Who Am I?

King's Creek meadow, Lassen NP

King’s Creek meadow, Lassen NP

My name is Jay Rawlins.  I live in Chico, California.  I’m a retired English professor.  I rode bikes as a child, as every kid did then, as transportation.  I had a Schwinn that had a fake gas tank between the top tubes, like a motorcycle.  I stopped riding when I got my driver’s license.  In college I wanted to bike to classes, so I bought a cheap “10-speed,” as they were called.  It was quickly stolen, so, in complete ignorance, to replace it I bought a Masi—the queen of Italian hand-made bicycles–for $195 retail.  I still have it, up in the attic.  Anybody want to buy it?  Make me an offer (higher than $195).

I knew the Masi was a sweet piece of metal and I liked having it, but I never rode a bike for pleasure until about 20 years ago, when I bought a cheap mountain bike (elastomers in the fork were state of the art suspension then) and started riding the bunny-hill trails in our local city park.  That led to an upgrade when I discovered full suspension, and I spent several years being a passionate mountain biker, traveling to the mtb meccas of the west—Moab, Bend, Fruita, and the like.

One fateful day I bought a road bike as a trainer, because riding pavement in the winter on a mountain bike was a drag.  It was a used Lemond Tete de Course I got a good deal on, and it’s still the bike that has my heart, long after it cracked its downtube and had to be put down.  I spend most of my time now on a Trek Madone 6.2, which the company magnanimously gave me when the Lemond died.

I can’t say I loved road riding out of the gate.  But it grew on me, and after a while I didn’t mountain bike any more.  I did some years where I rode 6000+ miles a year, but after I had done it I decided it really wasn’t the way I wanted to do the sport.  Now I ride fewer miles, ride harder when I ride, and travel a lot more.  A bike for me is primarily a tool for getting me out on the road and exploring new country.  I do the local rides solely to stay in shape for my rides elsewhere.  I’ve always preferred driving for three hours to get to a great/new ride to just climbing one of our local hills one more time.  Carbon footprint be damned.  Hence this website.

I’ve ridden in Tuscany, Southern Spain, the Veneto, and Provence.  In my experience, there is no riding in those places better than the riding we have in California and Oregon.  Again, hence this website.


Bettini autograph

I admit to two bike-related sillinesses: I collect jerseys, and I collect pro rider autographs.  My jersey collection was actually written up in Bicycling Magazine.  I’m up to about 135 jerseys, but I’m discriminating—I own only jerseys that are beautiful and significant to me personally.   My autographs, which I gather on cheap, solid-color jerseys bought for the purpose, cover one wall in my bedroom.  I take absurd pleasure in meeting pro riders.  I can recount for you my meeting with every rider who has signed my jersey.  I have a treasured photo of Paolo Bettini, in his World Champion kit, writing his name on my chest.  My delight in the collection has been dealt a kidney punch by the knowledge that most of the names on my wall are cheaters, but there’s still a glow there.  I’m especially interested in women cyclists, because they don’t dope (I think) and when I meet them a second time they typically remember you.  The men don’t do that.  Once I ran into the great Allison Starnes.  She said, “I know you—I signed your jersey!”  And I ripped open my top shirt and showed her her autograph over my heart, on the jersey I was wearing underneath.  Now that’s a sweet moment.

If you’re in the Chico area and aren’t interested in riding at 25 mph, I love to show out-of-towners the local rides—contact me via the comments box in the blog or email me
at jackrawlins9@gmail.com and we’ll set something up.  Of course, now that you have this website you already know where I’d be taking you.


Post-century exhaustion

October 2016

30 thoughts on “Who Am I?

  1. dennymac

    Sweet site Jay. Way to go! This many awesome rides makes me wish I still lived in Chico. Thx, Denny

  2. DanB

    This website is a gift Jay. Thank you. Have you ever considered riding in the eastern Sierra? Around Bishop specifically. Incredible riding. Great road surfaces, high desert with huge mountain vistas…. Definitely worth the trip!

