Santa Rosa & Napa Weekend Ride

Total Motorcycle Miles: ~300
Bicycle Miles: 82.1
Bicycle Ascent: 11,300′
Minimum/Maximum transform time: 22/36 minutes
Number of selfies with people (Hi Toby!): 1

This was a “no planning” attempt – what’s the minimum information and logistics to connect a bunch of climbs together. Also testing out new modifications to the bicycle & motorcycle rig as that continues to evolve.

I identified two climbs I wanted to do (Mt St Helena & Bald Mountain) plus some likely secondary climbs to get some extra miles in.

My preparation consisted of:

  1. Identify a starting point nearly the climb(s), preferably next to a restaurant.
  2. Load Waypoints into Garmin Zumo 665 GPS on the motorcycle.
  3. Load the climb segments into my Wahoo ELEMNT
  4. Plan a route in and load into Wahoo ELEMNT

Saturday – Bald Mountain & Los Alamos

Up at dawn, rode the motorcycle up through the east bay (I haaate going through San Francisco!) and parked in a relatively empty Safeway parking lot.

New aluminum bushing and fork QR sped up my transform time a bit, the previous QR and rubbery bushing requires some wrestling.

Still wasn’t terribly organized on what goes where, since I wasn’t fully packed up I could be pretty sloppy.

Rolled out toward Bald Mountain around 8 AM, down Highway 12. This section was pretty unpleasant, roads in Napa/Sonoma/Santa Rosa are some of the worst in California.

I was glad to be on fatter tires (700×30.5 Hutchinson Sector tubeless.. they claim 700×32 but they aren’t.) There was also a TON of glass, apparently driving drunk is very popular in this area!

The turn off to bald mountain takes you up a pretty narrow and twisty secondary road with a relatively pleasant grade, until you reach Sugar Loaf Ridge State Park – where a nice confused man attempted to figure out if he needed to charge me for admittance (Hint: No.)

From here, turning left takes you onto a dirt fire road. A few minor kick ups, but good flat dirt for the most part. At this point you reach a gate with old, broken pavement. This is where the real climbing begins – pretty much sustained 10 to 18% grades.
3/4 of the way up it turns back into dirt – but much steeper and looser gravel, and you are greeted by 20%+ pitches.

At the top, you’re greeted with awesome views of both sides of the mountain.


Descending is definitely an “advanced” descent – the top dirt section is very steep and loose, and the pavement section has a LOT of loose marbles on top of pavement. Once past that, smooth sailing back through the park and back up Highway 12 – this time with a head wind.

When I planned my route, I wanted to get some additional climbing in each days, so I tagged on Los Alamos front & back. Other than the terrible pavement (a theme!), the climb up wasn’t bad.

However, descending down into Hood Mountain Park I began to have a few regrets! The good news is at least the pavement was nice, it was definitely a grind getting back up.


Back to the shopping center, had lunch and researched for a hotel (yes, I had done no hotel planning, just like my real trip.) – my hotel criteria is usually “cheap and I can walk to food” – because having to kit up in smelly motorcycle gear again after showering is not ideal.

I am willing to splurge extra if they have a hot tub. Another lesson I’ve learned: Check in early. Even when traveling remotely, hotels are often full by 4 or 5 PM. Another reason to get my riding done at dawn.

Packed up the bicycle (1 spectator) checked in (hot tub broken! boo!) showered, got dinner, went to bed early to get ready for Day 2!


Sunday – Mt St Helena & Ida-Clayton

Hotel waffles for breakfast, and then motorcycled over from Santa Rosa to Calistoga and parked next to a cafe along Highway 128.

Back onto the bicycle and started following the route in my ELEMNT. This is really 3 (or 4 if you’re stupid) climbs:

1. Old Toll Road – a typical tertiary Napa-esque road
2. Highway 29 – fast cars and no shoulders
3. A hiking trail that is the WRONG DAMN WAY
4. A long, long, long fire road that goes to the summit

#1 and #2 – nothing really notable here, just keep pedaling

#3 requires some explaining: Since I was doing “minimal planning” – I didn’t give a lot of scrutiny to what ridewithgps was mapping. Apparently I was supposed to keep going another couple hundred yards on Highway 29, to the start of the fire road climb.
Ridewithgps decided it would much prefer I go STRAIGHT UP Robert Louis Stevenson hiking trail.

Do you see a trail here?  I don’t see a trail here.

Since these two routes are so close, the Strava segment indicator said I was still on the right path. So I assumed (wrong!) that eventually the trail would become rideable.

This was relatively mild


I don’t even have pictures of the craziest parts, where someone had cut ledges into the rock so you could climb up, in my case, carrying my bicycle wearing carbon soled mountain bike shoes like an idiot.

I nearly turned around to retrench, but a hiker who had done the route before assured me I didn’t have much more to go, so I scrambled my way up to the intersection with the fire road.


I took a break at the top of the ridiculous hiking trail, admiring my stupidity and having a snack, an then settled into the long grind to the top. This is basically loose gravel of various sorts on top of hard pack. It did make me wish I had slightly larger tires on, and I’d also consider this ‘advanced’ riding on a relatively skinny tired bike.

Hydraulic disc brakes are worth the hassle for descending miles of this
Okay, the hiking trail wasn’t this bad.. but it felt that bad carrying a bike!

It went on for a long, long time and required paying attention to not end up in deep gravel, and to mentally note sketchy parts for the descent.

The last couple hundred yards to the top get even rockier, deeper, and sketchier – I skittered my way up, but was definitely on the edge of traction capability.

Amazing views at the top, and definitely satisfying giving the ridiculous hiking part!



I walked down the sketchiest bit at the very top since I wasn’t keen to break a collarbone, but took the fire road down the whole way (I would NOT want to try to descend the crazy hiking trail while carrying my bicycle!)

From here it was basically a fast blast back down to the valley, descending 29 and then the bumpy and cruddy Old Toll Road and then onto Ida Clayton road, one of the roads they do for Levi’s Fondo. This road is also a pretty typical climb, nothing really notable and no real view on the top either, so I took a picture at the top with some quality Napa pavement.

I call these “Napa Cobblestones” – you get used to the rattling noise as you clatter over them

Another bumpy descent and I enjoyed a nice lunch, kitted up, and rode the 120+ miles back home on the motorcycle.

Another successful journey and more tweaks to bicycle & motorcycle, and I really need to acquire a Bluetooth keyboard so I can update while on the road.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: