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Length 13 miles
Time 2.5 hours
Total Climb 2050 feet
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Repack Road (via Deer Park)

This route is aimed at riding the "historic" Repack Road while taking a bit of a roundabout way of getting to its start. Repack Road is where the Repack Race used to be held in the '70s. For those who don't already know, this race can be considered the origin of mountain biking as we understand it today, and many of the pioneering local kids who started it for fun are among the top entrepreneurs and gurus of the mountain bike industry today.

I would qualify this ride as the more preferable route for relatively greener riders to try out Repack Road. More advanced riders and those looking for a meatier challenge might better appreciate the alternate route through Camp Tamarancho for getting to the top of Repack Road. That option is slightly longer and incurs more elevation gain along the way as well, in addition to adding to the mix a healthy dose of the excellent singletrack available in Tamarancho.

The beginning of this ride is in the center of Fairfax. My first choice for parking there is a lot between Broadway Boulevard and Sir Francis Drake that allows four hours of free parking. (It's the marker labeled "Fairfax Parkade" at the Suggested Parking link on your left.) Finding space there isn't always guaranteed unless you arrive early, though free street parking can be found throughout Fairfax, including along the approach portion of this ride route, but there can be rules such as parking being allowed only on one side of the street, so pay attention to the signs.

The route starts out by passing through the network of fire roads adjacent to Fairfax frequented by many "old timer" mountain bikers around this mountain biking hallowed ground. The first mile of the ride takes you flatly through a few Fairfax streets to Deer Park. Even after you pass by Deer Park School and get on Deer Park Road, things stay breezy for another half mile. Then begins the first bout of climbing on the ride. Until you reach the ride's second road segment on Sky Oaks Road, you incur a bit under 600 feet of cumulative elevation gain here. Thankfully, the climb is fairly broken up. There are even a couple of stretches where you can coast. Two steep stretches are worth noting in this portion of the ride. The first of these is a quarter-mile stretch at the very beginning of the real climbing on Deer Park Road where the grade averages close to 12%. The second is a stretch of similar length on Shaver Grade starting right at the Five Corners junction where the grade stays above 10% fairly consistently and hovers between 13 and 15 percent in its worst portion.

This first chunk of fire-road mileage goes through a very dense network of trails near Fairfax that you can tell is very popular and well established. There aren't too many trail junctions in the Bay Area that have a nickname of their own (separate from the names of any of the trails that meet at that junction) and there are two such junctions in this first two-mile segment of trail riding on this ride: five named trails meet at "Boyscout Junction" and six meet at the "Five Corners" junction that follows very quickly.

After reaching the ride's second stretch of asphalt on Sky Oaks Road, you soon turn onto the gravel Bon Tempe Road to get to a set of trails that will have you skirting along the Meadow Club golf course. On the way, this route shows a brief spur onto Bon Tempe Dam to take in some lake views, which is recommended especially if it will be your first time doing it. When you reach the Meadow Club facilities, just when you might start feeling like you're trespassing in a country club, the club's short driveway will see you out to Fairfax-Bolinas Road almost immediately.

A third brief paved segment, this time climbing on Fairfax-Bolinas Road, is what follows that. The climb here is a breeze compared to the earlier stretches of steep trail climbs you've left behind up to this point. The only part of the climb on this road worth attention fluctuates between a 5% and an 8% grade. This brings you to the foot of the Pine Mountain climb. This fire-road climb is very rocky almost all the way and (occasionally) pretty steep. There is a quarter-mile stretch of this climb that you won't soon forget. The grade nears 20% in the worst part of this short stretch, but what really breaks one's will are the chunky rocks. Once the climb's grade eases up (which doesn't really happen before you go through another tough struggle on San Geronimo Ridge Road) and you reach the junction with Repack Road, your climbing for this ride is over. After that point, it's just the fast descent on Repack Road and then a gentle glide (partially on city streets) back to your parking spot that are left.

Repack Road is a fast fire road. It descends about 1300 feet in less than 2 miles. That's an average grade of about -14% over the entire length of the road. It's a pretty smooth fire road, though there are parts that are (seasonally, I imagine) a little rutty. One thing that's probably worth paying more attention to is the fact that many of the curves along Repack are off-camber. So, make sure you control your speed carefully and don't ride past the grip capability of your tires (or your brake power). There are curves on this road known by nicknames like Breeze Tree (I don't think Joe Breeze merely took a rest stop there...), Vendetti's Face, and Hamburger Helper. That should tell you something.

In order to eliminate any possibility of disappointment, I should stress that Repack Road is not a remarkable fire road by any objective measure. It's true that it's a fast and consistently steep descent of good length that riders craving speed will enjoy (though everyone should use caution, since uphill traffic on this trail is not uncommon), but the chunky segments of the adjoining San Geronimo Ridge Road and Pine Mountain Road would provide a more fun technical descent challenge. It's also true that its upper reaches are nicely scenic as you have the views of the bay in front of you as you head down, but not more so than many other such scenic fire roads. The primary draw of this trail is only its historic significance. If you won't feel thrilled or at least mildly intrigued as you descend this road when you realize that you're riding down the same path where Gary Fisher set the course record and where the likes of Joe Breeze, Keith Bontrager, Otis Guy, Tom Ritchey, and Charlie Kelly initially "got things started" when they were teenagers, then you won't be impressed by this trail.

You leave the Repack Road "race course" behind where you cross Cascade Creek on a wooden bridge after which the trail makes a right-hand kink. The remaining trail mileage on this ride after this point will be a laid-back cool-down segment, maintaining the nearly flat downhill slope of the creek itself. The trail also crosses the creek multiple times along this stretch, which serves as the last bit of riding fun that it yields to you. Soon, you'll be passing through a gate and the remainder of your ride will take place in the form of an equally gentle glide down leafy Fairfax streets all the way back to the heart of the town.

Fairfax could be considered the closest thing to a pilgrimage site for mountain biking and, as such, there are a number of places in tiny downtown Fairfax for coffee, some drinks, or a meal that are frequented by mountain bikers. Some quick suggestions would include the Java Hut or The Coffee Roastery for coffee, and Iron Springs pub or Gestalt Haus for a quick bite. I'm also fond of The Sleeping Lady for a post-ride meal; their salads and burgers are impressive, they have good beer and outdoor seating, plus the Ukulele Jam they have going every Saturday between 2:00 and 4:00 is a cute form of entertainment you might not find elsewhere (though the participating age group has a bit of a geriatric flavor).

Finally, no biking-focused discussion about Fairfax could be considered complete without a mention of the Marin Museum of Bicycling. This local treasure has been (very justifiably) the new home of the Mountain Biking Hall of Fame ever since it opened in 2013. It's a great place to admire some seriously historic bicycles (some not even called that yet back then) going back to the 19th century and, more importantly, to see first-hand some of the very pivotal bicycles and read their stories from the early history of the sport, many of which were ridden on Repack Road and the other trails in the very hills surrounding the town. That's without getting into the distinct possibility of running into Joe Breeze himself at the museum, or one of the other "founding fathers" of mountain biking. I would strongly recommend this place to any first-time visitor. In fact, the museum is easily worth a visit in its own right to anyone who has a serious interest in the sport.

© Ergin Guney


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