The ALC road to LA

Gaviota Pass

Seven days of bike riding, covering 545 miles from San Francisco to Los Angeles, goes on, and on, and on for a long time.  Miles run together along the road.  Towns and campsites get confusing by day four and 355 miles along the coastline expanding into farmlands.

Southern California becomes distinct with amazingly tall palm trees, a glistening blue ocean, and a touch of stickiness to the heat.  Finally, the Los Angeles hills spotted with homes hosting oceanside views becomes a site of glory for a cyclist pedaling on protein bars and a numb bum.

This spectacular ride is the AIDS/LifeCycle ride, fully supported and organized to raise funds for the San Francisco AIDS Foundation and the L.A. Gay & Lesbian Center.  Amazingly, I rode all but 15 miles of the event held during the first week of June.

Thousands rode, in fact, more than 2,200 riders got on their bikes and raised more than $14 million to help these organizations provide testing and medical care, mental health and substance abuse counseling and treatment, programs for prevention and education, and so much more.  The event is massive, and massively successful, with this ride marking 12 years of helping cyclist pedal down the state of California.

The Lifecycle support completely helped me ride more mileage than I've ever made before. I wasn't sure I could make the ride after I signed up earlier this year.  The exact day after I signed up, I took a Paradise Loop ride, and my old knees blew up — swollen from a patella that has a history of losing it’s track.  I’ve had this problem before, and realized: I had not been working-out my IT-band, not doing strengthen exercises, nor stretches for obviously too long.

I did take action, with PT exercises, superior prescription-level anti-inflammatories and a little Asta Yoga across 14th Street.  My legs and knees were prepped for the ride, and I survived all those miles because the Lifecycle provided sports medicine experts, morning yoga sessions and dense styrofoam rollers on the lawns of every campsite.  There were even foam rollers and massage sticks at the first rest stop of every day.


My ride came together from March through May, fundraising, training, keeping a work schedule interrupted with family visits, and finally building-up a new bike to make the adventure even grander.  An inspiring bike ride from SF to LA deserves an inspiring bike, such as Box Dog’s Pelican.

I built-up miles on my carbon road bike, a Specialized Ruby I’ve been riding for five years.  But, since I’d joined BDB and learned about the cooler than cool Pelican,  the goal was obvious.  A hand-built steel frame with comfy 650b tires might weigh a bit more than carbon but it would certainly soften the long, rough road.

I rode the Grand Bois Hetre tires in 42mm run and had no fear of gravel or rutted shoulders along the road. The supple gumwall rode smoothly all the time and the high-file ridges give the tires some speed.  On the second day, I was humming down battered roadways and lovin’ some roller section that criss-crossed Hwy 101 through farms south of Salinas, through Gonzales, Soledad and Greenfield — my first century.

My 650b Pelican easily became a Box Dog collaboration.  I had my Sugino XD2, an LX rear derailluer, bar-end shifters and a narrow Sakae rando handlebar, and then bought some other bits.  Box Dog OG Dan T. sold me his needle-bearing Miche headset and a Nitto Campee front rack.  Also, old-timer Andy lent me his Berthoud Alex Singer handlebar bag, which topped-off the build perfectly with its awesome little compartments for foods.

I organized for a hand-built rear wheel with a Velocity Synergy on an Ultegra hub from Geoffery, which would match the Synergy I bought with the Shimano LX dynamo hub.  Ian handed down the halogen lamp he’d inherited from no other than John Potis, our Pelican collector.

The lamp worked as a great morning fog light during the first four days, but alas it broke while loaded into a truck after I bailed on the last 15 miles of Day 5 into Lompoc. Day 5: Red Dress Day is the most celebrated day of the Lifecycle, with a short 42 miles and amazing costumes and accessories that would appear as a red ribbon along the road from a distance or above.  I couldn’t make it tho; the four days riding back-to-back, covering 355 miles burned up my knees again.

The Lifecycle med teams had to get out the sports-tape and secure my patella for the last two days, which did work.  I finished the last two days, an 84.3-mile day from Lompoc to Ventura, and a 60.7-mile day from Ventura to Los Angeles.  I just rode slow and spun my gears, which were wonderfully low thanks to some low gearing.

Helping my knees make this ride was a used XT cassette Geoffery had bequeathed to me and my ride.  The light-weight, 9-speed cassette, bares a 34-tooth low gear kept me turning those pedals.  And, that kinda low gearing got me up the ominous “Quadbuster” climb on Day 3 after King City with only minimal standing.  On Day 4, after leaving Paso Robles, we peaked over 1,500 feet along CA46, climbs named “Evil Twin No. 1 and 2.”

Fitting the new rando frame was tricky too, as I learned that a road-bike fit doesn’t actually translate to randonneuring geometry.  So, again, I got support.  My friend Paul, a bike-shop veteran who’s trying to open a fit-studio in the Sunset, Size Rite Fitting Studio, lined me up with my roadie saddle, the Specialized Jett Expert.  On the ride, the Jett was stiff tho, and I missed the suppleness of a leather saddle, which will have to be settled for another ride.

For more stories about the ALC 2013, check out: If you’re interested, check out:


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