(Still having bloglogon issues at home, so this is a little tardy of a writeup - sorry for the delay. Perhaps it should be retitled “A Previous Weekend’s Fixed-Gear Get-Together”…)
Although we awoke today (12/7) to snow levels as low as 800′ or thereabouts, and I’m fretting tonight about my lemon tree and cymbidiums dealing with projected sub-freezing temps, it was certainly a fine weekend for riding.
Ron L. had been agitating for a fixed gear ride up in Marin, and since it is my home turf, I was looking forward to the opportunity. He picked last Saturday for the date, and announced it on the RBW group. It hit on a good (i.e. no classes or plans) weekend for me, and a few other list denizens answered in the affirmative as well.
I’d been feeling pretty good in the week leading up to the ride, and planned on honoring momentum if I could get up and out on time. I’d done a little tech tweaking, waxed up my Keven’s bag which had been awaiting it’s first use since I received it as a birthday gift and laid out the riding gear in order.
Things flowed well the next morning, and before I knew it, I’d slipped out the door into a brisk day and headed south to the meeting spot at the Golden Gate Bridge. It was a beautiful time of day to be out, with bright sun for most of the way.
The only mishap was a bloated group ride which forgot to remember that the Mill Valley Bike Path was actually a two-way route. It’s important to remember that just because you are following a few wheels, not to turn off your brain. C’mon kids.. Y’see, if everyone fades slightly out to their left, then you end up spread across the pavement. Yeah. So. Anyway.
Rolled up to the meeting point at the south end of the GGBridge, and when I saw a Quickbeam on a double-legged kickstand, I knew I was in the right place.
Said hey to Ray, and finally met Jim and Tom in person. Ron pulled up a few minutes later and we coalesced into a moving group. As I’d mentioned, the plan had been for a fixed-gear ride, but none of us was going to kick anyone out who wanted to attend. As it was, Ray was running his Quickbeam in coastable mode, and Mike showed up with a full array of gearing options, as well as one of those chain-bending-shifty things to help him choose between him.
Of course, the fact that Mike was running his multi-geared coastable setup on a repainted FUSO didn’t hurt a bit. That was really a fine looking ride. Actually, every bike on the this adventure was pretty gorgeous. Tom runs a “low-key” Della Santa that is just beautiful to behold, even under the plain-wrap paint choice. The-other-Jim had his Gazelle out for a run, and it has seen some miles, but wore it quite well. Of course, you probably know I’m biased about Quickbeams, and it was nice to have 2/3rds of the stock color spectrum represented. Ron rolled along on his Bilenky, which had a “bent” seat tube and curly chainstays. Between the metal work and the rich paint job, it was a stunner. The last rider (whose name I just totally drew a blank on…) had a Steve Rex track bike, which showed off the stunningly smooth fillet-brazed finish work that Rex is known for.
As we went across the bridge, the sea breezes bit in noticeably, and it was a hunker-down-until-the-warmth-builds-up period to be sure. Unfortunately, as we reached the north tower, the-other-Jim’s chain started acting up a bit. This continued to plague us as we dropped down into Sausalito, and we limped a bit until we decided to lose a link from his setup.
Rule One on a Fixed-Gear Ride: Always have a chain tool and at least 4 extra links to the chain you are running.
Luckily, I did have mine, and since we were shortening rather than replacing a bum link, it went smoothly.
At some point, though, we lost Ray. I mean, we didn’t try to ditch him or anything, but he’d gone ahead on a natural break while we were messing with the chain mid-Sausalito, and I thought he’d rejoined us when we finally paused to let Jim-who-I’m-gonna-hafta-give-an-initial-to flip into coastable mode. Then when we turned right at the end of the MV path towards Tiburon, I realized we only had 6 riders. Drat.
Ray-less, we continued onward towards the former rail-spur industrial port turned upscale bedroom community, planning to assault the Paradise drive loop in a counter-clockwise direction. This meant rolling down the Tiburon bike path, which was luckily pretty under-utilized, and then around towards Belvedere, entering downtown Tiburon via Ark Row.
At that point, the siren call of coffee and calories could be heard, so we stopped near the waterfront and refueled. For some reason, I missed the bread pudding that everyone else attacked. Not sure I’m a fan - can’t really recall every having any. As we got to know one another over sustenance, Ray rolled into view. He’d headed out Trestle Glen (the cutoff road mid-Paradise loop) and then backtracked towards the point, figuring that we’d cross paths.
