The Biking Boom

As we cycled through a year of pandemic living, one silver lining emerged: the freedom two wheels provided.

Sure, we might’ve been stuck in a world without travel, but a bike could offer fresh air, social distancing, and much-needed endorphins to ward off the pandemic blues (some of them, anyway). Suddenly, it seemed, everyone was buying a bike. Bike sales increased 200 percent in just the first few months of the pandemic, with “anything under $600 . . . just flying out,” Outside reported in January 2021. (Even more than a year after the first shelter-in-place orders were initiated, bikes, and bike parts, are still in short supply.) As we begin to emerge from our collective cocoons, interest in taking those bikes on longer journeys is also spiking—outfitters we interviewed are reporting record increases in cycling trips (and hiking trips, natch), especially U.S.- based routes. 

This boom comes on the heels of more than three decades of investment in rails-to-trails throughout the United States, which means there are more possibilities than ever for multiday trips, whether you want to tackle a short overnight or a months-long, cross-country trail. Wondering where to start? You don’t have to be a spandex-clad, Tour de France type to enjoy the freedom of the open road. Here, everything to know about planning a cycling trip, whether you want to plan your own or turn over the reins, whether you’re a first-timer who wants to crash in cushy hotels or an experienced bike-packer looking for a new challenge. 

How to Prep

Photo by David Marcu/Unsplash

First step? Just get out there.

It’s easy to fall into a rabbit hole of route planning and gear buying when it comes to bike touring. One thing all the experts agree on? Don’t overthink it. 

You want to be adequately prepared—see below—and have a general sense of what you might encounter along the way, but “just taking that first multiday trip or even really long one-day ride will open up so much opportunity,” says Ted King, a retired pro cyclist. “It is a fun adventure just waiting to happen and you’re going to learn so quickly. Just start doing it.” 

How do I decide on the trip and route that are right for me?

First, decide if you want to plan your own trip or if you’d like to join a guided trip. (If you’re interested in the latter, check out our guide to the best cycling outfitters.) If you want to go your own way, consider your fitness and experience levels, as well as the season and amount of time you want to devote to the trip. 

Never done a multiday ride before? Start super small. Book a hotel or an Airbnb in a destination 10 to 20 miles away, pack a small bag, and cycle to your overnight.

Interested in camping—and therefore carrying the necessary gear (also known also bike-packing)? Or would you prefer to pack a little lighter and stay in hotels, inns, and Airbnbs along the way? If you’re not a camper, or don’t want to deal with carrying so much gear, choose a route that passes through more civilization. The Eastern Seaboard is a great place for this—especially Maine and Vermont—given the density, you can’t throw a bike shoe without hitting a cute little town with all the amenities you need. Socially inclined cyclists can also check out Warmshowers, a community of touring cyclists who act as hosts to other touring cyclists. 

Rest days are crucial when bike-touring. Photo by Sunrise Hunter/Shutterstock

How many miles a day should I ride?

Daily mileage depends on many factors, including your fitness and experience levels, the terrain (are there mad hills, or is it relatively flat?), and how much weight you’re carrying. If you’re new to bike touring, even if you’re a fairly experienced cyclist, consider trips that average no more than 30 to 40 miles per day so as to preserve your most critical resource: your body.

And don’t forget to take rest days! This is vacation, after all. In addition to giving your body—especially your legs—a break, rest days offer time to explore your destination, rather than just pedal past it. Park yourself in a campsite or hotel for a day or two and explore the city or town or take shorter daily rides. 

“Distance is not as important as the journey,” says Analise Cleopatra, a filmmaker and relatively new mountain biker who made a documentary of her first bike-packing trip in 2019. “You don’t need to compete—just make sure you’re with people who are on the same wavelength and, you know, explore!”

How do I get my bike there?

Getting wheels where they need to go boils down to three options.

 

RENTING A BIKE 
This works well for first-timers, those who aren’t picky about their bikes, and/or those who choose a route in a cycling center such as Colorado or Northern California where there are high-end bike shops with decent rentals. It’s easier, too (no need to break down, ship, and rebuild your bike) though it can be more expensive. Rates vary, but a road bike rental can run you anywhere from $300 to $600 (or more) for a week in popular cycling states like California, Colorado, and Vermont.

