Category: Cycling General

ALC Training Ride

{moszoomimglink:Sausalito}My friends Stephen and James decided they would go to the AIDS LifeCycle ride this year again, and are getting all their friends to help out, or join. After a little bit of prodding, and after a very positive weather forecast, I finally agreed to join them for their Sunday training ride.

I thought it was just going to be a bunch of guys from spinning class, but it turned out to be a major training ride for the whole San Francisco contingent of ALC. So, while I was puzzled as to why we would want to meet at 6:45 for a ride that wouldn't start until 7:30, it all made sense once I saw the about 200 riders congregate.


Escape from Alcatraz

{moszoomimglink:dynamism}Somehow ever since Louie told me he liked ‘Escape from Alcatraz’, I had a fondness for the men and women who attempt this gruesome race. You have to swim from Alcatraz to Baker Beach (don’t forget the white sharks on the way!), then cycle around the Presidio forever, and finally run up and down the cliffs.

Not a fun thing to do, if you ask me. But quite a few people like it, and I happened to stumble across them on a Sunday ride to Marin. I was wondering why I wasn’t allowed to park at the Bridge, until the friendly park ranger told me Escape from Alcatraz was on.  I stopped and took a few pics, and reminded myself I had to be better prepared next year.


Riding in Marin

Moving to the City did one big thing for me: it gave me a social life.

Sounds odd, doesn’t it? What kind of difference could that be? And yet, I find that people up here are more approachable than down there, especially when it comes to cycling.

I will ride on my own, and all of a sudden someone else will be by my side and chat. At first I thought of it as an isolated event, but then I realized it happens pretty much all the time: if someone is riding at close to your pace and doesn’t have anything else to do, (usually) he (and rarely she) will chat.

Contrast that with the Peninsula, where I spent an awful two years meeting all of one person. That quite doesn’t feel right. I can recall an infinite number of climbs of Old La Honda, Page Mill Road, Congress Springs Road, Kings Mountain Road with people that would climb at close to my pace and no interaction at all. I would greet them sometimes, but they wouldn’t respond. I would nod my head to people on Foothill, Alpine, Canada – no response.

I am glad I am here now. Cycling on the Peninsula can be spectacular, and Spectrum is a lot of fun. I won’t miss the uncommunicative people, though. I mean, if your hobby consists of sitting on a cycle for five hours, how could you not chat with the guy or gal that is right in front or behind you most of that time?

Alpine Loop (via Mt. Tam)

Again, another ride that is worth doing. Especially under the circumstances.

I was riding out around 10a on Memorial Day. A very warm and nice day, with a lot of people around. A nasty and annoying guy had placed himself right in front of me, and resisted all attempts to pass him in the crowd by either pushing me to the side or accelerating to get in front of me and then falling behind because he had lost all energy.

All of a sudden another guy comes up and passes, and this is the last straw. The fat guy races after him, passes him just in time for the other guy to turn left onto Mill Valley road. Of course fatso’s totally out of breath, and I easily outpace him.

In Mill Valley, I turn into Camino Alto. At some point towards the middle of the road, the fast guy hits me and follows me. We follow each other down the hill, then into Corte Madera and finally onto the Sir Francis Drake Blvs bike route.

We get to Fairfax, and he is checking me out. He must think I have something interesting in mind. He has been in front of me for a while, when I turn left onto Bolinas Road. He makes a strange gesture while he goes straight, and I wave good-bye.

There you are, I am not far on Bolinas, when he comes up behind me. I push harder, he pushes harder, and we start chatting about the day, the ride. He usually follows the PRE route and returns on the other side of the mountains. It’s his day off, after a century the day before.

He continues along those lines, telling me how much his leg hurts. We go up, climb down to the reservoir. Then I stop and eat a bar, and we decide to go up. He outpaces me easily on the way to the top of the hill. I tell him to turn left, not to go down to Bolinas.

The road to Mt. Tam is a little too much for him, and he has a convenient call from his real estate agent right when the nicest climb is waiting to chew him out. I go forward, wait for him at the intersection that turns left to the mountain. He joins me and we go down jointly to Mill Valley.

We will stop in Sausalito for a snack, then cross the bridge. Riding with JC was a lot of fun, and I think if I continue riding in the North Bay, I could actually make friends. In the South Bay, it felt completely impossible.

Point Reyes Express Try 1

So it was time to try it out. Point Reyes Express is the North Bay equivalent of the Spectrum ride, and I just felt I had to try it out.

The route is fairly simple, but much harder than Spectrum. Basically you can join either from the city (leaving at about 8:00a from the bridge) or in San Anselmo at the Coffee Roasters. The group is much more friendly than at Spectrum, but the guys are better equipped for the much longer and much tougher ride.

Of course I started chatting with someone. This time it was George, a really excellent rider who introduced me to the concept of PRE. We biked next to each other, and we were both in a slow mode.

As we got to San Anselmo, I was surprised at the bikers and bikes I got to see. No club affiliation (unlike the cliqueish groups at Spectrum), just banter and chatter and people telling each other about their Giro experience.

We left in a slow pace, out of town on side roads, trying to avoid as much as possible the traffic on Sir Francis Drake Blvd. Then we got to the first grade, and the pack started churning out the winners.

I made it to the top with the pack. We split into three groups, and I managed to join the second group, which then managed in turn to reach the first group, and we all turned into Nicasio Valley Road as a single entity. As I saw an infinite hill looming, I decided to step down and return. After all, I had no idea of how to pace myself, and I wanted to make sure I wouldn’t be in anyone’s way when I crashed and burned.

Today I’ll try it again!

