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Road Culture

The Bovine Classic is a new gravel ride in a little known cycling gem

We caught up with Peloton contributor Bryan Yates to learn about his new ride, The Bovine Classic, in under-the-radar cycling destination Paso Robles, California.

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Longtime Peloton contributor Bryan Yates has ridden in some truly spectacular places. Out of all them, he counts his home, Paso Robles, located on the central coast of California about halfway between Los Angeles and San Francisco, among the best. Now he wants to share this little-known cycling gem by starting The Bovine Classic gravel ride. The premiere edition will take place Saturday, November 5, 2022, with multiple route options as well as other events off the bike planned around the weekend. We caught up with Bryan top learn what the Bovine Classic is all about.

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Peloton Magazine: Bryan, you’ve lived in the Paso Robles region for a few years now. What made you decide to hold a gravel ride there?

Bryan Yates: The short answer is that I love this area, am grateful for how the community embraced us when we moved here, and believe this region has potential as a world class cycling destination.

Hosting a cycling event had never been on my radar of things to do in life. After moving up here from Los Angeles, I found that the Paso Robles wine region has some of the most beautiful cycling I’ve done anywhere in the world. It’s a real hidden gem. Because we’re so connected to agriculture here, there are quite a few interconnected farm roads and trails that make the riding here full of surprises and adventure.

I think geographically speaking we’re something like 2/3 the size of Napa and Sonoma combined, but we’ve got 1/10th the total population. When I first really started exploring here, I kept trying to figure out what felt so different from riding other places. Then it hit me on one five-hour ride that I’d seen about 15 to 20 cars for the whole trip. That’s pretty common here… for now. The whole Paso region has got a real Sergio Leone refined Spaghetti Western vibe to it.

“The whole Paso region has got a real Sergio Leone refined Spaghetti Western vibe to it.” (Photo: Bryan Yates)

What sets the Bovine Classic apart from other gravel rides out there?

Besides the amazing, year-round riding, San Luis Obispo county (aka SLO) and the Paso wine region has a really vibrant boutique entrepreneurial culture with wine makers, brewers, cheese makers, distillers, cider makers, agricultural product makers and food providers. People here are passionate about the land and products, so they want to stay here and make great stuff. Our goal, over the coming years, is to create an event with two parts. The first part is a great ride experience, and down the road the other will be a ‘SLOCALLY Made’ festival. Whether it’s boutique wines or homeopathic skin care products or locally brewed kombucha, I really want to share what locals are making with a national audience.

Beyond that, we’ve got some out-of-the-box ideas in mind to give our visiting riders a real sense of place and taste for this area.

With events leading up to and following the ride, the Bovine Classic is more than just a gravel ride. What else can riders expect from their weekend in Central California?

I really hope riders will come early, bring their families, and meet their friends here for the full weekend.

On November 3, we will have a casual evening mixer at some place in Paso Robles. This will be a chance for riders and sponsors and staff to just laugh and hang out. Sea Otter just confirmed for me that people really want to be together to hug and talk. They’ve been missing that.

On November 4, we’ll have rider packet pick up and a pre-ride in Atascadero. We’re currently planning a ‘Very Special Bovine’ experience that is a fundraiser for our partner charity, Operation Surf, which creates surf camps and ocean programs as opportunities for healing and recovery for injured veterans. We’ll have one of our raffles at this event. We’re planning a special panel discussion between the Operation Surf folks and friends from the cycling world on ‘Connecting, Community and Recovery Through Sports.’ It’s going to be a blast. That evening, back in the heart of Atascadero, there’s going to be a city-hosted pub crawl and concert on the town square, which is also the start/finish point for the ride.

Of course, on November 5, we’ve got the main event. We’ll have the ride and post-ride party with music in downtown A-Town. Our sponsors will have an expo where we also hope to have purveyors of locally made awesomeness. I just spoke with a nearby olive oil maker who’s really stoked to be there with tastings.

Paso Robles certainly has excellent gravel riding, but what else is there to do there for the non-cyclist in my life while I’m riding the Bovine Classic?

There’s just so much to do here for non-riders. We’ll be coming out with a top-10 list of things to do for sure. Besides winery tours, here are a few amazing standouts for me:

  • Horseback riding around Cass Vineyards or Halter Ranch
  • Zip Line Tour at Ancient Peaks Vineyards
  • Kayak Tour of Morro Bay with Central Coast Outdoors
  • Hiking in Atascadero or Santa Margarita Lake or down in San Luis Obispo
  • Sitting by the pool at a local hotel.
  • Farm Trail Tour with Farmstead Ed
  • Tour Hearst Castle
  • Atascadero Zoo for families with small kids

There’s a lot more, but for city visitors, I’d definitely dive into the agricultural side of things here. Coming from LA, I was surprised to find out how interesting that stuff is.

Visiting wineries is a given in this region. But there’s so much more to do says Yates. (Photo: Bryan Yates)

Tell us about the route options.

These are still contingent on permit approvals, but we’ve really made progress in nailing down our 2022 courses.  The Big Bovine course is 1o1 miles with 8925 feet of climbing and 45 percent dirt. We just re-rode the The Happy Bovine course the other day. It’s a challenging 65 miles with 6200 feet of climbing and 35 percent dirt. The Baby Bovine is 40 miles and 2600 feet of climbing. We’re also considering an interesting fourth course option that is on the shorter side, but includes the single-track section of the Big Bovine. Stay tuned.
Our long-term goal is to become a model for how agricultural, ranching, and cycling communities can thrive together. To that end, we eventually hope to gain access to huge cattle ranches and vineyards. If some of that happened this year, we’d want to share that opportunity with y’all. That said, our go-to courses on public roads here are AWESOME. Rudy Napolitano, who was on the winning 2021 Race Across America team, recently and very kindly described this “as the most beautiful course on the entire gravel race calendar.” Another friend, who produces stories for film and television, was up recently for some training and was at an absolute loss for words at what he experienced on our ride.
(Photo: Matthew Barnes)

On the big course, we’re shooting for something that’s 48 percent gravel. Riders will go back and forth between farm roads and beautiful asphalt roads. They’ll experience several different microclimates on the course, which really shows off the diversity of the area. There might be a section of single track, but I’m leaning towards reserving that for our special Friday pre-ride experience. Our smaller courses will have a bit less gravel, but all the same gorgeous scenery.

What’s your favorite part of the route?

This changes for me from time to time, because there’s so much going on. Also, the courses visually and physically change with the seasons. Sometimes, it’s the nearby single-track and farm road circuit that are part of my quick lunch ride circuit. Other times, it can be a particular point next to an old barn that’s surrounded by grazing, free-range cattle. I will say that the money shot for most people is usually the two summit points with views for miles that come after long dirt climbs through old-growth oak forests.

Choosing your favorite view in the Paso region can be tough (Photo: Bryan Yates)
(Photo: Bryan Yates)

Can we expect any cow-themed surprises? It is the Bovine Classic after all!

I don’t think anyone will have the opportunity to ride into a grazing bull during this event, but we’re plotting and scheming some laugh-worthy moments.

(Photo: Bryan Yates)

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