    1. Jack Rawlins Post author

      I know that some of those huge climbs heading west from Hwy 395 are legendary, but I haven’t found one that seems more than just hard to me. I’m not much for big, barren landscapes and unaltering pitches. Which is your favorite?

  3. jtheat

    Hi Jay; Thanks for the excellent site! Heading out to Big Basin State Park over Christmas, and looking forward to experiencing the redwoods – your routes are very helpful.
    Have you considered Hwy 49 along the North Yuba? We ride from Carlton Campground through Downieville and to Sierra City (on a good day, up to the Sierra Buttes at Bassetts). It’s an awesome area, with no traffic on weekdays and tolerable weekends. Just a thought…

  4. Jack Yates

    Thanks for the routes Jay. I’ve been hitting may of your rides in the South Bay, and they have enriched my life. Your site is an immense gift.

  5. Freddy Snakeskin

    Many of us Southern Californians frequent variations of Angeles Crest / Angeles Forest / Mt. Wilson. Try to hit those on an upcoming trip down yonder.

  6. roger


    I’m surprised you didn’t put Mt. Baldy (all the way to the ski lifts) as one of the best rides of California (supposed to be very similar climb to Alp d’Huez) instead of the ride up Glendora Ridge Road. It’s a climber’s dream!

  7. Brian

    I’ve been a regular on this site for about two years now. You’ve done such a great job detailing each and every ride (both in words and pictures). I don’t get to do as much riding beyond my home base of Sacramento (I’ve got two young kids), but you’ve help to give me a “bucket list” of rides to do when time become available again. Just reading the ride descriptions is fun and I can only imagine how enjoyable they will be to ride. Thanks, Jay!

    1. Jack Rawlins Post author

      Truly, it’s my pleasure, Brian. I had young kids once too, and three short rides a week in the neighborhood around my house was my riding life. The time will come when you get further from home. And if you have to be limited to local rides, Sac is a great place to be. jr

  8. chris forrester


    I love your website. Every Friday night, I look at your website to figure where my wife and I might ride on Saturday and Sunday. This week, I covered your Mt. Hamilton, Jalama Road and Mt. Gibraltar rides . I echo the comments about the eastern Sierra rides. One of my all-time favorite rides—okay, maybe the favorite—is the Devil’s Postpile ride in Mammoth. You should check it out. In the meantime, keep up the exceptional webpage and riding. Its an inspiration to me to get out every weekend, enjoy nature, and try to keep up with you.


    Chris (Saint Mary’s College – BA in English Lit. 1993)

  9. John

    I am VERY THANKFUL that you took the time to chronicle this stuff and make it usable by name/region/distance (old guy with a knee begging for replacement and too many lbs). I’m taking the Best of the Best (the ones I can do) and going for it this year. Very thankful for the info, Jay.

    Totally in snyc with you on the following quotes from your website:
    “A bike for me is primarily a tool for getting me out on the road and exploring new country.
    I do the local rides solely to stay in shape for my rides elsewhere.
    I’ve always preferred driving for three hours to get to a great/new ride to just climbing one of our local hills one more time. Carbon footprint be damned.”
    “I’ve ridden in Tuscany, Southern Spain, the Veneto, and Provence. In my experience, there is no riding in those places better than the riding we have in California and Oregon.” .
    and your criteria for what makes a Best of the Best ride. THANK YOU

  10. Dave Wilkins

    Hello Jay,
    Just found your site while researching a bucket list trip that my wife and I are planning: a big loop of the western US and HWY1/101. I’m 70, she’s 60, and when she retires later this year we will take off with our travel trailer and bikes. I’ve been collecting places to put on the list and found yours while looking for rides under the redwoods. Thanks for your labor of love and all the good roads to ride!

  11. Matthew W (Portland)

    Thank you Jay! This is amazing. It is wonderful of you to have created this website with all this information and suggestions. Really exceptional resource. Bravo!

  12. Jen

    Hi Jay,

    Thanks for making this site for me. It has been my go-to the last 5 years living in the Bay Area. I appreciate your time putting it together.

  13. Joshua Brandt

    Wow! What a treasure trove! I live in the cycling “mecca” (the Bay Area) but I’m not familiar with much of the rest. Nicely done!

  14. John Parsons

    Best site I’ve found to date, Jay. Great stuff here. Your intro to bicycling sounds a lot like mine.

  15. jeff block

    Just came across your site. Awesome. I have done a number of them but oh so many more to choose from. Thanks for doing this. I was looking for a ride down SLO way today, and found your site and rode Prefumo—what a treat!

  16. Viet

    Hi Jay,

    Just came across your site. Thank you for taking time to do all this for us. I have ridden some of your routes. Will take advantage of the others in the near future (I live in the Bay Area). I wish you with continued good health, happy retirement life, and many more enjoyable trips! Thanks again.

  17. LT

    I got into biking during the COVID quarantine, in the Bay Area. Your site has been an absolute delight to stoke the fire and get me excited about rides to find. I’m also a big fan of your advice on where to eat. (Every ride can be a bakeries ride if you do it right…). Thanks for putting all this info out into the world.

  18. Doug Crabtree

    Just found your site and having been asking myself how I got along without as I wasted hours browsing–very well done and thank you!

  19. Ashlee

    Jay, as a recent transplant to the Bay Area from Colorado, I find that your site and knowledge have converted me, too, to be a believer that there is no better place to be a road biker than Northern California. Just wanted to say thank you for sharing your insights, adventures, and opinions so generously.

  20. Brett

    “Readers often ask me why Bestrides doesn’t cover Washington state. The answer is, I don’t think the riding 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.”

    Clearly you haven’t visited the Wenatchee area.

  21. Michael Huston

    Thank you, Jay, for the excellent and thoughtful ride summaries. I really appreciate the traffic notes and tips for riding safely. Cycling has been big for my mental and physical well-being during the pandemic and your site has been a big part of that. Ride on!

  22. Jane Taylor Wilson

    After my husband and I retired in 2019, we began bike riding together (Tim on a road bike and me on a power-assist e-bike). To our great fortune, we discovered your “Jay’s Essential Rides” website, and your guidance has provided many wonderful adventures.

    We live in Santa Barbara so have enjoyed the Jalama Beach, Figueroa Mtn, and Santa Rosa Road rides, which are all amazing. Thank you for nudging us to enjoy the local beauty.

    Twice now we’ve loaded up our bikes to drive to the Northwest to visit family. Along the way, we check your website and have particularly enjoyed quite a few of your rides. Here are a few of our favorites:
    Avenue of the Giants
    Sweetwater Springs Road
    part of the Gold Coast Century
    Elk River Road near Port Orford
    Vernonia to Astoria

    We are enormously grateful for the time and effort you put into creating your website! Our lives are enriched from your guidance.

    Jane (and Tim)

  23. Rob Staub

    This is great, Jay – really appreciate you putting this all together.

    My girlfriend and I moved to SF during COVID and are super excited to check out these new rides on your list!

  24. Kayla

    Absolutely ADORE this site. I’m based out of Los Gatos and have become truly obsessed with your routes. I share the same philosophy of “destination” riding which I did for years as a trail runner (trailstompers.com is the yin to your yang). I just did Robinson Canyon Rd last weekend – AMAZING!!! Checked Tunitas off this weekend and headed to Big Basin next 😉

    Cannot thank you enough for what you’ve graciously created and shared here. Cheers and keep the rubber side down out there!!


  25. kacey


    It was such a pleasure to meet you, Jay. Thanks for taking me on a ride in your hometown of Chico… and the biggest magnitude of gratitude for this terrific website. I use it every single week as I travel with my bike for work all through Northern California. Beyond thankful for your generosity. See you soon I hope! Kacey


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