Gravel Bike California is hitting its stride and if our first ride of the year out of Las Virgenes was any indication, it’s going to be a good year for gravel.
People have been clamoring for a ride out of the Calabasas area and more than specifically for Pedalers Fork for quite a while, but I figured to wait until a cooler time of the year to plan this.
Not only was this our biggest group, but we also had people travel from Long Beach, Santa Clarita, Redondo Beach, Covina and Thousand Oaks just to send it.
40.34 miles, 4,446 feet of elevation
For these group rides, I’m finding a formula that works pretty well:
- Make the ride 30 – 40 miles. Sure we could do more, but since we do about 4k – 5k feet of climbing, it’s the right distance where everyone is ready for lunch.
- Divide the ride into a number of small segments so that the gaps don’t draw too large. Once the group is all together, we roll to keep the pace going.
- Don’t make the ride too technical, but throwing in some single track or hike a bike portions adds to the adventure.
I’m sure there are more tenants, but we had a happy crew ready to roll that was ready for everything up ahead.
The day was soupy and overcast which at this end of the Valley made it colder wherever you came from.
Our first climb into the Las Virgenes Open Space could have yielded some lost riders into the fog, but a quick regroup at Lasky Mesa proved we were properly herded.
While I knew the descent would be super fun, crossing Atomic Cycles’ Coaster Brake Challenge brought smiles to our faces seeing these riders come out of nowhere on these single speed behemoths enjoying the adventure like us.
I got caught behind thinking we had lost someone in the fog, but we met up at Las Virgenes Road to make the transition to the south side of the 101 where most of the ride would take place.
Little could we have known that a half hour later, the helicopter carrying Kobe Bryant would crash right by our path.
Didn’t think I’d be making a TV appearance about this ride..
After a quick bathroom break, we made our way onto the Las Virgenes Trail that rolls over one of the more open spaces of the Santa Monica Mountains.
There were a couple of creek crossings, but it was fun seeing the group tackle something different along the ride.
We dropped into Malibu Creek State Park via the Overlook Trail and the crags around the Century Dam provides some of the best views of the park.
Getting to the creek, the group got lucky that the crossing was completed the week before as part of the permanent structure had washed out recently.
For the next kilometer, it’s weird that a road goes into a narrow single track, but at least there isn’t much of a pitch making it a lot of fun.
This was the unusual haze that stood above us most of the day.
Getting out is a nice reward because it spits you right out to the filming location of M*A*S*H.
There’s a few relics left there, but when you swing around to see the mountains that are featured in that iconic opening, you definitely feel a sense of place there.
Climbing out on Crags Road, you still see the aftermath of the Woolsey Fire and when you circle Malibou Lake, you’ll find the randomness of which homes survived the fury.
After a little fun on Mulholland, we stopped in at King Gillette Ranch for a break which was a pleasant surprise because most had never stopped in before.
Using a backroad to get onto Mulholland, Craig and Alan who bickered over who knows the most shortcuts led us to another secret one to Stunt Road.
A more extended look at the Coaster Brake Challenge
We segwayed onto Calabasas Motorway leading to one of my favorite parts of the Santa Monica Mountains, Red Rock Canyon.
It obviously lives up to its name, but very few people know about it probably because it’s best accessible by bike.
Our last climb was on pavement up Old Topanga Road linking us up with the Summit to Summit Trail.
This was an excuse for some extra gravel, but we cut out the last mile because….beer!
We made it back to Pedalers Fork and most stayed for a bit despite our dankiness matching that of a Renaissance Faire.
After, everyone was pretty jacked at the route we just covered, but honestly it wouldn’t be fun without the company involved.