Hop on your bike for the upcoming Sonoma County Backroad Challenge (May 21) and you will find a couple of great new west Petaluma rides.
The Sonoma County Backroad Challenge is the main fundraiser for Petaluma Sunrise Rotary Club. It is a bike ride that winds through the countryside west of Petaluma, possibly out to Tomales Bay, depending on which “challenge” you accept. They offer both a metric and half-metric century.
What is a metric century? Just sit back and relax, and let me do the math for you. For you non-bikers, a “century” is a 100 mile bike race…although having volunteered at one, and helped my partner train for one, it is more of a ride than a race. Sure, there are some gunners who blast through it in record times but trust me, the majority of riders are merely out to enjoy a ride through the countryside. Usually these “century” races are coupled with some shorter distance routes, for those of us who aren’t quite in shape for 100 miles of bike riding. In this case, there is also a “half-metric” century offered.

photo by ehternautrix

Not a native “metric” speaker, I was a little confused at first by what a “metric” century is. After a serious “oh duh” moment in front of my partner, who was again left wondering why she is dating such a dolt, I was informed that a metric century meant it was 100 kilometers, instead of 100 miles. Again, as a non-native metric speaker, that didn’t help me much, although I do know that as with most things American, ours is bigger than theirs. (Our egos, our cars, our blunders, and our waistlines, although riding the Sonoma County Backroad Challenge will help with that last one.) So, following the “ours is bigger than theirs” rule, a mile is bigger than a kilometer. But all that tells me is that metric century is a shorter bike ride than a standard century. …more math… a kilometer is one thousand meters…which still might be of no help to you. A meter is about three feet, give or take. So after all the math is settled, a kilometer is a little over 0.6 miles (6/10ths of a mile.) So a metric century (100 km) is roughly 60 miles. Since it is hard to offer beautiful scenery AND make the ride exactly 100 km, this ride is actually 105K, or 65 miles. Not a bad little ride through the countryside.
If 65 miles is a bit much for you, there is also a “half-metric” century, which is roughly 33 miles (53 km.) Now that is a little more my speed. You don’t have to be an avid rider to complete a 33 mile ride, although you may have to take it easy on the uphills.
And before you start thinking this is a Tour-de-France style race, let me ease your concerns. Although there will be hard-core bike riders at the head of the pack, the majority of riders are just out to have a good time, support a great cause, enjoy some beautiful scenery, and share in the camaraderie of all the other rides. If you aren’t sure which group of riders to tuck in behind, the “racers” will be wearing bright and highly color coordinated race gear, along with some items you have likely never seen before, like long sleeves that aren’t attached to their shirts, socks that go on the outside of their shoes, and bikes with no pedals. Don’t get me wrong –these are all very nice people, who will give you advice if you ask, and are quite tolerant of the crappy riding etiquette of us rookie riders. But if you want to find my people, we are riding non-race inspired bikes, wear camo cargo shorts, are lucky to have even one water bottle bracket, and have very little idea on how one goes about changing a flat inner tube, especially while sitting on a back road somewhere. We also watch in amazement as the gunners stretch before their ride. I thought the riding was the exercise…I am supposed to do pre-riding yoga too? Well, that is why they don’t hurt the next day, and I sometimes do. This is part of what makes a bike race so much more fun than mapping out your own ride. All sorts of different people, coming together to share in a common interest. But the biggest benefit is that the organizers will have rest/aid/refreshment stations along the route…and will help you change your flat tire, if you get one. Usually there is no need to carry twelve water bottles strapped to every available piece of real estate on your bike and your body, or fill your pockets with millions of snacks. You just sit back and enjoy your ride, and someone else worries about all the planning and resupplying. And from the looks of it, you get a free meal if you sign up for the metric century. My suggestions – get the pulled pork sliders… they are awesome!
If you still aren’t convinced that this is something you can do, how about this … when was the last time you heard of a bike race starting and ending at a brewery? Yup, once again, our local heroes over at Lagunitas has stepped in and donated their killer new beer garden and taproom for the races start and end points. Now THAT is my kind of bike ride! Personally, I would wait until after your ride to enjoy your free registration pint, but to each their own.
For more information on Petaluma Sunrise Rotary Club’s work in our community you can read more here.
And if you aren’t familiar with what Rotary International is all about you can read more on their website, or in a very informative Wikipedia article.