Latigo Canyon – Fun? – you bet!

I didn’t write any blog entries lately because I mainly was riding along routes close to home and which I blogged about. I specifically targeted routes with some climbing involved to increase my fitness level. All of this was prompted by a ride not too long ago with two friends. Although feeling strong on the way out, my legs abandoned me on the way back, and I bailed from climbing Latigo Canyon. That did not sit so well with me, and I started riding with more focus and started plotting my next ride, which of course had to include Latigo.

Following is my little ride report for this 65 mile ride with 5900 feet of climbing. For the impatient crowd, here are two links to the ride data and images:

Garmin Connect Ride Data

39 Ride Images

The forecast called for another round of rain in ‘sunny California’ and yesterday was supposed to be the last dry day for the next week or so. So, it was time to set the pedal to the metal.

BW - Latigo - Mulholland - Stunt - Topanga - BW

As almost always, my rides start from home, and wind its way through Brentwood and Santa Monica before dropping down to Pacific Coast Highway (PCH). For those of you not from the area, just a short comment on PCH: although beautiful vistas abound, PCH is a very dangerous place to ride, especially between Santa Monica and Malibu. The shoulder is of varying width, the tarmac full of loose debris and potholes, and speeding cars to the left while parked cars to the right encroach on your space require all of your attention. I love to ride while listening to music, but on this stretch of the road I never have my ear buds in.

Full attention is needed while navigating PCH

OK, enough of playing ‘Mr. MOM’ – I think you get the picture. Not all of PCH is that treacherous, and that is why many group rides start about 30 miles north of Santa Monica. A common meeting point is ‘Neptun’s Nest’, a popular restaurant on the beach alongside PCH.

Back to my ride; I takes 18.5 miles to the turnoff to Latigo Canyon. Mind you I have not ridden Latigo before, but have heard numerous ride reports, such as: long, never ending, rough road, great views, false peaks, good challenge. All of the attributes are correct. The canyon winds its way inland in a seemingly never ending loop of turns, climbing steadily from sea level over the course of 9.5 miles to about 2300 feet above sea level. The average grade is about 5%, and its steepest section tops out at 12%.

A view of the endless switchbacks snaking up the canyon

Latigo will eventually intersect with Kanan Road (a major artery between the Valley and the Coast), but thankfully a couple of miles is all it takes before connecting with Old Mulholland Road. Mulholland has long been a mecca for cyclists and motorcyclists alike, and as thrilling it is to let if fly on the downhill, always be aware of motorcyclists honing their cornering skills at insane speeds. The many small wooden white crosses are a stark reminder of the danger lurking on this part of the road.

One of the many blind corners on Mulholland Road

Once the downhill flattens out the road becomes a series of ‘rollers’. Well, at least that is what my riding friends call them. To me they often feel very much like hills, especially when they reach a 10 to 12% incline. While following Mulholland it will intersect with Malibu Canyon (also known as Las Virgenes Canyon on the Valley side), and boy, it was so tempting to make a right and just simply head on out to the coast without climbing Stunt Road. But, I reminded myself why I was out here, riding the Santa Monica mountains (remember: bailing on a canyon the last time). Therefor, as inviting as it was, making a right – not an option. I jugged ahead and crossed Malibu Canyon instead, subjected to more ‘Mulholland rollers’.

At this part of the journey, on those relatively short, but steep section, I started to feel my legs (or rather the absence of them). The cadence drops, the pedal stroke no longer as smooth as it should be. But looking around, you can’t help but smile and appreciate the beauty, and with that I turned onto Stunt Road and started the 4 mile climb. I rode Stunt before, so I knew what was in store for me, and sometimes knowing is not always best. Stunt is much shorter than Latigo, but also steeper, it averages about 8% and throws the 12 to 14% grade in front of you with regularity. Never for long periods of time, mind you, but testing nevertheless. ┬áIt was on one of those sections that I glanced down onto my Garmin only to see a cadence at 48, moving at barely 4 mph. After that glance, I just put my head down, told my self, just keep pedaling, one turn at a time and with that I reached the top of Saddle Peak – just look at these views.

This is what riding in the Santa Monica's is all about

From here on the ride is easy. A fast downhill using Tuna-, Fernwood- and Topanga Canyon roads will merge with PCH once again, and a short 9 uphill miles (albeit only to the tune of 500 feet) brings me back home. This ride offers a wonderful spectrum of coastal- and mountain environments and is a good ride to test your strength. Although I did not shatter any records (12.1 mph average speed for the ride), I felt great coming home – a beautiful ride leaving me with a sense of accomplishment.

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Road cycling enthusiast
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21 Responses to Latigo Canyon – Fun? – you bet!

  1. Lance Soloway says:

    I have available a package at the Ahwanee Hotel in Yosemite for the Bracebridge Dinner which is an amazing Medievil Christmas dinner on Christmas day. The package is for 3 nights (arriving 12/23-12/26) at the famous Ahwanee Hotel and includes the famous and highly sought after dinner. Our son and his girlfriend were coming but they had to cancel. The package’s value is $2400.00. Check out the website. If anyone has interest let me know. 805-231-2057. http://www.yosemitepark.com/SpecialEventsPackages_SpecialEvents_
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  2. GT in LA says:

    Ah, yes – a wonderful day in the saddle indeed and a great account of your route…thanks for sharing. Happy Holidays!!!

