Tuesday, January 28, 2014

A Saturday Ride: 100-Year Anniversary Of The Etiwanda, California, Pacific Electric Railway Station

The Etiwanda Station, pre-celebration weekend. Cross street is Etiwanda Avenue.

100-years; That may not seem like much time architecturally, but in Southern California, where anything over 20-years old must be demolished by government decree, 100-years for any structure in the region is nothing short of a miracle.  Why is that?  Truth be told, for all of its so-called “Progressive” reputation, sun, beaches and palm trees Southern California possesses, the region has a tragic lack of respect for its own history.

The Pacific Electric Railway (PE), fondly remembered as the “Red Cars” were the transportation backbone of Southern California (SoCal) from 1901 to 1961.  Then, for reasons still a mystery to even God Himself, SoCal cut its own throat and embraced the automobile culture, thus cementing the regions fate to never-ending, vehicular grid-lock.  In short, those rails are now gone, and SoCal currently spends Billions (yes, Billions) of dollars on, new, “Light-rail,” sadly with all routes going nowhere anyone really needs, or wants, to go.  How’s that for progress?  Additionally, almost all of the PE infrastructure, depots and equipment were destroyed, save for a miniscule amount of stations and actual Red Cars, themselves.  The Etiwanda station was one of the few, lucky, surviving structures.  A small, yet very important, victory for the historians. 

The only upside to the rails being ripped out of the former Red Car right-of-ways has been an ample supply of real estate ripe for cycling paths.  The Pacific Electric Trail is the latest, and best, trail born out of those former Pacific Electric right-of-ways.  As for the aforementioned Etiwanda station, there is fortunately a very strong, well organized fan base seeking to see the structure returned to its former glory.  They are moving along quite well, and the 100-year anniversary celebration, and restoration project, was the inspiration for this particular Saturday ride. 

On the Pacific Electric Trail, heading east. Clearly displayed is the multi-use aspect of the trail, with portions for biking, walking/running, and horses.
So, up early, my riding partners and I set out to not only view the station, but to enjoy the ceremonies, meet old friends, make new ones, and best of all, getting out to pedal and exercise, enjoying the spiritual manna of a ride in the sun.  We oriented ourselves east and took up the Pacific Electric Trail on its western end in the City of Claremont, California.  The trail itself is a nice alternative to braving the mean-streets and the vehicles which live there.  It is a very smooth path, overall, with the only negatives being the overly numerous street crossings, and the overkill amounts of stress relief channels in the newer sections of the concrete portions of the trail (can you say, bump, bump, bump, bump, bump?).

Upon arrival at the Etiwanda station, we met with local dignitaries and the organization spearheading the station’s restoration, the City of Rancho Cucamonga, and the trails major sponsor, Friends of the Pacific Electric Trail.  In addition to the wonderful tour of the structure, and the host of local civic organizations and local businesses in attendance (it was good to see Joseph Filippi Winery – Good stuff, people), there were complimentary refreshments, historical railroad and local artifacts, hosts dressed in turn-of-the-century attire (you looked great, Marlene!), and even a free bicycling valet for those who rode the trail to the event.  The latter was a very clever, and a very useful, service.

The festivities upon our arrival. There were activities for all, and the event was well put together.

Built in 1914 by the Pacific Electric, the beautiful structure was open for tours.

My riding partners for the day, Mr. & Mrs. Lopez, taking in some of the history.

The lovely Marlene, dressed in period attire, greeted guests and answered questions about the station.

The friendly staff of Cyclery USA provided a complementary bike valet service.

From there, after saying our “Good bye’s,” we headed due west on the trail and into downtown Claremont for some well deserved snacks and coffee.  It was there, at a nice, little sidewalk cafĂ©, that we took the time to take in what we had seen, and what we had done.  See, that is one of the good things about the coffee stop; It is a chance to stretch and truly get a perspective on the day, not just the usual pedal your brains out, rush home routine I have seen most cyclists do.  The overall accomplishments were a nice, long ride, the company of good friends, great weather, an awesome visit to a historic train station, and the best part of all; Just being out on the bike.

The whole day ended up being a nice, albeit very windy, 50-mile affair.  And, for those whom have not ridden in very strong head and cross-winds, try it.  You will understand why riders in the Pro-Ranks fear it so much.  However, on the positive side, high winds do make a rider stronger.  The downside: Wind beats the holy, living heck out of you. 

Monday, January 20, 2014

Why I’m looking For A New Ride: American Roads Suck.

Raleigh RX 2.0 Cyclocross Bike.

There is an old proverb which states, “Necessity is the mother of invention.”  And, while many throughout history have taken that eloquence to heart, I will make an addendum to this pillar of societal wisdom: All else being equal, “Skinny tires and rough roads do not mix.”  

See, the roads in my part of the world are so bad (Southern California), that a skinny-wheeled bike just does not make much practical sense, anymore.  This has led me to believe the ultimate urban weapon for the all-around cyclist is a large tired bicycle.  Now, before any Roadies howl “Blasphemy,” allow me to expound on the reasons I have arrived at this conclusion.

From a very young age we were all taught that a “Real” road bike had skinny tires.  While there was some truth to that notion, one major manifestation has transformed this piece of urban dogma into a true myth: The total degradation, and criminal neglect, of our road systems.  In a country with the level of wealth, such as the United States, plus the ever-growing amount of taxes extracted to supposedly maintain infrastructure, i.e. Roads, there are ZERO excuses for the condition of our road systems.  This, therefore, led to me ask myself, “Why the heck am I out here on battlefield grade road surfaces on skinny, 23mm tires?”  So, I tried out some 25mm tires, and while their performance was much better than 23’s, it was still not the definitive answer for trouble free riding.

Another kick to the backside of my thought process was how damn good I have become at changing out flat tubes and ripped tire carcasses.  Sure, it feels good to be quick and efficient at roadside, but I became good at it purely out of necessity, and in addition to time, I was spending a crap load of money on tubes and tires, too!  I was spending so much money that I was in fact prepared to present my local city a bill for the costs they had foisted upon me via neglect of the roads – Which is their job to maintain!  I mean, my tax dollars are supposed to go towards making sure the pavement is not a joke, and that street sweepers run regularly to take care of the crumbled asphalt and the host of metal hazards dropped by numerous motor vehicles.  I had to find a way to go on offense, since defensive measures, like “Puncture-Proof” (an oxymoron) tubes and tires were not working too well and getting quite expensive.

So, I began to rethink not just the tires but also my equipment.  This then got me to thinking about my old, motorcycle roadracing days, whereby we all lusted after having a pure race bike for the street.  I mean, how cool it would be to have had a real Grand Prix bike (they call ‘em MotoGP bikes today) for everyday street use, we thought.  Well, as sexy as it would have been, it was not a wholly practical concept for a host of reasons.  The same is also true for a skinny-tire road bike, especially a carbon frame with carbon wheels.  In both cases, the use of said type of bikes is rather limited to racing, due to their lack of durability and high maintenance needs of the exotic, light weight components (and, in the motorcycle’s case, the horsepower, and power delivery, A.K.A., the torque curves).  In short, the idea of a race bike on city streets sure sounds good, and looks sexy, but in all-in-all scoring, they just do not do so well on the practicality scale.

The Town Bike and Mountain Bike riders are all well aware of what I just described.  However, being I really like dropped road bars, the Cyclocross bike has what I want in a ride, namely, a road frame, the afore mentioned dropped bars, components I can swap between all of my road bikes, plus the blissful, usefulness of wide, fat, more puncture resistant tires.  And the best part, Cyclocross has totally embraced disc brakes, so I can kiss the dreaded rim brake goodbye!  What’s not to like about that?  I mean, these are things that commuter riders (and the previously mentioned Townies and Mountain Bikers) already know: Wider tires and disc brakes are the way to go on the mean streets of America. 

