One of the really inspiring and gratifying things to come out of overseeing the Rivendell Owner’s Bunch list has been watching folks find one another and set up local rides. The SoCal Rivendell Riders have seemed particularly adept at gathering up and down the SoCal coast - I think they managed 12 or 14 monthly rides to date. I keep hoping to schedule a visit to my sister at an opportune time, so I can attend one of these rambles. Ok, there’s a resolution for the new year.
Up here in the SF Bay Area, we are perhaps a more clannish bunch, as those types of Riv-oriented get-togethers have not occurred with the same frequency. Though, given the geographics of region, maybe you are more likely just to run into another while out and about. (Granted, I did miss the ride back in October).
So, when SCRR riders Esteban and Aaron announced they’d be up in the region around the New Year, making the ride became a high priority. Couldn’t swing the mid-week ride, but cleared myself the Saturday just fine, which is why I found myself muttering minor curses at 8 am or so, realizing I’d left about 10 minutes late after a few last scattered tasks at the house.
All was not lost, however, as JimG checked back in via communicator to let me know that most folks had really just gathered, and one of the riders had to deal with a flat. When I rolled up to the Strauss statue at the south end of the Golden Gate Bridge, it was pretty evident which group was mine.
It was a fine group of six - Esteban and Aaron up from the southland, regular ride-buddy JimG, ZugsterBags Adam and Bradley on a Quickbeam and me on mine - evenly split between coastable many-geared bikes and those with proper drivetrains. Rivendell bikes held a slight majority, with a pair of Romulii (Aaron and Esteban) and two orange Ents (me and Bradley) versus a Kogswell P/R700 (JimG) and the Box Dog Bikes Pelican (Adam). Another statistical impossibility played out as there were actually three Zugster Rando Bags represented on one ride - a beatable record, but still pretty danged impressive. (Which made me very happy to have spent a few moments remounting mine before the ride.)
We introduced ourselves around, oohed and ahhed over one another’s bikes, and then headed north over the bridge. Fell into an easy rhythm with JimG, and we realized we’d not ridden together in waaaaaaay too long. In fact, I think there some rumors flitting about the tubernets that we were, in fact, the same person. While there has certainly been a preponderance of Jims about, it’s important to quell such rumors with periodic public appearances.
I’d been enjoying a mild tailwind assist when zipping down toward the bridge, and now it was clear that we needed to push a bit to head north. Despite some happy talk on the forecast to the contrary, the weather had not yet cooperated, and things remained resolutely overcast as we dropped down into Sausalito. Still on Bridgeway, I managed to be looking at a car edging in us, rather than the gang ahead of me at one point, and may have put a brake-lever-shaped bruise into Bradley’s buttock when I had to shoot into a slim gap as a traffic light caught us. Hopefully, he will someday see fit to forgive me…
The clouds dropped lower as he hit the Camino Alto climb, with visible mist in the air. The flat gremlins chose this moment to bite into Aaron’s front tire again, and he was again forced to change tubes. At first he took this as a sign to head home, but we talked him out of it after taking a tube and patch kit count among the rest of us (more than some small bike shops). We hung out as the mist came down, watch a few packs of all-logo-all-the-time groups go upwards on the hill. Other than a single Pinarello tacked onto the back of one gang, they were all devotees of the Church of Carbonium. They also had Occultorotaphobia - fear of the covered wheel.
Back when were gathering at the statue, I’d asked Esteban if he knew what Latin was for “covered wheel.” He allowed as how though he was a professor, he was not a Latin professor, and the question remained unanswered (until I started writing this and looked it up). I nattered on for a while about the consistent parade of folks I’d seen on the way down who were fenderless, until it occurred to me that the only folks who where not running fenders our group were Esteban and Aaron. Since I didn’t want to be a flippant host, I tried to let the subject drop.
I think there are four main regions of fender culture in this country - (1) The Pacific Northwest, where fenders are assumed, and if you don’t have an extended fender with flap that scrapes the ground, no one will ride with you (2) Most of the rest of it, where if you want to roll out the door every day to ride with a minimum of fuss, fenders (or at least a fendered bike) is a good idea, (3) the SF Bay Area (and a goodly chunk of California), where fenders go on in November and off in March, and (4) SoCal, where fenders are simply not necessary. In short, Esteban and Aaron are totally off the hook with respect to need for fenders, which really do complicate things when trying to pack a bike for travel, anyways.
But, it cracks me up when I see local folks out on road rides, tattooing themselves with reverse skunk-stripes courtesy of the road grit flung upwards from their 23 mm tires. Mind you, I’ve done it myself many once upon a times, and there’s nothing like starting out into the rain and sensing that first feeling of damp cold seeping into the back of your shorts - a feeling you know will not leave until the ride ends. Of the many, many bikes that went past, a mere handful had even a spray guard, and I think only one (a mtb-ish Cannondale sporting drop bars heading south) had a proper rigged set of fenders. I mean, it wasn’t like the day had started out sunny or anything.
Aaron rejoined us and we pressed onwards. It was still holding air in Larkspur as we rolled past the Village Peddler, but by the time we made the left turn towards Shady Lane in Ross, he was running about half pressure. He took that as a further sign - unfortunately the old “third time’s not a charm” - peeled back towards Breaking Away Bicycles in Ross Commons, and bid us to continue on without him. This time we honored his wish.
