Safe Bicycle Riding on City Streets

Riding on city streets, or any streets that have cars parked on the side of the road, takes extra vigilance.  If possible, avoid these streets if you can; even if it means riding a little further. Choose streets with bike lanes!

A car door can cause real havoc to a bicycle rider.  There are some thing you should do to keep from getting “doored”:

1. Keep your eyes open! Stay alert, and look for motion inside parked cars. If you see there is someone in the car, give it a wide berth, at least 4 feet.

2. Ride with your hands on the brakes, not on the handlebars. It takes extra seconds to move your hands, and that time could be crucial.

3. Check the tail lights and backup lights on vehicles. If they’re on, you know someone is in the car, and may be about to fling the door open.

4. If there is a bike lane between parked cars and the traffic lane, ride more to the traffic lane side; if there is a lot of fast moving traffic though, use good judgement.

5. Use a bike mirror to keep tabs on what is coming up behind you; if nothing is there, you will be able swing out at the last moment safely if you need to.

Take pictures of the scene, and try to get a statement from the vehicle operator along with their information. You were involved in a vehicle accident; they’re required by law to do that. Also details are necessary to keep your insurance company from declining a claim.

Ride safely!

Bicycle Helmet Ratings

Bell Stratus MIPS Bike Helmet

When buying a bicycle helmet, it’s important to get a good one. You don’t want to shell out bucks for a helmet that isn’t going to give you adequate protection.  The newer MIPS helmet not only protect you from a head-on accident, but also provide protection from a blow that rotates the head. No helmet is perfect, and head trauma is still possible, even if one is wearing the top rated helmet. But without a helmet, trauma is almost a sure thing in an accident where the head is involved.

Virginia Tech, in collaboration with The Institute for Highway Safety, performed a study of 30 of the most popular helmets, and rated them according to safety.  Their helmet impact tests evaluate a helmet’s ability to reduce linear acceleration and rotational velocity of the head resulting from a range of impacts a cyclist might experience.

For a full list of the ratings,

Bicycle Camping – The Best of Two Worlds


My parents both loved to go on camping trips, and I grew up sharing their love of the activity. I always found it exhilarating to be out exploring in nature, away from the hustle and bustle. As an adult, I took up backpacking, and enjoyed going with my kids, although unfortunately they never wanted to go on longer trips of more than a day or two.

An even better way to get in the longer distances I discovered, is bicycle camping, which allows one to go further and explore new areas.  To me, cycling from one nice campground to another for a week or two and enjoying the scenery along the way is the ideal vacation. There are so many beautiful areas in the US (and abroad) to do that, and you get the added bonus of getting great exercise!

So set up a trip and get out there! Do it safely, though. Don’t just start riding on the spur of the moment. Plan your trip! First, take a look at your riding level. If you haven’t been riding lately, go out and do some training. There’s nothing worse than getting out on you bike for six or seven hours if your rear end hasn’t been prepared for it. I’ve done some long rides where I was in shape to do it physically, but afterwards my seat was so sore I could hardly sit. 😉 Not fun, especially if you’re going for several days.

Next, figure out where you and your friend(s) are going; the key point here is don’t do this alone. I know there are people who like to go solo, but it’s not a good idea. If you get out by yourself and have an accident, or feel ill, or get lost, or … you get the idea. It’s best to have someone with you. Be reasonable about the distance you can comfortably ride. If try to do 80 or 90 mile days when you’ve been riding 25 mile trips, you’re going to be miserable. If you are going for a couple of weeks, or some longer time, start out with shorter days and work up to the longer days. And don’t forget to schedule in a rest day or two. 

Okay, so what to take on the trip; check out the Camping Checklist page for a list of recommended items to take on your trip.

if you ride a $7,000 pro road bike, don’t take it camping. It’s likely to get a little beat up, plus you don’t want to get it stolen! Ride a metal frame hybrid bike, or touring bike or something similar that’s heavier duty and can take rough roads. If you’re planning to buy a bike, check out the all-terrain bikes that come with racks such as the Trek 1120, for example.

