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smoore 01-22-15 02:11 PM

Commercial Bike Tours of CA Wine Country?
My wife is an occasional rider...once or twice a week at most, due to her work schedule. Probably averages about 12-13mph tops but can ride 35-40 miles. Likes to ride but also "likes to look at the cows/scenery")

I've been thinking that perhaps a ride in CA wine country might be a nice way to spend the better part of a week. We are not campers and a nice motel, food, etc. at night would probably be important to her. I'm 65 and she is 64 and we are both in reasonably good shape and can handle some hills...but not mountains.

So, anyone have any thoughts, ideas, suggestions or history about this kind of ride? I don't think we would fly our bikes from the east coast to the west, so would have to be able to rent good quality road bikes as part of the package.


Biker395 01-22-15 02:56 PM

A lot depends on your resources. At the top, there's always Backroads. I can pretty much guarantee your wife will love this:

Wine Country Bike Tours: Napa Valley, Sonoma | Backroads

At the bottom (of cost), there is always Adventure Velo:

Wine Country Tour | Adventure Velo

They provide maps, directions, and suggestions for food, lodging and water. Many of the mapped routes include shortcuts to shorten the day if you like. I've purchased the maps from AV before, and they are first rate. You're responsible for your own support, water, and food, but there are lots of options listed in the maps.

Note: Apparently, the maps are no longer for sale, but are now free. The downside is that they are not necessarily up to date. But they're still worth a look.

I did the Sonoma County Mini Tour. We stayed in Occidental ... cool little town with great Italian food.

redcon1 01-22-15 04:05 PM

Somewhere between 395's recommendations is the outfit my wife and I used a few years ago:

Things to Do in Napa Valley | Napa Valley Bike Tours & Rentals

We did a guided group tour in Napa the first day, and a self-paced/guided tour of Sonoma the second. Each day we used their bikes. Bring your own pedals and helmets.
For the guided tour, we were in a group of about 12, with 4 planned Winery stops for tastings, one of which included lunch. Not a bad day but the pace was slow, especially after the third stop and all the Canadian ladies in the group riding drunk, LOL.

The second day in Sonoma was more enjoyable as we took our own pace and made the stops we wanted, but NVBT was spot-on with recommendations. NBVT also handle arranging our accommodations, although if we went back I would do this myself.

Of the two areas, Sonoma was more picturesque and had more cycling-friendly roads than the Napa Valley, which funnels all traffic through the valley itself. There were some challenging climbs in Sonoma for my wife, who is also a (very) casual cyclist. We went in early October, which was about the perfect time for cycling and seeing the harvest season was also very interesting/educational. And yes, now, I am also a wine snob. :thumb:

fietsbob 01-22-15 05:27 PM

My Home Stompin grounds .. away from the valley Floor, the county's open spaces

Pope valley- Butts Canyon Roads to Middletown in Lake county , puts you on the top side of Mt. St.Helena to descend back down
Hwy 29 to Calistoga.. with out all the work it takes to gain the same altitude actually riding up from Calistoga To Middle town

Napa Valley road layout is like a ladder so stay off Busy 29 for the rest of the valley .. Silverado trail on the east side
And the connecting Roads, is able to get you out and back to the town centers on the main road , without riding on it.

History? Before the multinational corporate takeover of the oldest Wineries in the Valley ,

the Italian Families that founded them kept their Vineyard land and kept making wine, during The Prohibition era
By producing Sacrement for the Catholic Church .. The Christian Brothers, Vintners themselves, was Helpful in that arrangement..

donheff 01-23-15 07:34 AM

My wife and I did a VBT tour in Sonoma and loved it. I have done several VBT overseas tours and loved them all. They offer relatively high end trips but appear to me to be quite a bit less costly than Backroads or Butterfield for similar locations and accommodations. Still, you only bother with these if you want to stay at very nice places, eat well, and get the full support package. You can tour a lot cheaper with many other outfits with less frills. VBT is aimed right at recreational riders in the mileage range you described and a bit higher. Those who want to ride further can and a fair number of riders will drop off early and hop in the van. For consistently longer rides you need to look elsewhere.

RobertL 01-23-15 04:47 PM

I don't have any knowledge about wine country rides, but it's a great idea, I bet she will love it.

Bob S 02-01-15 01:31 PM

I live in Sonoma and see the VBT tours all the time. I see mostly casual riders, including lots of women with or without spouses, and they all seem to be enjoying themselves. I believe they start the first day in Napa and work their way to Sonoma then the Valley of the Moon, on through the north and west county including Alexander and Dry Creek valleys then on to the Coast. The weather is great, very little chance of rain from May through October.

