Review: Pioneer Power Meter Gives You All the Data

A view of the Shimano Dura-Ace 9000 crankset from the drive side, with the Pioneer power meter sensor built-in.
A view of the Shimano Dura-Ace 9000 crankset from the drive side, with the Pioneer power meter sensor built-in. Photo: Stephen Lam/

It feels odd to have Pioneer in the power meter market since they’re known for making things like car entertainment systems and DJ equipment. But I was excited nonetheless to see a giant box show up one day with their power meter mated to a Shimano Dura-Ace 9000 crankset as well as a Pioneer SGX-CA500 computer.

Installation on my 2010 Colnago CX-1 was fairly straight forward, provided you RTFM’d, and props to Pioneer for producing an informative installation video. As soon as I had it installed, I was off, and I’ve been using it steadily over the past few months. So far the system has worked flawlessly, minus a few hiccups that were solved by replacing the battery.

Pioneer SGX-CA500 computer

Starting it up...

Shimano Dura-Ace 9000 crankset

And the inside view of the drive side power meter unit. Notice the slick sensor integration into the crank itself.

Pioneer SGX-CA500 computer

The SGX-CA500 is as big as my camera card reader, but I do like its size - It's just right.

Pioneer SGX-CA500 computer

The box of the Pioneer SGX-CA500 computer

Pioneer Power Meter

The box with the power meter unit

The SGX-CA500 computer has also been easy to use and allows you to navigate via the touchscreen or with physical buttons. You don’t necessarily have to use the Pioneer computer—the power meter will pair with any ANT+ computer—but they work nicely together and help unlock the full array of metrics the Pioneer system is capable of producing.

I particularly liked that the Pioneer computer shows left and right leg output, and pedaling efficiency, live. It’s a neat feature and it helped me realize that I need to improve on my pedaling technique. Thanks to the built-in wifi, your workouts can be automatically uploaded after a ride.

CycloSphere, like Garmin’s Garmin Connect, is Pioneer’s online cloud platform where your data gets stored. It’s a treasure trove of information, but not super easy to use. I liked that you can customize what you see in CycloSphere, and I suspect it will get better over time as the Pioneer system gets more popular. Note to Pioneer: as you make improvements, I want to be able to configure my SGX-CA500 settings while plugged into my computer for better visualization.

Currently, the system is limited to Shimano Dura Ace and Ultegra level cranks. At $1,849 for the Dura-Ace power meter and $299 for the computer, it’s not cheap. But if you’re into data, you should take a look. For those who already own a Shimano Dura-Ace 9000 and Ultegra 6800 crankset, Pioneer offers an installation service, where you can ship your existing crankarms in to be converted. This is less expensive at $999.

Climb Into This Purpose Packed Rapha Jersey

Rapha Pro Team Climber's Jersey
Photo: Jim Merithew/

It is hot in Italy.

But I’m in Italy riding your bike, so complaining seems like a bad idea.

The water bottles are full, tires have been inflated, route map has been downloaded to the Garmin, caffe spot has been chosen and pockets are packed full of handmade treats.

And today I’m sporting the new Rapha Pro Team Climber’s Jersey. The first thing I notice is, even though I’ve stuffed my pockets with preparedness, there is very little sag from the packed pockets.

The second thing I notice is nothing. There is nothing to notice. The Rapha jersey is exactly what is says it is, a crazy lightweight jersey for hot and humid days in the saddle. Mesh panels here and mesh panels there allow this jersey to breath like few others.

Even though it is hot enough to bake a margherita pizza on the pavement the jersey goes basically unnoticed. Which on a day like today is exactly what I want.

The Rapha Pro Team Climber’s Jersey is currently on sale for $135, down from $195, if you want to go pick one up.

Dishing the Dirt With Mountain Bike Icon Hans Rey

Hans Rey
Photo: Stephen Lam/

Hans ‘No Way’ Rey is a legend. Mountain bike hall of famer, multiple world and national trials champion, freeride pioneer, the guy in that “Monkey See Monkey Do” video — on VHS, of course.

