Love Your Own Backyard


I thought of writing this post one day as I was ruminating on a phenomenon I like to call, “The downhill is always greener on the other side of the fence.” Lots of times, in Cali, BC, Utah and other places with loads of mountain biking options, we’re so blessed with quality rides within driving distance that we can develop a we-gotta-go-there habit at the expense of our jilted local ride.

I guess I wanted to be the voice of that local ride, since it can only whisper to us in a grassy susurrus and the occasional poison oak rash if we don’t ride it much. Me? I can beckon to you in the vociferous tones of SHOUTY CAPS to, “HIT THAT LOCAL RIDE!!!”

And regularly please. It misses you.

One of the greatest things about living and working in the San Francisco Bay Area, and before that Humboldt County and the eastern edge of L.A. County, is that I have been able to bike out my front door or classroom and within 15 minutes or less be riding my local spot. Some places were better than others of course, but they all, every one of them, granted you ways to achieve the stoke. In L.A. it was the crazy fast fire roads and the singletrack-laced foothills of Mt. Baldy that I loved. Marshall Canyon, Webb, and the rest of the cinnamon scented San Gabriels are stamped in my memory forever. In Humboldt, I was out my garage and dropping into the community forest, dodging giant redwoods and sliding down chutes that I probably wouldn’t ride anymore since I am no longer made of rubber. In the Bay Area, my local rides have been Crockett Hills, with its view of the delta and technical, hilly, short loops, and my current love: Briones. Actually Briones and I have had a relationship for the past twelve years. I was still riding here when I lived in Crockett since I could hop on the bike when my students were dismissed and I’d be climbing the crazy-steep Lafayette side within minutes. Are there better rides in L.A., Humboldt, and the Bay? Sure. But are our local spots just as awesome in their own unique ways? I would argue that when we add in two positive factors, then, yes. They are just as awesome.

Number one: it’s close. It’s our hood. Our neck o’ the woods. We can ride there often, find its secrets, get to know its sweet spots, and realize the ultimate truth of, “the more we know it, the more we love/shred it.” And number two (and this is the tough one for many of us because it implies effort on our behalf): our spots always have potential. And because of proximity, we can do something about that potential if we choose.

Take for example our favorite spots (if that actually differs from our local spot). At the very least, somebody cleared the trail. They saw the potential. Often times our favorites have jumps, rollers, berms, log drops… again, someone saw the potential and put in the effort. Has anyone put in the work at our local ride? If not, perhaps it’s our turn to see the potential and put in the work.

If you build it they will come you will ride it like a champ.

My local ride, Briones, is not kind to the out-of-shape. Especially on the aforementioned Lafayette side. I know this because I usually burn out on biking after about six months of continuous riding. I stop biking altogether for most of the winter (and put in some work while the soil is willing), then hop back on the bike in the spring and cry my way uphill for the next couple months. I repeat the cycle of falling in love with my bike, and Briones all over again every year. Wash rinse repeat. However… once I am in shape, having spent years exploring Briones, it always proves itself to be more than just Mount Diablo’s smaller, less-popular step-sister. It is the east bay’s quietly hidden mountain biking gem with something to offer for every style of riding. Does it top Demo Forest in Santa Cruz? No. But do I genuinely love riding in my “Backyard Briones?” Totally. Which is why you’ll usually find me biking there two or three times a week with the smile of stoke upon my face, rather than sitting at home, planning a trip somewhere else, subscribing to the philosophy that the downhill is always greener…

My dh is some quality green.

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