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Wheels Shall Overcome

Shmuel Thaler

Heaven Can Wait: Riding solo across the UCSC campus can be a near-religious experience, with bike-only paths granting spectacular coastal views to those descending into town.

Santa Cruz remains a cyclist's oasis in a wasteland of internal-combustion

By Michael Mechanic

CARS ARE THE enemy. Death. Stress. Fumes. When you're moving on two wheels, it seems like life is constantly on the line from these multi-ton hunks of steel whizzing past, the drivers often preoccupied and unheeding of their human-powered brethren.

Most cities--designed for automobiles--leave little room for bikes, and metropolitan politicians brush aside the imperatives of rag-tag groups of bike activists.

Santa Cruz, however, is rated among the top places in the country for natural beauty, availability of off-road bike trails and attention paid by local government to bicyclists' needs. There are bike lanes on most of the main drags here, a bikeway along the river, repair shops everywhere, your odd pedi-cab. Newspapers, scones, city documents and fresh juices are delivered by bicycle courier. There are bike-based landscaping, electrician and advertising services. Grueling mountain roads and off-road trails for thrill-seekers. Clubs, races, expos, triathlons. There's an information clearinghouse for human-powered activists. An illegal monthly ride opposing auto tyranny.

We've even got a nemesis--a newspaper columnist for one of our dailies who loves to complain that bicyclists are rude, lawless and want to take over the streets.

Yeah ... well so what? After all, streets were first paved with bicycles in mind.

All arrogance aside, it's easy to take for granted how good we have it here. To help you remember, check out some of the good stuff--the rides, events, resources and businesses--that aid your eco-spiritual-athletic-political quest for sanity in this internal-combustion-dominated world.

And be careful out there.

Recommended Rides

Bonny Doon Road to San Lorenzo Valley These mountain roads wind through some classic redwood country. After a fairly serious climb, Bonny Doon Road becomes Empire Grade, which follows a rocky ridge north through a level road dotted with old orchards, farmhouses and vineyards. Empire Grade descends into the small town of Felton and Highway 9, around which forests filled with moss-covered bay trees, madrones and redwoods all but blot out the sun, forming a long green cathedral corridor. At one end, Empire Grade dead-ends at the Lockheed Missile Corp., a strange sight in the SC mountains. At this point, you turn around because you don't have security clearance and don't particularly want to get shot. (Moderate to Difficult)

East Cliff Drive to Capitola The part of East Cliff worth riding starts at Seabright Ave., cuts through the SC Harbor and meanders eastward past Twin Lakes Beach and Corcoran Lagoon (check out the big seabirds that perch like spooks in the tall trees by Twin Lakes). Then it continues past 26th Ave. beach and along the popular surf breaks from Pleasure Point to the Hook, at the base of 41st Ave. There's a two-way bike path along the cliffs for the last 10 or so blocks. Go up 41st half a block, right on Opal Cliff Drive and follow the cliffs down into Capitola Village. Great views coming down the hill. Unfortunately, due to construction slated for the next few months along the Capitola cliffs, this part of the route will not be as pleasant as usual. (Easy to Moderate)

Forest of Nisene Marks Grueling workouts hiding in these woods, and some serious beauty, too. Ablaze with wildflowers during the spring and carpeted with velvety mosses and ferns during the winter, the 10,000-acre forest harbors towering second-growth redwoods, vigorously reborn after the intensive logging of the late 19th century. Trails lead into deep canyons and up to bluffs with ocean views, the most popular of which follow Aptos Creek Canyon past the ghostly remnants of mining and logging camps. Many trails are closed to two-wheeled weekend warriors, but bikeable fire roads wind steeply through the forest, providing a tough ascent and exhilarating descent. If you have a lock, you can stop and hike some of the trails, including a short one that takes you to the epicenter of the 1989 quake. Take Soquel Drive through the town of Aptos, under the rail bridge and left on Aptos Creek Road. And bring water! (Easy to Difficult)