Those were the days where the GT LTS/RTS carbon were the hottest full suspension bikes on the block, The days of 56K modems, AOL 1,000 hour CDs in a tin can, Magura hydraulic rim brakes, print magazines …

Fast forward to 2015. The evergreen Hans is as strong as ever and still goes on epic bike trips across the globe riding in partnership with GT Bicycle. In fact, Hans is the longest GT-sponsored athlete for a whopping 28 years and running ever since the early days of mountain biking.

With that in mind, we sat down with Hans for a quick fireside (okay, a hotel lobby) chat in Park City, Utah.

So how did you get into mountain biking?

I started as a trials rider in Europe when it was just really trendy, kid’s sport really. I was about to retire from that and go to a university when an American trials rider came to Europe. Trials was a European sport then but he started telling us about this new sport in America called mountain biking and how there are always these stage races where a rider has to do downhill, cross country, and trials on the same bike. He said I should come over and show Americans what real trials are and I figured that’d be a great ending to my career.

I was 19-20 years old so I thought why don’t I take a semester off from the university and check it out.

I went over and the guy’s name is Kevin Norton and he had a real big interest in promoting trials and making it bigger. He introduced me not only to the mountain bike world but also into the whole BMX world because at that point trials was kind of living in both worlds. It went so well that I got a contract with GT and then I got hooked up at Swatch. They wanted me to tour America with skateboarder Rodney Mullen together to do shows and stuff so I thought maybe if I stay little bit longer I can take another semester off and it’ll be a great way to learn the language and see the country a bit. One year became two, three and next year will be number 30.

Hans Rey
Photo: Stephen Lam/

How has mountain biking changed over the years, from your point of view?

If you look at the bikes from back then, you wonder how could you ride down these trails. Some of the trails you ride today are more or less the same trails you rode back then and it makes you sometimes wonder how you pulled it off.

I wasn’t one of the first guys but I was definitely there when the boom started. My roots go deep into all different sub-cultures of sport because I would eventually start racing some downhill, slalom … I even got third place at the Slalom World Championship one year.

I then started doing adventures on a mountain bike that really brought me the respect from the people that everyone who has a mountain bike knew how hard it was to bunny hop up and down a curb and this guy rides over cars and whatever.

The last 15-20 years were really based on changes and technology of the bike. I think the next 10-15 years will be about how we ride the bikes, purposed-built trails for example and all that stuff.

Was it more fun?

Usually when you look back at things you always be like the good old days were always better. You can look at that side too, but I don’t think the fun has stopped.

I’ve always said my philosophy is “I am going to do this as long as I have fun.” That hasn’t really stopped and that’s probably why I am still doing it. I embrace all the new trends, technologies and changes and have fun with it.

I still try to spread my roots. My roots are really deep now after being there for so long and I have a really solid foundation. And I still am interested in all the subcultures. My weekly riding habit involves several forms of riding. I do a lot of all-mountain stuff in connection with my adventure trips, regular mountain bike ride, but I ride trials once a week still. Sometimes I do shuttle runs, downhill runs and I even train on the road bike every once in a while to get some miles in. I even enjoy riding e-bikes sometimes.

Up hill or downhill?


Describe your idea of a perfect holiday.

For me it might be not to touch my bike. But no, I can only do that for a couple of days. My wife always says I get antsy if I am dis-attached from my bike for too long. But sometimes it’s nice to just go somewhere to relax, do nothing, to enjoy nature, and some spend time with my wife.

Any Particular place?

I like to go to new places. I like to go to special remote places, like I went to this really cool island with my wife a few years ago to Fiji. It was just a really nice vacation. Really special place with one-on-one time.

I get to do a lot of the cool biking stuff as my job. Luckily I have a dream job and I appreciate that. My office is some of the coolest biking trails and locations around the world so I don’t necessarily have to do that on my holiday.

If you had to choose a car that represents your personality, what would it be?

I am a fan of Audi, or a Land Rover kind of guy.

How much would you charge to wash all the windows in your town?

Probably a 7-figure amount.

How many golf balls can you fit in a schoolbus?


Tell us your most embarrassing riding story.

