2015 is winding down and now’s the time to start planning your 2016 big ride schedule. Century and gran fondo rides in California have a nasty tendency to fill up and before you know it registration is full. If you want a complete but slightly overwhelming list of rides, you can view what has been announced plus some speculation on as-yet unannounced rides at granfondo.com. I’ve summarized below the ones near the Bay Area and the most popularly attended by Spokers with registration information as well as a few other “important” rides that are shorter. I’ve also added my comments. Pricing is generally for the century (100-mile) option for early registration. Prices go up as you get closer to the date assuming the event hasn’t sold out (and many do). Keep in mind that El Nino is supposed to hit us in January so expect a lot of rain January through March.
1 Friday. Resolution Ride: this is the Different Spokes ride up Mt. Diablo. It’ll be crowded because Valley Spokesmen, Grizzly Peak, and Diablo Cyclists and god knows who else will all be heading up the same day. Unless it rains this day; then we’ll see who is really committed!
23 Saturday. Tour of Palm Springs. $70. Registration is open. Although in SoCal, a few Spokers have gone down to jumpstart their seasons. Tends to be dry but this is a big El Nino year, so if you’re a gambler, by all means.
14 Sunday. Chico Velo’s Velo-Love Ride. This used to be called the Rice Valley Tandem Ride and it’s usually on or close to Valentine’s Day, hence the name. $40. Registration is open. A low key event with a flattish ride around the Sutter Buttes outside of Chico. Starts in Gridley, just north of Yuba City—a bit of a schlep but a great ride. The meal at the end is worth it. Has a real “locals” feel rather than the usual mass-event mosh pit vibe.
27-28. Saturday/Sunday. The North American Handmade Bicycle Show. This is not a ride but we are exceptionally fortunate that this event has returned to our area. $22. In Sacramento; you can even take the Amtrak to it. Go ogle the incredibly beautiful bikes and meet the artisans, and maybe even order a new frameset! This is like Eros for bike nerds. Do not miss this event!
12 Saturday. Solvang Century. $125. Registration is currently open. It’s a long after-work Friday drive down to Solvang but you get to amble back home on Sunday. (But DST does begin that morning.) Solvang is a big event but BikeSCOR seems to have scaled it back from megahuge craziness with a cap of “just” 3,000 now. That’s still a lot of bikes on the same roads! Personally I’ll probably never do this event again because the cost is high and the rest stop food is Costco-perfunctory. And the after-ride meal isn’t even included. Seriously? But if you haven’t done it before, it’s a nice ride without a lot of elevation gain. (FYI major parts of the route have plenty of places you could stop on your own and get food way better than the mediocrity you find at the rest stops.)
9 Saturday. The Cinderella Classic and Challenge. Women and girls only. Boys get stuck with Different Spokes’s very own Evil Step Sisters ride instead. $58. Registration is currently open and is capped at 2,500. A very well organized ride with a party vibe. Lots of tutus and tiaras.
9 Saturday. L’Eroica. $150-200. Registration is open. If you can’t afford the time and money to go to Tuscany, this is the next best thing. Ride gravel/dirt roads on your pre-90s road bike, i.e. no clipless pedals, no STI, no disc brakes—no technology past about 1987. Last year was the first time Eroica took place, near Paso Robles. Food is supposed to be awesome.
17 Sunday. Primavera Century. $60. Registration is open. Sponsored by Fremont Freewheelers, this is one of the easiest to get to as it starts in Fremont and loops through the East Bay. Technically it’s BART accessible but on Sundays you couldn’t get from SF to Fremont before 8:58 a.m. so you’re stuck doing the 25-mile fun ride. Food is decent and the ride by Calaveras is a must-do. The metric allows you to finish in the early afternoon and get stuff that you have to get done before Monday done!
23 Saturday. SLO Wildflower. $75. Registration opens 1/3/16. I’ve never done this one but it’s supposed to be beautiful. Starts in Creston, east of Atascadero. The wildflowers this year should be outrageous after we get the rains.
24 Sunday. Mt Hamilton Challenge. No details yet. Sponsored by Pedalera Bicycle Club this is a classic Bay Area event. Ride up Mt. Hamilton and down San Antonio Valley for the full 100-mile loop or just ride to the top and back down the front. You have to bring your own food though!
