Those Solid White Lines For Bike Lanes Are Meaningless

bike lane carnage

I got an education the other day about when motorists can enter a bike lane to turn. Maybe I’m just a slow learner and this will come as no surprise to the many cycling advocates out there but it was a disappointing revelation to me.

I encounter the above scene in Mountain View on one of my alternate commute routes. It’s on Sylvan Avenue going Southbound at the El Camino Real traffic light. As you can see, several vehicles are to the right of the SOLID WHITE LINE preparing to make a right turn. Just ahead of the dark sedan in front of the white pickup is a dashed white line. I had always understood that the dashed white line was there so we all would know when motor vehicles could enter the bike lane. Car traffic was at a standstill for a minute or two so I took the picture since it seemed like a clear violation.

Armed with this evidence, I sent the photo to ‘Ask Mountain View’ (great little app BTW) and requested that the Police check this out and provide some enforcement.

Within a day I got a response from the Mountain View Police that the vehicle code says cars can enter the bike lane within 200 feet of an intersection so in this case there was no violation. For those who are distance challenged, this is 2/3 of the length of a football field – quite a long way. The part of the bike lane with the dashed line couldn’t have been more than 2 car lengths (let’s conservatively say 60 feet). So I emailed back asking what took precedence – the vehicle code or the white lines? And if the 200 foot rule took precedence WHY EVEN PAINT dashed lines?

The Sergeant responded “I know this is confusing” and again sited the 200 ft rule in the vehicle code. However, he did not address the rule about not crossing a solid white line or in any way allay my confusion about this apparent contradiction. So I guess those solid lines don’t even give us imaginary protection?

Has anyone else encountered this issue?

Drivetrain Review – Wolf Tooth Cycling Components 1X10 Conversion

1X driveteain

I’ve been intrigued by single chainring drivetrains for mountain bikes since friends started using them 4 or 5 years ago. Back then, with a max rear cog of 34 teeth it was somewhat limiting for climbing since I REALLY like my granny gear. I end up riding at Henry Coe and other locales with long, sustained climbs and really appreciate a 22/34 or 24/36 combination for the steep grades.

With SRAM out-innovating Shimano again ( just a few years ago they made double front chainrings for mountain bikes mainstream) this time with their 1 X 11 offering it’s finally possible to run a single front chainring and get pretty much the full range available with a conventional drivetrain.

Where SRAM impresses me the last few years is their willingness to ignore conventional wisdom and just solve a problem. In this case they said ‘Why not offer a cassette that goes from 10 teeth to 42?’ The challenge was that the smallest conventional cog offered for years had 11 teeth and rear hubs were designed around this ‘standard’. SRAM decided that this was too limiting and got the hub manufacturers to support them in their move to the smaller cog. Of course, all this comes at a substantial cost. If you already have a bike it means buying a complete drivetrain and rear wheel (or freehub). This can easily hit $1500 or more likely $2000 and up depending on your appetite.

So when a number of (mostly) small manufacturers started to offer upgrade options for 10 speed users I was very intrigued. The premise was to install a 42 tooth cog next to the existing 36 tooth cog and toss out one of the smaller cogs (usually the 15 or 17 tooth). Then if you paired this new cassette with a 30 tooth (in my case) chainring you could get almost the equivalent gearing of many riders granny gear setups. You still have to compromise a bit since there is no 10 tooth option but if you aren’t racing the lack of top-end speed probably won’t hurt too much.

The advertised advantages of a 1X drivetrain are:

  • Simplicity (front derailleurs are notoriously fickle in muddy conditions)
  • Lower weight
  • Excellent integration with dropper posts (no more accidental front derailleur shifts when you were reaching for your dropper post control)
  • Fewer dropped chains (with or even without a chain guide)

One of the impressive things about the SRAM setup was using a chainring that has alternating thin/wide teeth. This allows a closer fit of the chain to the teeth on the cog resulting in better chain retention. A ‘full profile’ tooth also helps and is possible since the chain doesn’t need to be derailed from the chainring. Fortunately several manufacturers are offering similar chainrings that will adapt to most common cranksets.

One other important aspect of the setup is having a ‘clutch-type’ rear derailleur (introduced in the last few years by both drivetrain companies) that does a better job of keeping consistent chain tension than conventional derailleurs. Fortunately I already had one since I smashed my old derailleur about 6 months ago and upgraded when I bought the replacement. If you don’t want to pay for a new derailleur you could try the conversion and upgrade the rear derailleur only if you notice a lot of dropped chains.

In my case I decided to go with the Wolf Tooth Components hardware. I liked their website and their approach to solving the problem and they are getting good reviews. Installation and setup was pretty easy. If you are used to doing your own maintenance it won’t be a problem. If you aren’t comfortable making derailleur adjustments and removing a chain definitely have a shop do the upgrade for you so it’s done right.

