After the world-class singletrack riding we had just experienced in Lake Tahoe and Downieville, I was excited to get to one of the places that our trip centered around: the San Francisco Bay Area.

But when I pulled up to the first trail on our list of places to investigate, Wildcat Canyon Regional Park (it hadnt been added to the Singletracks database yet), I was disappointed to find no information and a very uninviting trailhead. After doing a Google search to try to glean some additional information and figure out if we were in the right place or not, I discovered that basically all of the singletrack in the park was off-limits to mountain bikes. Gravel roads just didnt seem worth the effort, so we drove on down the east side of the San Francisco Bay to Redwood Regional Park.

Mountain bike “trail” at Redwood Regional Park.

While Wildcat Canyon wasnt in the database, Redwood Regional Park was listed, and the information I read sounded pretty positive. When my wife and I got out of the car and started to ride, though, we were immediately faced with a stiff doubletrack climb that was right on the borderline between barely rideable and hike-a-bike. Hoping that this old roadbed would turn into singletrack eventually, we pushed our bikes to the top of the ridge and carried on.

At least some of the higher parts of the “trail” had OK views.

We began to pass several singletrack trails dropping off the top of the ridge into the park, but every single one had a large “no biking” sign posted on it. The entirety of the bike-legal loop in Redwood Regional Park is essentially an old forest road that follows the ridge around the valley–and none of it was singletrack. There are plenty of trails crisscrossing between the ridges and through the valley below, but all of it was off limits to mountain bikes.

“No Bicycles.”

At one trailhead in Redwood Regional Park, we even saw a sign that threatened mountain bikers with a $275 fine for “cross country riding” or “singletrack riding,” as well as “reckless riding,” “excessive speed,” or “failure to warn or call out before passing.” And while this sign keeps things arbitrary and subjective enough to give any ranger you look at the wrong way a reason to ticket you, many other parks included a specific speed limit, most of them maxing out at about 15 miles per hour.

Posted speed limits from a different trail:

What frustrated me even more was that the wide doubletrack trail–again, the only trail that was bike-legal–was very popular with hikers and dog walkers (who all disobeyed the numerous signs stating that dogs must be on leash), but we didnt see a single hiker coming up any of the singletrack trails. All of the hikers would look at us as we passed with annoyance and disdain, even as we called out a friendly greeting.

The general vibe that we got any time we passed hikers was cold and unfriendly. I’ve ridden in numerous states across the nation and regularly meet other trail users, both hikers and equestrians, and I don’t recall ever having a chillier reception. This response was floating around in my head but I managed to keep it from exiting audibly: “Seriously, if you’re going to be pissed at my very existence and the fact that I am using the only trail that I am allowed to ride, why don’t you take your mutt and your screaming child and hike on one of the dozens of trails where bikes aren’t allowed.”

Part way through the Redwood Regional Park loop, I dropped out of the park and down the opposite side of the ridge into Joaquin Miller Park, which is home to just about the only bike-legal singletrack that I found in the East Bay Area. Joaquin is a tightly-packed network of poorly-marked singletrack trails, some of which are pretty technical, others of which are smoother. While thiswas legitimate singletrack and probably fantastic by East Bay standards, compared to many of the other trails that I had ridden across the country on this trip, Joaquin was pretty unremarkable.

End of a technical descent in Joaquin Miller.

If the situation from Redwood Regional Park was a one-off occurrence, that would be one thing. But the story was repeated almost everywhere we went: Coyote Hills Regional Park had what looked like some fantastic singletrack trails right on the Bay, but only the old gravel roads were bike legal. Greenbelt Park in Hayward had some legal in-town trails, but they were pretty unkempt and mostly doubletrack.

One of the legal dirt roads at Coyote Hills.

No bikes sign at Coyote Hills.

After getting burned on so many of the trails that I’d picked out to ride in advance, I hit the Singletracks database and a couple of other websites to see if there was anything in the East Bay worth riding. The most promising place I could find (aside from the other trails mentioned in this blog post) was the massive Mount Diablo State Park about 15-20 miles inland. Mount Diablo promised a massive network of gravel roads as well as singletrack. The thing that made Diablo look interesting, at least from the reviews we read, is that there is apparently a lot of discrepancy between the websites, trail maps, and trail signs about which trails are actually open to bikes. Still, I never read anything that advertised a massive system of singletrack that is open and welcome to mountain bikes, so we decided it wasn’t worth our time.

Anthony Chabot Regional Park has, again, many miles of old forest roads to ride, but surprisingly also sported about 3-4 miles of decent singletrack paralleling one of the access roads. After mucking around on doubletrack dirt roads for the past several days, discovering a mere 3 miles of singletrack felt like striking a vein of gold!

Legal singletrack at Anthony Chabot.

If you are traveling from out of town and still want to explore the East Bay area after reading this blog post, Anthony Chabot is also a great spot to camp, with the $20 per-night fee covering an attractive campsite beneath the massive eucalyptus trees and bath houses complete with hot showers.

