On Sunday I headed over to the North Hollywood station to meet up with the Bicykillers who were doing a tough metric century in the middle of the day. Ten riders showed up at the start (let’s see how well I can remember names): Lee, Illy, Jeff, Ron, Leo, Lindsay, Alfredo, Vic, Craig, and myself. Rolling out a little before noon, we kept a pretty civilized pace to wake up the legs along Chandler before cutting down to Ventura Blvd.
Along Ventura into Encino we began to ride a little closer together, though not as a tight pace-line because of the pot-holes and traffic. Four or five of us made it up and over the first hill of the day and then pulled off on Topanga to wait for the rest of the group to catch up. And we waited…and waited…and waited…
After a few minutes, there was no sign of the rest of the group. After a few brief exchanges via iPhone, we learned that there had been a crash, so we turned around the way we had came, and discovered a scene of minor carnage outside of Fatburger. Jeff and Lindsay had tangled up in traffic – thankfully neither was badly hurt – and I didn’t know what was more cringe-inducing: Jeff’s gleaming new SRAM Red rear derailleur bent out at a bizarre angle from the twisted hanger, or Lindsey’s fileted shin. We all stood around grimly, discussing the details of the crash. By the time we finally started out again, Jeff was catching a bus, and Alfredo was too shook up to continue (he was right behind the pair when they went down, and blamed himself because he shouted when a car seemed to be merging into the group).
Lindsay is a strong tough rider, and soldiered on undeterred by her road rash. I know she felt pretty bad about running into Jeff, but in true roadie fashion, most everyone consoled her by making inappropriate jokes about her breaking things and taking the “bicykiller” name literally. Some members of this group have elevated trash-talk to an art-form really…
Anyway – up Topanga we went (passing some enthusiastic obese hoola-hoopers in a park on the way, sorry no photos):
The Rapha Sharp team leads-out up Topanga...
…and down, then pausing to re-stock at Topanga General Store (carrot juice, V8, and a granola bar for me), we carried on up Old Topanga. Craig went ahead and was never seen again – we suspect he went back to the valley.
The tree cover offered a nice respite – which I enjoyed without bothering to photograph. Next up we went up a very steep section of Muholland Hwy (I think?) that found me walking a few yards before taking a deep breath and carrying on. We stopped at a gated-community guard tower to re-fill our water bottles. Leo soon called to let us know he was dropping out as he broke his chain on the ascent and couldn’t repair it (I had a chain tool but no master-links).
After a few minutes, Mannuel caught up with us (climbing like a maniac, but then he climbs the 39 regularly) on his Torelli, and joined us for the rest of the ride. We crossed the road and raced down 7-minute hill before re-crossing Mulholland to begin our assault up one of the more famous climbs in the Santa Monica Mountains: Stunt Road. Surrounded by hundreds of acres of chaparral, looming sandstone cliffs, and thick hidden riparian woodlands fed by the Cold Creek watershed streaming down from the heights of Saddle Peak, Stunt Road is an extended (4 miles?) 5 – 6% grade with a few 8%+ sections. A popular challenge among motorcyclists, car clubs, hikers, and of course cyclists – this twisting scar above the transverse range offers an unrelenting climb rewarded by a superior view of the Channel Islands in one direction (except for the marine layer) and this in the other:
We re-grouped at the top before heading down Fernwood back to Topanga (a very fast and twisting descent – technically difficult for me, and while fun, it was also a little scary). The people-watching was surreal in Fernwood – in particular there was a surfer/model couple who seemed like a pair of endangered birds and was dressed in an even more precious/weird manner than our group of lycra-clad road warriors.
After making impressive time pace-lining to PCH, we ran into incredibly dense traffic. I lane-split while commuting routinely, but have never done so on a group ride before – a bit hair-raising! When we were able to, we pulled off to ride through a long beach parking-lot which offered some temporary relief from the crush of cars back on the road:
Relinquishing the ocean breeze, we turned inland in Santa Monica, hammering our way back towards the valley, cutting through the Beverly Hilton property to cross Wilshire and following wide pristine mansion-flanked side roads up to Franklin Canyon, where I picked up the pace knowing the road well as it forms part of my daily commute home.
Descending Coldwater I kept shouting “car back” as a car would approach us from behind, but we were traveling so fast around the curves that the motorists couldn’t catch up to us. Back in the valley, we ended up at Ron’s apartment where we enjoyed good beer, good company, and the largest pizza I’ve ever seen: