San Luis Obispo Bicycle Club
Dry hills produce concentrated wine grapes and adventurous bicycling. West of Paso Robles there is good wine and good riding. Three main roads cut across this area. They are Peachy Canyon, Adelaida and Nacimiento Lake/Chimney Rock. Each has its charms and challenges. They are connected at their west ends by Vineyard Drive, which wanders northward from Highway 46.
The good and the bad of these roads is all the same. Like life, they have their ups and downs. You change gears often as you ride across the hills. They are narrow. There is not much car traffic. Most of the time it’s just you and your bike.
Oak trees hanging with Spanish moss shade the western ends of these roads. Deer hang out in gangs looking for gardens to nibble. Wild turkeys squabble and gobble their way across the roads. Grapevines fly ribbons of shiny tape to keep the birds off the fruit. In areas near schools, where the birds are smarter, vineyard owners have to throw netting over their grapes.
Prepare yourself to sweat. Dehydration is going to be your greatest threat. Find a way to carry lots of water. Watch your salt loss. On one of my rides out there, I met a bicyclist from Paso Robles, Bob Dingler. Bob was cheating. He carried a water bottle fastened to his waist. A small hose ran from the bottle to a nozzle pinned to his shirt front. I was struggling uphill, half blind with sweat running into my eyes and dripping off my chin. Bob was coolly spraying a fine mist of water into his face, smiling with great contentment.
The northernmost road leaves Paso Robles heading for the lake. Nacimiento Lake Drive has a wide shoulder and lots of fast traffic. Its scenic value is limited. Eight miles out of town, take the left fork onto Chimney Rock Road. What you lose in shoulder width, you gain in open country charm. Brian Stark uses this route to lead his Central Coast Double Century riders out of Paso Robles. (A century is a hundred mile ride. A double century is...more than we want to think about.) After six miles of rolling hills and open vistas, Chimney Rock meets Vineyard Drive.
Turn south on Vineyard to ride 2 1/2 miles to Adelaida Road. Adelaida climbs easterly for four miles to a high point in its center. If you’re running short of water, you might refill your bottles here at Adelaida Cellars. From there, the road descends five miles to connect with Lake Nacimiento Drive two miles west of Paso Robles.
On my way through town searching for Peachy Canyon Road, I found an A&W Root Beer stand at 21st and Spring. There was a sign on one side that said "Car Hop Service Only." I didn’t have a car. I sneaked my bicycle into one of the car spaces. Julie Barber was kind enough to serve me a big mug of ice cold root beer. She even held the tray as we couldn’t find anything on the bicycle to hang it on.
To get to Peachy Canyon Road, ride west on 6th Street. Turn right on Olive, left on Pacific. Pacific becomes Peachy Canyon. In short order, you’re out of town and climbing. This is a delightful road full of twists and turns, climbs and descents. At its western end, you have a choice of taking Las Tablas/Willow Creek Road south or connecting again with Vineyard Drive. Both will lead you to Highway 46 if that’s what you want.
There are other roads in this area. Niderer is a mile of shady road that ends at Dunning Vineyards. Oakdale and Jack Creek both parallel Highway 46. They provide a pleasant alternative to riding with high speed traffic. Klau Mine Road leads you down a shady canyon for a couple of miles before turning to dirt.
One of the jewels of this area is Chimney Rock Road west of Vineyard. For ten miles you pedal through open ranch country. Somewhere out there, the road’s name changes to Lakeview Drive. This does not mean that there is a view of the lake. And this is not the Lakeview Drive on the other side of the lake. There may be a view of the lake on that side. Instead there are signs. They tell you that this road does not go to the ocean. It does not go to the lake. The signs are correct. The road goes to a gate. There are more signs at the gate. They tell you to turn around and go away. I did that. The return was as delightful as the trip out. I got to see the back side of the scenery that I had already seen the front side of.
Try these hills. Plug and play the roads in any combination. You will be exhilarated. But don’t forget to carry plenty of water.
You can email Robert Davis at email@example.com