Can anything new happen on a Jersey Ride? Barring the Rapture or a Kim Jong-un surprise package perhaps not. But that doesn’t mean J-Rides are boring. It’s July and that means typical San Francisco summer weather—a withering cold breeze accompanied by copious fog—that magically reincarnates as real summer as soon as you cross the Golden Gate Bridge. Yesterday was almost pea-soup but not quite. Nine of us headed out including Rick, who’s relatively new to Different Spokes and rides a mountain bike (very quickly, I might add); Joe, a fellow bike tourer (who goes uphill very quickly, I might add); and longtime Spoker, Will (who goes very quickly, period). Fellow DSSF board member Ginny, Roger H and I, Peter who came all the way from San Jose (isn’t that a song?), Sal, and Will’s friend Dan. As usual it was a long parade in Sausalito—could there be any more cyclists heading into Marin?—but that’s normal these days.
After a brief respite at the Mill Valley sewage treatment plant (“I hear inhaling the vapors does wonders for you!”) we launched up Camino Alto. Joe rocketed by me at a blistering pace and I certainly was in no mood to chase. The descent and subsequent diversion along the Corte Madera-Larkspur MUP were splendidly pleasant and piano piano. But once on Paradise Drive Will took off—into a headwind, I might add—making going fast seem easy. Fortunately for us he slowed down—although I’m not sure why—and Roger H and I caught up with him. Whether it was because he had caught his breath, he sensed we were behind him, or he’s just cruel he ramped it up again. I was barely hanging on. Every time we hit a little descent he jumped ahead and I knew I had to make an effort to catch his wheel or he’d be gone for good. Will is an amazing cyclist. Sometimes he rides a lot and then he’s a total beast. But even when he’s not riding a lot he’s still a beast. I don’t know how he does it; it’s like he’s got a cardiopulmonary system that never degrades. Will is by no means a skinny cyclist but he somehow manages to climb strongly, and on the flats and descents he’s merciless. But I digress. You would have thought by now, having done a thousand Tib loops, that I would have set to memory the exact number of little climbs and subsequent descents through each inlet Paradise Drive has. But I haven’t and I was praying I’d last through them all before he slowed down. I made it, barely. Will slowed down, I went around him and, holy mother of god, I felt the headwind he’d been barreling through for the past 15 minutes! Humbling.
Lunch at the Woodlands Market was the usual affair/fare. Will’s friend Dan mentioned that this ride was his first time on the bike in a year. Wow. If I hadn’t ridden in a year I would have never have been able to get through Tiburon loop without major suffering! It must be because I’m getting old, sigh. He also mentioned he’s just lost 46 lbs. (!) Jeez, and I complain that I’m not able to drop three pounds. Humbling. Joe recounted several of his amazing bike tours including one from Milan to Barcelona as well as one in the deep South in June (and yes it was humid and hot).
The real shit show began once we were back in Mill Valley. The rangers were out giving tickets for “speeding” on the MV bike path (ie. going faster than 10 mph) but luckily we were warned by an oncoming cyclist. There was a long line of cyclists heading back to the bridge and the only salvation was a ferocious headwind coming off the Headlands that splintered the long lines. Even more surprising were the incredible, seemingly infinite, number of cyclist still coming INTO Sausalito. Every rental bike in SF must have been heading towards us, an ominous sign of what we were to see on the bridge. We stopped to regroup before launching onto the bridge and I urged everyone to be extra vigilant and careful with the conga line of cyclists heading towards us. Rick then said that until this morning he had never crossed the GGB on his bike. Maybe this will be his last time…
Our saving grace was the turbulent marine wind blasting across the bridge and the lashing fog. Why? Because it meant there weren’t any idiots taking selfies as they cycled one-handed towards us. Literally it was a non-stop line of cyclists heading north. Like lemmings. Although the danger is primarily due to the sheer number of cyclists they do cycle at a slow speed unlike the Rapha freds, who insist upon passing at a random moment regardless of the wisdom of doing so. Ah the young, so reckless and self-confident. As we approached the southern end we came to a stop: there were too many cyclists coming and going at the bend. As I made the turn off the bridge I saw a young man with his e-skateboard take one look at the horde, shake his head, and turn back. Good decision. Ginny said that despite the number she felt it was actually safer today than in the past and I agreed (if having only one near-death experience with an oncoming cyclist is ‘safer’).
The growth of cycling in SF certainly has led to more traffic across the bridge for leisure. Marin is the most convenient escape valve for penned-in San Franciscans and the open space is attractive. But it’s just another example of loving something to death. You think this is crowded? It’s the new normal for young people today and they likely think nothing of it. But I can’t get the image out of my head of pushers in Tokyo rail stations mashing more commuters into already crammed train cars.
If the mosh pit that the GGB has become isn’t your cup of tea, keep in mind that Blue & Gold Fleet operates a ferry from Tiburon to Pier 41. The cost is $13 for a 25-minute commute. Yes, that’s the price of a decent lunch but it’s less than the cost of your hospital bill if you’re hit head-on on the bridge. And it’s a scenic ride back to SF!