Mixed-Terrain Madness: Old Cazadero 300K

There’s not much more to say about San Francisco Randonneurs’ Old Cazadero 300K after reading Max’s description here. It’s a carefully curated route, with Max adding as much climbing – often going out of his way to do so – as seemingly possible to make for an epic, interesting, and unusual 188 miles. I think the route should win some kind of medal, as I found it to be the best randonnée I’ve participated in.

Riding up Wilson Hill Rd. Photo by Eric.

What do you want in an event: Excellent camaraderie among riders? Exploring the woods? A surprising, expansive view of the Sonoma Coast as you begin a steep descent after a 10-mile climb? Climbing 5 miles through redwood groves on a dirt road? Close-up views of vultures feeding on roadkill?

Near the summit of Willow Creek Rd. An absolute highlight of the ride.

15% dirt and 15,200+ ft. of climbing. This was about the best of what you can do on a bicycle during one day, while carving out serious adventure on a Saturday.

Besides the three big climbs, Max put us on every hill in Sonoma County. It certainly wore me out. I experienced my typical ebb and flow on such a ride: enthusiastic riding the first 3rd, exhaustion and some hopelessness during the second, and then re-invigorated spirited riding on the last 3rd. The climbing proved rhythmic and often facilitated the most enjoyable parts of the ride. The long ones – Old Cazadero, Fort Ross Rd., and Willow Creek – were bliss as I settled into a turning rhythm in my seemingly sensible 34-30 low gear. The relatively shorter climbs were more slaps-in-the-face: Burnside Rd. into Occidental, Valley Ford/Franklin School Rd, and Highway 1 up from Stinson Beach and Muir Beach. Jackie has a great turn-by-turn emotive write-up at the Box Dog journal.

Charging up Old Cazadero Rd.

The descents proved more trouble for me. On the dirt descent of Old Cazadero, I lost my front wheel in some clumpy kitty litter and went down pretty good. Just as I got going, I thought “maybe I should put on my gloves and let some air out of the Pari-Motos (pumped to 55psi), and then I proceeded to hit the mess and fall on my right arm and chest. Pretty cut up, but I felt OK. Only 100 more miles to ride on cut-up hands! I’m telling, you, true adventure! At the bottom is Austin Creek, which we crossed and got a reprieve while putting our shoes and socks back on. I was able to wash up in the creek. It was a kick in the teeth, though. I’d slow down on descents from here on out.

Once I climbed out of Valley Ford, I started feeling good on Hwy. 1. I stopped in for clam chowder in Bodega and picked up the pace past Marshall and into Pt. Reyes Station, where nothing tasted good. I spoke with the other riders about the last 40 miles ahead of us, which would be in the dark and on the 1. I charged a head, feeling great along out of Tomales Bay and toward Bolinas Lagoon. It was pretty fun riding on the flat stretch along the lagoon toward Stinson Beach. I wasn’t fond of riding at night with some of the traffic coming in and out of Stinson on a summer Saturday, but the cars became more infrequent as I climbed out of Stinson.

I was feeling strong, and really wanted to finish when I flatted in the dark. It was a very small piece of glass that made its way through the fairly-fragile Pari-Moto on the front wheel. It was a real bummer – I had trouble pumping the tire back up for a number of reasons, including my sore rib from the earlier fall. Kirk and Ernesto arrived just as I finished, and we rode most of the remainder together.

It was great to get in, despite a small unintended detour at the end with Kyle, who was on his first randonnée. I got to ride with some great people – I think there were about 25 of us, so there were clumps of people who generally got to see each other at the controls. I would have liked to ride more with Ian and talk about his new Pelican. Next time.

And there will certainly be a next time – I can’t wait to so this again. Yes, I admit thinking in alliterative terms about our route creator: “masochist Max,” “mad Max,” and “Mean-old-man Max.” But he’s a very genial person, and I’m happy he had us suffer. Endorphins cure all, including memory of pain. Next year, get in your car/plane/bus/bike and get yourself to this ride. The best I’ve ever done in a day.



  1. Errin

    Are you on their email list? Maybe I should join too, as I don’t follow their calendar to closely. I seem to learn about the cool brevets here, AFTER you’ve ridden them!

    • Esteban

      I’m on the list – you can also check out the discussions via Google Groups, too. Its a pretty active list, so unless you want a lot of email, groups might be the best bet. Great people, though! Usually *totally* worth the drive once or twice a season!

  2. Pingback: R10: Old Cazadero 300K | mmmmbike!

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