VNA 02-01-15 01:48 PM

It is very busy with cars particularly highway 29 and Silveradso Trail, you can't even hear yourself thinking.
There are a few other gorgeous roads that are very quiet but very hilly: Dry Creek, Mt. Veeder, Oakville Grade/Trinity Road into Sonoma Valley. I ride there every so often to change scenery, it is 45 minutes from home by car.

Outback Cayucan 06-04-15 09:52 PM

Consider San Luis Obispo, Monterey & Santa Barbara Counties too. First U.S Eroica happened April this year in Paso Robles. Web site:; email:

GFish 06-05-15 04:11 AM

For the local people that responded, I have a question. Is the car traffic always that busy through the heart of the Napa valley?

I was in Napa 2 weeks ago for a wedding, didn't have time to ride and not sure I would have. I was only there 2 days over a weekend, but wow, what a traffic mess. Early in the day, bumper to bumper traffic heading into and north of Napa then late afternoon, bumper to bumper heading south.

I did see a number of cyclist, many were fighting a strong headwind from the south. But with that amount of traffic, that wouldn't be my choice for a relaxing cycling vacation. Although, there are a lot of vineyards and tasting rooms.

Best advice I could give, go during the week and avoid weekends.

SurfNTurf 06-05-15 08:36 AM


Biker395 06-05-15 09:00 AM

Originally Posted by Outback Cayucan (Post 17867268)
Consider San Luis Obispo, Monterey & Santa Barbara Counties too. First U.S Eroica happened April this year in Paso Robles. Web site:; email:

+1 Those counties offer great terrain for bike riding with little traffic and oodles of great wineries. The central coast rocks.

fietsbob 06-05-15 09:01 AM

Silverado Trail Used to Be the quieter route up the east side of the valley .

But it was before the Petite Bourgeois take over ..

DiabloScott 06-05-15 09:39 AM

Originally Posted by fietsbob (Post 17868109)
Silverado Trail Used to Be the quieter route up the east side of the valley .

But it was before the Petite Bourgeois take over ..

Back when wine tasting was free.

Outback Cayucan 06-05-15 02:23 PM

Indeed Biker395. = Jeff's blog. Join us to ride when you can. Truly OBC

Biker395 06-05-15 03:20 PM

Originally Posted by Outback Cayucan (Post 17869122)
Indeed Biker395. = Jeff's blog. Join us to ride when you can. Truly OBC

I'd love to!

The bad news: My daughter spent 5 years at Cal Poly, and for each and every one of those years, I threatened to hop on the Surfliner with my bicycle and visit her. Never did it. :(

The good news: My son is a current student. :)

Outback Cayucan 06-07-15 09:33 PM

Not too late to redeem yourself. Ideally both kids can ride too when you make good on your threat. Our oldest daughter is also a Poly alum and lives/works nearby. Laurel & younger sis. Elizabeth grew up riding Lighthouse & Wildflower Centuries and other excursions with me. I'm way behind w/ rehab. on the Nishiki International I got for her >a year ago. I'll get her bike together and lets meet and ride w/ our kids.

SurfNTurf 06-08-15 08:28 AM


Biker395 06-08-15 08:45 AM

Originally Posted by SurfNSPIC (Post 17875042)
I remember those days when the winery's gave samples, and the roads in the Napa & Mendocino Counties were less traveled. Last time we were in that area the roads were crowed, limosines from the bay area & Scararament were driving groups of people for winery to winery. You see the same thing in El Dorado & Amador Counties on weekends.

The whole wine country experence has become a big tourist business. But if you are willing to get away from the cities like Sonoma, Yountville, St. Helena, & Napa the crowds thin out.

BTW the last time I was on Hihgway 101 to the south of Salianas, and North of Pismo Beach most of the wineries still had FREE TASTING.

My take on wine is it it taste good, it is good. If you don't like the taste, and it has a high price. That it is not so good.

I had occasion to ride in the Santa Ynez valley with a winemaker from the Alexander Valley. We stopped at the little shack that is the Foxen Winery tasting room along Ballard Canyon Road. We were in luck, as they were open (they often are not)!

I'll never forget watching her taste that wine. First, she tasted it, and spit it out. Something I NEVER do. If it's in the mouth, it's down the hatch, as far as I'm concerned.

And when I asked her whether she liked it or not, she simply nodded.

"That is what a pinot is supposed to taste like."

I guess that was her highest compliment.

Seriously, unless there are particular wineries you want to sample, do yourself a favor and forget the mega wineries in the mega wine making regions. Explore a little and sample the smaller ones ... that's where you find the big fish anyway.

