Call it the bond forged on two wheels. Rooted in the ruggedness of the local terrain, Sonoma’s bike community is both tight-knit and super-welcoming. Whether you’re a stoked beginner or a grizzled pro, a road warrior or a queen of the mountain, here’s a handle on the rides, the gear, the eats—and some of the outstanding local riders you’ll meet along the way.
Home-Grown and Growing Huge: Sonoma’s Own Grasshopper Race Series
Miguel Crawford has a knack for seeing around corners, glimpsing the future. The former elite mountain biker is the man behind the Grasshopper Adventure Series, a string of uniquely fun, slightly sadistic, gravel-centric sufferfests he describes as “magical mystery tours through the diverse, challenging, and eclectic hills of Sonoma County and beyond.”
The casual, lo-fi, friendly vibe of “Hoppers,” as they’re known, have now beguiled generations of riders, from weekend warriors to rising local stars to world champion mountain biker Kate Courtney and former pro road racers such as Alison Tetrick, Peter Stetina, and Ted King, who describes Crawford’s series as “the OG”—the Original Gangster of the gravel events that have spiked in popularity over the last decade.
The elite riders taking the start at Crawford’s events don’t need to register for Grasshopper events. But they want to. “No one’s telling me to be here,” says top rider Alex Wild. “I don’t have to put them on my schedule. But Mig just puts on such good events, it makes people want to ride them.” The season-opening Low Gap Hopper is a mixed terrain, technical climbing course.
February’s Huffmaster Hopper is 90 miles of rolling gravel roads and tarmac, with fewer climbs. April’s Lake Sonoma is a classic mountain biking track. The person who wins the overall series, Wild concluded, “is an all-around great bike rider.”
Sitting on the ground near the finish of April’s Lake Sonoma race, a portrait in exhaustion, was 60-year-old Erik Schmidt, an environmental consultant from Fairfax. Schmidt returned to the Grasshopper series this spring after a 20-year hiatus. Back then, when Hoppers were in their infancy, they had had a more underground feel. “There was no entry fee, no race numbers. You showed up, they gave you a scrap of paper so you knew the course, and off you went,” he recalled. “Now it’s an official event, it’s a big deal. But the vibe is as cool as ever.”
Next races kick off in January 2023. grasshopperadventureseries.com
Pump It Up
A pump track is a series of rollers and berms that you wheel around, ideally never having to actually pedal, instead using your momentum, center of gravity, and the angle of track features to “pump” your way around the track. Want to try it? There’s a free public one at Northwest Community Park in Santa Rosa.
“It’s really fun to watch the kids out there,” says Doug McKenzie, who helped create it. “Once kids get the hang of it, they’re whipping around the track.”
2880 W. Steele Lane, Santa Rosa.
Hall of Fame: Riders Who Put Sonoma on the Map
Laura Charameda: A member of the US National Team from 1993 to 1998, Charameda won two National Criterium Championships and a bronze medal at Worlds. @lauracharameda
Larissa Connors: A pro mountain biker and Montgomery High School graduate, Connors won the grueling Leadville 100 in Colorado—twice. @larissaconnors
Steven Cozza: The former pro road cyclist also helped spearhead the overturn of the ban preventing LGBTQ+ people from openly participating in the Boy Scouts. @stevencozza
Yuri Hauswald: The former Petaluma teacher was a two-time solo winner of the 24 Hours of Adrenaline and 9th place finisher at the 2006 24-Hour World Championships. @yhauswald
Ted King: The Professional World Tour road racer divides his time between Healdsburg and Richmond, Vermont. @iamtedking
Luke Lamperti: Sebastopol-born Lamperti won seven agegroup youth national championships and this April, at the age of 18, was the youngest-ever winner of the U.S. men’s pro criterium. @lukelamperti
Levi Leipheimer: Olympic bronze medalist, three-time winner of the Tour of California, and the man behind one of Sonoma’s best-loved charity rides, Levi’s GranFondo. @levileipheimer
Peter Stetina: A Grand Tour road racer turned top-level gravel and endurance mountain biker, Stetina also partners with Healdsburg hotels to offer one-of-a-kind cycling adventures. @pstetina
Alison Tetrick: The Petaluma High School grad rode in prestigious road cycling races including the Tour of California and is now burning up the gravel circuit nationwide. @amtetrick
Tyler Williams: Williams moved to Santa Rosa to train when he was 19 and has been here ever since. Currently, he rides for UCI Continental team L39ION of Los Angeles. @twcycling
Rick Pepper of Windsor runs Elevengear Cycling, with a line of U.S.-made cycling kits based off high-visibility patterns used on emergency vehicles in Europe. “They’re like Listerine for the eyes,” Pepper says. “When you’re out riding on the road, being outlandishly, garishly visible is great.” 707-824-2007, elevengear.com
Gear with a Mission
As a native of Guyana and more recently a resident of Brooklyn, Ron Murdock-Perriera brought a fresh perspective when he opened the Smith & Bergen bike shop in his adopted hometown of Petaluma in March 2021.
