Monday, October 28, 2013

Fall-ing On The Bike

Living in California, we're blessed with an abundance of amazing riding weather. Our winters are only moderately cold and wet and it's pretty rare that you're not able to squeeze at least 1-2 rides a week in during even the wettest months.

The downside to such a moderate climate is that we don't really have the traditional four seasons and the dramatic changes between them that other areas enjoy. I've heard from people that grew up in the east that this rates as a negative for us, but to be honest, I'm totally fine with it.

Here in the Bay Area, our Fall is traditionally marked with cool, crisp mornings which turn into sunny afternoons. We'll get breezy and windy weather, but again, the temps are usually moderate.

This past Saturday, was a perfectly typical Fall day in the east bay and I decided to break out the road bike for a ride up through the Oakland Hills to enjoy the weather.

Of course, as anyone that has seen my strava updates lately (or rather lack of updates) will understand, enjoying a ride through the Oakland Hills at my current level of fitness may be a bit of a misnomer. It was more like a suffer-fest in really pretty scenery.

The first portion of the ride up Redwood Rd is about 2 1/2 miles of up. None of it is dramatically steep, but it was warm, in full sun and it is all up. The reward though is that once you get to the top, you have almost the same distance in a nice, fast, swoopy downhill where you can let it hang out there while you recover.

At the bottom of Redwood, you enter a different environment. Where the front side is typical east bay hills with oak trees, scrub oak and dry canyons that thrive in the heat, the backside is like a different world altogether. There are still oaks but because you're in a valley they're surrounded by redwoods, eucalyptus trees and all the fauna that thrives in the cool shaded climate.

In the summer, this area is a wonderful respite from the heat of the east bay, usually staying at least 10-15 degrees cooler than the surrounding areas. In the fall, the difference is even more dramatic in that it looks like a different part of the country. Here, unlike the hills on either side in Castro Valley or Oakland, it was well and truly fall. The roads were covered in bright yellow leaves, the trees were awash in the reds, yellows and oranges of the season and the weather was crisp and cool.

As you climb out of the canyon, the oaks are replaced by more and larger redwoods, pines and eucalyptus trees until you get to the top of Skyline where the temperatures increase again and the surroundings revert to more of the typical east bay area hillsides.

This climb, as it reaches Skyline and turns up continues to hurt, but the views at the top and the solitude make it almost worth it. I've always been amazed at the homes at the top of the ridge. As I sat there straddling my top tube trying to catch my breath I could just imagine how nice it would be to be sitting on my balcony, (and they ALL have balconies) enjoying a nice cup of coffee or an adult beverage.

Instead, I gobbled down a handful of Honey Stinger chews, washed it down with a big drink from my water bottle and clipped back in, knowing I was only at the halfway point and still had a couple of decent climbs ahead of me.

It's interesting how a lack of fitness can completely change the personality of a ride. This loop, the zoo loop, used to be an after work ride for me when I was riding more regularly. It was tough but not brutal and I could bang it out in about an hour and a half. This time though, was a little more than tough, had me in the red zone quite a bit and took me 2 hours with a couple of different photo stops. (uh...yeah...that's it, I stopped to take pictures...not to try to get my heart to stop pounding in my ears)

Eventually, I made it back to the truck, and after loading up the bike, headed in to Peet's for my reward....a large mocha fredo...with whipped cream....pretty sure that made up for any calories I may have burned on the ride....

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