What Were Once Vices Are Now Habits: the Orinda Pool Party 2019

Yes, I’m going to a party, party!

If you missed it yesterday, you will have to wait another year, the Orinda Pool Party and Ride that is. We had eleven people do the ride and eighteen at the party. I would love to give you a full report on the 10th edition however I missed the ride part due to a broken collarbone from a mountain biking accident. And no, it was not as David Go. remarked, “He broke it when he fell out of the sling!” although I was indeed sporting an arm sling as my new fashion accessory (basic black, of course, from the House of Kaiser!) Since everybody who rode made it safely to the manse with smiles, I assume that the ride was fabulous and that copious, gay chatter along the way added to everyone’s delight. Thanks to David Gaus and Stephanie Clarke for leading the ride and making sure the sheep did not go astray (and you know they like to stray).

So I’ll confine my remarks to the only part of the day I witnessed and that really mattered, the pool and the food! Special thanks to Jim Lemburg for assisting us with setting up for the party as lifting chairs and lugging food and daypacks around was a little bit too much for my bum arm and Roger had already been doing double-duty in prepping the garden, pool, and deck when I couldn’t help him much (if at all).

After almost a decade of the same menu—pesto with basil from the garden, Aidell’s sausages, and Caesar salad—we gave the meal a facelift- er, “meal-lift”. It’s not like we were still serving retro-fabulous dishes such as Baked Alaska, Vichysoisse, or Crab Rangoon (and if you don’t know what those are, you are not ‘of an age’) but almost as bad since pesto is so…1980s. And yes honey, it does taste delicious but as they say, how can you miss me if I don’t go away? That said, several people came up to me during the meal and expressed their sincere fondness for the homemade pesto, and perhaps next year it will launch a comeback tour!

What was the new menu? We decided to go full Americana—smoked pork ribs, cole slaw, and potato salad—to fit with summer. Some years ago we were invited by family friends to a barbecue where the son-in-law was smoking up a storm. We had a long conversation with him about smoking at home, and in a moment of stupendous lucidity Roger ordered one immediately after we arrived got home. After years of practice and experimentation now Roger has smoking ‘skilz’ and they were fully on display with the ribs. Everyone (well, except the vegans) was commenting on how delicious and tender they were, how the ‘meat fell right off the bone’, ‘those ribs had so much meat on them!’, ‘you knows I like to chew on tasty meat!’, etc. This time Roger used apple wood for the smoked flavor. The potato salad was the ‘hippie’ version with whatever we had in the fridge being chopped up and thrown in along with plenty of weed- er, herbs. The homemade cole slaw was, well, nothing special and I didn’t see anybody spitting it out after tasting it, so it must have been palatable.

More than quiche and mimosas?

Fortunately for the vegans we had some delicious non-animal dishes as well. We provided vegan cole slaw and potato salad in addition to the regular kind; Lamberto and Joe brought vegan chili (“We used the Instant Pot!”); and Jim made a delicious lentil dish.
This year the A-M group had to bring desserts and because we were A-M heavy we had a lot of desserts. I didn’t taste them all but the homemade lime bars that Chris made were OMG “oishi” and Darrell’s chocolate brownie cake was “sugoi!” And Stephanie, was that incredibly sweet melon and delectable prosciutto a “dessert”? No matter. The prosciutto was “rustic” (cinghiale?) and fantastic. (She must have smuggled a stash home of The Real Stuff on their last trip to Italy!)

Besides the splishin’ and splashin’ in the pool, the lunch was long with conversation; we didn’t break up until the sun had moved well towards the horizon and no longer needed the awnings to keep the back deck from feeling like the portico to hell.

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Where to Ride, Pt. 2

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“There’s room for more–pack ’em in!”