Final Thoughts

If I have ever ridden in an area that is less friendly to mountain bikes than the East Bay, I dont remember it. I’ve been to places where there just isn’t any green space or hills, or there just aren’t really any trails in those hills to ride. But neither of those is the case in the East Bay. And it’s not like the trails that are there would be too difficult for mountain bikes to ride–many of them looked immaculately groomed and butter-smooth. Finally, it’s not like these areas are even designated Wilderness or National Parks, two areas that have been historically closed to mountain bikes

The only reason that I can think of for this hostility is that the rangers, park officials, hiking groups, and equestrian groups just don’t want mountain bikers on their trails. They must be exceedingly selfish and unwilling to share access, and since many of those organizations have so much more clout and history than the mountain bike advocacy groups, they got their way. With the most recent scientific studies showing that a mountain biker has much less impact on a trail than a horse and barely more than a hiker, any supposed environmental concerns are little more than an excuse to mask the real reasons: selfishness and an inability to share.

With such a hostile environment and such tight restrictions, I can see why the locals are infamous for poaching trails. If I lived in the area (and couldn’t find a reason to leave), I could possibly see myself flipping the bird to the law and partaking of the forbidden fruit. Unfortunately, it seems like when mountain bikers break the law (and get caught at it or advertise what they are doing) it only adds fuel to the anti-mountain bike engine and makes legalizing singletrack even more unlikely.

It is this unfortunate combination of factors that has led me to wonder, “is the East Bay the most anti-mountain bike place in America?” While I can’t answer that question definitively, after spending the better part of a week riding in the East Bay, I cannot honestly recommend that anyone from out of town, even from as close as San Francisco just across the bay, come here to ride with the current trail offerings. Take your money, the revenue that your tourism could bring to the area, somewhere else that is worthwhile.

Thankfully, after the letdown that was the East Bay, we had much more positive experiences (and much better trails) in store in the near future! Stay tuned for the next installment in my road trip series.

Your Turn: What is most anti-mountain bike place you’ve ever been?

# Comments

  • jeff

    Having just learned that IMBA got its start in Berkeley puts the whole East Bay situation in a new light. I wonder if IMBA finally just realized things weren’t going to change so they decided to focus on other areas of the country where land managers and trail users were a bit more open minded?

    It’s hard to think of another place that’s as anti-MTB as you’ve painted the East Bay. Sorta makes the usual suspects (Marin County, Boulder) seem much more open! If you asked me 4-5 years ago I might’ve said parts of the East Coast but that’s really changing as new trails are being built specifically for mountain bikes.

  • dgaddis

    Are there any local bike advocacy groups there working towards getting trails built or opened to MTBers? Seems like it would be an easy sell to land managers – there are lots of riders, but no where to ride! So if a land manager were to open up their land and trails to MTBers, they’d draw in a lot of people.

  • Dave_Nott

    If you had gone to Mt. Diablo, you would have found miles of single track and views from the top worth the climb. Lime Ridge, in Walnut Creek, also has miles of single track. When in the east bay, you just have to go inland a little to find bike friendly parks and sweet single track.

  • mikemueller

    I’ve been riding forever in the East Bay and ride Mt. Diablo 3 times a week (it’s out my back door).

    The lack of approved single track trails is very frustrating.
    I believe it has to do with scarcity and a whole lot of C.Y.A.

    The fact is, there just isn’t space available in the area for designated mt. bike only trails. All trails are shared with horse and hikers, and when it comes to a mt. bike and horse, they don’t fit nicely on a narrow trail (no matter how polite the rider is).

    Years ago the East Bay Regional Park District made the decision to ban us from single tracks.

    Mt. Diablo is a State Park and doesn’t abide by EBRPD rules. Then again – on the approach to the State Park, I have to ride through EBRPD land (Castle Rock Park) where I have to stay on the fire trail (and of course yield politely to horses).

    Sorry you had the experience you did. You should have ventured out this way. You would have LOVED Mt. Diablo! πŸ™‚

  • chris.george

    Having grown up in the East Bay, honestly this doesn’t surprise me anymore. The equestrian groups (especially out of Lafayette, Orinda, and Walnut Creek).

    That being said, the further you go, and the more open space, the more you’ll find track-wise. People in the South Bay Area are WAY more open about trails, and there are even a lot of volunteer groups who help build and maintain them. Same goes all the way through Big Sur. Lots of great riding (and uh… crashing).

    Anyhow, I’m sorry you had that experience – it really makes us Californians look pretty bad.

  • schwim

    I got such a kick out of the “Radar Enforced” sign. You would have to be douchebag squared to be standing in the woods with a radar in hopes of ticketing a cyclist. I would pay the dude’s ticket just to get a chance to witness what would transpire.

    Sir, do you know why I pulled you over?
    No, is it because I’ve got a reflector out?
    No, you were speeding. Do you know how fast you were going?
    No, I’m sorry, I don’t.
    You were doing 9 miles an hour. Do you know what the speed limit is?
    5. 5 miles an hour. You were doing almost twice the legal limit for this stretch of gravel road.
    But that truck there is doing 15.
    Yes sir, but he’s not a cyclist.
    So he has a different speed limit than I do?
    That’s it sir, I’m going to have to ask you to put your hands behind your back!
    What in the hell do you mean?

