Get out there and do it.
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Get out there and do it.
Sometimes just thinking about cycling can get to be too frustrating. Thoughts like “I’m not riding enough”, “I can’t find the time”, “Damn, I’m out of shape”, “I’m not fast enough”, “I’m sick of all my routes”, and “I think I’ll just give up”, can be almost paralyzing, and the more you think about how little you’re riding, the more you’re inclined not to ride. At least, that’s how it is with me, and often, with all the thinking and analyzing, I forget why I even got into cycling in the first place: adventure, spending time in nature, that indescribable sense of freedom that comes with knowing that when all is said and done, you can go just about ANYWHERE on a bike (under your own power)!!!
So it was on Saturday morning when I woke to clear skies and promises of warm weather. I was LOOKING for a chance NOT to ride. The cat’s been sick, the rear hub on my road bike is broken, the saddle for my cross bike is on my road bike, etc. etc. etc.
Finally, I decided that maybe I’d do something different. Forget the road bike, forget the ‘cross bike, forget the clip ins, the cycling gear, the wrap around euro shades, the whole damn attitude that inspires the aforementioned thoughts. I was going Klunking.
For those who aren’t familiar, “Klunking” is what they called mountain biking in the early days, when Joe Breeze, Gary Fischer, Tom Ritchey, Otis Guy, Steve Potts, et al. were modifying old beach cruisers and tearing up the trails on Mount Tam (there’s a great documentary about it called “Klunkerz”, check it out). Now, it’s 2012, and I don’t have a cobbled together beach cruiser, but I do have a cobbled together, fully rigid, platform pedaled, mullet-braked, internally geared, 90′s Gary Fischer townie conversion, which would do nicely. Ultimately, I don’t think it really matters if your bike counts as a “Klunker” or not, so long as your head’s in the right place.
I put on my most appropriate klunking attire, which actually could also be described as “my street clothes”: Levis cut offs, tennis shoes (workboots would have been more appropriate, but hey, you work with what you got), and a plaid shirt (to be opened in front on long ascents, of course), and a helmet (which isn’t necessarily in-line with the klunker esthetic, but I’m not stupid), and hit the trails.
My original plan was to do a short, but fun ride in the hills that climbs up tunnel road and follows as much dirt as possible down through Sibley and Tilden Parks, ending at the Little Farm, say what’s up to the goats, and head home.
Now, climbing Tunnel road on a 30+ pound flat-pedaled townie, is a lot different than on a 20- pound road bike, but something about it put a smile on my face. I was lagging, bigtime, and getting passed by cyclist after cyclist, but I was getting one hell of a workout, and I was having FUN! By the time I hit the dirt in Sibley park, I couldn’t wipe the stupid grin off my face. By the time I reached the steep ascent of Fish Ranch Road (plaid shirt open all the way, of course) I’d changed my plans completely.
A few years back, my wife-to-be was attending a Waldorf Teacher Training out in El Sobrante. While dropping her off one evening, I noticed a trail head right next to the school and wondered if it connected all the way through to Tilden park and beyond. Eventually, my wife-to-be quit the program, I stopped dropping her off at school and quickly forgot about the existence of that trail. Until yesterday.
Climbing Fish Ranch road, having a blast in the heat, I decided I would FIND THAT TRAIL! and if I didn’t, hell, I’d find some other trail, and ride that. Above all, I’d break out of my routine, ride some new terrain, and maybe even find a hidden gem or two to add to my repertoire.
I continued up Fish Ranch Road to Grizzly Peak Boulevard, past the Tilden Steam Train, up the hill and along Seaview Trail. When I reached Wildcat Canyon Road, I diverted from my usual route, and instead of following Meadows Canyon Trail to the Little Farm, I turned towards Inspiration Point and the trail head for Nimitz Way. Nimitz way is a paved trail that follows the rolling, grassy ridge line above Wildcat Canyon. It wasn’t the dirt that I was hoping for, but it was new terrain to me, and it felt good to be out in the sun on the exposed ridge. I was hoping that Nimitz would stay paved all the way to it’s terminus, wherever that might be, as it would make a killer addition to many East Bay road rides. Eventually, however, the pavement stops and Nimitz way splits three ways. I chose to follow Nimitz trail, since it seemed the most logical extension of Nimitz Way (not knowing that there was also “Old Nimitz Road”, the signage out there was minimal). Nimitz Trail turned into Mezue trail, and quickly became a decent into Wildcat Canyon. I knew by this point that I’d gone the wrong way, and that I wouldn’t be making the connection to El Sobrante.
I didn’t achieve my “goal”, but who cares? What’s a goal once achieved? What’s a trail once ridden? I wouldn’t find my trail head, at least not today, but I couldn’t think about that with my brain rattling around in my skull as it was, for the decent into Wildcat was steep, rutty-as-all-hell, fast, and fun!
And isn’t that the point?
Last Wednesday, I spent the day riding with two, then one, of the newest additions to Box Dog’s staff. Geoff and Eric. I was stoked to get out with some new riders and try to hit some new terrain. Our plan was to ride from North Oakland to Lake Chabot, around the lake, then back on as much dirt as possible.
