Commuting by bike with Cuong Phu Trinh

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Cuong Phu Trinh submitted this write up to the Touchstone Blog. Awesome story! 

I received a Tweet from friends asking if I wanted to climb at the non-Touchstone climbing gym closest to my Southern California home. I declined as I was packing up for a trip up north and mentioned my plans to climb at other Touchstone facilities, given those awesome L.A. Boulders member perks.

Cuong commuting

Over the course of four days I climbed at six Touchstone facilities surrounding the San Francisco Bay. Since I used a plane to start my journey to finding a job, I needed a way to get around. Besides renting a car and footing a gas bill, at my disposal were a bicycle and mass transit.

At 33, I’m an adventurer and I like to travel on a budget. My car is turning 15 as of next month and I’m searching for a relevant, economically viable career opportunity anywhere in the world. I was displaced from my prior journalism career by changing consumer media demands along with steep budget and personnel cuts when the bottom fell out from the economy. At that point I found that graduate school was the only vehicle to a career change. What I do now for my hometown of Rancho Cucamonga is to encourage people of all ages to walk, bike and use transit through Active Transportation and Safe Routes to School programs.

Cuong getting horizontal at the gym

An average human can walk 1/2 mile or bike 2 miles in 10 minutes’ worth of time. I looked at bicycles and transit as a more efficient way to get around, as I didn’t have the time or desire to match bus with train schedules (and vice versa). My graduate research and culminating thesis for my master’s degree in Urban and Regional Planning covers bicycle and transit integration.

Wherever I travel, I practice what I preach. Whenever I show up to out of area job interviews, a recurring question asked is what mode of transportation I used. Based from all you’ve read so far, the answer is clear. In October I pedaled 24 miles using a fixed gear bike to an interview from the East Bay across the Dumbarton Bridge to the City of Palo Alto. Rock climbing came to me by accident. A friend I had met while attending graduate school (pictured below) offered me her guest climbing pass, but all that came to a crashing end in the following week.


I fractured my wrist and dislocated my finger in a bicycle crash, which meant I couldn’t climb or bicycle for many months. After nine months I tried climbing again. Every second I held myself to the wall was downright difficult but I continued to fight the pain to rebuild my atrophied muscles.

Cuong stemming his way through one of the many Touchstone gyms

After buying punch cards at several gyms to see how long I could hang I purchased a membership ata climbing facility near my suburban home. All was going well until that friend told me about the largest bouldering gym ever, being Dogpatch Boulders. I was awestruck on how much larger, cleaner and nicer it was compared to any other bouldering gym I had ever seen prior. Then I went to check out the skeleton of what became L.A. Boulders and signed up on the spot. Now I’ve got two memberships.

Since LA.B opened its doors I’ve climbed at every Touchstone facility (except Sacramento Pipeworks) and used my guest passes to bring more friends into the climbing world; two of which signed up for LA.B memberships.

So how far are Touchstone climbing facilities from transit?

– Great Western Power Company = 1 block/ 19th St. Oakland BART

– Mission Cliffs = 10 blocks/ 16th St. Mission BART

– Dogpatch Boulders = 2.5 mi/ 16th St. Mission BART or 5 blocks/ 22nd St. Caltrain

– Berkeley Ironworks = 1.5 mi/ Ashby BART or 4 mi/ GWPC/ 19th St. Oakland BART

– Diablo Rock Gym = 2.5 mi/ Concord BART or 3.3 mi/ Pleasant Hill BART

– The Studio = 1.2 mi/ San Jose Diridon Caltrain

– LA.B = 1.5 mi/ Los Angeles Union Station

At least 4x/month I bicycle six miles from my suburban SoCal home to a Metrolink train station, ride it 40 miles into downtown LA and then pedal 1.5 miles to LA.B. My drive to drive less while using both my Touchstone and (my hometown) gym memberships is keeping me in the best shape of my life and I’ll continue to post about my journeys on social media.