Monday, January 2, 2012


My last ride on this busy holiday was short but eventful: On New Year's Day I took my mountain bike up the Kennedy Trail.

View Kennedy in a larger map

Near the top of the Kennedy Trail
I lost my bike computer on my previous ride, so that needed replacement. I thought about just getting a bracket and extended battery for my iPhone 4S, whose GPS capabilities are much improved over previous versions and probably up to the task. But that wouldn't record my heart rate. I could just replace the Garmin Forerunner 305, but I've now lost two of them, and as far as I know there's no bracket available that's more reliable yet reasonably convenient. In addition, although the last 305 I bought was just $150, I'm now seeing them for sale at $200. That's awfully expensive if it's going to be a consumable.

That higher price puts it in the range of the Garmin Edge 500, which sells for $250. The 500 has a barometric altimeter, much more storage capacity, and what appears to be a reliable mounting bracket. Sold -- I went and got one on New Year's Eve.

I started off yesterday a little late, nearly noon, in cool, clear weather. The trail was very busy with hikers, mostly in large groups. I must admit that some of the faster hikers injured my pride by passing me on the way up. Having said that, I made better time than I usually do, which may be partly due to better conditioning but the perfect conditions didn't hurt.

Looking over southern San Jose from the Kennedy Trail

The Kennedy Trail begins with a brief uphill followed by a descent. From that point, after the first descent, to the junction with the Priest Rock Trail is about 3.4 miles with an average grade of about 9.5%. And that includes a lengthy more-or-less flat part in the middle, so most of the climb is insanely steep. It's steep enough that if you push hard on the pedals you'll lift the front wheel, which means that despite the steepness I could never get my heart beating very high.

After the junction with the Priest Rock Trail I continued on toward El Sereno. As usual, I had to push the bike up the two or three steepest ramps on the way. I loathe that section.

A bobcat on El Sereno
At the top of El Sereno, I normally ride up the dead end trail to the towers. There's very little to see up there, but if I ride all that way I want to know that I got to the top. Or as near as possible, anyway.

This time, when I turned onto the spur trail I saw a bobcat in front of me. I had seen it on the last ramp before that junction, slowly walking up the hill ahead of me. Thinking it was perhaps a coyote I whistled to avoid startling it later; it just looked over its shoulder and calmly continued walking. Not easily frightened, apparently. Since it was heading to the peak I took a picture, but turned around. It's his place, after all.

I had a rough ride down the Wood Road. On some of the loose, broken rock just below the summit I managed to slide my front wheel at low speed, and fell. That's very rare for me... except on this trip, because I did it again a 100 meters later. Now, fully unnerved and uncomfortable on my saddle, it happened a third time. So I walked for a bit.

I'm not sure what the problem was. My working theory starts with my rear brake being ineffective. I only noticed that after the first fall, so it might have been effect rather than cause. Ineffective rear brakes made me use the front brake too much, to the point that the front wheel couldn't track and eventually slid. After the first fall I was undoubtedly trying to go too slowly, which I'm sure didn't help. But all the way down, I felt like I had no traction at all. Very disconcerting.

I had planned to ride down through Quicksilver, but my hands were a little damaged and my knees were sore, so I cut it short by descending Hicks and heading home.

Elevation profile. See a note about data for details.
This ride was just about 22 miles, with about 3000 feet of climbing. That's a short ride, but intense, particularly in this case. The new bike computer performed well, sticking to the bike despite three (low speed) falls. Not the best of rides, but it closes this holiday break filled with lots of great riding. Now I suppose I'll return to my normal weekly schedule, once my scrapes heal.

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