Where do I start? First, this is the road where I rediscovered my native Sonoma County. I grew up in Sebastopol playing ball sports: soccer, baseball, basketball. I rode a bike but just to get around. A few jumps here and there. Nothing to adventuresome. At 21 I moved back into the area “just for a while” and began exploring on my Rei Ponderosa with Avocet semi-slicks. I was hooked as a mountain biker, but road rides? What…why? I soon discovered that our back roads were exciting, challenging and crazy hard. So many of the roads you would never have a reason to be on or know existed, unless riding a bike.
Second, I’m nostalgic for the first Hopper ever in 1998. I’ll never forget climbing the back side of Sweetwater with Rick Hunter who had a portable radio in his jersey pocket so we could listen to the SuperBowl. The first edition was Sweetwater, River Rd to Hwy 1, Willow Creek. Hadn’t yet thrown in Old Caz…not to mention Fort Ross. The first time I did this loop was on a birthday ride. Most likely with Dan Boyle, Kevin Garrison, Don Winkle, Roger Bartels and other friends who just “had to” go along on the birthday ride mission. They thought I was crazy, even 20+ years ago. It’s really a ride to make to you say “uncle”. I kinda like that. Lastly, I love it because it’s just so damn hard to figure out which bike to ride. From Occi to Sweetwater the roads are great; some with uber fresh pavement. Then the early parts of Sweetwater are just destroyed. Cracks down the middle, sluffing with large bulges, mud slides around blind corners, and sections that have no line but through huge pot holes. All this leads up to the westside of Sweetwater that starts so steep it’s almost laughable, 25%? Then there’s a bobsled of a decent with 180 degree off camber turns that keep you well beyond your comfort zone. This is the most challenging section of pavement to descend in the county. Bar none. Photo: Mig
Then there’s the Old Caz bonus! Why not throw in our best gravel adventure road with a creek crossing right in the middle of the ride? Creek crossing? Heck yeah! I do make sure to use SPD pedals and mtb shoes for this Hopper.
Before you know it, Kaboom! you’re in Cazadero. Now you “get” to climb Fort Ross Rd. Truly a gem. Most people pass Fort Ross Rd en route to King Ridge but it’s an amazing ribbon road. After the first summit you drop into the South Fork of the Gualala River before climbing up to Meyers Grade/Sea View Rd.
Nothing to it, bada bing, bada boom! Old Caz Sandwich. Gravel grinder? Nope. Epic Hopper Adventure on Certified Sonoma Ribbon Roads? In spades. Can’t wait. (Photos by John Blackwell)
See ya on Sat,