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US Bicycling Hall of Fame launches gran fondo in Davis

Sacramento-area cyclists seeking long group rides should note that the city of Davis will host a new event on May 6th, the Legends Gran Fondo, which is organized by the US Bicycling Hall of Fame. The charity ride, which is open to the public, will raise money to support the USBHoF, a non-profit which recognizes the achievements of American cyclists.

The Legends Gran Fondo will start and finish in downtown Davis, at Central Park on 3rd and C Street. Participants will be given the option of riding the full gran fondo, a 90-mile round trip, or the Medio, a 65-mile route equivalent to a metric century.

Riders on the two routes will have access to high-quality rest-stop nourishment, SAG support and the opportunity to ride alongside some notable names in American cycling, says Blair Robertson in the Sacramento Bee. The most recognizable name, perhaps, is that of Greg LeMond, who won the Tour de France three times before creating his own line of road bikes.

‘Gran fondo’-style events have grown in popularity over the past decade, perhaps because they offer amateur riders the illusion of a pro-tour atmosphere, a contrast to the low-key club rides usually available to them. The bigger gran fondos – most notably Levi’s King Ridge Gran Fondo in Sonoma are spectacular events, featuring very large entry pools, lavish rest-stops, celebrity-participation and a festival atmosphere. In comparison, many charity century rides are dour, poorly organized and exclude riders who are unable to raise sufficient funds.

The Legends Gran Fondo features attractions like starting line call-ups, escorted rolling-enclosure starts, police and medical support, technical assistance, and an official timing-system which gives participants the chance to log their overall speed and progress. The routes are limited to 1,000 riders for this inaugural year, and they take riders out towards Winters, then south for a wide loop. Gran-route riders will do a second loop to make up the additional miles.

Registration fees are $95 for either route, which entitles participants to all the benefits of a fully-supported ride, plus a commemorative t-shirt, or $135, which includes a limited-edition USBHoF jersey. For more information, visit the USBHoF website.

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NAHBS this weekend

Friday, March 2nd is the first day of the annual North American Handmade Bike Show, which is being held in Sacramento for the first time this year. The exhibition brings cycling manufacturers and enthusiasts together for three days of events showcasing the finest handmade bicycles in the world.

Every year since 2005, NAHBS has assembled industry pioneers and innovators in a succession of cycling-friendly cities for the event, which has grown in attendance by 10% each year. This year, 172 individual exhibitors will spread out across the Convention Center in anticipation of several thousand attendees. Last year, the show attracted more than 7,300 industry enthusiasts.

In addition to the vendors’ booths, the show features seminars on a range of topics from framebuilding and engineering, innovation in bike frame materials, custom design and the business of marketing small-production high-end frames.

NAHBS predicts new trends in bike building for 2012, including a surge in the use of modern stainless steel, which is gaining popularity as a lightweight and strong alternative to traditional steel frames. Also, after several years of high-profile road-bikes dominating the national consciousness, mountain-bikes and city-bikes will this year form the majority of the total bike categories represented.

Running concurrently with NAHBS is the local ArtBike! community arts initiative, which will be promoting cycling-related film and culture in Sacramento. Hosts include the ever-reliable midtown restaurant Hot Italian (creators of the Savage Sprints), and a tie-in with Sacramento Beer Week, which is currently in progress.

NAHBS kicks-off on Friday with an industry-exclusive morning, followed by regular admission until 6pm. Awards take place on Sunday at 3pm at the stage area of Hall B & C. Pre-registration is available from the website, and tickets will also be available onsite.

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Slimm Buick at Sac Swing Fest ’12

Celebrated artist and music aficionado Slimm Buick, who recently relocated to the Sacramento area, will present a competitive showcase of custom-designed bicycles at the 2012 Sacramento Swing Time Festival. The event, called The Kustom Bike Show, will be curated by Buick at the Crowne Plaza hotel.

Buick is legendary for his bicycle creations, which often embrace historic Americana themes, and feature classic bikes with sumptuous and eclectic adornments. His celebrated and much-photographed piece Rawhide is a whimsical re-imagining of the cowboy aesthetic, translated to West Coast beach culture. The cruiser is decked out in calfskin, with embossed leather wheel arches, rhinestones and a sheriff’s badge. The Wild West caricature is subverted by the the large basket on the handlebars.

The Kustom Bike Show competition is open to all entries for a $7 fee, and Buick will be judging the best bikes on show. The artist will also indulge his other passion, spinning 45s from the era of Swing to conjure up a mood of early 20th Century American automobile and bike culture.

The fourth annual Sacramento Swing Time Festival will be held on June 23rd, 2012. Tickets are $20.

