There you are. Surrounded by hills of verdant green, impossible blue sky above. There is no one on the road but you, that sky and your bicyle, slowly climbing towards the top of the winding hill and views of the glistening Pacific Ocean below. Heaven.
I just spent four days in Santa Barbara California on a Trek Travel cycling tour. If you’ve ever dreamed of an active vacation, this is truly the trip of a lifetime.
Trek Travel Cycling Tours and Bike Vacations
Trek Travel designs and leads cycling tours and bike vacations around the world. Trek is the authority in high performance bicycles and their trips reflect that same high quality. Every detail is planned to make your bike vacation perfect in every way.
The four day Santa Barbara cycling tour consists of four days of riding through the hills and coastal towns of Santa Barbara, as well as sightseeing, sampling some of the stellar local restaurants, hiking, or hanging out at the rooftop pool.
Our base during our stay was the casually elegant Canary Hotel, a Kimpton hotel in downtown Santa Barbara.
The hotel offers free coffee in the mornings and wine tastings each evening in the lobby. The atmosphere is laid back, welcoming luxury. The staff is warm and helpful. Happy staff makes for a happy hotel and what makes people happy? Dogs!
The Canary is pet friendly and welcomes your furry family. Here’s Wiley, the handsome Shepherd mix who’s the hotel’s official Director of Pet Relations.
On the first morning, we met our guides for the trip. Justin and Tony. Both Trek Travel guides, and avid cyclists.
First stop, bike fitting. One thing that sets a Trek Travel bike tour apart? The bikes. On Trek Travel tours, you are riding one of the finest racing bikes on the planet. In this case the carbon framed Trek Domane 5.9 bike, an endurance race bike ridden by some of the top riders in the world. This bike is a WSD (or women’s specific design) specifically designed for a female bike rider.
After familiarizing us with our bikes, Justin and Tony went over rules of the road and tips on our new bikes and our map for this first day’s ride.
Each bike is equipped with a very cool device; a GPS preprogrammed with turn by turn directions for the day’s ride. If you get separated from the group, the GPS guides you back onto the correct path. The GPS also tracks your daily mileage.
This was my first experience riding a bike of this caliber. Did it make a difference. Big time!
The design geometry of the Trek Domane means you stay comfortable riding it over long rides and uneven road conditions. The bike was equipped with electronic shifting. That made shifting gears so smooth and effortless. The Domane 5.9 felt like an extension of me.
Trek brings everything you’ll need for your bike ride; bikes, helmets, day packs, water bottles, sunscreen and even the snacks.
One of the guides rides along with you each day. The other guide drives the support van and is there at predetermined stops with sunscreen, snacks and lots of encouragement! If you ever feel like you’ve ridden enough you are welcome to hop on the van. (I didn’t need to take a riding break but it was reassuring to know that you ride with a whole support team! I felt oh so cared for!)
Trek’s cycling tours are broken down into Rider types designed to accommodate anyone from a leisurely rider on a short 15 mile flat ride to the expert banging out 100 plus miles on challenging hills. Each ride had a morning ride, and then a more challenging Avid level afternoon ride if you want more miles and more elevation climbs. The rides on our trip varied in length from 18 miles (without the additional afternoon ride) to 37 miles.
The Santa Barbara four day weekend bike trip was a Recreational Luxury Level 2 cycling trip.
Our fellow riders were a diverse group with varying riding experience and abilities. Brothers meeting up for a cycling vacation. And a couple from Vancouver, Canada. Everyone was incredibly friendly and fun. We bonded right away as we rode through some of the most stunning scenery California has to offer.
Trek Travel Bike Vacation Day 1:
The bike ride took us from Goleta, through the campus of UC Santa Barbara, and along winding bike paths beside the white sand and sparkling Pacific Ocean.
We climbed into the rolling landscaped hills to Hope Ranch, one of Santa Barbara’s most exclusive and pricey enclaves, with some of the home prices around $23 million dollars. With views like this, you see why so many of the rich and famous choose to live here.
The afternoon bike ride wound into the hills past the pastel beauty of the Santa Barbara mission. One of California’s most beautiful examples of Mission style architecture, the Old Mission Santa Barbara was established on the feast of Santa Barbara in 1786.
The avid afternoon ride culminated in a challenging hill climb through the Skofield Park neighborhood. Skofield Park is a popular biking area with many riders testing themselves on these hills. It was a challenging climb but our guide Justin was right beside me offering encouragement and tips to get me to the top.
The Iron Man of our group, Dwayne from Vancouver was an awe inspiring role model. He was a machine and made these hill climbs seem like nothing!
A Trek Travel cycling tour doesn’t just mean challenging bike rides, it also means wonderful wine and top rated restaurants. And a chance to indulge guilt free after all those calories you burn while bike riding!
Dinner was at one of Santa Barbara’s iconic restaurants, The Wine Cask.
The Wine Cask features local seafood, produce and wines in support of the Santa Barbara wine industry. We dined outside on the patio, enjoyed the beautiful night and recounted our day’s mileage and adventures.
