Training rides are rewarding (and necessary) for sure. But, every cyclist, triathlete, and weekend warrior knows that there are infinite benefits to be reaped from a long, leisurely ride with friends, enjoying two-wheeled bliss and great scenery, no matter where your steed may carry you. The long weekends of Ironman training have given way to a bit of a lull these past few weeks, before the training ramps up again for a fall and winter of running, allowing me a bit of time to enjoy these types of excursions which never fail to remind me of just how simple a pleasure riding a bike is, and how wonderful a way it is to see the world. I can safely say that, all of the weekends that I kicked myself in the pants for not feeling I had the luxury of skipping a training ride for a joy ride have been redeemed of late.
A couple of weekends ago, Derek, myself, and a friendly crew of riders headed into the North Bay to tackle part of the famed (or literally in-famous) Bakery Challenge Ride. Literally, a day after my own heart – the complete ride is 90+ miles of spinning through the North Bay, along the coast, and over the mountains between artisan bakeries. Seriously. This is bliss.
Saturday arrived and, after a quick walk with Gunner, and a tiny breakfast #1 (in anticipation of a day spent devouring baked goods,) we hit the road and landed to meet the group at the Wildflour Bakery in Sebestapol, just 90 minutes north of Berkeley. Still socked in a fog, we prepped our bikes and piled on our technical layers. Then, we headed inside to raise cups of hot coffee, and sections of their signature item – a literally gargantuan cinnamon bun- to new friends, great vistas, and a day spent enjoying the simple pleasures in life — spinning, and sugarbombs.
We had planned out a 60-ish mile route that carried us out of Sebestapol, on to Occidental (where a variety of bakery options awaited,) through Duncans Mills (and, to the infamous Gold Coast Coffee Roasters.) From there we had one last stop in Monte Rio (where Raymond’s awaited), before hitting the hills and earning the zucchini muffins, pumpkin bread, sticky buns, peach and apple galettes, savory croissants, peanut butter cookies, and cappuccinos that we’d been fueling off of for the first 25 miles of the ride. We hopped on Fort Ross and climbed, climbed and climbed – passing blackberry bushes and redwoods – until we were all hankering for a sticky bun again. Then we bombed down Meyers’ Grade to Highway One, yelping with glee at the view of the coast as we did. The skies were clearing by now and we were treated with views for miles of crashing waves, countryside, and cool temperatures. We had worked up such an appetite we stopped through Gold Coast again for slices of pizza before cruising back to Sebestapol – full, happy, and elated.
I had never spent time spinning in this part of our great state – not only were the roads pretty great, the climbs gratifying, and the traffic completely manageable, but the ovens in NorCal sure can bake. A few of these outposts, specifically Gold Coast Coffee Roasters, was very much worth adding a couple of miles to ride through twice — the first for flaky scones, the second for pizza slices.
My coach used to always tell me that “bakery rides,” or coffee shop rides, were the thing to do on a day off when the legs needed a spin and I deserved a treat. This was that to the Nth degree — this ride is not for the faint of heart (or the anti-climber,) but is most certainly a great way to earn your morning buns and to get in a lay of the land here in NorCal. And, if you are really trying to keep yourself calorie-positive, take on those sticky buns yourself. Otherwise, not only do they taste better with friends, but bringing bikey buddies means that you have the opportunity to taste more of those tasty pastries too.
The ride that we did was just 60 miles of a plotted 90 miles dedicated to bikes and bakeries in the North Bay. But, give this Bakery Challenge Map a look, then get out there and earn your rewards!