I had been itching to return for some gravel Santa Barbara for the same situation every rider has ever faced.
Have you ever done a really good ride, but didn’t reach total fulfillment due to the x factor?
That was me three years ago taking an Amtrak out to Goleta to do a Refugio / West Camino Cielo loop ending in Santa Barbara.
This was a ride always on my radar and when a rare day opened up, I booked a train the night before figuring the time between departures would give me plenty of time to make up for my planning.
For me the mystic part of doing gravel Santa Barbara is how the Los Padres National Forest is perfect transition between the central coast and foliage found in the Angeles National Forest.
My quick R & D session showed that this 50ish mile loop was primarily pavement, even along the ridge of West Camino Cielo.
Since there was only about ten miles of dirt and eight of them were downhill, I figured 32s would be a good compromise to pound off the miles.
I guessed right that I could get water early on at Refugio State Beach, but didn’t know how much of it I’d need as the ridge was hotter than I thought.
Another surprise was the number of off road vehicles up there at a higher volume than coming from the east even though that portion is all paved.
Riding downhill, I did wish I had fatter tires as the surface varies from bumpy to a more typical fire road.
Finishing off in Santa Barbara, the sour taste of the ride was all on me.
Right after locking up my bike to grab a beer, I realized I didn’t have my keys with me, but I ended up being lucky not chaining up to anything other than itself.
Dragging my bike to the train station, I asked a person there to watch it while I ran down to the 7-11.
Not like anyone would get that far.
Getting back to the station, I noticed my phone had fallen out somewhere between the store and I frantically looked for it having to make the decision to keep searching or get back on the train.
So, it’s been awhile and for the past year the threat of heading out finally got called on.
Being better prepared made the ride far more enjoyable and waiting for the heat to dip a little played a big role.
Once again, riding the 101 was not as scary as you’d think and hammering off those flat early miles really helped with making time.
Even though we came across a lot more off roaders than my previous ride, all of them (except one motorcyclist) were pretty accommodating making our way through.
We had some choice of doing more dirt add-ons and sidebars, but we had enough gravel Santa Barbara for one day.
While the dirt wasn’t pristine, it didn’t hinder the consensus that this was a proper, fun gravel ride worth ninety minute drive.