Retired pro rider and Editor at Road Bike Action, Neil Shirley shares just why the Central Coast is a hidden cycling gem. This article has been republished with permission from the author and appears in full roadbikeaction.com.
I’ve ridden my bike in a lot of places, places such as the jungle in the Genting Highlands of Malaysia, the serene rolling hills of Tuscany, the endless climbs found throughout the Swiss Alps, Colorado’s high-altitude Rocky Mountains and just about everywhere in California. All of those places are unique in their own way and deliver starkly different experiences. I’m often asked where my favorite location is to ride out of all my travels, and although it’s hard to pin down one single area. Except for one–it’s a place I’m rather attached to, and it’s California’s Central Coast.
Admittedly, I’m a bit biased since I spent the first 21 years of my life in and around San Luis Obispo and have spent countless hours riding the roads and trails of the area since the age of 14. Smack dab in the middle between Los Angeles and San Francisco, the Central Coast is the opposite of both of those busy cities and offers quiet roads, ranging from flat coastal routes through the beach towns of Pismo Beach, Avila Beach, Morro Bay, Cayucos and Cambria as you head North on Highway 1. Going inland there are an abundance of dirt and paved roads through the hills and into the vineyard covered hillsides of Paso Robles.
Other than the Tour of California passing through on a number of occasions, and the US Postal Service team holding team camp in Avila Beach way back in January of 2000, the Central Coast continues to be a hidden gem for cycling. There are a handful of cycling events that showcase the area such as the SLO GranFondo in late October, Eroica California vintage event in April, and the Lighthouse Century in September.
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