Best Ride In The Santa Monica's!
August 14, 2005, I wanted to spend about 6 or 7 hours riding
to gauge how my Everest
Challenge training was coming along. Tired, as I'd had a
long day prior, I had a lazy morning trying to psych
up by reading the live report from the Clasica
de San Sebastian . Still without a true plan, I loaded my
bike and headed towards the Santa Monica's.
I'd always wanted to try
Peter Pop's El
Muertito ride. With 5 trips up Saddle Peak and more than
10,000 of climbing, it would suffice to test my fitness,
that's for sure. But somehow this ride lacked elegance. After
all, this is not Nam, there are rules. This is bike riding and
point to point is always preferable over out and back.
Sitting in traffic on PCH, I began to concoct an alternative
plan. No stranger to long
rides in the Santa Monica's, I decided a quick check list
might sort it out:
likes: climbing, descending,
sun, warmth, good pavement, mountains, panoramas, quiet, Topanga, hippies,
snakes, dogs, spiders, peacenicks, beer.
dislikes: PCH, traffic,
noise, stop lights, car horns, car doors, bad pavement,
crowds, "coastal low clouds", Malibu types
("Jackie Treehorn draws a lot of water in this community.
You don't draw shit."), Hummers, "truck guys",
Heading up to Saddle Peak I
thought of a loop ride that would tick Pop's and add some new
scenery, as well as a satisfying downhill finish a couple of minutes
from cold beer. Like Johan Bruyneel once said, "The Plan
was very simple. Making it happen was not so
simple." Nice idea. Now I had to ride the sucker.
I: The warm-up. I parked at the top of Fernwood at the
junction of Saddle
Peak and Tuna. Warming up riding the easy grade to the
summit, my legs felt really good, which made no sense given
the day before (wait, that's today!) and that I was running at 1:30AM.
II: The test. At Saddle Peak, I descended Stunt, left of Mulholland,
left at Cold Cyn, left on Piuma. Piuma's pretty easy but the
longest climb of the day. It would be a good gauge. At the
top, feeling good, I descended Rambla Pacifico, taking the
detour to Hume, down to Las Flores. I turned left at LF. It
would be harder to go down and U-turn b/c you miss the first
half of the hard bit of LF, but I wanted to keep U-turns to a
minimum as style is everything. LF is very steep here for
about a mile before easing off. No problems, which was a very
good sign. Right at Rambla Pacifico, right at Schueren, back
to Saddle Peak. The weather was perfect, roads virtually
empty. It's, like, Nirvanna.
III: The detour. Down Stunt again, this time turning right at
Mulholland and abandoning the El Muertito, then left at Dry
Cyn/Cold creek. Climb "7-Minute Hill", which is easy
but takes longer than 7 minutes (I think that's the record).
At the top, I filled my water bottles behind the guard shack
across Mulholland and headed downhill to Old Topanga. Turning
right on another
section of Dry Cyn/Cold Creek, then right on Old Topanga,
and I was on to climb #5. This climb feels like a real climb,
is pretty steep, but always seems to go easy. As a reward you
get to blast down Old Topanga Road, which is always super fun
unless you're being chased by "truck guys" ("outta
my way you muthafuka! woo-hoo"--high-fiven his buddy and
takn' another hit off the gas can). Thankfully, though,
Topanga filled with more peaceable types. Right on Topanga and
you spend about a minute in the only traffic you'll encounter.
And it's hippy traffic, so it's not too bad. Right on Fernwood.
The bottom of this climb is quite steep, the road narrow, tree
lined, and the traffic gives one a very real sensation that
you're riding in Marin county. The peace signs add to this.
Soon enough I was back at the car and refueling.
IV: Big Tuna. By far the most difficult climb, Tuna can even be
scary to descend. This was my one U-turn, but given Tuna is
illegal to climb (a one-way street), I'm happy to get on it
anyway I can. I descended to the end of the good
pavement--just before PCH--as to not 1) be spotted starting to
ride up, 2) avoiding any contact with PCH, 3) avoid riding on
bad pavement. Had to keep the ride perfect. Anyway, Tuna
really starts at the hairpin. The first mile is rugged! I
started to cramp here, forcing me to employ proper form and
breathing technique as opposed to riding minless. This climb
is so hard that I thought about not finishing the ride for a
minute. Again at the car, I re-filled my bottles, stretched
out a bit, and headed off back up Saddle Peak.
Part V: The best place in LA,
second trip up the 'warm-up' was not nearly as effortless. At
SP, I descended Schueren, turned right on Rambla Pacifico, and
climbed the back side of Piuma. While short, this climb is not
easy, especially at this point in the day. Then I got to
descend Piuma, which is another stunner. Right on Cold Cyn and
I'm climbing again. Whilst not hard, Cold Cyn has a short wall
at the end that was a bit of a leg breaker. Right on
Mulholland, finish cresting the hill, and back down to Stunt.
Stunt is pretty easy--a slightly shorter version of
Piuma. Not too steep but, like Piuma, the last 3k
are the hardest. I sprinted at the top and was still feeling
okay. Strange, I thought, but maybe spending the previous day
at 8,000' had increased my hematocrit levels.... umm, right...
Anyway, Saddle Peak is my favorite spot "in
LA," mainly because it doesn't feel like LA one bit. All
rides should end here.
VI: The reward. Actually, all rides should end on a downhill after a
perfect summit. I
cruised back to my car passing a snake, tarantula (what can I
like critters), some friendly dogs, and a couple of cute
chicks out hiking--it was like I was being offered a reward
for my penance. As it should be, at least in my idealistic
world. I cleaned up and
drove down to Abuelitas
for a brew and some carnitas. As Papa might have said,
"I rode my bike. And it was good."