Arizona Road Cyclist News
Jack Quinn, Editor

 © November 25, 2009

Arizona Road Cyclist News is published every other Wednesday and sent out by E-mail free of charge. To modify or cancel your subscription, click here.

This is the Thanksgiving issue. I wish all of our readers a very Happy Thanksgiving, and don't forget to go out and ride off those calories consumed at the Thanksgiving dinner table. If you're looking for a ride Thanksgiving morning, two are listed below.

In this issue:
     Hidden Hills: An Update
     Proper Paceline Etiquette
     El Tour de Tucson Wrap-up
     Phoenix-Area Thanksgiving Rides
     GABA's Toys for Tots Ride December 5
     Tour de Cookie -- Phoenix and Tucson
     Arizona Bicycle Racing Association Annual Meeting
     About Arizona Road Cyclist News

Hidden Hills: An Update

For anyone who is not familiar with Hidden Hills, it is a gated upper-middle-class tract-home development in North Scottsdale that is a favorite destination for many cyclists in the East Phoenix/Scottsdale area. The community's main street was supposed to become part of an alternate route to Fountain Hills to relieve some of the congestion on Shea Boulevard. However, the developer petitioned the city of Scottsdale for permission to place a gate at the community's entrance at 124th Way, which is an extension of Via Linda, to make it a private street. The Scottsdale City Council acceded to the developer's request, but with one proviso: 124th Way had to remain open to non-motorized traffic, which in practice means to bicyclists and walkers. The gates that were installed at the community's entrance are offset leaving a gap for cyclists to pass.

The City of Scottsdale presently has an easement for non-motorized traffic across the entire width of 124th Way. Plans to use the route as an access for motorized traffic to Fountain Hills have been scrapped, but there are still plans to construct a paved path or street to bridge the gap of a few hundred yards that separates Hidden Hills from Fountain Hills to provide passage for cyclists and emergency vehicles. A Fountain Hills developer is responsible for paving this route, but I have been told that the project is being held up by a lack of funds due to the real estate crisis. A dirt road presently connects the communities and is passable for mountain bikes.

The Hidden Hills Homeowners' Association made an unsuccessful attempt earlier this year to get the City of Scottsdale to abandon its easement. The reason seems to be that some of the homeowners were outraged at having to share their private street with outsiders, but, of course, the Association couldn't say that directly. Some of the arguments that the Association presented were that the cyclists were speeding downhill and violating the community's unenforceable speed limit (true, but the cyclists were not speeding as fast as most of the residents themselves in their automobiles), that cyclists were regrouping in the cul-de-sac at the top of the hill and thereby causing a nuisance by....err... by just being there (true, except for the nuisance part, but most cycling groups have since adopted a policy of regrouping outside the community's gates), that a few cyclists were urinating in public (apparently true, although I didn't witness it myself and have been told that this practice has since stopped), that cyclists are a danger to wildlife (if you were a coyote, would you rather be hit by a bicycle or a speeding SUV?) and that residents were afraid of backing out of their driveways for fear of hitting cyclists (apparently some residents haven't learned to look for traffic before backing into a street).

The City of Scottsdale attempted to placate the residents by paying them off with $70,000 of taxpayer money to install traffic-control devices on their private street. There are now three rubber speed bumps in Hidden Hills, and a fourth one is reportedly on its way. These are not the normal speed bumps that we are all used to riding over at 20 mph or so; these speed bumps are nasty, although there is room to ride around them in the gutter at either side at low speed. Thus, the speed bumps serve the purpose of slowing most cyclists, even if they take to the gutter, and it has the additional benefit of slowing the even speedier residents in their SUVs and Beamers. Of course, a few cyclists bunny-hop the speed bumps instead of slowing down, but most cyclists are not skilled enough or ornery enough to do that.

The city of Scottsdale sent representatives out to Hidden Hills a few weeks ago to review the relationship between residents and cyclists now that the speed bumps are in place. Naturally the press was there, too. The Arizona Republic wrote a story that attempts to portray the present state of the Hidden Hills controversy and to my knowledge has published it  three times with minor editing changes and, in one case at least, with a provocative but misleading headline. Two of those publications include a picture of a cyclist maneuvering around a speed bump and falsely claims that he is speeding. You can read the three versions of the story by clicking here, here, and here. However, the Hidden Hills conflict is now much calmer than reading the articles may mislead you to believe.

One of the mistakes that I believe the Scottsdale Transportation Department and bicycle coordinator are making is assuming that punching the route through to Fountain Hills will reduce bicycle traffic in Hidden Hills. This assumption is based on one of the residents' false claims: that most of us were out there just "training," meaning that we were doing hill repeats, riding up and down the hill repeatedly. The planners assume that once the cycling rout is open through to Fountain Hills, we will ride through and disappear somewhere in the desert instead of doing this alleged "training." In reality, a minority of the cyclists do hill repeats, and having an alternate to Shea Boulevard to get to Fountain Hills is, in my opinion, likely to increase bicycle traffic, not decrease it. There will be more cyclists, and most cyclists are likely to ride through Hidden Hills in both directions.