    I need backup on Bluebird Loop! Now!

    Absolutely fantastic!

  • EZ-E

    Sounds as if someone should send complimentary articles such as the latest Dirt Rag #165, pg 22 to the town councils and chambers of commerce of the locales around these parks. You don’t have as many ‘destination hikers’ to parks of this size as you do with mountain bikers and equestrians. Most of the hikers you see in places of these size and location are locals, as evidenced by the comfort with off leash practices.

    The fact that they actually put “Speed Checked by Radar” is rediculous. Just goes to show that if rangers have enough time to stake out double track for speeders on bicycles, then that is a continued waste of tax dollars in one of the most budget-troubled states in the Union.

  • mtbgreg1

    Thanks to the locals for responding! Dangit… now I REALLY wish I had checked out Diablo!

    Also, just want to clarify that I’m definitely not ripping on the entire state… or even the entire Bay Area, as my next couple of blog posts will clearly show.

    Re: equestrians, this is the exact argument that the equestrians are making: there’s not enough room for both riders and horses on the trail. In response, I’d just like to mention that my home trail system is one of the most popular destinations for horseback trail riding in the state. It’s so popular, in fact, that when the local horse advocacy group holds combined trail work days with the bikers, they often get people that travel from out of state to help maintain the trails! And while I will admit that I don’t necessarily enjoy sharing the trails with horses, I’d much rather jump off my bike and yield the trail than not get to ride singletrack at all. Trails can be shared with multiple user groups… the groups just need to be willing to show a little common courtesy, mutual respect, and work together.

    Re: local advocacy groups: I’m not sure how active the are in this particular area. I’ve heard a little bit about some things they’re trying to get done, but it doesn’t seem like they’re getting anywhere fast in the East Bay. I’ve heard there are advocacy groups up in places like Marin that have been making some great strides in recent days, however.

    @Schwim, I wish this craziness was totally fanciful, but it isn’t. I actually had a friend that got ticketed this summer in Evergreen, Colorado by a ranger that was out on the trails (singletrack), pretending to be a normal guy sitting on the side of the trail on a fast downhill, that busted people for flying by him too fast and not slowing down.

    @Ez-e, waste of tax payer dollars indeed! And California IS really strapped for cash. When I was looking to travel to several state parks, people would recommend them but then say, “that park may or may not be open anymore, I don’t know.” You’d think if they allowed bikes on more trails, they could really generate more revenue (that’s another thing about all of these parks, even the local ones: you have to pay to get into almost every single one).

  • cxracergal

    This makes me sad – especially since there is so much positivity about bikes in the East Bay in general. We first started riding road bikes on the double-track trails in Redwood in 1990, and soon started mountain biking there as well. It was always a hostile environment for bikers. The equestrians were trying to limit access to bikes waaaay back then, and apparently they are still winning. Mt. Diablo is great, but hot as &*%$#@ in the summer. You also can’t get there easily by bike from Berkeley/Oakland. Alas!

    I live in West Virginia now – miles and miles of awesome singletrack and often no one else on the trail!

  • mtbgreg1

    @cxracergirl, the east bay is definitely still VERY road bike friendly with great paved roads up in the hills to ride and plentiful bike lanes and bike paths… Unfortunately, that doesn’t seem to have spilled over into the mountain bike realm

  • brianW

    multi-use trails come down to respecting others on the trail. Most people in any group of trail users will respect other forms of trail users. Sadly there are a few in every group that are ____________!

  • bonkedagain

    I spent the last couple days reviewing new trail locations with land agencies; Monday with state parks and Tuesday with the USFS. In both cases there is an undercurrent of bitterness toward bikers, and it boils down to two issues:

    1) Bikers not respecting other trail users and BLOWING by at top speed without slowing down or giving any warning. It only takes one instance of that to completely sour a park manager’s attitude toward bikers. We are our own worst enemy when it comes to that — EVERY biker has to respect other users or they risk getting all bikers banned from an area. The last thing an agency wants to hear about is how one user group is endangering everybody else.

    2) Renegade trails. I know this is a chicken/egg thing — if trails existed that satisfied all bikers then renegade trails wouldn’t be created, but land managers tend to be even more resistant to satisfying a user group when members of that group go out and do things without getting permission. Again, we are our own worst enemy. As painful, and sometimes fruitless, as it can be we have to invest the time and energy to engage and befriend the people who control the areas where we want to bike. Work as a partner, and be willing to contribute time and resources, and the managers will start regarding bikers as allies instead of enemies. There are people who will never be won over, but more often than not the effort will pay off with greater access and more cooperation from a land agency. See the IMBA, Howl at the Moon, video “Pedal Driven” for an example of that process in action.

