One after another, bike riders as diverse as the world we share crossed the finish line.
There were men and women in all ranges of fitness, 50 pounds overweight to wiry types without an ounce of fat where their veins bulged at the neck.
We saw riders Saturday who ranged from teenagers to seniors in their 80s and everything in between, who completed a choice of four cycling routes from 37 to 108 miles. They came from near and far, city, urban and rural. Rich or poor, nobody cared.
What youve got here, said Brent Jacinto, are people who come together for one thing, the ride.
What people are discovering, he said, is that no matter your background, fitness or age, you can get on a bike and instantly rock your world. It might start with riding around the block, Jacinto likes to say.
With exercise, the endorphins kick in, he said, and you get a sense of good feeling, so you keep going. Next thing you know, you start seeing places you never knew existed, and you want more of both, the good feelings and the sights. On top of that, you also can find that there are thousands of people who share the same passion, and they become your instant friends by association.
We were at the Castle Crags Century near Mount Shasta on Saturday, but similar scenes played out at organized rides the same day out of Half Moon Bay, Chester (Plumas County) and Sierraville (Sierra County), and will again this Saturday at rides out of Sebastopol and Clovis (Fresno County).
On July 8, a bucket-list-style endurance test, the Death Ride out of Markleeville (Alpine County), will span five passes (with shorter options) and more than 15,000 feet of vertical (if you do the longest route). Last year more than 3,290 riders took part.
Jacinto, 64, for years an educator in the East Bay, is a tribute to how biking can save your life. At age 50, he had survived a heart attack and was a candidate for a heart transplant, was 100 pounds overweight and his knees were shot. For stress release, he stopped drinking and started riding.
It quickly changed his health and his outlook about what is possible each day. Most days, he now finds himself venturing out on his bike, often in his favorite routes in the East Bay hills. Last year, he rode about 20,000 miles.
At the finish line at the Castle Crags Century, he pointed out how riding had touched each participant and provided hope of a better life: The 300-pound man who has a strong core but a big gut who is now on his way to losing weight and better health ... the woman whose legs were crushed in a head-on car accident three years ago, then gained 40 pounds, and now has found a physical activity in which she can participate and regain her fitness ... the husbands and wives who share new places and always have something to look forward to.
A key, Jacinto said, is that these are not races, like marathon runs. You compete with no one, though most riders track their distances with a variety of electronic devices, apps and websites. You instead choose a route and, regardless of the length or challenge, participants end up at the finish line, often for a barbecue and fraternity.
To keep it safe, signs are posted on the routes and, in some cases, local law enforcement will close narrow roads short-term to vehicles to allow riders to pass safely.
Organized road rides have become so popular that sometimes routes can cross. Two weeks ago, there was a 200-mile loop ride out of Davis that ventured to Clear Lake. At the same time, there was a shorter ride out of Sonoma County, and a few riders accidentally mixed in with some of the Davis group and ended up 70 miles off course.
That was the luckiest mistake they could have made, most concurred: Since the idea was to ride, a wrong turn meant that they got to do more of exactly what they set out to do in the first place.
For riders like Jacinto, there is no finish line.
Tom Stienstra is the outdoors writer for The Chronicle. His outdoors report can be heard at 7:35 a.m., 9:35 a.m. and 12:35 p.m. Saturdays on KCBS (740 and 106.9). Email: email@example.com Twitter: @StienstraTom
Roasters Ride: 80 miles, over Golden Gate Bridge and Marin loop. Meet at 8 a.m. Saturdays at south parking lot, Golden Gate Bridge.
Ride the Gate: Golden Gate Bridge to Sausalito for lunch, then return by ferryboat. 8 miles.
Mount Tam Loop: From Fairfax, take Fairfax-Bolinas Road past Alpine Dam to Ridgecrest, then return via Pantoll and Panoramic Highway.
Angel Island: Perimeter Road, 5.5-mile ride on Perimeter Road, easy for youngsters, seniors, with series of spectacular bay views.
Bay-to-breakers loop: From one of several backcountry roads, connect to Highway 84 above Woodside and then ride to San Gregorio and Highway 1. Return on Tunitas Creek/Kings Mountain roads. 60 miles.
Crystal Springs Trail: Crowded but beautiful, San Andreas, Sawyer Camp and Crystal Springs Trail, 13 miles, easily extended into Woodside. On Bicycle Sundays, Caada Road closed to motor vehicles.
Contra Costa County
Mount Diablo: From Danville, ride up South Gate 6 miles to the junction of North Gate Road (newcomers turn around here); then turn right and ride out 11 miles, climbing all the way, to the Mount Diablo Summit.
Carquinez Bridge/Martinez: On the southern foot, you can extend your ride east past Crockett to the Port Costa Staging Area for the George Miller Trail. This leads along a trail etched in a bluff to the Carquinez Regional Shoreline and to Martinez.
Nimitz Way: From Inspiration Point at Tilden Regional Park, popular trail is paved for 4 miles, crowded for first mile or so.
Bay Bridge: Bike lane on southern side of Bay Bridge spans from a parking area/trailhead in Oakland near the toll plaza and extends to Yerba Buena Island.
Redwood Road Loop: From Berkeley, ride up Old Tunnel Road, out to Skyline and to Redwood Road. Then ride up the back side of Pinehurst and return by coming back down to Tunnel Road.
Dumbarton Bridge: Noisy 5-mile bridge ride (bike lane on southern side) with South Bay views extends to Bay Trail on the south Peninsula, and S.F. Bay National Wildlife Refuge, and with a jog, over to 12-mile Alameda Creek Regional Trail to Niles.
Alameda Creek Regional Trail: Paved on south side of Alameda Creek, extends from Coyote Hills Regional Park to Niles, 12 miles one way.
Half Moon Bay
Coastside Trail: From Half Moon Bay State Beach, ride north on the Coastside Trail for 5 miles to Pillar Point Harbor (with one section incomplete at Surfers Beach) for lunch; easily extended on each end.
Santa Clara County
Los Gatos Creek Trail: 14-mile route between Lexington Dam and San Jose.
Coyote Creek Parkway: From Coyote Creek near Morgan Hill, spans 15 miles to Hellyer Park in San Jose (some damage at north end from winter flood).
Other Northern California
Rainbow Bridge: From Norden, ride old Highway 40 over Rainbow Bridge (sensational view of Donner Lake) and descend 1,000 feet down Donner Lake and then climb out to Truckee.
Tahoe: From Stateline, ride 72 miles around Lake Tahoe, or add 28-mile route for full century.
Castle Crags century: From Mount Shasta, ride up South Fork Road, return via Castle Crags.
Lists of organized rides: Talbots Cyclery, http://talbotscyclery.com; Bike California, http://www.bikecal.com; Cycle California, http://www.cyclecalifornia.com/centuries.html; NorCal Cycling News, http://norcalcyclingnews.com click on NorCal Group Rides.
3-foot rule: Cars must keep at least 3 feet from cyclists when passing.
Pull to the side: Slower-moving vehicles, including bicycles, with five or more vehicles behind them, must pull over and let them pass. My suggestion is dont let them stack up; let them pass immediately.
Mirror: Wear a mirror on your helmet, or one of the new wrist straps with mirrors. Keep an eye on your mirror, without turning your head (which can take you into the lane), to see traffic coming up behind you.
Be seen: Maintain fresh batteries in a flashing red warning light, positioned on the back of your bicycle seat.
Stop: Do not blow through stop signs, red lights or intersections, and beware that at T intersections, which may appear safe as you approach from the right on a red light, pedestrians can emerge in crosswalks. Just stop.
Pedal clips: Do not wear pedal clips unless you have practiced how to quickly disengage them. Failure will lead to a fall if you make a stop.
Dangerous downhills: Most single-bike accidents occur when cyclists lose control going very fast around blind turns, then face an obstacle, braking and catapulting over the top. Slow down and use disc brakes, which are best at handling heat from extreme braking.
Groups: In a group, when following a rider, make sure your front tire is out of the driving line of the rear tire of the person riding ahead of you. If the two tires meet, your front tire can stop, and in turn, launch you over the handlebars; happens every weekend. Do not ride two or three across.
Helmet: Wear the best helmet you can get, and even then, do not expect complete protection in an accident. Instead, do not risk accidents in the first place.
Cars: Just let them go by. From any perspective, shouting cant fix stupid.
Read more here:
Many roads, one truth for cyclists - San Francisco Chronicle
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