When I’m in an area that’s new to me and looking for a good ride, I do what you do: I google “bicycle rides Area X” and poke around in whatever sites pop up. And what pops up is almost always not what I want.
I get one of three things: either I get a site like Map My Ride, which lists all the possible rides in the area (Oh boy—if I want to do 200 rides, I’m set!); or I get a list of the longest, toughest, most badass rides in the area; or I get huge loops, where 30 miles of the route is really good riding and the other 70 is to get you from one good stretch to another.
I’m not in town to do 50 rides, I don’t ride for difficulty’s sake, and I don’t want to spend the bulk of my riding time getting to the good stuff. I want the best, prettiest, sweetest road in the area—maybe the best two—I want it short enough that I can do another ride the next day. And most of all, I don’t want the merely-OK miles of connector roads. If I want to ride from good section to good section, I can consult a map and find the connector roads myself.
So that’s what this site offers you. Nothing but great rides. No loops for loops’ sake. No climbing for climbing’s sake. No mention of the fifth-best ride in the area. No dull parts. Just the cream. (Well, maybe a short dull part or two.) And, after each ride, a brief discussion of the less great but still very good riding nearby, if you want to stretch your legs further.
So what’s a great road ride? A great road ride has six virtues:
- It’s scenic. There are no rides on this site that aren’t eye candy.
- It’s interesting. That is to say, the road contour has character. It goes up and down, back and forth, presents you with changing conditions. No endless 6% pitches. No ruler-straight flats.
- It’s small—two-lane certainly, without a center line ideally.
- It’s untrafficked. Not even trafficked with a substantial shoulder. I don’t do shoulders unless I have to in order to get to better riding.
- The road surface is good.
- It has some climbing. Flat is boring. A flat road would have to have the Grand Canyon or the Redwoods for scenery to make my list.
If we were to do only rides with all six virtues, we’d rarely get on our bikes. So I include rides that have missing virtues but make up for that in the other ones. On such rides, I’ll warn you about the missing virtue(s). Bull Creek Flats Rd., in the Avenue of the Giants ride, for example, has a lousy road surface but it’s through old-growth Redwoods, for god’s sake.
So that’s what you’ve got here. Eighty-six rides around California and Oregon, each one a destination ride, worth getting in your car and driving to the area just to do. And nothing but.
Obviously I’ve only been able to include rides I’ve done, and I’ve ridden probably 1% of the good roads in California, so I welcome nominations from the floor. Tell me about the ride you treasure (not the ride you just do all the time or the ride that’s a really good work-out, please), and be as specific about its virtues as you can. And be clear about connector sections that are necessary but aren’t in themselves particularly rewarding.
Here are three tips on using the Mapmyride Maps:
1. Mapmyride consistently underestimates elevation gain totals. Comparing their figures to repeated riding with an elevation-recording bike computer, I’d say any elevation gain total on one of our ride maps is about 60% of what you can expect to encounter. There is a 15-mile ride near Placerville (that isn’t in our list) where Mapmyride says the gain is 1770 ft., and when I got to the end of it my computer read over 4000 ft. of gain! Not a thing any of us can do about this except to go in without rigid expectations. I’ve left Mapmyride’s numbers alone unless I mention otherwise.
2. To interact with any of the Mapmyride maps and elevation profiles, click on the bold-face ride title in the upper left corner just above the map. At the moment (and these things change), this will display a larger version of the map with no visible ride route. If you then click on the “full screen” icon (black square in upper R corner of map with arrows pointing to all 4 corners), you’ll load a fully functional map with ride route and (larger) elevation profile. Putting the cursor on the elevation profile will produce a red dot which you can move around to determine the elevation of any point on the map, the distance or elevation difference between any two points on the map, and so forth.
3. The maps display differently on different computers. For instance, the elevation profiles are wider on some machines than on others. So if you see some odd formatting, it may look normal on someone else’s computer.
The photos accompanying the rides are all taken by me unless attributed, and if you click on them they will, in almost all cases, go full-screen so you can see them better.
Readers often ask me why Bestrides doesn’t cover Washington state. The answer is, I don’t think the riding in Washington is good enough. I’ve done a fair amount of riding there, and it’s often nice, but it can’t match the two states below it. Sorry, Washingtonians. I’ve described the five rides I know of in Washington that are exceptional at the beginning of the Rides by Regions chapter.