 

SHIPPING YOUR BIKE
This is the most popular option, currently, among cyclists we interviewed. BikeFlights has become the go-to company for all bikes, including e-bikes. Rates vary widely based on box size, weight, distance, and shipping speed, but if you shipped your bike from San Francisco to New York City, for example, in one of BikeFlights’ medium boxes, which fit most road and gravel bikes, you’d likely pay $83, excluding protection. (The company recommends buying protection to cover the market value of your bike.) You can also ship through Overnight Bikes, ShipBikes, as well as directly through FedEx and UPS, though you will likely pay more booking directly through the latter two.

The main challenge? You need to plan for this as it can take up to six days to ship a bike cross-country, though BikeFlights recommends building in extra time in the COVID era. Plus, you need to have somewhere to ship it. The pros recommend shipping your wheels to a bike shop in your destination (make sure you call to let them know in advance) and paying them to build your bike for you. Expect to pay at least $50 for this service. You can also take your wheels to a local bike shop and have them disassemble and pack it—BikeFlights can pick up directly from the shop. 

 

FLYING WITH YOUR BIKE
Alaska and Delta are among the most bike-friendly airlines. Alaska waives the oversize baggage fee and allows bikes to be checked as standard baggage. Delta also counts bikes as standard baggage. Southwest and United, however, charge higher fees: Southwest charges a bike fee of $75 each way, while JetBlue charges $100 each way, and United charges a flat bike fee of $150 each way for domestic flights. Keep in mind that e-bikes, which are powered by lithium batteries, are prohibited on all airlines.

Photo by Coen van de Broek/Unsplash

How should I train?

It depends on the length and nature of your trip. If you’re doing a short trip (less than three days) through terrain that’s not hugely demanding, there’s no need to map out an arduous training plan, pretrip. In fact, if you’re cycling regularly—at least two or three days a week—and can ride for an hour or more, you’re ready for a low-mileage overnight trip. In addition to building endurance, the most important thing to do is “condition” your butt to prevent saddle sore.

If you’re ramping up for a multiweek or multimonth trip that doesn’t take place on extreme terrain—and have been riding your bike regularly—you can use your trip to train, says Dan Meyer, deputy editor for Adventure Cyclist magazine. For example, ride 10 to 20 miles the first day and see how you feel. Ride 30 miles the next day and 35 to 40 the following day. “That requires some planning ahead of time to make sure that you have facilities and campsites and hotels that are at those distances along the way, ” Meyer says, “but it helps you get in shape more, instead of trying to go 80 miles on the first day and wearing yourself out.” (If you’re tackling an intense trail or just want more structure, Adventure Cycling has put together a 12-week training program.)

The more critical part of preparation is to understand how your bike handles when you’re carrying gear. 

“A lot of people get to the start of their big route—this bike trip they’ve been dreaming of doing for years and they start pedaling and they’re like, ‘Holy crap, I’ve never ridden my bike with all this weight on it before,’ ” Meyer says.

He recommends practicing packing your bike, to make sure you’re packing efficiently, that the weight is balanced, and you can get to essential things (maps, food, water, etc.) quickly. Once you’ve done that, “take it out for a quick little 5- to 10-mile ride and just get used to how it handles, because it will handle quite a bit differently,” he says. 

Essential Gear

Photo by Skylines/Shutterstock

Bike camping gear

Big Agnes Tiger Wall Bikepacking Tent
The Big Agnes Tiger Wall tent is designed for bike-packing. Weighing in at just under three pounds, it’s super lightweight yet still provides protection and warmth when you’re out in the elements. The tent also includes tent poles that are shorter (12 inches) than normal, which makes them easier to attach to your handlebars, frame, or elsewhere on your bike. The stuff sack includes straps that are technically designed to attach to your handlebar bag, though using the recommended setup can be a little cramped on narrower, designed-for-women handlebars—most women should be able to move the poles to their frame.

It also includes loops to hang wet clothes on the outer rainfly, a generous vestibule area, and lots of pockets so you don’t have to sleep on top of your bike bags. Lastly, Big Agnes uses an ecofriendly dye process to reduce the amount of water that goes into making these tents.