I believe that people living in that protected environment, subsidized by Scottsdale taxpayers, have no idea what it is like to live in a real neighborhood. They don't have to put up with people tossing trash into their front yards (cyclists don't do that), driving by with loud, pounding bass speakers that rattle windows and wake people up from a sound sleep at night, drop houses, drug dealers, etc. Many inner-city residents do have these problems and would gladly exchange them for bicycles quietly passing before their houses. The residents of Hidden Hills should be grateful that they have been partially relieved of the responsibility of normal citizens and not press their claims to special privileges too hard. Otherwise, the good citizens of Scottsdale may someday realize that the denizens of Hidden Hills have been taking them for a ride.

Proper Paceline Etiquette

This is not an article on how to draft nor does it discuss basic group-riding skills. This article assumes that you already know how to ride in a paceline and know the vocabulary of group riding. The article concentrates on a few skills that make a paceline function more smoothly: specifically on the proper techniques for  "pulling off" and "pulling through." If you cannot yet draft and ride securely in a group or paceline, I suggest reading Richard Fisher's article on the Arizona Bicycle Club Website by clicking here and coming back to this article later.

If you are a seasoned road racer, you probably already have good paceline skills and might want to skip this topic. If you are not a road racer or if you are a beginning road racer, I suggest that you continue reading.

When riding a paceline, many anxious moments occur, because the lead rider does not properly signal his or her intentions before pulling off to let the next rider move to the front. Some riders slow down before pulling off, causing the riders behind to have to brake to avoid touching wheels and possibly falling, which in turn forces the following riders to hit the brakes. Some riders swing off without signaling, which the rider behind may interpret as an attempt to take the paceline around an upcoming obstacle. The second rider then follows the first and so on back the paceline until the first rider slows down, again causing the riders behind to hit the brakes.

The first thing to do before pulling off is to briefly look back to determine where the rider behind you is. Is the rider directly behind you or perhaps offset to the left or right? It is important to know this, because it will determine whether you pull off to the left or right. Most casual riders always pull off to the left, but if the second rider is offset to the left due to a side wind from the right, pulling off to the left could hook the following rider's wheel and possibly cause a crash. Needless to say, when riding in traffic, also look back to make sure that you're not about to pull off in front of an oncoming motor vehicle. Look back without slowing the pace. If you are not used to looking back while riding, practice doing it until you can look behind you without slowing, without swerving, and while maintaining your pedaling cadence.

If everybody is riding in a straight line, the standard direction to pull off is to the left. However, if there is a side wind, the leading rider pulls off into the wind, thereby avoiding the wheel of the following rider, who will be offset or echeloned to the downwind side. That often means pulling off to the right instead of to the left. (Normally, you shouldn't be riding so close to the curb that there is no room to pull off to the right.)

When you look back, the rider behind you may already assume that you are preparing to pull off, but you need to signal nonetheless. The standard way signal is to flick your elbow on the side where you expect the following rider to pass you. For example, if the wind is from the right and the following riders are therefore echeloned to the left, the lead rider will flick the left elbow to signal the rider behind to come through on the left side and will then move to the right into the wind while maintaining speed. If the side wind is strong enough and the following rider is therefore offset far enough to the side, it may not even be necessary to pull off. The lead rider may just slow down after signaling the following rider to pull through.

Once clear of the following rider and only when clear of the following rider, slow slightly to begin falling to the back of the paceline. Ride as close to the paceline as feels comfortable to you and to your fellow riders. Racers are accustomed to riding inches apart, but riding too close may not feel comfortable to less experienced cyclists.

As the back of the paceline approaches, accelerate slightly and smoothly to match the paceline's speed. There is nothing more discouraging than watching the paceline ride away from you, because you were moving too slowly to latch onto the rear and get out of the wind. If the paceline is echeloned, you may have to "go around" the back wheel of the last rider in order to get out of the wind.

Pulling through smoothly is also a skill that needs to be practiced. New riders often pull through too fast, causing the following riders to have to sprint to catch up and perhaps dropping the rider who has just pulled off and may be too tired to catch the back of the accelerating paceline. If you are in a race, and your goal is to drop riders, by all means "hammer through," meaning come through as hard as you can. However, on a friendly ride, maintain the same steady speed that you have been riding, and don't accelerate. Experience riders sometimes tell newer riders, "Pull through, don't jump through."

Unless you are the strongest rider in the paceline, don't take long pulls. It makes no sense to wear yourself out if you are trying to keep pace with stronger riders. When your turn comes, ride at the front for a short period of time and then pull off before you get too tired and risk getting dropped. It is not reasonable to take a long, hard, macho pull only to have everyone ride away from you. Anytime I take a long pull at the front, and someone tells me as I drop back alongside the paceline "Nice pull, Jack!", I don't feel like a hero; I feel that I've just done something stupid.

