Sign of good times on Highway 26

The Bestrides Mission Statement

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 89 best rides I know on the West Coast.

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 San Francisco Bay 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-nine 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.

Adding Miles

At the end of each of the 89 posts, an Adding Miles section discusses the pros and cons of the less great but still worthy routes nearby—either within riding distance or a short car trip away.  Thus Bestrides contains evaluations of nearly 400 West Coast rides.  Use the Search Window (see below) to find out if a particular route is discussed in a Bestrides “Adding Miles” section.

Obviously I’ve only been able to include rides I’ve done, and I’ve ridden probably 1% of the good roads in California and Oregon, 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.

How to Use 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 70% 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!   There isn’t anything 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.

How to Use the Search Window

In the upper right corner of every page of Bestrides is a “search” window.  There you can find out what I have to say, if anything, about any road or location in California and Oregon.  Enter the key word/phrase (“Markleeville,” “Hwy 1,” “redwoods”) in the window and click on “search.”  A search for “redwoods” will turn up a list of every Bestrides ride description were the word appears.  However (and this is important), if you enter multiple words (“East Bay”) or numbers (“70,” “Hwy 70,” “Highway 70”), the search engine will give you numerous false hits in addition to the true ones.  To prevent this, enclose in quotation marks all phrases (everything consisting of more than a single word) and everything including a number.

How to Use the Photos

The photos accompanying the rides were all taken by me unless attributed, and were almost all taken from the saddle during the ride.   If you click on them once, they will, in almost all cases, go full-screen so you can see them better.

Where’s Washington?

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.


Sulfur Works, Lassen National Park

18 thoughts on “Home

  1. Cassandra7

    I haven’t had a chance yet to go everywhere in your blog and read everything, but I loved “Who am I?” And your photographs are great.

  2. JohnWiesinger

    OUTSTANDING job, Jay! Wow! What a great resource for cyclists who want to do more than the standard organized rides. Kudos to you! And thank you for sharing with all of us. I for one, will be back, often.

  3. bkcoyne

    Hello! I’ve really enjoyed your site. Based on the criteria you describe for a great ride, two others you might want to check out:

    Lone Tree Road, just outside Hollister. In a little over 11 miles, it climbs from the flatlands to 2600 ft. Single lane, going through a mix of forests and rangelands, gorgeous views. The inital half mile goes through a residential neighborhood, but after that it serves only a handful of ranches, so virtually no traffic. The climbing is in little bursts interspersed with flats, and it’s never more than 8%.

    Mosquito Ridge Road from French Meadows Reservoir to Foresthill, CA. A spectacular road clinging to the edge of a cliff atop the deep canyon of the American River. From French Meadows, there’s a climb up to a ridge, then a 15 mile descent (this descent rivals Tunitas, in my opinion) to a tiny bridge spanning the river, then a long climb back up to Foresthill. It’s a two lane road with a center line, but when I rode it I saw maybe a half dozen cars in 40 miles. It would be a very long out-and-back, but even a portion of it would be really rewarding.

  4. Don

    Great website! I plan on trying at least three of these rides when I visit in May/June. One question though: Why is Tioga Rd not on the list?
    If you ever include rides in Washington, I think Mt Baker Hwy, Hurricane Ridge in Olympic National Park, and Stevens Canyon Road to Paradise in Mt Rainier National Park all possess many of the characteristics in your description of what constitutes a great ride.

    1. Jack Rawlins

      How coincidental that you should write about rides in WA. I am in the midst of planning my first serious cycling trip to that state. The WA road map is literally spread out on my kitchen table and I’m about 1/3 of the way through Mike McQuaide’s very nice guide book (75 Classic Rides Washington). All the rides you mention are in his book and on my to-do list.

      The road to Tioga Pass is reputed to be a very long, grinding climb. Not my sort of thing. The scenery is without peer, of course.

    2. Jack Rawlins

      One year later: Washington is now in the can, and I did all the rides you recommend except Hurricane Ridge, and they’re all (briefly) discussed in the Rides by Region section. Thanks again.

