Two Wheel Tripping Berkeley–the Great Rides

by Steed Dropout
May 31, 2012


Off my training, I set off for the Berkeley Marina, overlooking San Francisco Bay and three bridges, including the Golden Gate Bridge — on my 26-28 lb. mixte. I have always considered cycling the marina a poor alternative to cycling Berkeley’s thrill-hills.

But first I looped the new-improved aquatic park, alongside I-80. Now that the park is closed to cars, and spruced up throughout, I wanted to try it for old times sake. I began cycling Berkeley, 1970, in Aquatic, near where I was staying. I then owned a 24 lb Reynold’s 53, Bertin with its pavement damping raked fork.

My mixte has a raked fork. The light-weight aluminum frame really soaks up stutter-bumps. This made the Aquatic park lake loop a breeze, then on to the Marina via a beautiful suspended bridge.

Welcome. You've reached the tip of the Albany Bulb. Multi-media sculpture.
Photo by Ted Friedman.

Before the bridge, you had to shoulder your bike up stairs to a freeway, and maneuver a dangerous off-ramp. Fortunately, you can still do that; the death-defying clandestine way-out still appeals.

After cruising the Marina, I headed out to the Albany Bulb, via a portion of the Bay Area Coastal Trail that one day will link the East-Bay to SF, the Pacific, and beyond. The Albany Bulb, built on landfill, is an ersatz arts center of public sculptures, and homeless encampments.

You have to go through Golden Gate Field’s race track parking lot to get to the bulb. A race was in progress. At the end of the parking lot, in a backlot, I met a 20 plus community of street tramps living out of an old bus, they called the Green Furful. Some of them were suspicious of me, but I identified myself as a reporter, and interviewed some of them, and got some pictures.

They were on their way to Santa Cruz and were having trouble with a belligerent communard, who was drugged out of her mind, and bad-mouthing her fellow travelers. She wasted no time verbally assaulting me. I’ve been assaulted by better.

Greenleaf Furtle, perhaps inspired by Green Turtle. My mixte can be seen at lower right. Photo by Ted Friedman.

The fun you can have on a bike….

At the bulb, I decided to take the single-track around the bulb to see how well the mixte did as a cycle-cross. I could have sworn I had dual short-travel suspension. Along the way I met up with a couple from Silicon Valley. We compared cameras and set out to loop the bulb.

I had to shoulder my bike up a steep climb, almost tumbling backwards to my doom. My new friends went ahead and assured me we could get back, even though we ran out of trail.

Throughout this trip, I saw extravagant homeless encampments with a permanency to them. I didn’t photograph their jury-rigged homesteads out of concern for their continued existence, but next trip out, I might.

Former homeless flop is now off-limits to bikes. Short road goes to San Francisco Bay. Photo by Ted Friedman.

On my return, I got that end ride exhaustion that spurred me on to take on the rolling uphill return to Berkeley. Estimated mileage, 20-25 miles — three hours with all the sight-seeing and interviewing stops.


When you see lists of good bicycling towns, you don’t see Berkeley, because the lists are skewed to commuting, bike lanes, and safety.

You see Minneapolis (1), beating out Portland (2), and you see San Francisco, where cyclists are routinely killing pedestrians, or regularly being killed by drivers — touted for safety.

Davis, Ca., a university town a hundred miles by freeway, has been a leading “bike-friendly” town for forty years, but, although I’ve searched hard, Berkeley never gets mentioned, yet we have some awesome rides. Finally I stopped worrying, and learned to love my local riding community — and to guard my secret.

I have taken the great rides in SF and Portland; before David Byrne wrote his cycling Manhattan book, I beat him by forty years cycling the cavernous potholes of Wall Street in 1974. Talk about being lost on Boston’s MTA, like “poor charlie,” (Kingston Trio).

In ’74 NYC, a bicycling Charlie could roll into a Manhattan pot-hole and be lost for years. Not to mention Kamikazi cabbies.

I’ve run Portland’s major bike loop, Fairmount Blvd, which is preferred by serious road-riders, but had no desire to join them. Cars are only inches from colliding with you, and they speed. I’ve cycled downtown Portland, along the Willamette, and over four of its seven bridges.

Good as Portland cyclists think they have it, they would never leave Berkeley after one of our golden rides. In fact, Northern California’s road racing winner Cash Lazurre moved to Portland, but couldn’t wait to move back to the Bay Area. He missed our rides.

I’ll never forget the boring ride I took with Cash alongside a Portland freeway.

Thingamajig sculpture on suspension bridge to San Francisco Bay, Albany Bulb.
Photo by Ted Friedman.

Berkeley roadies are challenged now by the degraded roads in the Berkeley hills, but some of them don’t seem to mind, and have made ergonomic adjustments in the saddle to lessen bad vibrations. I wouldn’t do the hills on a road bike these days, but fortunately we have some great off-road rides.

Are there any readers out there interested in occasional travel/cycling pieces? Lurid stories behind the lurid stories will make their return soon.

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