When John Muir wandered west out of the Sierra Nevada in the late 1800s, he was overwhelmed by California's great central valley. “When California was wild,” he wrote, “it was one sweet bee garden throughout its entire length . . . so marvelously rich that, in walking from one end of it to the other, a distance of more than four hundred miles, your foot would press about a hundred flowers at every step.”
Here in the far north, that spring bee garden is still sweet—just one reason the Wildflower Century in Butte County has become such an iconic North State event. Such sweeping scenic views. So many bikes and inspired cyclists. So much spandex and spunk.
In 2016 the Wildflower celebrates its 35th year. For serious cyclists and brave beginners the Wildflower offers both challenge and camaraderie. Everyone will tell you, the food and enthusiastic volunteers are well worth writing home about. There are two classic Wildflower routes on “ride day,” Sunday, April 24, the Century itself, the Wildflower 100, and the Wildflower 65 (with half the climbing). The Wildcat 100 and Wildcat 125 offer serious altitude. If all that huff and puff is at least one hill too far, there are easier options—including the Flatflower 60 and 30. The 12-mile roundtrip to Durham is even easier; the same route for kids becomes the escorted group Childflower ride.
A great thing about the Wildflower Century is that it’s also one big party, before and after. So if you aren’t sure you’re ready for the full-on cycling scene—the Urban Dictionary suggests you may suffer from Lycraphobia—come safely check it all out on Saturday, April 23 during the Wildflower’s WildFest, which starts at 2 p.m. at the Silver Dollar Fairgrounds in Chico, Century central. Come for the family-friendly Carnival & Bike Rodeo, with informative booths and cycling fun. Or the wildly popular Fork in the Road food trucks. Not to mention cycling expo, live music, and Sierra Nevada brews.
Wildcat 125 (5:30AM to 6:30AM)
Wildcat 100 (6AM to 7AM)
Wildflower 100 (6AM to 7AM)
Wildflower 65 (6:30AM to 7:30AM)
Flatflower60 (6:30AM to 7:30AM)
Flatflower 30 (7AM to 8AM)
Flatflower 12 (7:30AM to 9AM)
Childflower 12 (mass start at 9 AM)
In many ways the Wildflower is the local warm-up for May’s National Bike Month—celebrated locally as Bike Chico! but also including the tasty Tour de Chocolate ride in Paradise. Bike Month is a friendly annual reminder that all of us would benefit from getting up the road more often by bike.
And if you do fear Lycra, you’re not alone. During Bike Month there’s the low-key Seersucker Ride through Bidwell Park, an alternative fashion experience. For team competition, try the Bike Scavenger Hunt. For two-wheeled camping, come along on the Adventure Ride to Woodson Bridge, the first in a series of local overnights to commemorate the Adventure Cycling Association’s 40th anniversary.
In Redding, the big early bike event was—I kid you not—Kidical Mass at Turtle Bay on April 16, where kids, bikes, trikes, and scooters all converged for an age-appropriate obstacle course and object lessons in cycling safety. If you missed that, there’s plenty more in store for Bike Month and beyond, including—on the ambitious side—The Art of Survival Century ride from Lava Beds National Monument in Modoc to Oregon’s Klamath Falls … the “altitude adjusting” Castle Crags Century … and Yreka’s Humbug Hurry-Up mountain bike races.
Connect with Chico Velo for information about other Chico area biking events and suggested cycling routes. To find out about upcoming bike events in and around Shasta County, check out Shasta Living Streets, Redding Mountain Biking, and—especially for the 126-mile Super Century route map—Shasta Wheelmen.