However, our sloth on the road combined with gastronomic necessity meant that he’d had to go all the way down into town. Still, he was refreshed upon finding us, and joined us for some of the chatting and eating.
Now together, we gathered to go, taking time to poke and prod at a gentleman’s orange Bertin with fenders, rear rack, lights and chainguard. He showed up as we were enjoying his bicycle, and said it had been sitting under his house for the past 20 years. He’d just oiled it up and was really enjoying having it out again. I think he got a kick of our excitement at such a practical bicycle, and I’m kicking myself for not nabbing an image of it.
Once on the road again, the wind still had a bit of a bite, and as the group stretched a bit (the Rex track bike seemed to have some speed…) I ended up pulling off to the side and digging my wool gloves back out. Just couldn’t get my hands to warm up. Rejoining the ride, I came up on Ray and (I hereby dub thee) JimM. Ray was spinning out a bit, still running the smaller chainrings he’d rigged up for a planned camping tour. JimM was arguing with his gearing as well, only his was the other direction - I think he called it his “California Blvd” gear and it stacked a goodly 77″ against him, in coastable format.
I slugged along feeling pretty good. Just due to my schedule for the past few months, it had been a while since I’d ridden with other people. Our direction reminded me why I usually like to take Paradise loop in a clockwise direction - in addition to the swooping down into town bit that always reminds me of the finish to Milan-San Remo, there always seems to be some longer stretches of slight decline. I’m certain that the geometrically inclined among you have played ahead, and realized that means a slight incline when heading the other direction.
The faster kids waited for us to collect by Trestle Glen, and then we buzzed the banked 180 and tried to keep the momentum going for a while, finally getting caught up by the first traffic light since we’d left Tiburon.
You do come to appreciate traffic lights when you are riding fixed. After a steady and longish stint of action, not pedaling for a moment is a sublime pleasure.
Rolling up into Corte Madera, Ray and JimM were thinking about vectoring home via the Meadowsweet Dairy. Actually, they were going to roll up Meadowsweet Ave, which has a kinder, gentler grade than the anticipated climb over Camino Alto. At my suggestion, they stayed with us for a bit and I showed them the super-secret-local’s route over Chapman.
Now, our plan here was to enjoy the easier incline of Chapman, then regroup with the others at the summit. I’ve always thought that this alternate route was a bit longer than the traditional Camino Alto climb from the Corte Madera side of things, but thanks to the somewhat suspect mapping feature (the thing that catches my eye is the two “descents” that show up in the elevation profile - I’ve never been able to coast up that particular hill…) of Bikely.com, it seems to be exactly the same distance. Which meant that we figured the fast kids would reach the summit before us.
So, when we popped out into a few gathered groups (it’s a very popular spot for regrouping, for some reason) and saw a sea of coastable many-geared riders, we figured that the others had continued down the other side. We’d circled around a bit first, and tried to get a look down the road to see if anyone was climbing and cursing their way upward. Convinced that we were the laggards, we dropped our way down to the Mill Valley side. At this point, the route options were increasing slightly, so, nudged along by a slight tailwind, we decided to head for the bridge.
And a short while later, we all were standing back where we’d started. At this point, under significantly sunnier conditions. Ray noted that the flags above the parking lot were lying limp, which you can see by looking at the water in the background. Whatever else the Golden Gate of San Francisco is noted for, low winds and clear skies is not necessarily way up there on the list. (Of course, the fall/winter can be a lot nicer than summer months.) (Dang - I’m giving away all the local knowledge today…)
We dispersed shortly thereafter, JimM and I heading north (he had parked in the lot at the north end of the GG Bridge), and just as we picked up speed on the decline of the bridge, saw Ron, Tom, Michael and RexRider coming towards us. Hollering “hey”, we continued past one another. Definitely felt badly at getting separated, and I think I’ll need to work on being more specific about a meeti-up place, should we vector differently in the future.
Rolled homeward, and distracted myself from the “gee-I’ve-been-riding-a-while” feeling by snapping photos of the impressively high tide, large spherical objects, and the pending completion of the Lincoln Avenue bike-ped path tunnel. Just rolled into the 77’s on the computer when I turned into the driveway. First “real” longer ride in a while.
A huge thanks to Ron for kicking this often-talked-about idea into reality.