After our playful romp around San Francisco’s magical downtown, we decide to meet back up with our friends Chelsea and Matthew north of the city, at Napa, in California’s legendary wine country. It promises to be an epic ride through some of the world’s most renowned vineyards. Matthew, the Executive Chef at the hip SPQR restaurant in San Francisco, knows this area well, as he comes here regularly in search of prime produce for his kitchen. And he’s only too happy to show us around.
Words/Images: James Startt
“What makes riding in the Napa wine country so special is that you have a bit of everything,” he says. “There are climbs and descents on both sides of the valleys and then there are the roads, which are simply stunning in their beauty. But be careful. The wind can also play a factor very quickly here.”
Meeting on the farm of a local friend, we have ample space to set up our bikes and prepare for the ride. And while everyone is eager to ride, they all enjoy having such an amazing backdrop to work on their bikes. For the occasion, Matt breaks out his Cento10Air while Chelsea has her trusty Cento10NDR. And Chris is not about to give up his classy Cento10Air Disc Ramato, which promises to be ideally suited to the roads around Napa—which call to mind the rich farmlands of northeast Italy, home to the Wilier brand.
Speeding away from the farm as the late-afternoon light falls on our backs, we are instantly engulfed by the luscious vineyards that are synonymous with the Napa Valley. The light, the landscape…nothing could be better; and it shows in the faces of the smiling cyclists. Everyone it seems is in a playful mood, taking turns attacking the turns in the road or sprinting down the long straightaways.
“There is just so much variety of roads around here,” Chris says. “Either you can take the bigger routes around the edges of the fields or the many farm tracks cutting through the middle. The bike is so responsive whether on pavement or gravel. Changing direction to avoid a pothole is instantaneous. It’s cool riding in the evening light, because it brings out all the imperfections in the pavement and the shadows from the vineyards play across the roads.”
Chelsea’s Cento10NDR is the perfect fit for the ever-changing terrain. “The Actiflex suspension system is great,” she says. “It just really comes alive when we get onto the gravel roads that cut into the vineyards.”
And it goes without saying that Chris’ Cento10 with its vintage-correct ramato color—matching perfectly the legendary copper finish first introduced by Wilier in 1948—couldn’t find a better home than in historic Napa.
Meanwhile, Matthew, a longtime Wilier addict, revels in the contrast of old and new. It is not the first time he has ventured along these roads with his Cento10Air but he sees a likeness with the wine industry here, which, like Wilier, is steeped in history but constantly looks to the future. “I just love the juxtaposition of a classic brand and design style of the Wilier set against some of the most up-to-date materials, aerodynamics and technology,” he says, as he cruises over these familiar roads.
With the sun setting, all too soon it’s time to head back to the farm. But not before giving the riders and their Wiliers one last chance to stretch their legs. Chris and Matt attack and sprint playfully as they approach the Napa town limits. Where the city-limit sign is actually situated matters little. Today there’s no competition, just the joy of riding such classic bikes on such a classic stage.