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  1. #1
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    Fun Beginner-Intermediate Ride Near South Bay?

    I have a couple friends who are going on their first ride, while I started just a couple of months ago myself. I want to take them somewhere they'll have a blast so they continue riding. Does anyone have any recommendations on where to take them? We have entry-level hard tails and I'm looking for somewhere within half an hour of the Milpitas-San Jose area. Hopefully they stick to it enough that we can start going to somewhere like Santa Cruz later on.

  2. #2
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    If you go to too boring (aka easy) of a trail the first time, your newbie friends will forever be scarred by that first impression. Take them to Santa Teresa County Park. 101S, Bernal Road exit, then left on Polvadero (confirm these). After entering the parking lot, you will see a gate at your 2 o' clock. It might be locked, but there is a smaller (almost invisible) gate right next to it that should be open.
    Nice trails that have some decent climbs, descents and rocky singletrack. There are easier and harder parts of this park. Take plenty of water, because you'll not want to go home soon. And take a good camera. The view is spectacular.
    And some other trails when you're done with this (but it'll take you more than one visit, I think, to cover all the trails in Santa Teresa), check this out. South Bay Rides - Bay Area Mountain Bike Rides
    It's pronounced "so pro and cool."
    It was an impulse decision.

  3. #3
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    Santa Teresa is a great suggestion. St. Joe's in Los Gatos can also be fun, although a bit crowded if you're going on a weekend.

    The two places that really got me hooked on mountain biking in the South Bay were bedrock, which is now a golf course, and some of the single track at the bottom of St. Joe's which is now illegal for bikes. I used to do laps and laps there on my Trek 850. For many years when I lived in Los Gatos I'd poach that trail on my birthday if it wasn't a weekend...

  4. #4
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    Yeah Santa Teresa/Rocky Ridge Trail was definitely high on my list as I've heard great things about it and it is relatively close-by. We are planning to go this Sunday and I definitely want to give them a good first impression of what MTB has to offer. Thanks for the help! Any other suggestions for future rides would also be greatly appreciated.

    That website is also really awesome.

  5. #5
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    What are the fitness levels of your riders? No offense, but I have a hard time believing someone who started a few months is intermediate unless you're really gifted and ride 5x a week. I've been riding 2 years, and I consider myself barely intermediate....barely. Intermediate is endurance capacity and speed capacity and technical capability.

    STCP is not a beginner place. It is steep, and other bits are technical. They will get an impression alright, something that it's too darn tough. Take them somewhere easy, but fun. Arastradero works, and you can get a fun loop through that park.

    If you must focus on STCP, starting from the golf course, you're going to be climbing up some steep stuff if you don't make the right turn off onto Ohlone. If you stay on it you're going to end up on the steepest part of the park. I don't know about you, but I don't call the possibility of hiking all the uphills enjoyable.

    Start easy, and/or pick a place you know. Going somewhere new to introduce new riders is a VERY BAD IDEA.

    Taking total newbs down Rocky Ridge, I wouldn't recommend it unless you are stopping, guiding, and warning and showing lines. Folks have broken things on Rocky Ridge, body parts.

    Go out further than 30 minutes away, but if you must ride Santa Teresa, here is a cardio-easy ride that will be enjoyable, and yet challenging due to some sketch parts.

    Start at Harry Rd and Camden Ave, just outside IBM.

    Here's a map of STCP

    Park on the Road HERE

    Go through the entrance to a trail on your right. It's a flat ride. You will ride this to the another gate. Go through that.

    You will end up HERE

    Follow the road in front of you for a bit, look for a parking lot on your left, it's just a hundred yards or so.

    This is the San Vincente entrance to STCP

    Go through that entrance, and take Fortini Trail all the way to the parking lot area. There's a small trail on your right that will ride around the right side of the parking lot, from where you will be standing.

    This is the trail, Mine Trail

    Ride that, that's Mine trail (or just a small part of it), until you reach an intersection of multiple trails.

    Intersection of trails

    Go across the road and go into the parking lot, heading towards the right (looping around the large lot).

    Look for a trail on your left

    Just enter and continue to go around counter-clockwise. That's the Pueblo Trail. You want to take Pueblo until you start to head up a bit to a small parking lot on your right.

    Small parking lot, and entrance to it on the far side

    Rest a bit in the lot, the lot is on Bernal Rd. Turn right to head down Bernal Rd, just a bit and then go through an entrance on your left, it's about 100 feet or so.

    Turn into this spot

    Take that trail a bit and turn left onto Joice Trail. Turn right onto Bernal Hill Trail (going left will take you onto Joice still, which pitches up very steep, you will be hiking this, as a newb, guaranteed, so avoid it. It's not a bad ride on the Vista loop, though, but it's rough getting onto it.

    Anyhow, turn right onto Bernal Hill Trail

    Follow it, you will go up a bit, some short steep loose part, and then you will descend a steep, loose part.

