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:
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.
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.
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%.
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.
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. It 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.
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.