(un) Truth in Advertising

About 17 miles from the end of the ride, as I was laboring on yet another 1/2 mile of 11% uphill pavement, I was startled by a black bear that emerged from the forest and lumbered across the road, about 100 yards in front of me. The bear moved considerably faster than my 4.2 mph pace and seemed uninterested in a cyclist. Good thing; I certainly wasn’t going to be able to outrun the creature at the speed I was going.

Steve's Detailed Map: Not as Advertised!

When my good friend Steve F suggested we drive to Sly Park to ride some new roads, I was amiable to the suggestion. Our friends Walt and Bennie joined us. The plan was to do the first 10 miles of Mormon Emigrant Trail, a paved road that joins Sly Park with Highway 88. Then we would ride on ‘North South Road’, which runs about 25 miles through almost completely deserted forest (except for the bears)  before it ends at Omo Ranch Road, only 1 mile from Highway 88. We would go to Cooks’ Station for lunch, then head back to the cars on what were supposed to be ‘mostly downhill’ roads.

None of us had ever ridden North South Road, but Steve had scouted it out in his car, and he took extensive, handwritten notes (see above). He reckoned the entire ride was about 74 miles, with ‘about 5,ooo feet’ of climbing. He even described it as ‘rolling’ which is term we reserve for rides where there isn’t really a lot of hard uphill. He should be sued for false advertising.

When we got to Cooks Station for lunch, my Garmin already showed 5,300 feet of climbing. And I did a little calculation using our current elevation and starting elevation and determined that we were looking at over 4,000 feet of up on the way back, all on the 25 miles of North South Road. I’ve only done more than 9,000 feet on a ride a handful of times, and if I was going to get back to the car I would have to do so again.

On the return ride, my Garmin kept me well informed of how steep the road was. There were 1 mile stretches over 11%. Several of them. One especially memorable segment came on the next to last hill, when 11% became 12%, then 13%, and finally 14% for what seemed like a very long time. Although as slowly as I was going it probably wasn’t even 1/10 of a mile.

Finally we reached the intersection with Mormon Emigrant, and it really is all downhill from there, so even though we were exhausted we were able to coast back to the cars, arriving about 1 1/2 hours later than we had anticipated. It was an epic ride, and I’m glad we did it. I’ll probably go back; the pavement is pretty good, there are almost no cars, and the forest is very pretty. But next time Steve suggests a ride I haven’t done, I’m going to check the route myself, so I’ll know what I’m in for.


The Ride Profile: Climbs Not to Scale


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Detective Story

As Stoker and I were pedaling about 5 miles from home at the start of our Sunday jaunt to Clements, our CoMotion tandem started to make a very irritating noise. I would describe the sound as something between a scrape and a click. And it was driving me crazy.

People who know me and my bikes know that I have some very nice equipment and that I keep that equipment well maintained and in good repair. My bikes show up for rides clean and well lubricated and correctly adjusted, and are thus very quiet on the road.  They also know that any noise that does occur is going to be dealt with quickly and severely.

Guilty as Charged!

During the ride there wasn’t much I could do except try to play detective. First clue: the noise only occurred when we were pedaling. That meant the trouble was almost certainly in the drive train and not something like brake pads rubbing, which would occur when we were coasting. The drive train on a tandem consists of two sets of pedals, two cranks, two sets of bottom bracket bearings, a timing belt (or chain; we have the belt), a drive chain, front chain rings, a rear cassette, a free hub, a front derailleur, and a rear derailleur. Lots of moving parts and enough suspects for an Agatha Christie novel. Where is Poirot when I need him?

When we stopped to stretch I wiped off the drive belt and checked the front derailleur to see if it was rubbing. No change. I wondered about the drive chain, but it is fairly new and well lubricated. I considered the bottom brackets to be a possible culprit, but there was no way to test that on the road.

We could, however, determine if the pedals were the problem. I unclipped one foot and we pedaled a bit; the noise continued. Try the other foot, then both of Stoker’s feet (one at a time!), and the noise remained. Pedals eliminated as suspects.

When we got to little rolling hills on Brandt Road, we got a big clue. Stoker and I both got up out of our saddles to power up a short pitch, and the noise stopped. When we sat back down it started again. This was such an important clue that I missed the significance of it for a while. I did think it odd that when we put more pressure on the drive train, the noise went away. I would have expected it to get louder.