    Turn right onto Norred Trail

    At the end of Norred, turn left to go further down hill. You will pass the chicken farm and end up at

    Heaton Moore

    turn right to go on the road, follow the road, you will go back to Bernal

    Turn right to go UP Bernal

    Turn left to enter Santa Teresa

    Turn right to climb up Ohlone

    Go to the very end, it pitches up steep at the end for about 10 yards or so.

    Turn left onto Hidden Springs

    Take Hidden Springs up to the intersection of trails

    From there, you get back onto Pueblo Trail and go back to the Small Parking Lot

    This time, stay on the trail and descend Mine Trail.

    Here's a choice point

    Turn right to climb up the backside of Stiles, or turn left to just take the fastest way back to the car.

    Both Stiles and Fortini trail will meet back at the San Vincente parking lot area. Climbing up the backside of Stiles is not steep, mildly technical. The descent into the San Vincente lot is the more technical area, but I think it's more enjoyable to descend than climb for newbs. Plan your time, true newbs will be stopping and walking lots.

  6. #6
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    Rocky Ridge + newbies = lots of walking or lots of bruises.

    Saratoga Gap or Arastradero are better places to introduce beginners to the sport.
    Faster is not always better, but it's always more fun

  7. #7
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    None taken, I wasn't sure myself whether to head there with beginners(I don't consider myself intermediate at all and am still a newbie) but it seemed like a doable challenge if we took it at a good pace. We're all in pretty good shape and are active outside of mountain biking(running/basketball) so our fitness level is pretty good. We just lack a lot of experience to do anything too technical.

    Thanks for the heads up and taking the time to write that up, it's very helpful!

  8. #8
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    As I said there are easier and harder parts to that park. I started at the polvadero lot and remember being on Ohlone, over looking where Bernal rd makes a big hairpin kinda turn. I didn't encounter much more than a few rocks and some steeper slopes. I did have to walk up some of the slopes, but that was because I was not keeping momentum, and because I'm not too fit.
    I don't believe I hit Rocky ridge, but I'll try to do that this weekend. Maybe I'll see you there!
    It's pronounced "so pro and cool."
    It was an impulse decision.

  9. #9
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    Saratoga Gap was my first place to ride in the area after a few years off, and that was just over a year ago. Demo was next, which was definitely a bit much. Arastradero is nice, easy, and you won't get lost. I think the Gap is a bit bigger. I just rode out and back once I was ready.
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  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by sauprankul View Post
    I started at the polvadero lot and remember being on Ohlone, over looking where Bernal rd makes a big hairpin kinda turn. I didn't encounter much more than a few rocks and some steeper slopes. I did have to walk up some of the slopes, but that was because I was not keeping momentum, and because I'm not too fit.
    I don't believe I hit Rocky ridge, but I'll try to do that this weekend. Maybe I'll see you there!
    Rocky Ridge is not forgettable. It's a very unique trail to the area.

    The trail from the golf course is the Coyote Peak Trail.

    If you didn't turn onto Ohlone, you'll end up going up Ridge Trail or Coyote Peak Trail, both have climbs that are over 15% grade. I like to ride up Ridge, and I've gone up Coyote Peak Trail. It's tough. If you make a left off Coyote Peak Trail, you'll be on Boundary Trail, which is the steepest trail of the park.

    Anyway, if you missed the turn for Ohlone, you'll know it. You'll pretty much walk all of it or turn around and head back to Ohlone.

  11. #11
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    Arastradero!

    Pearson-Arastradero - City of Palo Alto

    Maybe Russian Ridge/long ridge area. Stay out of stevens canyon unless you can ride out (lots of climbing on fire road) of that one.
    The gap might be good, but there is a bit of tech stuff and new people on tech stuff is never great for their continued enjoyment of the sport.

    Almaden quicksilver would be a good choice if they have fitness and are not great riders.

  12. #12
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    Thanks everyone for your input! I'll definitely have a few places to hit up now it's just deciding which one to start with.

  13. #13
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    I learned to ride at Fremont Older OSP. Haven't ridden there in many years since but I remember it having a nice mix of fire road, single track (Seven Springs Trail if I remember the name correctly) and some decent views (Lookout Point...?).
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  14. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by alazamboozle View Post
    Yeah Santa Teresa/Rocky Ridge Trail was definitely high on my list as I've heard great things about it and it is relatively close-by. We are planning to go this Sunday and I definitely want to give them a good first impression of what MTB has to offer. Thanks for the help! Any other suggestions for future rides would also be greatly appreciated.

    That website is also really awesome.
    Not sure I'd consider Santa Teresa a beginner ride, especially Rocky Ridge. There are trails beginner-worthy there, but Rocky Ridge isn't it.

  15. #15
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    The cop that took my stolen bike report rode crits before becoming a cop. She said her first ever MTB ride was on Rocky Ridge and it wasn't the best time.
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  16. #16
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    The Peter's Creek/Long Ridge loop is fairly short, scenic, and has fun singletrack. There are a few technical switchbacks, but certainly nothing like rocky ridge.

