Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Assembly Line

Hmmm, I thought, this could get interesting. That line of bikes arrayed outside the Green Bike Program's studio/shop at Pitzer College, survived the summer intact, and with students having begun to arrive for the past week, or so, someone has got to get them in working order. Then I looked a little further to the ramp, and beyond that, the large trash bin. I noticed a potential procession. Repair the bikes, enough to make them rideable. Then comes the test phase, full speed over the ramp. If the bike survives in one piece, success, ready for a new student owner. If, on the other hand, the bike breaks in two, or three, or more pieces, it gets striped of useful parts and a final toss into the bin.

Well, I don't believe that is the real process, but it could be. Bummer I never made it around to interview the director of the Green Bike Program after he contacted me last academic year. A new year, a new opportunity? Maybe.

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

The Egret Tree

Actually there were multiple [Snowy] Egret Trees as I rode along the San Gabriel River last weekend, this one was just the most full, though another was nearly so, and a couple others were being used as perches by solitary birds. It is common to see them standing statue-like in the shallows of the river; on this day, however, this stretch of river was dry. I don't know if that was the reason for their lofty perches, or if it is nesting season, or if something like a roaming coyote, or local dog had scared them into the trees.

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Mountain Biking 101: A Cautionary Tale

mountain bike walking uphill

I suppose there will be heck to pay for this one, but you know sometimes sacrifices must be made for the greater good. There is an old saying, simple and direct that has been applied to anything humans do, or have done - use it or lose it. Cycling possesses no special immunity to the maxim. And so...

There once was a woman who rode all the time. That blue Motebecane got around and it carried her where ever it went. She met her husband due to cycling. She rode with their son to school, though by now that Motebecane had become a pink Bianchi, or a pink Marin depending on how she felt, where she rode. She rode to the grocery store, the post office, to the sporting goods store, soccer games, Little League games, school meetings, and on recreational rides with various groups. Then, for one reason or another, her riding took a slack turn, so much so, that her old riding friends began to wonder what had happened. Her son warned her that she better get out or she would lose her fitness. Weeks went by with barely a turn of a wheel for each of those seven days, and seven more. And Seven more.

When, eventually she did hop on that pink Marin, it was to discover that in the passage of weeks, mountain biking, had somehow become mountain bike walking instead. Don't let this happen to you. Don't let mountain biking become mountain bike walking, don't let group riding become forever chasing the back of the bunch. Don't let this PSA go to waste. Get out and ride.

mountain bike walking uphill (with spectator)

mountain bike walking downhill

mountain bike walking downhill

mountain bike walking uphill

Well, she did make it to the the concrete capped summit of Mt. Beverest.

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Road Runner Bags at Sunset Cycles

In today's commercial environment it can be tough for a small, specialty company to make a go of things for very long. Bigger players can make things cheaply overseas, often by machine, with lower standards, ship them back here to the States and sell at a lower price. At the same time the disconnect between means of production and the end product purchased by a consumer has never been greater. So when one of those small, specialty companies makes it to the five year mark it is a valid reason to celebrate.

That is exactly what happened today when Road Runner Bags brought their sewing machines out to Claremont for a little fifth year anniversary party hosted by the guys of Sunset Cycles. Though Road Runner employs a staff of seven to get their products made and out the door, owner Brad, and Ester where the faces of the company during the shindig and were kept busy answering questions, as well as putting together custom bags on the spot. Road Runner bags are sold through select stores across the country and can, of course, be purchased on line as well.

So, why should you buy from Road Runner? First, you are supporting a local (Los Angeles), hand-made in the USA business. Second, their guarantees are good - and far better than what you would get for some similar mass-produced item. Third, you don't have to settle for black fabric, they have a wide range of colors and patterns. Fourth, they make a wide range of bags for various needs - saddle and frame bags, at least two sizes of waterproof backpacks, a small camera bag, and even a camera strap. These are all cycling-specific, but are adaptable to uses outside the activity.

You know some people came from great distances for this party, I think the most dedicated had to be the 70+ year old gentleman who rode his mountain bike - his mountain bike! - from Silverlake. He took the train back - understandable, if you ask me. I don't know if he ended up purchasing a bag, but he did appreciate those tacos and beer.


what are some of the characteristics of the perfect job? Would it involve doing something you really like? Would it involve riding your bike? Would it involve being able to product test what was produced by your own hands? Both Brad and Ester listed these; the pride and satisfaction that they get from doing a good job shows in both the process and the end product. If you need a new bag to carry your gear, or know someone who does, check out Road Runner Bags on the web, and like them on Facebook.





custom sewing

checking the fit of a camera bag



material selections


Fairdale and Rocky Mountain

Fausto Coppi

Pandora's box

Hey, that's Mr. Charlie Kelly's book, Fat Tire Flyer, by that Tecate can - the best mountain biking book there is.