24 Sunday. Chico Velo Wildflower Century. $75. Registration is open. Capped at 4,000 this year. A Different Spokes fav even though it’s a four-hour drive away in Chico. A group always heads up the day before and spends the night in a motel with a group dinner that evening. The only minus is that after the ride you have to schlep back to the Bay Area in order to get to work the next day. Beautifully run despite growing to 4,000 riders, although Honey Run is a rolling mosh pit with excellent crash potential. Rest stop food is okay but more than once they’ve run out, which is very bad. Hopefully they’ve straightened that out by now. The after-ride meal is excellent. Can be hot weather. El Nino rains should mean stupendous wildflowers too. Motels fill up so reserve early.
30 Saturday. Motherlode Century. $75. Registration opens 1/1/16. Starts in Coloma and roams through the Gold Country, a hilly ride.
30 Saturday. Tierra Bella. $60. Registration is open. Capped at 2,000. Sponsored by Almaden Cycle Touring Club in San Jose. This is another very popular Bay Area century that always fills up. The history of this ride is that it will either be a fantastic day or else you’ll get rained out badly; I’m guessing this year it will be the latter (but I could be wrong!) Starts in Gilroy, not too far of a drive, and takes you through still scenic roads. But they might not be in ten more years. Food is great—I especially like ACTC’s thinking out of the box, like offering hot ramen soup! Oh, and coffee too.
1 Sunday. Grizzly Peak Century. $55. Registration information should be up before the end of the year. Capped at 1,000. Sponsored by Grizzly Peak Cyclists in Berkeley. This is a low profile event with a mellow vibe. As with the Primavera, BART’s Sunday schedule means you’re stuck having to drive to the start despite Orinda BART being just up the road from the start at Campolindo High School. Ride through a long series of East Bay hills from Port Costa down to Castro Valley. The food is homemade and very Berkeley (but yummy). The “metric” is about 75 miles and is enough. Some of the rest stops have cold Coke! The meal at the end is mo’ bettah too.
7 Sunday. Wine Country Century. Registration opens 2/1/16 and will sell out in about 24 hours, so don’t delay. Both the century and the metric go through beautiful countryside and are tandem-friendly. Rest stop food is usually well thought out. One year we had hot coffee at rest stops; another year it was
burritos quesadillas! There is a lunch stop AND an after-ride meal! The lunch is sandwiches and the after-ride meal even has a vegetarian entrée choice. One of my favs.
21 Saturday. Davis Double. Registration opens 3/1/16. One of the flatter double centuries but it can be hot some years.
27-30 Weekend. Great Western Bicycle Rally. $72.50. Registration is open. This event seems to be declining in popularity but it’s been sold to a vendor who is trying to reinvigorate it. Back in the day this used to be the annual gathering of DSSF and DSSC with a smattering of Rainbow Cyclists from San Diego. A huge assortment of beautiful rides in the Paso Robles area. Well worth doing but sleeping in a tent next to 101 is only for the young (or hard of hearing). Getting a motel room is hard unless you reserve well in advance. Family friendly. Former Prez Phil Bokovoy still goes to it!
5 Saturday. Sequoia Century. $65. Registration opens 1/4/16. Another venerable Bay Area century, sponsored by Western Wheelers. Starts in Palo Alto and goes over the Coast Range. A fair amount of elevation gain but not crazy high. Food is fairly good. Very popular but also capped.
11 Saturday? Canyon Classic. Date is uncertain but this is probably right if they follow previous years. Starts in the Valley in Patterson and goes up Del Puerto Canyon, which is not well traveled so really pleasant. A long but steady ascent up to the Junction at Mines Road with a return through Livermore and over Altamont with flat farm roads to conclude. Can be hot. Don’t do it for the food but the route is well thought out and different from our usual routes.
18 Saturday. The Terrible Two. No information yet but registration opens 3/1/16. Just a double century out of Santa Rosa with about 16k vertical gain. This is the Death Ride at sea level. Think you’re butch? Then this is the ride for you.
19 Sunday? Mile High 100. This is in the 2015 burn area near Lake Almanor, so whether it will go in 2016 is currently a question mark.
