I went on a ride this afternoon with my neighbor. When we started out, we didn’t really have any general direction, but ultimately ended up in Livermore. Our first route went through Niles Canyon, parts of Palomares, back to Niles Canyon, Foothill road, into Pleasanton, through some Vineyards in Livermore, up and down 84, a stretch of 680N, back down Niles Canyon to home. The whole trip was roughly 60 miles and a memorable ride…
Now, there were points where the pace was consistent which felt good. The vineyard part while we were going through Livermore was probably the best part. Road conditions were ideal and it was very scenic out there. The ride was good when it was good, but most of the time we were fighting to not get run over by cars. Niles Canyon had no bike lanes and a flood of cars going over 40mph, even during the middle of the day when we thought it’d be more empty. There were a lot of moments with drivers purposely speeding past us with no disregard for space.
When we got out to Foothill road, it was much better. We biked through Pleasanton for a bit, and ended up on a nice Vineyard road. Since we didn’t really know where we were, we saw a road labeled 84 that would take us back to Fremont, and took it. This is where things got a bit risky.
84 quickly turned from a road, into a highway that went up a huge hill. I must admit, climbing this hill was really fun. A picture to give you an idea, but of course the length of it isn’t portrayed very well. The valley in the background is where it starts.
As they say, when you go up, you gotta come back down. Once we reached the top, there was a huge descent ahead of us. We had been riding on the shoulder the whole time, which was filled with gravel and rocks and also had a grooved rumble strip. I believe the speed limit here was around 55 or 60, and it was one lane both ways.
Riding down this hill literally inches away from cars flying past us was pretty damn intense. I couldn’t ride inside the shoulder because there was just too much gravel, so I had to cross over the rumble strip closer to the cars. Just crossing the rumble strip was extremely sketchy at the speed I was going, it shook the entire bike and it felt like I was going to lose the steering if I didn’t get off quick enough. I basically rode on a patch of road that was a few inches wide between the rumble strip, and the lane. I should also note that it was super windy too. The Reynolds wheels felt like a sail. Every time a car passed me, there was a huge cross wind that made me struggle to keep the steering straight. There was no turning back at this point, I just had to grit my teeth and focus.
Thankfully, I’m typing this post right now, which means I didn’t die. If anything did happen… if I lost my steering and went down, there’s a good chance I would’ve been ran over and utterly killed.
I especially felt worried for my neighbor because he didn’t have a helmet, which is why I had him ride in front of me. Luckily for him, he didn’t have deep wheels so the crosswind probably wasn’t as big of an issue. When I reached the bottom, I noticed he stopped early. It turned out he had a charlie horse half way through the descent, and just had to spin through it.
Here’s a picture of what I was talking about. You can somewhat see all the gravel and the rumble strip.
While the hill was done, we weren’t exactly out of the woods. We realized 84 turned into an on-ramp merge onto a legitimate freeway, 680. Turning around and going back wasn’t exactly an option, so we said screw it and rode onto the freeway. Thankfully, the next exit wasn’t very far and it was exactly the exit we needed to take. There also wasn’t much traffic at all on the part of 680 we were on, so I guess that was a bit anti-climatic.
We were back onto Niles Canyon. Unfortunately, we still had to ride next to cars all the way back… and now it was around rush hour time so there was even more cars on Niles. Just to spice things up a bit, in case it started to get repetitive, I found out there was a chunk of rubber missing from my tire. You can see the inner tube poking out.
Definitely from all the stupid rocks that was on 84. All I can say is I’m thankful that the rear tire didn’t blow out during the descent. It sucks that this was a $64 tire I bought a week ago… casualties of riding, I guess.
I decided to just keep on riding and made it home without flatting. At least the inner tube still seems to be reusable.
All in all, a very interesting ride, and one that I’m actually grateful about for just being alive. Will I ever ride Niles Canyon or 84 like this again? That would be a No.