Cycling San Diego

Day one (~70 km)

After picking up our road bikes in downtown San Diego, an old friend Ian Varley and I started our journey out of the city and northward bound for La Jolla beach. This initial stage proved trickier than expected, with the traffic light system in the city apparently operated by a 4 year old child pushing buttons at random. After our intermittent warm up, we were finally out of the city, cycling along beautifully flat open roads with ample width cycle lanes and patient cars who often gave us right of way. Varley was tasked with the planning of the day, and his screenshot of the route with an approximate scale of 1:10 000 000 proved (unsurprisingly) tricky to determine if we were maintaining course. Nonetheless, we soon found our way and following a quick coffee break along Pacific Beach, we were in La Jolla and tasked with our first proper ascent of the day. In a scene reminiscent of the 2001 Tour de France, I gave Varley one last longing look over my shoulder before pulling away with the ease of a doped up athlete. We descended soon after and stopped for lunch before heading back to repeat the same climb. Based on our non-randomised and poorly controlled cross-over trial with N=2, I can safely conclude that Mexican food does not improve cycling performance.


Burritos: tasty but not ergogenic aids

The morning had been overcast, but the afternoon brought us sunshine to light our path home so the journey back included a stop off at Pacific Beach to dazzle (literally) the locals with our incredibly tanned torsos. A swift Mr Bean-like change into my swimming trunks and I headed for a dip. My excited mad sprint into the water was swiftly reduced to a limp as the water temperature was equivalent to that of an ice bath; the cycling wasn’t over yet so we swiftly got out and back on the road. The return leg of the journey was a race against time as we had to be back by 5 pm to return the bicycles to the shop. Armed with our memories, we tried retracing our route to downtown to no avail. Luckily we weren’t too stubborn to ask for directions from a kind lady on a bike of her own which allowed us to find our bearings and we soon trickled into town to get some rest for the following day’s shenanigans.


Pit stop at Pacific Beach

Day two (~80 km)

The responsibility of the day’s route was left in my hands. A risky choice considering the last time I was set the task of playing tour guide on a long cycling adventure, a mate got so fed up with my lack of direction that he ended up buying a map from circa 1975 which contained little of the fully built roads and thus wasn't too helpful. Nonetheless, I had decided that the bay front loop to Coronado Island provided us with an excellent opportunity to get some good distance at top speeds while experiencing the San Diego skyline from another perspective. The full route appeared to be along designated and clearly indicated cycle paths, thus my preparation was minimal. This soon proved costly as we quickly found ourselves lost and cycling along the A5 freeway. Approaching a bridge, the only “sensible” option was to head back against oncoming traffic along the hard shoulder and off the freeway to safer tracks. This escapade wasn’t without its consequences as we were met with a snake-like hiss escaping from Varley’s tyre; the first puncture of the weekend. A quick fix using the tools and spare inner tube on my bicycle, we set off again and soon found our bearings. Pushing hard along the luxrious cycle pathway, we soon found ourselves cycling into Coronado centre.

The yachts, golf courses and mansion-like homes suggested that this wasn’t where the riff-raff of San Diego were located. We did our best to blend in and cycled to the pier to soak up the sun, take in the view and tried clawing back the energy deficit elicited by our journey with a typically American supersized portion of meat, chips and fried pickles. Following lunch, Varley decided that his time on the bicycle was up and trotted over to the ferry to make the more direct journey across the bay. Undeterred by the lack of company, I nabbed Varley’s spare inner tube and set off on the return leg. Within minutes I was made to thank my memory as a piece of glass managed to find its way into my tyre. The cycling culture of San Diego was apparent as several individuals offered their help. A quick repair and I was back on my way, reeling in cyclist after cyclist on the horizon as I upped the pace from the morning’s cycle having dropped my baggage (sorry Varley). The rest of the journey was uneventful and I polished off the remaining 35 km of my journey in about an hour flat. Overall, my experience of cycling around San Diego was fantastic. Although I would’ve enjoyed a few more climbs, the lesser cyclist would love the flatness of the area while the cycling infrastructure is one to be envied with kilometres of safe and high quality designated paths. Next week I will detail my cycling life in São Paulo, a stark contrast to San Diego.


The happy couple just before Varley broke us up and took the ferry