Cycling During the Pandemic: Join the June Challenge

Cycling During the Pandemic: Join the June Challenge

Join Breathe California in a delightful series of rides, in celebration of the Breathe Bike Trek and all the wonderful ways that cycling helps to keep you happy, healthy and sane! Yeah, we know that 2020 is a really weird year and it is hard to predict when we can even get together again. So we decided to do something about it. We have designed a series of rides just for you, with 4 routes at each cycling level – Short, Medium, and Long – plus a Bonus Ride. It is the Trek’s 2020 June Challenge, with 13 gorgeous rides in the Sacramento Area, and we are challenging you to join us!  


We tried to keep the distances in this challenge obtainable for everyone: 10-15 miles for the Short Routes, 20-25 miles for Medium Routes, and 30-35 miles for the Long(er) Routes. Okay, we did get a little carried away with the Folsom Routes – they are a little longer – and there are some serious hills on a couple of the Long Routes, but there is truly something here for everyone. In fact, some of these Short Routes might be a good opportunity to bring along your significant other or a close friend who just cannot wait any longer for their spin class to reopen. (See my section on Social Distancing on a Bike.) 

Directions to trailheads and links for the June Challenge ride maps are available here! With the uncertainty around business shutdowns, we made a point of finding and highlighting the location of available restrooms in each map’s route description and cue sheet. You’re welcome! 

HIGHLIGHTS – Why we think you’ll love these rides:  

  1. FOLSOM LAKE RECREATION AREA (2 routes): Starting at the corner of Douglas Blvd. and Auburn Folsom Blvd. in Roseville, these 2 rides head straight to Folsom Lake Recreation Area where bikes get in FREE. After a quick spin past the boat ramps, you are treated to a series of narrow, winding roads, surrounded by lush vegetation, frequent views of Folsom Lake, and a myriad of intersecting mountain bike trails. The transition from urban environment to parkland is so sudden that it makes you feel like you have been dropped into another world. And, you have. Keep an eye out for the exit pathway (to the left of the white gate) and don’t be afraid to get your tires dusty on a short section of gravel. The Short Route back includes tranquil Itchy Acres Road, one of my favorites.  
  1. FOLSOM (3 routes): Starting near the Starbucks off Gold Field Drive in Gold River, these routes transition from wide, tree-lined boulevards with generous bike lanes, to a windy section of the Jedediah Smith bike trail along Lake Natomas, and back again to Folsom’s attractive roads. After many years of cycling on narrow, beat-up country roads, I was truly amazed at how much I enjoyed the spacious, tree-lined streets and bike lanes in Folsom. This would be a great place for beginning cyclists who might be more comfortable riding in well-designated bike lanes. (The bike trail part of this ride can get busy so it might be best to do the Folsom routes early in the morning.) Beatty Hill, on the other hand, is a BEAST!! The ride through the neighborhoods above Beatty is not much better, so feel free to call it “good” at the top of Beatty. You’ve earned it.  
  1. LOOMIS (4 routes): Starting from Loomis Basin Community Park off King Road, you could happily ride forever. While most local roads are narrow and rural, the area is frequently traveled by cyclists, so cars and trucks know to look for bikes on the road and are almost always courteous. You may be surprised to find that there is a large bird sanctuary, tucked away between Humphrey and Del Mar Roads along your route. On the Long Route to Lincoln, the miles-long, gently winding descent on Highway 193 from Newcastle is a thrill, but don’t use up all your “gas” getting there – you still must climb back over the ridge on Sierra College hill. The Long Route to Auburn is another matter entirely; with 2,181 feet of climbing, it is purposely designed to take advantage of every possible hill we could throw at you. You’ll feel rewarded with a rocket ride down Indian Hill Road and splendid views along the way. 
  1.  LINCOLN BASIN (3 routes): Starting at McBean Park in Lincoln, prepare to be surprised if it is your first bike trip in this area. After a brief stint through Lincoln, Virginiatown Road twists and turns through the trees on a newly paved road. (Stop and read about the local history at a historical marker on the north side of the road.) The stretch back on Fruitvale Road, also newly repaved, is a gentle, pleasing downhill run. The Medium Route takes you deeper into the countryside, with scenic views all the way. The Long Route follows a different trajectory and reaches out to Camp Far West Lake, with a stunning view of the Lake and its backdrop of Sierra Foothills. All this area feels remote and, other than the trailhead at McBean Park, the only facilities en-route are bushes and the Long Route’s stop at Camp Far West Campground. 
  1. PATRICK’S WEST SAC RIVER RIDE (1 route): “Hats Off!” to Patrick Guild, Breathe California’s Deputy Director, for contributing his favorite ride to the June Challenge. Starting in West Sacramento off Jefferson Blvd., this route surprised me with its quick transition to rural roads, then delighted me with levy views along the Sacramento River and a gorgeous ride along Babel Slough Road. This is our “Bonus Ride” and you can use it to complete any of the 4-ride segments – Short, Medium, or Long – in the June Challenge. Or, just come ride it, anyway – it is worth the short drive to the “trailhead” at the Southport Town (Shopping) Center. BTW, we would love to hear about your favorite routes, too! 


During the ongoing Covid-19 Pandemic, riding solo (or with members of your own household) is still the safest way to limit your exposure to the virus. However, after 3 months of stay-at-home restrictions, most of us are looking for ways to bring some sense of normalcy back into our lives. With large group rides still suspended by Sacramento Area Bike Clubs, “splinter groups” have formed among friends who want to ride together. While out riding in the last couple of weeks, I have run into a number of these small groups with cyclists I knew, and ended up joining a couple of their rides. Here’s what I’ve learned that we can all do to ride safely “together.”  I call it “Athletic Distancing”:   

  1. Choose to ride with cycling friends that you trust to have made a responsible effort to limit their exposure to the virus.  
  1. Keep your group size manageable, 4 to 6 riders maximum. 
  1. Drive to the start of the ride alone (or with family members) in your own vehicle. 
  1. Keep a significant distance (at least 30-50 feet) when following other riders out on the road. 
  1. Give other riders, pedestrians, and runners lots of room when approaching or passing. 
  1. If you pull alongside another rider to chat, you will need to be far out in the middle of the road to maintain a safe distance. Be careful when you do this and know how to reliably use a rear-view mirror.  
  1. Maintain “Social Distancing” when stopping for a common rest break. You will probably be breathing harder than normal, so consider 6 feet of separation as a bare minimum.  
  1. Be as self-sufficient as possible. In addition to the usual tubes and tools, bring more than an adequate supply of food, water, hand sanitizer, and a mask. 
  1. If you follow these guidelines, you will not need to worry about wearing a mask while you ride, but it is a good idea to have one with you if you stop somewhere. 

REMEMBER: You are doing one of the absolute best things you can do for your physical and mental health, so HAVE A GREAT TIME! 

Cover photo by Coen van den Broek on Unsplash

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