Thanks go out to David and Sean - they had coconut macaroons, they had cookies, tacos, rice, beans, beverages, there was good conversation, music, familiar and new faces, cool bikes to look at and, of course, bags to buy.

the mrs. bought a burrito handlebar bag, coordinated to match her bike

while I opted for a tool roll saddle bag, in orange, specifically for the Ibis

Friday, August 26, 2016

Do You Hoodoo?

That large, spread-out encampment of hoodoo's at Bonelli Park has long since been demolished by the hands, and/or feet of some unknown fiend, and so I was pleasantly surprised to spot a new little grouping on this mornings ride. These are professional-quality stackings of stones, not the more common haphazard placings selected from whatever materials are closest to hand, although there is no dearth of options here. Props to you if you know where this is, but for now I'll be keeping mum. Search out those interesting things this weekend, they are all around.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

About an Hour

Turning right onto Bonita brought three riders into view, when I caught up to them just before Casa Colina, they turned out to be a trio of young women with one beach cruiser and two more substantial roadie bikes between them. Outside the Old Stump, Mike's Wednesday Pedal Power group was waiting to get things going. I cooled my heels while a freight train rumbled past on the first train crossing at Fairplex and Arrow, and then made one of those big exasperated exhalations at the second crossing, where a Metrolink train carrying folks home from downtown LA sped past. A few wayward riders cast adrift from the Bud's Ride cruised along Puddingstone before I turned off onto the little parallel dirt trail which I was expecting to be the highlight of the evening ride. Longer shadows at the end of August. A couple of couples slowly rode through the park while discussing what to do next. One roadie began packing up his bike on Wright while, a little further on, another sat on the curb working on the cleat of his left shoe. Back at Fairplex and Arrow I caught up to Jenna and Jeff, stopped at the light and said hello until our light turned green; they continued on up to Sal's to meet Richard and the rest of the Loopy bunch for pizza. A couple blocks later I slowed to let a wee lass riding her trike in fancy party dress and pretty pink helmet cross the street, dad walking behind. As she got to the top of the corner accessible ramp she exclaimed, while sounding amazingly like Boo of Monster's Inc, "I did it!" She did, and made it look easy - a future climber. That's the highlight. Back in Claremont, a driver, already halfway through the crosswalk, grudgingly gave way to a young boy walking his mountain bike across the street, a look of frustration at having to wait clearly etched on his face. Sigh. People walking through the Village, and cars parked, a lot of cars. A guy jogging with a cute little black and white dog, I don't know what kind. Some loud music and practice taking place on one of the roof-top athletic fields. A murderous gathering of crows, all for one little hawk perched on a soccer goal. Looking left I see a family approaching on their bikes; swing around and wait for the photo op, and am caught in the act, the photo turning out to be blurred anyway. And then the sun, almost slipped from the sky, a bloated orange/red fireball in rapid descent. Finally, two turns from home a boy walking with his dad, a big, enthusiastic wave impossible to not respond with a smile and wave of my own.

I haven't often made it out on Wednesday evenings this summer. I am glad I did tonight, there was a lot to see.

Cycling Claremont: Hennie Kuiper

I mean really, if you are going around naming chickens how could you not distinguish one of them with the name Hennie Kuiper? This Hennie is a bit stand-offish, not a trait (I believe) the other Hennie was known to exhibit. While the other chickens ran over to see what I had brought for them (nothing), Hennie here ran away, and probably would have gone all the way up the plank and hidden in his house if I had made the slightest of movement more. The Hennie shown above, was pretty big, and would probably have beaten its poultry mates in a lapped race around the pen.

The real Hennie Kuiper, as a racer, was an accomplished cyclist, winning Gold in the 1972 Olympic Road Race, multiple stages in the Tour de France and Vuelta a Espana, World Championship, Paris-Roubaix, Tour of Flanders, Giro di Lombardia, Milan-San Remo, the Milk Race, Grand Prix de Wallonie, etc...

Monday, August 22, 2016

Cupid, Death, and Beyond

How Cupid and Death teamed up in the first place, must be quite some story and, while I am not sure I would want to look back to see that tandem chasing, if they were up the road I might be driven to extra effort just to find out the reason for their ride together.