It’s just beginning to dawn on residents of the Bay Area that it is nigh impossible to build our way out of traffic congestion. Folks realize that the land available for high speed road and freeways just isn’t there—the core of the Bay Area is not going to get any major new roads. Currently CalTrans and local agencies are trying to extract “efficiencies” from existing roads by trying to engineer the hell out of our existing infrastructure. So what we get are reductions in freeway shoulders and medians in order to add a lane, synchronizing traffic lights, metering lights to optimize traffic flow at onramps, and speed studies of roads to bring speed limits up to the 85th percentile rule. For the most part these efforts accept that car driving should not be impeded unless absolutely necessary. Of course this isn’t completely true: for example freeways such as the Central and the Embarcadero have been torn down. I’m not sure that removing either of them reduced congestion. Push back from cycling advocates has produced more bike lanes, some at the expense of car lanes. But generally what commuters want is faster commutes by car, not mass transit or bikes. So transit agencies are loathe to do overt social engineering to force drivers out of cars. Instead they attempt to alleviate the pain that comes with driving a car on congested roads.

It’s equally difficult to expand mass transit infrastructure such as BART, Caltrain, or high speed rail. Perhaps there is a naive belief that mass transit expanded ad infinitum will solve congestion. We hear talk of a second transbay tube for BART and extending the BART system further eastward into Brentwood (Pittsburg-Bay Point line) and Livermore and beyond to the Central Valley (Dublin line). The reasoning seems to be, “If we have BART go to cities where commuters flee, then they’ll stop driving their cars and traffic congestion will go down.” I used to believe this: building more BART/Caltrain/SMART/etc. will get drivers off freeways. But I don’t believe it anymore.

Just as road building is growth inducing—building more roads to reduce congestion actually leads to increased traffic and fills to capacity—we can expect the same effect with BART. Assuming that BART can even catch up with existing demand–that’s a big if–building more BART may temporarily reduce congestion (both on the freeway and in getting a seat on BART). But more capacity will likely induce growth in transit use and lead to…more congestion. As it becomes more tolerable to commute by BART from Pittsburg, and then Antioch, and then Brentwood, and then further east, it exacerbates the growth pressure on those communities. That will drive housing prices up as those communities now have an asset—shorter commutes by BART—that will then drive growth further eastward.

There’s no end to this process.

So what does all this have to do with cycling? If you throw your bike in a car and drive to a ride start, it’s not going to get better. You’re still going to get stuck in traffic unless you drive during off-peak times and the likelihood of you spending even more time in the car is going to go up. Short of a dramatic economic downturn, I don’t see how it can get better and it sure isn’t going to stay the same. If and when BART expands it will make it easier to go further away from the central Bay Area. But what the roads at those end points will look like is a dreary prospect; the roads will be built for suburban traffic. If you want to see what that means, go to Antioch today. You’ll find wide boulevards with occasional strip malls dividing up the subdivisions, in other words nothing much you’d want to spend any time riding on. Antioch city roads are designed to speed car commuters quickly to the next arterial.

What about the roads close to home? Infilling and taller, denser housing are going to mean more people, which means more cars. Do you really think people will give up car ownership even if their condo doesn’t have a dedicated parking spot, even with Uber and Lyft? I don’t think so. Since roads won’t be increasing, it means more traffic congestion and very likely more traffic on the roads we like to cycle as commuters forsake clogged arterials for secondary roads. Even when traffic is nightmarish people still drive. The future doesn’t look good for us.

I’ve come to believe that the mantras about better roads, better mass transit, more housing, and especially more housing equals less commuting are all bandaids for the real problem: growth. None of these pie-in-the-sky solutions is going to make it better—they perhaps stand a chance of making things less worse in the shortrun. Accommodation for growth allows more growth. At what point does it become so unlivable that people stop coming to the Bay Area? Unless growth itself is addressed we as cyclists better get used to riding on more dangerous and no less congested roads.

Different Spokes Chiang Mai!

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“Wearing our freak flag high”

This past winter longtime Spoker Roy Schachter ditched the 40+ hour per week grind to retire to Thailand, specifically Chiang Mai in northern Thailand. Of course one of the difficult parts of his move was, “Gee, which bikes should I take to my new home??” [The only right answer is ‘all of them!’]

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“Voulez-vous coucher avec moi ce soir?”

You’ll find him there now enjoying the hella good life, studying Thai, riding his bikes when it’s not incredibly hot and the air quality is tolerable, and brushing up on the typology of Thai boys.

