The heck with the $100 hamburger, may as well spend $100 to do a bike ride in a cool place. Some places are obvious and they are well written about in the biking guidebooks. All you really need to do is find a nearby airport. However, some don’t appear in guidebooks probably because they are just too remote. I’ve included some of both. By the way, I made a nice bike stand for the back of the plane which you can check out in the “Gear” section of the website.
Mendocino / Little River Airport, Road Biking
It doesn’t get much better than this, with the airport being right on the Comptche circuit mentioned in guidebooks as one of the best rides in California. When I did it I ended the trip by riding past the airport down to the beach (hwy 101), then riding north towards Mendocino for about half a mile to a nice deli for lunch.
Sierraville, Road Biking
This is a dream of a place to road bike in. Beautiful mountain valleys, wooded hills to ride, little road traffic, quaint towns to eat or even stay in, and even a hot springs about a mile from the airport. It is not easy to get there by car and is pretty much a full day’s effort or even more to go for a ride there. But for me it is a 30 minute flight so I feel kind of guilty when I’ve explained that I took an afternoon off to go ride there.
Portola / Nervino Airport
Same valley and riding area of Sierraville, but at the northern end of the large valley.
South Lake Tahoe, Road and Mountain Biking
Do you have some stamina? Ride from the airport to Pioneer Trail, then up Oneidas road, continue on dirt up to the Tahoe Rim Trail (incredible views), then down Mr. Toads Wild Ride and back to the airport. Its one of California’s best mountain bike rides, and you can do it right from your plane.
For a classic road bike experience, ride the 72 miles around the lake. The airport is only two miles off the loop. But do it on a weekday, preferably in the “shoulder” season of spring and fall. There are some scary sections (e.g. Emerald Bay) that are best done while not sharing the road with a line of RVs.
The “east side”, Highway 395
The east side of the Sierras is one of favorite places to be, on a bike or not. You can pick any of the airports and find a nice ride nearby. Here are my favorites:
Markleeville, Road Biking
I’ve been the only one at this airport a number of times. What a sweet area to ride in, whether you want to do a mellow ride along Highway 4, a trip to Grover Hot Springs, or the epic hill climbs of Monitor and/or Ebbets Pass. Its all right there and easily accessible from the airport.
Bridgeport, Road Biking
I spent some time there while doing air support for an adventure race across the Sierras. I had some spare time and I didn’t particularly want to bike on highway 395 so I biked east towards Smith Valley Nevada. It was a nice ride although not great. Other options are to head up to Twin Lakes (not very far though) or bike to Virgnia Lakes via 395.
Lee Vining, Road Biking
OK, here is the goal if you can manage it. I did it once and I dream of making it happen again. Monitor the NPS Yosemite web site on the progress of plowing Tioga Pass road. You want to time it so the road is clear to the start of the park, yet still closed beyond. Then you get to ride Tioga Pass with almost no traffic at all. The best part is having a nice lunch on the patio of the Whoa Nellie Deli, just a mile or so from the airport. (Watch winds and density altitude at this airport). You can also do the June Lake loop easily from this airport – its actually closer than the Mammoth airport.
One time I landed here to ride to Virginia Lakes to surprise my wife who was camping there with friends. That was a fun hill climb.
I’ve mountain biked around here but it isn’t that great in the dry basin with lots of sand. Better to go to Mammoth and get up in the high country.
Mammoth Lakes, Road and Mountain Biking
Too bad it is so expensive to fly in to Mammoth and to get around. It really is a fantastic place with lots to do. I’ve ridden up to the mountain bike rides from the airport (I was pretty beat at the end of the day riding back to the airport), I’ve taken cabs (they have bike racks in the summer) and I’ve rented a car so we could do the Rock Creek rides which are south towards Bishop. But with expensive parking, expensive gas and transportation you need to spend quite a bit more than going to, say, Lee Vining, for a bike ride.
Bishop, Road Biking
I stopped here once on my way home from LA (OK, not quite on the way) and had a great road bike ride up to Lake Sabrina. Lots of up hill, and you can go as fast as you pretty much want to go on the way back. Scary fast. It is a beautiful ride on a nice road with wide shoulders and little traffic.