We’ve put together five rides – all within a few hours’ drive from Sacramento – that offer something for everyone.
This time of year, remember to keep hydrating – and sipping wine while cycling on a wine trail is not the kind of hydrating we mean. Drink lots of water.
Choosing from the following rides may be a challenge in itself. Do you want moderate climbing practice without straying too far from home? Or do you want to cut to the chase and test yourself on one of the most difficult climbs this side of the French Alps? Or would you prefer to keep it simple and cruise along worry-free on the bike trail that meanders along the American River? Our area provides options for all.
1. St. Helena for wine, hills
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Start and finish this ride at Velo Vino, the tasting room for the Clif Family Winery – it’s the same Clif as in Clif Bar. You’ll feel welcome inside, where it is decorated with a bicycle theme.
You’ll also find maps and routes offered for free. We did a 45-miler that started off with mostly moderate climbing before becoming increasingly challenging – and scenic – as we racked up the miles.
And we returned to Sacramento with a few nice bottles of wine, especially the Bordeaux-style blend dubbed “Climber.”
2. Placer County Wine Trail
We’ve got it good in the Sacramento region when it comes to quiet roads for cycling. Head up Interstate 80 toward Loomis, Lincoln, Newcastle and Auburn, and along many of the roads connecting those towns, you’ll find wineries. That’s the idea here.
Stop as often as you want, and try tastings where it suits you. Our 25-mile ride gave us a good workout on the many rolling hills, and challenging Baxter Grade, and we were able to visit four wineries. Go to www.placerwine.com to zero in on which wineries interest you.
3. American River bike trail
If you start from downtown Sacramento, you can ride about 64 miles round-trip on what many consider one of the great bike trails of the world.
This is a route that will make you appreciate how good we have it here. While there is a 15 miles per hour speed limit and the terrain isn’t challenging – you won’t hit a hill of any note until you’re 20 miles into the ride – you’ll get to see excellent river scenery and, if you're lucky, all kinds of wildlife, including hawks, coyotes, deer, rabbit and wild turkeys.
4. Out and about in the Delta
This area has a decidedly laid-back vibe. The pace is slower here and people seem just a bit friendlier. It’s a place for fishing, boating, riding and relaxing.
Because the route we chose was so flat, I opted to ride my fixed-gear bike. We started in the town of Courtland and mapped out a 31-mile loop. The biggest challenge is usually the wind. If you don’t like hills, this is your kind of ride.
5. Tour de France-style climbing
If you’re wondering what it’s like to ride a stage in the world’s greatest road bike race, we have a local taste of it for you.
You start in Auburn, head to Colfax, then dip down ever so carefully on switchback roads to the north fork of the American River.
Take a deep breath, take in the scenery –then prepare to suffer. You’re about to climb to Iowa Hill.
If you’re not in shape and not a strong rider, you simply will not make it. But if you’re up for the challenge, you’ll love this brutal hill and the narrow, remote roads. It’s 66 miles of joy and suffering.
For more information, go to www.centralcalifornia cycling.com.