DiabloScott 06-08-15 10:51 AM

Originally Posted by Biker395 (Post 17875126)
Seriously, unless there are particular wineries you want to sample, do yourself a favor and forget the mega wineries in the mega wine making regions. Explore a little and sample the smaller ones ... that's where you find the big fish anyway.

I think people have this idea that they're going to find some unknown winery with the perfect wine and then buy a case to bring home to Iowa and share their story with their friends over pork chops and Pinochle; that's certainly possible. Most of the little wineries though have minimal setups for tourists while the big ones have huge tasting tables and wine experts that tell you what you should be tasting and how to hold your glass and the proper way to swirl and slurp and spit; those are the more interesting spots as far as I'm concerned. You can always go to Safeway and buy a bunch of bottles of stuff no one's ever heard of and make up the stories later.

Biker395 06-08-15 11:30 AM

I guess it depends on what you like. The big ones don't appeal to me nearly as much as the small ones. It's been a while, the last smallish winery I went to found me sipping wine with one hand, tossing a tennis ball for their golden retriever with the other. Not exactly the best set up for a lot of people, but perfect for me, for whom the wine itself is a small part of the equation.

The place has since become more popular and expanded, but I kinda preferred it the way it was.

Outback Cayucan 06-15-15 05:35 PM

Try contacting LBS's to find out what's happening:

Hi all - below the Tuesday info are the routes for this Sunday - meet at 9:00, pedal at 9:30.

Also - here's the info on Tuesday evening's ride!

NEW RIDE - join BBZ/Villa San-Juliette
  • June 16th - this Tuesday evening for our inaugural ride from the winery.
  • We will be doing this ride on the 3rd Tuesday of every month.
  • Meet between 5:00/5:30PM - Ride will leave about 5:30PM.
Our first ride will be about 20 miles of flat, easy ride to start this great new series. Here's a link to the route:VILLA SAN-JULIETTE/BBZ TUE RIDE Thanks to Martina at Villa San-Juliette for hosting. We'll have some munchies and you can wine taste or buy wine by the glass after the ride.

If you can , email Steve (I cc'd him above) that you will be coming. We'd like to get a rough count of how many will be showing up. Thanks, Steve and Carol at BBZ


BEGINNERS - Ride with Tom Jermin on his ride.

TOM'S RIDE - 18.1 miles long, with an elevation gain of 1,092 feet. Shortcut available (ride with Tom).TOM'S RIDE #17 - 19MI

SPORT RIDE - 24.9 miles long, with an elevation gain of 1,923 feet. BBZ SPORT #52 - PEACHY -25mi

EXPRESS: 32.2 miles long, with an elevation gain of 1,614 feet.BBZ EXPRESS 29B 33mi

Hope you all have a great Friday - yours truly is off to see Mom again this weekend. I will be there Tuesday!


Outback Cayucan 07-08-15 01:56 PM

Oenophile riders: Windmill Century covers "Sideways" (the motion picture) territory, northern Santa Barbara Co. CA. Post ride Santa Maria BBQ by Elks Club was featured recently in "Sunset Magazine." So this is truly under the radar. Since riding it last >20 yrs. ago several roads were resurfaced. If the 500 rider limit hasn't yet maxed you won't regret this.[h=1]Tailwinds Bicycle Club of Santa Maria[/h]

[h=2]Windmill Century Ride 2015[/h]
Date: Saturday, July 18, 2015
Location: Pioneer Park, 1150 W. Foster Road, Santa Maria, CA
[h=3]Windmill proceeds are used to support our
Bike Giveaway and Safety Program in local elementary schools.
Sometimes it's the unbeaten path that leads to the best discoveries. Such is the case in the Santa Maria Valley, where fine wine, world-famous barbecue and open roads make for a uniquely memorable and flavorful wine country experience.” …..The Santa Maria Valley Chamber of Commerce.