In addition to selling gear and servicing bikes, Murdock-Perriera hopes to put a dent in cycling’s reputation as sport that needs to work on its diversity. So far it’s been a bumpier ride than he expected, and he’s working hard to source from brands that share his value of inclusiveness. But business is picking up, and he greets everyone who walks in with a friendly hello.
“I don’t break people into categories,” Murdock-Perriera says. “If you ride a bike, you’re a cyclist.”
7 Petaluma Blvd. N., Petaluma. 347-282-7493, smithandbergenbicycles.com
More Kids On Bikes
Sonoma’s own Team Swift, coached by former national champ Laura Charameda, is one of the top road cycling development programs anywhere—notable alumni include Tyler Williams and Luke Lamperti.
“We use the bicycle and their love of the bike to teach life skills,” says Charameda. “They have to talk to the public and write reports.
They’re great ambassadors for our community.” Five top Team Swift riders are traveling to the Junior Tour of Ireland this summer, and the entire team is looking forward to the local Cycle with Champions fundraiser in October, open to all. facebook.com/TeamSwift
Two area mountain bike teams, the Annadel A-Team and the West County Composite, also help shape young talent. Pro rider Larissa Connors is one of the coaches of the 90-member-strong Annadel A-Team, and the West County Composite squad, coached by elite racer Mike Warren, recently won their division at the NorCal Interscholastic Cycling League championships.
The Frame Maker
For cyclists who have unusual sizes or specific needs, buying bikes off the rack doesn’t always cut it. That’s where Santa Rosa’s Jeremy SyCip comes in, measuring device in hand.
SyCip has built a cult following for his custom bikes, helping thousands of cyclists of all shapes and abilities ride better. Store bought bikes, explains SyCip, are made for the masses. Assembly-line manufacturers can’t know who’s going to ride a bike, “so they have to kind of overbuild it.”
SyCip’s frames start at $2,500, with wheels and other components additional. That’s not wildly more expensive than comparable retail bikes, and with custom made, you know the bike is going to feel right from the first pedal stroke.
111 5th St., Santa Rosa. 707-295-3131, sycip.com
A Look Back: The Infamous Ring of Fire
Long before adventure racing really took off, Tom “Snap” Gonnella dreamed up the now-legendary Ring of Fire mountain bike race. “It was like Bikestock,” says Gonnella, who owned Gianni Cycling in Occidental at the time and ran the race on mostly private lands west of town from 1993 to 1998.
The archway atop the starting line was wrapped in a thick blanket of poison oak. Huge stands of the noxious weed had to be cleared by hand along the 4.5-mile singletrack course. “That’s why we called it the Ring of Fire,” says Gonnella. The race’s main sponsor was Tecnu, the poison oak remedy. The National Off-Road Bicycle Association refused to partner with Gonnella because they thought the course was too dangerous. “Everybody kept saying, ‘You can’t do this,’” Gonnella remembers. “So I presented a plan and went to the county and they gave me a permit and I bought my own insurance and I did it myself.”
Every race started with a cannon shot, usually blanks, except for one year when organizers shot a real cannonball through someone’s truck. They roasted pigs. They cooked beans in a giant cauldron to supply endless burritos. Kegs of beer flowed nonstop and so did live music. Volunteers lined the dam of a pond with haybales so they could “snowboard” down the face and dive into the water. And it wasn’t uncommon to see racers fly by buck naked, Gonnella says.