Stoker suggested the issue might be her new seat bag, which is under my seat and which I had totally forgotten about. She keeps her personal supplies in there, and I don’t ask. But when we removed the bag and pedaled without it the noise was still there. Innocent! Stoker can keep her goody bag.

This idea lead me to remove the rear seat bag, which holds the tools I need to fix a flat or deal with a minor mechanical problem, thinking that maybe that bag was moving while Stoker pedaled. Nope, another Innocent!

Finally I had an inspiration: maybe it was the saddle! Or rather, one of the two saddles. I told Stoker to stay seated; I was going to stand up and pedal a bit to see if my saddle was creaking.  This did not go smoothly; Stoker is very good at standing up at the same time I do, but when I stood up with her still seated things felt unstable to her and she tried to steer, which caused me to sit down with alacrity. I wasn’t up long enough to tell if my saddle was guilty or not; I was too busy trying not to crash.

But then I asked Stoker to stand and pedal while I remained seated, and voila! The noise stopped as soon as she got up, and started as soon as she sat down. Case closed: her saddle was the culprit. Saddles do wear out and get loose where the shell attaches to the rails. Sometimes some lubrication is enough to quiet things down, and sometimes the only cure is a new saddle. We are trying the lube but I suspect a new saddle is in Stoker’s future. This one has been keeping her company for about 8 years and 20,000 miles, so it might be time for retirement.

I’m just glad the mystery is solved and the fix is so simple. I could have spent a lot of money replacing the possible villains, while the real crook was sitting pretty. I’m pretty sure the saddle would be one of the last places a bike shop would look, and unless two people were doing the test ride they wouldn’t even hear the problem. So a little amateur sleuthing put matters to right and saved me a little cash and a lot of frustration.


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A Near-Death Experience

As we enjoyed a much-deserved post-ride lunch with some much-needed dry rose wine, I noticed Stoker was eating with more enthusiasm than usual . She had ordered a croque monsieur that came with fries. Normally I would expect her to eat about half of what was delivered, but as I finished my salade nicoise I noticed her plate was almost empty. I remarked that she must be enjoying her lunch. She kind of chuckled and said  ”I guess having a near-death experience is good for the appetite”.

A Prayer Candle the Day Before the Fall: Couldn't Hurt!

It was also good for her wit. Earlier as we left our hotel to go to lunch, we observed a large demonstration blocking a main street, with protesters chanting and waving large red flags. They appeared headed for the Plais du Justice and since our lunch spot was on a quiet square well away from the action we promptly forgot about it. But as we sipped our rose and contemplated dessert and coffee options, Stoker noticed a couple of red flags propped against a table a few yards away. She observed that no matter how agitated the seekers of social justice are in France, their priorities still  include stopping for a two-hour lunch. I laughed out loud at her cleverness.

Oh yes, that near-death experience. Perhaps this is a bit of an over statement, but the outcome could have been much worse. For the first time in our tandem career, we had a crash. Or rather, I crashed, and poor Stoker couldn’t do anything about it.

The cause is a common one: Trying to cross tram tracks. We were riding along trying to get our Modestine out of Montpellier morning traffic and into the countryside. I was following our guide on a street with tram tracks running parallel to our direction of travel. Our guide moved to the left across one set of tracks, intending to make a left turn onto an intersecting street. I tried to follow him.

I know such tracks are dangerous. I know that I need to get my front wheel at least at a 45 degree angle, which was impossible given how much room I had.  I had safely made the same move across the tracks the previous afternoon, so I tried it again. But I didn’t anticipate that the overnight rains would have left the metal wet and slick as ice. The morning was sunny and the street was fairly dry, but as soon as we hit the track the wheel slid out and we hit the ground.

My cleats released and I was up and on my feet almost instantly. but poor Stoker had one shoe still clipped in with the bike on top of her. What happened next is a little fuzzy. I know I held the bike off of her and she got unclipped and upright. I know we moved to the sidewalk and out of traffic. I don’t remember this, but Stoker says that a very concerned woman came into the street and took her arm and asked if she was ok, in French I suppose. I picked up a bidon and slammed it against the seat of the bike and then slammed it onto the pavement in frustration. I could not believe I had been so careless and incompetent.