Natural Bridges State Park West Cliff Drive ends at this 54-acre forest/beach area. There are bike paths running around the place, and you can park your bike and check out the Monarch Butterfly Grove in the late fall and winter. Not much terrain for hard-core mountain bikers, but a good place to buzz around and have some fun after riding West Cliff. (Moderate to Difficult)

Ocean Street Extension The main portion of Ocean St. is a bicyclist's nightmare, but not so Ocean Extension. From the junction of Ocean St. and Highway 1, ride past Denny's, under the overpass and up the hill. Veer left where the road forks alongside the cemetery. If you go right, you can take Graham Hill Road all the way to Henry Cowell Redwoods. If you stay to the left, Ocean St. passes alongside Route 1 Farms and runs along the San Lorenzo River until it finally dead-ends. It's a short, peaceful ride to take a little time out from the hustle and bustle. (Easy)

San Lorenzo River Levee Bikeway A bike commuter's gem. You can get from the Boardwalk all the way to Highway 1 and barely have to deal with the enemy (cars, that is). And you can see some neat water birds that hang out and bathe in the river (poor souls). The paths run along both banks, with a few interruptions. Watch for broken glass on the portion of the levee north of Water St. (Easy)

UCSC Getting to the hilltop campus from town is a workout in the first place, but it's rewarding, since you get to fly down later. Take High St. up for the most gradual ascent. The tough kids use Bay Ave. and Olympians climb Western Drive. Once you're up to campus, things flatten out a bit. You can navigate Empire Grade past UCSC's West Gate and onward--a nice ride--along which you can check out caves and rope swings and other nifty stuff. Or you can check out the Arboretum. The hilly campus is itself crisscrossed with bike-only highways, most with fantastic views of Monterey Bay. (Moderate to Difficult)

West Cliff Drive This flat winding five-mile round trip meanders along the undeveloped ocean cliffs from the Dream Inn (north of the Boardwalk) to Natural Bridges State Park. A picturesque, easy ride, and great people-watching--but West Cliff gets packed on summer weekends, especially around Lighthouse Field, where you can watch the surfers navigate Steamers Lane. Be careful where you're going, since the path is shared with in-line skaters, skate grommets, joggers, tourists, drum-totin' hippies, surfers and other assorted hipsters. I recommend the off hours. (Easy)

Wilder Ranch State Park This place is a veritable mountain biker's playground, with a broad range of terrain from flat coastal bluffs overlooking the ocean to meadows and fire roads, plus advanced trails that plummet deep into the woods over hairy tree roots and rocks. Ride or drive north on Highway 1 a couple of miles until you see a long dirt shoulder on the left and cars with bike racks. Walk your bike down the scrappy little trail to the left of this makeshift parking area and take the concrete tunnel under the highway to access the hilly terrain. The views are awesome, in and out of the woods. Check out the Enchanted Loop and Old Cabin trails and keep an eye out for poison oak and ticks. The coastal side of the highway is much flatter and gets nippy when the wind blows. To access the bluffs, enter the paved parking lot beyond the highway shoulder noted above. Many others, including hikers and horseback riders, also use the park, so respect their space and don't charge around blind corners. (Easy to Difficult)

eliana guttenberg
Robert Scheer

Wheeler Dealer: It's never too early to learn bike maintenance. Local Eliana Guttenberg, 3, helps clean a mountain bike at the Hub for Sustainable Transportation.

Bike Resources

The Hub for Sustainable Transportation 2048 N. Pacific Ave., SC. Home to bike-friendly organizations People Power, Bike to Work Week, Growing Cycles, Pedaler's Express and the SC County Cycling Club. If you need bike advocacy info, this place has a small library that evolves through varying states of organization and updatedness. These organizations need volunteers, so drop by or contact them individually.