The first thing you have to do is take a bunch of parts off your bike. Get rid of the left shifter and cable. Remove the front derailleur. Take the chainrings off your cranks (in my case 3 rings). Then install the new chainring – that’s easy. Then it’s on to the cassette. If you’ve installed a cassette before this will be simple for you. Remove the cassette from the freehub. Then put the new 42 tooth cog on the hub followed by the other cogs. You’ll need to discard one of the cogs. In my case the only individual cogs were the 15 and the 17. Per Wolf Tooth’s recommendation I chucked the 17 but some people toss the 15 I’m told. There is a bigger percentage jump between adjacent gears if you get rid of the 15 so it made sense from me to ditch the 17 as they recommend. Then just tighten up the cassette lockring and put the wheel back on.

The next thing you need to do is determine chain length. I was surprised that my chain didn’t need to be shortened. It was the correct length already so that saved a bit of hassle. With everything back together the next step was to adjust the mysterious B tension screw on the derailleur. I turned mine all the way in but still got pulley to cog contact. Fortunately my Wolf Tooth cog included a long screw just for this case. Be aware that they no longer include the screw so you may need to order the long screw from them (fortunately it’s only $1). Their instructions for this adjustment were very clear and I had this one done in about 5 minutes. I didn’t even need to adjust the derailleur limit screws. Then a quick ride outside to confirm it was working and I was ready to go to the trails.

Usually when I try out new hardware I ride alone so that I don’t disappoint friends by breaking down and ruining their day. But I figured I would take a chance this time. We were doing a relatively short loop at Skeggs Point so even if I had to walk back to the car it would be a short walk. The setup instantly felt right. Shifting was crisp and quick and there was no noticeable difference in performance when shifting in and out of the 42 tooth cog. The simplicity of using just a single derailleur is great – even though I’ve shifted front chainrings for a long time it was nice to have one less thing to think about and I found I was using my dropper post more since I didn’t have to worry about accidental front derailleur shifting.

We happened to hit Skeggs on a misty, slightly rainy day so there was plenty of grit thrown up on my bike and a few puddles. But not a single bad shift or dropped chain. Since that first ride I’ve had 2 more with the setup and it’s been perfection every time.

For my Yeti ASR 5C I would never go back to a dual or triple chainring setup – there is just no need. However for my other mountain bike – a 29er hardtail I will stick with the 2X10 setup. I use that bike for longer rides and often ride to and from the trailhead on roads so having taller gearing is a real plus on that bike. I know I would have to compromise either on the climbing capability or top end if I went with a 1X10 setup on the hardtail. Now if I could only afford the SRAM 1X11 offering with their wide range I would be very tempted to try that out. Reportedly SRAM will be offering 1X11 in lower pricepoints in the near future so that just may be an option.

Retail pricing:

  • 42 tooth cog: $89.95 (available in black, silver, red and blue)
  • 104 BCD chainring: $75.00
  • 25mm b screw: $1.00

One unusual aspect of this upgrade is that you’ll take so many parts off your bike that you might pay for your purchase by selling your old shifter and chainrings if they are in decent shape. So consider the resale value of your takeoff parts when you budget for this upgrade.

For more information check out the Wolf Creek website at http://www.wolftoothcycling.com/

Any questions about my setup? Just let me know and I”ll try to answer

 

 

Multi-modal, Mixed-terrain Bike Adventure

Caltrain from MV

One of the great things about living in the Bay Area is the network of (mostly) connected public transit you can use to get to a ride or finish a ride. Integrating public transit into your ride has some great benefits:

  • It’s easier to do point-to-point rides
  • You can skip over the portions that are less bike friendly
  • You can push your limits a bit and still have a bail-out option
  • And, of course, you can leave the car at home

Two of the great enablers are the Clipper Card which allows you to take just about every type of transit in the Bay Area without taking any cash and Google Maps on your smartphone which helps you find the next transit option.

And surprisingly, transit helps mountain bike riders and not just roadies. Sure, you can’t catch a bus up to Skyline and Demo but light rail goes to Santa Teresa, Alum Rock and Campbell which puts you within a short pedal of some decent trails. I’ve also taken Caltrain to Belmont and pedaled the 1.5 miles to Waterdog.

When we lived in the UK for a couple years we used the extensive rail network on a few multi-day loops and more frequently on day rides. Sometimes it was just to get in a bit of variety and other times it was to get back home after we got caught in the all-too-frequent downpours. When we moved to Mountain View, one of our reasons to pay the extra rent was the easy access to 2 different rail transit options and the 22 bus going up and down El Camino Real which means we aren’t so reliant on the car.