Try to go as light as possible; you’d be surprised how quickly the weight goes up as you add items. If you’re not sure if you need something, leave it behind. If you find you really do need it, maybe you can get it on the road.

Don’t take too many clothes, but at the same time it can get pretty cool at night, even in the summer. Be sure to check the weather forecast before you go!

Be sure your cookware is lightweight. You don’t need multiple pots, for example; one medium sized pot will suffice. Backpacking cookware is a great choice to keep the weight down. Also, try to buy groceries when you get close to your nightly destination. You don’t want to schlep around heavy groceries any further than you need to.

Last but not least, prepare yourself mentally.  Know in advance their are likely to be some really tough hills that can be demoralizing when you’re on them. But they don’t go on forever, and there’s likely a great downhill on the other side!  So get out there, and have a great trip!

The Four Types of Cyclists – McGill University Study

Researchers at McGill University in Montreal have come up with some answers as to what type of cyclists are on the road.

Their new study divides cyclists into four types: dedicated cyclists, path-using cyclists, fairweather utilitarians, and leisure cyclists.

“Cycling as a means of transportation has increased in many European and American cities.” “From what was seen by many as a recreational or physical activity, cycling also has become a mode to commute in urban areas.”

The study included 2,000 cyclists, who participated in an online, bilingual survey. The researchers divided up the respondents this way.

Path-using cyclists (36 percent) are motivated by the fun of riding, its convenience, and the identity that cycling gives them. They’d rather use a continuous route, rather than dodge cars. They were actively encouraged by their parents to ride for fitness and to get places.

Dedicated cyclists (24 percent) are motivated by speed, predictability and flexibility that bike trips offer. These cyclists are the least likely to be deterred by the weather. They aren’t as interested in bike paths, and actually enjoy riding in traffic. The researchers say these cyclists consider riding to be an important part of their identity.

Fairweather utilitarians (23 percent) are just that. They like to ride in good weather, and they’ll take another form of transportation in rain or snow. These are also bike path users, and they don’t necessarily see themselves as cyclists.

Leisure cyclists (17 percent) ride because it is fun, and not as much for commuting. They prefer bike paths, don’t like to deal with traffic, and want to feel safe, especially when riding with family members.

The study found that cycling demographics are changing rapidly. In a 2008 Montreal study, conducted before Bixi and the growth of bike paths, 65 percent were men and 35 percent women. But in 2013, the study included 60 percent men and 40 percent women.

The age of cyclists also is dropping. The average age of the 2013 cyclists was 37.3 years old, compared with 42 years old in a 2008 study. But the study also showed cyclists’ income skews high. In 2008, 13 percent of cyclists had a household income of $100,000 or more. In the 2013, one-quarter of the respondents’ household income was above $100,000.

The researchers found, based on their study, that each group has different needs, when it comes to what motivates them. Empasizing health benefits doesn’t motivate the dedicated cyclist, but works for the new cyclist.

Although dedicated cyclists may have some interest in bike paths, in general they consider them to be for slower leisure cyclists, and joggers. “Building a network adapted to the cyclist population, and emphasizing its convenience, flexibility and speed would be an effective strategy to increase cycling frequency,” the McGill researchers said.

The Hemet Double Century 1978

The Hemet Double Century is the second oldest double century in the U.S, started in 1965. Originally it was held in the Spring, but was moved to a Fall ride in later years. I’m guessing this move was made because it occasionally snows at Mountain Center in the Spring.

In 1978, I rode the Hemet DC, and completed this ride as my first double century. The race consisted of two 100 mile loops, the fist loop being relatively flat. The second loop however, went up 4000+ feet to Mountain Center in the San Jacinto wilderness, and then dropped down a steep downhill into Temeculah CA. The total elevation gain was over 9000′.

PATCH - Hemet DC 1978

My 1978 Hemet DC Finisher’s Patch

I’ve been looking at the routes on the current Hemet DC, (see map below) and learned they have changed the route of the second loop several times. Now it climbs for a total elevation gain of 6937′ for the whole ride.

Getting back to the ride – Going down the steep downhill wasn’t any fun… by the time we hit it, it was getting dark and, being an April ride, much cooler. I remember we rode the brakes going down, so we wouldn’t get too cold. Now, I have learned my lesson and have a lightweight, breathable cycling jacket made for such situations.

