We're going to start this trip off with a bang. But before we get to the details, here's the link to purchase your ride pass:
Day 1: Starting things off right
As a local, I still am in awe of the riding we do daily, and the Headlands loop that we're starting with exemplifies this. After a big breakfast, we'll roll out through Sausalito along the Bay with (if the fog allows it) amazing views of San Francisco. It feels like our version of riding in Nice, France.
The hills start immediately with three little kickers to get our heart rates up to operating temperatures before we turn off on a small road with our initial view of the Golden Gate Bridge (GGB). We'll descend to Cavallo Point and then hang a left, where we'll see the Coast Guard boats lined up before we ride underneath the GGB and up to its main parking area. Then we keep climbing up a steep grade and hang another left up said road.
Keeping the exertion level in check so you have the energy to look around you is key here. Off to the left is the Bay which turns into the Pacific - expect amazing views of the GGB, which only get better as we climb. After about a hundred or so meters, the pitch of the climb comes down dramatically, and we're basically on a false flat until we hit the roundabout two-thirds of the way up the climb. The great thing about this initial climb is that we can see the whole thing, and I promise, it looks harder than it is. We keep left at the roundabout, making sure to keep looking off to the left as the views will blow you away and in about 4 minutes, we'll hit the summit of Hawk Hill.
Now is when the scenery meter hits an 11. We'll head down a very steep and windy ONE-WAY road that looks like leading us to the middle of nowhere - hills for days, lighthouses, WWI and WWII bunkers and gun emplacements. Just watch out for the suicidal rabbits crossing the road!
At the bottom of this descent, we ascend a slight incline to the top of another hill where there are a few bunkers and 16" guns from the USS Missouri. We'll stop here for a second as the 360 views are amazing. Then we proceed down the hill and onto the second dirt section, where road bikes and narrow tires are fine, and head up Bobcat for a nice climb. But don't be fooled by the easy early gradient, as it becomes much steeper towards the top.
We'll keep the pace down and should get over this all together, after which we turn down a steep descent to the shop. There is no stopping here, though, as we hit the bike path to Mill Valley to begin the day's longest climb. We're looking at about an hour-long climb up to the West Peak of Mount Tam, where we'll restock on anything needed and grab a snack.
Then it's back down the mountain via the Seven Bitches (easy this direction) and hang a right at the intersection and continue down to Alpine Dam. From there, it's a few short climbs and descents to Meadowood golf course and down some more to the town of Fairfax. We hang a left on Sir Francis Drake and the two final short climbs sandwiching one of my favorite stretches of windy, smooth pavement through a thick redwood forest to our final destination: Point Reyes Station, where we'll have a late lunch.
After that, it's a short ride to the hotel, where we can rest before dinner. As I said, we'll keep it chill on day one, as tomorrow is the big ride.
Day 2: The three best West Marin rides in one day
This ride incorporates my three favorite rides in West Marin into one long, awesome (and I don't use that word lightly) ride. I have done all these many times, but never on the same day. The benefit of starting from Olema is that we knock off about 40 miles of my normal route, which gives us the ability to do it. Also, in the nearly 100-mile ride, we will encounter only five stop signs and zero lights.
We'll start with 2 miles of flat road before heading towards Limantour Beach. This is a steady climb of about 6% through the dense woods, and at the top, we'll cross a gate and make a super-fast descent down to Sir Francis Drake, where it's a mostly flat ride to the first climb of the day.
This one comes from my friend Tony and one I've never been on, a dirt climb that comes out towards the top of Mt. Vision. We'll get off the dirt, continue on the very seldom traveled road to the top, flip it, and head down on paved roads, where we retake a left onto Sir Francis Drake.
From there, it's a straight shot to Pt Reyes Lighthouse on beautiful tarmac with rolling hills and little vegetation in what could be our version of Ireland - including the wind. Here we'll practice our echelons, as the road should be virtually empty. We'll stop and gawk in awe at the scenery before hopping back on the bikes and down the road towards our lunch break at one of the many beaches around this area.
With Mt Vision and the Lighthouse behind us, we start the longest part of the journey and embark on the Marshall loop. We see rolling hills and beautiful (using that word a lot here) scenery as we head towards the main challenge of this section, the Marshall Wall. This short but steep hill is exposed so that you can see a 360° view of the area.
Then a ripping descent takes us to the iconic HWY 1, where we should have a tailwind taking us back to the hotel. If so, we'll have a fast ride south over perfect pavement, light traffic and rolling hills. You should return to the hotel ready to eat the tavern out of every scrap of food in the hope that you store up your energy reserves enough to get you home the next day!
Day 3, Olema to Sausalito
Day three features one of my favorite rides in Marin (I'm saying that a lot, too). We'll begin with pavement and rolling hills for about 13 miles until we get near Bolinas, where we take a left turn off HWY1 and head up the 7k climb we call BoFax.
Peter Stetina set the record on this climb at 17 minutes. We'll be closer to 30. The fun doesn't stop there as we then head up the famed Seven Bitches, which in this direction is painfully accurate. Again though, save some energy for the views! We'll be up on a ridge with the Pacific Ocean to the right and the hills near Napa Valley off to the left.
Well-known fact: this is probably the most used stretch of road for car commercials in the world. A few years ago, my wife Kalara and I were visiting a friend who works for Ferrari at the factory, and they had a big, huge screen on the wall. You can probably guess where the cars were driving - this exact road! So far from home, but still right there. Anyway, at the end of the Bitches we hang a right and start a long and technical descent down to sea level, finishing at Stinson Beach.
Let's hope you still have an appetite for amazing views because we're going to hug HWY1 up and down to Muir Beach, where we'll keep some distance between us as no one will be paying attention to where they are going and will be looking at the most breathtaking views this side of the Amalfi Coast.
The fact that your legs will be screaming won't matter at all. Once back down at sea level, we will head into the heart of Muir Woods for one last climb up to Four Corners. This will be the last 6-to-10-minute climb of this camp, so there's reason to leave anything in reserve. No issues if you leave your breakfast on the side of the road somewhere on the climb up, as we'll be replenishing it with a huge lunch to finish the AC Tour of Marin off!
Ride Support / Photography
- Dinner: 7:30pm at Poggio Trattoria (Chad can pick hotel folks up, please coordinate with Chad on his cell).
- Non-locals can ride from their hotels to AC if desired and leave bags at hotel front desk, AC crew will pick bags up at each hotel. Locals will bring bags straight to shop.
- 7:30am breakfast at Equator Coffee
- 9:00am wheels up for Day 1
- 2:30pm (estimated) lunch in Point Reyes Station at Station House Cafe
- 4:00pm-ish hotel check-in at Olema House (10 to 15 min flat spin from restaurant)
- 7:00pm dinner at Due West Restaurant/Tavern
- Bikes will be washed and delivered back clean to stay in room overnight. Place go bag in truck for next day (make sure jackets are in there).
- 7:30am breakfast @ hotel (same restaurant)
- 9:00am wheels up for Day 2 mid-ride lunch at Bovine Bakery
- 5:30pm ish return to hotel, small bites available
- 7:00pm dinner @ hotel (same restaurant)
- 7:30am breakfast @ hotel
- 9:00am wheels up for Day 3
- 1:00pm-ish lunch in Sausalito at Sandrino