Scott MacDonald // Mini Epic

If there's one word to describe my cycling life, it's inconsistent.

I look at some of my more consistent friends' Strava profiles and see an unbroken series of half-inch bars across their activity graph, never missing a week in which they put in a respectable mileage total.

My bar graph, on the other hand, shoots through the roof during the week I did that 5-day, 430-mile bikepacking trip, then flatlines later in the year during the month and a half I was so busy with work that I barely got a glimpse of my bikes.

So it goes. I'm a freelance photographer and my work takes me around the country on multi-day jobs where I sometimes work 10-12 hours straight and you know, it's hard to fit a bike ride into those circumstances.

This inconsistency doesn't dampen my ambition to do big rides. When the Bay Area Epic was announced this year, I didn't hesitate to sign up for the Grand Epic. 134 miles! 15k elevation! Surely I'll have plenty of time for training during the first few months of the year, right?

Seemingly as soon as my registration was in, Murphy arrived to apply his Law to the situation. My vision of consistent riding leading into April was stymied by months of unprecedented rain, a demanding work schedule and getting covid.

So I set out to ride the Mini Epic, a manageable but still challenging route that visits some extremely scenic landscapes. At 70 miles, it would still be the longest ride I've done in a year.

The course visited some of my Bay Area favorites: The Tunitas Creek climb is otherwordly beautiful, and the Kings Mountain descent at the other side of it is super fun.

Some of the course was new to me: I had never gone up Sneath Lane and down to Pacifica, and while I've previously ridden that part of the coast, I hadn't done it on the Coastal Trail. Both were amazing.

I had read the early trip reports and was on alert for Baquiano Trail, which some riders called out for being a sketchy, rutted hazard, but I quite enjoyed it. I think that part of the fun of a gravel bike is playing around at the edge of what might be considered a good idea for the equipment you're working with, seeing how a technical section can be navigated on what is essentially a road bike with fat tires. Keeps things interesting.

One of my goals for my Mini Epic ride was not to rush things. I gave myself permission to stop to take pictures, to gaze at the ocean, to fart around. In Pacifica I went to a coffee shop for 'lunch' and ordered a giant cookie and a coffee with a shot of espresso (it's called a Foglifter but sadly it did not change the weather). After lunch I took a side trip to Mori Point, which was rumored to have the Bay Area's most impressive superbloom. Clearly others had heard the rumor, because I enjoyed the oceanside bluff's carpet of yellow flowers with at least a hundred people.

Despite my commitment to farting around, I decided I would not stop during either of the KOM sections, instead putting in a sustainable effort, never risking blowing up. Old San Pedro was fine, though I wasn't particularly fast, but Tunitas showed the impact of my inconsistency: By the top I was pretty wrecked, and I definitely wasn't fast. I sat down on the pavement and ate some mixed nuts before descending Kings Mountain.

But the real treat of this ride was the privilege of being out on a bike in a place as beautiful as coastal California. It's days like this that I think to myself how grateful I am to live here: redwood forests, coastal bluffs, ridgetops and canyons, all in a day's ride close to home. I look forward to riding more Bay Area Epic routes, and I know the Bay Area can keep serving them up.