As we calmed down a bit we took stock. I was completely unhurt. Stoker had a tiny scrape on her knee that was oozing a tiny amount of blood. Later we would notice a fairly large bruise near her knee that she claimed didn’t hurt. But we were extremely lucky. Nothing broken, almost nothing bleeding, no road rash, even the bike was undamaged.

Remember a couple of days earlier we got into the habit of going into cathedrals and lighting prayer candles for safe cycling? You can bet that is one habit we continued for the rest of the trip. I’m not saying it was a factor in minimizing the consequences, but I can’t prove it didn’t help keep us safe.

We actually went on to do the day’s ride, although I was extremely nervous and uneasy the entire time. But Stoker seemed to take it pretty much in stride, and it certainly didn’t affect her sense of humor. “Two-hour lunch” indeed!


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Last Tandem before Paris…

Reports about our last two tandem rides.


Today we got back on our bike for a short and hilly ride. 30.5 miles and 2700 feet of up and down. There were some steep parts in the 8-10% range for about 1/2 mile.

Rolling through Provence

We had another beautiful route on mostly quiet or even deserted roads. I think Diane and I both felt a little sluggish at the start, although the fact that we were climbing for most of the first 10 miles, and riding into the wind too, might have contributed to our heavy legs. But as the miles went by we started to feel a little stronger.

We had coffee at around mile 18, then after a little more climbing,  including a long 8% grade,  we finished with some delightful downhill and downwind roads. There was a stretch of an old train line converted to pavement along a beautiful river that was downhill at 2%, and downwind, and deserted. Modestine rolled along at 20 mph without any pedaling from her people, all three of enjoying the free ride that went on for about 3 miles.

Then lunch, of course. Salads and plats for the guys and a main course foie gras salad for Diane. We all had dessert too. And 500 ml of rose split 4 ways, a very moderate amount of wine.

After lunch we are resting. Later I’m going to walk to the cathedral again and light another prayer candle for safe cycling.

Tomorrow is our last tandem ride, a return to the Gorge de la Nesque. Last year we had some terrible cold and drenching wet weather there on our return descent, and we were unprepared and under dressed for the conditions. This year we are hoping for better luck. Maybe the prayer candles can help with that.


We saved the ride with the most climbing for last. But it wasn’t the hardest ride; the winds were gentle and the gradients mostly not too steep. 41.4 miles and 3200 feet of climbing.

Gorges de la Nesque Overlook: Fantastic Photo Op!

This loop along the Gorges de la Nesque is probably the most beautiful ride we’ve done in France,  which is saying something. We did part of it last year, but John found a way to turn it into a fantastic loop. A long gentle climb along the Gorges, then a drop before a steeper climb to well above the previous summit. We even had a view of the Gorges overlook from well above it at the second summit. Then a long 10 mile downhill that required no pedaling but plenty of braking for 90 to 180 degree turns.

Then a final climb up to a village on a hill and a delightful lunch with an amazing view.

We rode for over 3 hours before the lunch break, and while we did stop for photos and to admire views, that is a long time to ride on just water.  But while everyone else was ready to enjoy lunch, I wasn’t sure I was.

Lunch with a View

At 2 am the previous night I woke up with stomach trouble. It continued when I got up and after breakfast, which I had picked at, eating as much as I could, which wasn’t much. I wasn’t feeling great although I was riding ok, but it was a struggle.

So I approached lunch tentatively.  I ate slowly and without any great appetite, but everything tasted ok and stayed where it was supposed to. I still feel a little off but considerably improved.  I’m hoping I’ll be fine tomorrow.

I have some time to recover. Tomorrow we are not riding. After a transfer Diane and I will stop at the Nimes train station,  and I’ll see her off to Paris at 10:45. Then I’ll walk 15 minutes to the hotel where John will have left my bags. Jack and I will spend Saturday relaxing. On Sunday we go to Girona Spain for 4 days of riding.

Goodbye Modestine!

At the end of today’s ride we returned Modestine to the shop that rents her. We said goodbye again, out loud. I don’t know if we will ever ride her again,  but it might happen. Cycling in France is magical enough to make us want to come back.

Final tandem totals :

11 rides, 411 miles, 24,307 feet of climbing

Too many great views, charming villages, delicious meals and wonderful roads to count.

