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Sacramento Tweed to host Seersucker Ride

Local sartorialists Sacramento Tweed will stage an informal group ride on Sunday, June 26th at 11am in downtown Sacramento. The event will incorporate a picnic in Land Park, a tour of the Crocker Art Museum, and a post-ride tipple at DeVeere’s Irish Pub.

Originally scheduled for the weekend of the 3rd June, the ride was postponed due to the filthy weather. Forecasts are much more favorable for the coming weeks, promising a warm and dry day of cycling-related revelry and Edwardian fashion.

Fans of classic European fabrics will rejoice at the event, which will offer riders the opportunity to showcase their finest seersucker suits. The organization’s blog briefly outlines a suggested dress-code, emphasising a “spirit of inclusiveness and conviviality, which means we don’t care about what you wear (although please wear something appropriate for warm weather–no heavy tweed, please!), or what you ride. All we want is that you wear a smile, and ride what you’re happiest riding.”

The ride begins at 11am in front of Revolution Wines. The shop, located at 29 & S St, will be open an hour early to service the congregated houndstooth enthusiasts in the form of handmade sandwiches for the picnic. Riders will depart and observe a leisurely pace south towards Land Park, where several hours have been set aside for communal luncheon. Cupcakes and iced popsicles will be made available by local retailers for those riders with a sweet tooth.

Post-picnic, aesthetes will again mount their cycles and head to the Crocker, where a special group rate for admission has been offered by the gallery. The thirsty may adjourn to the cafe for a glass of pinot gris, or wait until the group reaches its final destination, DeVeere’s Irish Pub on 15th & L Street. Live music has been promised, the genre of which is yet to be announced. At least one accordion would be appropriate, and no doubt greatly appreciated by the cyclists.

Sacramento Tweed encourages all participants to observe contemporary highway bylaws, while maintaining a certain historic perspective. Cellphones have not been banned, but would probably impinge upon the authenticity of the event.

For more information, visit Sacramento Tweed.

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Midtown Sacramento launches bike-share initiative

Ride Your Own Way, a new bike-sharing program for mid-town Sacramento, is set to launch on June 11th, says Brandon Darnell of The Sacramento Press. The bicycle-rental initiative is sponsored by Ikon Cycles, the tiny boutique bike shop on 18th St run by local cycling advocate Adrian Moore.

Moore donated the bikes to the program, saying “I had some extra money and I thought it was kind of an investment in Sacramento.” The bikes were purchased in a closeout sale from Italian manufacturer Bianchi. Moore spent $4,000 on 12 bicycles, a small but significant initial fleet of rental units for the planned six-month trial period.

“I’d like to see a private entity be able to run it and profit from it, but the reality is there really is very little profit in bike share programs.” Added Moore. His own donation of bikes was part of a group including Curb Locking Systems, the company which donated the bike locking stands, and the Midtown Business Association.

The first bike stations will be located at 28th and J Street in midtown, where customers will be able to rent a bike for free for the first 30 minutes. After the initial time-period is up, users’ credit cards will be billed a $2 fee for each additional 30-minute period. The bikes must be returned to their original location, otherwise the user will be charged $500 to “keep” the bike.

Rob Kerth, Executive Director of the Midtown Business Association is enthusiastic about the bike-share program.

“I see this as having many uses. Folks who don’t have a bike but don’t want to deal with parking at lunchtime would be a perfect example.”

Kerth envisions future bike stations situated at light rail stations and bus stops, enabling commuters to pick up bikes from all kinds of locations around Sacramento, and eventually drop them off at any other bike station.

“It wouldn’t take very much at all to keep this going”, Kerth added. ” Sacramento is great bicycle country, we have tree-lined streets, it’s flat, and the weather is great for it.”

Users are encouraged to bring their own cycle helmets, but Moore will also be renting helmets from his shop for a nominal $3 day-use fee.

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Successful Bike Month despite poor weather

Sacramento is not the only US city to organize cycling promotions during the month of May, but the local May Is Bike Month initiative has become one of the most successful and widely-observed city programs in the nation since its inception. Thousands of cyclists participate and attend cycling-themed celebrations and events throughout the month, often logging their accumulated mileage on the website.

This year, May Is Bike Month coincided with the return of Bicycle Film Festival to Sacramento, as well as two local stages of the Amgen Tour of California. On the 12th May, the cycling art and culture showcase came to downtown, bringing a selection of films and events. Then, on the 16th, the second official stage (but the first actual race) of the tour finished in Sacramento after a last-minute change to the start. The following day, the peloton rode through Folsom on its way to Modesto.