>>>Buy now: $450 (two people), backcountry.com; $499 (three people), backcountry.com

 

Snow Peak LiteMax Stove
You have to pack light while bike-packing, which is why the compact, 1.9 ounce, Snow Peak LiteMax Stove is one of the best options for your bike-camping kitchen kit. It’s tiny but mighty and will last for years. Pair with an MSR Alpine StowAway pot (the stove fits inside even the smallest pot), a good knife, fuel, and a spork to complete your kit.

>>>Buy now: $60, amazon.com

Cotopaxi’s Bataan is an affordable fanny pack option. Photo courtesy Cotopaxi

Bags and carrying

Outer Shell bags
The bike-obsessed team behind Outer Shell makes a variety of high-quality bike bags—handmade in San Francisco—for all types of cycling adventures, whether you’re roughing it on a backcountry gravel ride or trying to cart a bottle of pinot noir back to your hotel room after a day of riding in Napa. Almost all of its bags are designed to expand for optimal versatility and are either waterproof or water resistant. 

For shorter rides, or for those who are embarking on a supported ride and don’t need to carry a lot, the Stem Caddy ($60) is a great choice. It can comfortably fit your phone, wallet, and all your essentials, or an entire bottle of wine. For longer rides or if you just want more space, Outer Shell’s seatpacks ($145–$150) can fit just about everything you’d need for an overnight. They’re also a nice alternative to panniers, since they won’t create an imbalance and can fit on any bike, no bike rack required.

>>>Buy now: Stem caddy, ($60 outershell.com); Seatpacks ($145-$150, outershell.com)

 

Fanny/hip bag
Skip the backpack (it’ll make you sweat like crazy) and, instead, use a fanny/hip bag while you ride (all the cool kids are doing it). Outer Shell has an excellent waterproof and expandable one, but I also like the compact Axis bag by Mission Workshop ($130, missionworkshop.com), which was made with cyclists in mind. Cotopaxi’s Bataan ($30, cotopaxi.com) is another, more affordable option, packed with organizational features and made from fabric remnants.

>>>Buy now: Cotopaxi Battan, ($30 cotopaxi.com); Axis bag ($130, missionworkshop.com)

Photo courtesy Velocio

Clothing

Bike shorts by Velocio
Padded bike shorts are essential on any long bike ride, but bike bibs—which are essentially padded, bike short “overalls” that don’t cut into your waist the way regular shorts would—are extra comfortable. There are tons of great brands in the world of cycling clothing, but Velocio is an AFAR favorite. Not only does it excel at making high-quality bike clothes with simple-yet-stylish designs, but its bike bibs also come with one crucial, lady-friendly feature: Its patent- pending FlyFree design means their bike bibs are stretchy enough to pull down for a pee-break, without having to remove your jersey, helmet, glasses . . . basically getting naked.

>>>Buy now: Signature Bike Short, $229, velocio.cc

Other great brands to check out for bike shorts, jerseys, and jackets include Machines for Freedom (ladies only), Castelli, and Rapha.

A bike computer is an essential part of a bike-touring kit. Photo by fotoliza/Shutterstock

Tools and other bike essentials

Paceline Products Chamois Butt’r Her’
There’s no way around it: If you’re spending several long days in the saddle, you need to take care of your butt. A good bike seat and shorts are the foundation of butt-on-bike-comfort, but consider packing some chamois cream, which soothes chaffed or irritated skin, as well. We like Butt’r Her’, a non-greasy formula made from natural ingredients like aloe vera and shea butter and designed and pH-balanced with female cyclists in mind.

>>>Buy now: $18, rei.com

 

Wahoo Elemnt Bolt bike computer
One word: reliable. The Wahoo Elemnt Bolt is GPS-powered and can display maps for directions along with helpful data like the gradient of the road and weather and wind conditions. It has all the features to connect to your heart monitor and power meter, and it can sync with tracking apps like Strava so you can monitor your performance as well.

