I was recently visiting a conference in San Francisco, when planning this trip I planned a day for myself as well. What I was going to that day, was a platitude. I had to go mountainbiking and find som local trails.
Actuallty I was thinking of a trip to Whistler, but I quickly found out that it was too far away and too short time available. When I was e-mailing with the guys at Bearbackmountain in Whistler I asked whether they knew about any guides around the San Francisco area, and they did.
I got in touch with Celia Graterol from mountainbikingmarin.com, and she was available, lucky me. After som e-mailing forth and back, and after filling out Celia application for a ride, it was just to start looking forward to this experience, I coudn’t wait. I found myself a rental bike at sunshinebicycle.com. I booked a Cannondale Jekyll and agreed to meet Celia at the bicycle store.
In San Francisco I started looking for how to get to Fairfax where I was supposed to meet Celia, and we were going to cycle from there. I planned to take a bus to San Rafael and then jump on another bus to Fairfax not far away from San Rafael. The bus was delayed I didnt catch the bus to Fairfax, but jumped in a taxi 15$ later I arrived at Sunshine Bicycles just before opening time. I got the Jekyll, they mounted my pedals which I had brought with me. I was very curious about which shape I was in, after spending almost a week from 0830-1730 on a chair listening to Technical sessions about VMware’s new vSphere 5.1 version.
Then Celia showed up in a Pick-up with her Santa Cruz Blur, a very nice bike. Her friend and guide companion also showed up, Tom Fallon. Celia is the founder of mountainbikingmarin which arranges guided tours and clinics. Celia is a former US National Champion in Downhill 2002. I could already imagine her skills around the trails we were suppose to visit this day. Tom Fallon is a really nice guy with a future within motorsport and racing, but have of course played around the hills on a mountainbike since childhood. I was going to spend a whole day with these people, and they were going to show me some of the best trails around Marin valley, guess if I was looking forward to this day.
Celia had made a plan:
First: Tamarancho, Second: Paranickle, Third: Solstice and about 3000ft of climbing (we have to suffer a bit in order to have fun downhill)
The weather was actually pretty good, it was not too warm because it was cloudy and little bit windy this day. There was at least not too warm, on the tops it was even more windy.
We started on the climb up to whre the Tamarancho trail started, this is an area with trails built by a local scoutgroup, we started to climb on some pretty rough trails uphill, I had to immediately get used to the narrow and tight switchbacks, I am not very used to that because in Norway we dont have much of that kind of trails. It was a lot of climbing the first 15-20 mins before we could enjoy some flowy trails, we were getting up to speed on really tight singletracks with a lot of loose small rocks, roots and a steep hill on the side, there were no room for mistakes, that’s for sure…..
We ended up on a fireroad, and we were actuallt going to get to know these fireroads…heavy stuff, up, up and up… until we finally reached the top, and there was a wide rocky downhill section where we really getting up to speed on before we ended up in a small place we could sit down for a small break and some snacks.
Tom warned me about the Red Oak, which contains some sort of poison, I was not going to touch them, thanks for the warning Tom 🙂 It was time to drop into the Paranickle trail, and finally some real downhill. Again we dropped into a really nice trail which was turning from side to side with some rocky very steep section, I kept the speed up and floated down the smooth trails. I had of course turned on my GoPro, here you can see the result:
After the Paranickle trail we discussed what should be the next, we chosed to go down to the main road for shuttling ourselves up to the start of the climb to Solstice trail. On the way to this area we stopped by a coffeshop for a sandwich and a coke and for trying to find the last reserves to be able to do the last climb to reach a really nice downhill trail with some really challenging sections I was told.
After the quick snack, we found the fire road we needed to climb in order to start on the downhill of Solstice trail. OMG, say no more, that climb I will never ever forget. At some places there was as steep as it was almost not possible to pedal, unless you had an adjustable fork which I didn’t have. The front wheel kept leaving the ground all the time. Finally we reached the top of the hill. 1215ft (370m) of climbing in 1.86 miles (3km).
This was probably one of the hardest climbings I had ever experienced in my so far with 20 year of mountainbiking….
Then it was time to start the final downhill section of the day, I was really excited an was looking forward to it. My legs were more or less exhausted, but it is strange how much one can stand when you know you’re gonna have fun for the next 30 minutes or so. The trail started with some really narrow switchbacks again, which of course kept the speed down during these turns, but in between there was some really flowy section until we reached the woods, then it was a narrow trail, with some rocky sections, trees really close to the trail which you had to sneak around, some trees was also hanging over the trail and I had to watch my head. As usual I saw only Tom’s back because he fired away after every turn. Then suddenly the trail was ending in a «Y» and I had to wait for Celia which came from behind, it was a good idea that I stopped, because Celia told me just to lower my seat even more, and go on, and I did. It was a really steep section starting with some big roots crossing the trail and a really rocky section, it was just to put the back behind the seat and let it go, Tom waited for me after this section. When you never have ridden a trail and come into such section you need to make your decisions fast, I did, and it went perfectly fine. We kept on riding downhill, there was another steep section, but easier to see, but it was a lot of loose gravel and rocks, really fun. Look at 10 minute with fun here:
We had 10 minutes riding back to town, then it was time for an afterbike beer at the local Micro brewery, Iron Springs pub. I really appreciated the time we had and the discussions of everything about the ride and everything else about mountainbiking. It’s a pity that there is so many trails are illegal to use for mountainbiking. It was especially interesting to learn about the mountainbiking history of Marin county, which has really been significant to the development of the mountainbiking around the world today.
Start Time Aug 31, 2012 8:40 PM
Distance 30.05 km
Avg Speed 7.3 km/h
Max Speed 50.6 km/h
Calories 3089 kcal
Altitude 1 m / 404 m
Elevation 806 m ↑ / 937 m ↓
For route, click here