It’s difficult to get me out of bed early on a weekend especially if it’s threatening rain and I have a long ride ahead of me. Despite that I hit the “off” button on the alarm, shambled over to the window, checked the skies, and decided they didn’t look too bad. I was in for that day’s ALC training ride. Arriving at Sports Basement I was happy to see a big turnout of ALC riders was willing to take on a morning of cold, breezy cycling. The enthusiastic TRLs led us through the routine of stretches, route guidance, and the Safety Speech, and then we were off.
I’m a bit of a cold wimp, and the wind whipping across Crissy Field as we rode out had me wishing I hadn’t left my warm bed. But a quick climb and spin across the bridge quickly warmed me up. On the Marin side we took the usual route to get up and over Camino Alto before heading through the quaint towns of Ross and San Anselmo on our way to the turn-around point in Fairfax. And these little towns are serious about keeping their drivers moving slowly with stop signs placed every few hundred yards. I know as a good ALC rider the ALC stop is mandatory, but with all of the unclipping and clipping I wished I could engage in a gold old Idaho stoop once in a while.
The group converged on the Coffee Roastery and Fat Angel Bakery in Fairfax and refueled for the trip back to the City via Tiburon. Not only did I have one of the best pecan buns I’ve ever had at Fat Angel I got a chance to meet and chat with a lot of fellow riders and TRLs. Lots of good-natured ribbing, a couple of pieces of advice and stories from the ride passed the time before we got back on the road and headed home.
Grey skies gave way to sunshine as we navigated through Sausalito and up the Lateral (which has gotten easier to climb), and, as I rolled back into Sports Basement, I was glad I hadn’t let my cozy bed get the better of me. I hope that spirit stays with me next weekend as we tack on more mileage and take on some hill experienced riders keep talking about for some reason.
Postscript: Although it didn’t rain during the ride, it had rained the day before which made for some sloppy road conditions in places. When I got back home my ride was filthy. I ended up spending a long time giving the bike a proper bath to remove all that grit and grime, and now it looks like new.
Okay. So I discovered the bike doesn’t fit in the car. Not a big deal, except I was planning a leisurely drive to the start of a 43 mile bike ride. Now I had twenty five minutes to cross the City to meet up with the group of cyclists participating in one of the AIDS/Lifecycle’s Fall Haul training rides.. I jumped on the bike and started pedaling like mad hoping to reach the Presidio Sports Basement from my Mission District apartment before the ride out. I almost did, too, but just as I turned on to Mason street, there in the distance I spied a line of riders heading north toward the bridge. Undaunted I kept at it, and on the rise before the bridge parking lot, I met up with one of the ride leaders, Angelo, who handed me a route map and welcomed me to the ride.
And what a wonderful morning for a long ride. Beautiful, clear fall skies with not a hint of wind. We crossed the Golden Gate Bridge, rode through Sausalito, and climbed Camino Alto from Mill Valley into Larkspur. On the climb I chatted with another ride leader, Buzz, who talked up how much fun the big ride in June is going to be. I stuck with him and another rider, Joy, as we passed through the darling towns of San Anselmo and Ross on our way to our turnaround spot in Fairfax.
Fueled up and buoyed by friendly conversation with other riders I rejoined Angelo and headed to Tiburon to tackle the Tiburon Loop. And while I’m usually content with following other riders, at one point on Paradise Drive, Angelo encouraged me to take the lead. I moved forward and led our little group up through the back end of Tiburon. At one point I marvelled at how far I’d already come on the bike as I sped through a tight turn with traffic whizzing by while casually chatting away with Angelo who stayed on my rear wheel. I know I still have a lot to learn about pacing, taking hills, and proper nutrition, but for a few moments all of my doubts and inhibitions were swept away, and I felt like a proper cyclist.
I split off from a large contingent of riders taking in the full Loop since I still had the ride home to contend with once we returned to Sports Basement. A pleasantly uneventful ride back into the City with a bit of cooling fog on the south side of the bridge, and at the end of this epic ride no cheering crowds or high-fiving volunteers. Just a lonely clipboard with a sign-in sheet marking our return.
I’ll probably do another ride or two with the Lifecycle group as long as they don’t interfere with my training for my upcoming marathon. But once I recover from CIM, it’s going to be all about the bike.
Passed a big milestone today with my first ever group ride training with other cyclists taking part in AIDS/LifeCycle 11. While I’ve ridden the majority of today’s route before, the ride was a great opportunity to learn the dynamics of a large-scale group ride and meet some of the folks with whom I’ll be pedaling to Los Angeles. So, I woke up early to get myself across the City to the Presidio Sports Basement. I skipped the warm up exercises, but listened intently to the all-important safety speech which contained at least one important revelation. The ALC folks don’t believe in rolling, Idaho stops, and when you’re participating in one of their events at all red stop lights and signs you’re to stop forward momentum and place one foot on the ground. I ride like that for the most part anyway with a lapse here and there, but I still wish there was a little flexibility.
After leaving the parking lot we headed out to climb up to the western sidewalk of the Golden Gate Bridge. Instead of trying to speed across, I fell in behind a rider and let her pace pull me along while I got a chance to look out over the calm, grey Pacific streaching out to the far horizon. Across the bridge we blazed downhill for the drop into Sausalito. We rolled through town, along Richardson Bay, and before I knew it we reached the turnaround point at the Depot Cafe at the end of Miller Avenue in Mill Valley. As other cyclists arrived groups of riders would gather and fall into conversation, grab a bite to eat, and most importantly for some, fuel up with coffee.
Returning to Sports Basement was a little more DIY; there was no ride out, and instead cyclists would trickle out singly or in small groups. I had a nice ride back on my own mostly which included a strong ride up the Sausalito Lateral, and only one “biker moment” when a couple of time-trialers passed me while going around one of the bridge towers. Nice job fellers; enjoy the yellow jersey.
Today was all about climbing, and what a perfect day for it.
I was meeting a friend across the bay in Oakland, so I roused myself out of bed early to get ready and head out to catch the train to the East Bay. We met up without incident, made a few last minute adjustments, and then were off.
The ride started out in the Temescal and Rockridge neighborhoods, but soon we were climbing alongside the freeway toward the Caldecott Tunnel. After cycling for a bit, we stopped for a moment at an art installation commemorating the tragic Oakland Hills Fire before taking on Skyline Boulevard with its gradual curves and generally easy climb. At Grizzly Peak we decided to press onward and upward in order to take in the view. Eventually the road flattened out, and we found a turnout which overlooked a stunning view of the Bay Area sweeping from Alameda to Berkeley with San Francisco in the distance still wrapped in fog.
Well rested and hydrated we hopped back on for the ride back to my friend’s place which involved an exhilarating, slightly scary decent. A terrific payoff for all the climbing, but on my list of things involving cycling competence, properly negotiating decents is high. I held my own on today’s big plunge and didn’t ride the brakes too much, but I know I’ve got to learn technique which will in turn feed my confidence.