“I don’t think it could ever be replicated,” he says. “It was like the renaissance of biking was really coming alive in West County. It was pretty epic.”
Top 5 Indie Bike Shops
Russian River Cycle Service: Owner Brian Borchers builds frames as part of his B-Side bicycles line, but his focus is renting bikes. 6559 Front St., Forestville. 707-887-2453. russianrivercycles.com
Spoke Folk Cyclery: Building upon the legend of the “Healdsburg Wheelmen” formed in 1895, this Healdsburg favorite sells, rents, and customfits bikes – and shares all their favorite local rides. 201 Center St., Healdsburg. 707-433-7171. spokefolk.com
The Hub Cyclery: From shock overhauls to custom builds, this locally owned Cotati treasure will take care of your ride. Owners Chaz and Claire Fetrow always have a tip for a new route. 7880 Old Redwood Hwy., Cotati. 707-795-6670. thehubcyclery.com
Windsor Bike and Sport: Open since 1999, this downtown Windsor hub lives by the motto: “Never leave your bike at home.” 9078 Windsor Road, Windsor. 707-836-9111. windsorbikeandsport.com
Sebastopol Bike Center: Selling new and used bikes and renting cruisers, this downtown Sebastopol shop is a perfect starting point for West County routes. 6731 Sebastopol Ave, Sebastopol. 707-829-2688. sebastopolbike.com
GOOD NEWS: Santa Rosa’s bike share program, stuck in limbo due to supply-chain issues, is finally set to launch later this fall, with snazzy turquoise e-bikes available at area SMART train stations.
Redwood Trails Alliance: “More trails, better trails” is the unofficial motto of this volunteer trail-building, outdoor advocacy, and environmental stewardship organization. trailsalliance.org
Operation Bicycle: A program of Teen Services Sonoma, this community bike shop sells bikes and offers maintenance and repair services to both local teens and the general public. 207 Nino Marco Square, Sonoma. 707-343-7223
Community Bikes: Founded in 2003, this nonprofit offers classes in bike repair and maintenance to anyone regardless of age, skill level, or financial status. Restored bikes are sold to the public. 4019 Sebastopol Rd., Santa Rosa. 707-579-5811, communitybikessantarosa.org
Best Beginner Rides
On a Road Bike: Santa Rosa to Sebastopol via the Joe Rodota Trail, 8.5 miles. If you’re feeling ready, continue towards Forestville another 5.5 miles via the West County Regional Trail.
On a Mountain Bike: In Windsor’s Foothill Regional Park, the 3-mile loop from the Oakwood Trail to Alta Vista to the Three Lakes Trail has around 500 feet of climbing, perfect to get your tires dirty for the first time.
On a Gravel or Adventure Bike: The Willow Creek Trail fire roads run 18 miles from outside the town of Occidental all the way to the coast. Make an out-and-back ride of any distance you like.
On an E-Bike: Kenwood’s vineyard-studded Lawndale Loop, about 7.5 miles: Warm Springs Road to Lawndale Road to Schultz Road and back to the start via a short stint along Highway 12.
Sonoma County has a dizzying array of routes that can make trip-planning a challenge—these tools can help riders navigate.
Ride with GPS: Features hundreds of crowd-sourced routes in the county, including the Santa Rosa Cycling Club’s entire library of rides. Navigate turn by turn and pinch to zoom in on elevation gains ahead. The app can be used offline, a major plus when exploring Sonoma’s wild places. ridewithgps.com
Google Maps: The gold standard for automotive maps also comes in handy for cycling adventures. Pick a destination, select the bike icon, press start and away you go. If you sync to headphones, you can listen to the directions as you ride. maps.google.com
Trailforks: Particularly great for mountain bikers, this app includes more than 160,000 trails sourced from riders around the world. Maps can be downloaded for offline use, and there’s an emergency function that will generate your GPS coordinates and the name of the nearest trail should you get too far out there. trailforks.com
Strava: Most useful for keeping score and showing off. All uploaded rides deliver automatic rankings of your times, which others in your network can view and comment on. Route planning functions and the app’s real-time locator feature are behind a paywall. strava.com
The Sonoma County Bike Coalition was founded after several cyclists were hit by cars in high-profile accidents. “They got together and said, ‘We need an advocacy group to make cycling safer and to get our elected officials to take this seriously,’” says executive director Eris Weaver.