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Rapha adds new cold-weather gear for 2011

High-end British cycling clothier Rapha has expanded its collection for 2011 with several cold-weather items, including the Pro Team Jacket, which will be available at the end of October and the Hooded Top, new for November. Also launching this month is a new zip-through cardigan-style Track Top, which adds to the line of city cycling jerseys, jeans and tops which the company has been rolling out over the last 18 months.

The new Pro Team Jacket is a high-performance softshell made from the proprietary Polartec membrane, which is windproof and water-repellent while remaining breathable and lightweight. The rear panels are constructed of Super-Roubaix fabric, providing essential wicking performance and insulation for cold-weather riding. Of the striking new color, which is new to the Rapha range of classic, muted hues, the company claims:

Scientific research shows the Chartreuse colourway offers exceptional visibility in low light. Though not technically fluorescent, studies have found that the rods in the retina – the part of the eye that work best in low light – are particularly receptive to the yellow/green color. As a result, chartreuse is increasingly used around the world for emergency vehicles.

The jacket – which is also available in black – features reflective side and rear trim, and the iconic Rapha armband is also reflective. It will be available late-October from the company website and will cost $275.

The Hooded Top is a clever mix of Merino for warmth, plus windproof panels to improve insulation. A close-fitting hood adds a contemporary edge to the top, and front and rear pockets add versatility. The Hooded Top will be available mid-November, and will sell for $195.

The Track Top is a characteristically low-key, elegant cardigan with a full-length zipper and subtle styling. Intended for wearing as a removable outer-layer in cool weather, the Track Top is constructed of 100% Merino wool, and is knitted – not stitched – together. It comes in charcoal gray or burgundy, and will sell for $165.

Already available, but new to the Rapha range, the Merino Roll Neck is a lightweight but high-performance woolen cycling jersey in the style of the classic jerseys worn by pro-riders in the early years of the 20th Century. Close-fitting, with a tall roll-neck and chest-level striping, the stylish jersey is available in one color – the popular Rapha black.

Rapha was recently named one of the fastest-growing UK companies by the Sunday Times in Britain. The company was founded in 2004, and has steadily built up a devoted following among cyclists in Europe and the US by offering low-key, classically-styled clothing of high-quality. A office in Portland, Oregon oversees the US market, which is increasingly receptive to the Rapha brand of old-school English tailoring. The company also sells high-performance waterproofs, shorts, accessories and a range of cosmetics and luggage.

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“Give Me 3″ bill vetoed by Governor Brown

In an unexpected last-minute move Friday afternoon, Governor Brown vetoed the popular pro-cycling “Give Me 3″ bill which had been making steady progress through congress. Despite overwhelming support from the cycling industry, road safety advocates and cyclists alike, the bill in its current form will not become law.

Governor Brown, bowing to pressure from automotive groups, the CHP and the Teamsters union, chose to question aspects of the bill which stipulate that drivers unable to afford cyclists three feet of passing space be obligated to slow down to 15mph when passing.

Brown also repeated many of the same concerns which have arisen since the bill was introduced, including issues of traffic build-up where cars are forced to slow for cyclists. Jim Brown, of the California Bicycle Coalition, was swift to characterize such concerns as baseless, citing some 20 states which already have 3-foot passing laws on the books, and which report no problems issuing from the requirements.

“It’s a bill that’s been road-tested in a lot of states…we’re not at the forefront here. The idea that there’s going to be a rash of collisions isn’t supported by other states’s experience.”

A note of disappointment, no doubt echoed by millions of California cyclists, was clear in Jim Brown’s statement,

“We never dreamed that this would be the hardest part of passing the bill – convincing the governor.”

Governor Brown’s rejection of SB910 will not go unnoticed by the ranks of cyclists in California, many of whom have experienced mistreatment on the state’s roads. Passage of a pro-cyclist bill would have gone a long way towards promoting California as a bike-friendly state, instead of a place where cyclists are marginalized.

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Seattle follows Portland by expanding bike lanes. Can Sacramento follow?

New bicycling initiatives being launched in Seattle echo successful projects in Portland, and could influence similar decisions in Sacramento. The new “greenways” being planned in several Seattle neighborhoods will take cyclists off busy arteries and through re-designed side streets, where speed-bumps, modified sidewalks and curbs, and special stop-signs will give priority to cyclists as well as pedestrians.

The first greenway will run through the Wallingford district of north-central Seattle, and advocates hope to develop further greenways in at least three other neighborhoods. The city takes its cue from it’s southern neighbor, progressively pro-bike Portland, which has more than thirty greenways, and which predicts that 80% of city residents will live within half a mile of a greenway by 2015.