So, while I still love my 25mm shod road bike, which will always hold a place in my stable of rides, the mean-streets of America require something 28mm or larger if I plan to actually enjoy daily riding without instantly flatting.  Thus, the search for a more useful, practical, so-called “Everyday” bicycle, and, that bicycle for me is indeed the Cyclocross bike.   

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Author Of Santa Barbara View Article Claims, "Cyclists Have Gone Collectively Insane."

But let me issue a warning to all automotive drivers:  - See more at: http://www.santabarbaraview.com/auto-sanctity-and-cycle-sanity54235254/#sthash.yN3I7GJA.dpuf
"But let me issue a warning to all automotive drivers: Santa Barbara cyclists have gone collectively insane."   

Collectively Insane? Yep, that was the point of an anti-cycling hit-piece published on the Santa Barbara View website 01-07-2014.  The piece of garbage masquerading as journalism was authored by one, Loretta Redd, and will only swerve to fan the flames of anti-cyclist bigotry.  The only thing worse than the article itself was that someone actually published it.

However, all is not doom and gloom for the rank and file two-wheeler.  A beautiful rebuttal (or "Take down," as the BikinginLA.com blog called it) was put forth by a Mr. Bob Mionske, and it was a logical, thorough, and concise refutation of the blatant lies Ms. Redd laughingly called facts in her article.

Here is the link to Ms. Redd's original piece of garbage:  http://www.santabarbaraview.com/auto-sanctity-and-cycle-sanity54235254/

And, here is the link to Mr. Mionske's Letter to the Editor regarding Ms. Redd's piece of garbage: http://www.santabarbaraview.com/lets-not-avoid-the-real-issues653663/

Also, don't forget to read the comments section to both the origianl article and to Mr. Mionske's rebuttal.  There, you will read some intelligent responses to Ms. Redd's diatribe, and unfortunately, you will also read some very vile, angry, and immature responses, thus highlighting the scope of what cyclists are up against: A very angry and dangerous section of the motoring public, whose concern is only for one's self.

So, to all of my fellow cyclists I say: Be safe out there, and remember to obey all applicable traffic laws.  I also suggest every rider carry a camera to protect themselves in case of Road Rage.  You have to collect your own evidence, because most police departments could care less about cyclists.

Sad, but true, about the latter.

Friday, January 3, 2014

Book Review: Park Tool “Big Blue Book Of Bicycle Repair”

Unless you have been living under that old, proverbial rock, then no doubt you have heard of the Park Tool Company.  Since 1963, they have been providing the bicycle industry with quality tools to keep our rides reliably rolling.  And, with all of this history, it made sense they would put forth a book for the home mechanic on how to get the job done right.  Thus, the Big Blue Book of Bicycle Repair.

First published in 2008 (now in its Second Edition), it was written by C. Calvin Jones, and it pretty much covers every aspect of on and off-road cycling in its eighteen chapters, four appendixes, and 245-pages.  And, while most “How-To” books are as dry as stereo instructions, this book is well laid out with appropriate descriptions, and color, step-by-step photos to help the do-it-your-selfer, as well as listing the proper tool(s) required for the job.

Thorough, step-by-step instructions, with color photos, makes the job easier.

Billed as “A Do-It-Yourself Bicycle Repair Guide,” it is available at most bicycle shops and online.  I think it is a must have for anyone whom even remotely takes their cycling and maintenance seriously.  Personally, I have not only been reading it to inform myself on how to do certain at-home repairs, but I have even found myself referencing the book to make sure the things I have already been doing on my own are indeed correct.

Retail: $24.95 USD
Park Tool part number: BBB-2
ISBN 978-0-976553-02-1

Editor’s Note: The Third Edition, part number BBB-3 has just been released, and it includes many updates in cycling technology since the Second Edition was released, such as 11-speed drive trains, electronic shifting, and additional tubeless wheels/tires systems.