Riding into winter: Annual Greentown event celebrates solstice

winter solstice bike ride
Courtesy of Gary Hedden
GreenTown’s annual Winter Solstice Night Bike Ride attracts cyclists of all ages and experience

GreenTown Los Altos has planned one of its longest bike rides for the shortest day of the year. The grassroots environmental group has scheduled its fourth annual Winter Solstice Night Bike Ride 6:30-9:30 p.m. Dec. 21.

The free, 8-mile ride starts in downtown Los Altos at Peet’s Coffee & Tea, 367 State St., and goes as far as Christmas Tree Lane in Palo Alto before heading back to Los Altos. The ride returns by way of Starbucks near Stanford University for hot chocolate.

Participants are encouraged to decorate their bicycles with twinkle lights and sing Christmas carols as they admire the holiday lights on the journey.

The event began in 2015 when Gary Hedden, who heads up GreenTown’s energy efforts, was hosting group bike rides to view Los Altos’ historical homes as part of GreenTown’s cycling program. Los Altos Hills resident Scott Vanderlip urged Hedden to begin hosting night bike rides, but he was reluctant.

“This was a new concept for me,” Hedden said. “I had ridden many times at night but thought a group ride might be too challenging.”

However, after Vanderlip pointed out the advancements in night biking technology, Hedden said he realized it “really is possible to see very well at night and be safe.” So the two worked together to organize the inaugural ride.

The event has become so popular that GreenTown scheduled two rides last year. To address safety concerns with such group rides at night, Hedden said the rides always have a leader and a sweeper (a cyclist who rides in the back). While not suitable for young children, the pace and route are reasonable, with few cars and even some bike-only paths.

Hedden said he and Vanderlip continue to host the night ride because they “like riding bikes and want more people to enjoy the fun.”

“That’s what people who join us like – it’s fun, a new experience and something you can do with the family,” Hedden added.

For event and registration details, visit and search “Winter Solstice Bike Ride.”

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