The initiatives in place in Portland and Seattle put to shame the efforts in Sacramento, which claims to be a bike-friendly city but which has pitifully few dedicated bike lanes, no greenways, and an outdated but muscular pro-car bent. The region’s single saving concession – the American River Trail – was established decades ago, and has not been expanded or improved upon since, despite expansion and realignment of the city’s commercial and residential areas.

The Portland greenways cost an estimated $250,000 per mile, an expense which Seattle hopes to recoup through an additional car-tab fee of $60. Over ten years, the tax would raise more than $200 million for additional transportation projects to help promote cycling and walking in the city.

In cash-strapped, pro-car Sacramento, the possibility of introducing a levy on motor-vehicles to pay for bike-lane improvements or greenways seems unlikely. Many of the region’s essential roads are in disrepair and further cuts to the DOT budget are pending.

However, as pro-cycling advocates frequently point out, cycling has cost benefits that reach far beyond the immediate advantages for keen bike-commuters. An active citizenry which solves its own economic and health problems by choosing to commute via bicycle instead of motor-vehicle injects vitality and treasure into the local economy, and may even go so far as to improve the desirability of residential property in the region.

Bike lanes and greenways can’t fix every problem that plagues Sacramento, but the cost-benefit ratio is enormous, and worthy of further consideration.

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Gran Fondo route changes for 2011

Levi’s Gran Fondo, the annual Sonoma County cycling festival and group ride, will take a slightly different route for this year’s event, say organizers. Rolling road-closures and a recent landslide have necessitated the changes, which will not have an impact upon the main climbs and descents of the route.

The basic course, laid out for the inaugural Gran Fondo in 2009, takes riders on one of three scenic rides: the Gran, which covers 103 miles and incorporates King Ridge Road; the Medio, which is 65 miles and cuts out King Ridge and the additional climbs; and the Piccolo, a 32 mile recreational ride which keeps participants away from the more remote western portions of Sonoma County.

The altered route for 2011 affects one portion of the final approach back into Santa Rosa, which riders in the Gran and Medio will encounter. A landslide on Coleman Valley Road, near Occidental, has caused a large hole to open up in the pavement, making passage dangerous for cars and bikes. An alternate route via Bittner Road has been suggested. Bittner runs parallel to Coleman Valley Road, but approaches Occidental from the south side of town. Riders would access Bittner from Joy Road, adding about a mile to the course.

Additionally, CHP have indicated that a mandatory cut-off will be required for Gran-route riders at the River Road/Cazadero Highway intersection. Riders who fail to reach the intersection before 10.30am will be redirected onto the Medio route, thereby avoiding the King Ridge portion of the Gran Fondo. Presumably this is to regulate rolling road-closures at the Meyer’s Grade/Pacific Coast Highway intersection, which was held open for riders in 2009 and 2010. Road closures are particularly important for Gran Fondo, since several of the main intersections are busy, and several thousand riders are required to flow through them during the course of the day.

Finally, event organizers have indicated that part of the route will be on unpaved roadway, a return to the authentic but generally unpopular climax of the 2009 Gran Fondo. In that year, riders were directed onto a loose gravel pathway for two miles before emerging at the finish. A gravel section is common on many European gran fondo rides, but some American participants of Levi’s Gran Fondo – many of whom did not expect the detour and did not know how to handle the surface – were frustrated and unhappy about having to ride on it.

Levi’s Gran Fondo takes place on October 1st this year, and is expected to attract the usual mixture of riders from Sacramento and all over Northern California, as well as a few individuals from out of state and overseas.

 

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County blames cyclists for most crashes

Officials speaking for Sacramento County claim that most incidents of car-on-bike violence in the area are the fault of cyclists, writes Cody Kitaura in a recent article. According to the Bicycle Master Plan, an extensive document published online by the Sacramento Municipal Transportation Agency, 74% of crashes involving cyclists in the area were caused by bicycles. The overwhelming majority of those crashes were caused by cyclists riding the wrong way.

Riding the wrong way on a public road is illegal, but many cyclists choose to ride in designated bike lanes facing oncoming traffic for one simple reason: they feel more safe when they can see the cars heading towards them.

The roads in Sacramento are poorly equipped for bicycle commuters, with inadequate bike lanes and lacklustre enforcement of in-lane car-parking violations. Many important arteries have no designated cycling paths at all, or else they abruptly discontinue bike lanes in stretches of road where they become inconvenient for drivers.

