Highway on the way to Sonoita, Arizona

Epic Rides – Part 1

This weekend will mark the 12th annual Parksville 360 ride for Human Powered Racing. What started out fourteen years earlier as just a few of us putting a credit card in our pocket and riding as far up the Island as we felt like (and then turning around and riding back the next day) has turned into an annual team trip with support vehicles and a certain level of organization.

While this ride has become a staple on the team calendar and has given everyone some great, and not so great, memories and some early season bike fitness, it got me to thinking about some of the Epic Rides I have done as an athlete and with the team. Here, in no particular order, are a few of the epic rides that myself and the team have done over the years.

Malibu Ride (Piuma/Latigo)

This is often one of the highlights of the California Vertical Camp every winter. This is a fantastic ride that starts from our home base in Thousand Oaks and takes in two of the most amazing climbs in the Santa Monica Mountains.

The first climb is Piuma. This is a twisty 13 kilometers (2200 feet of elevation) that brings you up from the valley side and gives you some of the most amazing views; Malibu, The Pacific Ocean, Downtown L.A. and Pepperdine University are all visible from the summit, on a clear day. Once at the top you do a pretty hairy descent down Las Flores where your brakes and hands get a workout. From there you get a nice flat spin north along the Pacific Coast Highway, with the obligatory coffee stop in Malibu, and then it is a right turn and up Latigo.

If you have ever seen a car commercial where the car is on some twisty mountainous road with steep drop offs and views of the ocean in the background, there is a good likely hood it was filmed on Latigo. This is one of those snaking roads that has numerous “s” bends and switch backs that makes it possible to see where you have been long after you have been there. At 24 kilometers in length and with 2400 feet of elevation, the grade is not a killer by any means. The only thing that gets most people is a false “top” where you think you are there, but really you still have another few kilometers to go after a short descent.

Group Photo at top of C Group at top of Latigo Climb at Vertical Camp

Once at the top of Latigo it is a short jaunt over to the famous Mulloholland Drive and then a fun descent back down Westlake Boulevard and through the horse farms of Hidden Valley and one last little climb up “Tom Selleck ” Hill. Without a doubt, This ride is one for the ages and one that I look forward to each and every January.

Mount Lemmon

Tucson, Arizona is a training Mecca and for many years Human Powered Racing would put on a camp in mid to late March. Notorious for it’s sunny and dry weather, Tucson also has some epic rides, one of which is Mount Lemmon, arguably one of the best and most scenic climbs in North America.

Starting off at about 2500 feet you climb roughly 50 km and gain right around 6000 feet of elevation. The views and the grades are manageable, what can get you on this climb is the temperature. Starting out on the desert floor can be warm, arriving at a ski hill can be quite the opposite. Over the numerous times I have done this climb I have seen many different weather conditions at the top, but in March you can pretty much bank on it being cold.  So, it is imperative to either have a support vehicle with some warm clothes waiting or make sure you have packed some in your back pockets to put on when you descend. You might not think this when you are warm and climbing, but if you are warm and you see a few feet of snow on the sides of the road near the top, you can pretty much guess that it will be cool on the descent (take it from someone who learned this the hard way).

The descent of Mt Lemmon is worth the trip up. What can take a couple of hours to climb can be descended in a quarter of that time. The turns are such that hitting the brakes is rarely necessary so the only thing holding you back might be how cold you are at the top. Shivering can often equal speed wobbles, so my suggestion is to go slower at the top and let it rip near the bottom when you are warm once again.

If you are ever in Tucson, but without a bike, renting one to do this climb is more than worth it.

West Maui Loop

This one I just recently discovered while on a family vacation in Maui. While I had heard about it for years and I had prescribed it to athletes training on Maui, I had never actually done it myself until this year. After doing it I can see why athletes always raved about it and it has shot to the top of my list of all time favourite rides.

Starting from Kaanapali and heading north, the West Maui Loop is a 94km ride that for a good portion on the west and north portion hugs the Pacific Ocean. Much of it is on a twisty, windy, one lane road. The hardest part of the riding is keeping your eyes on the road because the scenery is so spectacular. Riding along watching Whales breaching and dophins spinning off in the distance can distracting when you really need to focusing on the 180 degree turns that pop up from time to time.

This is a ride that can be impacted by the weather conditions. Luckily, I was able to ride it on a calm, sunny day so I did not experience the wind or rain that sometimes will hit the northern part of the loop, but even on a windy and rainy day, it would be worth it for the experience of riding these roads (many sections are so narrow only one car can travel it safely).

The day before riding a local cyclist had told us about the one stop you must make along the way;  Lorraine’s.  Lorraine’s is famous among cyclists because she takes care of all of the cyclists with warm banana bread, cold water and shave ice. If you didn’t know it was there you might ride right on by, but you would be missing out on a great experience. Lorraine has lived on this property her whole life and we were not only lucky enough to get banana bread right out of the oven, but to get to sit down and talk with her about her life in a very remote spot on Maui.

After a re-fueling at Lorraine’s it was back on the bikes and back into some serious climbing. Once you are around the northern part of the loop you get to descend back into Kahului where you then cross the valley back to the west side of the Island and then you have a flat trip along the west coast back to Lahania and Kaanapali. On a good day, like we had, the wind will push you home northwards and you will be sipping Mai Tai’s before you know it.