There are many ways to experience California Wine Country, which can be an adventure in itself. However to experience it by bike, with Backroads, is definitely up there for me as one of the best ways to see this beautiful region.
This experience was truly amazing and NOTHING like I expected it to be. I will forever be changed in how I travel and I am now hooked on road biking, with a fun group of like-minded people. To feel the wind woosh past you, as you cruise down hills, with the most sensational scenery all around you…words just cannot do it justice.
I am hell bent on taking my family to experience the world in this way. It is SUCH a fantastic way to really immerse yourself into the life and culture of a country or region, by exploring all the nooks and crannies off the beaten path, very independently yet with constant support. PLUS it is so very empowering too, for ALL ages.
Did I mention that a road bike is on my Christmas List this year?
Here are 5 reasons to explore California Wine Country, by bike, with Backroads:
1. Connect more authentically with the region
Backroads is THE original and number one active travel company in the world. The founder, Tom Hale, hit the nail on the head when he said, “Active travel is, at its heart, a way of connecting more authentically with the world. These are experiences you cannot have behind the wheel of a car or on a train or a tour bus”.
This ran true at every twist and turn of my trip. My colleagues would laugh at me as all I could keep yelling was “This is beautiful… Look at the vineyards…Look at that beautiful farmhouse… I feel AMAZING”. The warm, woodsy smell of fields and miles and miles of vineyards and the sounds of nature are not something you would ever experience, sitting in a car. All of your senses are stimulated and it is just the BEST feeling ever.
Although Backroads gives you two or three mileage options, daily, and a GPS pre-loaded with whichever route you pick, you can easily wander off to go explore and I LOVED this. If there is something you want to see or do that is not on your route, you have the freedom to go see it. The GPS will then bring you back on track.
If for some reason you do get lost, you can just stop at a landmark and call the support crew, who will come and pick you up in the ever so famous Backroads support van (of which there are always a minimum of two on each trip) or “the party bus”, as we so fondly called it on this trip, due to the nature of us wine tasting. If you felt you had a little too much you could just hop in the
party bus support van the rest of the way.
2. It is suitable for every level of bike rider
Backroads have very cleverly crafted daily itineraries with multiple options to suit every level from beginner bikers all the way up to professional road bikers. Each day you can decide which option you want to take whether it be a longer bike/hike OR a more leisurely ride to a gourmet picnic lunch at a winery, followed by some shopping in town and then relaxing by the pool at the hotel, before dinner.
They also provide electric bikes, which are truly amazing. I witnessed people, with bad knees who would not ordinarily be able to bike, keep up with some of the more avid bikers. This was so nice to see as I know many couples where one is an avid biker but the other not. They fear that they will not have the same experience on a trip like this and that the avid biker will have to wait for the non biker. The electric bike is a game changer in this situation as they can easily stay together and bike at a level that they are both comfortable with. And of course, you can always hop in the
party bus support van at any time.
Another great aspect of Backroads is that on almost every trip, you can pick your level of accommodations and pricing. These range from deluxe camping (lower priced) or casual hotels (middle priced) to premiere luxury hotels (higher priced). They even have trips on river and ocean cruises. We stayed in premiere hotels that were fantastically located with beautiful decor, pools and fabulous spas to enjoy, during our down time.
3. They have the best trip leaders in the industry
They really do! The BEST part about a Backroads trip is that you just turn up. The rest is taken care of, down to every last detail. The trip leaders are second to none. They are always friendly, upbeat and helpful and they truly work their butts off , behind the scenes, to assure that you have the most sensational experience.
They carefully pre-select the routes you will be riding to make sure you experience less cars and the best scenery. However, just prior to the group arriving, they always pre-drive these routes to make sure there are no unexpected surprises such as construction or road closures and will alter them, if need be.
The trip leaders are always smiling and full of energy. They give you clear instructions every evening for the next day and again in the morning during the debrief. They also collect your luggage from your hotel room when you are switching locations so that it is already in your room, upon arrival at your next destination.
They have a trail mix station set up, pre-ride, so that you have some snacks to fuel you along the way and they ALWAYS have a beautiful picnic or lunch planned, as well as reservations at the best restaurants for dinners. If dinner is on your own they are full of great recommendations, depending on what you feel like.
They are so well-traveled and always give you great information about the region you are about to explore. They also always debrief you, at the beginning of the day, before every ride, in great detail. On our trip they advised us of the best wineries for tastings and places that we could meet up at, along the way. This is so much more personable than any guide book. Any food allergies or dietary restrictions are also taken into account in order to make sure that everyone is well taken care of with food and drink choices.
4. They never subcontract
Another aspect I love about Backroads is that they NEVER subcontract any part of their trip. They use their own staff and equipment worldwide, no matter where you go. This is huge as you always know you are only going to get the best of the best.
They have their own fleet of over 5,000 top of the line bikes, to suit every level of rider, and over 600 staff working globally. You may pay a higher price on a Backroads trip than with other companies but this is the reason why. You really do get what you pay for.
5. Meet like-minded people
I had never traveled on an organized group tour before, with strangers, and was very concerned about having to make small talk with people whilst on vacation. However, this feeling has completely changed for me.
Backroads clients are usually like-minded people. They love the experience and repeatedly come back for more. This speaks volumes. During the day, you can choose to ride alone, with just your group or in a group with others.
It seems that most people bond with one or two other couples (or families) and end up riding together, which is so nice. There is such a great energy and camaraderie shared in this experience that lifelong friends are made.
Jessica is luxury Travel Advisor based in California. She is a Mother and experienced traveler who is passionate about curating travel experiences for adventure-seekers who want to explore the world in style. Read what it's like to work with Jess.