HANS REY AND FRIENDS SLAY THE BAY

San Francisco urban bike adventure with Hans Rey and Brett Tippie

Photos by Carmen Rey & Kyle Emery-Peck

We just concluded our fourth urban bike adventure. After Los Angeles, Napoli and Hong Kong, it was the San Francisco Bay Area that set the stage for a five-day traverse on mountain bikes and e-bikes. My partner in crime was Canadian freeride pioneer Brett Tippie, and we had a number of superstar guest appearances during the ride. We explored some of the best trails, visited the most iconic places and took a journey through the history of mountain biking, from the beginning of our sport to its future.

I have traveled to many remote locations, literally at the end of world. Some of those trips I had to plan before there was the convenience of the internet, when very little information was available. Often nobody had ever ridden a bike in those places. 

A highlight of the trip was riding the infamous Repack trail with some of the original “Klunkers.” Otis Guy leads Hans, Joe Breeze, Charlie Kelly and Brett Tippie.

 

I figured, with the pandemic in full swing, I had better plan a trip nearby without travel restrictions and with simple logistics—or so I thought. Little did I know that this would become one of the hardest trips to plan and to realize. There were so many factors; we didn’t know whether or not things would work out. My usual French filmmaker, Cedric Tassan, wasn’t able to enter the USA, even after we postponed this trip three or four times. It was uncertain if Tippie would be able to travel from Canada, and everybody on the guest and crew list had question marks for one reason or another.

Our final crew consisted of my wife, Carmen Rey, who was one of two photographers and who also helped with many other aspects, such as the script and production. John Barrett was our cameraman, and Kyle Emery-Peck, aka “Cubby,” was our local photographer. Dave McLaughlin from Team Clif Bar, another person with deep roots in mountain biking, was our support crew and local fixer. 

The Embarcadero in San Francisco is a famous landmark. E-bikes are the practical way to explore a city like this.

 

During the prologue before the first stage, I used the spectacular backdrop of the Golden Gate Bridge to film our intro and to ride my trials bike on the rocks and jetty at Fort Baker and explore the headlands during sunset.

STAGE 1: MOUNT TAM, MARIN COUNTY 

The following day, I started solo on the first stage—in Marin County in Fairfax—in the shadow of Mount Tam on the all-new GT Carbon Force. This was literally the place where this whole mountain biking thing started in the mid-to-late 1970s. Back then, before the bikes (and even the name for mountain bikes) were invented, these locals would challenge each other on old Klunker bikes with coaster brakes on a downhill trail known as “Repack.” I had made arrangements to meet some of these OGs and ride this infamous trail with them later that day. But first, I set off at Tamarancho, where there are a number of great mountain biking singletrack trails and fire roads. 

I couldn’t help but contemplate how much mountain bike technology, trails and the way we ride have evolved over the past 45 years. One of the highlights was definitely the Flow Trail. I had ridden it before, and it is really fun and flowy with berms, rollers and jumps in a beautiful redwood forest. Sometimes I love riding alone and just soaking up the nature, clearing my head and forgetting everything else in my life, just to be there at the moment and be one with my bike, to feel the wind blow in my face and listen to the sound of my tires touching the dirt or the sounds of the birds. 

The Palace of Fine Arts was transformed by Hans into the Palace of Fine Tricks with this no-footed stoppie, Hans’ signature trick.

 

That serenity was soon over, however, when towards the end of the day I was joined by Brett Tippie, who would accompany me for the rest of the “Slay the Bay” tour. With him were some of the pioneers of mountain biking: Charlie Kelly, Joe Breeze and Otis Guy. They were all there in the ’70s and contributed, along with others, to the birth of this sport. 

Joe and Otis even rode two of the original “klunker” bikes straight out of the Marin Bicycle Museum and the Mountain Bike Hall of Fame. It was amazing to hear their stories and to ride this legendary dirt road with them. As a matter of fact, the course record set by Gary Fisher in the ’70s was only beaten for the first time in 2021! Hard to believe, but I guess that’s what you get when you ride on a bike with hardly any brakes! All five of us had been inducted into the Hall of Fame for one reason or another, so we could not pass up the opportunity to end our day at the Marin Bicycle Museum and MTB Hall of Fame, a place every mountain biker should visit at some point in his or her life. It is filled with many old and original bikes, stories, memorabilia and information. After some beers and laughs—trust me, there is never a shortage of laughs and jokes when Tippie is around—we went to our hotel in Mill Valley and prepared for our first urban stage through San Francisco.

