Niles Canyon / Calaveras Clockwise

Niles Canyon was closed to car traffic today, and had a “roll and stroll” event where only bikes and pedestrians were allowed. Naturally, we took advantage of it.

Anne suggested we do Calaveras Rd in reverse (southbound), which starts pretty much at the far end of Niles Canyon. We’ve done it northbound a couple of times, which involves a solid climb, culminating in “The Wall” — a short 10%+ section. Then once up, you roll around near the ridgeline on the hills northeast of Fremont, before a steady, fairly gentle descent into Sunol.

By doing it in reverse, we climb the steady gentle section, roll around, then go down the steep bit. Anne did it on at least one Cinderella training ride. Sounded like fun!

There was some debate over whether to drive nearer the entrace to Niles Canyon, but in the end we decided to roll out from home. We’d probably spend as much time loading/unloading the bikes as just biking to the start point.

Once we got to Niles, we saw that this would be a pretty well attended event, but still wasn’t crowded enough to really be a problem. There was no car traffic, so they set up one lane each for pedestrians and bikers, which was pretty well respected. There were some bike groups that were wider than I would have liked, which made it tricky to pass, especially with bikers coming in the other direction. With the trailers, we’re pretty long, which also made it a bit tricky. It was really nice to ride through without worrying about cars, and I think we had a bit of a tailwind to help us forget we were slowly climbing.

At the far side, in Sunol, there was a crowded bit where people hung out and had some food before turning around. There were also various displays about proposed work in the canyon, but we were on a mission. We walked the bikes through, and made the turn towards Calaveras.

The climb up was steady and gentle, as promised. Once you start to gain altitude, the view of the valley gets very pretty. There was a lot less bike traffic, although there were quite a few groups. There were some cars, but traffic was pretty light, and everybody seemed respectful of each other.

While in the rollers along the ridgeline, Ruth had a lot of fun playing “Who’s the Fastest”. This game consisted of one of us pulling ahead of the other. Then the other had to catch up. Ruth would pedal furiously when it was our turn to be faster. Eventually I’d go slowly to give Anne a chance to catch up.

We stopped for lunch at a turnout in the rollers. Max tried to run out into traffic, but we pulled him back in before he got himself into trouble.

We had been concerned about descending The Wall, especially since there’s a stop sign into a T at the bottom, without much space to bleed off speed. It ended up not being a big deal. The visibility of the upcoming road wasn’t great, but between being careful and listening to oncoming traffic, it works out.

We planned to stop for potty and snacks at Ed Levin Park, which is partway down the hill. I was ahead of Anne, and after I had parked and sent Ruth to the drinking fountain, I saw Anne barrel down the road. She missed the turn, but fortunately was able to turn around within a few hundred feet and came to join us.

After some refreshments, it was back down the rest of the hill. We saw a couple of wild turkeys crossing the road, then realized there was a deer hanging out on the other side of the road. Busy crossing!

Finally, the long slog back through the suburbs home. This was less fun, but mostly flat. We passed through a row of car dealerships, which had some very confused drivers out and about.

By the time we got home, I was happy to be done but still feeling pretty good. The kids seemed to have a good time, although we still need to work on a resting setup for Ruth in her new trailer.

We got various (positive) comments from other bikers, as usual. I think my favorite of the day was “you guys are raising an Iron Family”. Fortunately, our passengers weigh less than iron!