Los Alamos, California, is gaining notoriety as a weekend excursion spot for its food, wine and, among cyclists, beautiful country roads. Having spent the first morning of their weekend getaway in this small town getting breakfast and coffee, our riders Ben and Sean decide it’s time to see if the riding lives up to its reputation. Rolling out from the café, they point their Cannondales toward Drum Canyon Road on the west side of town.
Drum Canyon is one of the go-to rides for cyclists in the Santa Ynez Valley area. And, thanks to its location, it’s the perfect ride on a trip to Los Alamos. “Wow, just two blocks out of town and you’re already here,” says Sean. “There are not many places where you can already be at the best roads within a mile!”
The 3-mile climb starts out gently enough, but it doesn’t take long for the gradient to steepen, with some 9-percent pitches. Putting their Synapse Neo 1s into “sport” mode, our riders settle in for a couple of challenging miles. Luckily for them, there is plenty of scenery to look at after a particularly wet winter.
For a moment, the roadside trees and shrubs, accented by splotches of purple and orange wildflowers, disappear. Peering up to their right, our riders catch a brief glimpse of the top of the climb and the snaking road carved into the hillside that will take them there. But soon enough the vegetation returns, once more obscuring the top, and they must focus on the corners ahead.
“This is a challenge for sure,” says Sean. “But I’m just glad the weather and scenery is as nice as it is right now. I don’t think I’ve ever seen this area so green.”
“Yeah, I forgot how demanding this climb can be,” adds Ben. “When I was racing in college, my teammates and I would train on this climb and try to outpace each other. But today I’m happy to just take in the scenery and climb at a more relaxed speed.”
Cresting the top of the climb, our two riders take a minute to observe the miles of rolling hills below them. But the break is short lived. There are plenty more stunning views to come on the descent. Luckily, their Synapses handle like traditional road bikes downhill, carving through corners and accelerating out of turns, letting them pay attention to the beauty of the ride.
Soon, the descent flattens out, tarmac becoming immaculately smooth, and an expansive valley with rangeland painted yellow by flowers opens up before them. Passing farms and pastures with grazing horses and cattle, Ben and Sean cruise along for miles.
Continuing farther down the road, the pastures give way to uniform rows of grape vines and a wine-tasting room. But as much as our riders want to stop here for a glass of pinot noir—this weekend is about enjoying the Los Alamos area after all—we haven’t quite reached our destination. After a few more miles, and climbing one more small hill, we reach the Babcock Vineyard ready to learn a little bit about the wines of this region.