Paso Robles: The Central Coast’s Bicycling Secret?
The central coast of California is a well-recognized wine destination, with a number of vineyards and fine dining options sprouting up in Paso Robles and surrounding areas. But this post isn’t about wine, this post is about the area’s OTHER great untapped regional asset – amazing roads for bicycling.
Although Paso Robles has played host to the Great Western Bicycle Rally for decades and some curious bicycle tourists diverge from the main coastal route into Paso, it still seems like a relatively undiscovered cycling destination. An internet search of bicycling in the region brings up relatively little in the way of bicycle travel posts. People are riding bicycles in spades in the area, but aren’t talking about it online.
We recently met Steve and Carol Fleury who run BestBikeZone, one of Paso Roble’s bicycle shops. They gave us a lot of insight into the ways that Paso Robles is becoming bicycle friendly, but also the ways it can still improve. At the shop level, Steve is finding many active Boomers who are looking for a recreational activity that is a little easier on their body than running. Many of his customers have leisure time and income and like to taste wine as well as ride bicycles through the amazing country roads. Steve was also the catalyst in encouraging the city to apply for a bicycle-friendly designation for Paso Robles. Carol has been instrumental in reaching out to the women in the area and getting them on bikes. She helps lead a social ride every Sunday out of Dark Nectar in Templeton that attracts cyclists of varying ability. She recently got several of the women at “The 9’s” salon on bicycles, which she counts as a personal victory. When she’s not helping lead group rides, she also rides one-on-one with several women in the area who are just beginning and want to gain more experience before joining group rides.
When we put out our feelers for bicycle-friendly businesses in Paso Robles, we connected with TravelPaso, the local destination marketing organization. TravelPaso started a thread on their Facebook page that was instantly inundated with suggestions of businesses that are bicycling friendly. But what we quickly learned is that being bicycle friendly in Paso/Templeton is very different from the usual conversations about being bicycle friendly in larger cities.
Two businesses that instantly stood out were Cass and Sculpterra wineries. Because they have several employees and customers that enjoy bicycling, they designated the stretch of road between the two wineries as the “Linne Bicycle Trail” and put up signs at the wineries. We stopped at Cass and spoke to Lindsey, the tasting room manager, about what it meant for Cass to be bicycle friendly. Cass offers free water to cyclists, which is especially important during the hot summers, as well as allows day riders to enjoy their outdoor patio. They have also offered up the property as a rest stop during event rides and even had a bicycling costume contest during harvest season (the winner won her weight in wine!). She said that there was no pressure on cyclists to buy wine during a ride because she knew that many would return and bring their friends and family with them. For Cass and Sculpterra (and other businesses in the region), being bicycle friendly was expressed in a very low key and pragmatic way. It was less about using bicycles as a marketing tool and more about acknowledging that their employees, customers and many people in the community enjoyed riding bicycles, and then simply welcoming them. For them, being bicycle friendly was about being a good neighbor and community member and basic customer service.
This sort of pragmatic approach was also seen at Dark Nectar in Templeton. As the official meeting place for the Sunday group ride, Dark Nectar opens early to accommodate the cyclists. Because the ride attracts upwards of 40 people on good weather days, and because there are no bike racks in Templeton, a customer who was an engineer came up with the idea to install hooks on the awning for cyclists to hang their bikes. Across the street, the natural foods store in Templeton is also planning to install similar hooks to attract cyclists.
While in Paso, we also visited with Robert Nadeau of Nadeau Family Vintners, a relatively small winery located at the top of Peachy Canyon, one of the classic road rides in the area. Peachy Canyon is located on the west side of the 101 and is a fantastic road that climbs in a serpentine pattern beneath beautiful oak trees. Robert is an avid cyclist himself who understands how special the area is for riding. Robert has seen the pattern that many road cyclists tend to be foodies and enjoy wine. They stay in local accommodations (La Quinta in Paso Robles is noted for hosting large cycling groups), eat at the local restaurants and, of course, enjoy the local wineries. As we left his winery, we noted that the loop sensors that open the gate are tuned to detect bicycles as well as cars.
Paso Robles does not quickly come to mind as a bicycle friendly destination, but there are many things underway. A frontage road that connects Templeton to Paso Robles has beautifully marked red bike lanes that make it easier for cyclists to get into town.
The city has also submitted an application to the League of American Bicyclists to be recognized as a bicycle friendly community. Slowly, through events like the Great Western Bike Rally and the Tour of California, the area is being recognized – not just for its wine but for its great riding. There is still a long way to go. There are few resources about cycling in the area, other than local knowledge, and there is little mention in the destination marketing materials about welcoming cyclists. Hopefully, with the leadership of Steve and Carol from BestBikeZone and other respected community members that ride bikes, people will not only visit Paso Robles for the wine, they will spend multiple days exploring its marvelous roads on two wheels.
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