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Ride 1: Monte Bello Open Space Preserve

This rides starts on the White Oak trail off Page Mill Rd and continues on the Stevens Creek Nature Trail, both of which are easy rolling trails in the shade. This first half of the ride lasts about 6 miles and involves a few short uphill sections which my tires were woefully inadequate for. Five years of biking on asphalt had almost balded the rear and the front was not in good shape either. The end of the ride is three miles of uphill single track on the Bella Vista Trail which turns into the Old Ranch Trail and ends at an antenna substation and a natural rock garden of sorts. The sun was in full-force for the unprotected uphill and my hands cramped from holding the bar grips too tight. The three miles downhill to the car were worth the arduous climb, however. Braking with poorly tuned brakes before the sharp turns and dodging hikers increased what was at stake given the velocity Greta gained on the steeps. Fearing an avoidable accident, I purchased and installed better mechanical brakes before Ride 2.

Ride 2: Saratoga Gap Trail

This rides starts at the intersection of RT 9 and Skyline Drive, west of downtown Saratoga, and on the way to the entrance of Castle Rock and Big Basin State Parks. The trail starts out rolling up and down along skyline drive before breaking into the woods with a steep switchback section. Eventually, we crossed skyline drive and entered the open, rolling hills that separate Silicon Valley from the Pacific Ocean.

I had purchased new tires and bar ends for this ride along with my new brakes and all were well worth the money. The shaded almost (vertically) sinusoidal part of the trail had the large majority of its tree roots and rock obstacles at the crest of each rise so maintain speed through each uphill was critical to making over and into the next dip.

Ride 3: Waterdog

This was the most technical ride so far. It was just Billy and I again (and would be until ride 6). Billy and I met at work and our Saturday morning rides have continued for a while because the logistics are very easy. On Friday, we decide if we both can ride, Billy picks a location, and I arrive at his house by 9am or 9:30am to pack the bikes on the car. We have several friends who ride, but few are reliably available or feel like riding. After some rides we head to work to get a jump on the week.

Waterdog is an interesting splotch of undeveloped space between suburban neighborhoods. It is a crater-shaped valley and has trails which wind up and down the sides of the hills that surround the valley. The ride involves mostly short steep sections and uphill’s certainly require your granny gear. Since there are some dry creek beds in the creases of the hills, tight turns and wet spots are regular hazards. A guy named mike asked to ride with us for the second half and we obliged him.

Ride 4: Rockville and the Oakland Hills

A double-header! I feel that once one has devoted a full day to mountain biking he or she qualifies as a mountain biker. Will and I left early and drove 1.5 hours past Oakland and a graveyard fleet of old Navy Ships to a small public space call Rockville Park. It cost $3 to ride there, more if you have a dog, but alas I do not yet have a dog. Rockville is pretty descriptive name. The trails are not very long and after an initial uphill, the majority of the ride is spent on rather level terrain. A majority of the trails worth riding are filled with granite stones half-submerged in the hard-packed ground like giant’s teeth worn round from grinding (everyone knows giants grind their teeth). This is the only ride so far in which having a hard tail bike may have put me at a disadvantage. It took me several tries to make it through the most-dense rock garden going downhill. Doing the same uphill is not a card in my deck.

After Rockville, we grabbed delicious sandwiches from a local drive-through café and headed to our second ride in upper Oakland hills where vast public woodland exists. We had to hurry as the sun sets early in the Northern Hemisphere in December. The second ride was shorter and involved dodging many more hikers. It started with a steep and gravely downhill in a forest with a few young coastal redwoods and then involved circling a particular tree and a gradual climb back to the parking lot. We ended the day with milkshakes and fries to celebrate before driving home.

Ride 5: Waterdog (Again)

We took the exact same route as before and this time Cameron (also from work) joined us! I cannot tell if I rode any better than the first attempt at Waterdog. On some parts I felt more comfortable, but 2/3 of the way through the ride I began steering into things because I was fatigued from the climbs. The end of Waterdog has an extremely steep, hyperbolic downhill that is reinforced with filled cinderblocks. I always yelp when straight-lining this section. Then it’s back down the unimproved road to the car.