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Off to Market

Another e mail home

Today was a day off of the bike for Diane and me. After 9 rides totaling 340 miles and over 18,000 feet of climbing we are ready for a rest day.

Ceramic Modestine from Malaucene Market

And rest we did. But it turns out that the weekly market in Malaucene is on Wednesday morning. So after breakfast we walked through it. Foods and non food items from beds (we couldn’t believe it, but true) to roasted chickens and everything in between. We sampled some cheese, saw huge pans of paella, bought Diane a hoodie since she expects Paris to be chilly and didn’t think she had enough warm clothes, and found a ceramic Modestine to bring home.

We had a coffee and watched the foot traffic through the market. And bikes. There are bikes everywhere here. And bike shops. Five within one kilometer of each other.  All with bikes for sale or rental, and Ventoux jerseys for riders who want a souvenir of their epic climb.

Some 'Off the Bike' Climbing

Then we walked up to this shrine of the 13 stations of the Cross. It sits on the very top of the village up some steep steps and ramps. We walked to a huge cathedral,  but it was closed. I went back later on my post nap, pre-dinner walk, and it was open. I went in, lit another prayer candle for safe cycling, and took a few non flash photos.

Walking Works up an Appetite

Of course we had another excellent lunch.  Burger for me, goat cheese salad for Diane, some rose wine (dry not sweet).

Lunch was a good lead in for an afternoon siesta. I took a post nap stroll but Diane continued to rest her legs. There are some showers now but we are thinking they will be gone by tomorrow’s ride start.

We continue to enjoy a wonderful cycling and eating experience in southern France. France really is a beautiful country with fantastic roads for cycling. And food as good as the roads.

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A Tale of Two Cols

Diane (aka Stoker) and I have just returned from 3 weeks in France, where we rode our rented tandem (Modestine) for 11 rides over two of those weeks. Here is an e mail I sent to some friends and family about a typical tandem cycling day on our trip.

Our First 'Col' Sign!

Today we rode our bikes from Roussillon to Malaucene,  which required us to cross the Col de Murs. This was not a trivial climb, about 10 km’s, or 6.2 miles. Most of the gradient was around 4 to 5%, but there was a 1/2 mile section called the Mur, which means wall in French. It was all 9 to 10%. Some of the climb was actually a brief descent,  and the very top got a little easier too. But it was still a good effort for Stoker and Modestine and me.

After the wall there was a very visually deceptive section. The road seemed to be dead flat, but my Garmin assured me the grade was 5%, and our legs told us that was correct. I’ve seen this kind of illusion before, most memorably in the Alps climbing the last 4 miles of the Col de la Madeline.

And speaking of the Col de la Madeline, that was our second col of the day. The one outside of Bedoin, not  the famous one in the Alps. Not as long or steep as the Murs either. We did this from Bedoin, the opposite direction from what we did last year. I think the Bedoin side is longer and a little harder. Last year we had a tailwind on the climb, but this year it was a light headwind. But we made it up just fine.

Modestine's First Cousin

We met some Modestine’s cousins on the descent or the Murs and stopped to say hi.

The lunch in Bedoin was really nice. Diane and I enjoyed big salads, hers with chicken and mine with prosciutto and shaved parmigiano. And speaking of eating, last night’s dinner in Roussillon was amazing. Goat cheese stacked with thin toast and eggplant for an entree, and veal with brown sauce, and roasted potatoes resting on chard and celery pieces. And a dessert that was a dense chocolate topped with coffee ice cream and whipped cream carefully shaped to look like a mushroom cap. Simply incredible, maybe our best meal in France so far.

2nd Col of the Day

No riding tomorrow! We are going to rest our legs and if the weather is fine check out the pool. This is a very nice hotel and our room is big and comfortable. We have two more tandem rides on Thursday and Friday, then Diane is off to Paris and northern France while Jack and I head to Girona Spain for 4 days of cycling. We are feeling great and really enjoying our trip.


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You’re going to eat all that??!!

Yes Fearless, I am.

Next Sunday (May 1) is the Stockton Bicycle Club’s Delta Century. 25-, 60- and 100-mile routes through the vineyards and levee roads north and west of Lodi. It is the Club’s major fundraising event, and we donate about 90% of the net proceeds to a variety of local charities.