The success of this year’s May Is Bike Month can be measured in terms of distance traveled. The website – which encourages riders to sign up and log their accumulated miles for the month – this year set a target of 1,000,000 miles before pledges came in which took the total target to 1,474,970. As of 10am Tuesday morning, with fourteen hours to go, the total accumulated miles for May stood at 1,245,229. Many riders may not have visited the website in order to input their personal mileage, so despite the shortfall, the target could easily still be reached. Logging remains open until Friday, June 3rd.

6,717 cyclists from the Sacramento area participated in the website mile-log, with several individuals racking up over 2,000 miles each – around 65 miles everyday – an impressive achievement when you consider the weather, which has brought some of the wettest and coolest conditions on record for the month.

The biggest upset caused by the inclement weather was the last-minute cancellation of the first stage of the Tour of California due to snowfall and freezing temperatures in Lake Tahoe. The poor weather followed the pro cyclists for several days before a brief period of high pressure brought back the usual California conditions. Since then, the Sacramento area has suffered further storms, heavy rain and wind. Forecasts predict clouds and rain showers well into June, before the long-awaited return of sunny, 80F days.

This year’s May Is Bike Month appears to continue the happy trend for more cycling-related events in Sacramento over the previous year. As greater numbers of locals reach for their bike instead of their car-keys, the region grows more healthy and more bike-friendly: a win-win situation.

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Lazer Sphere road helmet

In the western United States – and California in particular – the market for cycling helmets is dominated by the highly-visible Scotts Valley manufacturer Giro, whose Atmos, Ionos and Aeon road helmets are ubiquitous on the heads of amateurs and pros alike. Giro have been highly successful at placing their product in the pro teams, and their designs are both technically advanced and attractive to consumers.

Outside the US Giro has a strong foothold, but the company shares the market with the established European manufacturer Lazer. Lazer holds the distinction of being the oldest helmet maker in the world in continual operation, established in 1919 in Belgium. Over the last 92 years, the company has been responsible for innovating and developing almost every generation of cycling helmet technology.

The Lazer Sphere occupies a position in the Lazer range just below the Helium and the Genesis, making it a strong competitor for upper-mid-range priced helmets like the Giro Saros. The current model features the classic Lazer profile: a sharply downward-sweeping front with a rather abrupt rear when compared to other road helmets. In fact, the Sphere has been redesigned to offer greater protection to the back of the head, and this model features a broader, more substantial rear arrangement, with some attractive and functional venting beneath the sweeping lines which separate the top portion from the lower back piece.

The Sphere is extraordinarily lightweight – just 292g, despite the manufacturer’s claim of 315g nominal mass. Compare this to my Giro Atmos, which weighs in at 297g and my Giro Ionos which tips the scale at 308g. The Sphere is a smaller helmet all around, with a very sleek fore-section which fits close and snug to the head. This racier profile is visually appealing, especially if – like me – you’re used to Giro’s mushroom-head effect. The lines are fast and streamlined, with higher side-sections and a more top-of-the-head feeling than other helmets I’ve worn recently.

The chin strap is the best I’ve ever encountered on a road helmet, and the adjusters are smooth, easy to manipulate and sturdy. The nylon is high-quality and soft, and is arranged to clear the edges of the ears without any rubbing. I could wear the Sphere all day and be perfectly happy; this is a profoundly comfortable helmet. The straps look a little odd when you see the shorter, faster profile of the helmet, appearing to fasten closer to the front than I’m used to on similar helmets. Since the Sphere is essentially a flatter, less bulky helmet, you notice things like straps and where they appear. This is not necessarily a criticism of the design, but rather a personal opinion on the overall appearance. On my regular helmets, the straps appear further back and deeper, essentially becoming less visible when seen from the side.

The adjustable interior cradles the head with flexible plastic bands covered with Lazer’s X-Static foam cushions, while an innovative tube-and-wire arrangement allows minute adjustments via the wheel on the top of the helmet. This seems to me a more user-friendly and precise system than the ones on my regular helmets, although I did worry about the wires relaxing during the course of a long ride. Essentially, the wires pull the cradle tighter around the crown of the head, but without a locking mechanism, the system is prone to slipping open again. That said, I didn’t notice any looseness during my riding with the Sphere.

The Sphere is well ventilated, with 21 vents (23 if you count the central holes at the back) placed thoughtfully to provide cooling to every part of the head. As I mentioned earlier, the Sphere rides a lot higher on the wearer’s head than many other helmets, so overheating is unlikely. However, ventilation is not an exact science when you account for the variables in each rider, including the shape of an individual’s head, his hair length and style, whether he wears a cap or not, etc. The Sphere definitely errs on the side over-ventilation, which ought to satisfy Sacramento-area summertime cyclists, for whom every little extra breath of air is a bonus.