I slept like a baby back in the pillowy duvet at the Canary Hotel, blissfully tired out from a day of riding.
Trek Travel Bike Vacation Day 2:
Our Trek Travel group hopped aboard Amtrak’s Pacific Surfliner for a short ride up the Gaviota coast to Surf Beach.
The train winds along the glorious Pacific.
We spotted brown pelicans in flight, and dolphins playing in the waves from our window seat. We even counted four whales spouting right off shore as they made their seasonal migration down the coast of California toward the warmer waters off of Baja. An awe inspiring sight!
Once we were back on our bicycles, we headed down California’s iconic Highway 1 towards the fabled Santa Barbara wine country.
The morning’s trek took us through the bustling agricultural fields of the Central Coast. Fields stretched out green with produce, ready for harvest.
Soon the hills of the wine country appeared. There are actually five viticultural regions within the Santa Barbara area. Our destination was Sanford winery (famously featured in the movie Sideways.)
We climbed into country roads. Rows of grape vines and walnut groves flanked us on both sides.
Tractors rattled by, their drivers waving hello.
We picnic’d on gourmet delights on the sprawling grounds of the Sanford winery.
After lunch, we were treated to our own wine tasting of Sanford wines. We were lucky to try several of Sanford’s Chardonnays and the Pinot Noirs. Sanford winery was the first vineyard to plant Pinot Noir vineyards in this area of the Central Coast, and is one of the wines they are most known for.
The afternoon ride was a challenging ride through fields and farmland and the gorgeous hills to the quaint and charming town of Los Olivos.
The trusty Trek van was there waiting with a cold beer, ready to transport us back to our home base at the Canary hotel.
For dinner, we dined at the Canary hotel’s award winning Finch and Fork restaurant.
The restaurant is one of Santa Barbara’s most popular. Executive chef James Siao uses locally sourced ingredients to create classic American dishes with a modern twist. I tried the hush puppies and the Sunchoke risotto. Yummy. And the Spice and Smoke Margarita is muy bueno!
Trek Travel Bike Vacation Day 3
Day 3 was spent riding and exploring “America’s Riviera”, we traveled along the beach inland to East Valley Drive and into Montecito. We climbed through lush hillsides bordered my unbelievable estates. Montecito is home to some major single name celebs. Oprah and Ellen both having homes here. Montecito’s winding roads look out to unending views of the Pacific Ocean.
We rode our bike through the manicured beauty of the San Ysidro Ranch, the luxury hotel where JFK and Jackie Kennedy once honeymooned.
The super Avid challenge for the afternoon was the Gibralter Loop, a grueling bike hill well known in cycling circles where many professional riders train.
I opted out of that one and instead opted to a challenge more to my level; exploring the shops along Santa Barbara’s famed State Street, with major retailers, local boutiques and galleries aplenty. Other riders chose to chill at the Canary hotel’s rooftop pool.
Tonight was our goodbye dinner in the private Roosterfish room at Seagrass Restaurant. Seagrass, run by noted chef Robert Perez, is known for their Santa Barbara coastal cuisine. Seagrass sources their seafood from the most sustainable waters possible from around the globe and is a charter member of the Sustainable Seafood Program. The restaurant has an exclusive wine list boasting hundreds of selections including hard to find labels.
Over dinner, we shared stories and laughs of the day’s rides over wine, seafood, and lots of dessert!
Trek Travel Bike Vacation Day 4
Day 4 had many choices. You could hike, go for a morning ride or relax. We chose to relax and explored the pier and the many local artists selling their artwork along the busy art walk.
Afterwards, we took a short bike ride to local favorite Handlebars Coffee Roasters, a major hub on the local biking scene.
This artisanal micro-roaster was founded by former pro cyclists, Aaron Olson and Kim Anderson. So it’s no wonder there were many bicycles lined up and groups of bike riders stopping off for a morning espresso and locally made pastry.
You can even order their Gibralter Seasonal Espresso blend from the Handlebar’s website. With notes of chocolate and berries, this espresso might be just what you need after a morning tackling the grueling Gibralter Loop.
Lunch was the final goodbye to our new friends at Carlito’s Mexican restaurant. We enjoyed margaritas on the sunny outdoor patio as we toasted a final goodbye and everyone headed home.
I can’t say enough about Trek Travel. This was my first cycling tour and I can’t wait to go again. The planning was superb. Every detail; the route, the hotel, the restaurants chosen, the gear; everything was so well thought out. The Trek Travel Guides were welcoming hosts. They were knowledgeable about the local area, the sites and history. And they were riding coaches, giving you tips (if you asked) about riding and cheering you on to tackle that final big hill.
This Trek Travel bike vacation was the perfect mix of active and luxury vacation.
So where will I meet my perfect red Trek Domane bike for our next ride?
I can’t wait to see where the road leads next….
Hope you enjoyed my Trek Travel journal. Stay tuned for my next cycling adventure!