Bike to Work - 2011 Team Bike Challenge

At the end of April, I was approached by a coworker looking to form a team for the 2011 Team Bike Challenge here in the Bay Area for the month of May. Not really having a competitive bone in my body...I am not sure why they would ask me but heck I was up for a little challenge ;)

The whole challenge revolves around substituting you bike for any trip that you might use a car for instead. Like commuting to work, running an errand, going shopping or just running over to a friends house. Being new to the area, I was a little skeptical about trying to commute by bike. I had done it a few times back home but never on a consistent basis so I was going to do my best to give our team points.
4 Members of our 5 Member GU Crew Team
Me, Mel, John and Jeremy
You get points for each commute and then additional points if it is over a certain distance. For example, a commute to work for me is 6.1 miles each way for a totally of 12.2 miles. I get one point for the commute to work and I get one point for the commute being over 10 miles total. I would only get 1 point for my trips to the store since the total distance was only 2 miles.

Over the month of May, I tallied 35 different commutes by bike with a total of 370 miles of riding which includes 21 straight days to work. That doesn't include any "exercise" rides or miles since those would be done in lei of a car. I was able to rack up a total of 65 points and won some cool "medals" along with way...well I am not sure how cool they are but you get them as your totals add up. Though we kind of faded at the end, I think it is pretty awesome that we were able to ride over 1,700 miles...pretty awesome.

All in all, I think this was a pretty cool event. I was able to save between $50-$60 bucks in gas commuting and was able to get some recovery rides in for my legs. And honestly, I was surprised how much more awake I would feel in the morning once I got to work. There were days that it was tough to get out the door when you have a nice warm car sitting right there but once I started peddling, I was good to go.

PS: As I am typing this, I am looking at the weather for tomorrow and it is suppose to rain all day. (Special Note- I have been told no less than 50 times that it doesn't rain like this in California and this weather is not normal...though I am not sure an entire week has gone by without some rain) I think I might take this opportunity to drive myself to work for the first time since April...the challenge is over right ;) But I honestly plan to commute many more days by bike, so really this is just the beginning.


My New Favorite Bike Loop and the road called Butters!!!

I have found it rather difficult to "know" where to go ride. I have been on some great rides since I got down here but not always knowing exactly where we went. Plus it can always be difficult trying to get out of the city and onto these rural roads. A few weeks ago, a buddy took me on this route that I thought was pretty cool and even though the 3:00+ ride was a bit more than I was bargaining for at the time, it was still great to see some new roads.

The road called Butters :)
Fast forward to yesterday and I was on my own trying to remember where we went and exactly how we got there. After looking at a map and a quick mental note on where to turn, I headed out the door. I am never too worried since I have a smart phone with Google Maps on it and even if that fails, a good rule of thumb is to head towards to ocean...and then try and find your way home.

Always some amazing views at the top of the climbs.
This is a perfect weekend route. It is just over 25 miles and takes about 1:45 to complete if you are out to work hard but not try to push your self to exhaustion. Just like EVERY single ride here, it starts off with climbing...like averaging 10.5 mph for the first 40 minutes of the ride...climbing. You just go up and then up again and the in case you thought that was fun you go up a little bit more. The ride has just over 2,200 feet of climbing but what goes up must come down, so there are some great technical descents on winding roads. How can a ride not be some road names like: Skyline, Redwood and of course Butters...

Some small trees next to the roads :)
The hidden Post Office- This place is famous for being close to nothing.
And what would a good ride be without the random Stop signs
in the middle of nowhere...and the cars actually stop which can't be
said for ANY other Stop Sign in the state of California :)
I know I am not the first person to find this route but as of today I am going to claim it as "My Weekend Loop". There are opportunities to easily add additional miles if I need to and you are protected from the constant winds that seem to make sure I am ALWAYS riding into a head wind. So its pretty much MINE now :) Hopefully it helps me get my butt out the door without the hour or so of me telling myself that it will be fun.

So if you are ever in the Bay Area and want to go for a ride just let me know. I have the PERFECT one all planned out.