>>>Buy now: $230, backcountry.com

 

Bike tools (and skills)
You’ll want to carry some basic tools and know how to change a tire and how to adjust your brakes. Park Tool makes a great hex wrench set and offers detailed videos on everything from how to change a tire to how to adjust your shifting. 

>>>Buy now: Park hex wrench set, $24, backcountry.com

 

Bike pump
When it comes to portable bike pumps, cyclists were once limited to CO2 or hand pumps. A CO2 pump is small, fast, and compact, but single use. (It uses a cartridge attached to the head of a small nozzle to quickly inflate a tire.) Though reliable and reusable, hand pumps can be a 15-minute arm workout as your friends wait impatiently for you, and they’re not as compact. But what about a hand pump that can also use a CO2 cartridge, offering both speed and reliability? Well, it’s 2021 and that now exists with a few brands.

>>>Buy now: Silca Tattico Mini Pump ($65, competitivecyclist.com); PDW Ninja pump ($35, ridepdw.com)

 

Bike lights
Although you may not be doing much riding after dark, lights can help you see and be seen—whether it’s on a foggy morning or helping drivers spot you as you move in and out of shadows. For lights, you want 500+ lumens for front and 50–100 lumens in the rear. Different blink patterns are a plus as well to help drivers see you.

>>>Buy now: Vis 360 Pro Helmet light by Light & Motion ($130, lightandmotion.com, rei.com); Vis 1000 Trooper handlebar light by Light & Motion ($90, lightandmotion.comamazon.com)

 

Snacks!
A lot of new cyclists forget: You have to eat to avoid “bonking,” (the sudden loss of energy that can occur following a long ride). Pack an RX bar or two, or even a plain ol’ banana, to keep your energy up for several hours on the road.

Products we write about are independently vetted and recommended by our editors. AFAR may earn a commission if you buy through our links, which helps support our independent publication.

U.S. Routes

Great Divide photo by Jacinta Creten/Adventure Cycling Association

There are thousands upon thousands of bike trails in the United States with more, it seems, being added each year.

One big route in the works: The Great American Rail-Trail, which when completed, will stretch 3,700 miles from coast to coast. This list is by no means extensive—but it is a place to begin. For a look at more U.S. long-distance routes, check out the interactive map from Adventure Cycling Association, the 45-year-old organization responsible for some of the country’s greatest routes. 

 

The Olympic Discovery Trail, Washington
130 miles

Washington’s Olympic Peninsula is the stuff of legends: Just west of Seattle, the stretch of land (home to Olympic National Park) offers quaint seaside towns, ethereal rain forest, waterfalls, and at the far western edge, the wild Pacific Ocean. On the 130-mile Olympic Discovery Trail—half of which is a dedicated multiuse path—cyclists can see, smell, and hear it all. The route begins in Port Townsend at the northeastern tip of the peninsula and ends at the coastal town of La Push. Camp or stay in lodges and hotels along the way.

 

Natchez Trace Parkway, Mississippi and Tennessee
444 miles

This National Park Service–designated trail stretches from Nashville, Tennessee, to Natchez, Mississippi, roughly tracing a 10,000-year-old route originally used by Native Americans (the path once connected the Chickasaw, Choctaw, and Natchez tribes). Travelers will pass through forests and farmland, witnessing creeks and numerous historical markers along the way. While cyclists do share the road with cars, speeds are low and traffic is relatively light. The route is great for cyclists looking for relatively flat terrain and cozy inns, but there are also more than a dozen campgrounds along the route, for those who prefer the freedom of a tent. 

 

The Underground Railroad, Alabama to Ontario, Canada
1,997 miles

Beginning in Mobile, Alabama, and ending in Owen Sound, Ontario, the Underground Railroad follows the eponymous route used by freedom seekers from the late 18th century until the Civil War. Cyclists can tackle sections of the route or the entire length. The route traces rivers, winds through sleepy towns, and passes by numerous historical markers and sites that honor Black Americans’ struggles for freedom. 

 

The Great Divide, Canada to New Mexico
2,696 miles

Don’t be alarmed by the sheer mileage of this route, which traces the Continental Divide and takes place primarily on dirt or gravel roads and trails—a playground for mountain bikers. Most cyclists tackle sections of the Great Divide, with the 700-mile Montana section among the most popular. Expect solitude, wildlife, and epic runs through pristine forest. Although the trail does pass through small towns, it’s best for those who are interested in camping for at least part of the route. 

