Photos: Tyler and Angga (@anggapratama, @vibesxangga)
It all got kicked off on January 18th with a semi-organized ride called the Coast Ride that is a 375 mile ride from San Francisco to Santa Barbara in only 3 days. If you did the quick math, that’s over 120 miles each day. I had ridden it two years ago with my friend Brendan on our six-day ride to San Diego. I had a blast on that trip and wanted to start my tour off on the right foot, so I invited all of my friends to join. Angga, Tim, Jams, Koko, Kyle, and Brendan all committed to the three-day challenge of the Coast Ride. With a total elevation gain of around 20,000 feet, it would be an accomplishment and a miracle for everyone to get through it in one piece. At one point in time, Jams and Koko were committed to riding my tandem for the entire journey, but after Jams and I did a couple of test runs over the hills of Marin, we decided it would be too much of a risk to take it down the coast. We realized that there was pretty much no safety net with the tandem since it would be too big to fit in most vehicles if we got into trouble. Two people absolutely needed to make it to Santa Barbara on it, and there were no guarantees on who would finish the ride.
The seven of us were duly named Team FOFF had self-branded ourselves with Rasta bracelets and MASH SF socks. We held a team meeting on Friday night once everyone flew in that consisted of Pinot bombs and last minute freak-outs of the next few days. The next morning, we converged on Sports Basement in the Presidio of SF and met the other riders. We started rolling around 7:30am and after we passed the Golden Gate Bridge, we turned south and never looked back. Unfortunately for Jams, his ride started and ended with a bang as his derailleur broke at about mile 3. It turns out his chain wasn’t the correct length for his new drivetrain he had installed for the ride and shredded his rear derailleur. I looped back and found him in this state:
Once we determined that Jam’s bike wasn’t going to roll again that day, the rest of us continued on, but not without other problems. Tim had a few issues with his cleats and pedals, and Angga had to adjust his front brake a few times to get it to work properly. We finally got all of our jitters and mechanical issues sorted out around mile 20, and by that point, we were DFL on a ride of about 400 people. We stuck together though and the first day was just a shakeout of what was to come. It was a long day, but we rolled into Monterey with our lights on and in one piece. We had high spirits at dinner, but I could tell a few people were worried about the next two days.
The next day, we decided to leave earlier than the main group since we knew we were a bit slower than everyone else and wanted to take more time to enjoy the views. We were on the road by 6:30am and headed straight down the Pacific Coast Highway. After a few city miles, we popped out onto the coast and were greeted by this amazingly colorful sunrise.
As the other riders slowly passed us throughout the day, we traveled over the Bixby Bridge and through Big Sur. The climbs were endless, but the descents and views were rewarding enough to keep us going. We managed to stick together almost the entire day and rolled into Morro Bay again after the sun had set. It was a hard day for everyone, but Tim was starting to show signs of wear and tear. He got a flat around mile 70, near one of the hardest climbs of the ride. He was able to get back on the road, but we had to replace his tire at lunch since his tire now had a huge puncture in it. He pushed through the last 50 miles of that day repeatedly sighing ‘ow’.
I was nervous about day 3, since we were all pretty beat up from two back to back century plus rides. For Tim, Koko, and Kyle, Day 1 was the first time they had ever ridden 100+ miles, and they had just one more day to go. The third day would be the true test of will and strength.
We left before the sun and the rest of the pack again, only to slowly be passed throughout the day. Once the sun was out we stopped by San Luis Obispo for a quick espresso energy boost. The elevation profile of the third day was somewhat tame, except for the 1,000 foot climb around mile 70 that spanned over ten miles.
By the time we reached the hill, Team FOFF had split into two groups and I stayed back with Tim and Brendan to push through the hill together. We had to stop a few times, but we eventually summited the beast and cruised back down to the coast of where we took in a sunset view and saw some dolphins swimming. We thought the dolphins were a good sign, but that turned out to not be the case. Tim got his first flat on the shoulder of Highway 101 just as the sun was setting. We couldn’t find where the leak was, so we pumped up the tire and tried to go for another few miles. It ended up being a real flat, so we pulled over and replaced the tube. Once it was completely dark, it started to rain and a lot of glass and debris was being washed onto the roads. Tim ended up getting a few more flats on Highway 101. We tried to patch a few of the them instead of replacing the whole tube, but Tim’s luck was not getting any better.
Tim and I were just about to exit off Highway 101 onto the safety of city streets for the last 8 miles as Tim got yet another flat. Brendan had ridden ahead at this point and Tim and I pushed our bikes down the exit ramp off the highway since it was completely dark at this point and we needed to get off the highway. We were down to just patches at this point, so we found the leak and glued two patches on it to give it a fighting chance. As we were inflating it to full pressure, the tube exploded in our faces. We were a little shook up, but were both okay. We had accidentally left a little bit of the tube under the bead of the tire which created a bubble in the tube and the high pressure blew it to smithereens right in front of us. I looked at Tim and said it was time to call it in since we were out of tubes. And at that moment, in all of the ten years that I have known Tim, I had never seen him so desperate when he asked how he could finish the ride. He didn’t come this far to not ride the last 8 miles to the finish line. We both took some deep breaths and I told him we could try putting one of my tubes in his bike, even though it was twice the width it needed to be (40mm tube in a 25mm tire). It took a bit of convincing, but the tube eventually went into the tire. We inflated it to about three quarters of the recommended pressure so it wouldn’t stretch the tire.
We made the last turn on State Street in Santa Barbara and reconnected with Brendan. As we were explaining what had happened, Tim got another flat. Luckily, Brendan still had two tubes, but we knew this was absolutely the last of our resources. So we were down to one tube with just about 6 miles to go. And of course, Tim got one more flat. We were quite frustrated at this point, but we stayed calm and put in the final tube. We found a little piece of glass in Tim’s tire, which was probably responsible for one or two of the last flats. Finally, we crossed the finish line and met Koko, Kyle, and Angga at the hotel around 8:30pm. We were absolutely exhausted. I dropped the giant pile of the defunct tubes on the bed and everyone looked at me in disbelief. Somehow, Team FOFF had finished the Coast Ride.
Tim’s finish that night was a true testament of will power. He pushed through the pain and frustration and accomplished something amazing. He didn’t have very much training for the ride due to a foot injury through December, but he proved just how stubborn he truly was. In all seriousness, Tim taught me some valuable lessons in those last 50 miles. One of those is that you should never give up on your friends. When they are going through tough times, stick by their side and pull them along. I saw how much pain Tim was in before that final climb and I looked at him and said ‘hold my wheel’ (HMW). Angga had done the same thing for me during on previous long rides and I can’t tell you how grateful I was to know that we were going to get through it together. Tim wasn’t willing to give up, no matter what, and he reminded me just how important it is to finish what you start. Even though he had ridden 367 miles, the last 8 were the most important of any of them. I know I’ll fall on hard times at points during this tour, and when I do, I’ll reflect on the sacrifices Tim, Brendan, Angga, Koko, Kyle, and Jams made and the pain they went through on the first three days of my tour.