    Regarding the bay area, it may be too late to make any easy in-roads with the land managers there. The attitudes have hardened over the years and it will take some incredible effort to chip away at the entrenched anti-bike power base. Too bad more effort wasn’t made years ago to keep things from getting biased so heavily against bikers.

  • sweetp

    Dear god! I am happy to say I have never experienced such nuttiness. Of course, we are talking about the Peoples Republic of California. This makes me even more grateful for the excellent dedicated trails we have here in Ohio.

  • maddslacker

    This article pretty much sums up where I’m from back in Maine.

    As for radar, they do that here in Colorado occasionally too.

  • Jared13

    Wow, that sounds like a horrible experience.

    Hopefully when the current regime retires, advocacy groups can start making some alliances that will open up the trails.

  • mtbgreg1

    @brianw, exactly.
    @bonkedagain, I totally agree. What’s your opinion on what many of the East Bay locals do (poach existing trails)?
    @sweetp, I hear ya. I was never thought I’d be so happy to return to Georgia! Of course, Colorado would have been a better place to go home to…
    @maddslacker, no wonder you moved!
    Re: Radar, I don’t know if you saw it in one of my comments earlier, but I had a friend get ticketed in Evergreen this summer on the MTB trail. Don’t know if a radar was involved, but it’s still ridiculous.
    @Jared13, I was glad to leave the area, I’ll just say that much!

  • Gose

    This seems pretty extreme, but where I’m from in PA, most bikers avoid trails that are built for hikers. Likewise, hikers usually avoid trails that are built for bikers. I haven’t seen a whole lot of signs posted explicitly limiting one group or another but, to be fair, most MTB trails are maintained 100% by local bike shops and bike advocacy groups. Most hiking trails are maintained 100% by local and regional hiking and backpacking clubs. There aren’t a whole lot of shared responsibilites or coperation between the two groups. I enjoy mountain biking as much as I enjoy hiking and backpacking and I have to agree with the spoken and unspoken policies in my area. Mountain biking destroys foot trails. People on foot destroy the mountain biking experience. And horses…don’t get me started on horses.

  • Fitch

    Very sad to hear it — anywhere there’s dissent towards bikers specifically, I just shake my head at what must’ve happened to get it to that point. Ignorant people? Renegade bikers? Jerks? It’s lose/ lose.

    We do partake in a counter-culture sport, one which isn’t understood/ supported by many people. Part of moving MTBing forward is acknowledging that “some places you just can’t ride.” Be that a result of law or land, it’s important to know when to cut your losses.

    There’s a place near Boston that’s gone through YEARS of battles for MTB access. And you know what? It’s not that good of a place to ride. I always think of all the other work that could be done…

  • mtbgreg1

    @Gose, interesting situation. I think part of it comes down to what land the trails are situated on, and when the trails are shared-use on National Forest land, things can get tricky. However, there are a lot of places I’ve been where I DO see a lot of what you’re saying: hikers stay to hiking trails and bikers stick to biking trails. And you know what? If there’s enough trails for each group to be happy, I say that’s a great situation! Now if only the East Bay had some trails for the BIKERS too!

    @Fitch, that’s an interesting situation (hard-fought battle over kinda crappy trails) that I’ve observed elsewhere too. (I assume you’re speaking of Middlesex Fells?) The only thing I’ve been able to come up with is that the trails MUST be super convenient to some people who live really close to there for there to be such a big controversy.

  • mtbgreg1

    @Fitch, PS: good points in your second paragraph about how we’re a counter culture sport. It’s going to take a long time to change that and, let’s face it, it may never change.

  • jacksonr

    Unfortunately, although Northern California is the home of Mt. Biking, it’s also the home of the most ardent ant-mountain biking rules anywhere. Mt. Tam and Marin county, the home of mt biking, has shut down nearly all of the single track trails. Coastal trail, Diaz ridge, wagon wheel and green gulch are the only legal trails that remain around Mt Tam. Thank god for Tamarancho and China Camp.

    It’s a shame and that’s why all the illegal trails come into existence.

  • JSatch

    “If I have ever ridden in an area that is less friendly to mountain bikes than the East Bay, I don’t remember it.”

    try san diego. it may be a close 2nd.

  • jbdbsb1

    Hello all trail users. I’m an avid hiker as well as Mountain biker.
    A fairly simple solution is to adapt an odd/even day trail use. Hikers of course can use any day, but bikes would be say odd days & horses even days. I believe this would give all users a mental heads up of what to expect on the trail for that particular day. Simple right?? What do you think?
    Aside from that, trail use issues are in a great state of fluctuation. While some places are seeing greater restrictions like Mt Tam (go figure), others are opening up. I believe more urban areas are closing down simply because they are seeing more overall use, and crowding creates some real conflicts on busy trails. I’m in the far east bay (Livermore), and I’m seeing more “multi-use” trails open up, and while not the sweet single track I love at least it’s not just fire roads. I believe most parks in general are more apt to create multi-use rather than single track. It seems we are forced to venture further out to find the riding we enjoy. And by no means are all hikers the angles they pretend to be, simply by default! I see plenty of hikers going “Off Trail”, cutting through sensitive areas. So let’s be honest here.
    Barring that, we must all, ALL observe basic courtesy. On single track trails I pull over and offer a simple hello, how are you today, or beautiful day isn’t it? Some hikers a very small percent will snub me and offer no response. That’s their small minded nature or they’ve had some bad encounters with bikers. Most, 95% will offer a hello right back and thanks for stopping. On multi-use or fire road I will ride by cautiously and offer the same greetings.
    As stated over and over, we can be our own worst enemy, creating conflict between users by not being what we should be, our own best advocates and working towards dispelling the notion that we are all a bunch of delinquents.
    People, it only takes seconds to slow down and say hi! There’s no law that says you have to respond.

