Category: Cycling

AIDS LifeCycle – the Recap

halfway_to_la.jpgSunday morning in San Diego. The birds are chirping, the sun is shining, the neighbors are getting annoyed at the 217th time they have to listen to Lily Allen sing The Fear. I woke up a few hours ago, dreaming I have to get my pretty-bag together, rush to the showers to stand in line with hundreds of people for a meager cup of thin coffee. None of that, today, though.

ALC 8 – AIDS LifeCycle – is over. We triumphantly entered Los Angeles, the most unlikely place in the world to end a bicycle ride, hugged and kissed each other good-bye, and laughed and cried with friends and family that had come to pick us up. We were promised the experience of a life time, and it certainly was. 

Here is my recap of the event – take it as a primer for first-time riders.


AIDS LifeCycle

alc.jpgIf you haven’t heard it yet, you will do so soon: I am participating in this year’s AIDS LifeCycle ride. So far, I successfully skirted the issue by being busy or traveling, but this year my friends that are close to the AIDS Foundation told me that charity is drying up and that they need both the support and the free marketing desperately, like never before.

What is AIDS LifeCycle? Well, it’s a bicycle tour that goes from San Francisco to Los Angeles in 6 grueling days. Modeled after other charity races, AIDS LifeCycle participants pledge to raise a minimum of $3000 for the good cause. As it turns out, people are more willing to give you money if you put your personal effort on the line.

I find everything about the ride challenging. There are the 100 daily miles for a week, the challenge of meeting thousands of strangers, and the need to ask people for money. But, heck, I knew that was going to happen – and I am pushing all the way to get my funding goal in! Please help if you can!

San Francisco to Woodside and Back

My friend Stephen and I decided to spend the Friday zipping down the peninsula, scorning the more common Marin ride. S. was about to embark on a week-long trip to the Caribbean and needed a boost of workout before languishing lazily at the pool, checking out the Caribbean belles.

We met at Peet's on Market (which meant I had to log my sorry butt over the hills of San Francisco) and went from there. I immediately nixed the route over Great Highway, since the day was one of those blustery winter days San Francisco's summer is so famous for.

Bundled up in our many layers, we started down Valencia, merged into Mission and then proceeded to hit on El Camino for the way down the Peninsula. It was obvious S. had never seen that part of town before, which I took to be a great new adventure. The scenery changes rapidly from the little shops in the Outer Mission (and the crowds of Friday morning) to the lavish cemeteries of Colma.



I am used to that from the old days when I taught classes after college – sporting instructors are terribly high-maintenance, and spinning instructors are no exception. So, to the drama of bikes that are constantly breaking in really bad ways at the Gold's Gym on Brannan, we have a collective of instructors that constantly bad-mouth each other when out of earshot.

I got an inkling of that last year, when JP, one of the instructors, decided I should take over one of his classes because he had to go on a long trip and couldn't find enough subs. I thought it would be a neat experience, and I got ready. 

The day, a Saturday, came, I had about 8 people in class, and we all had a good time. I goofed badly a few times, for instance not realizing that the "Double Left" goes with a fast song, not with a slow one, but all in all the class supported me. They were actually the sweetest, going all the way with me. 


ALC Training Ride

{moszoomimglink:Sausalito}My friends Stephen and James decided they would go to the AIDS LifeCycle ride this year again, and are getting all their friends to help out, or join. After a little bit of prodding, and after a very positive weather forecast, I finally agreed to join them for their Sunday training ride.

I thought it was just going to be a bunch of guys from spinning class, but it turned out to be a major training ride for the whole San Francisco contingent of ALC. So, while I was puzzled as to why we would want to meet at 6:45 for a ride that wouldn't start until 7:30, it all made sense once I saw the about 200 riders congregate.


Nightly ALC Class

AIDS Lifecycle LogoIt's been now six weeks that my friend Steven started teaching a spinning class at 7p at the Brannan Gold's gym here in San Francisco. The unusual thing: it's his way of getting to his pledge for the yearly AIDS Lifecycle Ride (ALC). 

If you don't know, the ALC is a charity ride from San Francisco to Los Angeles, just like the more famour AIDS Ride. The latter has gotten a bad reputation for mismanagement of funds, so there has been an effort to create a ride where as much of the funds goes to AIDS research as possible: ALC.

Every year, a big contingent leaves San Francisco in June to ride to L.A. It's a grueling ride (545 miles), mostly performed by people that don't really spend a lot of time on their bikes, for whom the ride is as much of a challenge as the fundraising before. 


Steaming, smoking, hot

JP’s class this morning. The usual hard workout, high speed, high intensity, lotsa sweat. I was put in the front row (JP wants me there), with the sun shining from the back and the windows open. I sweat, I run, I chase, I sweat.

It’s time to stretch and slow down, and then the unexpected happens: steam starts rising from my body. The sun plays with it, and the whole class stares at me, the steaming, smoking hot man in red bib short…

Six times a week

Recently, JP became a spinning instructor and has taken over the Wednesday and Friday slots that I avoided like the plague. I want to help him out in the beginning, since he’s got no takers yet and the guy that was there beforehand has sent everybody into the stratosphere in search of a class.

Of course, that means I am going to take his class for the first few weeks until he gets his own regulars. And I don’t want to leave the Tuesday and Thursday class, taught by Carol, who does a great job at cycling. Her classes really try to mimic what I’d do in the Great Outdoors.

Take the weekend and its own load, and I end up with six classes. I’ll skip the Monday class for no good reason but the fact that I just need to relax one day. And here comes the million dollar question:

"Is it good to do six days of spinning a week?"


Escape from Alcatraz

{moszoomimglink:dynamism}Somehow ever since Louie told me he liked ‘Escape from Alcatraz’, I had a fondness for the men and women who attempt this gruesome race. You have to swim from Alcatraz to Baker Beach (don’t forget the white sharks on the way!), then cycle around the Presidio forever, and finally run up and down the cliffs.

Not a fun thing to do, if you ask me. But quite a few people like it, and I happened to stumble across them on a Sunday ride to Marin. I was wondering why I wasn’t allowed to park at the Bridge, until the friendly park ranger told me Escape from Alcatraz was on.  I stopped and took a few pics, and reminded myself I had to be better prepared next year.


My Lemond Tete de Course


{moszoomimglink:tete.gif}One sunny July afternoon my Bianchi Veloce had decided it was time to quit. The first thing to give way had been the clamp on the 105-s, and replacing it had been a major problem. So I started looking at alternatives.

I knew what I needed: a sturdy, yet light bike; some better components than the 105-s, whose shifting shifting had annoyed me beyond means on uphill struggles; overall, something that could withstand both the perils of a daily commute and the pleasure of a century on a weekend (and the nut-case that would do both).


Two weeks later, I was casually browsing through Palo Alto Cycles, a store that always left me ambivalent because of the widely diverging skills of the staff. The last experience was with the guy that gave me the clamp for the Bianchi for free and even offered to install it.

I checked the single-racked (i.e. expensive) bikes, and this beautiful Titanium Lemond coyly looked back. It was beautiful, with the cool shimmer of titanium, the minimalist look of the Bontrager wheels and the mechanical accuracy of Dura Ace components.

It was on sale. Someone had ordered it, but had ultimately chosen to wait for the 10-speed 2003. It was my size. I turned the pedal arms once, twice, and they cooed in unison, the ball bearings clicking ever so softly.