Northern California in February
This past winter was tough. Actually, that’s an understatement. This is the first winter since I started racing that I was largely unable to train outdoors. In fact, since the New Year, I was only able to enjoy one single ride off the trainer (and a big “thank you” to Allan Rego for destroying me on that ride). The conditions have been so bad that I became delirious and was regularly clocking two to four hour rides on the Kickr. So it’s no surprise that I was in dire need of some warmer weather! After some last minute scrambling, Meghan Schloat (CityMD Racing) and I booked our flights to Northern California. We had visited the region a few times before, but had never really focused on the riding. Since our good friend Steph Kaplan (CityMD Racing) moved out to the Bay Area last year to work at Specialized, we thought it would be fun to visit with her and try out some new bike routes in the process. And it certainly didn’t disappoint!
Day 1: Climbing, Dirt, and Base
After arriving late and staying up well past midnight to build up the bikes, we headed to Specialized to meet up with a larger group for our first ride out in NorCal. The ride had originally been planned as a “work event” to host one of Specialized’s executives visiting the Morgan Hill headquarters, complete with a sag van, mechanic, and lots of treats! As luck would have it, the busy executive had to cancel his trip last minute, and we were the lucky ones benefiting from all the perks!
We were excited for some good climbing and lots of base miles. And we got our fair share with an 85 mile ride and 6,500 feet of climbing through gravel roads and Redwood forests. The highlight for me was the dirt climb through Redwood Retreat Road culminating at an intersection inhabited by a gorgeous and imposing multi-century-old oak tree at the top of Mount Madonna.
Day 2: Cañada Loop
After a very long day in the saddle, we opted for a somewhat shorter ride right in the Morgan Hill area. This 45 mile loop is a ride that the locals will do on a nice summer late afternoon. It’s their version of River Road (NYC). But I have to admit that despite having cycled throughout North America and Europe, this is potentially the most beautiful loop that I have ever done. My stomach was filled with envy! How could this be someone’s after-work quick loop?! Life seems unfair sometimes. The ride really starts at Dryden Avenue, and continues with a straight and flat shot right up to the hills. From there, we took a sharp left onto Leavesley Road where the scenery suddenly changes to hilly farmlands. The road eventually connects to Roop Road and Gilroy Hot Springs, parallel to Coyote Creek. Finally it merges onto the beautifully rolling Canada Road before diving back to Morgan Hill through a 10 minute plus descent!
Day 3: Ocean Views and Redwoods
After the breathtaking views from Cañada Road, I was almost ready to pack my bags and head home. After all, I didn’t expect the riding to be anywhere close to that again. But to my surprise, day 3 packed another amazing set of scenic roads. We parked by Woodside, a town close to Stanford, and were immediately treated to a fantastic climb called Mountain Home Road. Apparently given the smooth gradient and length of this climb, many people use it to gauge their fitness level and set personal records. From there we continued onto Skyline Boulevard, a ridge with beautiful views and smooth gradients. Once we passed by Pescadero, it was a race to the ocean with a beautiful section on Highway 1. After a quick pit stop at The Bike Hut on Tunitas Creek Road, we climbed back from the ocean through some of the most amazing redwood trees that I have ever seen! Definitely worth the effort!
Day 4: Mount Hamilton
Mount Hamilton is a mountain in California's Diablo Range and overlooks Silicon Valley. After a grueling 1H30+ of climbing through several micro-climates, we finally arrived at the Lick Observatory at 4,216 feet. Climbing above the clouds and taking in the amazing views is hard to describe in words… So for this one, I’ll let the pictures speak for themselves. I’ll just warn anyone planning on doing this ride to bring a wind-proof jacket in your jersey pocket for the way down!