In my downhill racing days which I was never really the guy to necessarily take home the world championships, I did start the world championship three times. I didn’t take it so serious, I was more just doing it without much preparation in those days. You have a water bottle with you and I was even drinking during my runs and stuff. But in one particular one at the Worlds in Italy in ’91, in the qualifying run I started out the gate and forgot to put my goggles on. It was really foggy and muddy … and I had to stop to put my goggles on and then continue riding. Hence the fact that I didn’t qualify in that one.

What are your guilty pleasures?

I like my cocktails and drinks.

Any advice for riders out there?

Well, if you want to make a living and be a professional, you’ve got to be professional. You have to treat it like a job. At the same time you don’t want to treat it too serious. You’ve got to have fun with it. At the end of the day, you have to make it happen for yourself.

We are a relatively small sport. It’s not like there are talent scouts out there looking for you. A lot of the guys who start becoming sponsored at one level or another often don’t understand the big picture — that it’s a business and these sponsors don’t just do it because they like you. There needs to be something in return. That “thing” in return can be in many different ways: It can be with a good
result, it can be with media exposure, it can be being a spokesperson or a communicator for the brand.

It could be in many forms, but you have to deliver that and you have to document it and show it to them. The bottom line is, have fun with it. As long you have fun, you’ve already won a lot.

If you could pick a super power, what would it be?

Time travel.

My Time on the World’s Lightest Production Bicycle

The Trek Emonda SLR 10. Photo: Jim Merithew/
The Trek Emonda SLR 10. Photo: Jim Merithew/

The hardest part of riding a sub-eleven pound, SRAM equipped, carbon fiber, one-piece bar/stem having, race tuned, fifteen thousand dollar bike is getting off it and giving it back.

I had my reservations about this machine, but when the call back came I didn’t want to give it up.

My wife, on the other hand, is happy to have the Trek Emonda SLR 10 out of the house, as I refused to leave this beauty in the garage.

This bike is light. Crazy light. Shockingly light. Everyone who put their hands on it made the same face. The “what the holy hell” face. And almost everyone who picked it up also asked “what are you doing with that?”

A very good question considering I am right on the edge of the bikes allowed weight limit and no one, and I mean no one, would consider me a climber. The only answer I could come up with is … “Why not?”

It was clear from the very first ride, the build choices for the SLR 10 were going to be an issue for me. The Tune wheels and saddle, although things of beauty, were not designed for everyday use. The Tune tubulars came laced up with a pair of tires more suited for the track than a long road ride and the saddle belonged in an art museum more than under my generous buttocks.

The Trek Emonda SLR 10
Photo: Jim Merithew/

In short order I ate through the original tires and mounted up some excellent 25mm Continental Competition kicks. The more substantial tires fit into the Bontrager direct mount brakes no problem and upgrade the bike ride characteristic substantially.

I also mounted my favorite Specialized Toupe Saddle and down the road I went.

Oh wait, I also, unfortunately, had to add a water bottle, a cage and a tool bag to my wonder whip adding so much unwanted additional weight as to almost turn the World’s Lightest Production bike into a tanker. But so it goes.

So the ultimate build seemed to be more about the impressively low weight, than the day-to-day ride-ability of the build. And I love that about this bike. It is ridiculous, but glorious.

My friend Cory says this build is for a 110 pound rider, who has a ton of money, a great mechanic and a desire to go fast uphill above all else. And I don’t completely disagree. But I meet none of those criteria, and I love this bike.

This bike demands you pay attention.

It demands you are in it.

You can’t just get on this bike and mindlessly go for a ride.

But if you are paying attention the Emonda will reward you by converting your effort into forward propulsion. Whether it be on long, sustained climbs, a short angry pitch or even hammering along the flats. The Emonda impresses.

Descending is a blast. I know this bike is pegged as a climber’s bike, but I loved tossing the Emonda downhill. Sure, if the road was sketchy the Emonda definitely didn’t soak up the chatter like some of the more all-around bikes available. You have to be all-in if you are going to be riding an Emonda, but you get back what you put in.

