Thursday, April 26, 2012

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Safety II

The AIDS Lifecycle just posted a page on safety. Check it out.

You must be aware of your surroundings at all times and alert to all possible risks. In June, you will be riding with hundreds of people in front of you and behind you. You will also be riding alongside motor vehicles. While those vehicles might make you nervous, the sight of all these cyclists will also make drivers nervous and at times, tense.

Given the presence of possibly nervous or inattentive drivers, it is crucial that you stay alert and ride smart, predictably, and deliberately. Be prepared to stop at any moment. Keep in mind that each of your actions will dictate how the Cyclist behind you or the automobile beside you reacts. 
Mental Smarts is not only about handling yourself and your bike in a safe manner and riding defensively. It’s also about how we interact and care of each other’s safety and well being.
Click the link for more.


One of the best things about cycling is that nearly anyone can do it. Its not that hard to learn because its all about're just perched on the saddle like a captain on the bridge of a ship, barking orders at the crew. However, as facile as you become, cycling has (at least) two challenges which separate the proverbial men from the boy: and they are both hills.

Climbing and descents are some of the most challenging aspects of cycling (click links for techniques). When you're on a road and turn a corner or look up as the road rises rapidly before you, you get this feeling, no matter how experienced you are, of elation mixed with dread. Especially under the hot sun, or with a stiff headwind pushing you away from it; the world seems to be saying, "why didn't you stay in bed this morning, do you really need this?" But you clear those voices from your head, drop into your lower gear, relax your body, and try to keep your cadence up.

In the middle of the hill the voices recommence: this hill is never going to end; I'm not fit enough to make it; how did that guy pass me on this incredibly steep hill!? Then you look down and see your bike computer tells you that you're moving at 7 mph, and you wonder how you're even staying upright. But you continue...then you turn the corner and see that what you thought was the top of the hill was only the approach to a still steeper section.

You gird yourself, and continue to pump your legs, thinking your thighs are going to give out...then you hit that steeper portion and the MPH goes from 7 to 4. Strangely, you're not sweating though. Even though its hot, there's still a tiny, imperceptible you continue, powering up the steep section.

Finally, you see the grade lessen and see blue sky on the other side of the rise and realize that you've reached the top. The wonderful sense of accomplishment is worth all the torture. The elation you felt at the bottom, starts to come out in full force as your MPH goes from 4 to 9 to 12.

Then there's the descent. You shift into your higher gears, and start to use muscle instead of cadence to get your speed up. If the road is wide and clear, or you are familiar with it, you start to pick up speed, avoiding the brakes. As you pick up speed, the wind blows away the heat built up on the hill, and the elation you felt earlier builds as added to it is a touch of fear.

Will my tire blow out? Will a car or animal push me off the road? Will I hit a pot hole and bail? Will I be injured if I fall at 30 mph? Especially on steep hills, it can be difficult to control these voices. Yet you do and make it to the flats, feeling refreshed from the climb.

I've only been cycling for a year, but I've seen riders go through this internal struggle many times. You can see it on group rides as you make your way through the pack, listening to the conversations, or the looks of determination on the faces of the riders.

That's why I cycle. (Photo by Bob Katz.)

Monday, April 23, 2012

Bicycle Safety

If you've ever been on an ALC training ride, you'll know: its always about safety. Annoyingly so. When I ride by myself I often run stop signs, even red lights if the traffic is clear, and I almost always listen to NPR on my commutes. I always make sure there is no on-coming traffic, but I know its risky. I wish I could say that I will try to get better, but clipping out every 5 minutes can be irritating and add so much time to the commute.

Knowing I'm not the safest rider, take these with a grain of salt, but here are some tips for the commuter and road rider:

  1. Always know exactly what is going on around you. Scan for traffic in all directions constantly.
  2. Prepare to clip out well before you approach an intersection. Panic clip outs can damage your bike -- even if you don't fall over, your bike might.
  3. ALWAYS give pedestrians the right of way, even if they are not where they are supposed to be.
  4. If there is a bike lane, use it, but stay to the left, away from the parked cars and watch for opening doors, wheels turning, a driver or passenger in the cabin -- anything which might indicate that the bike lane will be impeded.
  5. If there is something in the bike lane, take the whole lane of traffic. Signal to the cars/riders behind you that you will be doing so by pointing into the lane of traffic you're about to take, make sure there is plenty of room and you will not be moving into a car, then move to the center of the lane. (If there is a shoulder or very wide lanes, you can lane split with the car, but be careful. Center of the lane is better because you are more visible.)
  6. Never navigate to the right around debris or other obstructions (for me that's usually trash cans) in the bike lane, even if there is no parked car. The right is blind, you don't know what is behind the next parked car.
  7. Never pass another biker to the right. Never ever ever. It is disconcerting and can cause the other rider to veer into traffic while looking at you. NOT SAFE, ever. If you need to pass another rider, see (5): look, signal, look again, move to the center of the lane, pass, make sure you're clear of the other rider, and move back into the bike lane.
  8. Where there are no bike lanes, you pretty much have to lane split -- if you try to take the entire lane, cars will get pissed off at you: not a safe thing. To lane split with cars: use the shoulder if there is one. Stay on or just to the right of the white line, if safe. Signal well in advance if you have to move into the lane very much, then take the whole lane until you've passed whatever obstruction caused you do to it.
  9. Remember those hand signals you learned in drivers' ed and use them. See chart, below. These are not the extent of useful hand signals. I add: pointing at the lane when I'm going to take it, waving at cars who might turn into me, and waving my hand over obstructions cyclists behind me can avoid.
  10. In addition to hand signals, when cycling with others, call out what you're doing in a "loud, outside voice": stopping, slowing, bump, etc. This will keep you from getting rear-ended by your friend who's looking a the hot jogger instead of the road.
This is hardly an exhaustive list, so practice them and read about cycling safety here, here, and here (oh, just Google it, there are tons!).

Monday, April 9, 2012

Day Two

Day two is the long day. Day two is the tedious day. That's what I've been told. You couldn't sleep from all the excitement of Day one, but, you gotta get up early to leave before the crowd. There's apparently a lot of walking from camp to the open road through Santa Cruz. Too many people for that tiny little city. But, hell, you're in Santa Cruz! One of the most beautiful places on Earth. And you got there with your own thighs and butt! And you slept there over night in a tent! Does it really get any cooler than that?

Here's what it looked like last year:

More information here:

Santa Cruz to King City
Rise and shine early on Day 2 to beat the morning rush hour commuters and get an early start on your second day in the saddle! This is a long mileage day with relatively flat terrain that will take us through the Salinas Valley, also known as Steinbeck Country. The lushness of vineyards, strawberry and artichoke fields stretch as far as the eye can see in all directions. Highlights of the day include The Otter Pop guys at the Water Stop (which is at the Soledad Mission; make sure you stop into the mission where you can reflect on The Ride’s purpose and sign their altar cloth for a loved one), fried artichokes, and the Cookie Lady.

*New this year:
To alleviate congestion, and the challenge of riding out of Santa Cruz during heavy commute time, the route will open at 6:15am on Day 2, barring any route or rest stop issues. Bike Parking will be open beginning at 5:45 to help facilitate getting cyclists on the route earlier.

Harvey West Park
326 Evergreen Street, Santa Cruz, 95060

San Lorenzo County Park
1160 Broadway, King City, 93930

107.3 Miles


Sunday, April 8, 2012


Eat and drink more than you usually do before, during, and after your ride. Having an insufficient store of calories and salt can cause cramping, lightheadedness, nausea, vomiting, depression, anxiety, and the like; see this site for a description of mental effects of bonking. These symptoms are caused by lack of fluid and electrolyte, but also because of a failure to intake sufficient calories. Bonking is no fun, and can make your wonderful day turn into a cruel slog, or worse: leave you hanging in the middle of nowhere, wondering how you're going to get home.

For a man of my stature and age, I burn about 636 calories an hour at a pace of about 15 mph. I rode for almost 6 hours yesterday, so burned about 3,816 calories. While it is not true that you can eat anything, if you don't replace your calories while riding, you will "bonk" or become cramped, irritable, and possibly unable to continue your ride.
Though this site is for runners, the principle applies to cyclists. To avoid bonking eat. Put your fad diet aside, and get your carbohydrates:
To ensure glycogen stores are high in both the liver, which the body accesses first, and the muscles, which are the bodies secondary source of glycogen during exercise, 75% of your diet should be composed of carbohydrates in the days leading up to a race or long run. Additionally, your pre-run meal should be comprised of approximately 80% carbohydrates. The main purpose of a pre-race meal is to provide the liver a full supply of glycogen, which is a reserve of energy that will be needed during an endurance run.
Cycling-specific advise is no different; eat:

When you eat is almost as important as what you eat. [Apart from your ordinary meals, a]bout an hour before a ride, fuel up with a high carbohydrate snack or small meal. Some ideas might be fresh fruit and whole grain toast or a half whole wheat bagel with peanut butter. 
[Plus you need to eat constantly on your long rides:] If your ride is longer than 60 minutes, you’ll need to refuel with more carbs. Researchers recommend about 30 to 40 grams of carbohydrate each 30 minutes you ride beyond the first 60 minutes. This might be a good time to consider a sports drink or energy bar. Eating a high carb snack or meal within 60 minutes after a lengthy ride is important to replenish your body and prepare you for your next ride.