That was the first and last double century I rode using that plastic seat, and with no cycling shoes! Now I have a nice pair of Sidi riding shoes, which are really comfortable, and stay put on the pedals. When you ride 100+ miles, and your legs are tired, it get’s harder to keep your feet on the pedals if you aren’t clipped in, or using toe clips.

Hemet DC 7-14-17

2017 Hemet Double Century Route

LA Grand Tour Double Century

In 1959 The LA Wheelmen Bicycle Club, based in the Los Angeles California area,  was the first organization to start hosting double century bicycle rides. This was the “LA Grand Tour Double Century”. When I rode this double century in 1983, they also hosted triple and quad versions of the ride. I met some guys who tried the quad, but didn’t complete it. Whether they hosted the triple and quad from the beginning in ’59, I’m not sure.

When I Rode the LA Grand Tour Double, I did the “Highland” version of the ride, which started in Thousand Oaks CA, went up the coast to Refugio State Park above Santa Barbara, and looped back through Simi Valley. There was also a lowland version of the ride that followed the same basic route, just skipped the hills and went along the coast. This was a beautiful ride, featuring the Pacific Ocean on one side, and the San Ysidro Mountains on the other. The Highland version gave us a closeup look at the Montecito Hills, and fantastic views of the ocean. It was well worth the extra effort. Below is my 1983 ride completion patch:

Patch - LA Grand Tour DC 1981

This is a different route than the route used today by the tour: See the blue route on the map below for the 1983 route. I reconstructed the route from memory, so if it isn’t exactly correct, please let me know!

2017 Route
The Lowland double century (the red route on the map below) spends the most time along the comfortably cool coast. It travels up Pacific Coast Highway to Port Hueneme in Ventura County, inland to Moorpark, back out to the coast at Ventura, inland to Ojai. From Ojai head directly out to Rincon point via scenic Lake Casitas, then south along the same route. Total elevation gain is about 6,500 feet.

Note: There is no “Highland” version this year.

LA Grand Tour DC 1983-2017 Route1983(blue route) and 2017(red route) LA Grand Tour Route Map

The Tour of Two Forest Double Century

It goes without saying that a double century’s purpose is to be challenging.  200 miles on the flat is not easy, but add some mountains and it becomes very hard.  It helps mentally to participate in a ride that is not only challenging, but scenic. Tour of Two Forests is one of these.

I was privileged enough to ride the Tour of Two Forests double century twice in the early ’80s.  It started in Palmdale CA at 5:30AM, made a huge loop through the Los Padres National Forest and back to Palmdale, 210 miles with over 10,000 feet of climbing. I completed the ride in around 20 hours the first time, and 18 hours the second time, which was well behind the fastest time of 10+ hours. This was the toughest ride I’ve ever ridden.

If you decide to do this ride, which is held June 8th in 2018, know it’s not as well supported as it used to be.  I recommend that you take a CamelBak water pack, or better yet ride with a group that has a SAG wagon (SAG is an old cycling term, that means Support and Gear). The ride is currently supported with what the organizers call “leap frog” support, instead of fixed aid stations, where I guess they keep passing you as you ride and drop water and snacks and drop bags along the route.

Originally, when the ride began in 1980, anyone was allowed to ride. Now, with limited support, only experienced riders who have completed 3 double centuries in 15 hours or less during the last year are allowed to ride.

TOTF Route Map 2017

2017 TOTF Route Map

TOTF Route 1980

Original 1980 Route Map – it’s about the same, but notice the jog on the right where it goes to Palmdale.

TOTF Route Slip 1980
Original 1980 Route Slip

Patches awarded for finishing the ride (no really – these are two separate patches! 😉 )

     1980 Patch               1982 Patch

Finisher's Patch TOTF 1980

Finisher's Patch TOTF 1982

I have seen there are still some “patch rides” around, but not like in the ’80s.  Every ride of any size back then was a patch ride, and people would proudly display all of their patches on their riding clothes. I guess times have changed!