The Trek Emonda SLR 10
Photo: Jim Merithew/

The direct-mount Bontrager brakes are powerful and take some time to become comfortable with. In the early going I locked up the rear wheel on a regular basis, but dialed in what pressure was needed to inspire confidence. And I thought they looked pretty cool, until Trek just launched the new Madone with some super trick looking integrated brakes.

So what does this all mean to you? It means Trek continues to make some pretty amazing bikes. Trek seems to have struggled a little bit with their highend marketing strategy in the post-Armstrong era. But now they have three Tour-worthy steeds in their stable: the recently reborn Madone, the lightweight wonder Emonda and the Classics classic Domane.

I am just suggesting if you are looking for a new Trek, a new race bike, or you love riding a bike with a little bit of a persnickety personality, then go throw your leg over an Emonda. Look closer at the SLR8 with a solid Dura Ace build and not-so-jaw-dropping price.

The New Ridley X-Trail Is the Best of Both Worlds

The Ridley X-Trail.

We hinted at the arrival of an unnamed Ridley whip in our 10 drool-worthy items list and now it has finally arrived, name and all.

The all-new Ridley X-Trail.

The X-Trail is a Swiss-army knife of a bike that can do it all. It’s the Belgium bike maker’s answer for the growing segment of all-road riding.

My time with the then prototype X-Trail was limited to a few short rides during Bike PressCamp but the bike was impressive to say the least.

The X-Trail is a disc-only, using Shimano’s new flat mounting standard for a cleaner appearance. It will be using the Pressfit BB86 bottom bracket standard. By running PF BB86, Ridley engineers were able to allow more tire clearance while keeping the Q-factor at a minimum. As such, the X-Trail will accommodate up to 40C tires.

Ridley X-Trail

The frame is also nicely integrated with the fork similar to the Noah SL for better stiffness and aerodynamics. Photo: Stephen Lam/

Ridley X-Trail

The front uses a 15x100 thru-axle that's a popular standard in mountain bike fork. Photo: Stephen Lam/

Ridley X-Trail

The rear uses the proven 12x142 thru axle for security and stiffness. All cables are neatly routed internally and it's compatible with both mechanical and electronic shift systems. Photo: Stephen Lam/

Ridley X-Trail

Originally dubbed the X-Project, the X-Trail sports a full carbon frame build with Ridley's 30T and 24T High Modulus Carbon, as well as a 27.2 seatpost for better bump compliance. Photo: Stephen Lam/

The Ridley X-Trail

The Ridley X-Trail. Photo: Stephen Lam/

Ridley had test samples loaded with 27C and 40C Challenge rubbers at BPC. With each different tire width comes a slight change of the bike’s personality, narrower for more road and wider for more gnar. The 15×100 front and 12×142 rear thru-axles also stiffen the bike while making wheel changes a faster ordeal. The fork weighs in at a claimed 490 gram while a medium frame weighs competitively at about 1055 gram.

It’s as if someone threw a Helium SL, a Noah SL and a X-Knight into a blender and out came the X-Trail.

The bike feels like a road bike and cornering was very planted during the initial road test. With its bottom bracket placed in between a road bike and a cross bike, the X-Trail had the best of both worlds. Switching to the off road trails around Deer Valley was seamless and the X-Trail was eager to take up whatever challenge I pointed it towards. With the 40mm tires installed, it was reminiscent of an aggressive rigid 29er that doesn’t beat me up at the end of the ride, largely thanks to Ridley’s use of a 27.2 seatpost. The Shimano brakes were also confidence inspiring. I knew I’d be able to stop when I needed to with nothing more than a light squeeze at the lever. We also love the fender mounts for the wetter days.

They really mean it when they say it’s an all-road bike. We can’t wait to test the production version for a more thorough review.


<Text Message From Mom>

08/02/15: Brian passed away peacefully at 5:20 today with the whole family around him.

There was way too much in my head, crowding around, jostling for my attention. Work. Death. Bills. Fatherhood. Family. Retirement, or lack thereof. Relationship. Dreams. Nightmares. I had to get out. I needed silence. So I left work Wednesday afternoon and rolled for an overnight on Mt. Tamalpais. As the din of San Francisco started to fade, the only sounds that mattered were that of my own breathing and the bicycle underneath me. Slowly, very slowly the noises in my head started to be replaced by solitude, exhaustion and, eventually, a sense of peace.

