Category Archives: Ride reports (not Tu/Th)

Ride reports for everything *but* the Tuesday-Thursday morning ride

Dirt up, dirt down, our ‘cross bikes are good for more than just rain!

Some views you earn on the road, this one you earn on the dirt. Today's ride had lots of dirt.
Some views you earn on the road, this one you earn on the dirt. Today’s ride had lots of dirt.

Time to do something different, something really different. Kevin and I both have ‘cross bikes, which we bought primarily for rain use (disc brakes working one heck of a lot better in the wet than rim brakes), but it was time to try them out for their intended use. Dirt.

It’s tough coming up with a dirt-worthy ride that doesn’t require loading the bikes up into a car and driving someplace, and in fact it took me about 3 hours researching rides people have done on Strava, along with using google to try and figure out which trails were bike-legal and which weren’t. I posted my initial idea late last night on Strava. The final ride is shown below. Please note that this ride, far as I know, is on 100% bike-legal trails. We had to modify things from the original because some parts, like Lost Trail at the top of Windy Hill, turned out to be off-limits to bikes (despite quite a few posted rides that at least implied otherwise).

We set out around 10:30, had breakfast and coffee at the Woodside Bakery, then continued on pavement up to Windy Hill in Portola Valley. About a mile or so of dirt road to the lower, paved section of Alpine Road, which, after a couple of miles, comes to an end. Not really; there’s a path around a fence and from there begins about 4 miles of not-so-bad dirt fire road and single track. It was quite impressive watching Kevin handle it; he’s never spent time on mountain or ‘cross machines, but he just powered right up. In fact, he made some of the steepest sections look easy while I struggled, mostly, I’ll claim, because he had considerably-lower gears on his bike.

At the top of dirt Alpine you end up on Page Mill, close to Skyline. Most would ride down Page Mill or head to Skyline and ride back that way. But we wanted as much dirt as possible, so we continued into the Montebello area across the street, dropping down and climbing back up through not-too-challenging single track before connecting up with Skyline and then heading across into Russian Ridge.

We’d been warned by Todd, a former employee and excellent mountain biker, that the route we’d chosen involved some pretty nasty steep stuff that we might wish to avoid, but y’know, we were sort of all-in on this ride so we stuck to the original route. We managed to get in 11 continuous miles of dirt before getting back to Skyline to connect with the next leg, Lost Trail at the southern end of Windy Hill. Well, that didn’t work out, because it was posted off-limits to bikes. So we continued on to the next entrance to Windy Hill; same thing again. Finally, at the main entrance, you could hit the trails again! A short distance paralleling Skyline, then a steep and not-very-fun ride down to Portola Valley. According to Strava, the descent’s been done in just over 6 minutes. We took 17. Not just because it was pretty crowded with people and dogs, but because it wouldn’t have been safe going much faster. A dual-suspension mountain bike would have been much more appropriate, but that wouldn’t have been much fun lugging up all the hills!

It was quite a different way to spend a Sunday. Instead of doing the usual 55-80 miles, sometimes 115 if we loop to Santa Cruz, this was just a bit over 35, at a far slower average speed. But in terms of fun per hour, it did very well. –Mike–

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Sometimes you throw away the planned ride and improvise on the fly

Interesting ride, to say the least. The plan was to ride up Page Mill, down West Alpine, and back via Tunitas. That would have been about 62 miles, maybe 6200ft of climbing. A normal Sunday ride for Kevin and I. No biggie.

Yeah, that was the plan, which started falling apart on the climb up Page Mill. Page Mill wasn’t my idea; it’s never my idea to climb that beast. It’s mainly the lower part, below Foothill Park, that kills me. I just can’t get any kink of rhythm on it. No difference today, but I did fine, as usual, once we got to the “real” parts. Including the steep section between gates 3 & 4. But Kevin was not having an easy time, lagging behind a bit.

By the time we got to the top I knew wasn’t in for the full ride, asking if we could skip the coast today and maybe head south on Skyline, a direction we very rarely ride. OK, that’s fine, we might still get about a 50 mile ride in, heading to Saratoga Gap and down Highway 9, then Hicks, followed by The Maze and eventually stopping for lunch at our Los Altos store.

And, as usual, the ride got better as we went, with Kevin getting progressively stronger. Eating lunch at Peet’s even had a vaguely-similar feeling to eating at a French cafe in the middle of a ride! After lunch we bounced around the local roads a bit, mapping out test ride loops for the Los Altos store, before heading north on Foothill for home.

Things got interesting on Foothill. A fair number of other cyclists out there, enough to start feeling a bit competitive, so Kevin and I start hammering at the front of a small group, putting out quite a few watts and feeling really, really strong. Where did this come from? Don’t know, but it felt good. We looped back home through Arastradero and Alpine but, just a few miles from home, about to pass the base of Old LaHonda, Kevin and I both had the same idea at the same time. Why not climb Old LaHonda before going home?

It was a bit of a nutty idea, made more sensible by agreeing that we’d take it easy, maybe a 27 minute pace. Oh yeah right, like that was going to happen. We finished in 22-something (OK, almost 23, but much faster than 27).

In the end, instead of 62 miles, we rode a more-challenging 73 miles, and had a really great time. Just goes to show you should never give up on a ride. Let it play out. Things almost always get better. –Mike–

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