Trip Report: Redwood Shores, CA to Bodega Bay Out-n-back on a Cross Bike

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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.

Why?

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!

Route

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!

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.

Logistics

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.

Tires

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…

Water

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.

Food

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.

Clothes

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.

Trip Report: Redwood Shores, CA to Bodega Bay Out-n-back on a Cross Bike Gallery
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Redwood City to Bodega Bay Route

Done! 232 miles, 17,000' of climbing in 17:10 hours riding time. Another bucket list ride completed!
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Tires

Tires post ride (rear, front).
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Redwood Shores

Forecast warned of a chance of showers but there was no sign as I rode out of Redwood Shores. Just a chilly 41°.
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San Bruno Mountain

I took the Skyline Blvd route north since there wasn't a lot of climbing to be done otherwise. San Bruno Mountain was calling for me to come over and ride its (illegal) trails!
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Skyline Blvd

Even Pacifica, usually shrouded in a fog blanket, was clear!
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Ocean Beach

First stop at Ocean Beach for some photos and a bite to eat. Not a hint of fog over Mt. Tam.
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Seal Rock

Seal Rock near the Cliff House.
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Golden Gate Bridge

It really is a magestic bridge!
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Golden Gate Bridge

Noticed an uncommon view so stopped for the pic.
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Golden Gate Bridge

More traditional view - perfect day.
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Golden Gate Bridge Pylon

Lines, everywhere!
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Golden Gate Bridge Empty

Surprisingly empty for a Saturday morning!
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Nicasio Valley Rd

Riding through the redwoods on Nicasio Valley Rd.
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Nicasio

On the outskirts of the township of Nicasio.
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Nicasio Reservoir

Bypassing Nicasio Reservoir - some good memories of past rides came flooding back here.
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A Patriotic Rock

A nod to Veterans Day
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Color Explosion

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Chileno Valley Rd

At least the colors were a distraction from the roaring wind.
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Chileno Valley Rd End

Finally and mercifully, Chileno Valley ends.. unfortunately, the wind did not.
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California Happy Cows

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Bodega Bay

I've arrived!
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Bodega Bay

On the deck of the house Brenda has rented with friends for their cropping weekend.. great spot to end the ride.
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Bodega Bay

Eat, sleep & repeat!
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Bodega Bay Sunset

Until tomorrow!
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Bodega Bay Sunrise

Day 2! Awake pre-dawn but procrastinated leaving because of the cold.
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Bodega Bay Sunrise

Also delayed by watching the sunrise light up the bay!
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Leaving Bodega Bay

It was 33° when I left Bodega Bay but as I rode away from the water, the temperature dropped to a very chilly 28°. Frost was everywhere.
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Icy Post into Valley Ford

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Nearing Tomales Bay

On Hwy 1, nearing the bay, it was warming up and the wind started to blow, although still a light breeze. This section of road usually features a very heavy headwind riding towards the coast.
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Ride down Hwy 1

The ride down Hwy 1 was coming to an end - just gorgeous down here and amazingly quiet for a Sunday morning.
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Looking back on Pt Reyes

Looking back over from Point Reyes.
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Looking Back Over from Point Reyes

I always get such a cheap thrill looking back at where I've ridden from!
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Stunning!

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Point Reyes National Seashore

A steep climb led me to finally concede and start removing layers.. head cap and jacket gone.
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Mount Vision

The point of my detour onto Point Reyes was to climb Mount Vision - I assumed that this would be a dirt road climb but it turned out to be paved the whole way up!
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Point Reyes

Point Reyes.. wow!
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Mount Vision Communications Station

Another higher view down to Hwy 1 and the "mainland"
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Let's Go!

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Stopping for the View

Kept having to stop for the view!
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Wonderful Trail

The trail was wonderful - kept changing its character!
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Gravel Trail

After a fun singletrack descent, it turned into a gravel fireroad - fine CX surface.
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Mount Vision View

A view back to Mount Vision where I just came from.
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Randall Trailhead

After the Mount Vision workout, I was eager for food but didn't find any before reaching the trailhead of my route up into the hills. So I took a quick rest in the grass (catching a few moments of sleep) before heading up.
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Break Under Bike

Laying on the grass under my bike!
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Randall Trail

OK.. time to climb! And 1.5 miles of serious climbing ahead! The trail starts steep (16%) and loose.
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Randall Trail

In amongst the redwoods and pines, the surface gets softer making the climbing even tougher.
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Randall Trail

After every steep section, there was a spot to recover and in no time I was at the gate at the top - I was surprised to clean the whole thing!
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Bolinas Ridge Trail

No idea what to expect of the Bolinas Ridge Trail so I was thrilled with what I saw - towering redwoods with a fern ground covering - so beautiful!
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Bolinas Ridge Trail

Although without the overall steepness of the Randall Trail, Bolinas Ridge Trail continues upward, usually in short steep climbs followed by meandering flats.
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Seven Sisters on the way up to Mt Tam - Bolinas Ridge Trail

At a high point on the Bolinas Ridge Trail I spotted the Seven Sisters on the way up to Mt Tam - my next destination!
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Seven Sisters

The gate leading to a road I've ridden several times - Ridgecrest Blvd and the Seven Sisters!
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Seven Sisters

There they are - the Seven Sisters rising ahead of me. "Seven" refers to the number of steep climbs on the road.
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Scenic Clouds

Even the clouds were feeling scenic.
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Hikers

Plenty of hikers out!
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Towards Mt. Tam

At the Pan Toll intersection, I turned up towards the Mt Tam summit and about a mile in came to this gate which my Garmin told me was the start of the next phase of my dirt adventure!
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Even Steeper at 19%

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Rock Springs Lagunitas Road

Over the top, it leveled off and gave me some recovery time before the long descent.
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Descent

Going down! I remember this surface from a mountain biking trip here.
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Rocky Ridge Road

Almost missed a turn onto Rocky Ridge Rd. The views on this road gave me plenty of reason to stop and rest - a fully rigid bike with 30mm tires doesn't absorb much of the shock of the descent! My wrists were in pain.
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Bon Tempe Lake

The Bom Tempe dam.. end of the descent.
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Bon Tempe Lake Looking Back to Mt. Tam

Bon Tempe Lake looking back to Mt Tam.. very fun descent, despite the pain!
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Indian Burrito

Indian Burrito in Fairfax - curried pumpkin and chicken - so very good (with Red Tail Ale).
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Sunset View of the City

Once back on the roads, it was head down and make good time to get back and minimize the time I had to ride under lights. Had to stop for this sunset view of the city, though!
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Crossing the Golden Gate Bridge

Golden Hour was well underway as I crossed back over the Golden Gate Bridge! It's always special riding across this bridge!
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The Bay Bridge from the Embarcadero

Had to stop, cross The Embarcadero and interrupt my ride when I saw this view of the Bay Bridge.
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  • Roger Lynn says:

    That’s a beautiful “Cyclomentary” Patrick! The reality of trips like your RWS2BB and back at my door step are all the proof I need to know that I’ve already died and gone to heaven. Thanks…

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