Tour California while watching the Roadies

 Yadiro Galindo is a long time resident of San Diego and enjoys rides with her girlfriends on the weekends.

Yadiro Galindo is a long time resident of San Diego and enjoys rides with her girlfriends on the weekends.

may 15-22, 2016

California offers 155,779 square miles of chaparral, grassland, woodland, desert, mountains and coastline making the Golden State one of the most diverse ecosystems in the United States. It’s no wonder the Amgen Tour of California has become the nation’s most prestigious and watched annual cycling competition. This year, 18 men’s and women’s teams will compete for one of five coveted jerseys—with a special eye on the yellow jersey which is earned by the overall winner.

The men’s teams will cover nearly 800 miles. They kickoff the 11th annual event with a 106-mile ride through San Diego that starts at Mission Bay Park, the largest aquatic park of its kind in the country where windsurfers catch air and triathletes run, bike and swim to the finish line. The cyclists will continue through a scenic route past historic Balboa Park, home to the nation's largest urban cultural park with 15 major museums and the world-famous San Diego Zoo, followed by downtown and the picturesque harbor before veering east where the rolling hills of east county will provide a chance for riders to earn the first king of the mountain points. The teams will return to the coast for the finish of stage 1.

For eight straight days the men’s teams will pedal past a variety of terrain including vineyards, redwoods, historic coastal Pacific Highway and the high sierra—a visual postcard of the Golden State. The women will ride the final four days of the tour through northern California. Both men and women will finish at the state capitol.

Undoubtedly, watching the cyclists ride through California will make many long to visit. So, which of the 12 bike-friendly destinations should you make your pit spot? If wine tasting is your thing you’ll have to decide who has the better wine—Santa Barbara, Lodi or Santa Rosa? If you’re more interested in the kind of scenery you thought existed only in movies, consider the Emerald Bay of South Lake Tahoe or the stunning Pacific Highway 1 that riders will navigate on their way to Monterey County.

Hotels with bikes

If you still need lodging in the 12 cities, check out our directory map below. All the hotels provide bikes to guests!

 Panama 66 is a bike friendly biergarten within Balboa Park's Art Museum.

Panama 66 is a bike friendly biergarten within Balboa Park's Art Museum.

 A stop at California’s second largest city offers everything big cities should—arts and culture, fine dining, nightlife and 100 craft breweries but all with the laid-back feel of a beach city. Family friendly activities include relaxing on the beach, biking along the harbor or a visit SeaWorld San Diego, Legoland or the San Diego Zoo Safari Park. If you want to experience San Diego by bike like locals, get inspiration from the Bikabout's San Diego Travel Guide or view the interactive regional bike map.

 San Diego's "Coronado Loop" includes this path along the Silver Strand beach.

San Diego's "Coronado Loop" includes this path along the Silver Strand beach.

 South Pasadena's trees

South Pasadena's trees

 Six Flag's Magic Mountain

Six Flag's Magic Mountain

The City of South Pasadena (not to be confused with Pasadena) may be just six miles from downtown Los Angeles but it is quite different from its neighbor. The City of Trees, as it’s known, has 21,000 trees lining its streets and 100 acres of parks and playgrounds throughout the city. The city’s historic neighborhoods have been preserved giving it small town charm. Visit historic main street or Fair Oaks Ave which is part of the original Route 66 and you’ll find a soda fountain next to cafés and shops.

Heading toward Santa Clarita cyclists will find long gradual climbs through the San Gabriel Mountains and more king of the mountain points. They’ll traversing historic California bridges and tunnels before ending in what should be a fast, flat finish after a mere 92 miles of riding. Visitors will see why this city was named a bicycle friendly community by the League of American Bicyclists—including 38 miles of off-street paved paths, 24 miles of bike lanes and 43 miles of natural surface trails. Get route ideas from Bike Santa Clarita. Get off the bike to spend the day at Six Flags Magic Mountain or Hurricane Harbor or enjoy a round a golf.

Stage 3: Thousand Oaks to Santa Barbara County

May 17

A training ground for professional cyclists and weekend warriors alike, Thousand Oaks has 15,000 acres of open space and 70 miles of trails for hiking, biking, running or horseback riding. Check out the bike route map to find your way to the Civic Arts Plaza where you’ll catch world-class entertainment including concerts, ballets, theater and more or take a 30 minute drive out of town to visit Universal Studios.

Riders will leave Thousand Oaks towards the Pacific Coast Highway past strawberry fields and rolling hills but with six miles remaining they’ll hit a twisting mountain road, Gibraltar Road, where as the saying goes it’ll separate the men from the boys. They’ll end their 104-mile ride with a breathtaking view of the “American Riviera” otherwise known as Santa Barbara. This county is known for its ocean views and agriculture industry that produces fine wines, flowers and the California Avocado Festival.

Visit the Santa Barbara or Lompoc missions to learn more about the founding of California or visit the Danish town of Solvang for its unique architecture and fun shops. Along the way you might want to stop at AJ Spurs for a hefty meal, but be warned it’s not for the faint of heart as the place is decorated with stuffed animals everywhere. If you stay in the city of Santa Barbara try the bike path for an enjoyable ride with scenic coastal views. Visit the Santa Barbara website for more ride ideas.

