Sunday, November 16th, 2008

MTB: Tour of San Francisco Dirt

It’s 5 o’clock this morning. I am waken up by Erik’s coughs. Poor guy, he has been sick for a few days. He has looked forward to this Sunday to go climbing at Pinnacles.  It does not look like it’s going to happen. I pat him gently and fall back to sleep. When I wake up again, it is 7 am. Although sneezing badly last night after the Metcalf climb, I’m feeling fine now — almost as good as new.  Suddenly I realize that I need to come up with some other plan now that my dear playmate is sick. Derek is riding Coe, but there is no way I can make it there by 9 am. ROMP is riding Skeggs close to home. I can consider that. Then I see Becky’s email. She is going to San Francisco to ride SF Flow / Epic Dirt Ride. Now, think about it. How often do I get to ride dirt in the City? Never! I call her up and I’m in.

I pick her up in Belmont and we drive up to the city together. After parking at her friends, Dan and Nicole’s house, we ride towards the start at Golden Gate Park, where riders have started to gather.  I grab a map and a number plate (with letter M). Who knows, I might join the race. But Nicole and Becky want to avoid the critical mass and plan to get on the route before the racers set off. It takes me 2 seconds to decide I’ll just ride with the two ladies and throw the idea of racing out of the picture. That sets a very relaxing tone for our tour of the SF dirt. I call it a tour simply because we have a tour guide. Nicole has lived in the city for many years and she and Dan are closely involved in trail building projects around the city, so she knows her way around very well; so well that she leads us riding into a 5-6 story building and after we take the elevator to the top, we are right at the bottom of Mt. Sutro.  We are not lazy; we are just smart.  But obviously, we are not fast either, because at the stairs leading up Mt. Sutro is where the fast riders catch us. I take a bunch of pictures there and am happy to see Krishna, whom I have known through Water Dog rides. J is another Water Dog regular. We ride along side briefly before he stops to wait for his friend. I never see him again, even at the finish. I wonder if it had anything to do with the whiskey he was sharing at Mt. Davidson. Hmm…

Knowing the trails well, Nicole convinced us that Glen Canyon and San Bruno are two places we should skip.  Although I usually prefer longer rides, the choice between riding with two fun companions and getting lost in the city looking for two patches of dirt by myself was quite easy to make.  At one point, we were able to see across Glen Canyon and we actually saw some riders on the trails. And some of them were walking. I heard that the trails there are steep and off-camber and some riders went down. At San Bruno, it’s mainly just a grind up a gravel road. It’s more than okay that we skipped those.

It is a big gathering at the finish. People hang out, drink beer, and eat burgers.  After socializing, Dan, Nicole, Becky, and I with our four bikes all get in Dan and Nicole’s van and our post-ride food is had at a nice Mexican place new Mt Sutro.

How often do you get a beautiful sunny day like this in the City? That’s certainly a good day to spend outside.

My photos (with captions) are posted to Picasa. If Picasa is blocked for you, you can also see the photos at our gallery.

The GPS data for the ride we did has been posted to MTBguru . 19 miles / 2500-2800′ elevation gain.

Following are just a few photo highlights:

Oh, the highlight of the day for me has to be riding down those stairs at Mt Davidson. The only reason I rode is when I realized that I was riding down rock stairs, I was already in the middle of it, so I was more than committed.  When I safely rode down it, I had a big grin on my face that can only belong to a survivor who has just been given a second life.

The stairs do not look that impressive in my my own photo:

So, I stole this photo from

I rode that!!!

Following is our route:

  (Click to access the full size)

There is a video footage for the event (link to wmv file). It has a shot of my failed attempt on a steep uphill climb around 4:08. If I had known there was a video camera at the top, I would have tried harder.

Edit (added on 11/22/08): I was made aware that there had been some complaints and criticisms (example and MTBR discussions) about this SF Flow event. I’m saddened that conflicts exist almost everywhere there are mountain bikers. I have a hard time taking sides — I am a mountain biker and I also love the environment I live in.  Whose fault is it that such conflicts exist? I’ve seen mountain bikers having too much fun to slow down and consider their impact (e.g. unfortunately, even in this event some riders skirted around exiting stairs and skidded down fragile trails at Glen Canyon) and I’ve also been to Open Space planning meetings in which plans were forged so that mountain bikers would be excluded from using trails open to everyone else, including the poop dropping horses.  Let’s work out a middle ground, shall we?

4 Responses

  1. nicoleon 17 Nov 2008 at 9:08 pm

    Hey, Mei I so appreciate your gameness to go the distance. It was so fun to share the day and the city with you. Really glad you made the choice to come and roll with Becky & I. Would love to do it again sometime hope to keep you in the loop of future fun rides.

  2. mudwormon 18 Nov 2008 at 9:39 am

    Hi Nicole, thanks so much for the best tour of SF I’ve ever had. It was a lot of fun riding with you and Becky. Yeah, let’s ride together again. Oh, I just checked out your website and was amazed that you practice Chinese medicine and acupuncture. That is so cool! I’d love to hear more about it!

  3. nicoleon 21 Nov 2008 at 8:43 am

    Hi Mei,

    I really like your website and am impressed you did it yourself.
    Are you a web designer? or just a tech savvy? Would love to have
    someone like you help me with my websites…
    Best, Nicole

  4. mudwormon 23 Nov 2008 at 5:46 pm

    Hi Nicole, Thank you for your kind words. I’m neither, but lucky for me, there are existing tools out there that makes it fairly straightforward to put something together and start “blogging.” Your site looks quite nice too, but I’m happy to discuss about it when we meet again.