Category Archives: Dirt Trails

Think Snow! (and Mountain Biking)

A cold front came down from Alaska today. The weather forecasters gave a warning of midday rain and snowfall as low as 1500 feet. So I bundled up a little more than usual, grabbed my raincoat, left my new suede boots safely at home, and made a little “think snow” wish as I rolled in to work.

I was hoping for big fat snowfall in our local hills, like the one that gave Katie and me our first snow biking experience two years ago. We were planning a road ride and no sooner than I said to Katie, “We need to stay out of the hills so we don’t hit ice,” I realized that on our mountain bikes the snow might be really fun.

Snow on Bella Vista Trail

We threw our bikes on my car and drove up Page Mill Road to Montebello Preserve and had a blast. The snow was much easier to ride in than I expected and certainly a lot easier than riding icy roads on skinny road tires.

So the sun is setting now and it didn’t rain here today. The camera on top of Mt Hamilton (elev. 4360′) shows only a trace of snow and there’s no rain in the forecast. So I don’t think we’ll be snow biking this weekend. 😦

Do you ride regularly in the snow? Are there any special skills you need to handle all conditions?

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Posted by on January 10, 2013 in Dirt Trails


Santa Cruzin’ on the Coast at Wilder Ranch

How did I not know abut this sweet trail on the coast? Probably because it’s too flat and smooth to interest my mountain biker friends. And I don’t have kids. I’m sure all the outdoorsy families in the area know this trail. If they don’t, they should, as should anyone looking for a mellow ride with jaw-dropping gorgeous views.

My friends and I were down in Santa Cruz competing in a cyclocross race. Let me clarify: not racing, but competing in the costume race, a single lap on the 1-2 mile official race course. Most “racers” take it slowly, we took it so slowly that CX Magazine wrote: “This group kept a leisurely pace, and got a lot of fan attention.”

We did get a lot of attention. I guess four women in shiny pink mini-skirts and fake go-go boots is the closest thing to NFL cheerleaders that you get at a cross race. More photos here and here and here.

Since the race hardly gave us a workout, we headed up the coast to Wilder Ranch State Historic Park. With our cross bikes, we skipped the rockier, steeper trails and took the Ohlone Bluff Trail instead. It was the right choice. The non-technical dirt road meant we could admire the coastal views without having to focus on the trail. And we already had enough bruises from a single parade lap at the cross race.

Five miles out, five miles back, with a lot of camera stops and a misguided attempt to clear an overgrown stretch of singletrack. We rolled along on a Sunday afternoon until our growling stomachs demanded we leave.

Do you have a favorite Sunday afternoon leisurely ride? What about it keeps you coming back again and again?


Posted by on November 4, 2012 in Dirt Trails


Bike Gallery: Historic Mountain Bikes at SFO Airport

When I was searching the San Francisco Airport web site for details on how to bike to the airport last week, I was surprised to find “SFO Museum presents: From Repack to Rwanda. Now on view.” Who would have guessed that SFO had a museum and that mountain bikes would be on exhibit in time for my trip?

Despite the unusual location, the exhibit wasn’t out of place since the sport of mountain biking was born on the slopes of Mt Tamalpais across the Golden Gate from San Francisco. I already knew some of the early history from watching the movie Klunkerz, and from hearing pioneers like Joe Breeze and Gary Fisher speak at events hosted by our local mountain bike club. But I had never seen the actual early mountain bikes before.

Of the dozen or so bikes on display, my favorites were the 1941 Schwinn fat tires that the early riders modified to charge down a steep dirt road they named Repack because they had to repack the coaster brakes with grease after every hard-braking run. Maybe I was drawn to them because I just met Alex LaRiviere of Faber’s Cyclery, who sold Joe Breeze one of those 1941 Schwinns from his original shop in Santa Cruz.

Or maybe because they were the kind of bikes my dad and his brother rode to deliver newspapers in small town Louisiana during World War II. The streets were dirt and bike parts were scarce, so the boys developed some mad mechanical and riding skills tout suite. Even at 81, my dad rocks the bike off-road with surprising grace.

To see the Repack to Rwanda exhibit in person, visit the International Terminal at SFO airport through February 2013. No airline ticket is required. For more photos check out the online slide show courtesy of SFO.


Posted by on September 18, 2012 in Bike Gallery, Dirt Trails


For the Love of Dirt

It’s Sunday night and I’m already sore. Except this time it’s not my legs, but my arms and back that remind me of time well spent on the bike. This weekend I finally made it back out on the dirt. The calendar may say it’s only been a few weeks since I’ve ridden my mountain bike, but my upper body begs to differ.

Riding dirt trails is different and it’s not just that you work different muscles (which you do). It’s different because it takes you away from the noise, stress and annoyance of sharing your ride with cars and trucks. Plus the scenery in the Santa Cruz Mountains is gorgeous, no matter how many times you’ve ridden the trails.

Cindy and I rode the trails along Long Ridge out to Saratoga Gap on the southern ridge of the San Francisco Peninsula. It’s a favorite route for both of us: rolling terrain that’s easy technically, but punctuated by rocky sections that challenge us when we’re in the mood and feeling confident.

Having neglected my mountain bike far too much this year, I’ll admit I wasn’t pushing my edges on the rocky sections. But after a taste of dirt this weekend, I can tell you I’m coming back for more soon, rocks and all.

The summer is almost over. What do you wish you’ve done more this season? Is it too late?

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Posted by on August 26, 2012 in Dirt Trails


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Flying Solo with Liberty

It’s Valentine’s Day, a day dedicated to schmoopy coupledom, but today I want to recognize the value of time alone and doing your own thing. Even if you love spending time with your special someone or with a close-knit group of friends, there are times for flying solo. When you fly solo, you can be selfish. You can go wherever you want, at whatever pace you want with no compromises.

