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Newbie Corner with Michael Jacob

Arlington is one of my favorites...some beautiful territory and some good, attention-getting descents where you can practice and focus on your technique.

After heading north using the standard Market - Sacramento route through Oakland and then Berkeley, the groups other than the light riders head for the hills, climbing The Arlington to Kensington to El Cerrito.

Oakland Yellowjackets Humanes on the Arlington Climb

Rather than climb, the light riders continue along Key Route to San Pablo Dam Rd.

The Arlington is a nice climb through a pleasant, upscale area -- never really steep but fairly steady for a few miles.

I love the descent ... it's a sweeping, sometimes steep drop to San Pablo Dam Road to briefly rejoin the Pt. Pinole Route.


A digression about descents—with an invitation to other experienced cyclists to comment or for newcomers to comment or raise questions (about descending or anything else).

You have to pay attention on the descent, because there may be cars coming out of side streets or driveways, and some of the curves are tight enough to send you into the wrong lane if you're not careful. Accidents have happened on the Arlington descent.

It's a good place to practice technique—push back so that you're sitting farther back in the saddle, hands on the drops where you have more control over the bike and the brakes. Use the brakes to slow down before you get to a curve, while you're going straight, because braking while you're cornering can throw you off the bike. I think most people like to feather the brakes... that is, press lightly, release, press lightly release, to control speed.

There's some debate about which brake to use, or which brake to use more. Personally, I'm convinced that the front brake gives you more control on the bike ... too much on the back brake can cause the rear wheel to spin out, and the back brake is not as effective in slowing you down as the front brake.


Back to the route....

The rest stop is the same Jack-in-Box used on many northern routes. You then continue along San Pablo Dam Road with the hills on the right and San Pablo Dam Reservoir on the left, with a bit of a climb until you reach the base of Wildcat Canyon Road and the start of Bear Creek Road.

A few miles more brings you to Orinda, where BART (or a coffee shop/cafe and THEN BART) is a destination for light riders and sometimes for Humanes who are in the mood for a break.

For everyone else, it's follow the same road to Moraga, another rest stop at a gas station, or for some, a local coffee shop, before the final leg to Pinehurst.

For those who are not familiar with Pinehurst, it is a both a delight and a challenge. The first 3 1/2 miles of Pinehurst are a slow, easy climb through a beautiful, deep canyon along a creek road, lined with Redwoods, Oaks, Bays, ferns galore...

The last half mile, but in particular the last 1/4 mile or so—the last few turns—are some of the steeper ascents around. The good thing is that it doesn't last long and once you get to the top... it is really downhill all the way home...

Shepherd Canyon is the other side of Pinehurst ... a steep, technical descent that I love but which some people find intimidating. It's good to take it carefully the first times... There a couple of steep hairpin turns near the top, and then a long steep straightway where it it is easy to gain a lot of speed but you have to watch for cars....

Then you take standard Park Blvd --> Trestle Glen descent, being wary of cars again on the narrow Trestle Glen, and bing bang boom, you're home....

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