Saturday, May 23, 2009

Bayshore Bikeway

I frequently encounter the perception that old bikes are only good for short runs to the grocery store or the park, and that they're too fragile or slow or clunky to take on longer rides. This couldn't be farther from the truth, and especially so with old 3-speeds, many of which were built to be touring bikes, not just city bikes or leisure bikes.  I proved this point today (without really specifically intending to) by taking my 1971 Columbia Sports III on its longest ride yet, about 30 miles round trip.

My route was primarily the Bayshore Bikeway, which you can find detailed with a map here. I packed a picnic, the camera, and lots of water (I sweat a lot) into the rear baskets and set out. There is something so normal, and yet so special about making a trip like this by bicycle. In the car, it would be a chore, but on the bike, it's an adventure.

First, I had to get downtown, which is where the route begins. The best way from my 'hood is to take Park Boulevard down to Broadway. It's mostly downhill and fairly wide. I turned west on Broadway and followed it all the way to the Broadway pier, where the trail starts beside Harbor Drive in a lovely bayfront park. Except for a few taxis whose turn signals apparently didn't work (grrrr), it was an uneventful ride through downtown.

Most of the route down Harbor Drive has a bike lane, if you could call it that. I might as well have been off-road. Just terrible. The photo below shows one of the better stretches.
Anyway, you take Harbor all the way down to National City, then you get on the Sweetwater Bike Path, a separated path with some pretty cool bike infrastructure running under I-5. I wish I'd taken a photo. From there, it's pretty much all seperated bike path down through Chula Vista and Imperial Beach and around the southern tip of San Diego Bay. The highlight for me was the desalination plant with evaporating ponds and giant mounds of salt.

Then, up the Silver Strand on another seperated bike path all the way into the city of Coronado. The path along here is separated from the beach by the roadway and a fence, but in the Silver Strand State Park, there are several tunnels that will take you under to the ocean/beach side.

In the city of Coronado itself, wonder of wonders, is a bike boulevard, with a fully separated, landscaped, and perfectly maintained two-way bikeway. There were so many cyclists on it that I couldn't stop to take a photo (and my panda skills are zilch). I was almost able to imagine what it must be like in Amsterdam or Copenhagen. I wish I had reason to ride this way more often, because it's really wonderful.

Finally, I caught the ferry from Coronado back to the Broadway pier, fought my way east on Broadway (it wasn't that bad, really, but traffic was pretty heavy), then back up Park, which was way less fun going up than down. Total cost for the five and half-hour outing: $3.25 for the ferry, and no worries about filling up the tank, finding parking, finding the right exit off the freeway, etc.

I got passed by a lot of spandex-clad speedsters on very expensive bikes, but it was very clear that they were on a different sort of outing than I was. They were on a "bike ride," while I was just using my bike to get to a new place I hadn't been yet. I saw a few like me, but not many, so while it was cool to see such amazing bicycle infrastructure being well-used, it was a little disheartening to see that the bikeway as transportation idea still has a long way to go around here. Probably it had a lot to do with when I went, and I bet I'd see some commuters if I was there on a weekday morning. All in all, a very excellent day. 


  1. Those old bikes are are the Q-ships of the cycling world. They build up strength (and character), last forever with minimal maintenance and if ridden in the correct frame of mind will carry you to the ends of the earth and back.

    Longest single day ride on my Raleigh Superbe has been 60 miles (took one too many shortcuts) and did a 100 mile ride over 4 days. Rode in comfort the entire way.


  2. "dirt...terrible..."??? Hey now! :p

    I really enjoyed this one,Thom,looking at the pics and reading about the experience was almost like going myself! Sounds like you had a great day,my friend :)


  3. @ SS:Mtn Biker: For a bike lane, that is... :)

  4. Thanks for the tour! Great photos.

  5. LOL! I know,I was just being funny :)

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  7. Inspired & riding this today.
    Leaving in 10 Min.

    -Mark W.

  8. @ MMAARRKK (whose name is fun to type): Let us know how the ride goes! Glad to have provided some inspiration.

  9. it was fun. We rode pretty hard most of the time and enjoyed the whole thing (except when wife had a deadbeat roady trying to draft off of her on the strand). We took a break as suggested at Pep park and again at Coronado Brewing Company. A perfect place to replenish those needed nutrients with an Orange Ave.

    I think this might become our sunday ride to build up wife's endurance for the track. I wonder how civilized it would be to ride the opposite direction.

  10. Perfectly civilized from what I could tell--lots going the other way. I didn't have to worry about anyone trying to draft me--one of the benefits of riding old.

    Durr. Hi Mark, I finally realized who you are. Internet vs. real life--sometimes it takes me a minute to put the pieces together.

  11. what a wonderful post!! Ive been wanting to plan a visit to SD soon. This looks very nice, the only time I hopo on a bike was to go from the IB side up silvertrand to coronado and across the bay. I thought it was soooo far, (I was a pre-teen) but I kept teasing everyone because the bike I used was red, and told everyone that it was way faster than going on the snail known as trolley LOL!!

  12. I've done 40 mile rides on a 40- and a 50-pound bike. No problems.

  13. We need to do this in one of the Sunday Downtownies Ride, seriously :D

  14. Great ride. From where you started, you can cut off some of the downtown bus/taxi mess by cutting through South Park on 30th and then jumping through Logan on 32nd all the way to Harbor.

  15. we rode this again last sunday and ran into a friend of ours at 'nado brewery. He informed us that if you make it to the strand before noon you'll have an easier ride with less of a headwind.

    I believe we'll be riding it again on sunday morning.

  16. Cool, have fun. That headwind was a bear. I'll be in Chicago, but I'd rather be riding the strand.