Of course you don't want to eat crap either; plan ahead to have nutritious food available all along your ride. If you plan on going away from civilization, you need to pack it. Find nutrition-dense foods you can carry in your back pockets or pouch. Follow the link for some suggestions. I like a tortilla filled with banana, peanut butter, and honey. Plus I bring a couple Gu's, Cliff-bloks, an energy bar, and the like. And Gatorade or other electrolyte drinks contain carbs and calories; have one bottle filled with them. When your group stops, take stock of what you have, and if you need more, make them wait while you get what you need. It will take longer for them to wait while you recover from a bonk!

If you do bonk, you may have no choice but to get your bike and your body to some place safe and civilized. So, if you do rest, eat, and drink water. What to do?
What do you do if you bonk? You need to get your blood glucose levels up and you need to do it quickly. Ingest simple carbohydrates that can be rapidly processed into blood glucose by the digestive system. The best source for these kinds of carbs that you’re likely to have with you on the bike is a sports drink like Gatorade. Other sources of simple carbohydrates include energy gels (make sure you drink plenty of water with these), sugar cubes or sweet candy like gumdrops or jellybeans. Complex carbohydrates like energy bars will take longer to process into blood glucose and will only provide relief in the longer term. If you catch the bonk early, you can keep riding while you refuel. If you let the bonk go too far, get off the bike until you recover. You don’t want to be riding when your sense of balance is bad, you’re disoriented and you’re unaware of what’s going on around you.
So if you feel like you're bonking stop riding and eat and drink until you recover. Don't try to power through it.

What does all this mean? It means you must calculate your nutritional needs well in advance of your ride. You probably need to eat far more carbs than you are used to. You need to ensure that you have what you need on you when you go afield, and you need to stop and get what you need when you don't have it. But mostly it means: eat and drink. One of your water bottles must be filled with an electrolyte and one with water for long rides. Get them filled at all stops!

  1. Eat meals comprising 75% carbs in the days leading up to your ride.
  2. Have a pre-ride meal of about 80% carbs.
  3. Eat sufficient calories to replace those burned.
  4. Eat 30-40 grams of carbs every 30 minutes during your ride.
  5. Drink water and electrolytes during your ride.
  6. If you bonk, rest and eat.
  7. Know your body's nutritional needs and make sure you have access to nutritious food to replace lost calories and salt.
Riding is a supreme adventure, but it doesn't have to be a dangerous one.

Friday, April 6, 2012

To My Donors

To all my generous and civic-minded donors I would like to say thank you. Your money goes to support AIDS care, research, and political lobbying to support the community. The ALC mission statement lays it out:

  1. Raise funds to support the HIV/AIDS services of the L.A. Gay & Lesbian Center and the San Francisco AIDS Foundation;
  2. Increase awareness and knowledge about the services and programs offered by the benefiting organizations;
  3. Increase awareness and knowledge about HIV/AIDS among participants, their donors and the general public;
  4. Increase AIDS activism and volunteerism among the participant and donor communities, inspiring them to become ambassadors in the fight against AIDS;
  5. Provide a positive, life-affirming experience for people affected and infected by HIV;
  6. Contribute to an increased understanding of the disproportionate impact HIV has had on the GLBT communities in SF and LA;
  7. Encourage an environment of dignity and improved quality of life for those affected by HIV and AIDS.
To that end, the charities to whom you are donating provided vital services to those who need it the most. So far this year, there have been about 3,000 new cases of HIV/AIDS reported in California. Clearly, along with services, education is required. Your donation supports educational efforts throughout the state.

First, the ride itself is well publicized and is famous for spreading the message that we must reduce infection rates. Second, both the SFAF and the LA Gay & Lesbian Center support education and outreach, including state-wide policy advocacy favoring education and prevention programs.

The best way to survive this on-going epidemic is to stay negative until there's a cure. The second best way is, if you become infected, to get the services, counseling, and medicine you need to stay healthy until there is a cure.

Your donation will save a life. I thank you.