25 Saturday. DSSF Gay Pride Ride. Our very own Gay Pride ride before the big day!
25 Saturday. Alta Alpina Challenge. Also known as “the other Death Ride.”
They had a big fire last year too, so information on the 2016 ride is uncertain. Registration is now up; cost is about $100. At least you can hoof it back for Gay Pride the next day although you might be dead meat.
9 Saturday. The Markleeville Death Ride. $125. Registration is open, usually sells out. Not cheap but everybody who likes to climb should do this ride at least once. Capped at 3,000. That’s a lot of people on these alpine roads so you’d better like crowds and descending at speed with…everybody. Unless you go way early to acclimate you will feel the altitude. But hey, you get to do Ebbetts, Monitor, and Carson passes!
23 Saturday. Devil’s Slide Ride. $78. Registration is open. There used to be a nice, small ride called the Giro di Peninsula that started at Bay Meadows, which is no longer. Well, that seemed to have killed the GdiP too. Now we have this ride that goes over Devil’s Slide. I’ve never done it so you’re on your own.
30 Saturday. Santa Cruz Mountain Challenge. $55. Registration is open. I haven’t done this one is years but it used to be loads of fun. Lots of climbing in the Santa Cruz Mountains.
7 Sunday? Marin Century. No information yet. In 2015 it was $80. I haven’t done this one since the year it grew to monstrous size. It used to be capped at 1,000 and then it grew into the thousands. The year it exploded we arrived at the first rest stop and it was four-deep with people scrambling to get snacks. I haven’t been back since but maybe it’s calmed down. The rest stop food was so-so but the lunch stop in Petaluma and the after-ride meal were excellent, including hot pizza!
7 Sunday. Shasta Century. No information yet. A few Spokers have gone up and done this one and they loved it. A long drive up but way off the beaten path.
13 Saturday? Crater Lake Century. No information is up yet. I haven’t done this one but I have ridden around Crater Lake. A bucket list item for sure: the ride around the lake is incredibly beautiful and scenic if you have good weather. But it’s a long schlep so you’re better off making it a long weekend trip rather than hustling up and back.
14 Sunday? Tour D’Organics. No information yet. If you don’t want to do the Marin Century, this is an alternate that covers similar terrain. All the food is supposed to be locally grown organic stuff.
14 Sunday? Tour of Napa. No information yet but it should be on this date. Can be very hot but an excellent route with great food.
10-17 Week. Cycle Oregon. No information yet but sign up to get an alert on when registration opens because it fills up immediately. It’s not easy to get on this ride but it’s a must-do. Ride a different route through rural Oregon every year but you do have to like camping (don’t we all?)
17-18 Weekend. Unknown Coast Weekend. $75 (camping) or $100 (cabin). Registration will open 4/15/16. Another great Chico Velo ride. This one starts in Humboldt and tours the redwoods over two days, 65 on Saturday and 35 miles on Sunday.
24 Saturday. Lighthouse Century. $75. Starting in Morro Bay the ride goes up the coast past San Simeon and then returns to Hwy 46 and heads inland towards Templeton and then back to Morro Bay.
1 Saturday. Levi’s Gran Fondo. $170. Registration opens 1/11/16. I’ve never done this one partly because the cost is high. It’s a gran fondo, which means you get a timing chip. But it’s not a race—yeah, right! I hear the food is good. The roads are challenging and they’re Sonoma County roads, which means they are full of potholes and cracks. But it’s supposed to be awesome!
8-9 Weekend? Tour of the Sacramento River Delta. No information yet. Sponsored by Valley Spokesmen, who also put on the Cinderella. This is an easy two-day ride from Brannan Island in the Delta up to Sacramento and then back the next day. Explore scenic Delta byways, 60 miles each day. Can be hot and there is usually a headwind returning to Brannan Island. The lunch stop on Saturday is decent and the after-ride burgers on Sunday are delish. You stay at the La Quinta in Sacto and dinner is on your own. We love this ride!
15 Saturday? Foxy Fall Century. No information yet but this is probably the date. A good way to end the season with a fairly easy century starting in Davis and roaming through the Valley with a few hills along the way. Lots of Spokers usually attend this one.