2020 is nigh and so the beginning of a new year of centuries and gran fondos. They start up quickly, folks, with the Tour de Palm Springs and Velo Love Ride in early February. Here’s the early bird information list. All fees listed are for registration now and most go up as the events get closer.
This list goes through June 2020. Many rides in the second half of the year don’t have information posted yet; Part 2 will follow later in 2020. Below includes a lot of ‘old standards’ that Spokers have enjoyed over the years. I’ve also included some that are farther afield and look interesting, as far north as nearly the Oregon border. The Greater SF Bay Area is blessed with a multitude of century and gran fondo rides of which these are just a subset. Starting in April things really heat up and you’ll be able to find a big ride almost every weekend.
Ridership in local centuries generally seems to be on the wane. For example, the Cinderella Classic has been around since 1976 and until recent years had a limit of 2,000 riders, I believe. This year’s limit is down to 800. Having worked registration for over 15 years I can tell you that the numbers have tumbled. Is it because centuries are no longer a ‘thing’, women-only rides are passé (are we post-feminist too?), Valley Spokesmen is tired of fighting the local authorities around permits for such a large event on public roads, or it just can’t muster enough volunteers to hold such a large event anymore? The latter is clearly taking place at the Sierra Century. The Sacramento Wheelmen do not have enough members, particularly new members, to step up and run the event. Cycling clubs are mostly aging up with thin ranks of younger members. The reason for this is unclear. Although cycling is enjoying a boom (yet again), newer cyclists may not be joining clubs.
Fortunately into the breach have stepped a number of local charity organizations to invent and put on new centuries. Local Lions Clubs and Rotary International sections seem to be common sponsors for smaller rides. One could say they’re riding the charity ride wave and that’s good news for those of us who appreciate riding in different areas on new-to-us roads. How many of these will last is questionable because it takes a significant effort to put on a fundraising ride, mainly lots of volunteers and yearlong planning. Different Spokes put on the AIDS Bike-A-Thon for ten years before the leadership and the membership just burned out. So if you see a ride that looks interesting you may want to sign up because there is no guarantee it will be there in 2021.
1 Wednesday. Resolution Ride/New Year Day Up Diablo. Technically it’s not a century or a gran fondo but the NYDUD coming during the winter doldrums will feel like one! And what better way to rid a hangover than to get up early and head to the top of Mt. Diablo? If you do nothing else in 2020, you’ll still be able to say you made it up the second highest peak in the Bay Area. If we’re lucky, the park rangers will again have coffee and donuts at the Junction and Roger H and I won’t have to schlep them all up for you.
8 Saturday. Tour de Palm Springs. $80. Registration is open. Here’s your chance to check out your retirement options by cycling in the Palm Springs area! It’s a schlep to get to Palm Springs but Spokers who’ve been say it’s worth it. Options for 9, 26, 51, or 102 miles.
8 Saturday. Velo Love Ride. [UPDATE 1/6/20: CANCELLED. It seems Chico Velo needed an event organizer and they couldn’t get one this year, alas. I know they also lost their longtime caterer. This event has been held for ages, so this does not bode well for the future.] A low-key event with a flat ride around the Sutter Buttes outside of Chico. Starts in Gridley just north of Yuba City—a much easier schlep than Palm Springs. The meal at the end is worth it. Has a real “locals” feel rather than the usual mass-event mosh pit vibe. Sponsored by Chico Velo, the same fine folks who put on the Chico Wildflower. 40-, 60- and 100-mile options. I’ve been assured by Chico Velo that the Velo Love ride is going to be held even though the Chico Velo site is mum about it now. They also accept late registrations so if rain is threatening, you can make your decision later.
22 Saturday. Pedaling Paths to Independence. $45-40. Registration is open. 65-, 45- or 20-mile routes. This is a pretty easy metric in the Valley that is a benefit for the Community Center for the Blind. It’s cheap too. Mostly flat and not too demanding unless the wind is blowing. A good early season ride. Starts in Linden, east of Stockton.
7 Saturday. Blossom Bike Ride. $50. Registration is open. Put on by the Lions Club, the Blossom Bike Ride is in Reedley southeast of Fresno, about 3.5 hours from SF. Another flattish Central Valley ride and good for starting the riding season and Saddle Challenge. 60-, 45-, and 20-mile options.
14 Saturday. Solvang Century. $99. Registration is 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.) And be sure to reserve a motel room well in advance. Solvang is a big event with thousands of cyclists. If you like crowds, this is your ride. The rest stop food is perfunctory yet ample but no lunch or after-ride meal is included. 25-, 49-, 66-, and 100-mile options.
28 Saturday. Cinderella Classic & Challenge. Registration opens January 8. $40/$65. Limited to 800 women and girls. 30, 65 or 85 miles. Sponsored by Valley Spokesmen, the very first women/girls only century ride is now in its 44th year. Boys will have to settle for Different Spokes’s very own Evil Stepsisters ride!
4-5 Saturday/Sunday. L’Eroica California. $130/$220. Registration is open. 33-, 74-, 81-, and 108-mile routes for classic bikes; 81-mile route for all bikes. The rides are part of the two-day festival of vintage bicycles held in Paso Robles. You have to have a vintage bike to participate in the Sunday classic ride, e.g. no STI-like shifters, no clipless pedals, basically no bikes made before 1987 and the older the better for the classic routes. But you can ride your modern bike on the 82-mile route on Saturday. Retro-poseurs need apply. And wear wool!
