The Thrill Of Riding

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.

My Background

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.

The Scene

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.