"Cupid, Death, and Beyond" (1881) by Max Klinger (Theo Stroefer, printer) from the exhibition, Guillermo del Torro, At Home with Monsters, showing now at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art

Sunday, August 21, 2016


Sometimes you'll see it as splotches, rusty pockmarks staining the landscape, and other times as great waves rushing down a hillside, flowing over everything in its path. Buckwheat. It is difficult to miss this time of year, and even more difficult to ignore. In fact to do so probably requires conscious effort. But then why would you want to do that? I took a close look during rides this weekend, split between the SGRT and Bonelli Park and noticed a great range in growth pattern; those spread out along the San Gabriel River Trail seemed more crimson, a little more pliable, perhaps due to slightly cooler temperatures, slightly more morning moisture. The swaths at Bonelli contained drier patches, rust turning black with brittle stalks. Surprisingly, though, Bonelli also had plants still in bloom, small white flowers contrasting with puffs of rust. A lot to see when we ride - up close, and far away.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Cleaned Up

quiet along the shore of Puddingstone this evening

tall trees and long shadows

I did not discover that mythic Escher downhill - perpetual, not to mention never-ending. The local supplier failed me this month, so no extra energy was to be summoned from my legs. Wait, what? [throat clearing sound] Moving on; I just was not quite up to drafting that bus along Bonita. My wind-chapped face and red wind-blown eyes suggest that the wind was, most certainly, not at my back. Yet there it was - the little screen telling me I had picked up an extra two and a half miles per hour at the end of the evening ride. 

I may find my way back to racing, yet.

I shaved off my mustache. Yes, no longer mustachioed. 

Could it be, I wondered?

And so I conducted a highly scientific experiment, comparing stats from two comparatively similar rides, each ridden weeks apart, one with mustache, and one without. The stats don't lie; other things might, but not the stats. Two and half miles per hour.

someone left this nice directional arrow; it came in handy pointing to where the mustache was.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Lines in the Sand

Either I vary my line, each lap, as it sweeps around the discus / shot put cage, or I was chasing someone last night on the Cross Town Loop. There is room enough here, for passing runners, whose wayward paths deflect from the competition track. To the left, to the right, maybe middle of the road, testing one then the other. One side firm, you know what to expect, the other wishy-washy, flip-flopping onto your side in the soft, leafy verge. There are rocks around the bend, unseen obstacles from this vantage, but it is a familiar ride and you lean left with confidence, over the bumps to the smooth path of turf.

Politics. Ride.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Claremont Hills Wilderness Park is Closed

The infamous red flag has the Wilderness Park closed again this week - closure is scheduled to last from Tuesday the 16th through Thursday the 18th, expect the trails to reopen on Friday the 19th.

Update: Closure has been extended through Friday, reopening will now take place on Saturday.

Saturday, August 13, 2016

The Dirty Chain Gang Rides Without Me

Seconds before the first Dirty Chain Gang riders cruised into view I had shattered the mental block that has long kept me from climbing that short bit of rocky steep. Can I write that, or is it too embarrassing to admit? Well, too late now. For years that single spot has knocked me from my saddle; the pattern never changing - ride two-thirds of the way up, right to where the bedrock steps start, unclip, walk the final third. No more, from now on. I was stoked, and so, as the DCG filed past headed for their post-ride breakfast I gave a howdy, or a good morning, to every one. Pete asked if I was going to turn around and join the dirty bunch, but they were on the last legs (roughly) of their morning's journey, while I was only three miles in. Some silly excuse passed through my lips, something about how they start too early for me, and needing to make up some miles. A quick acceleration got me to the top of Beverest for a shot of everyone riding away, and then it was back to those miles.

Those obstacles that always come your way in mountain biking - if at first you don't succeed, try, try again. Sooner or later, you'll nail it  and never look back.
With a lead group of Dirty Chain Gang riders waiting at a distant bend in the road, the rest of the dusty-legged bunch plays catch up at their own pace. Equidistant between the two groups, a klatch of cross-county runners rumbles along.

With a week or two worth of tracks showing in the dust, and after having checked my copy of
Tracking the Wild Mountain Biker, I can state with confidence that I am the only
rider who takes this little side trail.

I began to think of all those DCG riders, finished with their ride, and now enjoying a nice, leisurely
breakfast down the hill at Norms Hanger and it made me hungry. Not hungry enough to bite into
a tuna with the thorns still attached, mind you. But hungry all the same.

Sunday, August 7, 2016

Gold Medal Effort

Personally, I can't remember a more dramatic two days of Olympic road racing since 1984 in Los Angeles.

