Friday, March 28, 2014

Car-free Pacific Beach: CicloSDias 2014

I meant to post this earlier, but it's been a busy work week. Sorry! Anyhow, if you are in San Diego this weekend and would like to experience Pacific Beach without having to deal with cars, come to CicloSDias on Sunday March 30th from 10am - 3pm.

Ride your bike, roll your skateboard or just walk along Cass Ave & Garnet Ave while enjoying the neighborhood and its many cool shops and watering places for an afternoon the way people were able to do before the world went mad with cars. Please check out the event website for more info!

Monday, March 17, 2014

Cuyamaca Peak by Road Bike

At 6, 512 ft (1985 m), Cuyamaca Peak is the second highest point in San Diego County (second only to 6533 ft tall Hot Springs Mountain near Warner Springs), and its distinctive wave shape in the middle of a rectangular mountain block is easy to spot from afar. As there is no paved road all the way to the top of Hot Springs Mountain, Cuyamaca Peak is the highest point a road bike could go in San Diego... and it was the main objective of my adventure bike ride a couple of weeks ago.

A friend and I started riding from Santee Trolley Station and picked up two more accomplices in Alpine. I'm afraid my plan was a bit more ambitious than prudent as I didn't quite realize how relentlessly steep Lookout Rd is. We all crested the Hwy 79 climb at a good clip, but the 3.5 miles from Paso Picacho Campground (where we stopped to refill our water bottles and to use the excellent restroom) to the top of Cuyamaca Peak took a whole hour in itself (running into stiff headwind about 200 vertical feet from the top sure didn't help). Lookout Fire Rd is a popular hiking route to the top of the mountain, so we ran into quite a few friendly hikers on the way. They are quite awesome about making way for us and were full of encouragement.

As you can see from the video, the view is quite spectacular both along the way up and from the top. We were also lucky about running into a lot of wild birds and deers. My friend Dezary even almost got rammed by a very cage-free chicken as we rolled up Hwy 79 through Descanso. It came tumbling out of the bush on the bank of the road as if chased by a coyote and made quite a racket... just a few yards from the 'honor system' basket selling eggs for $3 a dozen.

By the way, the stretch of I-8 between E Willow Rd and Hwy 79/Japatul Valley Rd is open to bicycle because there really aren't any reasonable alternate surface road between the two exits (we fit lycra crowd on lighter bikes might not have much trouble coping with the Japatul Wall or Viejas Grade Rd detour, but not all on bikes are light or fit!).

My riding buddies called it finished when we rolled back into Alpine and I spun on alone back to Santee. I had meant to detour into Crest and Granite Hills to check out a couple of enticing-looking roads along the way, but the afternoon was getting old and my legs were insistent that I shut the &%@% up about more double digit grade climbing after all they had put up with up the big mountain, so I settled for a very minor side trip around Lake Jennings before catching the trolley home in Santee.

It was quite a good trip. Only 80 miles, but with a decent elevation gain of 7920ft (most of the climbing were done in the first 40 miles). From Santee to Alpine and then through to Paso Picacho is really a long drawn out gentle climb (nothing steeper than 6%). The Lookout Rd up Cuyamaca Peak, though, is very gnarly. Once it starts kicking in earnest about a mile up it averages around 17% in endless series of very steep ramps, some in the high 20's grade. The last 2 turns had to be walked due to the very unfair combination of very steep gradient and very gravelly chopped up pavement. Unlike Mt Woodson Rd, however, you can carefully ride down most of Lookout Rd (you can't let the bike run, but the turns aren't as tight as Mt Woodson Rd and there's a bit more room for error if you skid off the pavement).

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Souvenir from a ride: Otay Lakes Rd with the LUNA Chix

I think this was from August 2012, my first time heading east on Otay Lakes Rd toward Honey Springs Rd climb. I was with the LUNA Chix group ride and took this shot from the back of the group... and I wasn't progressing toward the front. It would take me another 20 miles before I thought to check if my tires could free spin and found that the rear brake was rubbing... Having ridden in to the ride from North Park area, I only made it half way up Honey Springs Rd and had a hardest time on the little rollers on Otay Lakes Rd and Olympic Pkwy on my way back to town, seriously questioning my fitness just a month shy of my first epic century ride.

It was a very humiliating experience and a very educational one. Aside from squeezing the tires to check air pressure I always spin the wheels to check for rubbing brake and/or wobble before every ride now (and even during the ride, whenever I stop I'd check the tires and wheels again before remounting and continuing). I'm also eternally grateful to the LUNA Chix ride leadership. The day's sweep rider, Ellen, refused to leave me as I fell further and further behind the rest of the group on Honey Springs Rd and all the way back on Otay Lakes Rd. Ellen carried extra water and energy bars with her and was full of encouragement. Then ride leader Barb came upon us struggling up a little hump just before Wueste Rd turn off and actually gave me a push.

Seriously, if it weren't for Ellen and Barb I might have just rolled off the uncomfortably hot tarmac somewhere east of Skydive San Diego and became coyote food before my friends could send out a search and rescue party. Instead, I went on to finish the inaugural Giro di San Diego gran fondo ride, have climbed Honey Springs at least 20 times now and other bigger mountains along the way. The LUNA Chix have been taking the winter months off from cycling, but I'm quite looking forward to more rides with them when their season starts again in a few months!

Update (11Mar2014): The LUNA Chix have re-organized! They are now called the Wheel Women of San Diego. More info on their new Facebook page (first ride of 2014 season coming up on Sunday April 13th from Moment Cycle Sports in Liberty Station).