  • jbdbsb1

    Oh yeah, I LOVE California and especially Northern Ca. and the East Bay!

  • mtbgreg1

    @Jsatch, no bueno.

    @jbdbsb1, There’s actually a trail here in Georgia has a rotating day system (odd/even), and it seems to work out pretty well.

  • Koolken38

    For: dgaddis

    There are a quite a few singletrack around if you you know where to look. Mt Diablo, Briones, Lime Ridge are a few. Anyway, I belong to a Mt. Bike group called BTCEB= Bicycle Trails Council of the East Bay. http://www.btceb.org

    Happy Riding,

  • srt

    This is probably more about power than horses and hikers. I’m guessing that a few of the local politicians got tired of seeing the noisy mountain bikers on the trails and decided to do something about it. They knew there weren’t enough mountain bikers around to make a difference to them politically so they went all out and put as many barriers up as possible.

    When I read this, I went out on my road bike to burn off a little frustration. Tomorrow I will go hit up Blanket’s and tear up a little single track and be thankful I live in Georgia.

    You are just lucky they didn’t catch you in a drive through at McDonalds trying to order a happy meal…


  • Dpbrad

    You have to add Catalina Island to the list of anti mountain biking destinations. The Catalina Island Conservancy only allows MTB’s on dirt roads. They recently built the Trans Catalina Trail but have reserved usage only to hikers. There are never enough people hiking the trail to EVER create a conflict like has occurred in other areas. With that said, they still treat MTB’ers as second class citizens.

  • bloodmist

    When you first posted the list of East Bay trails that you were planning on hitting up, I wondered to myself as to why you chose the worst places. There is a reason they weren’t well represented or even listed on singletracks.

    Most of what I wanted to say has been said already but as one of the (possible) trail poachers, I wanted to show my point of view.

    In Pleasanton(far east bay next to Livermore), there is a dirtjumping/pump track area that is completely legal. When talking to the builder/maintenance person I learned that it took over 10 years to get the area legitimized. Now, I am all for legitimacy, but waiting 10 years doesn’t seem reasonable to me. I don’t know if I’ll still be alive in 10 years let alone be able to ride. So, I’d much rather risk an occasional ticket than know that I am paying taxes for someone to deny me something I love(that doesn’t physically hurt anyone else). Do I act like a douchebag towards hikers? No. Do I give a bad image to bike advocacies? Yep, but at least I show that we, mountain bikers, exist to other people, not just politicians. Especially by kindly interacting with hikers on those off-limits trails since most hikers don’t bother reading the rules.

  • mtbgreg1

    Thanks for chiming in, bloodmist! I totally see what you’re getting at…. it’s a really tough situation to be in.

  • J-Flo

    As a Berkeley resident, I honestly don’t think the East Bay situation is as bad as your article makes it out to be. We manage to find fun places to ride here that can be accessed from my front door, which is difficult to say in most major urban areas. You missed out on Wildcat/Tilden. Yes, there is very little singletrack there, but lots of fun trails (including Havey Canyon and Nimitz singletrack in Wildcat). And if you are really a singletrack-only fanatic, then you underrated Joaquin Miller. Maybe you missed the Big Trees trail? It is easy to get lost there, even though it is a very small park.

    We are working through the EBRPD to expand rider trail access. The East Bay is nowhere near as un-bike-friendly as Marin.

  • sanjuro

    I’ve think you have taken the absolute wrong approach about the parks in the East Bay.

    You have forgotten to mention that almost all the parks you rode in are in cities with over 100,000 people. The entire Bay Area is approx 10 million people.

    Compared to parks in places like Portland, Pittsburgh, and NYC, the EB Parks are amazing.

    I actually live in San Francisco, which has no single track at all, and I often take BART over the Bay and ride several of the parks you have ridden. I feel very lucky that I do not have to step into a car to ride great places.

    It is really an unfair comparison to mention Packer Saddle or the Tahoe Rim Trail. Those are world class trails in remote parts of California, not a few miles from thousands of people.

  • bottom_brakkit

    As an East Bay local, I find it hard to imagine why anyone would travel to my humble ‘hood with an expectation of decent singletrack. The mindboggling idiocy of our regional park district’s attitude toward bikes is legendary.

