The difference between try and triumph is a little umph. ~Author Unknown
It was Monday morning and I had a 3 hour window for a ride, and I was bursting with energy. The day was beautiful but breezy and cool for us Southern Californians. I spent a lot of time riding along the coast lately and so I wanted to switch it up and chose a route in my minds eye which I thought might fit into the time constraint, but also offered some climbing.
If you live on the Westside this is a really good workout and great training route to improve the climbing skills. A short 8-mile warm-up ride north on PCH will get you to Topanga Canyon turn-off. As usual, pay attention to the traffic on PCH. This route is best in the morning hours, as the majority of the traffic is South bound, and the traffic flow reverses mid to late afternoon. Plus, the late afternoon sun will be in your eyes, as well as the car drivers coming up on you at 60 mph+. For these reasons I strongly recommend to avoid this stretch in the late afternoon hours.
A right turn onto Topanga Canyon will mark the beginning of the climbing portion of this ride. For the next 9 miles it is all up to the tune of ~ 2500 feet. The average grade is at 7% but you can see from the graph below that there are several segments in the double digits upwards to 14.5% grade.
That little stretch on Topanga, just before you reach the Village and turn left on Fernwood Canyon is a good test of how you feel on any given day. The shoulder here is very narrow and traffic usually does not allow you to canter up the road. Its hunch down and power through the grade which is between 10 and 14.5% for about a mile. You get some rest for a couple of hundred yards before the turnoff to Fernwood, which greets you with a series of steep S-curves to get you in the mood. The climb continues for the next 5 miles and you need to pay attention about half-way into this climb. Here, Fernwood turns into Tuna Canyon (returns to PCH), but if you turn right you are on Saddle Peak Road (street signs and stop signs make that easy). It feels like you should be at the top at this point, but you are only halfway there. Saddle Peak Road will continue upwards another 2.5 miles, drop down for 500 yards, climb back up a bit and you a greeted at the top with at a 3-way cross road in the middle of no-where. Saddle Peak Road (which you are on), Stunt Canyon Road and VanSchueren Road.
There are many ride choices you could make from here with much more climbing ahead. It took me 1 hour 16 minutes to get here from Brentwood and it seemed the perfect turn around point given the time constraint. VanSchueren is to the left and is a “short screaming 1 mile sweeping fun down hill ride”. A sharp left turn on Rambla gets you quickly to another sharp turn onto Los Flores Canyon. Los Flores is a steep and very technical descent. None of the sweeping downhill fun, but very steep and narrow needlepoint turns. Make sure to feather your breaks to prevent a blowout because of over heating. The end of Los Flores brings you back to PCH and a 10 mile ride South will reach the outskirts of Santa Monica.
My ride distance from Brentwood was just shy of 36 miles with 3133 feet of climbing and the ride took 2 hours and 33 minutes. This is ride I intend to repeat many times in the future because of the challenge and also the beauty along the way. While riding on PCH you often see pods of Dolphins just off the coast, and the 360 degree views from the mountains are stunning. Days like these are a reminder of how fortunate I am to live here, all too often I just take it for granted.