Bike to Work Week Volunteers organize a week of bike-related activities to raise awareness about clean commuting options. Sponsored by local businesses and government grants, the week includes Bike-to-Work Day with free breakfast for human-powered commuters, a Human-Powered Parade, street and repair fairs, films, lectures, maintenance classes and more. Contact Dale Wikenheiser at 423-3773.

mike guerrero
Robert Scheer

High on Low Ridin': Max Guerrero, 13, shows off the custom bike he built with help from a local nonprofit called Growing Cycles.

Growing Cycles Located at the Hub, this nonprofit organizes various events and programs. There's Recycle-a-Bicycle, through which kids fix up donated bikes and earn the right to keep them (organizers may also start a low-rider bike club). Volunteers run valet bike parking at the Farmer's Market and special events. GC also runs a self-service repair station and tool co-op (Tue. and Thu. at 5pm and Sat from 1-6pm at 2048 N. Pacific--show up early for repair and maintenance tips). Contact Harry Baker at 423-0829 (ext. 120).

National Bike Registry When police find a stolen bike, they call NBR to see if it is registered. NBR claims a 100 percent success rate in returning bicycles recovered by the authorities to their rightful owners. Registration is $5 for a year and $25 for a lifetime (transferable to new bikes). Call 1-800-848-2453.

People Power Located at the Hub, this advocacy group lobbies government to improve conditions for bicyclists. PP authored the City of SC's Bike Parking Ordinance requiring businesses to install bike parking and also has worked toward assuring bike access to West Cliff Bridge and the completion of the proposed Broadway-Brommer bike lanes. Contact Ron Goodman at 425-0665 [email protected].

SC County Cycling Club Organizes rides and events, including the Pajaro Valley Century and SC Criterium, and sponsors Team SC racing team. Lists rides in SCCCC newsletter, available at the Hub and local bike stores. Call Jeff Clark 423-0829.

SC County Transportation Commission, Bike Committee This advisory group makes recommendations to the county regarding bike-related projects, seeks grants, and provides a nice map of local bikeways, bike lanes, and bus routes that will take bikes. For maps or info call 454-2340.

Organized (and Disorganized) Rides

Beach Cruiser Ride Weekly beach-cruiser ride from Mission Street Cyclery to Seabright Brewery and then out West Cliff Drive. Contact the store at 426-7299.

Critical Mass This somewhat-illegal monthly ride has its origins in San Francisco, when a bike commuter decided to organize a monthly mass bike commute. The ride rapidly grew into a massive celebration of bicycle power, drawing hundreds of riders. The idea has spread to many other cities, including SC, where the ride is smaller. By maintaining a critical mass of riders, the group can safely dominate the street and cross intersections against traffic signals (to the chagrin of motorists). Many riders whoop, honk, wear costumes and ridicule America's auto addiction. Meet at 5pm on the first Friday of each month at the Town Clock.

Pajaro Valley Century Ride This popular ride, organized by the SC County Cycling Club, offers routes from 25 to 100 miles. Happens in late summer. Contact SCCCC at 423-0829.

Piggie Market Rides A fast, short, intense version of the Saturday Ride. Riders start at Piggie Market (3000 Valencia Ave., Aptos) and do a hard one-hour loop down through Watsonville. Leaves at 6pm Tue. and Thu. between spring and fall daylight-savings (tapers off late in the season).

Recumbent Ride Happens on the third Saturday of each month from spring through early fall (until the rains begin). Recumbent and conventional bikes traverse a fairly flat 40- to 50-mile course suitable for novice through advanced riders. Meet at 9:30am behind Hansen's Feed at 2891 Freedom Blvd. Call Easy Racers at 722-9797.

The Saturday Ride This weekly ride for intermediate to advanced riders leaves SC Yacht Harbor at 8am sharp and typically draws 50 to 150 riders. A common route is San Andreas Road to Freedom Blvd. and onward to the Pajaro Valley. Advanced riders cover 60 to 80 miles. Happens all year long.

Sprockets Sunday Ride Leaves on Sundays at 8am from Sprockets Bike Shop at the Brown Ranch Marketplace in Capitola. South County loop covers 15-20 miles at a moderate pace. Contact the store at 464-9200.

