I recommend these as Sunday-only rides—except, perhaps, number 3. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org for “Ride-with-GPS” maps of any of these.
1. Davis to Martinez via Vallejo by Bike—Return by Train
This is one of my favorites and I think it is because it offers such variety. From the valley floor, to the edges of the Vaca Hills, to a frontage road along I-80 that peaks out with great views of the Bay and Mt Tam, to urban riding and a major bridge crossing, to a thin car-free route along the edge of the Bay, this ride never gets tedious. There is some climbing here along I-80 but it is a quiet ride on a barely traveled road that ends with a screaming downhill into Vallejo on a mixed-use path with no cars.
Crossing the Carquinez Bridge is a treat, as are the rolling hills between Crocket and Martinez—including a newly paved mixed-use road with no cars. I do this one 2-3 times per year and it is about 68 miles. I pull out my phone and listen to Au4 on the way home.
2. Davis to San Francisco by Train/Bus—Bike to Santa Cruz—Return by Bus/Train
I have done this ride three times and each time I wonder why it took me so long to do it again. You need an early start to fit this in but it takes you through the city and long stretches with the Pacific at your right. With the new tunnel on Route 1 coming out of Pacifica, there is now only one tight stretch—the climb out of Pacifica itself—where there are no shoulders and traffic flow can be heavy. Beyond that the shoulders are wide and the climbs gentle.
What I like most about this ride are the parts where farmed fields stretch to the west and descend right up to the Pacific. I also like the cliffs about 20 miles north of Santa Cruz. They seem fragile and about to collapse. You get to pass a cool pump track on the edge of Santa Cruz. The ride south of Outer Sunset to the SF Zoo is serene and often shrouded in fog.
I get a burrito in Santa Cruz or San Jose and the bus ride home is for beer and contemplation. This one is about 85 miles and you have to start with an early train.
3. Davis to San Francisco by Train/Bus—Bike Loop via Marin Headlands, Lower Parts of Mt Tam, and Sausilito—Return by Bus/Train
This one cannot be done with a road bike because stretches are on mountain-bike track (not technical) and fire roads on the Headlands and then up to the lower reaches of Mt Tam. I use my gravel grinder and simply do not have enough gears to climb up the hills out of Tennessee Beach over towards Muir Beach. There are some steep descents and I have crashed every time I have ridden here. Still, they are of the slow-motion variety and not too serious.
There is a stretch from after leaving Route 1 just after Muir Beach that is a tougher trail. It climbs, is narrow and lots of mountain bikers seem to be screaming down the towards the sea from Tam. Still, once you get through that you get a long ride down into Mill Valley and Sausalito. If you are tired, take the ferry from there back to the city or ride to re-cross the Golden Gate bridge.
I always stop for coffee in Sausalito and enjoy the descent from the top of the Marin Headlands towards the Visitor Center—it seems that no one uses that trail. This one is about 45 miles but it is a tough ride. I like to bring Stephen King with me on this ride and read him from Emeryville home.
4. Davis to Suisun/Fairfield by Train—Bike Loop via Vallejo and Martinez—Return by Train
This is a 60-mile loop that borrows from ride number 1 above but could be called the “two bay bridges ride,” because you cross both the Carquinez and Martinez bridges. My least favorite part of this ride is from Martinez back to Fairfield—the frontage road along 580 is not marvelous. But if you get the kind of winds that are common in that area, they will push you all the way.
I always stop in Martinez for Sunday farmers’ market and grab something but I always seem to eat lunch on the west side of the Carquinez Bridge. The short train rides from Davis to Suisun are not long enough for anything except looking at the scenery—and I love how that changes with the seasons. Ride this one in winter, spring, and fall. The industrial area outside of Martinez is fascinating.
5. Davis to Berkeley by Train—Bike to Suisun/Fairfield—Return by Train
I’ve only done this one once and it is definitely a spring/fall ride. The ride from the top of the Berkeley Hills over to Martinez is all exposed and it can get pretty hot. It is actually fun to ride through Berkeley from the train station, slowly up the hill to Tilden Park. The rest of the way is nothing but long climbs and long descents. There are 3 of them after Berkeley if I am counting correctly. Lots of bikers on these roads (I have ridden them as part of other rides) and mostly wide shoulders and light traffic.
I should note that I do not ride these like most recreational riders. I use my gravel grinder which is heavy with wide tires. I am not in it for speed and I like to haul food and repair stuff in a pannier which I mount on my “pizza carrier” front rack. It is unorthodox but there are no rules. I would do any of these—except perhaps the S
anta Cruz ride—with the same bike.
The Capitol Corridor buses and trains do not require you to box your bike on any of these routes and you walk on, walk off at both ends. I don’t tend to “stop and smell the roses” much on my rides but, as you can imagine, the photo-ops and scenery are the main reason to do these rides. Everything is just so beautiful out here and the diversity of land- and cityscapes means that each ride opens up new things to see and think about.
I ride these mostly alone so I don’t hold anyone up or leave anyone behind. I like to travel at my own pace—at the speed of my bike. With these caveats in mind, if you would like to try one of these rides with me, email at the above address.