You can see where Californian Greg Lemond got his love of cycling. The three-time Tour de France winner was lucky enough to grow up in a state simply made for pedal-powered tourists, even if its sprawling freeways and desert highways are more commonly associated with Harley Davidsons, convertibles and 16-wheelers.

Drive along the picturesque coastal road of the Big Sur, and every few miles you’ll find yourself sat behind a brace of lycra-clad tourers, tackling the latest of the meandering Route 1’s tough inclines.

The same goes for the miles of stunning roads that snake through Yosemite National Park, but happily the casual cyclist doesn’t have to take on such hardcore jaunts to enjoy the delights and sights the park has to offer.

With more than 12 miles of paved, mostly flat trails, a bicycle is a fun, easy way to see the beautiful Yosemite Valley.

There’s a good selection of bike trails, from an easy two miler to Mirror Lake (where you can swim, picnic and rest before heading back to Curry Village) to a five-mile route which starts and ends at Yosemite Lodge. Five miles isn’t very far, granted, but you’ll find yourself constantly stopping to take a picture or two of the stunning scenery and incredible wildlife, from deer to blue jays, woodpeckers to raccoons.

Something a little more strenuous but just as memorable is the Bike The Bridge tour in San Francisco. The three-hour guided tour, which begins at Fisherman’s Wharf, takes in local landmarks such as the marina, Fort Mason, Crissy Field and the Institute of Arts (which Hitchcock fans will recognise from 1958‘s classic Vertigo), before reaching the Warming Hut for a toilet break (sorry, ‘comfort stop’) and the best sight so far of the Golden Gate Bridge.

At the tour’s start, half the bridge – which in 2012 celebrated its 75th anniversary – was shrouded in mist but, as our tour guide Ben promised, that soon burned off, so we now had a perfect view of this majestic structure with its 220m high spans dominating the skyline. The rusty red colour is, Ben told us, only the undercoat. The intention in 1937 was to paint it black and yellow stripes, but happily someone stopped them at the red stage.

After a couple of steepish inclines, we were at the start of the bridge itself. A short safety briefing and the five of us were on the pedestrian/cycle lane alongside the car traffic. Even on our lane, safely fenced off from the road, locals sped past on their bikes as they whistled their arrival. You had to keep your wits about you, which was easier said than done when you’re trying to take in the view ahead and to the right, grinning ear to ear.

I tried to not pedal too quickly or else it would be over too soon. Stopping for a few photos delayed the end a little more, but soon enough we were across the 1.2 miles, before dipping down under the bridge to catch the path to Sausalito.

A couple more steady climbs and then a breezy descent and we were down into this charming bayside town. You can cycle back the way you came, but we chose the ferry back to Pier 39 ($10, not included in your Bike and Roll fee). Whatever you choose to do, you have the bike for the whole day, should you wish.

While we can’t condone drink-driving, the Sip ‘n’ Cycle tours offered in nearby Sonoma Valley –Napa’s neighbour – are an wonderful way of seeing the sights and sampling some of the wine grown at the 400-odd vineyards Sonoma has to offer. Sonoma is Napa’s lesser-known little brother; quieter, less brash but no less impressive. There are just as many vineyards in Sonoma where you can sip, slurp and spit, with some beautiful rugged coastline, stunning scenery and interesting towns – including Bodega Bay, where Hitchcock shot The Birds – in between all those tastings.

As the name suggests, this is a two-wheeled tour of Sonoma’s vineyards, sampling as you go, punctuated by a wonderful picnic and mile after mile of fields of vines.

While Sonoma Coast and Russian River are predominantly Pinot Noir and Chardonnay growing regions thanks to the coastal fog and damp conditions, Dry Creek – our destination – favours Zinfandel, Cabernet Sauvignon et al. Chalk Hill, Alexander Valley, Green Valley and Rockpile are the other Sonoma AVAs (American Viticultural Areas) you can explore. You could, of course, take yourself around – but then one of you will have to be the designated driver, and you’re playing Russian Roulette with your palate unless you really know which wineries to seek out. It’s knowing which are open too, and how much they charge for a tasting ‘flight’. The average is $10-15, some $25+ (all usually redeemable against a purchase); some even do it for free.

We had the luxury of Tom and his experience; he claims to have ‘only’ visited around 200 of the 800 vineyards across Sonoma and Napa. His liver is probably grateful the figure’s no higher.

It’s hardly the kind of cycling Greg Lemond would endorse, but then California on two wheels takes many wonderful forms.


San Francisco

Jon stayed at The Mystic Hotel –

Bike The Bridge tour is $55 per person at Bike and Roll tours (


Jon stayed at The Inn at Occidental –

Sip and Cycle tour through Getaway Adventures –

$149 per person – includes bike hire, helmet, water and picnic lunch. Tasting fees are not included.


Jon stayed at Yosemite View Lodge –

Bike hire $11 per hour or $31.50 for the day –