While it’s raining like heck here, it’s 96F and 90% humidity in Chiang Mai…

Ride Recap: Tour of Lamorinda to the Creekside Grill

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Boy, that was a hard ride!

Talk about being a lazy bastard, this ride started and ended near our house, went down a multi-use trail I use several times a week, and traveled streets I’ve done so frequently I could probably do them blindfolded. Ah, but there was one twist: despite having lived near Rossmoor for 16 years and having friends live there (including the Den Daddy) I have cycled on its roads exactly once before. Until this ride. So now it’s twice! Last year we did a Social A ride that ended up at an excellent restaurant in Lafayette. Unfortunately the rest of the world had also discovered this fact and not wanting to wait an hour for a table, at Derek’s suggestion we rolled over to nearby Rossmoor, where he lives, to have lunch at its Creekside Grill. That was a good move because it was not crowded at all, had delicious food and a fawning staff used to catering to an obviously entitled elderly crowd (a demographic that I have immediately adjusted to with glee now that I have a Senior Clippercard). We had a memorable al fresco lunch on their pleasant outdoor patio next to a stream, hence the eponym.

I’ve always wanted to go back and thus this ride. Although I still occasionally like to turn a pedal ‘in anger’ as Phil Liggett says, I saw the light many years ago in Italy where every cyclist stops for a REAL lunch—I mean like a three or four course lunch that lasts at least an hour and a half—and I always look forward to a delicious repast mid-ride these days. (And no, I’m not talking about going to Subway!) Clif bars will do in a pinch but a good ride has an excellent food stop where one can enjoy a proper meal. So it is with the Creekside Grill.

Roger Sayre and Bill Knudsen joined Roger and me although they had no inkling that the central highlight of the day was going to be lunch. Nonetheless we sauntered out to Moraga to catch the Lafayette-Moraga Regional Trail, an excellent rails-to-trails path. Everybody had the right frame of mind and we headed out at a B pace chatting away. Down the path we went and because it was a Saturday morning there were plenty of peds, doggers, and kiddies along the way, all the more reason to keep the pace al piano all the way to Walnut Creek and thence to Rossmoor.

You are probably thinking, “Isn’t Rossmoor a gated community?” Why, yes it is! If you approach in a car, you will be accosted at the security gate and asked whom you are visiting. But if you arrive á bicyclette you do not need to be subjected to such indignities. So we rolled right through with nary a glance from the guards and made our way to the Creekside Grill. You may be wondering what Rossmoor is like. Well, let’s just say the association fees are well spent: it’s manicured to the nth degree with a lovely greenway heading up to the nearby hills. The Den Daddy and I had agreed he would meet us for lunch. But when I phoned, he was in Santa Barbara enjoying a warm, sunny day in his hometown! So Bill and Roger would not get the spiel from him on how delightful it is at Rossmoor, how there’s a fabulous LGBT group, a cycling group as well, how politically left the Democratic club is, etc.

This time the Grill was hopping but fortunately we scored a table in the bar and did not have to wait. We were quite hungry despite having done an easy jaunt. I hadn’t had breakfast and apparently neither had Bill who while riding prated on and on about donuts and where the nearest confectionary might be. Despite the chasms in our stomachs we were quite demure in ordering: both Bill and Roger S had the Creekside Sirloin Burger while Roger H had the Rossmoor Reuben and got my fave, the Riviera Charbroiled Chicken Breast Sandwich. It was all delish and even their French fries were not at all run-of-the-mill and were pleasantly crisp and crunchy. Lunch was of course occupied with idle, pointless conversation. But most of it revolved upon Bill’s imminent departure to explore the country by—gasp!—RV. Ever the trendsetter Bill has gone “tiny house” on us and deserting Wanderson to follow his Wanderlust. But he’s taking his bikes with him so he can ride with LGBT cycling clubs all around the US!

After a long lunch Bill popped a front spoke in the parking lot and after much consternation and discussion we headed off back to Orinda anyway. Bill made it fine even with a slightly bum front wheel.

