Monday, May 31, 2010

Albany Bulb and Berkeley Marina Family Ride

Today's ride is a 9 mile out and back on a mix of dirt, gravel and paved surfaces with views of San Francisco, the Golden Gate, and the bay. A mountain bike or hybrid or something similar is recommended, but you can do it on a road bike.

Click for an interactive route map

The ride is suitable for families and kids who can handle a busy bike lane and a couple of street crossings. If your unsure about handling, consider the 10 to 12 mile ride at the start of the Bay Trail trip to Point Richmond and back, all on paved bike/foot path.

Today starts by crossing the bike/foot bridge at the west end of Buchanan Street in Albany, at Pierce.

FROM EL CERRITO PLAZA BART: catch the bike path on the east (hill) side of the station and head south. Continue for about 3/4 mile, then go right on Washington. After about 6 blocks go left on Kains, then right on Solano. Cross San Pablo to the stop sign, left on Jackson, right on Buchanan. Lots of people use the sidewalk here, but the shoulder is wide enough and pavement just a little bumpy. Head towards the water about 6 half-blocks and catch the bike bridge entrance on your left after bearing right and downhill just past the intersection with Pierce.

Going up the incline

On the decline you loop all the way around to the right, then do a 180 left back under the freeway.

This avoids the 580/80 on-ramp with cars going right on red from Buchanan.

Cross towards the water the at the light, and continue up onto the sidewalk. Head west, keeping the Albany mud flats and the fence on your right. Here is an old early morning shot from this perspective.

The sidewalk turns into a bike/foot path and after about 1/4 mile we take a right at a big gate on our right, heading straight up a wide paved section then taking the second left on a dirt trail.

The fenced off area is set aside as burrowing owl habitat, but they have not taken a liking to it yet. We take a little single track drop back to the lower trail, with a nice view from the top.

We take the lower trail to the right, along the water's edge. You start to catch sight of the many outdoor wild-art works that have been built out of the abundant construction debris that the Albany Bulb is made up of.

We continue straight at the junction, up the little hill, then straight through the next set of intersections heading more or less due north. The trail dips and you confront what I think is the iconic piece at the bulb

A little further to the left a sculpture garden has bloomed

Lincoln wanted to know if this was somebody's bike (complete with cast iron hula hoop racks) or a piece of art. He was stunned that someone could intentionally leave a bike out to rust, and kept asking me why anyone would do that.

We double back to rejoin the bay trail bike route at the foot of Buchanan street, where the road does a loop. Looking south the gate is to the right, next to the port-a-potty.

Through the gate the path is on the left, next to the fence line

Up the hill and through the parking lot, take the far left lane on the downhill - it's reserved for bikes and pedestrians. At the end of the downhill veer left, on the east side of the trees and take the wide open if slightly lumpy bike path

View off to your right once again

Cross Gilman at the corner, and go left around the soccer fields. You can ride next to the field in the paved area, don't stay on Gilman. Take a right where the sign says "right turn only", onto the bike path. Go straight past all the playing fields, then take a right when you go through a pair of posts in the road.

This little dirt section (Virginia Street extension) avoids having to go down University Avenue on the gravel and glass strewn shoulder. This route is much safer and quieter, and the road surface is not that much worse. Linc flies along

At the end of the dirt you can go right to connect to a loop around Cesar Chavez Park, famous for kite flying, but today we go left on the paved path alongside the fence.

We cross the street at the entrance to Berth F

Up onto the sidewalk, the continue with the water on our right as the sidewalk bends around to the right. We see our crosswalk

After crossing the path winds around another corner and we go through the forecourt at Cal Sailing club (where you can learn to sail or windsurf)

We pass the one-of-a-kind Berkeley Adventure Playground - an excellent space for kids to basically do what they want with saws, hammers, nails, scrap wood, and paint. There's a zip line with a sand-pile for crash landings, and some structures that evolve daily with kids input. There's almost no rules, yet kids don't seem to get hurt in a way that tears and time won't fix. Highly recommended for kids 5 to 12 or so

There's a play area for younger kids right next door, with reasonably nice bathrooms and drinking water. This area is somewhat sheltered from the wind when it's howling along the waterfront

We cut through the parking lot at His Lordships restaurant and ride by the crashing waves to the foot of the Berkeley Pier. This 3 mile pier was a primary commercial artery in the early days, now only the first mile is maintained as a fishing pier (no California license required on a public pier, but be careful what you eat out of the SF bay)

We are late for dinner, so we hurry home on the North sidewalk along University Avenue, cutting back to the waterfront path next to the little convenience store where we always buy worms when we go fishing here. We take the same route home, completing a nice one and a half hours at a leisurely kid-friendly pace.

