Bike to Work Day

When you’re a kid, you can’t wait until Christmas. That’s how some adults feel about Bike to Work Day, which this year happens on Thursday, May 12.

For 47-year-old Mike Wallenfels, president and CEO of backpack and messenger-bag maker Timbuk2 Designs, celebrating means biking a longer distance. “I’ll be doing a round-trip commute,” he says with a straight face, “not just my usual one-way ride.” However, for Wallenfels that means — hold on to your handle- bars — a two-way trip of 76 miles on his durable LeMond Buenos Aires, a holdover from the 1990s.

Wallenfels’ “usual” one-way commute is 38 miles from his home in Novato to his office in the Mission District. “Depending on the weather and traffic, it takes about two and a half hours,” he says. “It’s exhilarating; going to work I get a great workout. Then, on the way home, I hang my bike on a Golden Gate Transit bus and have time to catch up on emails.”

For Patrick Seidler, president of Wilderness Trail Bikes (WTB), a 12-mile regular commute — from Lucas Valley down to the office in Mill Valley — is a way to catch up with his childhood. “Growing up in Corte Madera, we’d race our Sting-Ray bikes on the railroad tracks through the old Cal Park Tunnel,” he recalls. The tunnel, built in 1884, was sealed shut at both ends in 1978; then, in 1998, Seidler’s Transportation Alternatives for Marin and the Marin County Bicycle Coalition began a campaign to reopen it as a pedestrian and biking trail as well as someday to accommodate SMART, the commuter rail line.

Twelve years and $27 million later, with Seidler’s shoulder to the wheel, Cal Park Tunnel was indeed reopened. Combined with the pedestrian and bike trail, it stretches a mile and a half from Bellam Boulevard in San Rafael almost to the Larkspur Landing Ferry Terminal. “It takes at least 12 minutes off the ride between north and south county,” says Seidler with justifiable pride, “and every time I take it, it feels like I’m riding downhill both ways.”

Biking is hardly all downhill for 43-year-old Amy Marr, who lives in Mill Valley and works as an editor at Weldon Owen Publishing 14 miles away in San Francisco’s Jackson Square district. She notes that bike commuting from Marin provides a perfect bookend to the workday, because no matter what happens at work, “you had two great rides.” Marr’s route to work cuts through marshlands on the Mill Valley–Sausalito bike path, travels Sausalito’s waterfront, goes up and over the Golden Gate, passes through Crissy Field and Fisherman’s Wharf and finishes with a mile on the Embarcadero.

Crossing the Golden Gate Bridge can be the dodgiest part. “It’s often slick, especially as you round the towers and hit those steel grates,” Marr notes. “And gusts off the Pacific, on the ride home, can be incredibly heady.” Yet the Boston transplant isn’t complaining. “There is something so heartening about being able to get yourself to work via your own muscle,” she reflects, “especially along a route that is arguably one of the most scenic bike commutes in the country, if not the world.” And how will she celebrate Bike to Work Day? “Maybe a post-ride glass of wine or two; I hear there’s a party brewing.”

Chris Schierholtz, a 38-year-old marketing manager at WTB, will also join the celebration. “That afternoon there’ll be a party and vendor expo at Marin Brewing Company,” he says. “Everyone riding his or her bike to work is invited.”

This will be his kind of celebration: bikes, beers, buddies and burgers. And that’s not the only way he’ll mark the occasion. “I’ll probably take my ‘super commute’ on the way into work,” Schierholtz says. Instead of his customary 14-mile bike commute from San Francisco’s Cole Valley to his Miller Avenue office, he’ll do a scenic 23-mile route from the city over the Golden Gate Bridge and out to Point Bonita on the western tip of the Marin Headlands before heading east and starting his workday. “I go from dense traffic into a dense forest,” he adds with a smile.