After our ride through the mythic redwood trees at the Armstrong Redwoods State Natural Reserve—a ride that can only be described as sublime—we decided to tackle another legendary Sonoma County ride, climbing up Geysers Road, a varied loop that includes a rugged climb named for the geysers nestled near the summit. For anyone in and around Sonoma the ride is simply called “The Geysers.” And it is the stuff that local legends are made of. “It’s just an epic ride for those of us around here,” says Dana, one of Trek’s local ambassadors. “It’s a huge destination ride because, well, you can ride up Geysers Road and maybe only see three or four cars in a 30 to 40-mile stretch.”
Words/Images: James Startt
For many, The Geysers ride starts in Cloverdale with some strong pre-ride coffee at Plank Coffee before rolling out into the wine vineyards so synonymous with the Sonoma Valley. But then the road seemingly runs out, and suddenly we hit a gravel road with danger signs on either side. And to further accent our abrubt shift in scenery, a local police officer stops to make sure that all is okay, gently reminding us of the unstable road conditions ahead. Clearly we have arrived at the foot of the Geysers climb.
First frequented during the gold rush years of the 19th century, the road seems to be little more than a rough access road even today. “You just feel like you are in the middle of nowhere,” says Lena, another one of the local Trek ambassadors showing us the climb today. “I really like the rolling hills and Oak trees leading up to the climb, but then all of a sudden there is just nothing, save for a couple of old abandoned mines.”
“It’s a very technical ride,” adds Dana. “The road is essentially chip seal and gravel. But that’s what makes it great!”
As they cruised up the road, the two seemed little bothered by the surface conditions. Clearly their new Trek Domane’s mounted with disc brakes were a good choice for such a ride. “The bikes handle great and the disc brakes are incredible on those bikes, especially when you are coming around a corner at 25 miles per hour and all of a sudden you hit gravel. You just get lots of traction. You can put 32mm tires on the bikes with no problem at all and the disc brakes just make everything better when it comes to control.”
Dana also spoke highly of the new IsoSpeed decoupler in the headset. “I’ve been riding the Domane for about six months and I love the decoupler that they have now added to the headset. It was already great in the seatpost but in the headset it essentially lets the steer tube pivot in the frame which really absorbs a lot of road shock. It’s stiff yet comfortable. Honestly, it’s the perfect bike for Sonoma County roads. The roads here are always changing, and there are always potholes etc.
As the two made their way up the climb they passed two of the old abandoned Quicksilver mines once exploited from these hills. Mercury was also in high demand and mined along with Ore. One town, Mercuryville, even derives its name from the once-bustling industry. But today Mercuryville is officially described as a ghost town, with only a rusted old sign serving as testament to this forgotten community. It reads simply, “Mercuryville City Limit; Pop 2; El 2600 ft.; 1/2 mile high city.”
Leaving the old gravel road, Lena and Dana then turn right and attack the final sections of the climb, offering greatly improved road conditions, but perhaps even steeper roads. Arriving at the summit, the rugged landscape of the Geysers climb gives way to lush valleys laced with more vineyards. Almost instantly we are in another world.
Making use of the improved roads, the two picked up speed as they floated down the descent towards their final destination, the Jimtown general store in Healdsburg. For both of them the Jimstown store is the go-to destination for any cyclist after The Geysers.
“This place has been around forever and is so much more than a general store and it is a great place for wine tasting or just about any food and drink,” Dana said while enjoyed his pulled pork sandwich on a picnic table in front. Looking back down at his sandwich he quickly added, “Man, that’s good!”