Sonoma Cycling and Vines
The view from Trinity Rd just north of Sonoma and on the way to Napa

I had the pleasure of being in the San Francisco area for a conference at the end of June. Given how blazingly hot it’d been in Austin, the weather in SF was a welcome change of pace. I could fly back right away that Friday the 29th or I could hang around a little and enjoy it a bit. I chose the latter.

I found a great place to stay right close in the town of Sonoma and they put me in touch with the Sonoma Valley Cyclery bicycle shop that was literally about a block and half away. I called in advance and reserved a bike. You never know what you’ll get when you rent a bike so I was wary but it turned out they had some really nice bikes to rent. I got a 58cm Specialized Roubaix. It wasn’t a perfect fit but it was much better than I thought it would be in terms of fit and ride. I brought my own pedals and seat as well so aside from a reach that was just slightly too long, the fit was excellent.

In advance of heading out there I’d done some googling for a good route to ride from Sonoma. It didn’t take long to turn up the “Cavedale – Mt Veeder” loop ride leaving from Sonoma. There’s a great write-up with links to a map and tons of info on the Santa Rosa Cycling Club website here.

The route as described on that site is 46 miles. The route as I ended up doing it was actually about 51 miles. The main difference in my alternative was to take Verano Ave over to Arnold Rd instead of taking Hwy 12. The bike shop had suggested this would have less traffic and I was more than fine to have fewer cars in exchange for a few more miles.

As it turns out, Arnold is still a fairly busy road, even at 7:30 on a Saturday morning, but nothing compared to hwy 12. So, it’s a good choice.

As you can see from the ride profile picture from my Garmin below, the route quickly hits a wall when you get to Cavedale Rd. It’s a challenging climb that goes up a couple thousand feet at grades averaging maybe 9%. Though it is a difficult climb over a single lane road that is not all that well maintained, there is almost no traffic at all on the road. Unless you live up there or are trying to get off the beaten path, there’s no reason you’d drive up that way.

The views along the way are great and I stopped several times just to look out over the valley. I was particularly fortunate that morning to have clear blue skies.

After reaching the summit, the ride down Trinity Rd on the other side was fantastic. Eventually it turned onto Mt Veeder though and once again you begin to climb. This section has shorter climbs then Cavedale but they’re even steeper. Even I was out of the saddle and I almost never get out of the saddle. I prefer to spin. In fact at one point with such a light carbon bike, I found myself pulling the front wheel off the ground as I cranked up the hill.

The fire station at the end of Cavedale Rd does indeed have a spigot you can replenish water. The area is otherwise devoid of businesses to pull into to top off water. I had a camelback full of water plus 2 water bottles that day though so I had plenty of water. When I finally rolled into Napa I took a detour to the market described by the Santa Rosa club writeup. Wasn’t far and well worth the stop.

The southern section of the loop ride back to Sonoma from Napa isn’t quite as scenic as the northern half. While there are some rolling hills to get over it’s mainly a flat section of open countryside. Scenic in its own right, there is little if anything holding the winds back and the winds were up that day. Going east to west back to Sonoma I was heading into the teeth of the wind. Other than that, it’s not a challenging section and before you know it you’re back into Sonoma.

This was a fanstastic route and I would definitely recommend it. Start early and spend the rest of the day at the wineries. 😉

Sonoma Cavedale loop ride profile