East Bay’s Starter Course Preview


Course Preview: A Novice Takes on the Starter Course (East Bay: Contra Costa)

I’m Patti, and I manage events for Habitat East Bay/Silicon Valley. At a typical Cycle of Hope, you’ll see me behind the scenes, keeping the event running smoothly. This year, though, the flexible Ride from Home format means that I can be a part of the action!

The extent of my cycling experience is short rides with my kids around Berkeley, where I live. Luckily, Cycle of Hope offers a distance goal accessible to beginners. Plus, I know how lucky we are to have a safe, secure place to live, and I couldn’t pass up the chance to ride so more families could have the same opportunity. So, I’ve registered with the 11-Mile Club, and a few Fridays ago, I took my bicycle out to Walnut Creek to preview one of the curated courses.

I ride a beach cruiser, and accordingly, I took the course at a beachy pace! The 11.7 miles of the East Bay: Contra Costa starter course took me about an hour and a half at that leisurely speed, and it was a flat, lovely ride for most of the way. There are a couple of inclines and turns to look out for that I thought I’d share for those of you considering the course to reach your distance goal.

If you’re a less experienced cyclist like me, you may need to dig in just a bit to get over the pedestrian bridge right near the start of the course, but rest assured that you’re in for a few miles of very smooth, scenic riding after that. Right around the 1.5 mile mark, be aware that you’ll be turning right to switch off the Iron Horse Trail and onto the Contra Costa Canal Trail.

Just after 4 miles, you’ll be hanging to the right to get on the Ygnacio Canal Trail… then get ready for the course’s biggest climb. You’ll be heading into the Lime Ridge Open Space on that incline, so while it’s tough work for a short spell, the vista at the top is a worthwhile payoff. If you find yourself sweating hard on your way up, just know that you’ll be rewarded!

Another couple of navigational points to be aware of – just after the 5-mile mark, you’ll pass through a narrow tunnel, so be aware of other cyclists and hikers. Just before you hit 9 miles, you’ll cross Ygnacio Valley Road for a second time, and once you do, you’ll be on a short, cycle-friendly stretch of sidewalk before hanging a left up Marchbanks Drive for a quarter-mile of incline on a well-paved, bicycle-lane street. Treat yourself after that hill to a right turn back onto the dedicated walk/bike Ygnacio Canal Trail.

Less than half a mile later, you’ll make a right onto North San Carlos Drive, and after just a few hundred feet before the street bends rightward, you’ll want to look to your left to find where you’ll pick up the trail again through a short, tree-lined stretch. Soon, you’ll make a left back onto the Contra Costa Canal Trail.

Just be prepared for one last mellow incline in the last half mile or so, and coast on to the finish!

Overall, as a novice, I found the course to be beautiful and just the right level of challenge. It was achievable for a cyclist at my level, but tough enough to feel like I’d worked hard enough to earn the ice cream I had afterward!

I hope that you’ll come out and join me – whether you ride this course, another official route, or design one of your own. However you go the distance for Habitat, you’ll make a difference.