile. And then we hopped back on the Harley and carved our way back over the hill, which made us both smile.

Do you ever wish your bicycle had a motor so you could enjoy the scenery and just chill?

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Posted by on October 18, 2011 in Backroads


Making the Grade the Low-Key Way

With coastal mountain ranges that ring San Francisco Bay, most Bay Area cyclists are blessed to live within 10 miles of a road that climbs to a thousand feet or more. Mt Tamalpais, Mt Diablo, Mt Hamilton. Old La Honda, Palomares, Sierra Road, Tunitas Creek, the Three Bears. There’s a tough climb within riding distance for anyone prepared to face the pain and feel the glory.

For those who crave new hills and want to go head-to-head against other climbers, the Low-Key Hill Climb series was born. The stated goal of this grassroots, volunteer-driven series of events is to “allow each cyclist, no matter what his or her level, no matter what his or her speed, to establish goals and meet them. It’s all about the hill, the rider and being at one with the bike.” Of course, for competitive cyclists, this means pushing your body and spirit to the limit to crush the field. The organization may be low-key, but the competition is not necessarily.

When Dan, the series organizer, asked me to be the coordinator for the Page Mill Low-Key Climb last Saturday, I had to chuckle a little inside. I’ve raced a few Low-Keys with friends before, but I’m not really a climber. Well, at least not in the Low-Key sense. I don’t seek out new hills with evil steep grades. I don’t track my personal best times on Strava. And I rarely find myself waiting at the top for anyone. I climb because I love riding the quiet backroads, which are all hilly. And because I love descending.

But I can appreciate the passion for the challenge and the joy within the pain as I watch these hard men, women and yes, children, busting a gut to make the grade with a peak a week. They just can’t get enough, while I’m happy to just get over it. For me, veni, vidi, ascendi will have to be another day, when I’m not volunteering.

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Posted by on October 16, 2011 in Backroads

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