Michelin Krylion Carbon- Bulletproof...Just not Stapleproof

Michelin Krylion Carbon
I stumbled onto these tires looking for something that could withstand the tough roads around my hometown of Spokane and have continue to use them down here in California. I do a fair amount of city and rural road riding along with plenty of miles put in along side highways. These are prime locations for anything and everything to collect that could give you a flat tire.

Now I would like to think that it was my amazing abilities and superscope vision that has left me flat free for the last 2 years but I highly doubt that is the case...I am good, just not that good ;) I have to give credit where credit is due and I honestly believe it is these tires.

A Souvenir...or not
Just today I got my first flat tire in as long as I can remember. The culprit, well it was a heavy duty staple that someone decided to leave on the side of the road and I just happen to find that exact spot they left it and thought it might fun...or not so fun to get off and have to fix a flat.

You probably have your own favorites and maybe you had a bad run of luck with these tires but to go on as many rides as I have, on the roads that I have, and the harsh conditions I have...these tires have been amazing. I actually replaced my last set before ever getting a flat... not one and like I said I would like to think it is because I am so awesome but let's be real. Now I probably just jinxed myself but triathletes aren't supersitious...right ;)

Back up and riding...Rain in the morning and Sun in the afternoon
So if you are in the market for a great training tire that can 'roll' with the punches, might I suggest you pick up a set of these. With a relatively low cost, high reward and come in quite a few colors if you are all about accessorizing your ride.


Tour of California- Stage 4 GU Crew Recap

I should have know that starting the day racing to catch the Bart was just the beginning of a long but fun day. The plan was for the GU Crew to leave work around 10:30am, catch the 10:45am Bart and start riding shortly after 11:45am. The race was suppose to finish around 3:15pm so that gave us plenty of time to make the 30 mile journey from West Dublin to the top of Sierra Road.

The day began with my coworker and I have time trial it through the streets of Berkeley trying not to miss the train EVERYONE else was on. After running a few red lights, my fastest ever Bart ticket purchase (I only have 3 in the books, so not a whole lot of competition) and running down an escalator in cycling shoes, we walked up just as the train was pulling in. I am guessing we had about a minute to spare...just like we planned it.

The GU Crew
The ride started out awesome, we were cruising through the streets of Dublin looking like we should have been in the race. There was pulling, there was drafting…we pretty much had our own little pelaton heading to the finish.

Totally should have entered the race...
I haven’t really been on a big group ride since I left home so it was nice to be able to chit chat with everyone and just get out of the office and on the bike. The roads were absolutely beautiful and really reminded me of the scenery back home. Sure do miss all that.

Still Smiling...probably haven't started climbing the "Real" stuff yet!
The fun began when we started climbing up the backside of Sierra Road. It wasn't the Cat 1 the pros were heading up a few hours later but I was told that it could have been classified as Cat 2. So pretty much…I NEVER WANNA RIDE A CAT 1!!!

I was sweating so much, I could barely hold on to my handlebars, the sunscreen that was on my face was dripping into my eyes which was burning and made it almost impossible to see plus I had no idea where the top actually was. All I wanted to do was just stop, get off and start walking. But walk...with a tri bike...around all these cyclists...NEVER!!! I was going to keep peddling until either my legs fell off or I started rolling backwards. I am happy to report neither actually happened but I am pretty sure, it was only a matter of time.

San Jose in the distance.
Just like all the rides around Berkeley that produce many amazing views, this ride did not disappoint. Our ride took us just east of San Jose and with all the climbing made for some beautiful shots of the valley below.

Have you tried the new GU?
The "Work" reason we went to this ride was to hand out samples of the new Chocolate Raspberry Roctane released last week. We each carried about 8 lbs of GU gel up the mountain to give to all the spectators who made the trek. I was glad to see so many people, because there was NO WAY I was carrying that back down.

Bike Rack / Barbed-Wire Fence
A view from above the finish line.
We did actually make it to the race start. It is quite the production they set up in the middle of absolute nowhere. There were huge tents, mobile media trucks, fencing and people everywhere. I was surprised how many people made the actual climb up to the finish…many who rode the west side (Cat 1). It was very cool to see them  cheering and support all the riders and teams. It makes me wonder how absolutely insane the Tour de France is...