Ride Leader Appreciation Dinner on January 27

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We’re two weeks away from the club Ride Leader Appreciation Dinner on Sunday, January 27 at 6:30 pm. This is our annual dinner to thank ride leaders for hosting rides for the club. Last year we had about 60 rides. Of course there were quite a few other rides that were cancelled especially last March, which was quite wet, and in November when the Camp Fire literally rained ashen havoc on our air quality. Believe it or not, 60 rides is less than half of what we used to offer. So the rides we do have are even more precious!

This year we’re going to the Firewood Café in the Castro, just across the street from the Castro Post Office and easy to get to by BART and Muni (or bike if you prefer). The Firewood is known for its wood-fired pizzas, salads, and pasta dishes. The cost is only $25—such a deal! Go to the club ride calendar to get the full details. We hope all club members can make it. Just be sure to RSVP to the club ride coordinator (me) no later than January 23.

Ride Recap: New Year’s Diablo

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Just Chillin’

In the early days of Different Spokes there was no New Year’s Day ride. Akos Szoboslay did lead a New Years overnight mountain bike camping ride in Henry Coe State Park in 1984; needless to say he didn’t get a good turnout. Sharon Lum led New Year’s rides in the South Bay in 2000 and 2001. They were easy 30ish mile rides meant to open up the new year gently. It wasn’t until 2012 when I posted the Resolution Ride for New Years—go all the way to the top of Diablo and back—that we seem to have found an annual New Year’s ride. Since then either I or David Sexton and Gordon Dinsdale have led this ride. We’ve had an incredible string of good luck because it hasn’t rained on New Year’s day yet. A few years ago we were greeted by snow on the side of the road near the top; I have another recollection that one year there was black ice near the top—talk about a scary descent!

Going up Diablo on New Years is hardly a novel idea. As I’ve mentioned in the past Grizzly Peak Cyclists, Valley Spokesmen, and Diablo Cyclists all do it too. A couple of years ago we ran into Bill Bushnell, who used to be our Ride Coordinator in the late 90s, leading his recumbent club up Diablo. Various local racing clubs also do it as an informal clobberfest to open up the new year. I understand that in the South Bay Mt. Hamilton acts as a similar monument to climbing gluttony on NYD.

There is a sense of accomplishment and of having performed a “feat” by going up Diablo. It’s probably due partly to the significant elevation gain (about 4,000 ft. or over 1,000 meters), partly due to the at-times punishing grade, and partly due to the fact that Diablo stands alone in the East Bay and so affords expansive and majestic views in all directions from the top. Mt. Tam is similar but it’s a much smaller mountain, more than 1,000 feet lower in height; Mt. Hamilton is taller than Diablo but is hemmed in by surrounding hills as well as its slightly taller twin Copernicus Peak, which is just up the road and thus the views are more mundane. On a crisp, clear day with good air quality you can see the Sierras from the top of Diablo and I’ve been fortunate to experience that. The Sierras are much, much higher and when covered in snow they form an incredible backdrop above the San Joaquin Valley.

Today seven of us opened up the New Year by heading up Diablo. As usual it was frigid cold. It was in the high 30s when I got up and by the time we left Pleasant Hill BART it was roughly in the mid-40s. A high wind advisory was set to expire at 10 am. Winds had been gusting on Diablo at up to 65 mph. Unfortunately it was only the advisory that expired this morning and not the wind as we discovered. This year David Goldsmith teamed with Gordon to lead it as least until David came down with a cold and convinced Roger Sayre to take his place. Roger and I went along as well as Ron Lezell, Donald Cremers, and David Sexton.

In keeping with tradition we didn’t leave on time. Roger S, who hitherto had always driven to ride starts outside the City, ventured to use BART. Unfortunately he got on the wrong train and ended up heading to Pleasanton rather than Pleasant Hill. But arrive he did and that’s a good thing since he was one of the two hosts.