Sometimes we get out overnight for the camaraderie, or for joy or for exercise. Every now and then, I personally just have to go and try to find a little slice of silence to live in, even if only for a mere 12 hours.


Keep Cool, Look Cool With the POC Raceday Climber Jersey

POC Raceday Climber Jersey
POC Raceday Climber Jersey. Photo: Jim Merithew/

The POC booth at the 2013 Interbike show was a showstopper. There was so much buzz around their booth, you couldn’t help but be excited about what they were up to. They had appeared on the bicycle scene with a scream, arriving out of nowhere.

Even if you weren’t crazy about orange as a color, their bright aesthetic and safety-first spiel was infectious. The helmets, and even the sunglasses, started to appear everywhere, with a whole pack of riders embracing their non-traditional style with a vengeance.

The apparel line on the other hand seemed to land with a little bit more of a whimper. This seemed to be part availability and part, if the internet is to be believed, early quality and sizing issues.

I can’t speak to the early versions of the POC apparel, but this Raceday Climber Jersey is an excellent piece of kit.

The Raceday jersey uses what they call 3d fabric. It feels like a quilted material and wicks the sweat away from your body. It also keeps you cool under the hottest of conditions. The arms and waist stay in place and the color, although not the bright, neon orange of their early kit, looks great in person.

Bontrager’s New Shoe Game Is on Point

Photo: Jim Merithew/

First Bontrager brought their high-end road helmet game into play with any other helmet on the market with the Velocis and now they have landed a set of kicks worthy of shoe lust.

The XXX, XXX LE and even the Velocis are all a step in the right direction for Bontrager.

I unboxed a pair of the crispy white XXX beauties, mounted up a set of cleats with the help of my fit-wise friend, spun up the Boa dials and ran out the door for a 85 kilometer ride in the the hills of Chianti.

The fit is excellent and the Clarino microfiber upper is a beautiful mix between suppleness and toughness to make the kicks comfortable and scuff resistant.

These are not exactly designed to be cozy, but I found them to be reasonably comfortable, with excellent stiffness brought by the carbon sole.

It needs to be pointed out how many of my riding partners were jealous of my new shoes and somewhat surprised they were from Bontrager.

Bontrager is dialing in their high-end game one category at a time and we can’t wait to see where they go next.

Donkey Label’s Boutique Bike Kit Is Built With Local Love

Founder and product designer Paul Krumrich, right, and James Tainter are the team behind Minneapolis-based Donkey Label cycling apparel. (Photo: David Pierini)
Founder and product designer Paul Krumrich, right, and James Tainter are the team behind Minneapolis-based Donkey Label cycling apparel. Photo: David Pierini/

Update: Donkey Label is offering readers 20% off with the code “onthedl”.

When you think of Minnesota, donkeys are not the first thing which come to mind. But tucked away in a warehouse in Minnesota’s tree-lined residential neighborhood of Longfellow there are a pack of donkeys hard at work.

Not the actual animals, but there’s definitely some real-ass work going on. Donkey Label, makers of beautiful and unique bicycle kit, have set up shop in this midwest neighborhood.

“Minneapolis was a choice early in my life as I attended college here,” says Paul Krumrich, lead donkey. “Minneapolis is a great city for cycling: QBP, HED, Twin Six, Park Tool, Art Crank, Curt Goodrich, Appleman, Peacock Groove, One on One, Hollywood Cycles, Cars r Coffins are all located here.”

A Donkey Label speed suit. (Photo: David Pierini)
A Donkey Label speed suit. Photo: David Pierini/

Donkey Label is the bicycle company version of the locavore, sourcing as much material locally as makes sense and stitching their cycling gear right inside the Twin Cities. They still turn to Italy for much of their actual technical fabrics, as it is still where the best materials are being created, but if there’s a local alternative they embrace it.

“I think Minneapolis has some cache in the cycling scene,” says Krumrich. “We are not Boulder or London or Italy. I think if I were in one of those locations DL would not exist as it is. It works because it is authentic. I might view the world differently if I was sipping cucumber water on the beach instead of sticking hand warmers down my shorts to get a ride in when it’s 14 degrees.”