    I ride Redwood/Joaquin regularly – you could call it my back yard ride, and you’re definitely selling it a bit short. Joaquin is a city park so the draconian rules don’t apply; but it’s tiny so you have to combine these parks into a mix of fire road and singletrack for a decent spin. (You can actually combine these two parks with Chabot, which you seem to have liked a bit more, for about 40 miles of fun and varied riding, probably about 40% singletrack. But a cycling destination we certainly are not, and we never will be.

    There are a lot of reasons for the crappy situation. Here are a few.

    1) The local IMBA arm has never accomplished anything worthwhile. (Actually thats not true, they do put on group rides and do some occasional trail work here and there… but they have never had a significant win on any new trail or any new access to restricted trails.)

    2) The park agency doesn’t give a shit. And it’s not as simple as them “hating bikes” so much as the fact that there’s absolutely nothing in it for them to change things. There is no financial incentive to court new user groups because the district is one of the few public agencies that has plenty of money. There is no need to court new trail users because the parks are already well-used, if not overcrowded. Fire roads are easy for rangers and maintenance folks who never want to get out of their trucks. And if the parks played nice with cyclists, that would just be picking a fight with the surprisingly virulent sierra club hiking ladies gestapo, and it’s just not a fight that’s worth it to them.

    3) There are layers and layers of federal and state environmental regulations that make building trails and/or expanding access in these parks an enormous pain in the ass; combined with a bureaucratic philosophy that delights in finding any excuse for why things CAN’T be done rather than ideas about how they COULD be done.

    Ok, lest I get seriously depressed I’m going to go strap on my lights and poach some sweet singletrack…. It’s like that old saying… If a mountain biker rides through the forest and there are no hikers awake to see him, was he really there…?

  • mtbgreg1

    Hey guys, thanks for chiming in with different perspectives–I love to hear the different takes on the situation!

    @sanjuro, I’ve never been to Portland, Pittsburgh, OR NYC, but I’ve done research on all these places and have known people that have ridden them all. And, based on my research and some of the data we have here on Singletracks, all of those cities are much better off than the East Bay! Even NYC has in-town singletrack and a full-blown bike park, where as, like you mentioned, in San Francisco you have to travel outside of the city to find riding, and when you get there it’s not that good.

    Also, after having ridden the James River Park System in Richmond, VA this spring, I feel like almost ANY metropolitan city with little singletrack…. well it’s just a cop-out. Instead of banning mountain bikes, the James River Park has opened their doors to mountain bikers and the local IMBA advocacy groups, and at present there is over 20 miles of absolutely top-notch singletrack in the HEART of a 4-million+ person metro area. These trails start literally about a mile from the skyscrapers… and if you take the time to drive out of the city a few minutes you just find more trails (and more expansive trails) in every single direction.

    It’s not like San Francisco and the East Bay don’t have the park space–I saw how long the Golden Gate park was! The parks just aren’t open to mountain bikes.

    @bottom_brakkit, that’s a great breakdown– thanks for sharing!! Yeah there were definitely a lot of people in the park(s), and I wasn’t aware that the Regional Park System was doing so well financially. I guess that’s good to hear, but I can see why there is no desire to change the status quo.

    Ride on my friends!

  • MTBChica

    The local IMBA club is BTCEB, and they put on monthly Gala Rides and Ride Like a Girl Rides, and occasional trail work – mostly maintaining existing trails.

    I am surprised anyone would travel to the east bay to ride mountain bikes, that actually boggles my mind. Sorry you weren’t able to find a local to show you the fun illegal stuff (mostly single track) because sadly that’s what we all do. Grab those lights!

    Joaquin Miller and Redwood Park is my after work ride. Weekends I head to either Tamarancho, China Camp, Auburn, Santa Cruz, Skeggs.

    I just got into road riding for cross training. Yep, I said road riding. Sad.

  • morganfletcher

    I read the article, and made it half-way through the comments. I live in the Oakland Hills, and ride all the time. I grew up in Marin, and I’ve ridden throughout the west; CO, UT, OR, NV, AZ, so I know this problem really well. I’ve been riding mtn bikes since 1982.

    It is pretty grim in the east bay, for a mountain biker. I am lucky to live 1/2 mile from Joaquin Miller Park, which as a city of Oakland park, has its own rules for trail access. Most of its singletrack is legal to ride, and most people who use the park know that, and get along. I agree with your comments about the Redwood loop (East Ridge – Canyon – West Ridge). It is boring, the people who use it treat riders with disdain, and the trails that are off-limits to cyclists are very nice. There are contiguous parks nearby that are completely off-limits to cyclists, like Huckleberry; which makes sense, as its trails are way too narrow and twisty to allow sharing, and Sibley, which is an EBRP, and Redwood, which is an EBRP. There is another city park downhill from Joaquin Miller Park called Dimond Canyon, and it does have a very nice little singletrack that is legal to ride. Chabot park is massive, and has more than enough room and empty space (and cows!) to allow for new trails to be built, which could be made available to mountain bikers. Similar, local parks that are old converted ranch land; Las Trampas, Briones. All feature steep, ancient dirt roads and a remarkable lack of singletrack, and low human use. (Chabot gets crowded down by the south end of the lake, where families come to bbq and picnic and do short walks.)

