California Mountain Biking

In 2004 for we bet on biking in California, to search for some of the best singletrack, in places such as Annadel, Downieville, Truckee, Lake Tahoe and Monterey. Essentially, we did the same thing as the previous summer, when we cycled in Colorado, but in a different part of the United States.

We left in mid-July and flew straight to San Francisco. As one is allowed to carry sixty kilos but only in two pieces of luggage, no chance to have less weight in three pieces, we stuffed our bikes and BOBs along with all our personal gear in four boxes.  It felt rather unconventional, not to say ridiculous, to travel with boxes instead of rucksacks or suitcases but it worked just fine.

Elisabeth boxing

Arriving i San Fracisco we took into the friendly Golden Gate Hotel and spent a couple of days over coming our jet lag biking to Marin County, searching for singletrack and seeing sights as the Muir Red Wood.

San Francisco was friendly as ever, but cold in the mornings, the whole town would be covered in a low, damp and cold fog.


Morning mist

Muir Red Wood

After a  couple of days we set off for Annadel. Leaving  San Francisco turned out to be quite  difficult.  California is the promissed land of the car. Finding a safe route out of town was not easy. We  got a cycling map and  set off and by misstake made a longish detour out  on the Tiburon penninsula.  Beautiful riding,  we got to see the Department‘s of Correction famous prison St Quintin, looked like a castle  from afar. But we did not make much way.

Leaving Golden Gate Hotel

Crossing the Golden Gate

St Quintin

Finding a pleasant route was not an easy task in California. Traffic tended to be intense and dangerous. At times one was expected to bike along especially designated bike routes which made large detours and were not always easy to find, at other times one was expected to head right on the free way. The first day took us to a RVs only camping. Fortunately, no one asked questions when we pitched our tent on gravel, the next morning we paid as if we had camped with an RV.

RVs only camping

Our first stop was Annadel, where we spent a couple of days riding the singletrack in Annadel State Park. Then, we crossed the range to Calistoga, to ride the famous Oats Hill, before we continued to Downieville via Clear Lakes and Colusa. Clear Lake had a strange ambience, first time ever we felt frightened by the local people in a place in the US, to the degree that we checked into a motel. Crossing the Central Valley was an experience: endless fields of strawberries and fruits, hot as the Gangetic Plain, indeed Colusa felt like Punjab. Elisabeth had no less than five flat tires in a day, which did not make it any more fun.

Five flats in a day

We continued across the plains of the Central Valley and finally climbed to Yuba and Nevada City. We loved Nevada City. It is funky little town, with clubs and a street market in the week ends. We had a night out. The next day we crossed the ridges to the North Yuba River and headed up the valley to Downieville. where we spent several days before we went on to Truckee and Lake Tahoe.

The riding was splendid in the Sierra Nevadas, but having to return to the California coast biking through the Central Valley again was a haunting prospect. Crossing it once in summer time had been an interesting experience but doing it twice felt as one time too much. We hated the idea of cycling in extreme heat in heavy intense trafic for days. There were no reasonable flight or bus connections. So finally we bet on taking a taxi from South Lake Tahoe to Monterey. I was a bit pricey. On the other hand it got us to the coast in just a day — saving us from a week of strenuous and dangerous cycling.

Ready to leave from Lake Tahoe

Arriving in Monterey

In Monterey we first spent a day riding the famous trails of Fort Oud. Then we went down the Highway one as far as Cambria, before we returned to San Francisco with a couple of days stop in Santa Cruz for singletrack.  Finally we spent a couple of day enjoying San Francisco before our flight back to Scandinavia.

Checking in our boxes at San Francisco Airport

It was a great summer holiday. California has some of the worlds finest singletrack. We also enjoyed the ambience of San Francisco, the special campsites for hikers and bikers, the  seals,  sea  lions and sea otters one can see along the coast.

Where was the best singletrack? Along the coast all singletrack we found felt confined to recreational parks, it felt like, and it literally was like, biking in fenced in areas. Downieville had splendid downhill runs, but a bit too downhilly for our taste. The best singletrack in our opion was around Lake Tahoe including the Hole in the Ground trail by Truckee.

How does California compare to Colorado? Although Hole in the Ground above Truckee, some Downieville trails and Tahoe Rim Trail matches Monarch Crest or Trail 401 well, California does not reach the level of Colorado. The riding on road was also much less fun than in Colorado. Californian traffic is extremely intensive. Some roads are barely rideable at all, in fact we felt so exhausted with the traffic that we decided to go by car the next summer. If we ever go back to bike in the US we will do it the American way: i.e., ride a car to the trail and avoid riding on roads.

Do you want to go mountain biking in California? If so the best site for information is the MTB.Live.Com. There are links that lead to detailed information about almost all the trails we rode.