Magazine article Sunset

Loop Trips for Mountain Bikes

Magazine article Sunset

Loop Trips for Mountain Bikes

Article excerpt

Loop trips for mountain bikes

Mountain bike, all-terrain bike, off-road bike: no matter what you call it, the sturdy, knobby-tired two-wheeler is catching on like wildfire. Some hikers and equestrians would argue that they're as destructive as an uncontrolled forest blaze. But concerned mountain bike enthusiasts maintain that proper trail etiquette and a little common sense could eliminate most trail-use conflicts.

Still a fledgling sport, mountain biking originated in the San Francisco Bay Area only a decade ago and remains more popular there than anywhere else. But restrictions imposed by the various public land agencies have drastically reduced the number of trails open to cyclists.

In most parks, mountain bikes have been restricted to fire or service roads; single-track trails are off-limits. In other places, such as the Santa Clara County parks, mountain bikes are barred from virtually all trails. Many agencies that allow biking now enforce a speed limit of 15 mph.

One effect of the clamp-down on the bikes has been the elimination of many once-popular loop routes. At right, we suggest four loops that are still open to cyclists. They'll get you huffing and puffing, but even relatively inexperienced riders shouldn't find them too difficult.

A note of caution: the future availability of these routes to mountain bikers requires that current users ride responsibly. Here are some guidelines suggested by mountain biking organizations:

Regulate your speed according to the amount of clear road ahead of you. Slow to the minimum possible speed for blind corners and to pass hikers. Also, make sure hikers are aware of your presence.

If you encounter equestrians, stop and get off your bike. Wait until the horses pass before continuing your ride.

Be kind to the natural and often fragile vegetation: stay on the trails.

To reduce erosion, avoid skidding.

Four loop rides around the Bay

Birthplace of mountain biking, Marin's hills continue to attract a large number of back-country cyclists. Several different agencies act as stewards for public land here, so it's important to know the relevant regulations for the trails you intend to ride, as many take in more than one jurisdiction.

1. Bolinas Ridge. The gently rolling Bolinas Ridge Trail (a fire road) offers some of the pleasantest back-roads riding around. A good place to begin a 10-mile loop is the main picnic area at Samuel P. Taylor State Park, 15 miles northwest of U.S. Highway 101 on Sir Francis Drake Boulevard ($3 day-use fee).

A paved bike path leads north from the picnic area through the woods along Lagunitas Creek. After about 2 miles, you'll see two poles planted in the path; go through the barbed-wire gate to your left (cattle gate, keep closed), and make the steep 1-mile climb on a dirt road to the top of Bolinas Ridge. Turning left on Bolinas Ridge Trail, you ride through pastures and fence gates for 3 1/2 miles to a sign marked "Shafter Bridge 1.9 miles.'

Be sure your brakes are in good working order before making the swift and sinuous descent to Shafter Bridge. From there, take the path down to Lagunitas Creek, and shoulder your bike to ford the stream under the bridge. Another short trail takes you back up to a wide dirt bike path on an old narrow-gauge railroad bed. Ride under a canopy of oaks and madrones to a bridge over Sir Francis Drake Boulevard and on to the picnic area, where you can enjoy a relaxing repast in the cool shade of coast redwoods. …

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