Posted by: Mark | May 30, 2010

A few thoughts on Biking

In early August, I am planning on biking from Crescent City, a city just south of the border between Oregon and California, to San Francisco. Mapquest puts it at around 350 miles, but I figure that on bike and doing a bit of exploring, it will be more like 425 miles. I’m planing on doing it in 7 or 8 days, which means I”l be biking a substantial amount each day. I’ve never done such long-distance biking before.

To test the waters before, I did a big ride today. I surfed for a few hours in the morning, and then biked what is called Paradise Loop in Marin County, a pretty lovely loop that goes through Tiburon and offers some spectacular views of San Francisco.

Paradise Loop
Find more Bike Rides in San Francisco, California
(Click the above link to see a map of the ride. It’s supposed to embed but the stupid thing isn’t embedding. That would have looked sick.

I ended up doing 55 miles, which is good but not crazy. The loop is around 42 but I drastically under-estimated the distance from my house to this map’s starting point, and so I ended up doing more than I anticipated. (To understand crazy, I have a friend who does a 200 mile race in one day every year along with his brothers. Crazy.) I went by myself, with no music, so I had a lot of time to think. Here are some of my thoughts on biking:

-FIrst off, we live in a beautiful corner of the world. My route took me along Ocean Beach, through the Golden Gate Park, across the Golden Gate Bridge, through Sausilito, Larkspur, and Tiburon, all surrounded by beautiful hills, forests of redwoods, you name it. This is a beautiful place.

-Biking is pretty awesome. It’s a great work-out, and you chug along at a pace of anywhere from 8-40mph, and so typically you get to spend more time looking around than you typically do, which only further underscores the first point.

-I spent just over 4 hours in the saddle, and so I took the advice of a good friend and got myself a pair of biking spandex with the built-in butt cushion, arguably one of the strangest inventions of all time. It’s pretty groovy, and for the first 30 miles it felt great. The last 25 I no longer felt like I was sitting on a cloud, but instead pure unfriendly steel. I need to get my butt in shape, which is weird.

-Speaking of spandex: it turns out that there are many gay men who like how I look in bike pants and are unafraid to let me know it. Not sure how the straight women felt about them, I’m thinking the silence spoke enough though.

-I drank a lot more water than I had anticipated. This has me a bit anxious about my big bike ride from Crescent City….where and how I will re-fill my water along the way to keep me, a huge water drinker, satiated. I also came home really hungry–no surprised there, I’m almost always hungry, but I’m talking really hungry. The best post-bike snack is a peanut butter and nutella sandwich, so I think I’ll be sure to bring a jar of both despite their weight.

-I really liked biking but I don’t like bike culture. I break this into two elements:

  • Hipster bike culture. I didn’t see any of these out on the road but I often see them when I bike through San Francisco. They truly drive me nuts on their single geared “fixies” with no brakes and tight pants. When I bike past the Panhandle on a nice day the place is littered with scruffy hipsters sipping PBR with their fixies scattered across the grass like some sort of garage sale, silently judging every biker that goes who has more than one gear, probably thinking to themselves “that’s guys t-shirt is unironic and is as lame as his name-brand road bike.”
  • Road bike culture. This is just as bad, the group that suits up in full matching shoes, helmets, and color-cordinated biking singlets with a couple of Gu’s tucked in the back of their biking jersey to juice themselves up on the line. I love seeing who these guys identify with, in terms of what team they are supposedly biking for. The clip-in shoes they wear can be heard from a mile away when they’re walking around, which they love to do, trumpeting through the hills “I’m a bike rider!” As I biked through Sausalito I could see gleefully spandexed bikers sprawled out at Italian cafes all the way to the horizon, broadcasting their bike-riding-ness to anyone who came by.
  • I guess the thing I don’t like is the smugness that seems an inbred part of bike culture. I wish people would just ride bikes without having to try and make some sort of statement about it. Then again, I surf, and you can probably tell when you hang out with me that I surf, and so maybe the same criticism can be leveled against me and surfing culture. Smugness can be easily identified and criticized in others, but not so easily in yourself. So it goes.

-Most people ride their bikes with helmets, but some don’t wear them on their head. They instead attach them to their bike somewhere, typically the handle bars. This is really strange to me.

-The vast majority of pedestrians are oblivious putzes. I almost crashed into a few who just backed aimlessly into the road or into oncoming bike traffic. Morons.

-The Blazing Saddles bike rental company will never go out of business. I’d say about 40% of the bikes I saw today were rented out by that company, with their trade mark fanny packs hanging from the front handle bars. Likewise, the ice cream stores in Sausalito will never go out of business.

-The Blazing Saddles bike riders are like the vast majority of pedestrians, except they are moving much more quickly on bikes, so they are much more dangerous. While crossing the bridge I found myself stuck behind an Asian female tourist who was delicately cradling an over-sized leather purse on one arm while also steering with that arm, and taking pictures with her other arm. She was swerving like a drunk driver. Dangerous.

-I should have left about 5 hours earlier and probably not have surfed this morning. The wind really picked up and became a bit of a challenge in the latter part of the ride.

-I am writing this from my couch and feel the most splendid sense of exhaustion that I have felt in a very long time. My belly is full of food, my eyes are starting to droop, and I will sleep tonight better than I’ve slept in months.

-My legs are tired…..but I can’t stop dancing.



  1. Nice ride report!

    I agree that water logistics are super important. I recently picked up a BOB Yak trailer and it’s got a couple sets of bosses to mount additional water bottle cages. If you don’t already have racks, panniers, etc., I would recommend the BOB. There’s not much change in bicycle handling since the load is really low. And it’ll work on just about any bike.

    Also, I haven’t checked out their maps yet, but has good point-to-point bicycle touring route maps from what I’ve heard. I believe the maps will tell you where to refuel, places to camp, etc.

    The upcoming trip sounds like a ton of fun!

  2. I like the self-portrait in the purple-y spandex. Nice. I definitely agree about the benefits of biking, though – I’m doing an internship at Fort Baker, in Sausalito, and find myself outside more than in because of the spectacular trails and views. It’s funny how much more charitable I feel towards bikers when I’m not in my car…

  3. Read this book before you start:

    Trust me.

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