Justin Schatz is The Paper's daily news reporter. He has reported on New Mexico for KRQE News, Searchlight NM and the Santa Fe Reporter.

Since hopping back on a bicycle at the end of last year, I have seen more and done more in Albuquerque than I have done in the previous few years combined. The city’s extensive network of trails and empty roads right outside the city continue to beckon droves of cyclists, me included.

This last week, a friend and I decided to explore Los Ranchos, a small community within Albuquerque nestled in the North Valley. Affluent neighborhoods, vineyards and miles of trails along the Bosque filled our day as we traveled on a 25-mile loop from our starting point in Downtown.

The loop was perfect for us as we were still recovering from our ride back from Santa Fe the week prior. This path consisted of almost no ascents except when traveling over Montaño and Paseo. The small unincorporated community of Los Ranchos is also known for its exceptional accommodation of cyclists, boasting spacious bike lanes and patient drivers.

Provided the relative accessibility of the path and ease at which it can be completed, we decided to have a late start, not embarking until almost noon on a sunny and warm Saturday. We started on the bike path on the Paseo del Bosque Trail, just south of Tingley Beach, with the intention of riding until Alameda Open Space before returning via Los Ranchos.

The beauty of the path lay in the sheer volume of people using the path. Cyclists of all levels were out enjoying the day. Runners ran along the path, always keeping an eye out for cyclists that would sometimes approach speeds of 30 mph. A few fishermen were trying their luck in the irrigation channel that runs along the whole path. Bass and carp populate the irrigation canal’s cool, clear waters that run through the valley.

An occasional trail into the Bosque would catch our eye and, because we were not limited by time, distance or any challenge to our physical prowess, we would indulge our curiosity and follow the meandering paths to the river. Dormant cottonwoods towered above us while dead grass that rose to our knees swayed in the breeze. The calls of hundreds of migratory waterfowl, like Canadian geese and Lesser Sandhill Cranes, echoed across the river. Despite being in the dead of winter, the Bosque was alive and well with cyclists, runners and residents just content with enjoying another cool and sunny Albuquerque day.

It only took us an hour at a relaxed pace to travel the 12 miles to the Alameda Open Space. We took a quick water break at the crowded parking lot before embarking on our journey back to Downtown through Los Ranchos. The speed limit along Los Ranchos does not exceed 25 mph, which was a pleasant relief compared to our journey on the Turquoise Trail, in which cars and semis would regularly pass us exceeding speeds of 75 mph. This route, in contrast, is a cyclist’s paradise.

Only a few miles into the small, affluent agricultural community, we took a detour to Casa Rondeña Winery. Boasting an expansive vineyard and a villa that looks to be ripped from Florence, Casa Rondeña is a feast for the eyes and any photographer. The old country aesthetics of the winery is also complemented by some of the finest wines in New Mexico. Although our appetites demanded a large protein-and-grease-ridden meal, which the winery tragically does not offer, my previous experiences at the winery have been nothing short of enjoyable.

A quick detour and a few photos later, we were back on the main path of Los Ranchos. The lavender fields of Los Poblanos, with its famed farm-to-table-inspired restaurant, opened to our west. The route continued to open up on either side of us to dormant fields lying in wait for the growing season.

Once we passed Montaño, our wait for a late lunch was finally over. Several options awaited us, including the always-reliable Flying Star and The Patio, just a block down on the west side of the road. The Patio was still in the throes of the Saturday lunch crowd when we arrived. Not willing to wait, we decided to ride a block back to Flying Star and were treated to some of the finest Huevos Rancheros and Ranchos Melt we’ve had.

With our appetites more than satisfied, we navigated our way back to the Paseo Del Bosque Trail along the Rio to avoid the Saturday traffic near I-40 and Old Town.

It was late afternoon, but the path was still teeming with cyclists, joggers and fishermen. Thirty minutes later, we were back in Downtown Albuquerque with more than enough time to prepare for whatever shows were happening that night.