Stoker on the J Mack Ferry: Working up an appetite for tacos!

Many club members, including me, spend anywhere from 4 hours to several days performing volunteer functions. Course marking, shopping, moving club equipment, rest stops, sag driving, registration, and the dreaded clean up detail, which always stretches into the cocktail hour because some under-prepared riders vastly overestimate how fast they can ride. So the week before the event our club ride does a ‘pre ride’ of the course. Yesterday the 65 mile option drew a nice group of 12 or so, including Stoker and me riding the tandem.

Riding in the Delta the first week in May can be windy, broiling hot, or cold and rainy, but Saturday was almost perfect. Temperature around 50 at the start warming to the low 70′s, and a gentle (for the Delta anyway) breeze from the northwest that made the first half of the ride much harder than the second half. The skies were blue with white puffy clouds, the fields and orchards and vineyards were green, and the previous day’s rains left the air clean and clear.

Sandwiches and Mexican fare for hungry cyclists!

We started in Woodbridge, rode to Walnut Grove, crossed the river, and headed for the J Mack Ferry. This short ferry boat ride across Steamboat Slough on Hwy 220 is a highlight of our Delta Century, and our group was all smiles on the brief but entertaining crossing.  Then it was on to our break at the Courtland Market, 2 1/2 hours of pedaling and 40 miles into the ride. I hadn’t fueled up there for a long while, so I was pleasantly surprised to see they now have an excellent deli with sandwiches and Mexican food.

Stoker opted for two chicken tacos, and even though she is a light eater and the tacos were larger than expected, she ate them both and pronounced them delicious. I ordered a chicken burrito. I tend to be an enthusiastic eater not fazed by large portions, but this 2.5 lb. behemoth looked intimidating even for me. It turned out to be quite delicious, a little spicy but far from excessively so, and I was pretty hungry, so I devoured the whole thing.

Delicious Lunch from Courtland Market

My friend Fearless took a look at my lunch and asked me if I was really going to eat all of it. I told him I certainly was, and he acted a bit incredulous that someone would consume that many calories all at once in the middle of a ride. But it didn’t have any negative digestive repercussions. If anything, I rode better and harder over the last 25 miles back to Woodbridge.

Many serious endurance cyclists consume special bars, gels, powders and energy drinks, in carefully regulated portions, during their rides. They ‘eat to ride’, but I am certainly more of a ‘ride to eat’ type of cyclist. Stoker too!

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The Best Laid Plans…

My Spouse Diane (aka my tandem cycling partner ‘Stoker’) and I have been planning a return trip to France since last Fall. We began 2016 riding twice each week together for a total of over 600 miles by March 1. We were well on the way to getting in shape to be at our cycling best when we made the trip. But then real life intervened.

A Large 2nd Incision Means No Cycling

A routine Doctor visit showed that a blemish on Stoker’s left forearm, which had been observed for years and been determined to be no problem, showed some changes in color and shape. A biopsy revealed a melanoma, and so a surgery to remove it was performed. Then the pathology revealed that not all the cancer was removed, and the margins were not ‘clear’. So before the stitches were even removed Stoker had a second surgery, with a larger incision. This second wound was slow to heal and caused Stoker much more discomfort than the first one.

So whatever training plans we had together were thrown away. Stoker did not ride at all for 4 weeks, and she grew more concerned as the days went by. We weren’t even sure that all the cancer was removed. The second pathology report showed clean margins, but one was very close with less clear space than is optimal. So we weren’t sure our trip was even going to happen, and if it did we weren’t at all sure whether we would be able to ride.

Stoker had two appointments to look at the wound and hopefully remove the stitches, and both times the surgeon said it would be better to wait. Finally on April 13, the stitches came out. On April 14, we did our first ride together in almost a month; 30 breezy miles between Casa Brumby and Clements. Stoker did fine and our pace was decent.

First Ride in a Month Brings a Smile!

The next day, Friday, was very windy. I was surprised that Stoker wanted to try to ride again so soon, and in 30+ mph winds too. We slogged our way north and west toward Lodi and into the teeth of the wind, then enjoyed a much quicker ride back home with the gale pushing us along; 20 miles in all.