James Tainter folds a jersey at Donkey Label in Minneapolis. (Photo: David Pierini)
James Tainter folds a jersey at Donkey Label in Minneapolis. Photo: David Pierini/

Their warehouse is packed with containers of jerseys, exotic materials, zip pulls and sundry other items. The Donkey crew have a distinct laidback internet startup vibe. On top of their own bicycle apparel they also have socks, wallets made by a local guy and massage oils, natural soaps and embrocation made by a woman from Viroqua, Wisconsin.

The Donkey Label does things one way. Their way. The jerseys are admittedly in the neighborhood of pricey.

“Our stuff is not for everyone, and we are ok with that,” says Krumrich. “If we tried to hit the sweet spot in the market we would be forced into making decisions based solely on money. Our jerseys are worth every penny. And part of what makes them worth every penny is the knowledge of where those pennies go. Kit is printed and stitched right here in Minneapolis and our socks are made in North Carolina.”

Donkey Label. Photo: David Pierini/
Photo: David Pierini/

As the good folks at Donkey Label like to say “you vote with your money,” and we are voting for one of those sweet Artist Collaboration Miami Cycling Jerseys.

Krumrich was also nice enough to answer a few more of our silly questions here:

What thing in your life are you most proud of: My two boys.

Do you believe in love at first site: I believe in being overtaken by someone or something in a single instant. I’m just not sure that meets the definition of love.

Form or function: Function (by a nats’ ass).

Founder and product designer Paul Krumich, foreground, with team member James Tainter run Donkey Label out of small space in Minneapolis. (Photo:David Pierini)
Founder and product designer Paul Krumich, foreground, with team member James Tainter run Donkey Label out of small space in Minneapolis. Photo: David Pierini/

Toilet paper, over or under: Now that I have kids there is no question—UNDER. When Torbdog spins it like a wheel, it does not unravel all over the damn floor.

What is your spirit animal: I just had a flashback to interviews I had out of engineering school. Donkey.

Where do you see yourself in five years? Designing, riding, relaxing and repeating. Maybe in a different location with mountains, or oceans close by. My ADD doesn’t let me stay focused on any single thing for too long so five years is a lifetime.

Donkey Label
Photo: David Pierini/

What is the last album you listened to in its entirety: Paul’s Boutique, Beastie Boys. I listened to High Plains Drifter three times in a row, and then just let it go.

Yellow or Pink: Pink.

If you could be someone else for one day who would it be: Jeffrey Lebowski.

What is one thing about you almost no one knows: I have no belly button.

Boxers or briefs: Boxer briefs.

Founder and designer Paul Krumrich folds a jersey at Donkey Label in Minneapolis. (Photo: David Pierini)
Founder and designer Paul Krumrich folds a jersey at Donkey Label in Minneapolis. Photo: David Pierini/

Are the stereotypes of the midwest accurate: Yes, we are overly nice, fatter than most and drink more than we should.

If you were thrown in jail for a bad habit, what would that habit be: Saying yes to everything.

What would be your chosen superpower: Mind control.

Merckx or someone else: Steve HED.

Describe your perfect vacation: I have been to 2 World Cups and it has been the perfect mix of exploring the country, meeting cool people from the reaches of the globe, and watching an unbelievable sport. I will repeat that as many times as I can in my life.

Donkey Label
Photo: David Pierini/

What was the most embarrassing event in your life: Got a serious grundie in fifth grade that ripped my whitey tighties off, in front of the entire class. And/or the day my dad pulled over the captain of the football team for speeding. Half the football team was waiting at my locker when I got to school. My dad is not a police officer.

Favorite food: Dark chocolate.

Glass, half full or half empty: The Dude Abides.

Road bike or mtb: Yes.

Hardtail or full suspension: Hardtail.