Everyone was dressed to the nines even though this was far from the coldest New Year’s Day. Dressing to go up Diablo in the winter is a conundrum: if you dress to start warm, you’ll inevitably sweat like a pig going up. But if you dress for climbing, you will freeze at the top only to freeze even more fiercely on the descent. On days like today where we discovered a chilling gale on the way up it was even more imperative to have some additional clothing. I was wearing a long-sleeve base layer under a neoprene winter jacket; over that I had a fleece vest. I had on shorts and thick tights. Under my helmet I had skull cap; I wore glove liners inside my winter gloves; I had thick wool socks and full shoe covers. I also brought along a neck gaiter and a helmet cover for the descent and some heater packs for my gloves. I had a daypack for the donuts (more on that later) and because it covered my back it would provide more insulation. And this is less clothing than I’ve worn in the past!

Sure enough as we climbed up North Gate one by one we each pulled over and took off layers. And it wasn’t as if we were racing up the hill either. I got hot enough that I even took off my gloves and rode with bare hands. Going up each time we hit a curve exposed to the wind roiling around the mountain we caught a sideways gust that did not bode well for the summit. We were all spread out over the mountain but eventually Roger and I caught the wheel of a big guy with Livermore Cyclery kit and three guys from the Hercules Cycling Club (nice kit!). It was nice to have some other bodies to cut the wind and we all rolled up to the Junction together.

At the Junction it was the usual mosh pit with crowds converging up both North and South Gate Roads. I overheard one woman saying it was 27 degrees at the top but I’m not sure I believed her. What I did believe is the wind—it was bone chilling and cut right through my jacket! There really wasn’t a good place to escape the wind. I tried huddling next to the ranger station but the wind was changing direction. Roger and I had hauled up thermoses of coffee and hot water to make hot chocolate as well as donuts. The inspiration was a comment a few weeks ago by David Goldsmith that he’ll always remember the New Year’s Day ride up Diablo when Roger met us at the Junction with a trunk full of homemade maple scones and coffee. Well, donuts from Safeway aren’t of the same caliber but after climbing a couple thousand feet in the cold just about anything with sugar, fat, salt, and chocolate—not to mention some caffeine—is going to be treated like manna from heaven. We got them out and they were consumed eagerly. Coincidentally the Mt. Diablo State Park rangers also decided to treat cyclists this morning by setting up a table with…coffee and donuts! The non-Spokers were scarfing them up like..well, like cyclists. If we had known, we could have spared ourselves trouble of hauling up all that weight. But it was nice to see the good will gesture from the Park. There was a time not too long ago when the rangers didn’t seem sympathetic to cyclists and were more content to dole out tickets to us rather than going after cars that were speeding.

Roger and I decided to head down rather than tackle the last 1,700 feet. If the wind was up, I was going to get pretty chilled. We saw one smart cyclist descending with both a windbreaker and wind pants over her garb. I just didn’t feel like pushing my luck today so half a mountain was just right. Donald decided he’d had enough too but the other four wanted to get to the top. So we split up. The three of us did a leisurely descent and surprisingly it seemed that almost all of the other cyclists were taking it slow as well. I’m usually passed by quite a few on the descent, being a conservative descender (I’ve crashed enough, thank you very much) but that was not the case today. Car traffic was respectful too. I don’t like to hold up traffic and will pull off the road if need be. But cars didn’t seem to be impatient. Perhaps all the PR work on Mt. Diablo about not passing cyclists on blind curves is finally paying dividends.

It was pretty obvious that today the better choice was to go up North Gate and down South Gate: cyclists coming up South Gate were struggling with the north headwind while we were gliding along at 20 mph in seemingly still air. Despite having put the heater packs in my gloves my fingers were still frigid and my toes weren’t doing that great either. The tailwind reduced the chill factor or it would have been worse. Despite the chill we pass an amazing sight: a man in cut-off jeans and no shirt climbing up. What was he on?? At least he hadn’t turned pink yet. Maybe he was planning to warm up at the top with a few bong hits.

In Danville we stopped at Homegrown, one of the few restaurants open on New Year’s, for some soup before rolling up Danville Blvd. and the Iron Horse back to BART. Nice way to begin the year and we weren’t even tired!

Ride Recap: Talk Dirty To Me, or I Am Curious (Dirty)

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“I like them thick and knobby!”