Morning Photos from Richmond Waterfront

Hazy light, nice crisp morning, perfect day for a leisurely ride around the waterfront. Albany beach, right by the old ferry landing at the foot of Fleming Point hill. Site of many dynamite factories in the 1880's-1890's.

Along the Richmond waterfront, a study in blue

A wider view from the shoreline

Giant car carrier docked opposite Craneway Pavillion. These giant ships navigate out through a channel by Discovery Bay, kind of funny to see them next to the sailboats and fishing boats in the same channel.

View from just after the Point Richmond tunnel. San Francisco to our left, Angel Island (and the top of a Golden Gate bridge tower barely visible), Tiburon, Chevron oil terminal, Richmond-San Rafael Bridge

View of SF from just to the left of Ferry Point

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Marketing Analysis of Bicycle Ridership Trends

Rick Vosper, one-time VP of marketing for Specialized bicycles and a 25 year veteran of bicycle marketing, has an interesting in-depth series of posts analyzing declining sales in the bike industry and debating ways to increase ridership.

I can't imagine how a cycling commuter who dabbles in marketing at work and volunteers with NICA so we can increase cycling amongst high schoolers would have found this type of analysis before the internet

Sunday, May 16, 2010

NICA California state high school championships

Long day at the races yesterday, close to 500 riders competing at state championships up Loma Rica ranch in Nevada City.

A bit of the pit area before the first race

A panorama during the freshman and sophomore boys races

Miles, Amber, and Jenna our volunteer scoring crew during a lull in the action, with Paul our head scorekeeper busy on the laptop in the back.

An Oceanview Cougar on the front row of the JV boys as they wait for varsity to roll.

The varsity boys series leaders relax before the big race

Exciting finish in the varsity boys race as the northern California series leader edges out the southern California series leader for the victory after riding out front together for most of the race.

The Norcal-Socal rivalry is healthy, with Socal taking JV and Sophomore boys races this year while Norcal enjoyed a lot of wins on home turf. Next year state champs will be Norcal vs. Socal vs. Sierras in a 3 way battle.

NICA is growing, with Colorado league launching this fall and other states jumping in next spring. I'm excited to be part of growing our sport so all high schoolers will hopefully have an opportunity to take part

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

El Cerrito Plaza BART to San Ramon via Pig Farm

This 37 mile ride traces a northern route around Briones before dropping down Danville Boulevard/SRVB to the Peets in San Ramon (Crow Canyon at Camino Ramon). Can easily be extended 7 miles from San Ramon to Dublin BART on Iron Horse Trail.

Click the map for an interactive map of the route.

The first 9 miles are different from the El Cerrito Plaza to San Ramon the flat way route since I avoid San Pablo Avenue after 7am

We head right towards the hills on Central Avenue on the north side of the station to catch the bike route. After a left at the top of Central we pass a high school and continue to a left on Moeser at the El Cerrito Swim Center. The right on to Richmond puts us on a long straight section.

We continue straight through a light and come to a stop sign as the road changes names to Elm street. If you continue straight the next stoplight is not bike friendly. The light is on an uphill slope and has a short cycle, so if you try to start back from a flatter section you may not make the green.

Going left at the stop sign is a safer option, with a right turn onto the Ohlone Greenway bike path 2 blocks west. Go straight past El Cerrito del Norte BART. If you continue straight across Knott it is flat, if you go right on Knott and then left on Elm you climb a short hill. Both options come together in a 1/4 mile after the downhill on Key Boulevard. In the picture the bike path option rejoins after the houses on the left, and yes I was on the wrong side of the road.

Cross MacDonald, the asphalt is lumpy for about a block and then there's a big double-dip across the road. The road gets smoother and we cross the busy Barrett Street. Key ends next to Tiller Park playground, where we go right on McLaughlin with the freeway over the big sound-wall to our left.

After McLaughlin curves towards the hills we go straight at the stop, then left on Kern. The bike route stays next to the freeway, but I usually take Kern and/or Yuba to be a block or two further from the freeway and away from frontage road traffic. The route map is on Amador for simplicity, there's a lot of intersections on this route if you are doing it the first time so I kept the map simple.

Amador passes a school and heads up a short incline. We take a right at the stop sign on to busy San Pablo Dam Road. The pavement is choppy near the stop sign, but gets smoother as you go up the little hill. The shoulder is wide and you can usually find a clean line.

