The 3 Most Epic Road Rides in California

The Golden State is home to arguably the best riding conditions on earth: temperate weather, tons of striking elevation changes, and natural beauty galore. In honor of three of our favorite road bikes borne of mankind, we proudly present our picks for the top three most epic road rides our state has to offer:

1. Mt. Tamalpais, Marin County

Our backyard playground, which we lovingly call Mt. Tam, offers perhaps the most incredible cycling journey in California. With over 8,000 feet of vertical over 57 miles of road, this is one of the most rewarding and punishing rides out there. 

Located a few miles from our Sausalito storefront, Mt. Tam is an absolutely stunning journey. You start by heading into central Marin and start climbing up to an alpine dam, grinding up the Seven Sisters along Ridgecrest, you finally arrive at the highest point followed by 270º of ocean as you look out over the San Pablo Bay, San Francisco Bay, Golden Gate, and the open Pacific, at the East Peak. You will be rewarded with some of the most grin-inducing turns you’ll ever ride. 

Then it’s ocean and redwood views along Panoramic bringing you right back to where you started. A truly epic experience.  

The Best Bike for Mt. Tamalpais

Mt. Tam is no cakewalk, which is fine because the BMC Teammachine SLR01 One ain’t much for cake. This bike was born in the Swiss Alps and devours terrestrial protuberances for breakfast. 

Comfortable, feather-light, and aerodynamic as a knife blade, the Teammachine features nothing but the best component-wise. The DT Swiss PRC 1100 DB Dicut Mon Chasseral wheelset is ready for any road conditions (though they’re all pretty gentle on this ride). The ICS stem and all-carbon bar and seatpost are stiff without sacrificing compliance. And with an SRAM Red eTap AXS wireless electronic shifting system, you won’t feel a thing as you shift.

2. Palomar Mountain, San Diego County

Moving down the coast, Palomar Mountain offers some of the same thrills as Mt. Tam but in a completely different climate. Conquering thousands of feet of elevation over anywhere from 12 to 90 miles, this ride represents a must-do for any rider in SoCal. 

This is one of those purely California climbs — you can swim in the ocean and stand on a mountaintop all within a couple of hours. The 12-mile climb to the top of Palomar Mountain is an unforgettable ascent through forested switchbacks. You’ll be rewarded at the top with Coca-cola, apple pie, and other delectables at the adorable Mother’s Kitchen and general store. If you want a long route, incorporate Lake Henshaw into your journey. 

The Best Bike for Palomar Mountain

The Orbea Orca OMX M11ELTD-D takes the prize here. Built for pure speed and on one of the lightest frames available, the OMX disc frame hides all its cables while providing you with SRAM Red eTAP derailleurs and AXS brakes. And with Mavic Ksyrium Pro carbon wheels, that switchback climb and descent overlooking the hills of SoCal will be smoother than butter.

3. Lake Tahoe

Come on. You knew it would be on the list! Lake Tahoe is the largest alpine lake in North America and is a veritable smorgasbord of jaw-dropping views everywhere you look.  

We’re not going to get too specific here because you can pretty much pick a point on the map, and you’re guaranteed a gorgeous ride. You’ll be treated to stunning vistas of the lake and surrounding peaks, and at the right time of year, you’ll be able to top off your ride with a swim in the cool, clear waters while looking up at snowy mountains. 

The Best Bike for Lake Tahoe

The Tarmac SL7 Pro Ultegra Di2 is our pick for Tahoe. Fun, fast, and luxuriously comfortable to ride, this lovingly sculpted masterpiece is shaped for ultimate aerodynamics in the Specialized Win Tunnel. The SL7 cuts 33 seconds compared with the SL6, all with a frame that weighs less than 1 kg.

Its carbon frame, hydraulic brakes, Shimano Ultegra Di2 R8000 electronic drivetrain, and carbon wheels are perfect for setting out on a Tahoe adventure and not caring much whether you get lost. 

About Mike’s Bikes: Mike’s Bikes is a growing family of local bike shops, all with a singular purpose - to get as many people on bikes as possible. We locally own and operate twelve wildly successful stores in Northern California. In addition to our brick-and-mortar shops, is one of the top online bicycle retail sites in the country.