    The main problem in the east bay, and Marin; too many people. The bay area is home to a cadre of people who Fought the Good Fight for nature and trails in the middle part of the 20th century. The Sierra Club, Friends of the Earth, John Muir, David Brower, etc are all from here. The hippie years carried this tradition, and these champions of open space and nature and hiking are all now graying, voting, meeting-attending, and sometimes, embittered members of the trail-use community. The horse people. The horse people are another artifact of California life. Just as these parks are legacies of old ranches, so is horse culture here. From the patricians in Marin County to the people who built Oakland, horse culture is prevalent. My neighborhood in the Oakland Hills is full of homes with corrals and stables on their property, many still with horses living in them. Population density is high, here, and mountain bikers have to compete. When it gets this crowded, you have conflict. And I have to say, when mountain bikers are not given an outlet, they ride the few, legal trails and sometimes go too fast. There are younger riders who just want to go fast. The few legal trails in the east bay have downhills that are fall-lines, which doesn’t help things; Cinderella, Chaparral, Castle Park, West Ridge, Live Oak. Legal downhill trails which contour would help things, and help spread out the mountain bike users. As you move out of the densely-populated regions, access gets better.

    There are more enlightened areas, yes. The peninsula is better, but there’s still a mindset of “catch the mountain bikers speeding with a radar gun.” Santa Cruz is a famously messed-up situation, with some legal trails, many illegal trails that are openly ridden, and lots of struggle for access. Santa Rosa’s Annadel park is a treat to ride. There’s less density there, and less of the embittered hippie hiker vibe as well. Similarly, Fort Ord in Monterey is great to ride, and conflict is not such a big deal. Get to the Sierras, where the density is way down, and many communities really want the money that mountain bikers bring to the community, and mountain bike trail access is a civic necessity.

    I ride the legal trails with my friends. Many riders have resorted to becoming night owls. There are no trail conflicts at night. I will continue to attend trail access meetings, but it’s frustrating to hear the same story over and over. The rangers and land managers are not on our side, yet. But there is a generational change coming. Mountain bikers are getting older. We vote. We go to meetings. Equestrians are a much smaller group now, and can’t drive trail access as broadly as they once did. Older people hike and ride now. There will always be reckless riders, but those of us that have been through it all, and are middle-aged, can teach the younger ones, and show the out-of-towners how it’s done. There is an Oakland Composite high school mountain bike team. They are the future, and their very existence as riders might be an effective force for change. The growing popularity of cyclocross bikes has more young people riding from the city centers up into the hills and onto the trails. All of this is good. Population density will only increase. We have to get trail access right, for all users.

  • mtbgreg1

    @morganfletcher, thanks for chiming in with that thorough analysis!

  • Berkeley_Mike

    I would like to correct a mistaken notion.

    The BTCEB has been a freestanding counsel for its entire existence. The Bicycle Trails Council of the East Bay is not the local arm of IMBA. It is one of the 5 trails councils which founded IMBA as an international organization 25 years ago. It was also one of the founding councils of NorCamba, a statewide effort for advocacy, which morphed into IMBA California.

    The following is analytical, historical, and philosophical.

    To say that the BTCEB has not produced anything is to fail to appreciate what it takes to create real change. Further, it fails to appreciate the fact of the evolution and development of the mountain biking community to what is currently a major user group which commands substantial attention.

    To simply stand at Board meetings and demand access based upon some presumed right for a place in the parks is futile. For the last 25 years this group has worked to build relationships with the staff and administration and develop an awareness for mountain biking in our parks. Critical gains have placed us in Park documents as a user group against much resistance. Despite this, extant ruling documents were worded in such a fashion so as to allow interpretations which generally went against us.

    Most recently the Pleasanton Ridge LUP was passed through much BTCEB effort and support. This document contains specific language including us for access in this developing park. Currently the East Bay Regional Park District Master Plan is up for review. Contained in this revised plan is specific language which strengthens and supports our presence in the parks, notably the subject of mtbgreg1’s insightful article. It was only through our relationships built over years with the staff and the administration that either of these features has occurred. The review of the Master Plan, the major ruling document for the EBRPD, will occur through mid-October and we are working hard to create participation in the community to support its passing and enrich our presence.

    It was decided several years ago that having a group set up purely for advocacy didn’t work. The precious few hard-working people who ended up doing all the work over so many years simply burned themselves out and ran screaming into the night never to be seen again. We needed to rebuild with our accumulated experience, insight, modern communication and PR methods. It was decided to go with our greatest strength which is riding our bikes; why do anything if it is no fun? As such our riding programs have been developed which brings some 150 riders to our events every month for a really great time. The presence of these new athletes creates greater opportunities for bonding with our issues and developing new volunteers. As a consequence we now have 2 women on the Board and 2 new men from these programs. As a consequence riders look to us for leadership.

