Whether you're an experienced cyclist or new to the pedaling thing, a day biking through Napa promises to be fun, will probably be sun-soaked, and could include some wine tasting, or not. No matter your experience level, start your day in St. Helena.
Pick up a quick coffee at Sogni di Dolci, an English muffin at the Model Bakery, or more filling fare at Gott's Roadside for breakfast (it might be a good idea to pick up a sandwich for lunch, too). Then head to the St. Helena Cyclery to rent some wheels. The shop rents both hybrid bikes and road bikes (which should be reserved in advance) and even has a delivery option if you'd rather start out at your hotel. While the crew at St. Helena Cyclery can certainly recommend routes and offer tons of local expertise, head over to Vino Velo if you need to pick up any last minute gear, or some Clif or Lara bars for the ride.
Bikes at Vino Velo — Photo courtesy of Vino Velo
Opened in 2011, the founders of Clif Bar thought that Napa should have a place where those who love cycling and wine could indulge both passions at once. The shop, tasting room and cafe is a cycling hub, with an excellent variety of cycling apparel and accessories, Clif products, a coffee bar and samples of the company's newest snacks.
Want to know that you're in capable hands? Book a cycling excursion with them and they'll take you on a guided ride through their vineyards, or let them help you plan a customized ride through the valley (they also rent bicycles there, too).
Next, hit the open road. Napa's rolling hills and idyllic scenery make it such a beautiful place to cruise through. There's no doubt that those who travel by bicycle get a different perspective than staying inside the confines of a car--it's more freewheeling. There are a number of great loops and out and backs that take you past vineyards, or up into the hills, past scenic lakes and give you access to extraordinary views.
The route known as the Nichelini Loop is about thirty miles and is a mix of short climbs and rolling hills. While you travel a bit along the Silverado Trail, which can be busy, it also takes you up through the Napa and Pope Valley hills, and even better, to Neyers, an intimate winery that offers one of the best and most informative tasting experiences around (remember to call in advance to make a reservation).
A vineyard road — Photo courtesy of calmovie
Once back in St. Helena, hunt for treasures at Steed Fine Hoarding and Tack or simply unwind with a cocktail at Goose & Gander. If you're still around the next day, get a massage to relax those muscles at one of Napa's excellent spas.
For those who love to bike, stay tuned. Construction of the Napa Valley Wine Trail is underway--once completed, there will be a 44-mile cycling and walking trail system that stretches from the Vallejo Ferry Building up to Calistoga, passing through Napa, Yountville and Saint Helena. The trail means that you can get on the ferry in San Francisco and then cycle your way north on a pristine trail, just for you.