Over 20 years later, the nonprofit has 900 paid members and “we don’t have to go begging anymore–jurisdictions come to us to ask our input.”
On July 17, the group presents Ciclovia, a freewheeling celebration of everything bike in Petaluma. bikesonoma.org
Santa Rosa’s Taco Tuesday Rides
When buddies Juan Chavez and Chad Hunt started Taco Tuesday bike rides in downtown Santa Rosa in the spring of 2021, it was mostly to offer friends something different to do and to provide some social engagement after a year’s worth of pandemic isolation. “We started just to get people outside, get people together, have a good time,” Chavez said. “We started because people were bored.” But a year in, this weekly ride is regularly pulling in somewhere close to 70 riders on some evenings and couldn’t be contained if you tried. “It’s its own beast now,” he said. “Why stop having a good time?”
It works like this: Riders of all skill levels, aboard everything from stretch cruisers to beach bombers, many laden with boom boxes and portable speakers, meet at a downtown park before heading out on a meandering, musicfi lled roll through town. They point west to Sebastopol Avenue, where they stop in Roseland for a taco truck dinner at a 25-foot communal table, before returning downtown. The rules are simple: Be safe, be courteous, be friendly, and have fun. That last part is the easiest of all requirements.
Neighbors along the route have come to expect, and love, the weekly rolling parade. “They will literally be sitting on their front porch waiting for us to come by,” Chavez says.
The whole concept has lasted longer than Chavez expected. With its growing numbers and contagious fun, the event has clearly met a community need. “Sometimes I’m in awe of what’s happening,” he said. “We have such stressful lives with everything going on in the world. Let’s listen to good music, get on a bike, have good food, and be with good people.”
Rides open to all. Meet at Santa Rosa’s Humboldt Park, 1172 Humboldt St., every Tuesday night at 5:45 p.m. Wheels up at 6:15 p.m.
Bikes with Soul
If you wonk out on textbook-perfect TIG welds and minute millimeters of adjustment, then Sean Walling is your bike builder.
The owner of Soulcraft Cycles, a custom workshop in Petaluma, Walling builds race-ready, steel-frame bikes with an old-school, normcore vibe. No flashy gimmicks here: just an honest, high-performance ride with a steel nameplate that oozes understated cool.
Elite Riders—and Still in High School
How cool was this? High up in the results list from April’s Grasshopper event at Lake Sonoma, mixed in with names widely known in American pro cycling circles, were a pair of teenage siblings from Sebastopol.
There was Vida Lopez de San Roman, a high school sophomore, third in the women’s pro category, though the 16-year-old is used to standing a bit higher on the podium. Since she started racing as a 9-yearold, she has won two age-group national championships in cyclocross and another in mountain biking.
Men’s winner Alex Wild needed a burst in the final miles to hold off Vida’s older brother Ian. The gregarious 18-year-old finished the grueling, 25-mile loop just 17 seconds behind Wild–but 6 ½ and 9 minutes, respectively, ahead of ex-pro road riders Ted King and Levi Leipheimer.
There is considerable athleticism, and some elite cycling chops, in the family tree.
Vida and Ian’s father played professional tennis. Their mother was a dancer, and their aunt twice competed for the U.S. Olympic team in mountain biking.
Despite that pedigree, Vida resisted bike racing for a long time, until a fateful Wednesday evening in Howarth Park nine years ago. “We weren’t riding very seriously,” Ian recalled, “then one of our friends told us to show up for DirtCrits” —races against other kids around a dirt track above Spring Lake. “It’s kind of like, pay $5, get destroyed.
It was super-fun,” said Ian. (DirtCrits are back this summer at Howarth Park; Instagram @thebikepeddler for info.)
Vida now gravitates toward cyclocross and mountain biking, while Ian prefers longer road and gravel events–50 miles, 100 miles or more–which reward his endurance and high threshold for suffering. As they get older, wiser, and stronger, watch out for these two. It won’t be long before everyone knows their names.
On Instagram @ianlbikes and @vida_lopezdesanroman.