In an region where drivers routinely assault cyclists, and law-enforcement officers favor cars over bikes, many riders feel vulnerable on the roads. Pedestrians are traditionally advised, when walking on the roadside, to face oncoming traffic so that in the event of a driver swerving into the verge, they might be able to avoid being struck. The same wisdom has been embraced by cyclists, who take up very little of the roadway and who assume that drivers will be better able to see them coming on the road.

But riding on the wrong side of the road remains illegal, and should not be encouraged. The problem is, in the absence of overdue, underfunded, long-promised cycling lane expansion in Sacramento, in order to obey the law cyclists must wrestle with a population of heavy car and truck users who care little about their safety, and who don’t think twice about yelling, swearing and honking at cyclists as they approach, and forcing them off the roads when they pass.

Without a serious examination of the attitude of drivers in Sacramento towards cyclists on the roads, there is little chance of an end to the practice of riding on the wrong side of the road. When drivers agree to obey the law regarding passing cyclists safely, perhaps cyclists will reciprocate by staying on the correct side of the road.

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Redesigned Grand Prix to return to Sacramento

Downtown Sacramento will host a new major criterium on September 10, bringing hundreds of top US cyclists back to the city for the final weekend of the national racing season. The Sacramento Grand Prix adopts the model set in 2010, a street-race that ushered in the prologue of the Amgen Tour of California.

The reborn Grand Prix criterium has been moved to a new slot in the racing calendar, occupying the weekend before the cycling industry’s biggest convention, Interbike, in Las Vegas, NV. Race organizers Project Sport hope the Grand Prix will come to be regarded as a memorable and important closing competition on the US racing schedule each year. Sacramento’s proximity to Las Vegas will make the race attractive to riders committed to attending Interbike.

The projected course will take 500 riders in six fields around a tight one-mile route around the capitol. The riders will complete 50 laps in total, creating a major visual attraction for the estimated 10,000 assembled spectators. Competitors are expected to range in ability from recognizable pro-tour household names down to first-time amateur racers. There will also be an over-35 field, and a law-enforcement category.

Grand Prix organizers conceived the event in response to the huge public support and turnout for the Amgen Tour of California over the last few years. Sacramento is frequently selected as a host for one of the stages of the ToC, but in the event that the city is passed-over in future years, the Grand Prix will provide local cycling fans with a major, all-day event which organizers and city officials hope will replace revenues normally filled by the Tour of California.

The criterium course begins and ends on L Street, opposite the Capitol. From there, riders travel west, then turn down 10th St, onto N St, then up 15th St before turning back onto L Street. The route encapsulates the whole of Capitol Park, providing plenty of opportunity for spectators and vendors to find a space on the inside or the outside of the course. A $10,000 prize is on offer, making the Sacramento Grand Prix one of the richest purses on the US Cycling schedule.

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Sacramento PD cyclists attempt 2011 Race Across America

On Saturday, June 18th, eight members of the Sacramento Police Department will gather at the starting line of the longest, fastest cycling race in America. Beginning in Oceanside, CA, competitors in the Race Across America(RAAM) will attempt to become the first individual or team to cross the finish line in Annapolis, MD, 3,000 miles away.

The RAAM is split into divisions – or categories – which separate relay teams from solo riders. Teams can be made up of 2, 4 or 8 riders who share the workload along the route. Solo riders are responsible for riding the entire race alone. The Sacramento PD will operate in a relay, with each individual cyclist riding for three hours at a stretch before handing off to a teammate.

Competitors in the RAAM ride against a clock which is always running, from the moment the first bike crosses the start line all the way across the country to the finish. The relay teams are expected to ride non-stop, 24 hours a day, while the top-ranked solo riders will be on the bike without a rest for more than 22 hours every day. The race has a 12-day time limit, so the solo riders at the front are forced to limit their sleep to 90 minutes in order to remain competitive. Because of this extreme demand, many critics say the RAAM is more about sleep deprivation than cycling skill or endurance, with the winner usually being the rider who can stay awake the longest.

Sacramento Police Department is riding for a reason: they are trying to raise money and media attention for the National Law Enforcement Memorial in Washington D.C. The memorial highlights the danger that police officers face in the line of duty. The cyclists from Sacramento will visit local police departments and memorials along the route to show their support for the cause.

Ideally, the participation of a group of police officers in a high-profile cycling race will raise awareness among police departments in the US of the risks that cyclists face on the nation’s roads. Complaints are common among regular road cyclists that the police often turn a blind eye to aggressive and negligent driving, or favor the automobile driver over the cyclist in the case of car-on-bike violence.

The team’s progress in the RAAM will be tracked over the next 12 days at the Sac PD website, where you can see photos and read reports from the road. There is also a real-time GPS tracker, and links to the official race leaderboard.

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