Riding Santa Cruz, CA

Last weekend we made a trip down to Santa Cruz to do a bit of riding. The main impetus for the road trip was to demo bikes from the Santa Cruz Bicycle factory. Secretly, I was looking forward to exploring some new single track.

Santa Cruz has an awesome demo program – you reserve a bike online for a 3 hour period of time, drop into the shop 15 minutes early with your pedals, and ride out the doors. Wilder Ranch is the perfect spot to test ride the bikes and it is just a mile from the parking lot. We reserved our bikes 10 days in advance. I suspect that a lot of people sign-up but never show-up. If you haven’t planned in advance but you are in Santa Cruz it would be worth dropping by and seeing if they have anything available to roll around on.

Charlie and I are both in the market for new 29ers for our upcoming race in South Africa. Ideally, we will purchase bikes from the same manufacturer to save on needing to learn how to repair more than one bike, to limit the spare parts we will need to haul and overall convenience. Knowing that Charlie “would really kind of like to maybe ride a Santa Cruz” even though he wasn’t really willing to say so as to not influence my decision I decided I would give the Juliana a try. The Juliana brand is the women’s specific spin-off from Santa Cruz. The bikes are inspired by pro-rider and mountain biking pioneer, Juli Furtado. (I will also add, she is a fellow Vermonter – extra points).

Photo from the Juliana website.

I will be writing a review of my impressions of the Juliana Joplin in a future post. Expect a Santa Cruz Tallboy report from Charlie as well.

As for the demo program – it is awesome. Really awesome. They let me out the door on a $7000 bike and the price tag on the Tallboy Charlie rode was in the range of $7500. Granted, they did have our credit card and our car was parked there so it wasn’t like we were going to make-off with the bikes but it was still a treat to ride and pretend it was mine for a little while. Did I mention – the program is free.

Wilder Ranch is a fun place to spend an afternoon. http://www.parks.ca.gov/?page_id=549 For those familiar with riding in Marin, I would equate Wilder Ranch to Marin’s China Camp. Wilder Ranch has diverse terrain: single track through grassy and wooded areas, fun bumps, fire roads, and family friendly rides along the ocean. The climbs are minimal and short (but likewise for the descents are too). There is some technical terrain thrown into the mix, along with some fun rolly-polly trails. I would also add that the surfaces transition a lot making it a good place to test out new tires. Fluffy sand, pebbles, shale rocks, grass, soft wooded areas with roots and rocks, gravel, packed dirt. The only thing that would have been nice to see was a bit of mud – this is California – not a lot of mud to be found during our 3 year drought.

I think we covered all the bike legal trails in 3 hours and we were not really pushing it. A couple of them would have been fun to ride in reverse had time allowed.

You will not be occupied a whole day but you will have fun while you are there. Combine the trip with a demo and it will be an afternoon to remember. The ocean views are beautiful, coastal breezes prevent it from becoming hot and there are picnic tables waiting at the top.


As with all good bike rides they end with a refreshing beverage and nourishment. I would recommend a post ride refueling at Santa Cruz Mountain Brewery. http://www.scmbrew.com/ It is located just down the road from the Santa Cruz Bicycle factory. They have a large and interesting selection of all organic beer. Santa Cruz Mountain Brewery gets gold stars across all points: brewed local, organic, bicycle friendly, bike parking, nice outdoor seating area, friendly people, good food, fair price. Order the food at the bar, it’s prepared at the restaurant next door and delivered to you.

Image from Santa Cruz Mountain Brewery website

Image from Santa Cruz Mountain Brewery website


Note: Wilder Ranch is a popular area for hiking & horseback riding – be courteous.