Just three days before Christmas Different Spokes had its first dirt ride in ages. I really wanted to get one in before the end of the year because this is the very first year the club has had insurance that covers mountain bike rides. Although we’ve had liability insurance for decades, I suspect no one realized it was only for road rides despite the fact that mountain biking was done regularly from the late 1980s up to the mid-Oughts. The last dirt ride on the club calendar I recall was two years ago, a ride in Tilden Park on which David Sexton’s pedal came off and I got bitten by a dog and we both had to abort. I was planning to lead one earlier this year but a nasty crash in May meant I couldn’t pull on the handlebars for months. Plans for a dirt ride for November literally blew up in smoke when the Camp Fire turned our air quality into a health crisis.

Here’s a confession: I don’t like to ride trails in muddy conditions—I absolutely hate getting dirty. And cleaning my bike afterwards? It’s another chore. That’s terrible when you love dirt riding because you know the hype on mountain biking often emphasizes getting muddy and filthy, a regression of sorts to the fun of childhood. We had rain a couple of days before the ride, which really wasn’t enough time for trails to dry out completely. I went ahead with the ride anyway because, well, the year was almost over! The Different Spokes dirt crowd has dwindled but we’re not completely gone. I sent out a distress signal to the long lost Dirties and Roger Sayre was the only mountain biker who could join Roger and me. But at the last minute Nancy asked if she could tag along for the paved portion into the Headlands because she doesn’t have a mountain bike (yet).

The route was nothing unusual—it’s a standard loop for mountain bikers who live in SF: climb up Conzelman and jump onto the Coastal Trail to Rodeo Beach before picking up the Bobcat Trail and Marincello over to Tennessee Valley. Usually you turn around there and take Old Springs Trail back, which is one of the very few singletrack trails in the Headlands still open for biking. But I added an interlude out to Tennessee Beach and back before heading back to SF. Once up Old Springs you take Bobcat, another wide fire road, down and then climb back up Coastal and across the bridge to SF. The route has a sawtooth profile but all the climbs are short and nothing is too technical. It’s less than 30 miles altogether, which if it were a road ride would be on the short side. But being a dirt ride it took us over four hours to finish. Of course, all of us were rusty and the views were fantastic on such a clear day so we made sure we stopped often to take it all in.

We started and ended the ride at Velo Rouge Cafe on Arguello, which is quickly becoming my favorite hangout when I’m in the City. Besides having the right cycling vibe, for a coffee shop it is remarkably devoid of folks on their i-devices. Plus, their huevos rancheros rule. Besides the bright sunny day the other auspicious omen was that the ride actually started on time—when has that happened on a Different Spokes ride?!

Roger S quickly got us into trouble when he suggested a dirt diversion in the Presidio with which I was not familiar. Nancy was game until it turned out to be a mini-quagmire complete with narrow singletrack requiring deft manuevering in order not to fall over. She turned back and took the paved section along with Roger H to meet us at the bridge.

At Conzelman we discovered that the Park Service had turned it into a one-way road down for the winter holiday in order to ease traffic congestion. Bikes and pedestrians can still go up in the dedicated bike lane. At Coastal we bid adieu to Nancy and headed into the Headlands.

I had not ridden on the Headlands trails for about 20 years. I used to ride here a lot when I lived in SF mainly because it’s the closest real dirt to SF. There are bits of dirt trails here and there in the City but nothing of significant length. Also those trails may be dirt but there is no doubt you are in the midst of urbanity. In the Headlands you can really get away to the point that you hear no car noise at all. Here was my chance to see how the Headlands had weathered the last two decades. The trails look pretty much the same just as you would expect since there is no development going on. But trail maintenance has definitely improved. Back in the day the Headlands wasn’t part of the GGNRA—it was military, and the military was pretty much leaving everything to slowly rot in place except for the paved roads. Near the bottom of Coastal there used to be erosion gulleys that had you avoiding the center of the trail and clinging somewhat precariously on the uncertain edges. The gulleys are still there but a grader had gone over them. Old Springs was similarly eroded but the GGNRA has put in place a series of wooden erosion barriers that have kept it in great shape and prevented flowing water from turning the trail into a creek bed; at the top where it’s level they have also put in more wooden walkways over the boggy areas (it’s called Old Springs for a reason). Bobcat used to be a very bumpy ride with lots of chatter bumps. But the GGNRA must be grading that road too because it was a smooth flowing ride down.