Trailer Tots Monthly rides for families with young kids. Easy routes on the Westside, starting from Garfield Park (Almar Ave. and Pendegast St.). Distances vary. Bring picnic lunch. Contact Vicki Winters at 457-2027.

Vicious Cycles Tuesday Ride Leaves from the Felton store Tuesdays at 6pm from spring through late fall. Moderate to difficult 10-to 15-mile road ride in the SC Mountains. Call Vicious Cycles at 335-0208.

Races and Expos

GT Air Show Stunt expo, usually in July, with pros performing flat-land and big-air tricks outside of the Spokesman Bicycles downtown. This year's show included a 16-foot half pipe, plus a swap meet and live music. Next year's show will incorporate trials riding, where riders perform daring tricks on big logs, barrels and old cars. Contact Mike Moore at 429-6062.

Sentinel Triathlon This event, which benefits local high-school and college athletic programs, is in its 14th year. Starting at Main Beach, 1000 racers swim one mile, bike 23 miles and conclude with a 10k run. Race starts on Oct. 6 at 8am sharp. Staging area opens at 6am in the Dream Inn parking lot at West Cliff and Bay Ave. Registration is $70 for individuals. Contact Andre Dunkell at 423-4242 (ext. 301).

SC Criterium Technical road race on city streets in which riders complete a specified number of one-mile laps. This SCCCC-organized race happens in March. Amateur racing license required. Call 209-533-4996.

Surf City Cyclocross Series This off-road series puts riders on a roughly one-mile loop replete with large obstacles and terrain from dirt to pavement. Dubbed the "cross-country" of bike racing, such competitions have long been popular in Europe. The seven races kick off on Oct. 27 and run approximately every other weekend. On-site registration for novice to pro. Call Jeff Clark at 423-5633.

Trees and Breeze This mountain-bike race happens during the first weekend in August on private property in Swanton. Up to 600 riders, from the public to professional, traverse fire and paved roads and single-track trails, completing two 11-mile laps. Call Dan Barger at 997-3581.

Watsonville Criterium Technical road race on residential streets in which riders complete a specified number of three-quarter-mile laps. Happens the last Saturday in July. Amateur racing license required. Call 209-533-4996.

Wilder Ranch Mountain Bike Race Usually in June, this race involves 250 riders from novice to pro. Riders run time trials over courses of up to 24 miles, which include fire roads and single track trails. Race benefits Friends of SC State Parks. Advance registration required. There's also a poker race for fun and a barbecue afterward. Contact Birdie Hunter at 429-1840.

University Road Race Road bike race involving 20 laps of a mountainous 3-mile loop above UCSC. Happens on the Sunday of Labor Day weekend. Amateur racing license required. Call 209-533-4996.


Spring Bike Fix Spring bike repair fair and expo for local equipment manufacturers. Cheap tune-ups. Contact Harry Baker at 423-0829 (ext. 120).

Swap Meet A fund-raiser for the SC County Cycling Club and Growing Cycles, held at the Hub (2048 N. Pacific Ave.) in mid-November. Bring bikes and related stuff to donate, sell from a rented space, or come to look around and shop. Contact Harry Baker at 423-0829 (ext. 120).

Bike-Based Businesses

Bicycling Magazine Soquel-based mag covers everything from racing to stunt riding to recreation, bike designs, BMX, you name it. Published since 1961, the magazine has a world-wide circulation of 350,000. Contact Geoff Drake at 462-5698

Bikes are Good Business Consultants for local business and government in how to reduce automobile use through commute options, including bicycling. Call 464-2242.

Kreb's Cycle Products Detailed bike maps for SC and Northern California terrain. Call 685-BIKE.

Rick Longinotti Electrical contractor hauls gear by bicycle. Commercial and residential electrical repair, remodeling and troubleshooting within city of SC only. Call 459-8816.

Pedaler's Express SC's only bicycle delivery service hauls newspapers, baked goods, Odwalla juices, city documents or whatever else you need delivered. Cooperatively run. Call 426-2453.