If I had one enduring criticism of the Sphere, it would be the use of a moulded shell reinforcement on the exterior, which is finished in a high-gloss laminate. The effect is, unfortunately, a rather cheap-looking helmet which belies the high-tech, high-performance item underneath. I vastly prefer the look of both my Ionos and my Atmos, which have a low-gloss finish with careful attention to detail. The Sphere seems to cry out for a more sophisticated color-scheme, finish and shell design, and that is really the great downfall of this particular helmet.

For around $130, the Sphere offers very sleek European styling in an (unfortunately) slightly dowdy package, let down by too much glossy sheen. If you can see past the cheap-plastic look of the finish, the Sphere ought to make Californian cyclists seriously consider reaching for something other than the Giro.

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Keep calm and carry on

This morning, I was going to write about the excitement surrounding the Amgen Tour of California, which rolls into Sacramento in a week. The race comes here almost every year, but for some reason the excitement and apprehension seems greater this year than in the past. The field is wide open, and the competition is hungry for a new figurehead; a new spokesman. Indeed, the whole sport of cycling is furiously seeking a new king, and all the major races – including the Tour of California – will be watched more closely this year than ever before.

I was going to write about the Tour of California, but this morning – a few hours ago – a young Belgian rider named Wouter Weylandt crashed during a fast descent on the third stage of the Giro d’Italia. He was 26, and he died from his injuries.

Wouter wasn’t well known outside the sport of cycling. Not yet, anyway. He was one of those tall, impossibly handsome guys with bright blonde hair and a huge white smile. On the bike he cut a broad, intimidating figure, most recently in the sober black and white of the newly-formed Leopard Trek team for which he rode.

Wouter wasn’t well known, but there is something about the death of a young man – particularly an athlete – which captures and crystallizes the horror of mortality in the mind of the public. How can a strong, attractive, successful 26-year-old, so alive and brimming with life one minute, be limp and lifeless a few minutes later? Most people had never heard of Wouter Weylandt before today, but less than an hour after he died, his name was one of the top trending topics on Twitter. Thousands of individuals around the world felt the impact of Wouter’s crash, and they came forward to express their horror, then their disbelief, and finally their sorrow.

Cycling is not a safe sport. You can look at the riders in their flimsy gear and lightweight helmets and dismiss them as posers who take few risks: just sit on the saddle, spin your pedals and point in the right direction. But when riders go down, they go down hard – often at speeds exceeding fifty miles per hour – onto narrow ribbons of tarmac wrapped around the edges of mountains. The ones that get up again – and most do, thankfully – display the shredded ruins of their cycling outfits clinging to vast and bloody wounds. Wrists, collarbones and ribs are frequently broken. Arms, legs and faces are torn up and bruised.

With a tragic regularity, notable riders in major races go down hard and do not get back up again. Fabio Casartelli, Isaac Gálvez, Andrei Kivilev. Wouter’s fellow countryman, Jean-Pierre Monseré, was the world champion when he was killed in a collision during the Grote Jaarmarktprijs in 1971. I can’t think of another sport with so regular or so high a body count.

As a cyclist who regularly rides on the roads around Sacramento, and as a writer who regularly reports on cyclists who are killed while riding bikes, I am filled with familiar emotions. Sickness, horror and appalling sadness. No one should have to risk their life in order to perform well at their sport. And yet Wouter Weylandt obviously adored cycling. He was starting his career, and had his greatest victories ahead of him. As he came down that steep section of the Passo del Bocco this morning, I have no doubt that danger was the furthest thing from his mind. He was focused upon winning the stage for a second time and establishing his name in the Giro d’Italia. I believe there was determination and intense concentration on his face, not fear, doubt or reservation. He wasn’t holding anything back, nor should he have been.

And nor should we. Cycling is a dangerous sport. It was dangerous for Wouter Weylandt in the mountains of Liguria and it is dangerous for us on the streets in our home towns. But if we give up and say enough is enough, this isn’t worth the risk, then we let the fear of uncontrollable consequences rob us of one of life’s purest and most enduring joys: sitting on a saddle, spinning the pedals and seeing where we end up.

Wouter’s girlfriend, Sophie, is expecting their first child in September. As a father, I am almost unbearably sad for this wounded family. I hope Weylandt’s baby is born healthy and happy, and that he or she grows up surrounded with people who knew and loved Wouter. I also hope that the baby grows up understanding that Wouter chose professional cycling despite the risks, and that he would never blame the sport of cycling for his death. I hope the child embraces cycling as a connection to his or her father, and grows to love it as Wouter so obviously did.

Goodbye, Wouter Weylandt. May you rest in peace forever.


