Cherry red. A throttle on the handlebar. Two wheels … and two seats. When we arrived at Pedego Electric Bikes in Livermore, our ride — a tandem electric bicycle — was already pulled out of the shop, gleaming in the hot morning sun. We clipped on our helmets and got ready to ride.
The tandem is “a relationship tester,” owner Jim Buck warned. It might take some time to find our balance. We should practice in the parking lot first.
He was right. Riding a tandem bike requires coordination and communication (and occasional shouts of “What are you doing?” and “Slow down!”) The rider in front steers. But it’s the rider in the back (if I do say so myself) who has the harder task — keep pedaling, even though you can’t really see the road ahead.
This was an apt metaphor for our self-planned tour of Livermore wine country. We’d done a little research in advance — popular routes, winery opening and closing times — but had no reservations and no schedule. We were after an adventure.
After a few laps around the lot, riding tandem became second-nature — just like, well, riding a bike. Buck used a gold Sharpie to mark some possible routes on a map of lanes and trails: the tasting rooms along Tesla or Vasco, the restaurants and shops of downtown Livermore, a loop in the 847-acre Sycamore Grove Park.
We decided to head south toward Greenville Road, though we could have gone any number of directions. Saddlebags laden with water bottles and sunscreen, bike fully charged, we were off.
Wind in your hair, sun on your skin. Revving up hills, coasting on the way down. There may be no prettier (or more thrilling!) way to see Livermore wine country than astride an e-bike. The ride feels invigorating, but never strenuous. (A motor really does make climbs easier.)
Our route cut through rolling yellow fields and past clusters of grapes ripening on vines. Gates with signs indicated the turnoffs to Livermore’s many well-known wineries. It was time to stop at one. 3 Steves — founded by three friends, yes, all named Steve — was open and had available seating. Why not? We hung a left and sped up the winery’s driveway.
Twinkling with lights, the tasting room was blessedly cool after our hot ride. Water, first — then wine. Standouts included a 2020 pinot grigio — with a warm, peanut-buttery finish — and the Cienega Valley Ancient Vine Zinfandel, which won the San Francisco Chronicle’s “best red wine of show” in 2011. We compared tasting notes — oak and smoke, vanilla and cherry — until it was time to get back on the bike.
Where to next? The Steves had a suggestion: We should visit the tasting room of Wood Family Vineyards, owned by their friend Rhonda. Why not? A flick of the bike’s switch, and we were headed back down the hill. Llamas and horses grazed in a pasture. Clouds shifted across the sky. We revved around a few turns and arrived at Wood Family.
Rhonda Wood, a former airline pilot turned winemaker, welcomed us into her barrel room. As she poured, she told stories about what we were drinking. There was El Loco Rojo (a red blend named for a red-headed uncle who got lost in Mexico) and Pink Pearl (a rosé in honor of a friend who battled breast cancer). With no itinerary, we had plenty of time to listen and ask questions.
By this time, hours had passed, and we riders were hungry. Many Livermore wineries share their space with food trucks, and on this particular day, Wood Family happened to be hosting the barbecue outfit QueSquared. We scarfed down plates of tri-tip and mac ‘n’ cheese, hot links and potato salad. Across the street, Altamont Beer Works was pouring drafts in its hip industrial taproom. Before we knew it, we were splitting a cold glass of Mosaic Fuel India Pale Lager.
We’d actually managed to have an adventure — and serendipity is no small feat in the information age. Don’t get me wrong: I love a good itinerary. I love to read online reviews. But the best part of this day had been its spontaneity — the ability to explore a new place in a new way with no expectations. To savor the taste of each wine without rushing to the next reservation. To appreciate the heat and the breeze. To take our time. To be surprised. All this enabled by a cherry red bike.
Reluctantly, we realized it was time to return. We clipped on our helmets. And — why not? — we took the long way back.
Bicycles & bike trails
At Pedego Electric Bikes Livermore, you can sign up for a group tour, set up a custom ride with a guide or do as we did and plan your own trip with 2-hour, 3-hour and all-day rental options. All bike rentals — whether singles or tandem — are $20 per hour or $75 per day and come with helmets and locks.
Pedego is open from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Wednesday-Sunday and by appointment on Monday-Tuesday at6538A Patterson Pass Road in Livermore; www.pedegoelectricbikes.com.
Be sure to consult a map of Livermore’s bike lanes and trails. Pedego has paper copies. The Livermore Valley Winegrowers Association offers an itinerary planner (www.lvwine.org/itinerary-planner.php), more maps and dining recommendations. Visit TriValley recommends this 27-mile route that starts and finishes in downtown Livermore.
Wineries & breweries
3 Steves Winery, which is open from 11:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Friday-Sunday, offers $15 tastings at the winery at 5700 Greenville Road in Livermore; https://3steveswinery.com. Other Greenville Road wineries can be found here.
Wood Family Vineyards is open Wednesday through Sunday (hours vary), with live music on Wednesdays and Fridays. Tastings are $20. Find the winery at 2407 Research Drive in Livermore; https://woodfamilyvineyards.com. Other wineries on and around Vasco Road can be found here.
Altamont Beer Works is open from noon to 6 p.m. Tuesday-Sunday (until 8 p.m. Friday-Saturday) at 2402 Research Drive in Livermore; www.altamontbeerworks.com.