Moderate temperatures and the changing leaves make fall the ideal season for exploring the countryside by bike. Here are eight rides around the country that properly bookend an epic season of cycling.
September 24, 2016 to October 1, 2016 – San Francisco, CA
Dubbed “the ride of a lifetime,” this epic bike tour along California’s coastal Highway 1 will take participants from San Francisco all the way to Los Angeles. For eight days and 525 miles, you’ll enjoy a full-service ride as you experience some of the most stunning coastal scenery in the entire country by bike. Keep in mind that participant registration is limited, so you’ll need to sign up early to reserve a spot.
October 2, 2016 – Trexlertown, Pennsylvania
Organized by Bicycling magazine, this ride through the foliage-dotted setting of rural Lehigh Valley has quickly become one not to miss. Choose from routes of 10, 25, 50 or 90 miles — all along peaceful mountain creeks and quiet wooded trails before a Roubaix-style finish in the T-Town velodrome. A post-ride party with lunch and beer is provided for all participants.
October 8, 2016 – Key Largo, Florida
The Heritage Trail connecting Key Largo to Key West is a 92-mile stretch unlike any other in the country. Expect mild, sunny fall weather, flat roads and plenty of ocean views. Whether you’re looking to race as a solo competitor or as a team, you’ll want to organize a support vehicle to follow you along the way. Mechanic and technical support are only provided at designated support stations. Gifts and other prizes will be awarded to the winners in each category.
October 22, 2016 – Greenville, South Carolina
One of the biggest and best organized bike races in the country, the Hincapie Gran Fondo allows participants to follow retired pro cyclist George Hincapie and current pros along their favorite training roads in South Carolina. In addition to a challenging 80-mile route in the Blue Ridge Mountains, there is also a post-ride festival at the Hotel Domestique, which includes a barbecue, music, cold beer and fun rides for the kids.
October 29-30, 2016 – Pisgah Forest, North Carolina
Part adventure race, this two-day event has teams of two riders competing to reach 10 checkpoints each day — 20 total — as quickly as possible. You’ll choose your route, and the only rule is you must finish before midnight. Expect to complete 70 miles and up to 15,000 feet of climbing per day, if you’re lucky. Checkpoint locations are kept secret until race day.
November 9, 2016 — Fort McDowell, Arizona
The goal of this race is simple: The rider with the most completed laps in 12 hours wins. The 15-mile loop in Fort McDowell Mountain Regional Park is known for being smooth and fast, making this ride more of a test of endurance than of technical ability. The ride begins at 10 a.m. and ends at 10 p.m., which means lights are required at sunset.
November 12, 2016 – Palm Springs, California
This late-season century ride follows the well-known Box Canyon Road in Riverside County, and it provides the unique opportunity to see the Salton Sea, Santa Rosa Mountains and San Jacinto Mountains along a low-traffic road. In addition to the 100-mile route, 20-mile, 50-mile and supercentury 130-mile options are also available. Finisher medals, lunch at the turnaround and a post-ride party are all part of the deal.
November 13, 2016 — Barton, Oregon
This eight-race series in Oregon is cyclo-cross at its best. It’s wild, fun and fast and is just as much a cycling party as it is a bike race. To qualify for the overall point series, you must ride in at least three of the eight races, with points being given based on finishing position. All rides in the series are 45 minutes long, and participants are ranked based on distance traveled for each event. Nearly all types of bikes are allowed (but not motor-assisted or electric), though it is recommended that you consider your method of travel wisely — there is always plenty of rain and mud on the menu.