STAGE 2: THE GOLDEN GATE BRIDGE 

We started at the north end of the Golden Gate Bridge on our pedal-assist e-bikes. I rode my GT eForce and Tippie rode his YT Decoy, both equipped with Shimano Steps EP8 drive units and SR SunTour suspension. A shout-out to Stan’s for providing my tubeless wheels that prevented any flat tires during this adventure. We knew we would face some long stages, and therefore we carried spare batteries on some of the days. The first thing we did that morning was cross the bridge, but before we left, I was lucky to receive a super-cool souvenir—an original rivet from the bridge. Many of the over one million rivets used to hold the bridge together are currently being replaced. 

Brett found a way to conserve his battery by hanging onto one of the famous cable cars on Hyde Street.

 

The Golden Gate Bridge is an iconic landmark and spans the entrance to this incredible bay that was first discovered by Europeans 252 years ago when the Spanish Portola expedition accidentally found it. Of course, Native American Indians had lived there already for a long time before. Due to the notorious Bay Area weather and fog, the entrance to the bay was never seen by any passing ships for hundreds of years until 1769. Apparently, there are over 300 shipwrecks at the bottom of the Pacific Ocean, right at the mouth of the bay—not far from where we rode our bikes this beautiful morning. 

We had decided to do two city stages. Today, we would ride clockwise once we arrived in the city and visit places like Fort Point, Presidio, Fisherman’s Wharf, the famous curvy Lombard Street, Embarcadero, the Oakland Bay Bridge and many neighborhoods and parks in between, with some rather sweet trails and playgrounds along the way. This city offers so much diversity. It was such a contrast after our first stage. I truly believe there is no better way to explore and get a sense of this town than by bicycle.

This was literally “the end of the trail” on our East Bay stage, which ended on Yerba Buena Island above the Oakland Bay Bridge.

 

After lunch, something very strange happened to me. I’m not sure if I was dehydrated—it had been very hot weather—or if it was the constant jokes I had to digest from Tippie (just kidding!), but I started to feel very dizzy and tired and had zero energy. I might have had a caffeine overdose or something from a Yerba mate drink I had for lunch. Nonetheless, from one moment to the next I had to sit, then lie down on the ground and take a rest, after we had just ridden some pretty steep drops and hillsides. Five minutes later, I could barely ride in a straight line. It all passed after about 1.5 hours. I slowly started to feel better and was able to finish our ride. For a while, I was lying on a park bench next to a homeless person while our crew had to wait for my recovery. The streets in San Francisco are filled with interesting characters and sights, ranging from the iconic cable cars and the infamous Alcatraz prison to the hippies, tourists, and messengers, or one of the up to 50,000 Uber/Lyft cars congesting the streets.

Brett Tippie has a million-dollar smile and such a positive attitude. We’ve known each other since the mid-‘90s when we were both pioneering the freeride movement. He told me his story of when he hit a low point in life. During a dark period, he withdrew from the bike scene and lived on the streets for nearly two years before he had his incredible comeback. It showed in the empathy he had for the many homeless on the streets of San Francisco. Often, he would give them some dollars or an energy bar as we were passing through.

 At the end of the day, we took the ferry back to our hotel as we enjoyed the sunset over the city.

DAY 3: MOUNT DIABLO AND THE EAST BAY

Day three started on top of Mount Diablo (3849 feet). From there, we were to traverse the East Bay via Oakland Hills, all the way to the Oakland Bay Bridge. Once again, we chose our e-bikes, partly because we had quite some distance to cover this day. The views from the top of the peak had us overlooking the entire territory of our tour from Mt. Tam to San Francisco and the mountain ranges to the south. On a clear day, one can even see Yosemite. 

Joaquin Miller Park has some of the best trails in the East Bay, high above Oakland in the redwoods.

 

Brett found a very steep and technical line near the top to get us started. On the way down, we enjoyed some great trails, surrounded by oak tree groves and panoramic views. After some sandwiches in Walnut Creek, we hit some of the classic East Bay trails at Joaquin Miller Park above Oakland and traversed the Skyline until our final descent into UC Berkeley. The quality and quantity of trails has improved so much in recent years. It wasn’t until it was dark that we finally arrived at the bike path that would take us across the Oakland Bay Bridge to Treasure/Yerba Buena Island, which is located in the middle of the bay. It was beautiful to see the lit-up skyline of San Francisco in the distance. I was so tired that I wasn’t exactly looking forward to another big stage the following day.

DAY 4: PRESIDIO, GOLDEN GATE PARK AND THE CASTRO 

We had our second urban stage on the itinerary. Today, we would explore the other half of the city from Presidio, Land’s End, Golden Gate Park and Twin Peaks to the Castro.

Mount Diablo was the starting point for day three, one of the longest stages in one of the beautiful California oak tree groves common to the area.

