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.