Cycling in Sonoma: Riding Your Bike in Wine Country Tips
Cycling in Sonoma County is the perfect way to see California’s world-famous wine country and experience the vineyards and rolling hills of what’s affectionately called, “the Valley of the Moon” and the wine, of course.
Featured Road Bike Rides in Sonoma
Headed to Sonoma, California for some wine tasting? Don’t forget your road bike.
Here are a couple bike rides to get you started cycling in Sonoma right in the heart of wine country. Download this great map from the Santa Rosa Cycling Club as a general guide to both of these road cycling rides.
Start in the Sonoma Town Center and head west on Napa Street. Turn right on Highway 12 and take it for a few miles through the traffic congestion to a right turn on Cavedale Road. Here you’ll start a big climb, right away. It’s a legendary mountain road in the area that many a cyclist has ridden and posted times in Strava and Map My Ride for others to try to beat. Free of most traffic, it is often just one lane wide, and once you’ve pedaled up out of the canyon, the views are fabulous. Most of this big climb has bad pavement (like most of Sonoma!), but since you’re going pretty slow on the steep climbs, it’s not as bothersome.
There’s a small cave right along the road, which is probably how the road got its name. You’ll pass small vineyards and forests of fir, oak, manzanita and other bushes and trees.
A challenging climb that varies in grade some pitches are over 15% for short stretches, consider investing in a cassette with low gearing (such as an 11-28). Overall, you gain about 2000 feet in five miles from the turn off of Highway 12 to the first summit.
After the 2300 foot summit you get to go down a series of steep, highly technical descents and small climbs in shaded fir forest. After two miles of this up and down, you come to your next junction at Trinity Grade, which turns into Dry Creek Road. Follow this downhill for a several miles and turn right onto Mt. Veeder Road and climb about 800 ft. and then descends down to become Redwood Road. Follow this until you get to Browns Valley Road and turn right and right again in about a mile on Buhman.
After a few miles, turn right off Buhman for another brief climb on Henry Road, then continue across busy (not cycling friendly) Highway 12/121 in the Carneros region of wine country, climb one more short hill on Duhig Road, and follow Ramal Road to Burndale back across the Highway and it will turn into Denmark St., which goes left and back toward Sonoma town center. Take East 8th Street right and you’ll hit a great little market called, Sonoma’s Best, which has assorted miniature pastries like $.45 cinnamon rolls to die for, a deli, coffee, wine, etc. After stopping here, take East Napa Street west back to your starting location and recover.
Lovall Valley Rd
Need a shorter loop with a small climb and breathtaking views of family vineyards? Lovall Valley Rd. is good choice. Start at Sonoma town center and head east on East Napa Street, turn left on Fourth Street and take that past Sebastiani Winery and take a right. Follow that for a brief left on Seventh Street before turning onto Lovall Valley Road. At the top of a few steep climbs, you can do a small loop on Lovall Valley Loop Road before heading down.
On the way back you’ll pass signs for some of the most recognizable vineyards in Sonoma, such as Buena Vista, the oldest winery in California.
Since it’s manageable ride, you might want to stop at some of these for a wine tasting.
Tip: Bring some Clif Bars or other nutrition bars or light snacks so that you’re not tasting the wine on an empty stomach. Most of the wineries, including Buena Vista, have snacks like cheese that you can buy and picnic tables to eat at.
Don’t forget to make a stop at Ravenswood. Stop in and do a quick tasting, but be prepared to pay about $5 for about four pours, so bring some cash in your jersey. Tip: If you go with a Sonoma local or if you buy some wine, you might get a better deal on the wine tasting.
Top Tips for Cycling in Sonoma
- Try to get your major rides done in the morning since most wine tasting (and, thus, driving!) happens during the hours of 10:00 a.m. to 4 or 5:00 p.m.
- Bring extra bike tubes since Sonoma’s roads aren’t nearly as beautiful as its scenery
- Pack some extra layers and cold-weather cycling gear like arm warmers and leg warmers as the weather can sometimes be fussy, foggy and a bit chilly
- If you can’t afford to buy bottles of wine at the wineries, head over to the Safeway in Sonoma and get the rewards card for some smoking wine deals
- Most people in Sonoma drive about 20mph over the speed limit. Break out your neon cycling jerseys!
- If you want to get in a training race, there’s a weekly Tuesday night crit in Santa Rosa (about a half hour north by car) at the Fairgrounds
- If you have to drive somewhere, avoid commuting times or take surface streets over freeways
- If you’re riding your bike to the wineries for tastings, bring a small bike lock. Most wineries have bike racks that you could lock your bike to if you’re away from it for a while.
- For local organic food that’s somewhat affordable, check out the Fremont Diner
Some Sonoma Images