Ride through the scenic Santa Maria Valley, where open roads, fine wine, and world-famous BBQ make for a uniquely memorable Wine Country experience.
The goal of the Tailwinds Bicycle Club’s is to promote bicycle safety throughout the community, especially with children. The Windmill Century is a fund raising bike ride which is open to the public. All proceeds from the ride, less expenses, are given back to the community through our Bicycle Safety and Giveaway Program which is held in local elementary schools each year. The club also donates bikes to the Good Samaritan Shelter, the Boys and Girls Club of Santa Maria, children in the CASA program, students attending Allan Hancock College (in need of a bike to get to and from the college) and financial support to the Veterans’ Ride 2 Recovery program, the Campaign Against Distracted Driving and the California and Santa Barbara Bicycle Coalitions (who work with California legislators to encourage the passing of safety laws for cyclists).
[h=3]Choose from the Full Century, Metric Century, or the Quarter Century.[/h]Registration fee includes: a commemorative T-shirt, SAG, delicious rest stops, route sheets, lunch on the Century route and, of course, Santa Maria Style BBQ; featuring beef, chicken or veggie, for everyone at the end of the ride.
You'll have a great day out in the countryside! What could be better?
[h=3]Register Now at[/h]
Event Photos by PhotoCrazy
Remember the time you pass photographerhttp://www.tailwindsofsantamariabc.o...photocrazy.png
2015 Windmill Jerseys
for sale!
Buy Now!
$60: Early Bird Registration by May 20 (includes a T-shirt).
$75: Registration May 21 thru June 28 (includes T-shirt)
$85: Registration June 29 to July 15 (No T-shirt)
$85: Day of Ride Registration: (No T-shirt)
Online Registration closes July 15
Extra BBQ meals…. $10.00

***We ride rain or shine. NO REFUNDS.***

Sign-In/On-Site Registration: Saturday July 18, 2014 from 6:00 to 8:30 A.M. No Friday Night Check-Ins. Course and BBQ close at 4 pm. Late starters will not be guaranteed ride services.
Where to Meet: The ride start and finish is at Pioneer Park, 1150 W. Foster Road, Santa Maria, California, off Hwy 101. From Hwy 101, take the Union Valley Parkway exit west. Turn Right (north) on Broadway (Hwy.135). Turn Left (west) on Foster Rd and continue 0.4 mile to the park. Plenty of parking is available.
Start times:
6:30am - Full Century
7:30am - Metric Century
8:30am - Quarter Century
Start early enough to finish by 4 pm when the course closes. Late starters are not guaranteed ride services. Delicious goodies abound at our rest stops and a generous lunch stop is provided at the half-way point, for the 100 milers. The authentic Santa Maria Style BBQ, prepared by our own Santa Maria Elks Lodge 1538 at Pioneer Park, is for everyone at the end of their ride. Support and Gear (SAG) is provided for those who have mechanical problems or need assistance. The course is well marked. Detailed route instructions are provided to each rider.
Full Century ~ 102 miles (Elevation +5277 ft).
This loop heads out towards the hills of Casmalia, and climbs, passing Vandenberg AFB. You'll travel the back roads of Lompoc and head to the authentic Danish village of Solvang where you'll stop for a nourishing lunch. Then it's on through the picturesque roads of Ballard and Santa Ynez. You'll enjoy the winding country roads and the rolling hills along the Foxen Canyon Wine Trail, head back through the tiny towns of Sisquoc and Garey and through Orcutt where you'll complete your journey and enjoy a Santa Maria Style BBQ at Pioneer Park.
Full Century Route Map

Metric Century ~ 62 miles (Elevation +2902 ft).
It is a trip through beautiful back roads where you can take in the picturesque beauty of the Central Coast’s vineyards along the Foxen Canyon Wine Trail.
Metric Century Route Map
Quarter Century ~28 miles (Elevation +1035 ft).
It starts out flat as you head toward the country roads. There are some hill climbs that may be challenging for beginners but the beauty of the back country is worth the effort.
Quarter Century Route Map

Helmets are required. Please be careful and obey all traffic laws. Remember even if you have the right of way, always give way to the automobile. Some parts of the route have narrow bike lines. Use caution.
[h=3]Hotels and Campgrounds[/h]A block of rooms has been created for Windmill riders at:
Radisson Hotel in Santa Maria.
3455 Skyway Drive
(800) 967-9033
Ask for the discounted rate by mentioning the Windmill Century.
$149+ tax per night (normally $179) includes up to 2 Breakfast buffets, each additional is $10 per person. Book early to guarantee reservations
Best Western PLUS Big America Hotel
1725 North Broadway
(805) 922-5200
Ask for the discounted rate for the Tailwinds block of rooms
The reduced rate is $120.99 for a room with one king bed or $125.99 for rooms with two queen beds plus tax. Book before July 1, 2015.
Visit the Santa Maria Valley Chamber of Commerce website for additional information on local hotels, campgrounds, a dining guide, and a list of local wineries.
The Windmill Century is hosted by: Tailwinds Bicycle Club of Santa Maria
Member of the Santa Maria Valley Chamber of Commerce

Biker395 07-08-15 02:05 PM

^ Very tempting!

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