For hotels in Santa Barbara, click here.

Stage 4: Morro Bay to Monterey County

May 18

An outdoorsman’s paradise, Morro Bay has year-round activities including biking and every water activity you can imagine along its protected harbor or simply a place to relax or shop for antiques. This town was also named a bicycle friendly community by the League of American Bicyclists. Go for your own leisurely spin or try one of many organized rides and stay for the wildlife including the elephant seals.

 Monterey Bay Aquarium

Monterey Bay Aquarium

As riders head north towards Monterey they’ll pass iconic coastline views seen in commercials and films. They’ll pass Hearst Castle—a ranch with such incredible splendor you’ll get lost among the 127 acres and 165 rooms without a tour guide. Riders will continue north through the majestic Big Sur redwoods. If you visit keep an eye for the endangered California condor, one of the few and easiest places you’ll see North America’s largest bird soaring freely over the skies. Cyclists will pass wine regions before ending their 133-mile journey at the Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca. Other things to see while you’re in town include Carmel-by-the-Sea, Cannery Row (made famous by John Steinbeck), Old Fisherman’s Wharf, Monterey Bay Aquarium, 17-mile Drive, Pebble Beach Golf Links and Point Lobos State Natural Reserve.

 Point Lobos State Natural Reserve, Carmel

Point Lobos State Natural Reserve, Carmel

Stage 5: Lodi to South Lake Tahoe

May 19

Amgen Tour of California riders will ride past Lodi’s vineyards before climbing 8,600 feet (the highest in race history) on their way to the finish at South Lake Tahoe’s Heavenly Mountain Resort. You don’t need to ride the route’s 132 miles to enjoy Lodi. Year-round Mediterranean climate means Lodi is prime wine country. In fact, 100,000 acres of grapes are farmed for its 85 wineries which is why the residents call the area the "Zinfandel Capital of the World." In addition to tasting rooms, visitors can explore Lodi Lake, Cosumnes River Preserve and the Mokelumne River or bike of course! Ride past vineyards, orchards and pastures on flat country roads. Print bike routes from the Visit Lodi! Website, download files to your Garmin or access these through the RideWithGPS app on your phone. Options include a five-mile family fun ride up to a three-day tour in the Sierra Nevada foothills.

Visit South Lake Tahoe if you’re craving outdoor recreation, entertainment, nightlife and casino gaming or ride part or all of the 72-mile loop around Lake Tahoe to view the deep blue water, Douglas fir groves and breathtaking views of Emerald Bay but if you live at sea level the 6,300-feet might slow you down a bit, or not. Find routes for road, mountain and cruiser bikes online.

Folsom will be the site of the 12-mile time trial where both the men and women will show who’s the fastest. Never heard of Folsom? Sure you have. The Folsom State Prison has been used as the backdrop in movies and television shows but it’s biggest claim to fame is when Johnny Cash performed his famed song “Folsom Prison Blues.” The prison is still in use today so I’d suggest a visit instead to Folsom Lake, Lake Natoma or the American River for fun watersports or go to the historic district if you want to visit the railroad museum. There are preplanned routes you can choose among the 38 miles of paved trails that take cyclists past woodlands, wildlife habitats and along creeks and streams.

 No stop in Santa Rosa would be complete without paying respect to the best beer in America, Pliny the Elder.

No stop in Santa Rosa would be complete without paying respect to the best beer in America, Pliny the Elder.

In the heart of Sonoma County’s wine country, Santa Rosa is home to former professional cyclist, Levi Leipheimer’s GranFondo. The 109-mile Tour of California ride will follow part of the same route through redwoods and coastline. The area is an outdoor adventurer’s paradise including road and trail riding. Browse through the Charles M. Schulz Museum & Research Center to see some of the cartoonist’s finest work. I mean, who doesn’t love Snoopy? For animal lovers stroll through Safari West, a 400-acre wildlife preserve.

 Rest stop on the Bikabout founder's ride through Sonoma County. 

Rest stop on the Bikabout founder's ride through Sonoma County. 

Stage 8: Sacramento

May 22

The final stage of the eight-day event finishes in the heart of California, where the state blossomed. The discovery of gold at what is now Marshall Gold Discovery State Historic Park near Sacramento in 1848 led to the Gold Rush. Visit Sutter’s Fort to learn more about this era. This year, the pro-riders will travel 84 miles past the Sacramento River and cross Tower Bridge twice before returning downtown for the finish around the Capitol building. Sacramento has one of my favorite protected bikeways in the state—a 32-mile paved trail along the American River that starts in Old Sacramento and ends in Folsom. That’s right! You could visit both Sacramento and Folsom in one day if you’re up for a longer ride. Make sure to spend time in Old Sacramento and visit the railroad museum where there are full-sized trains housed inside. The kid in you will rejoice.

 Photo by Beau Rogers via Flickr.com

Photo by Beau Rogers via Flickr.com