Early weekend mornings are a great time to bike in Santa Barbara. Traffic tends to be very light, no one is in a hurry, and you’ve got all day to explore. Our topography offers unique riding conditions, and this time of year provides steady sunshine and cool ocean breezes. From kid friendly, class I bike paths, to treacherous uphill climbs, there’s a ride to suit nearly everyone’s experience, fitness, and comfort level.
Park to Pier
Looking for a sweet ride with pretty ocean views? Park at Shoreline Park (the southern parking lot) and take the bike path down to Stearns Wharf. The bike path starts at the top of the hill, overlooking Leadbetter beach. Coast down alongside the sand, past the harbor, and onto the pier for some ice cream to help fuel the ride back up the hill. Or, if you’re feeling motivated, keep moving along the Cabrillo bike path all the way to the zoo. (Best for ages 7 and up.)
Come see how the university earned its gold-level bike friendly status. With over 10 miles of bike lanes on and around campus, there are endless routes to explore. The smooth, wide bike lanes are great for beginners. The empty weekend campus is the perfect place for young children to practice pedaling independently without having to worry about negotiating roundabouts with their equally bewildered freshman counterparts. Park near the Rec Cen and ride to Campus Point to play at the beach. Or, start at Goleta Beach and head up the hill (kids may need to walk the hill).
Mini Coast Route
The section of the Coast Route between Patterson Avenue and Goleta Beach is a great place for beginning cyclists. The flat terrain and quiet path make for an inviting picturesque ride. This is part of the of the same route that connects Canada to Mexico, so you may see fully loaded tourists passing through on journeys hundreds of miles long.
State Street Shopping
Beginning at Constance Avenue and State Street, a continuous bike lane offers a direct route through downtown and onto the pier. Ample bike parking, people watching, and easy shopping make the trip fun for tourists and locals alike. Head over to State and Cota on Saturdays between 8:30 a.m.-1 p.m. for fresh fruits and veggies at the Farmers Market.
Have a fat bike? Hit Hendry’s at low tide. With a minus tide, you can bike for miles of uninterrupted bliss. Beach biking can be very hard on components, so be sure to clean off the sand and saltwater once you head home. Or, rent a fat bike through one of the local shops and let them take care of the maintenance.
Bluffs to Butterflies
The Ellwood bluffs offer hours of fun, looping through eucalyptus forrest, up dirt trails and back down. Park at the lot across from Ellwood Elementary school and enjoy over 130 acres of natural space. Bonus: if you make the trip between November and February, you’ll get to check out thousands of migrating butterflies overwintering in the trees. Just follow the butterfly signs on the main trail.
Lake Los Carneros
This is off-road biking at its tamest. There’s not much water in the lake these days, but plenty of shady trees to climb and sit under, and loads of relatively flat dirt paths. The Stowe House and Railroad Museum are at the western side of the lake, and make a great destination point for young pedalers.
Keep On Climbing
Start at Cathedral Oaks and Old San Marcos Road and start cranking your granny gear. Confession, I’ve only made it about a quarter way up this climb. But, I’ve been told it’s extremely rewarding (by people who like climbing hills), and there are some epic views from the top. As an old stagecoach route, this road is extremely windy, and steep, making it a great training ride.
For those looking to push their biking ability and endurance, club rides provide camaraderie and all the wind-breaking benefits of a peloton. There are several group rides offered by clubs and bike shops around town.The Bathhouse ride begins Sundays at 9 a.m. Cyclists meet at East Beach Bathhouse and loop down to Rincon and back. This is only for very experienced riders, comfortable moving at a fast (25 plus miles per hour) pace in a tight pack.
Whatever your interests, there’s a weekend ride waiting for you in Santa Barbara.