Solvang Ride Camp

The Solvang Ride Camp is designed for the serious cyclist perparing for longer rides or races. ( / April 14, 2010)

Summer has vanished. Autumn will soon be slipping away. But that doesn't mean you have to put away your bicycle or your Lycra for the winter. You may live on Montana, but you don't live in Montana.

Bicycle touring companies are offering a variety of rides throughout the winter, most of which include lodging, meals and guides/mechanics to help you with directions or fix a broken chain.

Add to that the "sag" wagon, which you can hop aboard if and when your legs quit or you want to take a day off, and it's pretty much all covered. Most tour companies even provide bikes if you don't want to bring your own.  

Moreover, you don't have to camp. On these — some would say cushy — rides, you stay in nice hotels with showers, swimming pools and hot tubs. 

Here is a handful of tours that offer everything from spins through desert valleys to grueling climbs that would challenge a Tour de California or Tour de France rider.

Desert escape

This intermediate, six-day Undiscovered Country ride starts in Palm Springs on Dec. 27, when temperatures are pleasant. The route skirts Joshua Tree National Park and includes a warm-up ride to Palm Desert and Indian Wells under the looming San Jacinto Mountains.

Then it's on through the Coachella Valley to the Salton Sea and the badlands of the Anza-Borrego Desert to the oasis town of Borrego Springs, where wide, empty roads stretch across the valley floor. 

During the tour's next few days, you'll climb Montezuma Road to historic Warner Springs, pedal by Palomar Mountain to Temecula and then head back to Palm Springs by coach. 

Undiscovered Country, (877) 322-1667, $1,998 a person.

Death Valley

In the summer, temperatures in Death Valley National Park can hit 120 degrees or more. (In 1913, it was much more: 134.) But come winter, it's a pleasant place to bicycle, with temperatures hovering around the 70-degree mark from December through March.

On a four-day tour offered by Backroads, cyclists pedal past brightly colored mountains, rippling sand dunes and spots with spooky names such as Dante's View and Hell's Gate. Cyclists stay at the Inn at Furnace Creek, at the foot of the Funeral Mountains.

Although most of the tour is flat, including a spin across the giant salt flats to the lowest point in the U.S. at minus 282 feet, there's also a 5,000-foot climb over 30 miles to reach Telescope Peak in the Panamint Range, which often has snow in winter.

Backroads, (800) 462-2848, Tour dates in November, February, March and April. $1,998 to $2,298 a person, depending on the date.

California's Central Coast

A post-Yule tour down the Central Coast usually doesn't require you to bundle up in fleece or polypropylene — or to even wear gloves.

This six-day ride, offered by Undiscovered Country, begins Dec. 27 in San Jose and ends in Santa Barbara. It's not for the meek, however, and is designed with serious riders in mind, so don't plan a lot of time tasting wines, visiting museums, shopping or learning to cook. (You may be too tired.)

 At the northern end of the tour, riders pedal through the wine country town of Paso Robles and over rolling hills to the historic town of Santa Maria.  

Then it's on through broad canyons to the Santa Ynez Valley wine country and its vineyard-covered foothills. This area is home to the wine country towns of Santa Ynez, Los Olivos and the Danish-inspired Solvang.