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Naomi  The Biking Life

 by: Naomi Bloom  5/1/2005

Same Time Each Week

You can count on them -- the regular rides that happen every week, week in and week out. Same time, same place, often the same route through the same countryside. It's a chance to ride with your buddies, measure your fitness (or lack thereof) with theirs. Maybe settle back over a post-ride shot of caffeine and discuss urgent matters of the world, like Lance's chances this year.

The Monday Morning Java Jive was like that. Every Monday at 9:30 am the parking lot at Foothill Plaza in Los Altos would fill with bikes and riders from two different clubs. Then everyone would pour out onto Foothill Expressway on their way to Menlo Park for cappuccino and conversation at Cafe Borrone.

Nearly every type of rider showed up. First to peel out were the racers, marathoners and wannabes; they'd crank up Foothill as if they'd already ingested their caffeine ration. Then came the rest of us, getting caught -- or catching up -- at the numerous red lights along the way. I never could figure out why the all-out chase took place before the coffee, while the post-caffeine ride back through suburban side streets was so mellow.

Eventually the Java Jive morphed into two rides: the Double Expresso for the go-fasts, and the Mocha Mooch, for those who prefer to take life at a saner pace. But they still meet every Monday, even when rain threatens (though generally not if it's pouring cranks and derailleurs).

Then there are Wednesdays, when the same two clubs that started Java Jivin' sponsor the "Hills R Us" ride, strictly for lovers of vertical pavement, going both up and down. Just as reliably, "Hills" rolls all winter long. The club schedules may read, "Foul weather in the hills keeps the ride in the valley," but it really means if it rains, they do "lesser hills."

Every Tuesday, a bunch of Western Wheelers take off at 11 am from Sunnyvale to do some variation of the Portola Valley loop, with lunch at a deli or cafe on the way back. And every Thursday without fail there are two rides -- one at a "leisurely" B pace and one at a brisker C -- from a different location each week.

In Santa Rosa the local club lists Friendly Fridays all year long, not to mention the Wednesday Wannabes ("wannabe having fun; wannabe climbing hills; wannabe on the road. . .").

Oakland Yellowjackets run a "Decide-and-Ride" every Saturday. Every Tuesday Grizzly Peak heads up Mt. Diablo, with a shorter, more lunch- and latte-oriented excursion every Wednesday.

And then there are the shops that sponsor, or at least provide a place to start, weekly rides. Every Wednesday and Thursday Skyline Cycling Club's "Youthful Seniors" ride departs from my LBS, The Bicycle Outfitter. (No one's ever checked for my age, though.) There's a regular Sunday ride too.

In Marin, Mike's Bikes heads out the Paradise Loop every Sunday. Bicycle Works in Napa hosts Eagle Cycling Club's weekly rides on Wednesdays and Sundays. Etc., etc. and so forth. . . .

Some clubs rely on a repeat weekly schedule for nearly all their rides. Take Velo Club Monterey, with as many as nine rides every week, including two to Pebble Beach on Saturdays, three on Sundays, two on Tuesdays, and yet another on Thursdays. Oh, and don't forget the weekly mountain bike ride on Wednesday evenings.

With DST you get more

Now that Daylight Savings Time and warmer weather are here, those evening rides are arguably the most popular. As many as 35 mountain bikers show up in Toro Park for "plenty of steep climbing and technical descending" that's "not for the faint of heart."

In fact, evening rides are now happening nearly every night of the week, many followed by pizza and beer or other carb-replacing restaurant dinner.

In Los Altos, Andy Kirk leads the Western Wheelers Thursday night tour, renowned for revealing roads you never knew where there, let alone bikeable. Not to be outdone, the go-fast crowd meets nearby for the Thursday night "Untour" hammerfest.

Skyline Cycling Club has been hosting Wednesday Night Rides for some 30 years. The standard pizza and beer generally follow, but I remember in the 80s chowing down at Country Gourmet in Mountain View, as well as a potluck picnic after the last ride in September.

Likewise, the Sacramento Wheelmen host two different-paced rides on both Monday and Wednesday evenings through the summer.

Grizzly Peak Cyclists' Tuesday and Thursday evening rides begin so early in April that the club strongly advises riders to carry lights for the return trip.

Different Spokes in San Francisco has Tuesday night rides at 6:30 pm. The spring/summer route runs from 12 to 21 miles, but they stick to a shorter course, from the Ferry Building on Embarcadero out to Fort Point, all through the winter.

According to my one-time riding partner now turned Triple Crowner Jack Klebanoff, Diablo Cyclists are resuming their Wednesday evening rides up Northgate to the Mt. Diablo junction. "A lot of us time ourselves from the park gate to the junction, just to see how we are doing," says Jack. "Then we rest and chat for a while at the junction."

But nobody beats the proliferation of evening rides come spring than Almaden Cycle Touring Club. Check out this schedule:

  • Monday, Saratoga, 6:00 pm, 18-30 mi, steep climbing, food follows
  • Monday, east San Jose, 6:00 pm, 18 mi, STEEP!!!
  • Tuesday, South San Jose, 5:00 pm, 25 mi, STEEP!!
  • Tuesday, Almaden Valley, 5:30 pm, 12-20 mi, flat
  • Wednesday, Los Gatos, 6:00 pm, 2 rides: 10-25 mi, rolling, and 15-25 mi, steep, food follows
  • Thursday, Saratoga, 6:00 pm, 18-30 mi, steep climbing, food follows
  • Thursday, Los Altos, 5:30 pm, 20-25 mi, FAST and steep - "No snivelers, no sandbaggers."

Almost paradise

I often tell people that those of lucky enough to inhabit Northern California live in a cycling paradise. I can't think of any place in the country that's richer in roads and trails to ride, days of good riding weather or great folks to ride with. Add to that the proliferation of weekly rides and we're simply unbeatable.

Want to find out more about the weekly rides at a club or shop near you? Look no further than BikeCal.com's Regular Rides Calendar. There's bound to be a ride to fit your riding level, training needs or even taste in caffeinated beverages!

Naomi can be reached at naomibloom@earthlink.net

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