Saturday Stoker said she would like to try doing the Stockton Bicycle Club ride; a somewhat hilly route between Valley Springs and Ione. We hadn’t ridden in the hills for over a month, and it was our third consecutive day of riding, but we did better than fine. I was actually shocked that we were able to do the ride and even keep up with some of my friends some of the time. 41 miles and 2,100 feet, including up Chile Camp Road through Campo Seco. This last stretch was especially satisfying. There was a large group from ‘Team in Training’ doing that road, and the tandem rode away from a group of their riders and left them behind, something that rarely happens riding with SBC. We arrived back in Valley Springs smiling and a little shocked at our very respectable average speed of 14.6 mph.

It gets better. After taking a couple of days off,  yesterday we headed for Wallace for the regular Tuesday SBC ride, a loop to Hogan and Common Grounds (great coffee and treats!). 41 miles and 3,000 feet, a slightly harder ride than Saturday. The tandem team does this ride a lot, and it usually takes us a little over 3 hours, and we never go faster that 2:55. Until today; we finished in 2 hours 46 minutes, averaging 14.8 mph. I could hardly believe how well Diane rode, especially on the last 5 miles when we made a terrific effort to keep that average speed up.

Incredible as it sounds, I think we will be fit and ready to do some very good riding in France. And we have the medical ok to go. The dermatologist at UCSF said that it is possible more surgery will be necessary, but that the cancer they found was extremely unlikely (probability approaching zero) to have spread, so there is no rush even if it proves necessary. In fact, they want to let the skin heal for some time before removing any more tissue.

I would not normally advise having a couple of surgeries on your arm and taking a month off the bike as a way to prepare for a cycling adventure, but it seemed to work for Stoker!


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The Devil Makes Three…

I picked the worst possible day to forget my Garmin device. No Garmin means no data to upload to Strava, where all my cycling acquaintances can see my epic ride. My riding partner NLE says “If it isn’t on Strava, it didn’t happen”. But I have witnesses!

One Finger on the Third Visit

I have done plenty of long rides with lots of climbing since I started cycling seriously back in 2001. But I have never climbed over 10,000 feet in a single day of riding. Until yesterday.

I’m getting ready to go to France in May, and I have an ambitious ride planned there. A harder and longer (in time, not distance) ride than anything I have ever attempted. So Saturday I decided to extend the Mount Diablo club ride. While the SBC riders would hit the road at 9 am to ascend via South Gate Road, Kris, Gary F, Walt and I started at 7 am with the intention of doing three summits.

I say ‘intention’ because this is uncharted territory for me. Most of my rides are 2 1/2 to 3 hours long. This one was 78 miles with 10,700 feet of climbing and would take me over 7 hours if I decided to do the whole thing.

When we started at 7 am, it was cool and foggy. I knew I would be plenty warm on the climb, but to avoid freezing on the way down I put arm warmers, a vest, light jacket, skull cap and long fingered gloves in my jersey pockets. Along with fig bars and steak and cheese burritos, my cell phone and cycling wallet, lip balm and drops for itchy eyes from the spring-time pollen. The bulging pockets made me look like a hunchback.

Around 1,500 feet up we rode through the fog and into the sun, and it was glorious. Blue sky, green grass, golden poppies everywhere, and far below a white blanket of fog covering any traces of suburbia. By the time  we started down the fog had burned off and most of my ‘warmies’ were unnecessary. The air was warmer at the top than it was further down the mountain, the opposite of usual conditions.

Golden Glory: Poppies Everywhere on the Mountain!

After reaching the summit I turned around and descended back the way I came. Walt did the same, but Kris and Gary headed to Walnut Creek. I intersected the club group just above the South Gate, and I turned around to join them. Another trip to the summit, then down to Walnut Creek for lunch.

The North Gate Road is harder than the South Gate Road, and when we started the climb I wasn’t sure I would ride past the Junction. But I felt pretty good all the way up. The weather was simply perfect; cool enough to climb without overheating but warm enough to avoid freezing on the descent. I reached the Junction and listened to Walt debating with himself about whether he wanted to do a third trip up. “I’ll never have a better chance, it’s on my bucket list, but I’m pretty tired..etc.” I felt the same way; it is ‘only’ another 4.5 miles and 1,700 feet to the top. If I don’t try it now, when will I?

