Ride one of the San Francisco Bay Area’s best routes

For more than a decade, the Amgen Tour of California has raised awareness about great places to ride in the state. For road cyclists and mountain bikers, Benicia and its environs prove a top destination to explore, stop for a bite to eat, and savor the sights and sounds of this small, bicycle-friendly city by the bay.

Dog_Bike_BasketCyclists from all over the Bay Area are invited to enjoy the “bridge to bridge” ride, which traverses a 27.5-mile route that passes through Vallejo, Benicia, Martinez and Crockett by way of the Carquinez and Benicia-Martinez bridges. The views of the Carquinez Strait are spectacular along much of the ride.

“The opening of a Carquinez Bridge bike lane in 2004 and Benicia-Martinez Bridge bike lane in 2009 upped the city’s bike-ability exponentially,” reported Benicia Magazine in August 2015. “It’s actually quite rare for a city to be flanked on either side by bike-able bridges, allowing for a multitude of circuitous routes.”

According to Joe Pritchard, a member of the Benicia Bicycle Club: “Since the Benicia-Martinez Bridge bike lane opened, we’ve seen big groups of riders coming into Benicia on the weekends from other cities.”

The popular cycling blog, ridechronicles.com, depicts one possible route that starts in Martinez, crosses the Benicia-Martinez Bridge, takes Lake Herman Road to the end at Columbus Parkway, and continues along the Bay Area Ridge Trail to the Benicia waterfront area at the end of First Street. For photos and detailed directions, check out ridechronicles.com.

A great biking spot for families and enthusiasts of all levels, those arriving by car can enjoy pedaling the scenic streets of Benicia with a rented bike from Wheels in Motion Bike and Skate Shop at 735 First Street. Owner Greg Andrada stocks comfortable hybrid “cruisers” that can take visitors from place to place at a leisurely pace while exploring Benicia’s many highlights.

Nancy Lund, an avid cycling advocate and member of the Benicia Bicycle Club, suggests a cycling tour that takes riders back in time, through Benicia’s rich history. “What better way to get around Benicia and look at historic sights than to ride a bicycle,” said Lund. “You can stop and park easily. And all the neighborhoods here are extremely safe.”

A few of the must-see historical highlights include numerous vintage homes, the Benicia Capitol State Historic Park, the Union Hotel, St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, the Frisbie-Walsh House, Benicia Historical Museum at the Camel Barns, and the Benicia Arsenal (a former military reservation now occupied by artists’ studios). Maps detailing self-guided tours of historical sites are available at Benicia Main Street, in the historic train depot at 90 First Street.

Cyclists may also want to pedal to the Benicia State Recreation Area, 438 acres of land with 2.5 miles of paths set aside for cyclists, runners, walkers, equestrians and skaters. The trails roll through the marshy, grassy hillsides and rocky beaches along the narrowest portion of the Carquinez Strait. “The recreation area is a fabulous place for kids because it’s low traffic,” Lund added.

Bike_RackBenicia State Recreation Area is an easy, 2.5-mile ride from the center of town to where West K Street ends leading into the park. Once inside the park, you can travel another 2.5 miles on a paved bicycle path that ends at Dillon Point, a marshland area that is a favorite spot for fishing.

For mountain bikers, Benicia State Recreation Area offers a beginning level opportunity for off-road cycling, according to Joe Pritchard, who enjoys both on-road cycling and mountain biking.

“You go out to the end of Benicia State Recreation Area, and there is a gravel trail. It has some single track (narrow paths) and fire roads, with winding circular trails at the top that lead to great views. Then you can take single track all the way to the Glen Cove Waterfront Park in Vallejo,” Pritchard said. The off-road shoreline trail is part of the Carquinez Strait Scenic Loop Trail segment that connects Benicia State Recreation Area and Glen Cove Marina.

For a more challenging off-road ride, Pritchard favors the Vallejo-Benicia Buffer Trail. “To get to a real good single-track, which most mountain bikers like a lot, we get on Rollye Wiskerson Trail, which starts at Community Park (off Rose Drive, near Second Street). It heads east and intersects with the Bay Area Ridge Trail,” Pritchard explained.

Also, the well-known San Francisco Bay Trail goes through Benicia. It runs along the waterfront from the Benicia Marina all the way to the Benicia State Recreation Area.

Benicia has routes for every cyclist, from flat, family-friendly paved trails perfect for a leisurely outing, to heart-pumping steep hills challenging enough for intermediate mountain bikers. And when it comes time to relax, visitors can recharge with great eats, gaze out over the waterfront, and reflect on a day well-spent.

For more information on touring Benicia, please visit www.visitbenicia.org and you can follow us at www.facebook.com/VisitBenicia for all the latest visitor tips and updates.