One of the best things about living in LA, is the accessibility of the Santa Monica Mountains where you are almost instantly transported outside of the hustle of Los Angeles into the wilderness of the largest urban national park. On this route you are relatively straight along the Pacific Coast Highway with beautiful beach ocean views leading up to Topanga Canyon where there are endless serpentine roads, mountains, and trails to explore by foot and bike. Though, there is the challenge in climbing this route if you consider yourself a road rookie (like me) but it is so worth the views and descend back to the beach to cool off.
Over the weekend, I recently took a ride from Santa Monica to Topanga Canyon to experience highly recommended reviews of this famous cycling route for the beauty of the Pacific Coast in the mountains. I don't live too far and thought a ride out to connect with nature was the perfect way to spend my weekend. The ride was only a 24 mile loop with a 2000 elevation gain, yes, the climbing is intense, especially if you've been out of practice. However, I wanted a ride that was a challenge and certainly I got was what I was looking for.
Leaving Santa Monica I rode along beach bike trails filled with runners and other cyclists. This norther coastal route is generally more quiet as opposed to biking south towards Marina Del Mar. As I road along the PCH, I soaked in the warm sun and downed plenty of fluids for the climb ahead. Just nearing Topanga Canyon, I made a right up the street along with other fellow cyclists. On this particular weekend, the roads where busy with cars, cyclists, motor cyclists, and hikers. Busy it was but you almost felt part of a larger group charging each other on to conquer the climb ahead. Everyone was out to get their QOM and KOM status.
A relatively straight and gentle climb on Topanga leads me near to the top of Topanga and Fernwood, where I made a left to find the real grind of climbing and maintaining a steady pace. While hoping the serpentine road and climbing would end, I find myself at a ridge in the intersection of Tuna Canyon Road and Saddle Peak Rd. At this point I stop to soak in the views, drink water, catch my breath and debate with my legs if I should continue on higher. At this point, I could only bear what I had done so I climb back onto my saddle and begin heading down to a winding steep descend off the ridge of Tuna Canyon with the amazing views of Santa Monica mountains and the Pacific Ocean at my side.The decent down was a bit scary and maintaining control of speed and technique down winding roads was also a challenge. At one point I almost admitted defeat thinking I was going to need to walk down the rest of the way. I paused every now and then to gain back composure. At certain points I stopped to take in the views of Malibu while watching other cyclist descend with grace and control. Certainly I could do that but this was a test for me. With what I felt like was luck, I glided my way down Topanga Canyon watching other cyclists to guide me through. It certainly helped. Once I finally got back to the PCH, I was relieved with an ocean breeze cool down on the beach.
Heading home, I'm tickled with a satisfying feeling of accomplishment of the effort I made, it was no hike in the park after all. This was a whole new level of cycling for me of which I had a lot to reflect on. As I start to close my final weeks in Santa Monica, I feel I have so much more to learn about myself in road cycling. Much of which I hope to take back with me to NY for Spring and Summer riding.