 

The East Coast Greenway, Maine to Florida
3,000 miles

Once the entire 3,000-mile route is completed, you’ll be able to hike or bike on protected paths through 15 states and 450 cities and towns, which is the entire point: to connect the nation’s “most populated corridor.” Launched by the nonprofit East Coast Greenway Alliance in 1991, the corridor is 35 percent complete, with 1,000 miles of protected paths between Maine and Florida. The remainder of the trail is on-road (so yes, you could complete the entire route now). Some campgrounds are available, but the route is best for those who want to crash in hotels, motels, or in homes via Warmshowers.

 

The Southern Tier, California to Florida
3,022 miles

Tour the entirety of the southern section of the United States—passing through such states as Arizona, Texas, Louisiana, and Florida—or just tackle a section of the fascinating route. The Southern Tier begins in San Diego, winding through desert and the Algodones Dunes Wilderness Area, and ends in the 400-year-old town of St. Augustine, Florida. Ideal for those who prefer motels and hotels to camping. 

Guided Trips

Aspen glacial valley courtesy Backroads
Texas Hill Country photo by Lamar Sellers/Shutterstock

For those who want the thrill of the open road without the headache of planning their own trip—and hauling their own gear—here are some of AFAR’s favorite cycling outfitters.

Many of these companies now offer e-bikes, making cycling tours more accessible

 

BACKROADS
Berkeley-based Backroads has been leading fantastic small-group hiking, cycling, and other adventure-oriented tours since 1979. Cycling trips take place on custom-built titanium bikes, lodging ranges from small luxury ships (imagine cycling beside and sailing down the Danube) to five-star hotels, and the food is as finely crafted as the routes. This year, watch for new U.S.-based trips like a five-day cycling tour of the Hudson River Valley, as well as weekend or long weekend getaways in Aspen’s glacial valleys and Texas Hill Country.  

 

ADVENTURE CYCLING ASSOCIATION
Long known for its stellar long-distance routes, the nonprofit Adventure Cycling Association, which began in 1976, is responsible for mapping out some of the country’s quintessential bike routes, including the 4,218-mile TransAmerica Trail. During the pandemic, the organization launched its Short Trips Initiative, a series of shorter guided trips in eight metropolitan areas, including Boston, San Francisco, Seattle, and Atlanta. Adventure Cycling expects to release route maps for self-guided versions of the tours in summer 2021. 

 

VBT BICYCLING VACATIONS
A two-time AFAR Travelers’ Awards winner, Vermont-based VBT Bicycling Vacations has crafted cycling trips for more than 50 years that include accommodations, luggage transfer, and most meals. It also offers self-guided trips. Pick from one of many New England–based tours or VBT’s national park tours, including a six-day Grand Teton and Yellowstone route.

 

WOMANTOURS
Run by women and geared toward women, WomanTours has been leading cycling trips since 1995. Accommodations focus on smaller inns, bed-and-breakfasts, and in national parks, cabins and lodges. New U.S. routes include an eight-day tour of Alaska’s Inside Passage and a six-day tour of Oregon’s Roses, Rivers, and Rail Trails. Also new for 2021: a 25-day ride along section three (Kansas to Kentucky) of the cross-county TransAmerica route. 

 

DUVINE
With its focus on luxury and tapping into the local flavor of a destination, DuVine takes travelers into the heart of a place. The company’s trips range from those geared to avid cyclists looking for a new adventure to family-friendly to rides tailored to all ages. And, like many other outfitters, it offers several new domestic adventures, including a five-day art- and food-focused cycling tour of Santa Fe and Taos.

 

REI ADVENTURES
Another AFAR Travelers’ Awards winnerREI Adventures recently discontinued its international trips to focus on building U.S.-based itineraries. No surprise, then, that the company will offer a bevy of national park trips with varied activities: rafting, kayaking, hiking, and yes, cycling. Cyclists, check out the new Joshua Tree weekend trip or a seven-day tour of Moab, Arches, and Grand Junction

Notes From the Road

A little inspiration to hit the road, from those who have been there.

