Friday, May 13, 2011

SF2G Bike to Work Day

Bike to Work Day to me is No Excuses day.... I don't have to decide if I'm riding to work, I am riding to work, the only decision is how. Sure, I could do the Bayway yet again, but BTW day is a day to place a slightly higher emphasis on the commuting and a slightly lower emphasis on the destination of that commute. So I signed on for the SF2G Skyline ride.

Skyline is hillier, longer, and takes longer than Bayway. However, once you get to Skyline Boulevard, the highest point in Daly City, there's minimal stopping. From a pure riding perspective, it's clearly superior. However, I hadn't done it since my new job moved me further south, and with a big-company as opposed to little-company atmosphere, more reluctant to get into work any later than 10 am (usually I'm in by 8am).

Despite going first to the wrong BART station, I arrived at 24th Street BART in plenty of time: around 6:15 am. There were already a good number of riders there for the 6:30 am departure, and more came every minute. The group quickly overflowed onto neighborhood streets.

photo by Journeylight

First off was the "Millbway" group: they went down the steps to BART to take a train to shorten the bike ride for those intimidated by the distance. Not long after the official 6:30 am start time, then, the "Bayway" group left, by far the largest group:

Skyliners left last, at 6:38 am. This early, there isn't much traffic on Mission, the which we took out to Daly City, but there are MUNI buses, and we sort of danced with a few of these for awhile. Not so fun.

Approaching Daly City, I noticed my bottle cage was coming loose, and I stopped to tighten it. With my tool buried in my saddlebag, this took longer than optimal, but I wasn't worried about catching the group on the climb of John Daly Blvd. Eventually I was ready and set off.

Due to bad luck with lights, I didn't catch the main bunch until we reached Skyline. There we stopped to wait for slower riders to recatch. It can be pretty nasty up on Skyline. Despite only modest altitude, maxing out approximately 500 feet above where we started, the winds off the ocean can blow a chilling fog from the coast. Today was overcast but no fog, chilly but not windy, about the best you can hope for up there any month of the year.

The group then basically rode together to the San Andreas multi-use path, which parallels first Skyline and then I-280, connecting with Trousdale further south. The others slowed for the first entrance point to the path, but I stayed on Skyline longer, entering the second entry point. I then zipped ahead to use the bathroom. This is a regular stop for me when I go this way, and I wanted to get in and out as quickly as possible to make room for others.

When I left, I saw some riders pass by, so I chased, thinking they were with my ride. It turns out they were an independent group riding to Intuit. But since I was already on my way I decided to keep going. I wanted to get to work by 10 am and I didn't think that would happen if I kept waiting for regroups.

So I rode solo the rest of the way. When I reached Woodside I decided to go the slightly longer counter-clockwise path around the Portola Valley Loop, but to cut off its tip by taking Cervantes. Cervantes is a fun, steep brute of a climb, and to my surprise when I later looked at the route profile I learned the top of Cervantes appeared to be the high point of the ride, higher than Skyline Boulevard which feels much higher.

The Tesla Energizer Station

Only a few miles from my workplace in Mountain View I passed the only Bike to Work Day aid station I encountered during the day. It was sponsored by Tesla. A quick glance revealed a few granola bars and maps. I made sure to thank the volunteers before rushing off: I was already good on food and water.

The last few miles I faded a bit... I'd not eaten much at all before leaving for the ride, and had only consumed a Lydia's raw food bar and some honeyed tea. But I was still fine.

Riding to work, especially on Bike to Work Day is a real rush. After I'd eaten the double-large hot cereal I'd bought from the cafeteria (with around 8 minutes to spare before the 10 am closing time), liberally supplemented with nuts and dried fruit and a bit of soy sauce for salt, I was ready to go. The hours passed quickly, and before I knew it it I'd finished a project I was doing and it was a good time to head back home. However, just then I got an email from my manager reminding me I hadn't submitted my weekly report, due on Thursday, so I did that first. Now it was 5:12 pm, earlier than I almost ever get out of there, but since I wanted to ride home I knew it was important to get out early.

I thought I was good with the three hours remaining before dusk, but didn't want to risk the longer Enilyks route, so opted for Yawyab instead. I'd never ridden Yawyab, but had done Bayway many times, so this experience in combination with the stickers on the path for Bike to Work day gave me confidence I could overcome my usual navigational issues. And it did go fairly well, with only a few missteps, and a bit more time spent in hesitation.

But the real time-killer was the wind. When I rode near the Bay, the white caps on the water were a visible indicator of the strength of the cross-headwind. Also, I didn't have any food left, thinking instead to stop along the way. But remarkably, the first available food, not counting a Burger King near San Carlos Airport, was a gas station in Burlingame near SFO, around 2/3 of the way home. Still, that was better than nothing and I stopped there for an Odwalla Bar.

The wind near the airport continued to be a challenge, and progress was slower than I wanted. Finally, as I passed north of South San Francisco, I moved inland and the breeze turned to a tail wind. I made good progress on third street as the light faded, replaced by street lamps. With my little flashy lights for visibility, I was fine.

I limped into Whole Foods Market on Potrero Hill, exhausted. After a break there to pick up some food for me and, more important, some frozen meat for the cats, I rode the final steep blocks home. Total for the day: 167 km, 104 miles. My longest BTWD yet.

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