  5. randye

    Hey Jay!!! Thanks for the great biking info…..we ended up in Mendocino looking for a bike ride, found your site and chose the comptche ride…. However we did it in reverse as I was tired of biking NORTH up the coast and wanted to get the hwy 1 part over..ll I loved doing it reverse… We did get the ten miles south done WITH the wind…loved the gentle ascent up the Navarro …. The climb up to comptche was fine as were both the up and down back to hwy 1.. Thanks again…r andye

    1. Jack Rawlins

      Glad to hear it went well. How thoughtful of that ride, to be a vigorous climb in one direction and a mellow ride in the other, and wonderful either way. A ride for all seasons and fitness levels.

  6. boblux

    Great site! Very comprehensive.
    If I may suggest one climb to add: Quimby Road — which is an alternate approach to Mount Hamilton. Amazingly hard climb — but in minutes you are looking down at the valley. It is, by far, the hardest climb I’ve done in the Bay Area.

    1. Jack Rawlins

      I saw that the Tour of California did Quimby this year, and I meant to check it out. They were going downhill, as I recall. Thanks for the tip.

      1. boblux

        Indeed…and going down Quimby is quite dangerous (I take it pretty slow). I was very surprised that the Tour chose this as a leg….

  7. jjnorrie

    I can’t recall why I chose California. I only remember that a mate in Sydney suggested we do some rides in the US, so I went online and eventually ended up here. It’s still the best guide to local cycling routes I’ve seen anywhere.

    We did most of the rides in Wine Country and Marin, and they were all amazing (if you enjoy eating sandwiches and pie as much as I do, get on the Bakery ride.) By the end of the Kings Ridge ordeal my friend turned to me and whispered: “Jay is watching.” He was a little dehydrated.

    I live in Tokyo, and I’ve often wished there was a comparable guide to the back roads beyond the suburban gloom here. I’ve done some of the good routes, but mostly I’ve been frustrated at the paucity of information online. So kudos to Jay-san, who’s built the best cycling guide on the internet.

  8. Motherlode

    Thanks for providing this site. Your criteria for featuring routes is identical to mine. You have motivated me to explore these roads this spring.

  9. maybaer

    I am so glad that I found your site. I live in Bakersfield and there are several rides that should be on your site such as Lion’s trail and Breckenridge climb as well as Deer Trail climb.

    1. Jack Rawlins

      I haven’t ridden in the area, but my Internet researches tell me: Lion’s Trail is a loop that goes from the town of Caliente north on Caliente Bodfish Rd, R on Walker Basin Rd., then R on Caliente Creek Rd. Breckenridge Rd. heads E off Hwy 184 just north of the Hwy 58 junction and goes forever. Deer Trail Dr. takes off from hwy 223 SE of Bakersfield and heads SE to Bear Valley Springs. If there’s a way to loop it, I don’t know what it is. Other routes in the area are at http://www.kernwheelmen.org/RidesEvents/KernCountyRouteMaps.aspx. I gather from Internet sources that Deer Trail Dr. a) isn’t paved and b) is private land unfriendly to cyclists, so I’m not sure I can get behind that one. It’s described in the site http://www.pjammcycling.com, which lists the 100 hardest climbs in the U.S.

  10. Dave in GJ

    Thanks much for your site. I’m a CA ex-pat for many years, but I do occasionally return from western CO (the old Tour of the Moon is our regular ride) and I will definitely consult your guide. Planning a short stay in Santa Barbara, and both Jalama and Gibraltar look good. I also found this link on the web, but from what I have read access to Hollister Ranch and Cojo Rd is restricted. Do you (or any other readers) know if this ride is possible for a non-owner https://ridewithgps.com/routes/4128148 ? Cheers, and happy trails. Dave

    1. Jack Rawlins

      I don’t know that area myself. Anyone else can answer Dave’s question? I’d do Figueroa before I did Gibraltar, but they’re both great.


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