  3. Lance Soloway says:

    Hello again from Thousand Oaks. Happy Holidays to all. Like many, I took full advantage of the summer-like conditions yesterday and rode up Encinal Canyon to Decker Canyon..down to Westlake, left on Potrero into the Lake Sherwood horse country and up the west side of Potrero on down to Lynn and back to T.O. Computer was out but I suspect the ride was 25-28 miles.
    What a great ride and Encinal is a pleasure. A nice gradual climb from PCH…with the road pulling very comfortably for the novice cyclist. I set out at 9:00am and the vehicle traffic was almost no existent. Road quality was very good and was really great about half way up as there was a relatively new surface freshly laid down. Like butta! Phenomenal views of the coast and the islands were vivid on this crytal clear December morning. Lake Sherwood environs were gorgeous with fall colors hanging on so late this year and against a deep blue sky. Up Potrero for the quick ride down to Reino and home on the always enjoyable and rider friendly Lynn Road. What a day! Safe riding to all and Happy Holidays. Lance

  4. Lance Soloway says:

    Rode Latigo for the first time this morning. What a treat! After the heavy rain last night and the morning’s cold temp I was pretty much all alone on the majestic mountain road. Just an absolutely awesome ascent…particularly for this novice rider. I had read numerous reviews of the ride and was expecting a punishing ascent…but was pleased to discover that this is a very doable endeavor for a relative new-comer to the sport provided you’re dedicated to your training. Reviews did mention the rough surface…that’s certainly the case but that didn’t prevent a thoroughly enjoyable outing was not too tough on the equipment. I suspect the cooler temps took a little of the bite out of this monster…ascent in 90+ temps must be shear hell. And the almost zero vehicle traffic made for a stress-free jaunt. I’m that’s a different story in the summer months. Again, I’m a newcomer to the sport and after this morning’s enjoyable and manageable ride…I would highly recommend an early morning grind up this Malibu legend. Great stuff and safe riding to you all. Happy Holiday! Lance

    • GT in LA says:

      Hello Lance…thank you for stopping by and for a very good update on the Latigo road condition…I am glad you liked the ride and hope to see you on the road in the future. There is a small group of us (all riding abilities) and we usually hook up via twitter. You can follow me @gtinla…ride safe and have fun.

  5. Sheila says:

    Thank you so much for all your information. My friends and are immediate cyclist. We leave in redondo beach and ride the palos verdes hills. So we were looking for something different and challenging! Latigo canyon was awesome!! The view was beautiful! We took our time knowing it’s a long hill climb. When we finally got to Kanan we decided to go on Mulhullan drive towards the canyon road since our car was parked by pepperdine. The road was rough and narrow and the windy was crazy!!! But I must say it was worth!!! Planning on doing it again in the winter with more friends!! Thank you so much for all your great details. Looking forward to more challenging rides!

    • gtinla says:

      Hi Sheila…that is so much fun to see that others benefit from my rambling. Hope to meet you on the road sometime. Two of my friends I ride frequently with are from BM and PV…ride safe, have fun and thanks for stopping by…

  6. Lavamantis says:

    I’m going to try to ride up Latigo tomorrow. I live in SM, but I’m not going to even attempt that one section of PCH.

    Is there a place to park at the base of Latigo?

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  8. L.A. Daze says:

    I rode Latigo on Saturday and wanted to swear because it seemed never-ending. And that false summit? Geez!

    • gtinla says:

      L.A. Daze – welcome! Judging from your blog you do your fair share of canyon riding. Really loved your blog entry about the chocolate covered bacon, two of my favorite things int he world.

  9. jeff says:

    It does look like a great ride, especially as we suffer through winter. I’ve driven the PCH from the bay area to Santa Cruz, and around San Diego. Someday I’d like to do it on a bike!

  10. TheTricksterNZ says:

    That looks like good times :D Especially the switchbacks :D

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  13. gtinla says:

    Darryl, Bryan and Mjo – sounds like we have a small riding group forming. Please be sure to contact me when you are in or near Los Angeles, and we go ride. Thank you for your comments

  14. Oh boy, now you’ve got me hooked! Wanna ride my bike through those endless switchbacks up the canyon.
    10 to 12% incline “rollers”, as your buddy calls them, sound more like hills to me too!
    Wow, challenging terrain right out the door.
    That’s the way to go!
    Thanks for sharing the pics.
    Mjo

  15. Bryan says:

    That is so awesome looking. I’m like Darryl, it makes me want to come out there and ride.

  16. Darryl says:

    Thanks for bringing us along for another great ride. You’ve got a knack for really making us readers feel like we’re right there with you. Man, you should be working for tourism California because now I really want to come out there and ride.

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