Rodeo Beach

You can actually turn left after getting all the way down from Conzelman road. Right gets you back – either up Conzelman, or through the tunnel back to the bridge.

This time I went for left and ended up on Rodeo Beach. It was an interesting mix of surfers, families and mountain bikers trying to conquer the hills heading towards Mt. Tam. I didn’t stay for long, but it made me curious.

Back I then found out that the little road that branches off Highway 1 at the end of the Bolinas lagoon actually leads all the way up to Alpine lake. That would have been quite the shortcut, if I had known about it!


This one was an epic ride! No pictures, since the new camera is going to come in next week.

I started as usual at Battery East and crossed the bridge. It was an unusually nice day, and I was in a really startling good mood. I decided to try Panoramic Highway again, since it had been so much fun on the first try. I crossed again at Miller Avenue and followed Monfort to the top. I chatted with someone all the way up, until he confessed he needed a break.

Up Panoramic, I got to the turn. Left or right? I was in the mood for a fight and turned left, down, to Stinson Beach. Long descent, in a marvelous forest, a little chilly. Not too many cars, a few cyclists, and lots of turns.

Stinson Beach was crowded with a group of cyclists having a rest. I thought of stopping, but I didn’t recognize anyone and continued on. Highway 1 hugs the Bolinas Lagoon, then goes up and down. I skipped the little man-made lake on the middle of the road, since there were a lot of cars, and simply went on.

Point Reyes National Seashore is a wonderful park. It is of such beauty, especially right now, that I frequently thought of stopping and just soaking in the marvel. The greens were spectacular, the sky amazing, and all in all the traffic not too bad.

At some point, I reached Olema, a sleepy hollow that turned touristy some time ago. I didn’t get to visit downtown, since I had to turn left onto Sir Francis Drake Blvd. A long, long ascent, with a guy shouting at me whether I had seen two girls that then turned to be elderly ladies.

We follow Olema creek all the way up. At this point, I had run out of water and food and was feeling unhappy. The beauty of the place made up for a lot, though, and riding under the tree canopy with the creek babbling to the right was just what I needed.

At some point, after passing a few human encampments, you get to Fairfax (VERY cute), then San Anselmo (EXCELLENT food). From there, it’s through Ross, then San Rafael. Sir Francis Drake becomes an inner city highway and the fun is out.

You take a left under the freeway, and then turn right onto Madera avenue. Keep going until you hit Tamalpais drive, then turn right. And then there is the (now slightly less impressive) Corte Madera hill. Got to the top, got passed by a zippy girl on the way down, then off to the Bay Trail. Fortunately there is a water fountain in the parking lot at the school at the beginning of the trail – then the usual ride up Sausalito, then to the bridge, then over, then under, then – exhausted – to the car.

I was dead by the time I reached home. I had stopped at Safeway to buy some emergency food, and had drawn a lot of undue attention in my cycling outfit. The guy at the checkstand even asked me if I didn’t sweat in that thing – he tought it was a fashion statement!!!

Most of the time by myself. A lot of fun all the way. It’s a wonderful life.

April Showers

Stress being stress, I decided to take at least the weekend ride somewhat less seriously and decided to go for the Paradise loop. In case you didn’t know, that’s one of the most famous rides in the North Bay / Marin, so I’ll give you my first hand account.

I started, as usual, by parking the car at the East Battery parking lot. A tourist next to me held her door open for about five minutes, until I complained and she moved on, not really apologetic. Cross the bridge, and behold the clouds forming. It was not a good feeling, but I really didn’t care too much. Tiburon, the final destination, looked fine.

Through Sausalito, then on the Bay Trail. A moment of confusion at the end, when we merge with big streets. I turn right, the guy with whom I happened to ride turns left. Lots of cyclists around.

You cross the freeway bridge – ugly traffic! Then you get through something that must be Mill Valley or Marin City. Back on the trail, and it starts drizzling. Soon it develops into a real April shower, and cyclists and pedestrians are hating each other because we get in each other’s way.

Time to leave the trail (I don’t think I want that experience again) and to go through Belvedere and Tiburon. The most wonderful cities, even during a rain shower! Some time in the summer I shall visit again!

Then Paradise Drive, which winds its way on the East side of the Tiburon peninsula. Not too interesting, except for the views. The end is marked by yet another dangerous freeway overpass, but then we are on Corte Madera Avenue, which winds its way (again) to the top of the mountain and then down to Mill Valley. A car passed me on the way up, and then drove down at absurdly low speed. I was in his rear view mirror all the time – what an idiot.

From Mill Valley it’s an easy ride back through Sausalito. It wasn’t the funnest ride, but for people with an altitude challenge, that’s as nice as it gets.

Summit Avenue

I took the car all the way to the Presidio to avoid riding in the City, then specialized on the Marin part of the ride.

There was a lot going on. People were flocking out of the city on what looked like a gorgeous morning, and getting through Sausalito was a pain.

The goal was a run-up to Mt. Tam. Since it looms high above the valley and is highly visible from virtually anywhere, I thought it shouldn’t be hard to get to it. I packed the Bay Trail maps to make sure things would work out.

Well, after I got to the Bayland Park and turned left. I kinda really got lost. I forged ahead, to land on West Blithedale Ave. I followed it through the park (very nice), up to Fern Canyon Road. Somehow Summit Avenue surprised me by not going all the way to the summit. I found out checking on a map that I would have had to take a completely different route.

Coming back, I saw the fog pushing through the Golden Gate, and I was glad the car was next to the bridge. When the fog pushes like that, the wind is terrible. Indeed, getting to the bridge, onto the bridge and then crossing the bridge was a major undertaking. Besides, I was wearing my “it’s a summer day” skinsuit and was ill-prepared for the frosty old time…