Some of our group headed down from the Junction, content with doing 50 miles and 6,000 feet. Sean and Steve and Alex headed up for their second summit, and Walt and I joined them for our third trip. And we all made it.  Climbing ‘The Wall” for the third time was a challenge but I had equipped my bike with a 32-tooth rear cog (instead of my usual 28) so I had a lower gear available, and I did not hesitate to use it. 0.1 mile at 15% with a pitch at 20%, at the end of a 10 mile climb. No problem! I didn’t even get out of the saddle.

SBC Riders at the Junction

Even though I didn’t have my Garmin, I was able to use Ride with GPS (my favorite ride mapping website) to discover that I had ridden 78 miles and climbed 10,700 feet in around 7 hours. If I do the mystery ride in France that I keep referring too (and the odds are about 50/50) I will need to do another 3,300 feet and 3 more hours.  I don’t know if it is going to happen, but yesterday was a positive development. The third time really was a charm!

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Breaking and entering…

Yesterday did not get off to a great start. As I opened my garage to drive to the club ride start in Wallace, our dog Luke took off for parts unknown.

Luke is a great dog, with lots of personality. But he cannot be trusted off the leash. Uncontrolled or unconfined, he runs off and will not come when called. We keep him in a large fenced back yard or in the garage, in the few moments he stays outside. Most of the time he is in the house on one of his multiple favorite pieces of furniture. When we want to drive out we have to make sure that he isn’t in the garage.

I Hate It When This Happens!

I thought Diane was walking him, but she was actually playing with him (off the leash)  in the back yard. So when he heard the garage door go up, he came in to investigate and  saw that the fence that normally keeps him in when the door is up was not in place. Off he went!

I had to skip the club ride to look for him. And hope that he had enough sense to stay away from the high speed traffic on Highway 88, which is about 1/4 mile from our house. He gets out about once a year, and when he does his people spend a very nervous couple of hours until he shows up again.

When Luke finally decided he wanted to return, it was 10 am, far too late for me to join my club friends. So I started off on a long solo ride from my house, 65 miles with minimal climbing. I rode briskly without extending myself with any red zone efforts, and averaged 18 mph on a fairly windy day. 590 kilo joules/hour for the power meter set. Pretty good for me; most club rides I run around 500 kj/hour.

As I turned onto Brumby Road at the end of the ride, I shifted into a lower gear. There was a loud noise between a ‘crack’ and a ‘clang’, and suddenly my crank was jammed and my wheels stopped turning. Somehow I managed to unclip and get a foot down without falling; I’m still not sure how. Then I looked at my bike to see what happened.

I didn’t have to look long. The rear derailleur hanger had snapped off. This is the ‘Breaking’ part of this blog’s subject line. The ‘Entering’ part is what the rear derailleur did, it ‘entered’ the rear wheel’s spokes. The spokes tore the derailleur apart. The chain was torqued so badly it bent a couple of links 90 degrees.  It was so jammed I couldn’t remove it until I took the chain apart.

In the photo, you can see what is left of the broken hanger, the destroyed rear derailleur, and the replacement hanger that I am fortunate to have on hand. Rear derailleur hangers are deliberately designed to be weaker than the frame. That way if something happens to cause the derailleur  to twist (like a crash or a dropped bike) the hanger will bend and not the frame. The derailleur hangers are actually designed to be easily replaced. They usually just bend; I’ve never heard of one snapping off unless there was a crash.

Between the dog and the damage to the bike, it was a pretty distressing day. But it certainly could have been worse. A mechanical failure like that could have happened descending at 35 mph, which probably would have caused the kind of crash I don’t want to think about. Thanks to Luke’s get away, I stayed away from the club ride, where such a breakdown would have been inconvenient at best and disastrous at worst. As it was, not only did I not fall, but I only had to walk a couple of hundred yards with my broken bike. Karma, Kismet, Divine Intervention, or Dumb Luck? These are weighty matters too heavy for a ‘weight weenie’ like me.


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    Rich Freggiaro

    Richard Freggiaro is a Stockton area native who grew up on his family’s farm. After an nine year detour to Davis for College, Washington DC for work, and Iowa for graduate school, he returned to San Joaquin County and spent the next quarter century farming with his father. He has been married to Diane for 31 years. He is (mostly) retired which leaves him plenty of time to ride each of his 4 bikes, and he is an enthusiastic and passionate cyclist. Read Full
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