My old friend Andy introduced us to the Caltrain, Golden Gate Bridge, Mt Tamalpais, Tiburon dirt loop with return to SF via ferry. Starting a ride like this with a sunny-day pedal along the Embarcadero with views of the Bay Bridge and a crossing of the Golden Gate would make any tourist jealous. It gets even better once you hit the dirt in the Marin Headlands and make your way to Mt. Tam. The trails aren’t very technical, with the vast majority being fireroads, but the scenery is as good as you can hope to get so close to such a dense urban area.

I did a variant of the Mt Tam ride the other weekend with my target destination being the Gestalt Haus pub in Fairfax. It has to be one of the most bike-friendly places in the Bay Area with bike parking INSIDE, a range of quality beers on tap and reasonably-priced food off the grill.

GH inside

I also thought my new route (carefully mapped out on ridewithgps.com) might be a bit easier since it didn’t climb all the way to the top of Mt. Tam. The stats said it would be 5000 feet of climbing but that COULDN’T be right could it?

My day started off with a quick ride to downtown Mountain View for a cup of coffee before I caught the first train North. There were a surprising amount of other cyclists on the train at this hour – maybe everyone had a big day planned.

I always like the first transit ride on any trip. Whether for a day trip or a month away there is a feeling of possibilities and excitement and never being completely certain what will happen. I arrived in SF just after 8:30 and was a bit surprised to find sunny skies and warm temperatures so early. All I needed was a light jacket for my pedal along the Embarcadero which was an easy cruise with just a few tourists at this early hour.

Bay Bridge fog

A huge cruise ship was docked just a bit further up the Embarcadero disgorging it’s thousands of customers into a long line of taxis that were idling in the bike lane. Not too much of a problem as I was going by but I had to wonder – when does ‘Bike Lane’ mean Bikes Only – just when it’s convenient?

taxis in bike lane

After this it’s a pleasant cruise through Fisherman’s Wharf, then Maritime Park where the swimmers are always out early and then the little climb through Fort Mason where I get my first view of Mt Tam seemingly a long way away.

Mt Tam across the bay

I had a brief second thought about the trip but considered what was waiting for me at Gestalt Haus, the perfect weather and the snowstorm my family was experiencing back East so I rode on towards Crissy Field. This was the first time I had ever done this ride alone so it was nice to stop wherever I wanted and not worry about time. I read a lot of the signs and stopped a bit longer than usual at every overlook.

Headlands view

The Golden Gate Bridge crossing is always spectacular and since cyclists are on the West side you get a view of ocean and wild lands that the pedestrians on the other side don’t get to enjoy as easily. Soon I”m across the bridge and up the road into the Marin headlands. Fairly stiff first climb of the day but hard to notice my effort with the view of the Pacific and the coast wrapping around to the South. Where the climb levels out I get my first taste of dirt on a downhill fireroad that’s fun and a little loose on the cyclocross bike. A great feeling since I know I’ll be on dirt for several hours now before returning to pavement just above Fairfax. Bottoming out in the first valley I have a view of green hills and lots of Poppies. Marin had a pretty good rainfall a few weeks back when the Peninsula got very little and the green hills and wildflowers are the evidence.

Poppies

After a 15 minute fireroad climb out of the Valley I hit a little bit of singletrack and at the exact spot where I planned to take a short break I notice that my rear tire is going flat. Not a bad place to fix a tire

flat repair with a view

From here I dropped into Tennessee Valley and just to the North I got great views of the Coast

coast north of Tennessee Valley

followed by some steep roller coaster climbs as I ascended to about 2000 feet on the West flank of Mt. Tam. Then it was a fast, steep descent towards Fairfax with views to the North with San Pablo Bay just barely visible looking East

Almost in Fairfax

And then suddenly I was at quiet and very still Lake Lagunitas

Lagunitas

and from there I had just a bit more dirt until I was in Fairfax.

There might not be a much more welcome site after a long day in the saddle

GH

I had about 2 hours to hang out in Fairfax since the Larkspur ferries don’t run as frequently in the off-season so I enjoyed a couple of beers and a large Kielbasa piled high with sauerkraut. My day could have happily ended here but I still had a flat 7 mile pedal ahead and the 30 minute crossing back to SF. The Larkspur ferry is absolutely worth the price of admission with views of Tiburon, Angel Island, San Quentin, Alcatraz and seemingly the entire Bay Area on this sparkling day.

ferry view

At the SF ferry building with still an hour to wait for the ferry to Oakland so I decided to take BART to meet my honey and the rest of her group in time for dinner.

So that gave me 3 different transit modes and about 42 miles of mixed terrain goodness for the day. And best of all, my mini-vacation helped me see the Bay Area in a whole new light.

What about you? Do you have any favorite transit-supported rides?