18 Saturday. Sea Otter Classic. $90-110. Registration is open. Did you know the Sea Otter Classic is more than a glitter show of new bike products and race watching? Two gran fondos at 49 or 91 miles. Also a gravel grinder of 29 miles and a mountain bike ride of 19 miles.
18 Saturday. Bike Around The Buttes. $55-40. Registration opens Jan. 1. 100-, 65-, 40-, and 20-mile routes. If you can’t make it to Chico Velo’s Velo Love Ride, this ride covers similar roads in the Sutter Buttes area.
CANCELLED. Sierra Century. This long-time spring century by Sacramento Wheelmen is on hiatus because, “Sadly, this event has been cancelled due to an inability to recruit new club members to take over critical leadership positions for the event. Whether this event is ever offered again depends, at least in part, on the future well-being of the club, which now needs to focus on attracting and integrating new members so that a next generation of Wheelmen will be prepared to do so.” Sad yet understandable.
19 Sunday. Primavera Century. $65 Registration is open. 100-, 85-, 63- and 25-mile routes. Starts conveniently in Fremont but too early to get there by BART (except for the 25-mile fun ride).
25 Saturday. Tierra Bella. $55/$70. Registration is open. Limit of 1,500. A club fav and it’s close by in Gilroy. Great roads, which are not suburbanized (yet). Post-ride meal is pretty good too. For unknown karmic reasons this ride gets horrendously rained out periodically. But in dry years it’s a fantastic ride. 33-mile, 100-mile, or three 100K options varying in hilliness.
25 Saturday? Mt. Hamilton Challenge. For the past three years the Mt. Hamilton Challenge has been cancelled due to weather or road closure. But Pedalera promises it will be back for 2020.
25 Saturday. SLO Wildflower Century. $75. Registration opens Jan. 5. Limit of 1,200. Starts in Creston southeast of Paso Robles.
26 Sunday. Chico Wildflower. $45/$75. Registration is open. 12-, 30-, 60-, 65-, 100-, and 125-mile routes. This century is a club favorite. Spokers usually arrange to have dinner together the night before in Chico. Booking lodging requires advance planning, as the Wildflower will fill up all the motel rooms in the area. If you can take Monday off from work, so much the better because you will almost certainly be whipped after the ride and the excellent post-ride dinner–driving back right after is just a chore.
2 Saturday. Wine Country Century. $70-110. Registration is open. 100-mile, metric, and ‘super’ century. Cap of 2,500. Another club fave. Good lunch, great after-ride meal, awesome tandem friendly rural roads.
2 Saturday. Siskiyou Scenic Bicycle Tour. $65-15. Registration is open. 103-, 68-, 21-, and 8-mile road routes; also a 90-mile mixed surface route! End-of-ride meal. This ride is run by the Yreka Rotary Club and takes you on rural roads north of Mt. Shasta.
3 Sunday. Grizzly Peak Century. $75. Registration opens mid-January. 52-, 76-, 102-mile road routes. Capped at 1,000 riders. Starts in Moraga so very easy to get to except not by BART because BART doesn’t open up early enough. The GPC is most definitely not a flat route–it’s a climber’s ride. This one always sells out, so don’t wait too long after registration opens, which I am guessing will be around the New Year. The end-of-ride meal is most definitely homemade and delicious.
16 Saturday. Davis Double. $120? Registration usually opens in March. Limit of 1,000. No information yet but the DD always takes place. This is one of the easier double centuries as long as it’s not hot.
16 Saturday. Tour de la Vigne Formerly the Lodi Sunrise Century. $65. 100-, 62-, 38-, and 17-mile routes. Starts in the Valley in Lodi and heads up to Camanche Reservoir and back through Linden. If you’re not up for 200 miles at Davis.
17 Sunday. Strawberry Fields Forever. $45 No information yet. 30-, 61-, and 101-mile routes. A pleasant ride in the Santa Cruz and Watsonville area.
30 Saturday. Devil’s Slide Ride. $90/$45. Registration is open. 101-, 64-, and 42-mile routes down the San Mateo coast and up the Coast Range and back. A benefit for PARCA.
7 Sunday. Sequoia Century. $95-45. Registration opens Jan. 2. 100-, 72-, 59-, and 44-mile routes through the Coast Range to the coast and back. Another longtime, epic ride.
13 Saturday. Gold Country Cycling Challenge. $70-45. Registration is open. The Rotary Club of Grass Valley sponsors this one for the seventh time. 100-, 75-, 55, and 33-mile routes from Grass Valley north to the South Yuba River and back. There are actually three paved rides and three “gravel” rides!
20 Saturday. Mile High 100. $85-55. Formerly the Lake Almanor Century. 108-, 56-, and 33-mile routes. Near Lassen Volcanic Park. Mid-ride lunch and after-ride meal included.
20 Saturday. RBC Gran Fondo Silicon Valley. $725/245. Registration is open. Yes, your read that right: $725 for a friggin’ 71-mile ride from Palo Alto to the San Mateo coast and back along the roads we ride all the time—Kings Mtn., Tunitas Creek, Stage Road, Pescadero Creek, La Honda Road. For the venture capitalist in your family. Well, you don’t have to drive far to do this one. Or you could just do the Sequoia, which is not only way less expensive but supports a great local club, Western Wheelers, instead of profiteering carpetbaggers.