RoadBikeReview member ratpick had an epic 232 mile weekend ride through the gorgeous Mt. Tamalpais, Point Reyes, Bolinas and Bodega Bay trails in Northern California. Read on to follow his adventure.
One of my wife’s hobbies is “cropping” aka “scrapbooking”. I enjoy the supply side of this (taking the photographs) but she can weave it together into an incredible pictoral story. Twice a year, she and some girlfriends rent a house in a scenic location, haul up all their cropping gear and spend a 3/4 day weekend cropping, drinking, eating, beach walking and whatever else girls do when they get together!
My wife organizes these weekends and has a fondness for Bodega Bay. I have begged her to let me come up with them so I could take off during the day and explore the wonderful Marin/Sonoma roads but she usually has a full house. But on this weekend, someone canceled and my pleading worked! I had an invite.
The easy reason why I like to ride these big rides is because I can! I spent some time training myself for long endurance rides, doing roadie double centuries and 24-hour mountain bike rides, so I’m always looking for opportunities to ride to a far-away places. I only get further excited by routes that Dirk and Chris share.
I bought a cyclocross bike with no intention to race. It was for this very purpose – to ride big rides that include significant dirt sections. On roadie rides I often look at trails behind gates and wish I could jump the fence and see where it goes – with a CX bike, I can!
It was Dirk’s Coe Monstercross ride that got me started. Possibly the most difficult ride I’ve ever done was Murphy’s Spring Classic – The South, a ride which only 22 of us finished! I’m always looking for new, big cyclocross routes!
I saw two options – drive up and do a couple of big loops out of Bodega Bay or do it as an out-n-back ride from home. There’s an attraction to doing epic rides from my front door. Also, I had heard about, but was unable to make, the SFR Marin Mountains ride, a cyclocross ride that ventured into the hills on Point Reyes, a place I had not yet ventured on two wheels. So the idea of making it more than just a split double-century and adding some CX action greatly appealed!
I love planning big rides – especially over unknown territory! For some reason with this ride, I wanted to keep parts of it somewhat unknown – I’ll usually do as much research as I can to eliminate surprises but I was in the mood for a suprise!
So I settled on riding all road up to Bodega Bay – a relatively easy ride on roads that I’m somewhat familiar with – then returning via the major climbs on the SFR ride. I mapped it out and realized 130 miles was going to be impossible within the dwindling daylight hours of Autumn; but the last 40 miles of the ride would be very familiar roads through San Francisco and down the peninsula to Redwood Shores – easy to do under lights.
I decided to take the Skyline Blvd route on Saturday since there wasn’t a lot of climbing on day 1, and I love the scenery. My route home down the peninsula would be Embarcadero, 3rd St through Bayview and down past SFO airport – the flat, easy way. I figured I’d be tired at that point!
I plotted out the routes on bikeroutertoaster.com – 102 miles/7,000′ for day 1 and 130 miles/10,000′ for day 2 – definitely within my fitness capability right now after the MTBR Demo 10K and a couple of big CX rides in the past month. I put these on my Garmin 800.
Since the first part of the ride was all road, it made sense to do it on a road bike! My wife was planning on taking my Outback up on Thursday to carry all her cropping gear so my plan was to put my CX bike on the roof, ride up on my road bike and swap them for the return.
For some reason, my wife was very nervous about driving with the bike on the car. Also, the forecast called for rain Friday and I didn’t want to have to ask her to take the bike off the car. Also, if it did rain and the roads were wet, it would be much more comfortable riding up on the CX bike.
So, in the end, I opted to ride my CX bike up and back. I put a gear bag in the car with fresh riding clothes and food for the return trip. I hadn’t thought it out properly or I would have put my light and battery in the car as well; I had to ride up with these. I had broken my original MagicShine battery pack on my previous ride, so had a new one which, while a much larger capacity, weighs a lot more.
I debated for days about tires. I still have my original Specialized 33mm small-nob tire on the front and was happy to leave that. The rear one wore out extremely quickly and I had replaced it with a fast-rolling 30mm Michelin Jet tire. A 70-mile ride which included a climb up the Butano fire road suggested it would be a good fit for this ride. It also was wearing out extremely fast but it would have to do. Since the first day was all road, I inflated them more than usual, to 70 psi in the rear, 65 psi in the front. In hindsight, I think this combination worked pretty well: I got good grip on the front all day and decent grip on the rear – the only real grip problems were getting over slick tree roots (of which there were plenty).
For the tire geeks, here they are…
Planning for long rides nearly always involves planning out my water stops. Cold and water are the two things I really tend to worry about prior and during rides. I looked at the route and couldn’t identify where the water stops were going to be. In an unusual theme for the ride, I decide to just not worry about it mostly because it wasn’t going to be hot so I could survive without water for a lot longer.
I was more worried about food for the return trip than the relatively easy century on Saturday. I put a “bento box” on the bike so I had easy access to snacks and didn’t have to cram it all in my pockets. In there I put a few assorted bars, a Honeystinger waffle (love these), energy jelly beans, a stick of Cliff blocks and a canister of Hammer Perpetuem tablets (magic pills). In my pocket I put a few pieces of my banana-chocolate chip biscotti and some dried fruit (mango, apricots, coconut).
In hindsight, I should have boiled some new potatoes and thrown them in too – I did need something more solid at various points. I usually plan to stop somewhere mid-ride and have a sandwich, burger or something solid but I wasn’t sure if I’d be able to do that this time.
We had a friend from New Zealand staying with us the prior week and as happens when Aussies & Kiwis get together, we had been attacking the Bay Area’s beer supply with enthusiasm all week. So I felt very “loaded” with energy for the ride.
This was difficult because I didn’t know how cold it would get and whether it would rain at all. The forecast gave a reasonable chance of rain and a wide range of potential low and high temps. In the end, I opted to not wear my heaviest gear. I threw in some full-finger cold-weather gloves in case I needed them for the return ride but rode in open-fingered roadie gloves for the ride up. On the morning of the ride, I opted for full leg warmers rather than just knee warmers – I figured I could ride comfortably in those to the predicted max of 60° and if it did rain they would add a lot of comfort. I threw a skull cap into my pocket at the last minute which I put to great use on the return ride. Other than that, a long-sleeved underlayer, jersey and wind/rain jacket and shorts were all I wore.
My CX bike has MTB SPDs so I have to use my mountain bike Sidi’s rather than my much lighter roadie Specialized shoes. That turned into an excellent “choice” as the Sidis have a solid toe not allowing as much air-flow and I never had frozen toes.