Chris Horner- The Stage 4 and eventually race winner.
Andy Schleck (left) and Levi Leipheimer (right)
Jens Voigt
One final climb to the line.
I was also surprised by how quickly the riders would head right back down the mountain. A few would throw on a jacket or some arm warmers, a can of pop and just turned around and headed back down as the race was still going on. It’s probably not that uncommon at a stage race like this, but just something new to me.

And back down the mountain they go.
Levi Leipheimer
The Pelaton reaches the top.
The ride back down for us was much less uneventful. Everyone knew exactly what lied ahead and everyone (or maybe just me) wanted to get back as my legs were feeling it. With over 3:30 on the bike and what I was told over 4,500 ft of climbing, I was going to sleep REEEEAL good.

All in all, I can’t think of a better day at the office. Pretty cool to be able to get out of work, jump on the bike and see the finish of the largest stage races in the US.


Tour of California Stage 4- Heading to the Finish!!!

Today I am heading up to watch the finish line today's Stage 4 of the Tour of California as GU Energy is a sponsor of Team Radioshack and a few other teams and riders in the tour. I have only ever seen professional bike racing on TV. I know I won't get to see all the action unfold as the approach the line, but to be at the finish line and experience the atmosphere will be pretty awesome.

Today's Stage 4 goes from Livermore to San Jose and is 81.8 miles long. There has 2 major climbs that will kick your butt. One that is 4.3 miles long with an average 8.4% grade and a second that is 3.5 miles long with an average of 9.4% grade.

Now some might just jump in there car and head to where they are going to watch the race...but not here at GU. In true form, we will jump on our bikes and ride approximately 30 miles to the finish line, watch the end of the stage and then ride back.

I am actually pretty excited about this, well except for what I hear is an absolutely BRUTAL climb at the end. It is about 1400 feet of elevation change. Unfortunately we will not be riding up the same course that the race will be held on but the backside of the same steep pitch. I hope I heard everyone wrong when they said it was steeper than the actually course...

This is where I sure wish I had a road bike, as my tri bike is made for speed...not climbing mountains but whatcha gonna do. Probably cry like a little baby... :)

One of the 2- 4lb bags of GU
I hope to get some cool pictures and have one great experience heading down there with 7 of my co-workers. Ohh and in case you thought this was just for fun, we do get to haul 8lbs of the new Chocolate Raspberry Roctane GU up there to hand out. This is going to be crazy...


Goodbye Washington :( Hello California :)

Well it has been almost 2 months since I left my position at Land Expressions and started a new job at GU Energy. It was a crazy couple of weeks trying to get everything packed and figure out exactly how I was going to get down to California. There was the task of packing everything I needed on a pallet and getting that shipped, loading up everything else in the car and making the trek to the Bay Area.

I was just hoping it would make it to CA in one piece!

The drive down was pretty uneventful and I can tell you one thing…sitting in a car for 14+ hours and driving straight through was one LONG day. My butt was sore for almost a week…probably should have got out and stretched a few more times but it was all about making good time and I wasn't about to let me slow me down :)

There were some awesome views (The Columbia River, Mt. Shasta, Northern California) and some EXTREMELY boring stretches of road…basically ALL of central Oregon.

I thought this was a pretty awesome view too ;)
As soon as I got down here things were moving pretty fast. Arrived on Wednesday night, met with my future roommate on Thursday afternoon, met with the landlord on Friday morning and was moved in by Friday night. It was a crazy 48 hours but I was able to sleep in my bed Friday night and have the weekend to prepare to start my new job on Monday.

A little social gathering...
My coworkers here at GU Energy have been great. They have made me feel welcome from day one with invitations to celebrate a few company events even before I started. I knew the move was going to be tough but I have fortunately joined a company that has really helped me adjust to my new surroundings.
A view of the Bay Area- San Franciso in the background!
The riding here has been absolutely AMAZING…but that is for another post. I will leave you with a picture of just one of the many views that you get in the bay area.