King Ridge Road
It may be in Sonoma, but King Ridge isn’t a leisurely wine-sipping route. Some of the world's top cycling teams make the pilgrimage to train on this narrow, snaking strip of pavement, which rolls through wildflower meadows and redwood stands and offers open views of the Pacific. The most popular century route starts outside of Santa Rosa and meanders into Occidental before turning north on the Cazadero Highway, tracing Austin Creek until it meets King Ridge. From there, the route plummets down to Highway 1, turning south and then east.
The loop around Geysers Road—or simply “The Geysers,” as locals refer to it—is one of the best and most classic of all Sonoma County rides. It is very challenging and very remote, so it is recommended only for fit, self-sufficient riders. The climbs are at times very steep; it can be brutally hot in the warm season, and there is no source of water all around the back-country side of the loop. Plan accordingly. While the ride becomes remote and a bit of a walk on the wild side later on, it begins quite tamely, with a run north from Geyserville along flat and rolling roads next to busy Hwy 101. The proximity to the freeway detracts slightly from the ambience along this section, but it is still nice riding through the vineyards at the north end of Alexander Valley, and with 99% of the traffic on the highway, our road will be nearly traffic-free.
King Ridge Road
King Ridge Road is considered by many to be the crown jewel of North Bay cycling roads. Numerous articles have appeared in bike magazines extolling its charms. One writer called it “the land of dreams,” “the best ride ever,” and “God’s cycling theme park,” while another stated, “without a doubt, the most beautiful road I’ve ever ridden.” The praise seems a bit over the top.
Climbing on King Ridge begins just over two miles into the road with a moderate, one-mile ascent, followed by a mile of down, and then a really brutal climb of 1.3 miles, at which point there is a clear summit. A mile of easy, slightly uphill rollers leads to another very stiff climb of just under a mile. At this point, we’ve reached the real world of King Ridge, the part that everyone raves about.
Although there are several more significant climbs ahead, for the most part now, we’re riding along the ridgeline, with views off one side or the other. At one point, the road tiptoes along a spine of ridge just a few feet wider than the narrow road. There are panoramic views off both sides of the road at once: to the west, out over the far, blue Pacific, and to the east, spanning rank on rank of empty, serried hills. Sometimes we’re riding through woods of redwood, oak, and bay laurel, and sometimes we’re crossing open meadows of waving grass.
Every inch of this ride is beautiful, but up on the ridgeline, the vistas are so stunning, so transcendent, even the most hardened hammerheads slow down and gaze in awe. This is it: purest bike heaven. This is why we ride.
In addition to all the buffed-out climbing one does on King Ridge, there are also a number of exciting descents, 1500’ of twisting, slinky fun.
Thanks to Santa Rosa Cycling Club for the description