Update: Donkey Label is offering a 20 percent discount to anyone who wants to try their kit for the first time. Code: onthedl

The S24O: Playing Hooky From Life


There is something magical about leaving work, meeting up with some friends, and going camping for a single night in the middle of the week. It’s like playing hooky, or finding some little slice of the weekend on a Wednesday. Known as a “Sub 24 Hour Overnight“, or an S24O to the cool kids in the back of the bus, they can come from a whim, at a moment’s notice:

Screen Shot 2015-07-31 at 9.15.28 PM

With a feeling of anticipation, and maybe a touch of nervousness, gear is rapidly dug out of bins in the garage and loaded on the bike. Do I have everything? What’s missing? Crap! I’m out of fuel tabs! Where is my good bivy? Will it rain? And where in the Hell did that camping spoon go?!?! Rushing to and fro, finding, packing, loading, taking breaks to answer work emails and messages, praying that no emergencies pop up to keep me from missing that all important ride to the start of my escape from reality.

Getting to the start of an S24O by any means necessary. A ferry is one of the better means..

On the boat, and it’s almost empty. I’m swimming upstream against the tide of the commuters as they go home from their offices. Typically I am one of them. But not today. Today I worked from home, so that I could start early enough and leave early enough to have an effective departure. Leave too early and it’s trouble with the job that pays the bills. Leave too late and ride uphill into an increasingly cold, windy and dark night. There is a small, fine window for an S24O, you see. The destination, in this case Hawk Camp, has to be close enough to get to in good order, have time to set up camp and get dinner going before the temperature drops too far for comfort. The Marin Headlands is almost always fogged in, cold and damp. I’ve been there many, many nights and can count on 3 fingers the number of times I’ve seen the stars after dark.


Nathan pauses at the bottom of the climb to Hawk Camp.


Dirt road climbing in the Marin Headlands.


The sun sets on Harrison as he gets closer to Hawk Camp.

On the other side, I anxiously await the arrival of my co-conspirators. Nathan is a seasoned bike tourer, with a setup to match. Harrison is a rookie, this is his first time out, riding a full suspension mountain bike with all his gear strapped to his back. Once they show up, we roll out, amidst all the cycling commuters. They have laptops and work clothes in their bags. We have sleeping pads, food, water, stoves, ground tarps, warm clothes and a bottle of rum in ours. Knowing that they’re going home to more obligations…making dinner, doing laundry, whatever else…while we’re going to sleep in the fog and listen to the coyotes heightens the pure joy of our S24O. It is, for the lack of a better phrase, a breathe of fresh air from the almost never ending daily hustle of life.

A quick stop at the Presidio Sports Basement for supplies and we’re back to fighting the wind. It’s always this way. The wind whips in off the Pacific in the late afternoon, though the gap at the Golden Gate Bridge, and shoves you around, makes you work twice as hard, turns the sidewalks around the towers on the bridge itself in to sketchy affairs on gear laden bikes. From there the 3 mile climb up to Hawk Camp is, well, it is what it is. Nathan is strong, I’m not, Harrison is but riding a heavier bike with 13lbs of gear on his shoulders. We slog and granny hear our way up, racing the setting sun and cooling temperatures.

Dinner? Dessert? Both?

But we’re outside, it’s Wednesday night, we’re going playing hooky. Life is just fiiiiinnne!

One of the joys of camping is the complete lack of anything to do at night but hang out

The sun sets, our gear is out and the wind comes in harder. I brought a deck of playing cards but the gusts are so strong that they’ll blow away any cards set on the table. Harrison breaks out the rum, I heat up hot chocolate, we eat dinner, talk and listen to the roaring silence. That seems like a contradiction in terms, but you’ll understand if you ever camp up in the Marin Headlands. The elation of escape is gone, replaced by a tired, quiet, sleepy sense of satisfaction.

A S24O requires little equipment. Sleeping bag? Check. Sleeping pad? Check. Food, water? Check.

In the morning I wake up earlier than the boys. They’ve got a quick trip back to the office, but I have to catch a ferry back home to start the work day. The fog is still there, of course. That’s all right. It’ll clear as I cross over the Golden Gate Bridge, exposing a San Francisco that is no longer a vacation destination but the the source of our daily grind. But just outside it’s limits, the Marin Headlands await our next bout of mid week hooky.