Flashback: Bolinas-Fairfax Road

image from Google Maps

Back in the day, when I lived in San Francisco and was working on my third comeback to bicycle racing, I used to train on Bolinas-Fairfax Road in Marin.  There weren’t a lot of routes to choose from in the Bay Area.  From the city, you could go short (Marin Headlands or Paradise Drive), long (Fairfax or  Olema), or longer (Pt. Reyes or all the way out to the Lighthouse).  At 60 miles, the ride we called “Alpine Dam” was a staple of my training program.  Bolinas-Fairfax Road, roughly at the half-way mark, consisted of  the long climb up to the golf course, the descent to Alpine Dam, followed by the twisting switchbacks through the redwood forests up to Ridgecrest Road.  With a total elevation gain of more than 1800 ft in 10 miles, it would become the grudge match for me and my training partner, Dave.

It started out innocently enough with seeing who could get to the golf course first.  With each training ride, as we both got fitter, we pushed harder.  Eventually, we were racing each other all the way to Ridgecrest.  Some days, it was no contest as Dave easily dropped me.  Other times, the reverse.  On the best days, we rode side by side, swapping pulls or turning the screws on each other all the way up the mountainside.
Then, it wasn’t enough just to beat each other to the top. It became a race for the fastest time.  I took splits along the way, wrote them down and taped them to my stem so I would know how to set my pace, whether or not I was on target.  When I bettered my time, I updated the numbers and sent Dave an email:  best this.  The taunting continued.  Each time Dave went faster than me, I went out with renewed vigor.  Whether he was actually there or not, I rode that climb with Dave pushing me, encouraging me.  On July 4th of that year, I laid down a 39 minute-something and that time held until we both moved out of the area.

The full route:

From the city, it was an easy spin over the Golden Gate, through San Anselmo to Fairfax.  Bolinas-Fairfax Road started there and ended at Ridgecrest Road.   From there, we would climb the Seven Sisters to Pan Toll Road.  On the days when the wind whipped out of the south and we had to fight it all the way along the open slopes of Mt. Tam, the staircase climbs were known more accurately as the Seven Bitches.  Once on Pan Toll, there was the screaming descent into Mill Valley, then from Sausalito, the final climb up to the bridge and back to the city.


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