Terra Nova Ecological Landscaping Home and garden landscapers depend on bike trailers to get their stuff to you. Call 425-3514.

Sales and Service

Another Bike Shop 2361 Mission St., SC (427-2232). Sells mainly mountain bikes. Gary Fisher, Scott, Kona, SC, Fat Chance and Klein. Full-service repair, including wheel and custom builds. Sponsors a mountain bike team.

Aptos Bike Trail 7514 Soquel Dr., Aptos (688-8650). Sells mainly mountain bikes. Diamondback, Trek and Mongoose. Full-service repair shop.

Bicycle Center 1420 Mission St., SC (423-6324);1203 41st Ave., Capitola (476-7092). Sells mountain bikes, cruisers, hybrids, BMX and kids' bikes (down to 12 inch wheels). Specialized, Cannondale, Diamondback and Schwinn. Full-service repair shop.

The Bike Doctor (461-9413). A mobile one-man repair outfit based in Scotts Valley. Repairs any bike, anywhere, tune-ups and tear downs, paint jobs, overhauls, charges $5 for house calls.

Bicycle Inn 6195 Soquel Dr., Aptos (476-0928). Service and repair, tune-ups, wheel building, race prep, small machine shop, clothes.

The Bicycle Trip 1127 Soquel Ave., SC (427-2580). Sells mountain, road, BMX and kids bikes. Gary Fisher, Rock Lobster, Salsa, Greg LeMond, Voodoo, and Bontrager. Full-service repair shop. Trailers.

Dave's Recycled Bikes 318 Pacific Ave., SC (423-8923). Sells mountain bikes, hybrids and cruisers. Redline, KHS and Zephyr. Used bikes including older 3-speeds and 10-speeds. Repairs.

Family Cycling Center 950 41st Ave., SC (475-3883). Sells mountain bikes, cruisers, BMX and kids' bikes. Marin, GT, and Santa Cruz. Trailers, baby joggers, trikes. Full-service repair shop.

Mission Street Cyclery 1211 Mission St., SC (426-7299). Sells mountain bikes, cruisers, tandems, low riders, and antique bikes from the 1930s on. Raleigh, Nishiki, Balance, KHS. Full-service repair shop. Organizes weekly beach cruiser ride (see Organized Rides).

Pacific Ave. Cycles 709 Pacific Ave., SC (423-1314). Sell mountain bikes, road bikes, hybrids, cruisers, kids' bikes and some BMX. Univega, Rock Lobster and Salsa. Full-service repair shop.

The Spokesman Bicycles 231 Cathcart Ave., SC (429-6062). Sells mountain bikes and wide range of BMX and road bikes, kids' bikes. GT and Trek. Full-service repair shop. Trailers, tandems, clothing, and roof racks. Sponsors kids' BMX racing team. Interested kids must establish a relationship with the shop.

Sprockets Brown Ranch Marketplace, 3555 Clares St., Suite HH, Capitola (464-9200). Sells mountain bikes, road bikes and cruisers. Schwinn, Raleigh, Santana tandems, Moulton, Bianchi, kids' bikes. Full-service repair shop. Leads a Sunday morning ride (See Organized Rides).

Sullivan's Bike Shop 417 Seabright Ave. SC, (457-8554). Sells Nishiki mountain bikes and Star cruisers. Used bikes. Full-service repair shop.

Vicious Cycles 6533 Hwy 9, Felton (335-0208) Sells mountain bikes, BMX and supercross. Haro and Marin. Roof racks. Full-service repair shop. Leads a Tue. evening ride from spring through late fall (see Organized Rides)


Bicycle Rental Center 131 Center St., SC (426-8687). Rentals from high-end mountain bikes to tandems, cruisers, kids' bikes, trailers and kid carriers. Will deliver. Operates a satellite rental outlet near the Boardwalk during the summer.

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From the September 26-October 2, 1996 issue of Metro Santa Cruz

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Copyright © 1996 Metro Publishing, Inc.