Tandem Touring – Twice as Nice


Last weekend, I was able to fulfill one of my bike dreams of going on a tandem tour with my girlfriend. Emily, my stoker, has gone on tandem rides with me before, but nothing to this caliber of riding. The mini-tour I had planned would be for 2.5 days starting in Mountain View and finishing in San Francisco.

Day 1: The Mountain

Mountain View -> Portola Redwood State Park

Route: http://ridewithgps.com/routes/5071012

After a slow meandering through the Peninsula suburbs, we arrived at Roberts Market in Portola,CA. Roberts Market is always a good spot start or finish a ride as it has all the great fancy groceries that you would want before/after doing some serious bike riding. Here we had our 1st dinner: Pesto Chicken Sandwich with Brie.

tandem at roberts market

I’ve never done the climb up Alpine Rd., so I was very nervous about doing it fully loaded on the tandem. I could not have been more impressed and surprised. I would even say that Alpine Rd. is my favorite way to climb to Skyline Blvd from the east side!

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Quiet + Shady + Babbling brook + Reasonable Grade + Few Cars = Good climb.

Alpine Rd. starts with about 3.5 miles of gentle climbing on narrow pavement. The road meanders alongside a slow moving creek on your right so beautiful that a Lord of the Rings battle could break out at any moment. Because this road dead ends (for cars), only few cars passed us. This was helpful to us because we occasionally had to use the full width of the street to wiggle up steep sections.

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Peninsula climbs in order of my preference Alpine Rd. (east) > Kings Mountain Rd. > Old La Honda > Windy Hill Fire Road

the tandem by a long abandoned truck

Doesn’t look like this truck will be going anywhere soon

The weight of the tandem  really started to make itself known as we transitioned into the 2 miles of steeper dirt segment. I recently upgraded the tires to 38x700c Panaracer Pasela from a measly 23x700c Gatorskin, and as the long tandem frame flexed riding through the ruts of the fire road, I 100% knew that I made the right choice with tires on this bike. There was about 300 yards of pushing up the tandem up a steep single track due to a mudslide, but the rest of the 2 miles of the dirt Alpine Road was achievable for us in our granny gear.

the golden hills before our descent into Portola Redwoods State Park

the golden hills before our descent into Portola Redwoods State Park

Camping Portola Redwoods State Park

Portola Redwoods State Park has 5 hike/bike sites. We were the only ones.

 2nd dinner: Spicy Nong Shim Korean Ramen with Soft Tofu.

Day 2: Hidden Treasures

Portola Redwood State Park -> Half Moon Bay

Route: http://ridewithgps.com/routes/5079376

Breakfast was a block of day old croissant bread-pudding from La Boulange heated over a flame.

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Old Haul Road is my favorite fire road to take people to. It’s about 5 miles of relaxing fire road entrenched in the deep redwood forest. The extremely long wheelbase of the tandem felt comfortable and safe on the gentle downhill. My fat 38mm tires kept traction throughout the corners even at 15-20mph. It really felt like a long gentle roller coaster that winded through an enchanted forest.

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Beautiful views

Due to space constraints of only having four panniers for the two of us, I didn’t have much room to bring my camp coffee making supplies. We spent the better half of the morning uncaffinated. Fortunately, we were able to stop at a coffee shop in Pescadero. Downtown Local is not only the hippest coffee shop/establishment in Pescadero, it is the hippest coffee shop I’ve EVER been to. After talking to the baristas, I learned that a San Francisco couple moved to Pescadero about a year ago and couldn’t find good coffee in the neighborhood so they opened their own Sightglass brewing/antique selling/succulent growing cafe in Pescadero.

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Recipe for hipness: Mid century modern couch, tables that look like they’re made from pallets, edison bulbs, antiques, succulent table centerpiece & pour over Sightglass coffee

While Old Haul Road is my personal favorite, Emily’s favorite was Cowell Ranch Road. Honestly, I’ve been wanting to bring Emily to bike on Cowell Ranch Road ever since I was introduced to it by Ian about a year ago. However, it can be exceedingly strenuous to ride over the Pennisula hills or through Pacifica to get to Cowell Ranch Road. For those of you who haven’t experienced Cowell Ranch Road, it’s a 3 mile flat gravel trail that sandwiches you between large private farm and incredible vistas of the sea cliffs. The views here are equivalent to the sweeping landscapes of Big Sur. Emily went on to name this area Little Sur.


Cowell Trail was more beautiful than ever.

Day 3: Mavericks to SF

Half Moon Bay -> San Francisco 

On Sunday we had a warm slow ride back into San Francisco. I had the opportunity to explore the bike paths closer to the beach instead of hammering on the main road  as I’ve normally done.

While resting in Pacifica, a man asked us about what route we took from Mountain View. Somehow, he immediately recognized that I was from Los Angeles. When I asked how he knew, he told me that I kept saying “PCH” (short for Pacific Coast Highway) as opposed to “Highway 1”, which is how bay area folks call it. I guess theres more to blending in with nor cal folks than saying “hella” occasionally.

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Behind the Ritz Carlton

Tandem name: Jean Claude Tandem

Jean Claude Tandem


All in all, we had an amazing trip with superb weather, delicious food, and breathtaking sites. I strongly believe that the experience we had this weekend, really flexes the strength of tandem riding. Riding together with Emily on the tandem, gave both of us the comfort and confidence that we would make it to our next destination, even with daunting 3,000 feet climbs and perilous descents. Without the concerns of physical ability, it allowed us to focus on the surroundings and really enjoy the ride.