 

We got a proper dose of San Francisco. It is amazing how many parks and green spaces there are in the city and how many people exercise everywhere. Some of the old fortresses and batteries proved to have some incredible lines to showcase our love for steeps in an urban environment. 

We passed Baker Beach, where the first-ever Burning Man Festival took place in the mid-’80s. We rubbed elbows with golfers, frisbee throwers and roller-skaters as we worked our way through the three-mile-long Golden Gate Park. For the past 12 years, I’ve had a dream to one day build a Flow Country trail through this park. What a location it would be, right near the birthplace of our sport. Thanks to organizations such as Access 4 Bikes,’ S.F. Urban Riders, IMBA and CAMTB, the riding in the Bay Area is getting better every year, and there are now even some legal singletrack trails in the middle of the city. Still, generally speaking, mountain bikers have had many access issues in the Bay Area, and there aren’t as many trails as one would imagine. Progress has been made, though, thanks to dedicated organizations and groups like the ones mentioned above.

Hans and Tippie dropping in from the top of Twin Peaks, high above the city, where there is access to sweet trails right in the city.

 

Climbing on such trails up to Mount Sutro, we visited one of the most iconic viewpoints over the city, Twin Peaks. Troop 88 trail was the latest example of a perfectly built flow trail—until I hit the ground hard at the end of the trail. Spontaneously, I hit a wall-ride/fence at the very bottom. I wasn’t ready for the vertical wall and was punished by a painful crash and some deep cuts on my shin. 

After I shook it off, we continued to Dolores Park where we were to meet Polo, a member of Team Se7en—a group of “wheelie kids” who can pull some fascinating combos of wheelies—as well as none other than Jackson Goldstone, the newly crowned Junior Downhill world champion and Junior World Cup Overall winner. This fellow Adidas-Five Ten athlete would also join us the following day. But first we had an evening wheelie session planned at Dolores Park, Valencia Street and some of the graffiti-painted back alleys. It was a lot of fun watching and following the youngsters. It was such a great transition from meeting the pioneers of our sport a few days earlier to now riding with the next generation. 

Urban murals are everywhere in the city. Discovering them is part of the urban adventure, and so are e-bikes to cover the distances.

 

DAY 5: MORE RIDING WITH JACKSON GOLDSTONE

Early the next morning, we met Jackson in Pacifica, less than 30 minutes south of San Francisco. Some of the best trails are in the hills surrounding this coastal town. First, I was teaching them a little history lesson, because it was on top of one of these hills, Sweeney Ridge, where the Europeans first discovered the San Francisco Bay, when Spanish explorer Gaspar de Portola accidentally came upon it on the first-ever land expedition in 1769. It took them one year to get there from Spain, via Mexico, by boat and on foot and riding mules up the California coast. Little could they imagine at the time what this area would eventually turn into: the ports, the tech industry, tourism and how one day there would be, right below the discovery site, San Francisco International Airport, where 250 years later, flying objects could take them back to Spain in a mere 11 hours. 

History lesson concluded, Jackson insisted on a detour through the local skatepark before hitting the countless trails at Montara Mountain, located on top of the San Andreas earthquake fault.

‘Planet of the Apes is the old coastal route that serves nowadays as a popular bike trail to access all the purpose-built singletrack trails. Boy Scout trail is where Jackson showed off his skills and put us old-schoolers in our place. Jackson and I both rode our “analog” (non-e) bikes today. Goldstone is only 17 years old, but he made a name for himself a long time ago at the age of 5 when his parents posted a video of him on a balance bike that went viral. Ever since, he’s lived up to his reputation with his incredible skills, from double backflips to World Cup racing.

Jackson Goldstone, the current junior downhill world champion, shows how it’s done with style.

 

Tippie and I were pushed out of our comfort zone a few times. That’s one of the perks of riding with others: you always learn, become inspired and get pushed by your peers. Tippie impressed us with a big road gap drop, and Jackson had no hesitation hitting everything the locals had built. It was actually really cool to get to meet and hang with some of the locals who happened to be there.  

It always amazes me how high the level of riding is on local trails, no matter where I go in the world. I guess someone had to do it first. Little could we have imagined—back in those early freeride days—what we started with our videos, long before the internet even became popular.

(L. to r.) Joe Breeze, Otis Guy, Hans Rey, Charlie Kelly and Brett Tippie get together for a ride on the original Repack course.

 

 After breaking some sweat on the final climb, we got rewarded with the ultimate downhill on Two Pine trail, an old-school trail with many switchbacks and some technical sections. Far below us, a fog layer hid the breathtaking coastal views of the Pacific Ocean, but that, too, is part of San Francisco. We had an incredible week, with lots of laughs, riding and memories. Make sure you watch our film.

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