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Bay Area Group Ride – The Chicken Ride (North Bay)

By Eric Davis | In Bay Area Group Rides | on December 7, 2014

Intro: As part of our look at Group Rides in the Bay Area, this week we look at the North Bay Classic, The Chicken Ride.

The ride, which winds its way along Paradise Dr from Tiburon to Corte Madera, possesses one of the more interesting sobriquets of all the Bay Area rides. Named after the jersey-clad rubber chicken given to the victor each week, the “Chicken Ride” is not a ride for the faint of heart.

History: According to unofficial historian (and Achieve Athlete), Steve Wilson, the Chicken Ride started in 1990 when a group of young riders, having grown restless with the pace of the then-popular Marin Cycling Club Friday ride, decided to make a spirited ride of it by pushing the pace up some of the challenging climbs and trying to stay out in front of the group.

The story goes that after a particularly festive ride one day, the ‘winner’, or rider that stayed away from the group, was gifted a rock to commemorate his efforts.

“Congrats. You won. Now, you gotta carry this with you next week,” the rider is supposed to have said. The idea being that the rock would act as ballast and, it was hoped, slow the rider down. The results of that next ride have been lost in time, so it is difficult to say whether the rock did the job. However, the die had been cast – and now there will spoils to the victor. Eventually however, the glory of winning the rock would fall out of fashion and would be replaced by the eponymous rubber chicken still in use today.

The Chicken: Steve Wilson speculates that there have been 7 or 8 rubber chickens throughout the years, each adorned in an appropriately sized cycling jersey. Currently the chicken sports a retro La Vie Claire jersey, but has worn a US Postal and Rabobank jersey throughout the years.

The Route: At just over 7 miles (and approximately 16-17 minutes of actual ride time), the Chicken Ride, is one of the shorter group rides in the Bay Area. However, do not let the short distance lull you- this is a spirited ride with very little opportunity to warm up. In other words, the attacks on the above mentioned climbs will come early and the pace will be strong.

The ride meets at the end of the Bike Path at Blithedale in Mill Valley. A neutral warm-up along Tiburon Blvd. towards Belvedere allows the group to settle in and catch up with one another. The pace begins to liven after the roundabout where Tiburon Blvd becomes Paradise Dr, although most riders will tell you that the ride really doesn’t start until Rob Britt has made one his patented attacks on Caprice Hill.

From there, the route continues along the rollers and tight corners on the narrow road of Paradise Dr. as it swings north towards Corte Madera. If you survive off the front and reach the intersection of Taylor Rd and Paradise Drive then you have earned yourself a rubber chicken. (For more, see Coach Dana’s “Inside Dope” comments below).

Why You Should Do This Ride: The glory of winning the rubber chicken, of course.

The Inside Dope (Dana Williams):

  • Start towards the front as you roll passed the Caprice Restaurant (the official start), especially if you are not confident in your fitness level. If somebody decides to attack from the gun then you can slide back and let some riders pass, then slip in the pace line, as opposed to starting at the back and sliding back, off the back.
  • Use the first time as a recon of the roads if you haven’t done Paradise Dr before. There are lots of terrain and sharp corners and it’s advantageous if you know where they are. Like all group rides, each rider is responsible for their own actions and safety and to obey the rules of the road.
  • If you want to claim the coveted rubber chicken then you must push hard up the hills and stay towards the front of the group.
  • Be aware that if a car comes in play then the ride/race is neutralized. Remember, in the end you are only racing for a rubber chicken and you must obey the rules of the road. It’s not worth putting your life in danger with a car bumper.
  • Allocate At least 20 minutes for post ride coffee.

Some facts

Ride Distance: 7 miles

Occurs: Every Friday (Year round, rain or shine)

Pace: Spirited

Start time/place: 7:10 am sharp. The end of the bike path at Blithedale in Mill Valley

Group Size: Average size anywhere between 10-15 (Largest ever- 32)

Strava Route Detail:  (Chicken Ride – Official Course)

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