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Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
Here's a direct link to my rides report:

I also have tons of other indy bike culture stuff (and more) up at

Here's the direct text with pics and vid below...

A couple old-days college pals and I sometimes get together in Marin in the springtime at a friend's house and do a few days of mountainous bike riding and R&R. It's an inspiring place to hang out and to get ready for summer riding in flatland Michigan.

This time out we finally got to visit the Jitensha bike shop in Berkeley. Be still my heart! A lady was there buying a bike so we didn't bother the owner, who was busy taking down her specs on a clipboard. It's a true celebration of tasteful French-style bike culture.

We like to blend the local food with the bikes. So this year after a $99 flight from Detroit we arrived at our friend's ridgetop house, put our bikes together and rode down the hill to the Bay. I had one water bottle filled with cold white wine and in short order we arrived at the oyster fishing farm that's located in the middle of the Pt. Reyes national park. We got a dozen fresh ones on the half shell and slurped em at a picnic table by the water just as they were closing. Actually, I've heard that you're not supposed to call a good oyster "fresh"---that means it's been sitting in ice water so long that it's siphoned all of its internal salt water out and taken lame ice-melt water in. "Fresh" means old in oyster-speak. Get it?

Then we rode out to the end of the point and the park. I gather that both the oyster farm and the cattle farm inside the park may well be nearing the end of their days. This is a big deal in the local scene, as, for one thing, the dairy is a key player in the survival of the other small dairies in the county. If one goes they all might because there's no longer enough critical mass for suppliers/haulers. I suppose the main question is, Should a park include people's businesses and heritage or should it be all nature all the time. Hmmm, I suppose that most parks include a variety of human culture interaction, impact and business. So then it's a matter of weighing the upside and the downside. As our local pal suggested, When the weather is great every day you have to find things to worry about.

After the oysters and wine we rode further out to the Point...and up a mile-long supersteep grade in first gear. (All digestion went well.) Chris, who was saying he was out of shape, bought a dozen unshucked oysters on ice for the road and hauled them in his saddlebag the rest of the ride.

Well, see for yourself. Here's my YouTube video of our 3 days of most pleasant outdoor action...

Our trio, which turns into a foursome once we arrive in Marin, is an interesting bunch. Three of us are, or have been, involved with the American transit scene at the highest levels. Yet what is our chosen mode to get around on? The bike! Two of us work in major metro mass transit---yet we all hail from Michigan, a state that is basically without any mass transit. A final and humorous aside is that 3 of us are/were leaders of major departments...while one of us works out of his house. : ) Cyclists come in all flavors, eh?

On the three outings we did we ran into a variety of locals who were also out riding. Every one of them was helpful and in a good mood. Why not, the weather was great! "Welcome to my back yard!" was the common refrain.

An interesting angle was that on the Marin coast the towns are rather far apart. Folks drive 20 minutes "over the hill" to Fairfax to get to town. It's truly rural out there. The upshot was that we saw many cyclists but not so many bike commuters. The daily rural life tends to be a driving one, in short. It's a destination area. At the same time, the small town life can be a sufficient one for most daily needs. While when I was in Oakland/Berkeley and, later on, even LA, I saw jillions of citybikers plus a few enthusiasts also. I suppose it only stands to reason. Sometimes our family is tempted to "move to the country"---the likely drive-hours ends up being one factor that cools us a bit. Still...

One of us asked our local host, who has done many big triathlons now that he's retired, how he manages it. Our host gestured around. He runs up the mountain to get a view and bikes up another mountain to get another view, then goes down to the bay for a lovely swim. You can get in great shape just living in a place like that, as long as you're into an aerobic pace of life.

On one of our days we went for a hike instead of a bike. Our host is still getting over a health setback and was feeling more that way inclined. So he showed us his trails. We headed out his back yard and up the park mountain. At the top we could see the ocean, bay and all his hiking and running trails for dozens of miles around.

I really liked the lush singletrack and all the birdsong and babbling brooks. There are 7 springs that feed their valley's water-tank. The moist lushness was perhaps one of the best things about all our outings. Our rides often took us up redwood valleys on our way to the mountains. The quiet, damp birdsong and eucalyptus perfume of those places really does it for me.

Our hosts are quiet, retired people. The lady of the house would seem to be slowed down due to arthritis, but, no, she's amazing. She threw a Brasilian fiesta for 20 one afternoon, all on her own, without batting an eye---well, we helped a little. At the same time, here we are visiting and a French family with 3 little kids is also staying with them. They had met them years ago in S. America and they'd all also lived for some time in Brasil. They invited some other retired friends over who had also lived in Brasil. The simple but special meal is considered the national feast and is based around a slave-days beans and meat stew called Feijoada. The drinks were Caipirinhas made of the sugar cane diesel fuel called cachaca. Fiesta! (We helped clean up.)

One member of our little group hadn't really been a bike rider until we started doing our spring get-together. His brother gave him an old Fuji that he got tuned up and repainted a classy gunboat grey. Every trip out he has gotten better and better. He replaced his tennis shoes with bike shoes. The first year he struggled---it was a red-faced, inner battle to get up a hill in one piece. Now he's charging. The change is amazing. Really, all he's missing now is a gear. He has a 42x34 that's too easy then it goes to a 28 that's too hard. His crank won't take a 39 but he should be able to easily find an old one that would. I think a 39x28 would put him in the sweet spot for flying up.

I pretty much verified a hunch on this trip. I lost 5-10 lbs in the past half year. I think it's due to playing a bit of wild tennis---working new muscles. But I might have also consumed a bit fewer calories just due to other interests. XC skiing is my anchor but I'm lighter even so. This year I found riding up the steep climbs to be seemingly easier than other years. Nice! A few years ago I did a very hilly road bike race and finished in the lead group even though I was somewhat out of shape but was on the thin side. The next year I did the same race again. I was a bit heavier but in much better fitness---and I got dropped. I've kind of decided that outdoor activities improve more if you lose weight than compared to getting into better fitness. That is, weight is more important than fitness. Well, I suppose it depends on your strength to weight ratio. I'm kind of a skinny person so extra weight affects me a lot. Maybe everyone is different. Maybe the main lesson is, Know thyself.

Our other cohort was in fair fitness for this trip...but due to a new high-end job he had put on 10 lbs...and didn't have his usual uphill speed. But what's to worry about? Take your time. A babbling brook running down a mountain valley is nothing to get away from any sooner than you have to.

I also made another nifty discovery. I usually use 170mm cranks on my bike. Last fall I borrowed a bike for a very hilly ride and the uphills felt easier than usual and the cranks felt weird---they were 172.5's. I went for broke on this Marin trip and used 175's. (I brought shorties, too, in case my theory failed.) Darn, the long cranks felt great on the climbs! They were lame everywhere else, though, but not that bad. I've read that 172+ are OK for riders over 6 feet anyway. They do seem to impede a good spin but if you have power climbs and long legs maybe going long is worth trying. A secret weapon!

On our last day we rode up Mt. Vision (overlooking Pt. Reyes Park) on a narrow French-style road-path. Previously, I had ridden up the hills sustainably seated. I finally decided to climb out of the saddle. It worked great! I could really blast. Then I went for broke and put it in the big ring and, darn, everything still clicked! I was flying up. What fun. I hadn't done that in years. Now that I'm back home, where are my hills? Well, let's see what happens when I go out tonight with the hammerhead local champs on their Monday Night ride...
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