We paused for a damp refueling at the Java Hut in Fairfax. One of the things I appreciate about riding in Marin County is the opportunity for glimpsing cycling royalty*, and in this case, Otis Guy was hanging out under the awning with a couple of friends, clearly having just finished off a ride. He commented a bit on our setups as we settled in and pounded down some calories and caffeine. White’s Hill and thickening fog beckoned to the west.
*It should be noted that said glimpses involve those folks actually riding their bikes.
As we hit the initial incline, “Oh-you-know-I-haven’t-really-been-riding” Adam rocketed forward on his fixed Pelican. At first it seemed he was going to leave us in the dust, but then he pulled over and set up for some excellent climbing images. My eyes crossed a bit as I tried to keep up with JimG and Esteban, who kindly pulled up near the summit for a regroup in the fog.
At this point, Bradley decided to head back to the City, as he had to connect with a friend. If I caught it right, it was his first time that far north of the GG Bridge, and hopefully I’ll see more of him on the roadways now and again.
Still maintaining drivetrain parity, we pressed on into San Geronimo Valley. Encouraged by gravity during the decline, I got that good feeling and pressed onward through towards Lagunitas. I don’t know if it’s having the White’s Hill behind us, but for some reason things often feel strong for me there. Esteban connected up, and we buzzed along, skirting sharp rocks and trash cans until the road narrowed before the turns began. We caucused briefly, and decided to stick to the pavement of Sir Francis Drake - probably one of the oldest stretches of oddly improved roadway left in the county - rather than veer onto the unpaved section of the Cross-Marin Trail. The old concrete of the road has been reconfigured and patched, but once inside Samuel P. Taylor Park boundaries, it remains an esoteric reminder of driving along the river in your 1947 Hudson. Depending upon the attitude of the autos, it can be a wee bit sketchy, but a fair amount of rain had fallen here on New Year’s Day, and things felt even more damp in this narrower and more wooded section. Rather than splatter mud over all of us unnecessarily, we went straight at Inkwells Bridge, did a little coffee shifting at SP Park and caught the paved section of the Cross Marin Path.
Here we were able to spread out a bit and chat, snap excellent photos of one another and enjoy the first inklings of sunlight we’d seen all day. We chugged our way up the soul-crushing incline to Bolinas Ridge and dropped down to Olema.
At this point, I must admit that I was becoming a little fixated on food. The Sirens on the rocks at Bovine Bakery sang so loudly that I neglected waiting at either the Ridge or at the stop sign in Olema. So, it was with some embarrassment that I realized no one else was near me on Highway One.
It felt good to stretch a bit at this point, but it did little but underscore my poor host-y-ness. Esteban, Adam and JimG rolled up, the latter not sure if we’d taken the Bear Valley Road option. Luckily, he’s ridden with me enough to know my beeline-to-Bovine tendancies, and had chosen wisely.
As we unsaddled and tethered our mounts in town, it suddenly dawned on me that the already seated rider who had said “Howdy” was indeed One Happy Cog. It was indeed a day for Flickr-interactions, as we’ve chatted and commented through that medium for a while. I’d met him once before, back at the Marin Century, and we enjoyed pizza, baked goods, real sunshine and each other’s company for a while. And of course, more bike-geeking, as he had ridden his Eddy Merckx, which we had to enjoy.
About the time we realized that we still had to ride back, Aaron suddenly appeared on the roadway. When he stopped in the bike shop back in Ross, he and the wrench went through the front tire with a dental pick and magnifying glass, removing all errant shards of glass before wrapping things up and sending him on his way. Reinvigorated, he decided to set off after us. Despite the fact it threw the balance back in favor of coastable, many-geared bicycles, it was great to see him again. We regrouped briefly at the public facilities and headed out, JimG going one way and me the other.
JimG’s routing proved to be the superior option, and we scaled the pitch out of town and grabbed the Pt. Reyes - Petaluma road for a while.
We cut back towards the Cross-Marin Trail again, enjoying the greening hills and rural landscapes. There have been enough rains to reinvigorate a bit of growth, without making things excessively sloppy. Once on the trail, opted to slog through the unpaved bits rather than duke it out with the vehicular traffic returning from the coast. The worst part was the first half mile or so, with sloppier mud and more leaves. As we continued onward, the terrain firmed up again and I realized why Aaron had caught up to us - the man could move his bike pretty danged well. We ended up on the Inkwells Bridge awaiting the rest of the gang. I was a little worried they’d hate me forever for dragging them (figuratively) through the muck, but there were mud-flecked smiles all around when the rest of the gang rolled up.
Back on the roadway, we retraced our path of earlier in the day. By now, the clouds had moved off, and the light played beautifully in the San Geronimo valley. Esteban, Aaron and I rolled along just fine for a while, and then I heard a couple of knocks from the pistons and they eased away.
It was definitely one of those “keep pedaling, things will get better” moments. Shifting up around on the saddle into the climb seemed to help a bit, and we regrouped again at the top of White’s Hill, collected the rest of the gang and then plunged downward. The descent can be a little hairy, but we timed it pretty well against the cars and everyone swooped back towards Fairfax. After a short mixup as to the whereabouts of Adam, we all gathered once again at the Java Hut, this time in the waning sunlight. Double-E’s all around (well, I think Adam had something more fluffy) and then I decided that it was late in the day enough for me to vector homeward rather than tagging along to the bridge once more. Adam had connected with his wife who was nearby and planned to take advantage of the conveyance.
JimG agreed to ferry them onward through the rapidly increasing dusk, and after a round of “Great riding with you’s”, we went our separate ways. By the time I hit home, I’d notched about 82 miles.
Now, that was a great way to greet the New Year. Here’s to MMX!