There is one experience that I will never be able to explain to another human
being—the thrill of riding a bicycle. Some people get it, and some people
don’t. If you get it, you know exactly what I’m talking about, and if you don’t,
well you don’t.
I grew up in a middle class community in the East Bay called
San Ramon. Most people
who are from the Bay Area have heard of San Ramon, but don’t know a lot about
it. What you need to know about it is that it was mostly built up in the ‘70s as
a bunch of conservative yuppies who couldn’t afford to live in SF or the South
Bay, and who didn’t want to slum it up in Oakland/San Leandro/Castro Valley/etc.
In 1983 SBC (formerly Southen Bell Corporation, now a part of AT&T) moved its
headquarters to San Ramon. In 2011 Chevron moved their headquarters from San
Francisco to San Ramon. Ironically, I’m probably about to move into the old
Chevron Headquarters at 555 Market as part of my current job, which is going to
be weird for me knowing so many people who’s parents were big deals at Chevron
in San Ramon.
So growing up in San Ramon, bikes and bike lanes are not really a thing.
Everyone works and rides cars to Chevron, SBC (AT&T), or else commutes by car to
tech and biotech jobs in the South Bay. So everyone has a car. Nearby there is
the Iron Horse Trail
which is something like 40 miles end to end, but is honestly pretty lame. It is
flat the entire distance so no serious cyclist cares about it, and it’s full of
little kids on tricycles learning how to ride their bikes and taking up the
entire space without regard for people like me trying to blast down at high
speeds. It sucks. The hardcore cyclists are out ascending
Mt Diablo, but Mt Diablo is
classified as an HC Climb,
and while I might be close to being able to do something like that now, I
definitely wasn’t even close when I was in high school.
When I started college at UC Berkeley I bought my first “real” bike—a
Surly Cross Check that I bought
throught the awesome folks at
Missing Link Bicycle Cooperative. That bike ended
up getting stolen during a road trip I was on with a friend while I had it
locked up outdoors from the (fucking awesome)
India House Hotel which was in a seriously hood
neighborhood of New Orleans. But that bike taught me the thrill of riding in
real urban environments—down Shattuck and Telegraph in Berkeley, down
Telegraph, San Pablo, MLK, and Adeline in Oakland, down one of my favorite
streets in the world Peralta in Oakland, and many others. There’s something just
incredible weaving through city traffic, avoiding railroad tracks, avoiding
3’x’3’ pot holes, and the whole thing while blasting throught at max speed.
Plus, in Oakland you will see the craziest most legit graffiti pieces in
industrial areas in West Oakland where you literally go from one block with a
huge multi-day graffiti piece and nearby there are buildings with bullet holes
in the windows. Literally the
corner store I lived next to had
bullet stores in its windows, and my nearby
go-to burrito join had
bullet-proof glass you had to slide money through to pay for your meal. I
remember walking through that neighborhood and seeing an altercation 100 ft away
from me where someone pulled out a hand gun at point blank range on another
homie; and I remember getting the fuck out of there as fast as I could. This is
also when I started carrying a pocket knife on me at all times. Riding through
these neighborhoods during the day is a trip in itself, but being restless and
blasting through the neighborhood with insomnia at 3am when no one else is out
is fucking beyond incredible.
Around this time is when I started doing community rides like
SF Critical Mass,
East Bay Bike Party,
SF Bike Party, and
Midnight Mystery Ride. You will
meet the most fun people, from super casual people just checking it out to
hardcore fucked up 19 y/o kids attending dead end community colleges who are
serious beasts in terms of strength and ride only brakeless fixed gear bikes.
I’ve had fun living in Berkeley, Oakland, and Pasadena/Los Angeles and going
crazy in the streeths there, but by far the most fun on solo rides is the rides
since I moved to San Francisco. In San Francisco you have to deal with serious
fucking traffic, crazy crab drivers who don’t give a shit about you, MUNI tracks
everywhere that will fuck you up if you’re not careful, and intense hills
everywhere. I’ve gotten up pretty much every hill in the city (including Twin
Peaks), and at this point I know if I’m going from point A to point B what’s the
fastest route, what’s the least hilly route, which ways I can go that have bike
lines or bike designated streets, and so on. Finally, after almost ten years of
aggressive city riding, I finally know how to get out of the saddle and really
throw my weight around to do crazy turns on a dime. If a car pulls in front of
me and throws its breaks on, I know how to throw my weight around and put mad
English on the bike to swerve around pretty much everything.
I fucking love my crazy commute every morning from Valencia down Market St,
which is full of the most intense car weaving, snaking through car lines, and
running lights you can imagine. But beyond that, sometimes at 11pm or 12am I’ll
get restless and decide to check out the night life scene in the city. I’ll go
down Mission, check out 16th St, bike down all of the shitty night “clubs” on or
near Folsom, and then go up to Natoma to check out
Tempest. Then I’ll do my
favorite thing which is check out Polk St which is all kinds of fucked up.
Usually I come riding southbound from North Point all the way up Polk down to
Market. When you top Polk, basically the whole way down until O’Farrell is
shitty frat bro/sorority girl bars, and everyone is drunk as fuck and wandering
out in the street, taxis, Ubers, Lyfts, and SFPD are going crazy weaving around
trying to pick up people or arrest them, and it’s insane on a bike. Once you hit
O’Farrell, if you have no fear and really go HAM on your bike you can go 25+ mph
and make every light from O’Farrell down to Market which is fun as hell and
scary as fuck.
Blasting through the Sunset is amazing too. You can get onto Kirkham and it’s a
bike lane the whole way. And there’s not a lot of traffic, but there are stop
signs everywhere. Ifyou get into the right speed you can blast down Kirkham
looking for oncoming cross-traffic and make crazy speed getting up and down
hills. And that takes you into
The Wiggle which is a whole separate
class of weaving and scofflawing.
The point being—biking is a whole thrill in and of itself. When I’m doing
more road biking I get really into my vertical elevation gain, and get really
into how many vertical feet I’m doing a week. But the scene is so much fore than
that. Endangering your life in intense city traffic is one of the most
exhilirating things I can think of. It’s a fucking blast.
If you’re not a serious cyclist, and want to get into it, hit me up and I’ll
show you a good time.