Reflections on Tiburon Loop

I don’t remember my first Tiburon loop. I moved up to San Francisco in 1982 and although I was mainly into running at that point in my life I still rode my bike on occasion. As running injuries mounted I decided to go back to cycling and surely did the Tib loop on my own. I do recall that my first Different Spokes ride was—what else?—Tiburon loop! During the time I lived in the City I did the loop regularly as do many of you. It’s a convenient, medium-sized ride that gets you out of the urbanity of San Francisco into the sub-urbanity of Marin, which at the time seemed like a godsend. Plus, you got to ride over the Golden Gate Bridge; even on a bad day the ride over the bridge is scenic and rewarding. In those days the club had frequent Decide ‘N Rides on weekends—people met up at McLaren Lodge and jointly decided where to go—and more often than not we ended up doing the Tiburon loop. Why exactly Tiburon loop became the ‘default’ ride bears some pondering but other rides seemed either too short or too long. Even in those days before the tech explosion, life in the City could feel busy and pressured, and the Tib loop was long enough to feel like you did a “long” ride but short enough that you could get home and get your weekend shopping and chores done.

In the time I lived in SF it felt like I’d done the Tib loop a thousand times. It got to the point where I would grudgingly do it simply because it was there and not because it gave me much enjoyment. It was a convenient training loop if a little dull. Why we didn’t ride south of SF more often seems strange in retrospect. But I do recall in those days getting out of SF by Skyline or Highway 1 meant nasty car encounters and lots of broken glass and that likely discouraged us from heading south except in a car to get to the Peninsula to do some ‘real’ riding.

As I mentioned in a previous blog posting, when the Jersey Ride was created in 2001 initially there wasn’t a set route but it quickly settled on the Tib loop. I never went on a Jersey Ride exactly because it was the loop; it may have made the perfect route for an all-club ride but it had worn out its welcome.

With Joseph’s long tenure as Jersey Ride Coordinator coming to an end, we’re continuing the Jersey Ride/Tib loop but now any club member can volunteer to be the ride host. It’s the perfect ride to try out being a ride leader because just about everyone knows the route anyway and it’s hard to get lost! If you’d like to lead the Jersey Ride, shoot an email to me. Over the next few months we have board members volunteering to lead it. Last month Roger Sayre, our secretary led it, and this month Roger and I co-led it. In July and August David Gaus will be your host.

In the early Oughts I moved to the East Bay and I hadn’t gone back to SF/Marin to do the Tib loop more than two or three times. One time was to show it to Roger and another was—finally!—to attend a Jersey Ride about five years ago. So getting to lead it was–surprise surprise–something I had never done before. After a prolonged absence I can’t exactly say it felt like riding a new route; in fact it was depressingly familiar. Not depressing because it was unpleasant but depressing because I didn’t feel a blast of excitement at riding one of the signature rides of the Bay Area. It was as if I had just ridden it yesterday (for the millionth time!) Where was the awe? Another example of familiarity breeding contempt.

But that didn’t mean I didn’t notice the changes that have slowly washed over the ride. The passage of time has brought some changes into ugly relief. Crossing the Golden Gate Bridge is a lot more dangerous than twenty years ago. There were an unbelievable number of cyclists on the west sidewalk, practically an unbroken line both north- and southward in the afternoon. It was very difficult to pass slower cyclists without taking unwise risks, i.e. riding three abreast. Making matters worse the storm fencing along the outside reduces the rideable width of the sidewalk. The west sidewalk has always had an inordinate amount of “furniture” compared to the east sidewalk. But now there seems to be even more equipment piled up so that at times it feels exceptionally constrained. And lord help you if you’re heading southward and you’re foolish enough to draft someone and carelessly drift to the right because it’s hard to see those equipment bulb-outs until you’re almost on top of them! Although Blazing Saddles rentals have always been numerous, they’ve been joined by an equal number from Sports Basement in the Presidio. All we could see heading towards us were SB and BS handlebar bags. I didn’t see any crashes but the onslaught of casual cyclists mixing it up with testosterone fueled Rapha bros had me wondering how many ambulance calls are made on a typical Saturday. I especially loved the Blazing Saddlers who were rolling along iPhone in hand videoing their ride.

Besides the increase in cycling traffic I noticed the awful condition of Paradise Drive. In the late ‘80s it was mostly repaved and made for a smooth, fast run into Tiburon. It looks like it hasn’t seen a paver since. When you ride the same road day after day you hardly notice the slight deterioration—you just get used to it. But bouncing over the potholes and deep ruts after years of being away, well, let’s just say it wasn’t like it used to be.

On the positive side there have been some nice improvements. The Mill Valley-Sausalito bike path now has speed lights, a roundabout, and a 10 mph limit at the sewer plant. Having nearly been hit a couple of times by cyclists coming across from Strawberry or being walked into by clueless pedestrians, those are all welcome changes. Doug and Sal suggested we take the Corte Madera-Larkspur path on the other side of Camino Alto. Is this new? If not, no one in the club knew about it back in the day. Although Tamalpais Drive isn’t bad to cycle on, the path is a more pleasant alternative to get away from cars albeit more roundabout.

Of course the other part of a ride is the company, and this time it was very simpatico. We stopped for lunch at the Woodlands Market just across the street from the defunct Shark Deli. We sat outside for an hour noshing our sandwiches and talking about nothing of significance, the conversation wandering from the trials of airline travel, the state of the SF Symphony and SF Opera, where to get one’s bike repaired in SF, cycling in Japan, Doug’s wheel saga, and how awful traffic in SF is these days. Back in the day club conversations had a tendency to devolve to the latest club gossip and who was seen with whom. Another welcome change? Eventually we hoisted our sorry rears back onto our saddles and made back to SF with a short detour via Strawberry Cove. Like a supermodel who is past her prime, Tib loop may be overdone and overexposed but at least it’s easy on the eyes, still fabulous, and waiting for the next photo shoot.