A variation of the paceline is called the rotating paceline. A rotating paceline is used in races when a small group of riders has escaped from the pack, is chasing riders ahead, or is riding at the front of the pack trying to make the pace hard. A rotating paceline is very efficient, because it minimizes the length of time that each rider is exposed to the wind.

In a rotating paceline, you take a very short turn at the front, perhaps only ten seconds, then signal and pull off into the wind. The following rider comes through, and when his or her rear wheel is clear of your front wheel, that rider will also signal and pull off in front of you. That way you have a rider to draft as you fall back to the back on the paceline. When you reach the pack of the paceline, you move over behind the last rider and start making your way to the front again. There is actually a double paceline, one line of riders moving forward toward the front of the group, and the other moving more slowly and falling back to the rear of the group. A rotating paceline works with groups as small as three riders and as large as several dozen.

El Tour de Tucson Wrap-up

Last Saturday's Tour de Tucson seems to have been accomplished without the horrendous crashes that marked last year's event, perhaps to in part to the fact that the organizers report having spent an additional $25,000 this year for added police support. For the third year in a row, Team P&S Specialized of Hermosillo, Sonora dominated the men's division. The winner was Rafael Escarcega with a time of 4:17:05 who crossed the finish line a fraction of a bike length ahead of teammate Héctor Rangel. Last years winner David Salomón and 2007 winner Carlos Hernández finished fourth and 11th respectively. The first woman to cross the finish line was Robin Fanna from Charleston, N.C.

Phoenix-Area Thanksgiving Rides

If you're reading this on Wednesday and you haven't yet decided on a ride for Thanksgiving morning, I can suggest two possibilities. Both the Wheezers and Geezers and the Granada Park Chapter of the Arizona Bicycle Club will be riding. The Wheezers and Geezers is for cyclists who are able to ride at a moderate to fast pace and who are comfortable riding in a peloton and paceline. The group meets at 7:30 a.m. at the traffic circle at the intersection of Northern and Invergordon in Paradise Valley. The group also rides from the same location every Saturday morning at the same time with an optional start at the Camelback Inn at 7:15 a.m. The ride goes out to Hidden Hills in North Scottsdale and normally includes a stop for coffee and B.S. at the AJ's on the corner of Mountain View and Via Linda on the way back. This is a pick-up ride. There is no ride leader, no registration, and no fee. No one is in charge, so you ride on your own initiative and at your own risk. To access the Wheezers and Geezers Website, click here.

The Arizona Bicycle Club's Granada Park Chapter has a ride for everyone. The cyclists ride in five different speed groups. The club will meet at 7:30 Thanksgiving morning at Granada Park, 20th Street and Maryland in Phoenix, and ride to the Scrambles restaurant at 9832 N. 7th Street. The group also has a regular Sunday morning breakfast ride from the same place at the same time. If you are not an ABC member, you are invited to ride with the club once before joining for insurance purposes. To access ABC's Website, click here..

GABA's Toys for Tots Ride December 5

The Greater Arizona Bicycling Associations Toys for Tots Ride takes place on December 5. As GABA explains it, "Two groups of cyclists begin the ride from different parks, leave at different times, and ride at different paces. Both groups meet at the same place, at nearly the same time, and share in the excitement generated by the reason for the bring toys to the Reid Park Zoo. The toys are then donated by the Marine's Toys for Tots program, to children right here in Tucson, who might not otherwise get a Christmas gift. This year, due to the current economic conditions, there will likely be many program shortfalls, and an even larger number of children in need."

In addition to being for a good cause, the ride sounds like loads of fun. To read more about the ride, click here and scroll about halfway down the page.

Tour de Cookie -- Phoenix & Tucson

This is a national fund-raising event for casual riders that takes place in many cities across the country including Phoenix on December 6 and Tucson on January 10. The Phoenix version will have a choice of a 26-mile and a 6-mile ride. Be prepared to consume more calories than you expend, however, because the ride includes 10 cookie stands hosted by local organizations. Riders are encouraged to purchase and eat as many cookies as possible. Every participant will receive a T-shirt and a medal, and prizes will be awarded to the top 3 male and female finishes based no only on their time but also on the number of cookies eaten.

Organizations can sponsor a cookie stand by baking 500 to 600 cookies to sell to the riders. As to the riders themselves, the entry fee is free for kids 12 and under and $40 for the rest of us. Riders can save a few bucks per person by registering teams of from 2 to 5. There is an additional processing fee if you register online, and, of course, you'll want to bring along a few buck to purchase cookies en route.

For more information, go to the event's main Web site by clicking here and then by clicking on the name of the city where you wish to ride.

Arizona Bicycle Racing Association Annual Meeting

The road-racing teams that make up the Arizona Bicycle Racing Association meet once a year to plan the coming year's racing calendar and to discuss other issues of interest to the road-racing community. This year's planning meeting will be held on December 20 starting at noon in the Holiday Inn at 1200 Sunrise Plaza Drive in Florence. All Arizona road-racing clubs are encouraged to send a representative.

About Arizona Road Cyclist News

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Arizona Road Cyclist News,
Jack Quinn, Editor