Some people mourn the end of summer, but for many Sonoma County cyclists, fall is when the fun really begins.

For them, riding in the fall months often means they have to cope with less hot weather and less traffic, but still can enjoy bright, beautiful days.

"In Sonoma County, you can start early in the morning when the temperature is cool, and two hours later, have a sunny day," said Susan Forsman, president of the Santa Rosa Cycling Club. "And whatever town you start from, you're guaranteed to find a very nice coffee shop where you can stop, or a brewpub, if that's what you like."

The club has 1,700 members and offers four to six organized bicycle rides a week, Forsman said.

"Even if they're not members, people are welcome to come and see what it's like," she said.

In Petaluma, the Petaluma Wheelmen cycling club originally dates back to the late 1800s and early 1900s, but restarted in 2005 and now has 192 members, said president Matt Muldoon.

For Muldoon, riding in the fall offers not only cooler weather, but a wider choice of destinations.

"You can go out to the coast. You get really nice days on the coast, which are hard to find in the summer. It's foggy out there in the summer, and then when the fog breaks, it's really windy, neither of which is a great situation," he said.

"Also, in the summer, there's a lot more traffic out there," Muldoon said. "Right now, it's warm, the winds aren't as strong, and there's not as much traffic."

The Wheelmen have worked out a number of routes to the coast, Muldoon noted.

"There are many options," he said, "but on a nice day, anything along Highway 1 between Tomales and Point Reyes Station is a winner."

Forsman recommends the "10 Great Rides" listed on the Santa Rosa Cycling Club website, ranging from flat and easy to steep and challenging, and ranging from 23 to 55 miles.

The easiest, the Windsor Plain ride, offers a pleasant cruise amid fall colors, starting from Santa Rosa's Youth Community Park on Fulton Road.

From there, the route meanders through the countryside, most of it vineyards, via Piner, West Olivet, Oakwild, River and Trenton-Healdsburg roads, with an opportunity to stop for refreshments at Windsor's Town Green.

While autumn is prime cycling time, riders do need to make some concessions to fall weather. For one thing, the wardrobe changes a little, Forsman explained.

"That's the beautiful thing about the Sonoma County climate," she said. "You can go with a 'winter shell,' where you wear three layers during the early morning and peel off the layers as it warms up."

<i>You can reach Staff Writer Dan Taylor at 521-5243 or See his ARTS blog at</i>