The bicycle for some is simply a form of transportation between point A and point B, but for me it’s the reason to travel.
The formula I use is very simple: Find an event or a spot you want to travel too, contact as many local people as you can find, go there, then ride and sample their local spots.
The cycle (no pun intended) is self-perpetuating as the more you travel and the more people you meet the further your horizons are expanded. Chat with a new rider acquaintance for ten minutes and you will have another big stack of possibilities laid out in front of you. I believe that owning and riding a bicycle has opened up so many possibilities and experiences I would otherwise never have had.
With this simple outlook it was an easy decision to travel with Grace to a conference in San Francisco. While Grace furthered her knowledge in her academic field, I would expand my knowledge in my chosen field: path, forest, road, etc. With the destination set all I needed to find were the local riders and local spots to ride.
The extensive plethora of social media sites has made finding people to ride with easy. Forget the seven degrees of separation theory as cycling is a much tighter knit community and you will no doubt know someone through only one or two friends. In this case my nearest port of call was Errin Vasquez in Los Angeles. Sure enough, Errin was quick to fire back with two guys I could contact: Erik Mathy and Andrew Gentry Law. As an added bonus, Errin could make the trip up to ride too. A plan was coming together.
On arriving in San Francisco the first point of business was to get hold of a bike and luckily Erik had a Salsa Vaya I could use, only one size too big. The first taste of riding in San Fransisco was the West Bay area. Kindly picked up by Andrew we made out way over to meet Erik and Errin in Alameda. From there the plan was simple; roll some local tracks and streets and, whenever the mood took us, stop for coffee, beer, pizza, etc.
Straight away the mutual love of two wheels and riding eased the conversation along as rides past and present were discussed, coffee was drunk, and local small stores were visited. Later that day we met with Lucas Winzenburg of Bunyan Velo fame and Gabe Ehlert, a local rando rider and talented designer of the Box Dog Bikes Pelican frameset. A plan for the following days ride was established.
Mt Tam and German Sausage
Mondays ride started at the Ferry Building as Erik, Errin and myself were joined by Gabe and his friend Jake for a trip out to Mt Tamalpais.
The ride started steadily tracking along the bay toward, and eventually crossing, the Golden Gate Bridge. Again, another cool moment afforded by cycling.
Mt Tam lays beyond the Marin headlands and as we rolled through the local towns I wondered when the climb was going to start. It wasn't long before we rode down a tree-lined road to the start of the Railway Grade trail that would take us to the both the east and west summits of the mountain!
The climb was a dirt road that never really had a huge gradient due to its previous use as a rail track for tourists to climb the mountain. But what the climb may have lacked in gradient it made up for in duration.
We climbed in the sun on dry trails and it really was perfection on a bike. After a mile or so of climbing we stopped at the first viewpoint. Here we sat for a few minutes and soaked up the view looking back toward San Francisco and scoured the hillside picking out the great network of trails that exist here.
From our first viewpoint we looked up and could just see the trail we were heading for and the Forest Service lookout point that was the first summit we would aim for. There was still a lot of climbing to go.
The steady gradient continued, the sun was shining, and the view and trail was superb at all times. Gabe took up the front of the group and steadily we made our way up, even opting for the steeper tarmac section to finish the east peak.
There was a variety of bikes within the group with a definite lean toward the rando steel setup with the Vaya filling the gap between them and Erik's loaner steel singlespeed mountain bike.
After the east peak there was still more to come with a short descent and then the climb up the west peak. After that though the descending started and it was as long as the climb!
Swooping turns came fast as I tried to keep Gabe in sight. I watched his rear light glow brighter as we dipped into more densely wooded areas the lower we got, always mindful of the drop in temperature and the potential for patches of ice. Gabe quickly rode away effortlessly, leaving us all to regroup at the base of the descent at a dam.
Discovering that the base of the dam was out of the reach of any sunlight, and a small pond there was frozen over so like a bunch of kids we spent a while throwing rocks down to listen to the crazy reverberations from rock striking ice.
All that lay before us now was another much smaller climb and a descent to lunch at a German sausage joint with an entire wall dedicated to bike racks. Bike friendly? Very much so!
Following lunch, stomachs full, we rolled the last few miles to the ferry terminal and travelled back to San Francisco boat assisted.
A final coffee stop was made, then a roll back to the hotel ever mindful of the traffic and differing rules of the road.
A great day out with great people, and one that will stay with me for a while.
I Love San Francisco
In the following days, I was lucky enough to manage a few local city rides, and also a day out with just me and Gabe where we travelled south and took in the beautiful coastline, not to mention another epic forest and dirt road climb, this time with more serious gradient and an even windier descent.
San Francisco offered me so much potential to ride, as with little effort you can be beyond the city and into some fantastic scenery. That is something I am used to in the UK, but trails and rides on a US scale are fairly impressive. New friends were made and more riding memories were stored to be reflected upon at a time when I cannot ride anymore. It really is such a fantastic place with fantastic people.
I guess my biggest memory from the week was non bike related when I finally found the right time and place at Yosemite to ask Grace to marry me and she said yes! A whole new chapter of life started from that point on with more planning, organizing, and travel to be sorted...but that's what we both love.
Thanks Errin for the use of your images. Thanks Gabe for some good routes and excellent company. And huge thanks to my new friend Erik Mathy for the loan of your bike and a few great nights out!
As you move forward in 2014, I encourage you not just to ride, but to also create new riding opportunies. They don't need to be as extreme as a trip to San Fransisco, but pick a place, make a few calls, and see what develops. Odds are you won't be disappointed.
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UK born and bred, Paul Errington came to riding bikes as a hobby, which soon evolved into an all-consuming passion. Riding fulfills a desire to challenge himself and explore adversity. An endurance bike rider above all else, the ever-progressive sport keeps him enthused. Every day on a bike is a good day. shoestring-racing.blogspot.com