When I was working full time I rarely took the time to ride solo, but now I can carve out time in the middle of the day to hit the trails. So I grabbed Liberty, my original cyclocross bike and rode from home to Fremont Older preserve. I named her Liberty because she gives me the freedom to ride wherever I want–road, dirt, flat, hills–without compromise. She’s outfitted with low touring gears so I can climb the steepest fireroads and has knobby tires to grip the loose dirt. She gives me a powerful feeling, like I can go anywhere under my own power.

So up I went on the harsh climb from the Stevens Canyon side, stopping only to snap a couple of shots of the view of the valley. From there it was down the singletrack, oddly empty at midday, and then a fast ride across town to beat the fading light. Who needs to sit cross legged and meditate when you can ride alone for a few hours and come back with sore legs and a clear mind?

I have several friends who are now flying solo for more than a bike ride. It’s not something they planned, but it’s something they need to clear their minds, center themselves and be self-sufficient for a while. One of them is Patty, who is separated from her husband and is now living as the caretaker at a small winery two miles up a dirt road off that happens to be about 500 feet above the park where Liberty and I spent our day together.

Living on her own so far above it all, at a place that needs a lot of tender loving care, at a time when she needs tender loving care, Patty is learning to accept help from others. It’s not easy for someone who can navigate her bike through a rock garden, split wood with an axe and wield a chain saw with confidence. So I drove up the steep gravel road to spend time with her and prune some bushes (no chainsaw or axe for me). The goal: spiff up the chateau for her coming out party as a free and independent woman.

We hacked and hauled away the shrubs, other friends came to help clean inside and Patty did far more scrubbing, organizing and painting on her own. In a few short weeks the chateau was primed for a fabulous party for 40 or so friends. It was beautiful, magical night. Even when you’re flying solo, it’s good to be surrounded by people who care about you and support you as you travel your path.

How are you celebrating Valentine’s Day? Are you celebrating your love with someone special or celebrating your love for yourself this year?

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Posted by on February 14, 2012 in Backroads, Dirt Trails


Las Vegas by Bike

For most cities we visit, we rent bikes to get around town. But Las Vegas? Uh, no. With city planners who believe in eight lane arterials everywhere and quarter mile superblocks, Las Vegas is the ultimate car city. So no city bikes for us. And after a walk to the drugstore a block and a half from the hotel that took 20 minutes each way, we resigned ourselves to taking taxis. By far the easiest way to get around Vegas.

To get our bike fix in and to get away from the smoke of the casinos and the ever-present ding-ding-ding of the slot machines, we headed out to the desert. Las Vegas may not be known for the great outdoors, but it really should be. The desert is worth a trip to Vegas, even if you hate gambling, drinking and late nights.

For our first desert trip we rented a Harley from Eagle Riders. Since both Dick and I had driven out to Hoover Dam and Red Rock Canyon on previous trips, we took the advice of their friendly staff and rode the Valley of Fire and Lake Mead loop. I can’t describe the striking landscapes and deep color of the rock formations in this valley. Let’s just say the Valley of Fire is the best kept secret in the southwest. Simply amazing.


The next day we switched bikes and deserts with a trip to Cottonwood Valley in Red Rock Canyon park. Through Escape Adventures, we took a half day mountain bike tour on rocky, sometimes technical singletrack. Riding the dirt in the desert was a completely new experience. We were both a bit unsure of how to approach the loose, rocky trails on unfamiliar bikes with tires overfilled to prevent pinch flats. But the weather was perfect, the views amazing and we both dodged the rocks well enough to come away without drawing blood.


Note: I took video during both bike trips, but I was sorry to discover they were much shakier than usual. In the Cottonwood Valley video, the cause was a rocky trail. Maybe I should invest in a chest mount for my GoPro. In the Valley of Fire video, the problem was rough chip-seal pavement and wind bouncing my iPhone around. So I captured some stills from my video and included them in the slideshow.

Las Vegas: love it or hate it? Would you head for the casinos or head for the desert?

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Posted by on January 10, 2012 in Dirt Trails, Travel


Christmas Lights Ride with Passion

Have I said before that I really love checking out Christmas lights on my bike? Apparently I’m not the only one. Over 70 people joined in on the Holiday Lights Ride hosted by Passion Trail Bikes. We had so much fun last year that Dick and I brought along a few friends this year to join in the fun. I guess we weren’t the only ones.

The ride was only nine miles or so, but the route was carefully chosen to hit the highlights (pun intended) of Belmont and San Carlos. The pace was easy, the costumes were silly and bike decorations were over the top. Last year my favorite bike was a tandem with a trailer long enough to haul lumber with a sound system operated by a car battery. This year’s favorite was a vintage Schwinn Twinn tandem with a real four foot Christmas tree jutting off the back. With battery-operated lights and ornaments of course.

The climax of the ride was the amazing displays of holiday excess on Eucalyptus Street in San Carlos. Not only is the car traffic moving along at less than five mph, even bike speed was too fast. We had to pull over, gawk and take photos. The most impressive house had 700,000+ lights–all solar powered. Another had a beautiful 25 foot live tree with basketball-sized ornaments while another set up an icycle-draped gazebo with a plastic Santa. There was a long line so I didn’t get a photo.

Afterward, we headed back to the shop where Charles, Patty and their loyal customers served appetizers and desserts. I made a small batch of my mom’s Louisiana pralines. If I had known there would be such a large turnout I would have made more.

What’s your take on holiday lights? Awesome or tacky? Where do you draw the line?

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Posted by on December 22, 2011 in Around Town, Dirt Trails

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