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“Remember the Alamo!” implores the Wi-Fi network name of the recently renovated motel we’re staying at. But we’re not in San Antonio, nor anywhere close to Texas for that matter. Today, we’re in Los Alamos, California (and not Los Alamos, New Mexico—or the Alamo!). This small California town is an under-the-radar weekend getaway for wine connoisseurs and in-the-know gourmets, but what most visitors don’t realize is that the cycling here is world class. Scroll through the Strava leaderboards on local segments and more than one major pro will make an appearance. Naturally, we’ve come prepared to take in the remote scenery in the best way we know: by bike.
A rainy winter has left the area’s rolling hills lush with springtime grasses and deep-orange California poppies. Not wanting to miss out on this respite from the arid conditions that have been the norm for the last five years, Sean and Ben have made the short drive from nearby Santa Barbara to enjoy the idyllic surroundings on their Cannondale Synapse Neo-1s.
Originally a stagecoach and railroad stop, Los Alamos has maintained its Old West feel, complete with sections of wooden sidewalk creaking underfoot. Though the dirt streets have long since been paved over and the swinging wooden saloon doors have given way to glass and metal, its small-town charm remains. And an ever-growing food-and-wine industry attracts tourists from all over California and beyond. These days, the visitors just arrive by car instead of stagecoach.
Although Los Alamos’ population hovers south of 2,000 and the number of blocks on Bell Street, the main thoroughfare, doesn’t crack double digits, it is by no means a sleepy town.
By early morning, weekenders and wine buffs are already beginning to buzz around, deciding where to get a bite to eat. You wouldn’t expect to be agonizing over where to get breakfast in a town this small, but each restaurant here is worth a visit. It’s not a bad problem to have.
“This place has really blossomed,” says Ben, who grew up racing and training in the area. “Every time I come back there’s a new restaurant or store to check out.”
One place gaining particular notoriety is Bob’s Well Bread Bakery. This establishment, on the east end of town, has developed a following that stretches beyond the local valley; travelers passing by on nearby U.S. 101 have even been known to take a detour just for a fresh loaf of artisan bread or pastry. Lines out the door during the morning rush attest to the popularity of this local gem.
To beat the breakfast crowds and get ahead of the afternoon heat, Ben and Sean start early. Having spent the evening in the Alamo Motel—a classic updated with modern, minimalist styling and artwork you would be happy to hang in your own home—they’re well rested and ready to explore. They kit up and, making final shoe adjustments in the Adirondack chairs around the motel’s fire pit and koi pond, grab their Synapses, switch on the Bosch motors and roll leisurely to breakfast.
Over coffee, the riders discuss their plan for the day. Sufficiently caffeinated, they set their Cannondale Synapses to “Tour” mode and prepare to head out onto the quiet country roads. Just a few blocks down Bell Street, the two riders take a left at the century-old flagpole and, within minutes, disappear out of town to the base of Drum Canyon Road.