After the fast downhill San Pablo Dam Road is narrow and dangerous through town. You might consider the sidewalk at rush hour, it's only about 12 blocks before it widens out again after the Pedaler bike shop.

If you ride to the right of the line parked cars will push you out into traffic, I prefer riding just to the left of the line and in the lane but it's nervy sometimes. This mile is not a great section.

Left on Valley View Drive and then right on Olinda and the road starts to open up for the first time.

The next 8 to 10 miles gets baking hot on a sunny day and we won't see water for a while, stop at the school at Castro Ranch and Olinda or the gas station at Valley View/SPDR if you are going to be short.

Left after the school onto Castro Ranch Road. Castro Ranch takes us up a hill hidden around a right bend, the shoulder is littered with gravel and glass. Over the top we roll down a little section with a muddy shoulder, a 200 yard section on the right is covered with a layer of slick mud through the wet season. There's a divider in the road making the usable lane very narrow.

We push up a little uphill section through Carriage Hills neighborhood, the last residential area for another 8 or 10 more miles. There's a bike lane on the long, fast downhill, and we fly into the right turn on Alhambra Valley Road.

The road is just short of smooth but it doesn't matter as the country is now wide open, the hillsides are flocked with grazing cattle and gnarly old oaks stretching out twisted limbs. It always makes me smile to think I'm riding Pig Farm to work. We climb steadily in the big ring for 5 miles, straight through the intersection with Bear Creek Road.

The road pitches up for about 100 yards around a curve just past the vineyard on our left, a harbinger, and we snap a picture of some emus (ostriches?).

The grade stiffens a bit again, but we're still not near our lowest gear. The grade pitches up seriously now as we do a left-right S next to a ranch on our right, and Pig Farm Hill opens up before us with looming menace. I love this ride, but I don't particularly like climbing this hill from the west because I'm sharing a narrow lane with fast moving cars and farm trucks while grinding uphill in my lowest gear. Here's a profile of the steep section, starting from the last driveway on the right.

View off to the right as we pause at the base of Pig Farm Hill.

Here's the view up Pig Farm Hill. The climb ends up by the oaks on the ridge to the left of the telephone poles.

It eases slightly after the first ramp but then it pitches up again and doesn't let up until the last telephone pole. It's hard early in the morning, but once it's done there's no real climbing left to the finish.

Looking back west from the top.

Zip up at the top while you catch your breath next to the old pig farm.

The grade on the backside is not as steep but still very fast, it's an easier climb from this east side. After the first big right we pass some goats on our right, then zoom through a cold pocket of air where the trees close in on the road. The easy riding continues for a few miles as we leave the cattle behind and the scenery becomes more residential.

At the intersection with Alhambra Valley Road there's a christmas tree farm on our right as we continue straight on Reliez Valley Road. We enter suburbia on a fast downhill and the mile after the stop sign features a couple of rolling hills. Take a left onto Grayson with the cemetery on your right. (Flattest route is left on Blue Ridge, right on Virginia Hills, right on Pleasant Hill, rejoin route at intersection with Grayson).

We continue across Taylor at the light then turn right on Pleasant Hill for a straight stretch with small rollers. As the road veers slightly right we take a left onto Oak Park Boulevard at the stop sign across from a school. We roll past one of several Contra Costa Canal Trail access points. The bike paths out here are fairly uneven and bumpy, and quite heavily used by joggers, dog walkers, and kids on bikes. I've tried a few sections but it's not good riding even with nobody on the path. Further into Walnut Creek the bike paths become the only decent option, but for now we'll stay on smooth, wide boulevards.

We take the right onto Putnam and pass the canal trail again, then cross Geary and the road changes names to Buena Vista. The Larkey swim center on our right has a water fountain out front. The Briones to Mount Diablo Trail connects from the sidewalk to our right (starting from south side of 1st Avenue), running along the west side of the park up to the Acalanes Ridge Open Space. It's not paved all the way, but passable if it's dry. You can see a corner of the open space high on the ridge to the northeast as you are driving on Highway 24 nearing the 680 interchange.

We continue straight and the surroundings become more urban. We ride around the Walnut Creek BART station, then go right on Oakland Boulevard (bike path under the BART tracks). Here's a picture from the top of the block, looking back. There's never much traffic on Oakland Road.

We cut through the backstreets of Walnut Creek to avoid some heavy traffic downtown. Once we reach Lilac it gets mellower, and Lancaster is quite relaxing with smooth pavement.

Once we're on Danville Boulevard it's smooth sailing all the way to San Ramon. For more details on this last section see the last section of the EC Plaza to San Ramon the flat way post.