Cycling For The Views

Countryside winding road

“It is by riding a bicycle that you learn the contours of a country best, since you have to sweat up the hills and can coast down them. Thus you remember them as they actually are.”
– Ernest Hemingway, "Battle for Paris," 1944

New Sights, New Scenes

A shop ride from Performance Bicycle in Chico California takes you east down a four-lane broadway overfilled with impatient traffic and exhaust fumes and the grime of brake dust. But above the shifting streetlights and sudden brake lights, the Sierra Nevada's green and golden foothills beckon. After a short mile you make your first turn onto the Steve G. Harrison Memorial Bike Path, and the hills loom even larger as you ride between centuries-old stone walls that bookend a nature preserve and an open range dotted with the gnarled inhabitants of a valley oak forest. After another mile you make your second turn onto a chipsealed byway that rolls and meanders up a river canyon whose sheer rimrocks overhang like battlements as you wind beneath them.

Here the valley oaks mingle with firs and pines dropping cones and shade to refoliate the canyon after a recent wildland fire. After five miles in their company your path forks left and gently begins to climb, then drops across a crystal-clear river filled with salmon and Gold Rush history, then climbs again, more steeply now, and narrower, and the trees press close against the road's shoulders and rise to touch overhead in a leafy archway whose canopy hosts chattering squirrels and intermittent birdsong.

An overgrown cemetery silently scrolls past on your left, another of the region's relics, and you switch back and forth and over a flume from the bygone days of timber and hydropower. There the chipseal crumbles to dusty washboarded gravel and the left shoulder falls away to reveal those rimrocks from before, now below, now overlooking the river glinting blue and yellow in the midday sun, and the forest bearding its banks, and the town you set out from, and that bug-sized stripmall's about where the bike shop should be. Your legs feel every foot of the ascent, your lungs rejoice in the fresh air, your breathing calms as you unclip to take in the view. Ahead the gravel track winds higher and higher to vistas unseen. Time for a snack...

Neighboring Country Roads
The Steve G. Harrison Memorial Bike Path provides a route from a suburban neighborhood to open country roads.
Unknown Gravestones
The Centerville Cemetery contains many graves dating back to the mid 1800s; however, some of the occupants remain a mystery.
Centerville Uphill gravel roads
Farther up the road, the pavement ends as Centerville transforms into a gravel road.

Getting Lost

A bicycle is the best way to experience a new landscape. Cycling can empower you to venture into places inaccessible to cars and cover more distance than if you went on foot. The pace of cycling promotes a sense of unity with your surroundings because you're never separated from the environment by a pane of glass or a rumbling engine, and the physical effort needed to reach spectacular vistas adds a unique sense of achievement to their viewing and attachment to their place. Whether you're pass hunting in high mountains, riding down remote coastal tracks, or exploring overgrown forest roads, you can always count on your bicycle to take you to breathtaking views.

With the explosion of adventure and gravel cycling events, routes, and organizations, you have access to the equipment and resources needed to see spectacular, isolated scenery. Most organized events, like local fondos, centuries, and gravel races[2] , are designed to take participants into their regions' most aesthetic landscapes. If you can't make their dates work you can still take a look at their planned routes to inspire your own rides--almost all events advertise their course maps on their websites. Additionally, you can join a local cycling club to meet riders who each have their own favorite routes and secret spots to enjoy nature. Sharing a view, and the climb to it, is often safer and more rewarding than witnessing it alone. Similarly, sharing your favorite places with new friends can create bonds of community and service that add layers of meaning to the places you visit. Link out to What Is Gravel article Link to century content

Sometimes the most magnificent vistas are found deep in the backcountry, and your best bet to reach them is during a multi-day tour. Planning for multiple days on your bike will allow you to cover more ground, see a wider variety of landforms, and enjoy their sublimity during the golden hours of sunrise and sunset. Other options are to ride in places renowned for their stunning landscapes, like National Parks, Scenic Byways, and US Forest Service Roads. Link to bikepacking blogs

If you're still unsure where to start, take a look at websites and apps like Ride With GPS and Strava. See what routes other users have published in your area. What photos have they shared from those rides? Does the distance and climbing match with your ability? If so, go and see them for yourself. Remember--the higher you go, the farther you'll see. Who knows, maybe your ride will inspire the next person looking for a way to connect with nature.

The Route

If you’re visiting Chico and want to try this ride yourself, check out this route. If you prefer a longer ride (with a little bit of road bike-friendly gravel) check out this loop.

A few more sights from the ride...

Dange, Keep Away Red sign next to river
Cycling Gear alike road enterance gate in a rural area
Museum op weekends signCountryside with clouds and a rainbow