Those of us who ride in Scotland do not always have it easy. Yes, there is the wonderful scenery, but even in summer every excursion comes with a degree of anxiety. This usually begins a few days before the ride, checking websites for the long term weather forecast. Then on the morning of the ride, looking out of the window to try and judge the appropriate clothing. Can I get away without taking a rain jacket? (What does 30% chance of rain even mean?) Should I go in shorts or 3/4? Do I need an undershirt? Long sleeves? And then, even wrapped up against the elements, it often helps to dab some sunscreen on to any exposed spots, just in case the weather changes... This summer, however, cycles guff was lucky enough to escape to California, and better yet to take a bike, and so to test the California riding experience.
Riding in California is an uncomplicated affair, involving little more than shorts and a shirt, some sunscreen, a bottle of water and heading out of the door. I was also lucky enough to be spending most of my time in north Oakland where there were a number of testing rides in the Berkeley-Oakland hills within easy reach. My favourite short ride was a trip up Tunnel Road to Grizzly Peak summit - a climb of nearly 2,000 feet in nine miles, which on a clear days offers spectacular views over the bay to San Francisco and the Golden Gate Bridge, before a rapid descent back down into Oakland.
The initial part of the ride goes through residential areas, and a stiff and hot climb beside the freeway before getting to the bottom of Tunnel Road. From there the road begins a steady climb at three or four percent, picking its way along the edge of a steep hillside, through a series of hairpin bends. After a couple of miles you get shaken out of this easy pace, as gradient begins to ramp up a little, though the reward is seeing the cars get ever smaller as you look down on the freeway from above. Following the road up it continues to get steeper, finally levelling out as you approach the junction with Grizzly Peak Road. Fortunately for me (being very fair skinned) a eucalyptus grove offers a bit of shade here - and I was also lucky enough to see both deer and wild turkeys here at quiet times of the day. A left turn at the top, and there is a fast undulating stretch of about a mile along the summit, before starting the final climb up to Grizzly Peak.
This goes up through the woods, and there can be a bit of traffic, but the reward comes at the top where there are (literally) breathtaking views over the Bay (though the fog had already come in on the day this photo was taken).
The roads are (mainly) in good condition and well used by cyclists - I rarely made the climb without meeting several others - as the route could also be the starting point for longer rides into the redwood forests or towards Mount Diablo. Motorists were generally courteous, giving plenty of space, though the roads are considerably wider than in Scotland. All in all some great riding, even if I might miss having nothing else to worry about...