Marin Mountain Biking: Alive and Thriving

Despite persistent access issues, the county claiming Ground Zero to the origins of our sport remains a perpetual big bang of mountain bike culture. Elite racer but self-described "lifestyle athlete" ("they have a longer shelf life") Mark Weir and ("since '78") local rider Fred Falk talk about their home above the Headlands.

Why live in Marin?

Fred Falk: It's magical. We have tremendous variation of ecology and climate within a few square miles.

Mark Weir: Marin offers everything I look for in outdoor activity without being in the middle of nowhere, so my wife won't go crazy. And most of the people are nice as long as you're not in downtown Fairfax. Plus, I can ride dirt from my house to the ocean 40 miles away.

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Why visit Marin?

MW: The views and the ability to get out quickly—you can ride to dirt from any direction.

FF: You can ride to the top of Mount Tam and see the towers of the Golden Gate sticking out over a blanket of fog or, on a clear day, catch views of the Sierras—then ride to the ocean through several different climates on your way down.

What about access?

FF: One of the cool things about the area is how all of the land connects; we have Open Space, Water Shed, private land, State Parks, the Golden Gate National Recreation Area and Point Reyes National Seashore. If you put all the land designations together, it would look like a patchwork quilt.

So where should I ride?

FF: Camp Tamarancho is the place to go for singletrack.

MW: It's a Boy Scout Camp with twisty, cool singletrack halfway up Mount Tam. Of course we can't tell you all the sweetest trails around because a lot of them are illegal.

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So the future of riding rests on private property?

FF: Camp Tamarancho is a cool situation, but that situation can't exist everywhere. There's only so much land and so much private space.

MW: The State Park system is a bright spot as far as legal singletrack goes.

FF: China Camp State Park (San Rafael; 415/456-0766) is full of well-built, flowy, rolling trails that offer good visibility through grassy, wooded terrain.

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What about community?

FF: There is a major crossover here between the mountain biking scene, road racers, cyclocross riders, bicycle advocacy and the entire population. I don't know if you consider that community, but that really keeps the culture alive.

How does that culture stay fresh?

FF: When I started riding klunkers there was no support for teenagers. Today, you have the NorCal High School League, which has more participation than the football program. That's a really good indicator of the future.

MW: Open Space is talking about creating a pump track, which would be great. Mountain bikers want to do their inherently solitary activity, but pump tracks build community. They bring riders together. Kids think it's cool and it's their enthusiasm that will ultimately save the land.

For on-the-ground info, visit the crew at Sunshine Bicycles (737 Center Blvd., Fairfax; 415-459-3334). The shop's been a fixture in Fairfax since the early '70s. On the Mill Valley side, Tam Bikes (357 Miller Ave., Mill Valley; 415-389-1900) is a newer shop with a focus on integrating education, outreach components into its business.

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