This ride is short -- roughly five miles -- but it's neither a family event, nor one for the meek. It's a workout -- short, grueling, and beautiful. (The 7.5-mile Lafayette-Moraga Trail is a nice family ride -- for details, see www.ebparks.org/parks/lafmotr.htm
). Our loop starts on Claremont Avenue just above Ashby and follows Claremont around the side of the famous resort hotel. It starts out brutal and ends quite literally a breeze. The first 1.8 miles constitute a steep, twisting climb through Claremont Canyon to a four-way intersection atop the ridge. The road is lined with tall eucalyptus and lush foliage -- nice to look at, but beware the hot-rodders. Alvarado Road is about one-third of the way up the hill, and a fire trail to the right marks the two-thirds point. If you make it to the intersection without stopping, congrats: you're in great shape! From there, a left onto Grizzly Peak would lead to a beautiful ride through the Berkeley hills, but this route requires a right onto Skyline, avoiding the Tilden Park traffic. Up the hill a few hundred yards, the road flattens out, and you're treated to fantastic views of downtown Oakland and San Francisco. A leisurely ride across the ridge ends at another stop sign. Turn right and follow Old Tunnel Road down through the neighborhoods that were gutted in the 1991 inferno. Be sure and check out the gaudy rebuilds, including oddballs such as the house shaped like a giant saxophone with treble clefs built into its deck railings. Old Tunnel ends in a final downhill that you can yo-yo straight onto Hiller Drive, a massive uphill. It's fun to get going as fast as possible, blow the stop sign (assuming it's safe), and see how far you can burn up a slope that would challenge Lance Armstrong. If you're already beat, simply zigzag left at the stop sign and right onto Caldecott Lane, which promptly leads back to Tunnel Road and back to your starting point.