Bike Fitting 101
Russian River Cycle Service owner Brian Borchers says he regularly sees a lot of “smoke and mirrors” when it comes to bike fitting, with some experts charging hundreds of dollars for a fit session. “But the majority of people just need their saddle height set right,” he says. russianrivercycles.com
• Saddle height is often most important for beginners, explains Borchers. “If you’re not getting proper leg extension, it robs you of a lot of your power.” For a good fit, Borchers asks riders to sit on the seat with their feet on the ground. When the seat is at a good height, the rider should should be almost on their tiptoes, with their heels in the air and the balls of their feet resting on the ground.
• Bike fitting is a process. Borchers suggests riders make one fitting change at a time, and that they ride at least three or four times between changes to see if the fit makes a difference.
The Church of the Bike
Meet Tim Nicholls, the burly-bearded reverend behind Cycle Chvrch Cycles in Petaluma. “I work all week trying to take care of my family, and on Sundays I try not to do anything but ride. So getting out on a bike is like going to church for me,” he says, by way of explaining the name.
409 Petaluma Blvd. S., Petaluma. 707-241-4770, cyclechvrchcycles.bigcartel.com
First set of wheels: A Mongoose BMX hand-me-down from his older brother.
Shop niche: 80% service and 20% new or used bikes.
On the walls: Old tools passed on from his grandfather, a library of old trail maps and maintenance books—and a few statues of the Virgin Mary.
Testimonial: “If somebody tries to open a bike shop to make any money, they’re a silly person and they’re in the wrong game. You’re here because you love it, and this is what you want to do.”
Bikes That Travel
BikePartners is a Santa Rosa bike shop that sells and rents folding bikes, perfect for commuting or for travel, from companies like Brompton, Tern, and Ritchey. Just visiting? They’ll meet you at your hotel and drop off a folding bike that can be stashed in the trunk of a rental car.
512 Wilson St., Santa Rosa. 707-595-0386, bikepartners.net
Experienced road cyclists love the challenge of Highway 1 along the Sonoma Coast, with its long descents, sharp curves, and jaw-dropping views— for many, it’s an at-least-once-in-your-lifetime kind of ride. But for a much more chill beachfront trip, perhaps one with family in tow, try pedaling along the paved beach access road at Doran Regional Park, then loop over to Bodega Bay’s tiny downtown for some fresh crab sandwiches. parks.ca.gov, parks.sonomacounty.ca.gov
Tour the Vineyards
Three great rides into the heart of Wine Country.
Sonoma Valley: Begin in downtown Glen Ellen near the market, then head west via rolling Dunbar Road and Highway 12 to Kenwood, through the prettiest section of the valley. Make an outand- back loop of any length you like: it’s about 7 miles one-way to St. Francis Winery, and along the way, you’ll pass the wine caves at Deerfield Ranch and the roaring bear sculpture in front of St. Anne’s Crossing. Loop back via Lawndale Road and twisty Warm Springs Road for a change of scenery. Best eats: wood-fired pizzas and gelato at Kenwood’s VJB winery.
Alexander Valley: Begin in downtown Geyserville and head southeast via Highway 128. Along the way, take a peek at the stunning modern architecture at high-end Silver Oak or broad valley vistas at Hanna Winery. It’s a little over 10 miles one-way to the junction with Chalk Hill Road, where you can either decide to push on towards Windsor or loop back to the start, perhaps with a side trip along Pine Flat Road to Red Winery Road to mix things up. Best eats are back where you started in Geyserville at Diavola Pizzeria & Salumeria.
Dry Creek Valley: Begin in downtown Healdsburg and head northwest from town on Dry Creek Road. It’s about 7.5 miles one-way through the heart of the valley, past favorites like Unti Vineyards and Mauritson, to the junction with Yoakim Bridge Road. Turn left on Yoakim Bridge Road, then left again at the junction with West Dry Creek Road. Cross back over to Dry Creek Road at Lambert Bridge Road, then back to town for a total loop of about 16 miles. Best eats along the way are fresh peaches from Dry Creek Peach and sandwiches from the landmark Dry Creek General Store.
Riders come from all over to experience the best of Sonoma’s rural byways. For maps of these picks plus more dream rides, check out the top ten list from the Santa Rosa Cycling Club: srcc.com/TGR.