The dirt roads in the Headlands are more intensively used than before Y2K. Back in the day I could ride all day and see maybe one or two other mountain bikers. Today there were, dare I say it, crowds! It wasn’t a mosh pit but we were frequently running into or being passed by other cyclists. And not just solo cyclists: the road affliction has hit dirt riding these days and you see ‘training rides’ on the dirt with Rapha freds doing their thing.

The day was beautiful and I was appreciating the quiet of the Headlands. When you’re road biking in the Bay Area you probably don’t realize how noisy and chaotic the environment is because you are subjected to it all the time. But when you away from traffic, houses, businesses, and almost all people as you are in the Headlands you suddently realize how ‘busy’ road riding actually is. Not that you don’t need to exercise some vigilance; it’s just vigilance of another sort. Being so vulnerable in traffic we are prey. Well, when mountain biking you are still vulnerable but it’s to falling from the constantly changing engagement of your tires with the trail surface. When road biking you don’t often think about what your tires are going to do unless the road is wet or muddy (or you’re crossing Muni tracks). But on the dirt the dialog between your tires and the path is ongoing and you need to attend to it to stay upright. For the most part though riding in the Headlands is a pretty relaxed affair because there isn’t much there that’s demanding technically and you’re not going to get broadsided by an Escalade at an intersection.

The biggest surprise brought a smile to my face: most of the cyclists we saw were on drop bar bikes. There were plenty of cyclists but only about a third of them were on mountain bikes as we were. The majority of the bikes we saw were drop-bar bikes with bigger tires, i.e. “all road” bikes and cross bikes. If you have any doubts about the efficacy of the hype about gravel bikes and bikepacking, you should take a look at the trails near SF. The latest bike fad is in full-bloom here. In this case I’m not casting a jaded eye at so-called “all road” bikes—I’m all for them. Before I got a mountain bike I was riding on dirt. But a mountain bike made it a lot easier to stay upright and walk a lot less. And a mountain bike made it possible to ride trails I never would have taken my road bike except to go for an unpleasant walk. But the Headlands and many places we now mountain bike are quite doable and enjoyable on a road bike. I doubt any of you knew that one of the earliest club rides was a full moon ride up the Railroad Grade on Mt. Tam on road bikes! Although the Specialized Stumpjumper was born a year before Different Spokes was formed, mountain bikes really did not penetrate the club until after the mid-1980s. We were used to riding our road bikes on everything. Part of the attraction of all-road bikes is that getting to the trailhead on a road bike is much less laborious than on a mountain bike, which is probably why you see tons of MTBs on car racks heading somewhere.

Near the top of Bobcat we saw a three-masted schooner outside the Golden Gate; at the top of Marincello we stopped to take in the expansive view of Mt. Tam and Tiburon below us. Roger S of course ripped the descent to Tennessee Valley. There we were greeted by a full parking lot and a large crowd of dayhikers on their way to the beach. We joined them and headed to the Pacific. At Tennessee Beach it was a dead calm day with just a tiny surf. Even so the rip current is terrible there and no one was in the water swimming or surfing. We ate our Clif bars and enjoyed the scene before heading back to Old Springs. The climb up Old Springs begins at the Tennessee Valley stables. Going up we were passed by cyclists bombing down the trail. At times it was a bit sketchy trying to get over the erosion bars while avoiding the downhill riders but eventually we got to the top. Again Roger S ripped the descent down Miwok. We made our way up the last climb, Coastal, and at the pavement were greeted by a mass of cars turning around to descend. Everyone was out to get to the Vista Point for the view. We carefully descended Conzelman in traffic and went back over the bridge.

Back at Velo Rouge Roger S ran off to meet his sister while Roger and I went in and gorged on huevos. A perfect way to end the first and last Different Spokes mountain bike ride of 2018!