    Also, White Oak trail in Montebello is really fun, although it's short and I just don't know a good-sized loop in there that doesn't have a brutal climb.
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  17. #17
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    I'm deciding between Santa Teresa and Astradero. Astradero seems very tame from the youtube videos I've watched though, and reminds me of Alum Rock Park which is right by my house. I definitely won't be doing Rocky Ridge trail if I go STCP but I'm looking into some of the trails my group could handle. Stiles Ranch seems like a fun one and the trail that iamholland posted sounds like a good one.
    Last edited by alazamboozle; 11-07-2012 at 01:56 AM.

  18. #18
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    I would recommend Arastradero. It is safe, gradual, has epic views, has singletrack and fun area called the bowl.

    You want to keep their first ride simple and full of options. Their fitness is probably not ready, their bike not working right and their control and comfort level on the bike not quite there. Unless they ride a bike regularly, it's going to feel like an alien beast. It takes dozens of hours to be comfortable with balance and with the controls like shifting and braking.

    No one will be scarred by an experience that is too easy. What will ruin them is crashing, getting lost, walking or just being unprepared for a mechanical. It would be really good if you can go to Arastradero beforehand and scope it out. Get your bearings, know where the steep parts are and where the fun parts are. There is no joy in getting lost or looking at the map every two minutes. And bring all the tools and extra food for them. Bring a camera too and keep taking photos.

    There's a place there called 'The Bowl' and 'Red Tail Loop'. Those are fun areas.
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    Last edited by francois; 11-07-2012 at 09:05 AM.

  19. #19
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    So spoketh the ultralord, and so did the newbs obey. The newbs enjoyed their day and all in the world were at great peace.

    (That means I agree. I wouldn't take 'em to ST Park.)

  20. #20
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    Another vote for Arastradero. Stiles at STCP, if you start from Harry/Camden in Almaden, is steep, punishing and difficult...I'm going there this afternoon if you want to come preview it.

  21. #21
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    The Bowl is definitely a fun place to ride to at Arastradero. In fact, that's the only place I've ever ridden to in the park, starting at the little parking lot by the entrance to Palo Alto college or something like that.

    Just don't go there after a heavy rain haha. It's got some fun, short steep sections and little jumps you can go off of. Great place to start practicing since you can get plenty of speed and just keep riding it over and over.
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  22. #22
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    I wrecked at the bowl, a few times, both of them as a newb. It scarred me.

    Everyone is against ST, for good reason. But even more so, is that you are a tour guide. You must *know* this place like the back of your hand and adjust to your riders. They are hurting too much, detour. Not enough, hit some more steeper stuff. That is what will make a good event. It is not so much the place, but the tour that matters most. The stoke they get from the guide is very important.

    Quote Originally Posted by alazamboozle View Post
    I'm deciding between Santa Teresa and Astradero. Astradero seems very tame from the youtube videos I've watched though, and reminds me of Alum Rock Park which is right by my house. I definitely won't be doing Rocky Ridge trail if I go STCP but I'm looking into some of the trails my group could handle. Stiles Ranch seems like a fun one and the trail that iamholland posted sounds like a good one.
    Arastradero is tame, and that's what makes it good. It's also not steep, and if so, it's only short sprints. They will get a taste of what is needed. There will never be a sense of being out of control, or in danger.

    Stiles may be a bit tough, but you'll have to judge. I know people that have fallen on Stiles and taken injuries and they weren't exactly newbs neither, but more in the post-acclimation period and spreading their wings a bit. There are a few spots where you can endo, and if you are not familiar with controls you will crash and probably hard.

    The route I posted is almost the easiest route you can take. You can short cut it, by not crossing Bernal. It will depend on the fitness level. The ride, IIRC, is over 10 miles, and your riders may not be able to handle that. I think, not sure, it's about 13 or so, which is quite alot for a newb. Most newbs go out for about 5 or 6 and get worked hard mentally and physically. New controls, new situations, etc.

  23. #23
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    +1 for Fremont Older.

  24. #24
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    Alright I can't go against the majority here so I'll be taking them to Arastradero. Won't be able to go until past noon on Sunday though, so I hope it won't be too crowded.

  25. #25
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    Interesting sentiment about STCP. I rode that park along with bedrock a ton when I first started mountain biking in 1990 because I could get there from my house without driving. This was on a low end rigid Yokota bike, none of this fancy suspension nonsense!

    It was absolutely challenging, but also a ton of fun. I wouldn't rule it out, although I do agree with the sentiment of avoiding rocky ridge. The route IAmHolland laid out is a good one. Great post that he made, btw.

    Francois said, "half the battle is attitude." I'd go further and say that 7/8's the battle is attitude. No matter where you go, do so with the intention of exploring and taking lots of breaks rather than trying to do the fastest lap. You can really bond with friends under the shade of an oak tree while catching your breath.

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