King Ridge: Park near Cafe Aquatica from Jenner, then take Highway 116 to Cazadero, head out King Ridge Road, to Tin Barn Road. Descend to Hauser Bridge Road, to Seaview Road (where water is available at the top of the climb). Then take Fort Ross Road, descending to Meyers Grade Road to Highway 1, and back toward Jenner.
The Geysers Loop: Take Highway 128 to Red Winery Road, then wind up Geysers Road to Cloverdale and back.
Coleman Valley Road: Starting in Occidental, ride up steep Coleman Valley Road to the coast. Ride north on Highway 1 for a bit, then loop back on Willow Creek Road.
Calling All Women Mountain Bikers
Hella Joy Rides are social, nobody-left behind rides for women who love the trail, winding through Annadel for a couple of hours before circling back to the Trailhouse for sandwiches, soft pretzels—and most likely a beer. July 17, August 6, and September 10; trailhousesantarosa.com for info.
An Ode to Annadel
Mountain bike advocate Jake Bayless has been exploring the trails at Trione-Annadel State Park for over 40 years. Here, in his own words, is what the park means to generations of local mountain bikers.
Adventure reigns: “The thing that stuck with me as a kid is that sense of adventure. Annadel is surrounded on three sides by the city of Santa Rosa, but as a kid, I didn’t realize that. I just felt like it was an adventurous place to go. I still feel that every time I hit the South Burma Trail. I have that renewed sense of nostalgia, looking around and thinking ‘This is fantastic. I’m lost and I’m also safe. This is high adventure.’”
A change in perspective: “For the vast majority of people in the Santa Rosa plains, you spend your life looking up at Fountaingrove, looking up at Hood Mountain, looking up at Bennett Peak. So to be able to get way up into the hills in the park, and to have a completely different view of the mountains and the valleys around—it’s a change of perspective that I would encourage everybody to experience.”
Level up: “There are not many places that are so family friendly, a safe environment for kids to go play on bikes. Then I was also able to show my kids the next level up, the next skill set, whether it was getting over a rock or going way up into the mountains for adventure. And on a hot summer afternoon, there’s nothing quite as fun or as rewarding after a hard ride than hopping into Lake Ilsanjo. In Annadel, there’s always something more, another carrot around the bend.”
Best Pit Stops
Stopping along the way is a must on long, grinding rides— all the better if there’s good food and coffee. After all, as the joke goes, most cyclists are actually in it for the pastries.
Altamont General Store: 3703 Main St., Occidental. 707-874-6053, altamontgeneralstore.com
Dry Creek General Store: 3495 Dry Creek Rd., Healdsburg. 707-433-4171, drycreekgeneralstore1881.com
The Farmhand: 15025 River Rd., Guerneville. 707-604-7795, thefarmhand.net
Les Pascals: 13758 Arnold Dr., Glen Ellen. 707-934-8378, lespascalspatisserie.com
Salumeria Ovello: 248 W. Napa St., Sonoma. 707-721-1478, ovellosonoma.com
Quail & Condor: 149 Healdsburg Ave., Healdsburg. 707-473-8254, quailandcondor.com
Red Bird Bakery: At The Barlow, 6770 McKinley St., Sebastopol. 707-827-3112, redbirdbakery.com
Stellina Pronto: 23 Kentucky St., Petaluma. 707-789-9556, stellinapronto.com
Twofish Baking/Stewart’s Point Store: 32000 Highway 1, Stewarts Point. 707-785-2011, twofishbaking.com
Wild Flour Bread: 140 Bohemian Hwy., Freestone. 707-874-2938, wildflourbread.com
The Wheelie Crew
Santa Rosa’s Old Courthouse Square has become a gathering spot for kids involved in the “bikelife movement”—a community of riders who perform tricks in parks and on streets and post videos of their stunts to social media. Alan Cortes, who started riding and learning tricks with his buddies during the pandemic, sees the overall movement as a positive: “Most people are inside being unhealthy and staying in doing nothing, but we’re out here exercising.”
By John Beck, Kerry Benefield, Derek Moore, Austin Murphy, Abigail Peterson, and Ethan Varian