“I’ve ridden and raced all over the world,” says Gavin Chilcott, manager of the Amgen Race Team BMC, a new professional cycling team based in Sonoma County. “There’s no better place for cyclists. That’s why our team is based here. The quality of rides and the quality of life can’t be beat.”
Whether you are a local looking for a great bike tour, or a visitor with your own bicycle, this 54-mile climbing loop is the perfect Wine Country ride. This ride will take you from beautiful downtown Healdsburg, through the Mayacamas Mountains and Alexander Valley, all the way to Geyserville and then back to Healdsburg. While beautiful, this ride is not for everyone, as the gain in elevation is 5,530 feet.
Begin your journey at the Matheson St. Parking lot in Healdsburg. Wind your way north out of town on West Street. Enjoy the mellow road while it lasts; when the route turns onto Geyser Road at mile 10 the pitch amps up hard and in a hurry. The first 4 miles of the climb register a stiff 7.3 percent. As challenging as Geyser Road is on your legs, it’s equally tough on your head: the first pitch of climbing leads up to one of two false summits. The final stretch is the most difficult, gaining 750 feet over just 1.7 miles (an average 8.4 percent grade).
As you’re huffing and puffing to the top, look west for occasional across-the-vineyards views of Alexander Valley and the coastal foothills. From the summit, the route dives down into a narrow, dark canyon on a twisting, switchback descent (dotted with potholes and loose gravel) that demands the utmost respect of first-timers and veterans alike. Cars are rare here, but play it safe on the blind corners. At mile 16, Geyser Road spits you out of the canyon into Alexander Valley (known for its award-winning Bordeaux and Cabernet wines). Track US 101 on service roads for 16 miles back to Healdsburg.