We spoke to variety of cyclists—from a relative newbie to people who make their living on two wheels—to share the wonders of exploring the world via your own power. 

Photo by Alisa Geiser
Photo by Alisa Geiser

Analise Cleopatra on the thrill of her first-ever bike-packing trip

“I’ve never done anything like that—I’d never even camped before that trip [along the Three Sisters, Three Rivers route in Oregon]. Just being out in the woods and open . . . you’re definitely at the mercy of the elements. But being there with Dej’uanae [Toliver], who I had known for a while, and Brooklyn [Bell, a pro mountain biker] who I had just met, definitely made a difference. I was anxious about ‘completing’ the ride, which is not something that I felt like I needed to do, but it felt like to some people the value of the ride was how far you could go. Later, I realized I’m not this person, I just want to bike and see these waterfalls and paint pictures and get to know these girls, you know? There’s so much elitism in the sport, but I think there’s definitely space for people who just want to explore and yes, challenge and push our bodies, but the point is not the pain. 

“The terrain was very, very diverse the first couple of days. In the beginning, where we started near Caldera [Springs], it was very redwood-y with mulchy ground, but once we went past Suttle Lodge, it got really arid and there were a lot of dead trees. And then it got really lush around Big Lake. . . . Then it got very, very sandy. Once we got through the desert-like part, once we got to the Mackenzie River Trail it was so beautiful, just riverside the whole time. There were so many waterfalls. We [followed the Mackenzie River Trail] until we got to Oakridge and then there was a lot of climbing. That felt more hardcore: The last couple of days it was very rainy so it was pretty wet and muddy, which was fine—it was just a little cold and a little scary going downhill. 

“[I have so much] gratitude for the opportunity to enter this world, because people don’t knowwhat they are missing out on. Hopefully the film inspires people who, like me, never would have gone camping by themselves. Find a buddy to go with and enter this world because it’s incredibly nourishing and healing just to be able to go out in nature to learn what your body is capable of and see the stars in their full capacity.” 

Analise Cleopatra is a Florida-based filmmaker who made a documentary, Pedal Through, of her first-ever bike-packing trip in 2019 to inspire other newcomers to pick up a bike. Her next trip? The backroads of Georgia. 

Photo by Mike Dicken/Adventure Cycling Association

Adventure Cycling Association’s Dan Meyer on the wildness of the Great Divide

“I’ve been dying to ride the entire Great Divide route for a while now, and I still hope to do it soon. A couple of years ago, I rode a [Montana] section of the Great Divide from Whitefish to Missoula. I did it by myself—it was a quick three-day thing. My now-wife and I had done a weekend loop north of Whitefish, and then she had to get back to work. She left me in Whitefish and I just rode myself back to Missoula. It was everything I was hoping for. It was gorgeous, it was quiet, there was nobody around. It’s just such beautiful terrain up there. 

“You ride through a lot of dense forest on these rocky dirt roads—motorized vehicles are allowed but you don’t really see them for the most part. It’s just you spinning along, catching glimpses of wildlife. You get that nice, piney, fresh mountain air, you see a lot of alpine lakes and snow-covered peaks. I was going southbound and I did run into a few people riding northbound, but it was less than a handful. It’s the route for people who want to experience solitude in nature. There are other routes you can do where you’ll get to meet a lot of new people and have a lot of social interaction, but the Great Divide route, for the most part, is not going to be like that. It does pass through small towns and you’ll get to meet people in grocery stores and markets and campgrounds, but when you’re out on the road, it’s probably going to be just you, which I really enjoyed.”

Utah-based Dan Meyer, an avid mountain biker, is deputy editor of Adventure Cyclist magazine, published nine times a year as part of the nonprofit Adventure Cycling Association. 

Sonoma County photo by Rolf_52/Shutterstock
Photo courtesy of Pete Stetina

Pro cyclist Pete Stetina on the beauty of Sonoma County’s endless backroads

“Sonoma County has a pretty storied cycling history. This is a place that a lot of the pro teams would have their early season camps in the earlier days. It’s unique because there are so many little backroads that twist and turn and snake—for every main artery that a lot of people drive to commute, there are four or five alternative options. 

