NORCAL BUCKET LIST The road less travelled.

new year, new roads...

NorCal is one of the best places in the world for cycling. At least that's our opinion. Most people share it. But when they think "NorCal", their minds automatically think of Napa, Sonoma, or Marin. Mt. Tam. Wine Country. Riding across the Golden Gate Bridge.

Sure, all of that is amazing. But we've lived here a long time (don't ask), and along the way, we've discovered some lesser known gems we think rival or hands down beat anything you can get up north of the city.

If you're in the area, hit us up and we'll show you in person. If you're a lone wolf, or the stars don't align for us to roll, lucky for you we're sharing three of our must-do Bay Area routes that don't involve riding your bike across a huge bridge with hundreds of sketchy tourists. There. We said it.

Eureka Canyon

Eureka!

48.7 miles / 4060 ft.

Tucked all the way down in Santa Cruz, CA is a road called Eureka Canyon, and it has just about everything Santa Cruz is known for packed into it. Long windy climb with a few steep pitches? Check. Redwoods? Check. Crappy, treacherous pavement combined with a fast technical descent? Check and check.

Seriously, though, if you have one day in Santa Cruz to ride road bikes, make this the one. Start at the Verve Coffee off of Bronson Street in the little 'hood of Seabright for some serious caffeine and pastries, then wind along the coast before cutting up through some little foothills and into the town of Corrolitas. Maybe stop for some sausages there. If not, keep heading up Eureka and continue as it turns into Highland Way. You will have a stop at the famous Summit Store as a reward to fill up on more coffee (or potato chips, or sushi, or hot chocolate, etc). Then rip down Soquel San Jose, a descent made for speed, before rolling gently back into town.

Soda Springs + Weaver Road

Soda Springs - Short but sweet

25 miles / 4007 ft.

Los Gatos, CA is a teeny idyllic town nestled right up to the Santa Cruz Mountains, and not the usual go-to for the start of a ride. But if you know where to ride.... Fortunately, now you do.

Soda Springs Road is one of the finest out-and-backs you can ever hope for, especially when you toss in Weaver Road for some of the most amazing panoramic views you can get hands down in the state of California. At just over 5 miles with about 2500 ft. of elevation gain, it's also not one to tackle without fueling up at the Los Gatos Coffee Roasting Company. Take in some espresso, crepes, and people watching, and then get a little gravel grinding under your belt on the Los Gatos Creek Trail before emerging onto Alma Bridge Road. Keep circling the Lexington Reservoir, but be sure not to miss the sharp left onto Soda Springs Road - there is only one small sign marking it and it's easy to miss! Now go up. And up and up. And up. And eventually, you will get to some mailboxes and a gate. Congratz!

When you get to the gate, don't try to hop it, tempting as it may be. Mt. Umunhum has a cool name, but also a missile launch site and a bunch of military people guarding it with guns. So just take in the scene at the top, and head back down, watching out for another sharp left onto Weaver Road. While the temptation to just bomb the descent is definitely strong, the short extra out/back is a hidden diamond and worth it. Don't worry, there's still plenty of bomb worthy descent once you're done.

At the bottom, keep looping all the way around the reservoir until you find yourself back onto Alma Bridge Road. There is a teeeeeny section on Highway 17, but you never have to merge onto the actual highway. Then, grind some gravel back, and you've earned your second helping of coffee and pastries with a 25 miles with 4000 ft of elevation gain ride.

Morgan Territory + Diablo

Morgan Territory and the devil

69 miles / 6900 ft.

Mt. Diablo is an iconic NorCal climb, and aptly named after the Devil himself, but when you pair it up with the lesser known Morgan Territory Road, it makes a loop worthy of heaven.

Start this ride in the town of Walnut Creek - driveable, but also very BARTable if you're staying in the city or in Oakland. Either come caffeinated or hit up a Starbucks, as that's your best bet in Walnut Creek (sad face). Get onto Ygnacio Valley Road and ride through some suburbia until you get to Clayton Road, which eventually dumps you onto Marsh Creek. Now you're cookin'. Whatever you do, don's miss the turn on the right onto Morgan Territory - it comes during a short descent and is easy to breeze by.

On Morgan Territory? Good. Now just keep riding. And climbing. Trust us, you will soon be greeted with one of the most gorgeous and fast descents you've ever had the pleasure to meet.

See? We told you. Eventually, you will loop around to Blackhawk road, and the start of Mt. Diablo. We always recommend going up South Gate Road and coming down North Gate Road - it's the combination locals prefer. Oh, and did we mention that the very top of Mt. Diablo to the parking lot is a 17% grade? Ok, we just did. Don't worry, it's also a -17% grade to get you started back down. You'll eventually get right back onto Ygnacio Valley, and find a place to grab some grub before hopping back in the car or onto BART.

PRO TIP: If you're doing this route at all in the summer, take a third bottle. There is no water to be found on Morgan Territory until you get to Blackhawk Road, and the weather can be...steamy.

Bombs away. Fist bump.

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