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Six delightful road rides through the foothills near Nevada City

Bicyclists can anticipate pedaling through pine forests, scenic countryside and checking out one of the longest covered bridges anywhere -- 229 feet -- when they take the Bridgeport-Bitney Springs Loop from Nevada City. The 33.5-mile trail winds on hilly roads amid farms and homes.

Finding the route is easy with the details presented turn-by-turn in "Road Biking," the newly revised brochure published by the joint chambers of commerce of Nevada County.

The Bridgeport Loop is one of five foothill favorites chosen for the brochure by the Sierra Express Bicycle Club of Nevada City. The club is open to new members of all riding levels. More information on its activities is at www.sierraexpress.org.

Riders taking the Bridgeport Loop can visit the historic Bridgeport bridge, one of the longest covered bridges in the world. The dirt road through the bridge is more appropriate for mountain bikes or walking, according to Dave Carter, a freelance writer and photographer based in Nevada City who often rides in these foothills. Carter suggests the bridge as a good halfway point in the ride and recommends a dip in the river or a picnic at the shaded tables at South Yuba River State Park.

The beauty of the bicycling brochure is in its simplicity. Printed on 11-by-17-inch white stock with dark-green ink and folded into gated sixths, it presents each ride with a simple road map, its distance, a difficulty rating and directions in tenths of a mile for each turn.

The Bridgeport-Bitney Springs Loop is rated moderate to difficult. The four other routes range from the easy-to-moderate, 10.3-mile Allison Ranch Loop to the 46-mile, moderate-to-difficult Indian Springs-McCourtney Loop. The other two are the easy-to-moderate 14.6-mile LeMond Loop, named for local hero and three-time Tour de France champion Greg LeMond, and the 44-mile Old Donner Pass Road, a moderate-to-difficult long climb from Cisco Grove and descent to Donner Lake on the old summit highway .

"There's lots of variation in the area, but these trails are designed for newcomers to ride roads without a lot of traffic," Carter said. "The mileage markers on the brochure and the road make it easy to use."

Carter said he rides the Bridgeport-Bitney Springs Loop in a clockwise fashion, saving the Highway 49 section for last. He said the LeMond Loop commemorates the champion's career start in Nevada City and the bicycle model called Nevada City, which LeMond produces.

"The loop was the ride he took as a warm-up ride when he was in town," says Carter.

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