    Administrative challenges aside, the largest problem is in engaging the mountain biking community, admittedly varied, to come forward in support of advocacy. Riders must step forward and represent but there are only so many hours in the day. We are currently creating advocacy programs which fit better in people’s lives allowing them to participate and support our work in much greater numbers. We are building, forming, and supporting communities of riders. We are crafting a mountain biking identity which cannot be denied; our dignity is meets the dignity of all.

    Change is coming. Grab an oar.

    Michael Mejia
    The Bicycle Trails Council of the East Bay

    • mtbgreg1

      “It was decided to go with our greatest strength which is riding our bikes; why do anything if it is no fun? As such our riding programs have been developed which brings some 150 riders to our events every month for a really great time. The presence of these new athletes creates greater opportunities for bonding with our issues and developing new volunteers. As a consequence we now have 2 women on the Board and 2 new men from these programs. As a consequence riders look to us for leadership.” <--This is awesome! Thanks your factually-grounded analysis, Michael, and for shedding light on some of the areas that I didn't address! And thank you for all you're doing for mountain biking in the East Bay!

    • bottom_brakkit

      Actually, to say that the BTECB has not produced anything is NOT to fail to appreciate what it takes to create real change. Both are true: It takes a lot to create real change. And, BTECB has failed to produce anything. (At least in terms of access to good riding, that is–not sure what “dignity” or whatever has to do with it, but more power to you if that’s what you’re into.)

  • ebmtbiker

    I wish the trails were as nice as Greg says. But the “Legal singletrack at Anthony Chabot” that is pictured (and looks real nice) is Red Tail and is routinely bulldozed, turning it into a wide, loose and dusty disaster. Having spend many years riding and advocating for wider access in the East Bay, I can say that this post is spot on. The East Bay Regional Park District (EBRPD) has treated cyclists like shit for years. The hellish ride Greg describes in Redwood Regional Park is the official “bike loop”. (1 of only 2 in the entire east bay hills.) Again the District bulldozes the road annually. It just blows your mind, the District calls bulldozed dirt roads “trails” and hasn’t build any meaningful trails for cyclist within over 112,000 acres. It’s great that EBRPD has been able to amass so much open space. But they do NOTHING for the mt bike community. All the “trails” (they are not) are old ranch roads or fire breaks (that often follow the ridge lines) that are on the land when the District acquires it (often many, many years ago). The District gives a great line about protected species and how their hands are tied, but then drive bulldozers up and down the hills while decrying the evil cyclists riding a cow trail.

    IMBA has abandoned the entire area as working with the elected board of directors is a waste of time. This is a land manger who goes to the local stables to get equestrian input when they conduct polls and then let a tiny group of ninnies determine bike access. Unfortunately you cannot legally have much fun in the east bay. (Joaquin Miller and Rockville are exceptions as they’re not managed by EBRPD.) The local bike advocacy group, BTCEB, is tons of fun, but like IMBA gave up trying to work with the District. Easier to talk with a grumpy hiker once a year then wasting 10 years trying to get 1000 feet of double track open to cyclists.

    • mtbgreg1

      Glad to hear that I was on target, but it does really make me sad to hear about all the difficulties that you east bay locals face on a daily basis.

      And yeah, the double standard is absurd! Bull dozers and trucks for maintenance… really??

  • onefastfattie

    I have learned quite a bit after reading some of these comments about our situation (I live in the deep east bay area) and I would like to thank all of the contributors for sharing their knowledge of the situation.
    As a rider and a father living in the east bay, one of the greatest challenges for me is to find a good place to take my kids for a real MTB ride. I have taken them to Redwood and we found a wide dirt trail descending a short ways down only to find out that it was a dead end and we had to turn around. My daughter(7) hated it. My son(8) has hung with me on a few trips around the black diamond mines but the trails are so pock marked from the cattle he was having a hard time just holding on. Its depressing, the black diamond mines have TONS of area available space but its all boring, strenuous and dusty fire roads. How am I going to intoduce my kids to the FUN part of MTBing if theres none to be had here?
    This is the same problem my dad had when I was young. It was a lot more fun for me to switch to BMX riding on all of the local (illegal) dirt jumps or urban riding(stairs, loading docks etc.).
    From what I have read, it sounds like I need to stop complaining and get involved, at least on some level.
    Here’s to progress, lets go make some.

  • girlmtb

    Yeah, maybe I shouldn’t say this: but all those single tracks that we aren’t allowed to ride- there are a lot of ‘night crews’ that come out around 9pm and ride them- no one is around and the rangers don’t care either at that point πŸ™‚

  • canofrockstar

    Welcome to the East Bay…. How did I ever miss this article? Im sorry that you experienced the world class lack of hospitality in the East Bay. I’ve lived in the bay since I was 8 and let me tell you, since I could remember its always been like that. I can assure you that its not mountain bikes or the people that ride them, it’s the east bay culture. The “I dont know where MTB goes on the safety spectrum, so we’re going to assume its very dangerous and in order to protect non-mtbers…. No MTB!! …….Oh look horsey!!!” Culture even though, as observed by OP, nobody uses the narrow trails.

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