The day started off normal enough, with the 1000ft plus climb up Tunnel Road in the first 5 miles of the ride, which is always a good indicator of how the day is going to go. I was feeling good up the climb despite having spent several weeks off the bike. From the top of Tunnel, we made our way the 2 miles to East Ridge trail, which began the dirt portion of the ride. East Ridge from North to South is much funner than the other way (how I normally do it) and you can more or less coast the entire way. Tuesdays rain brought some mud, so the trails were fast and grippy.
East Ridge Trail dumps out at Pinehurst road, which we followed to Redwood road then about 2 miles to the MacDonald trail head. MacDonald trail starts out VERY steep (and in yesterday’s case muddy). About 200 yards up the steep section, I hear Eric, behind me, very calmly exclaim “Ooops, I’m done.” I turned around to find Eric stopped with his rear derailleur tied up in his wheel. A twig had sucked up between the jockey wheels of his derailleur and seized the whole thing up. After wrestling the derailleur free and a little emergency tweaking, he got it rolling again, but he turned back anyway, fearing that it might happen again (turns out it was the right choice. The hanger would shear off completely before he made it home).
Reluctant to leave Eric behind, but wanting to continue the ride, Geoff and I continued climbing. MacDonald trail stays steep for almost a mile, with many “false summits” to tease the heart out of any rider. The payoff, however, is a long flowing descent along a ridge line as MacDonald drops towards Bort Meadow. Brandon Trail links Bort Meadow to the Lake Chabot bike loop, a truly “mixed-terrain” loop that varies from steep, rutted dirt descents to flat, smooth pavement. There’s even a footbridge crossing.
Geoff and I must have taken a wrong turn somewhere after circling the lake, because instead of looping back to the trail head that began the Lake Chabot loop, we were spit out in downtown San Leandro. The nice folks at Robinson Wheel Works directed us back onto our route, pointing the way back to Skyline Boulevard. Our mistake in navigation led us up Golf Links Road, a short, but steep climb leading up to Skyline Boulevard. At this point, my lack of preparation was catching up with me, and I was out of food, low on water and starting to bonk. Bad. After a brief attempt at getting back in the dirt (Goldenrod trail parallels Skyline boulevard for several miles in this section) I finally admitted defeat, and decided to stay on the road until we could drop into East Oakland, get some tacos and call it quits. We dropped down Redwood road, a long, steep, brakeless descent, that would have been perfect for setting a personal speed record (if I hadn’t been shaking and seeing double at this point), and rolled out into the flats of East Oakland.
Luckily, the descent down Redwood Road hits International Boulevard mere blocks from my favorite taco truck (29th and International, in the Goodwill parking lot. Get some). A thousand or so calories later, I was feeling like a new man, and the urge to quit altogether and jump on BART had diminished significantly, and Geoff and I got back on the bikes to ride the last few miles home. I split with Geoff at 12th st. BART station seeing him off towards SF and limped home, satisfied with a long day in the saddle with some new bros, yet defeated, broken, and mildly embarrassed for getting so worked by a 45 mile ride.
….or maybe it was the other way around.
Saturday was another glorious Bay Area day, and with the new road frame in the paint shop, I took the opportunity to take yet another East Bay hills Mixed terrain ride on the cross bike. This time I had along some new riding partners, Zac and Ian from the Nub City Wheelsters.
Taking off from Oakland at a most reasonable 12pm start time, we rode one of my favorite East Bay Hills Loops , with a new variation on the ending, which takes you through the East end of Joaquin Miller Park via Big Trees, Sunset and Sinawik Trails, some of the most beautiful and funnest cross-bike-friendly, legal single track that the East Bay has to offer.
The ride went off without a hitch, with gorgeous blue skies and warm enough weather to make due with just my basic short-sleeve kit (I love these Bay area February heat-waves). Ian and Zac are both long-time Bay Area riders and although we stuck to my tried-and-true route, they had many gems of East Bay trails wisdom to share for future rides.
Coming down through Joaquin Miller on Sinawik trail, with Zac and Ian on my rear wheel, I heard Ian shout out that he’d lost a water bottle after a particularly rough spot on the trail. Instead of keeping my composure and braking to a safe stop, I made the fateful mistake of breaking my concentration for just a second. Before I new it I was careening off into the brush at the side of the trail. There was a loud CRACK as I ran over the upright branch of a fallen tree and next thing I know I’m on the ground, laughing, the front wheel of my over-ended bike still spinning, hissing as air escaped from a newly acquired pinch flat. I stood up, dusted myself off and took quick stock. Nothing hurting too bad, except for a decent sized scratch on the knee (probably from that damned tree branch) that had already began to bleed significantly.
You should’ve seen the other guy, though.
After a quick break to fix the front flat we zipped down the last bit of Sinawik trail (this time proceeding with the reasonable hesitation that always seems to follow a crash), linked up with Bishops Walk at the West end of Joaquin Miller, and finally limped home along the road.
Take THAT, East Bay Hills!!!