I guess enough time has passed now, and everyone is aware of today's women's road race at the Olympics. It was a heartbreaker following an amazing effort by Mara Abbott, after charging up the final climb at the head of, first the chase, and then the break, what must have have been the nerve rattling sight of Dutch rider Annamiek van Vleuten, whom Mara was chasing on the descent, lying motionless against the curb, and then being caught so close to the gold medal finish line. Circumstance, more than anything kept her from the podium, and though she might not be returning home with a medal, hers was a gold medal effort, none-the-less. 

As for the crash, the only worse one I have ever watched as it happened, was the one that took the life of Wouter Weylandt at the Tour de France a few years ago. Today's was horrific, and I was not surprised that broadcasters held off replaying it until there was some positive news; the mrs, fearing the worst, cried as she watched, the boy came running downstairs to find out what the ruckus was all about. Best wishes to Annamiek during her recovery.

Going back a few years with this one - Mara Abbott, 2013 San Dimas Stage Race Champion.

Friday, August 5, 2016

Standing Ovation

The rider was coming down Mills, a typical and normal, everyday sight. This rider was a little different, though, or at least the way he was pedaling down the street was different; front wheel high off the ground in that delicate balance of weight, gravity and forward movement. I have called Claremont home for quite some time now and from that very first year here, to this one, there has always been this white-maned rider who has presented the appearance of complete stoke on the bike whenever we pass one another. And it has always been that way - passing one another in opposite directions, so I have no idea who he is; far too frequently we pass one another while I am driving, and he has this look that says "wouldn't you rather be doing this."

Anyway, the rider this morning was not that rider, but the look was the same, and it said that life just could not get any better than it was at that moment. As the wheelie rider came closer, and then close enough to recognize, or not, I realized it was Sean Heck, of Sunset Cycles, and very probably on his way down to the shop after a morning spin through the canyons. Sean posts some amazing photos from the local hills on Instagram and, though I have never been a "insta" person, I do get to see a few shots when they are posted to Facebook. As Sean passed on down the road, and I continued up, I had a renewed sense that today would be an amazing one.

the oaks above the cut bank which fell away during some massive winter storms
a number of years ago are still holding on

water tank in Little Palmer canyon, and the thickness of forest beyond

So, things do not always work out the way we hope. As I climbed further up through the shaded depths of Cobal Canyon, along the sunny upper reaches, detoured to Coyote Howl Point, and then along the Evey-Palmer, my energy drained from me like the sweat now soaking my kit. Potato Mountain was the goal, but today I would get no further than Little Palmer Canyon and its faint trickle of water. I was satisfied with that small consolation, but  upon turning around and, just before rejoining the Wilderness Park loop, I found myself suddenly in the midst of a swarm of dragonflies. I had never seen so many all at one time, and I realized that I had, in fact, found that amazing moment I was looking for, just not quite the one I was expecting. 

These dragonflies all appeared to be pretty drab looking rather than the colorful, stained glass type you always see in photos. We all know of the aerial acrobatics of dragonflies and you have, probably, watched individuals speed, bank, and suddenly hover, at one time or another. To stop in my tracks and watch for a few minutes, this many performing all around me brought me to the brink of a standing ovation. 

In case you were wondering, and I checked when I got home, a group of dragonflies feeding together is called a "static swarm", as opposed to a "migratory swarm", although I agree with one author that a "glimmer" of dragonflies is much more poetic.

yon distant bend in the road was the extent of my reach this morning

road to the end of the world

Thursday, August 4, 2016

Wednesday Dirt Solo: Golden Moments

The wind blew down canyon and along the downslope hillsides. It was gusting, or maybe just seemed like it. Maybe it was consistently blowing, but seemed to be gusting as I moved into and out from the shelter of ridges along the winding, climbing road. Time and again clouds of dust billowed around a turn in the road just ahead, only to be carried over the side, dissipating in the airy void. Once, though, I watched the cloud rushing toward me, leaving just enough time to bury my face in my jersey before being enveloped.

I have reached the point in the summer when I need something different in the middle of the week, a change of pace to the typical evening road ride, and Cross Town Loop. Fortunately these hills are just up the road, and offer just that mid-week variety that I am looking for.

At the head of the canyon, once I make that turn toward Johnson's Pasture, things change. The wind, no longer barreling through the funnel, slows and softens its advance, flowing smoothly over the rounded hills, along grassy slopes. Its rush turns to a whisper in the needles of the Italian Stone Pine, a rustle in the eucalyptus, then is quiet. The landscape is golden this time of year, this time of the day. Except for where long shadows streak away from the sun, the burnished tone covers the slopes like the summer grass. Golden moments.

another rider

the front range

 [high sierra] could almost be the high sierra

twin peaks

the Red Dirt Road

Ahh, any loop through the wilderness park needs to end with a run along Powerline


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