City of Folsom plans ToC “viewing event”

The small, historic town of Folsom, east of Sacramento, will host a “viewing party” along Sutter Street on May 17th. Spectators will congregate to watch Stage 3 of the Amgen Tour of California, which starts in Auburn and ends in Modesto.

The racers will enter Folsom and cross the local landmark Rainbow Bridge around 10.45am before continuing south through Rancho Cordova and on to Modesto. The intersection of Sutter and Riley in Old Folsom – a short, steep climb for the cyclists – marks the first unofficial “sprint point”, according to Robert Goss, director of Folsom Parks and Recreation. This section has been dubbed “The Folsom Prison Breakaway Sprint”.

From Sutter Street, the riders will proceed to Blue Ravine, Prairie City and White Rock Road – all of which are familiar routes for Sacramento area cyclists.

Local businesses and the Folsom Tourism Bureau have offered a $1,000 cash prize for the first cyclist to reach the “sprint point”.

Festivities on the morning of the event, which begins at 9.30am, include a DJ, street vendors, and a prize draw for a customized bicycle donated by popular local bike shop Bicycles Plus. The event is expected to wrap up around 11.30am.

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More bike lanes for downtown Sac

Sacramento city council has approved plans for an increase in the number of downtown bicycle lanes over the next 18 months. The Department of Transportation has been given the green light to develop two phases of bicycle lane construction; projects which will introduce dedicated cycle lanes on some of the city’s busiest streets.

The cash-strapped city managed to find $629,000 to allocate to the project, which will proceed this summer in conjunction with scheduled maintenance on the city’s streets. The first phase of the project will add painted bicycle lanes to J Street, I Street, 9th Street, 5th Street, 10th Street and Capitol Mall, where the roads are typically wide enough already to accommodate a dedicated cycle lane. In many cases, substantial bikeways can be added with little or no impact on existing traffic lanes or parking.

The second phase will oversee the removal of existing traffic lanes from several major one-way streets. A single lane of traffic can be split to provide a dedicated cycle lane on each side of the road. Streets scheduled for the second phase of development include stretches of 5th Street, 9th Street, 10th Street, G Street and H Street.

The plans aim to create an environment downtown which resembles the bike-friendly portions of midtown, where cycling is popular and bikeways are more common.

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CHP announces new fines for cyclists

The California Highway Patrol has announced plans to introduce penalties for cyclists who use a cellphone while riding. The fine – $20 (before additional fees) is for first-time offenders. Repeat offenders would face fines of $50 for each incident.

The new penalties were outlined in a bill that was approved by the state Senate on Monday, April 25th. The bill also increases penalties for drivers who use a cellphone while driving. They could face fines of more than $500 for repeat offenses, once fees have been tacked on to the basic fine. The bill was introduced during April’s National Distracted Driving Awareness Month.

As cellphones become ubiquitous, it is not unusual to see cyclists pausing to retrieve a ringing phone from a pocket while they cruise along city streets. Motorists have been doing the same for many years, often with tragic results.

But the bill has its opponents among cycling advocates, who maintain that cyclists need greater protection, not more restrictions, when riding on the road.

“This is only going to be one more obstacle for someone who uses their bicycle for transportation.” Said Tani Walling, a bike shop owner from southern California. “Everything about how our streets and sidewalks are set up favors cars.”

Every year, law enforcement hands out tens of thousands of citations in California for drivers using cellphones to talk or text while driving. Over 18s are required to use hands-free devices, while under-18s are prohibited from using any kind of phone while driving a car.



Same route, same roads, but

Today I made three big humps

Up the ball-breaker.

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Bicycle Film Festival returns to Sacramento

Bicycle Film Festival – the New York-based cycling art and culture showcase – will return to Sacramento this May, coinciding with the popular May Is Bike Month initiative and the Amgen Tour of California. BFF had its Sacramento debut last year, and the positive reception secured a return for the international festival.

“I’m stoked we’re bringing the Bicycle Film Festival back to Sac, where we had such a huge turnout last year,” festival Director Brendt Barbur told The Sacramento Press. “Sacramento is a perfect city for BFF due to its love of the arts and music and rich cycling heritage.”

BFF will arrive on Thursday, May 12th, when the Crocker Art Museum will host the opening party before showing a selection of short films. The festival will then move to Fremont Park at 16th and Q for Friday and Saturday, where more films will be shown, along with competitions and music. The event is sponsored by Hot Italian and Sierra Nevada Brewing, and admission and bike valet parking are free.

Bicycle Film Festival started in 2001 in New York and quickly gained the attention of the mainstream media. This year, the festival will visit more than 20 cities in a dozen different countries.

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