“As a pro, when I am here training, preparing for the world’s biggest races, I can pick and choose any direction pretty much and always keep it fresh. There are hundreds of thousands of possibilities. I can hit those rolling pastureland Petaluma hills toward the south and hit the coast. In West County you’re talking Jurassic Park–size redwood trees and ferns and just deep woods, moist redwood forest groves and then [you’ll reach] the coast. Up north, you even start to get into Lake County and that’s more like a dry alpine feeling, almost a Colorado feeling, with a lot more pine trees. Then you have all the vineyards and you have a whole big mountain range called the Mayacamas that borders Sonoma and Napa County [and it has] a bunch of huge climbs. 

“If you are an advanced enough rider, one quintessential rugged Sonoma County route is the West County Highlight. It’s a very hard ride that includes some very tough climbs, [but also] some amazing vistas, some rugged backroads. You’re gonna hit every microclimate you can think of in one four- to five-hour ride. I’m talking urban and then redwoods and then riverfront and then coastal and then redwoods again and then oak forest, all of that. If you’re passing through the vineyards, a lot of the time, you’ll smell the fermentation, you’re going to smell the grapes being crushed and a little bit of that alcoholic perfume in the air and then you’re going to get into the redwoods and that deep mossy moist air. The coast is real stinky in a good way. And then there are all these little eclectic artist communities that have bakeries and coffee shops.

“There’s not a lot of fake [in Sonoma County]. Everyone’s kind of content doing them and you’re doing you and we’re a part of this community together, which is really nice. It’s definitely the people and the extracurricular possibilities outside of cycling that have kept me there and kept me happy. It’s one of the easiest places in the world to do my job.”

Pete Stetina is a pro cyclist based in Sonoma County who switched to gravel and adventure racing in 2019. In March 2021, he partnered with the Sonoma-based Piazza Hospitality to offer cycling packages to hotel guests at Hotel Healdsburg, h2hotel, and Harmon Guest House that range from customized routes to the Pro Cycling Experience package, which includes a private, guided ride with Pete. For each package booking, the partnership will provide a bicycle, helmet, lock, and (when they’re happening again) a bike camp adventure to an at-risk kid through the B-Rad Foundation, a Sonoma-based nonprofit. 

Photo by Felix Lipov/Shutterstock

Pro cyclist Ted King on Vermont’s picturesque 200-on-100 route

“I’m in Vermont and there’s a cool route called the 200-on-100 and that refers to the 200 miles that spans the length of Vermont, from Canada to Massachusetts, and the route is entirely on Route 100. A lot of people will do it in one day. That said, it would also make for a really nice two-day trip or stretch it out and make it a three-day trip.

“At the beginning, you are literally at the Canadian border and that portion of Vermont is called the Northeast Kingdom. It’s just out there, it is rural, it is rolling pastureland, you can see mountains in the distance. The route is entirely paved and sort of inadvertently becomes a tour of Vermont’s ski towns. You’re going to go through Stowe and you go by Sugarbush and Mad River and you go right by Killington, you go by Mount Snow. It’s a relatively rolling route. There are no real extended climbs, except two, but over the course of a 200-mile ride they are relatively spread out. 

“Detour off the route and find an Airbnb or a restaurant or brewery, all the things Vermont is well known for. . . . You’ll go directly by Lassen’s Finest Liquids in the town of Waitsfield, Vermont. Among beer nerds, their stuff is extraordinary. They’re a cycling friendly brewery and brewhouse—they just came out with Single Sip, [which is] absolutely delicious, and their double IPA is called Sip of Sunshine. It’s relatively early in the ride, so you might not want to have too much of that. But as you’re dividing [the route] up into a multiday trip, it might work out perfectly.” 

Ted King is a retired pro cyclist who loves Vermont’s ubiquitous gravel roads. So much so that in 2019, he launched Rooted Vermont, a two-course (pick between 45 and 85 miles) ride, which is taking place for the second year from July 30 to August 1, 2021.

Reported by Aislyn Greene and Jessie Beck.