Last Sunday was a beautiful day, a rare crystal clear day following Saturday’s rain storm. The air was brisk, but the kind of brisk which makes riding even more enjoyable – think of it as nature’s air cooling system, offsetting the warm Southern California sun shine. The original plan was to ride with @roadchickie (check out her blog) on Saturday and go up Latigo Canyon. She just signed up for the RIDE AROUND THE BEAR, which is a very ambitious century ride from Redlands to Big Bear, and it’s time for her to start training. But, a cold front with heavy rains washed our Saturday ride out and we were not able to coordinate timing for Sunday. So, I took off bright and early for a solo ride with the intention of riding Yerba Buena Canyon on Sunday.
I have a ride description of this ride here, so I won’t get into too many details. The reason I chose the ride is really because I love the route. It is an 80 mile loop with 5800 feet of climbing and takes you through some stunning scenery.
When I looked back at my ride history I was surprised to see that I have not been on this route since August of last year. It was time to change that. The first 30 miles of the ride are rollers up the coast to Neptun’s nest. A good spot to get off the bike for 5 minutes, stretch the legs, fuel and hydrate, shed a layer, because from this right turn it is all uphill for the next 12 miles. One of the reasons I love this canyon is because of the lack of traffic. Usually only canyon residents, which are few and far in between make up for motorized traffic, the rest is fellow riders (and really not too many of them either). If (and that is a very little if) there is anything to complaint about that canyon, it might be the tarmac. I have never descended the canyon, but would imagine that the downhill could be a tad dangerous, because of the many pot holes and plenty of road debris.
The road climbs to about 2200 feet where it connects with Decker Canyon, leading to Mulholland. At this point Mulholland meanders along the ridge line in a series of rollers, passing by Kanan Canyon (the connection to Latigo Canyon, another fun ride), and then dropping sharply into the valley below. At the bottom a little detour to Rustic Canyon General store was the ticket to refill my water bottles and have some of their delicious French Fries. The ride thus far has taken me about 55 miles, and while sitting there having fun with my Fries, I was pondering about the route. Originally I planned to follow Mulholland to Malibu Canyon road and return via the same to the coast. But the more I thought about it, the less I liked the idea, because I hate Malibu canyon on a bicycle.
Malibu Canyon is the major artery connecting a large portion of the West Valley with the coastal region, it is a narrow 2-lane, high speed road with little or no shoulder and usually offers some wicked cross winds. Finishing my French Fries and feeling stronger than usual, I decided to forgo Malibu Canyon and follow the route of my last ride instead. I mounted the bike, eventually reached Malibu Canyon, but crossed it, rather than following it and climbed Stunt Canyon instead.
I am starting to like these roads more and more, It must be the knowledge of ‘what is to come’, that make them seem like old friends now. I am starting to know the turns, the changes in grade, knowing when the hurt will start; and Stunt always delivers plenty of it. But the reward of cresting Saddle Peak is equally sweet and gratifying. I rested a bit at the top, checked my time and distance and upon seeing that I already gone 72 miles, my brain started to calculate: so 5 miles down the mountain, another 10 to home would bring me to 87 miles. Why not make a detour to Marina del Rey and call it a Century?
And that is what I ended up doing. I took Tuna Canyon down, which is insanely steep. One day, when I am all grown up I might (notice I said ‘MIGHT’) try to ride up that canyon. It has plenty of sections with 18% to 22% grade, something our friend @BikeCrave uses to make Guacamole (check out his ride story), but for now, I’ll keep that climb in mind for when I feel really lousy and want to throw up.
The downhill is lots of fun and quickly dropped me back out onto PCH. The ride down the coast to Marina del Rey was beautiful because of the spectacle the sea put on. A combination of Chile’s earthquake aftermath and the previous day’s storm, made for some incredible waves. I have never seen the waters edge so close in to shore, and as I found out the hard way, in some cases the bike path was gone.
I returned home after some 7+ hours of glorious cycling. 104 miles, 6850 feet elevation gain, 6 hours 45 min in the saddle. legs buzzing and a grin on my face. It’s nice when you ride a century without a plan.