3

Costa Rica – Playa Flamingo Cycling – Monkey Trail


Finally, a new entry! I’ve been lucky enough to do a lot of traveling recently, but that has also meant no time for ride reports. Back now for the moment, I will attempt to catch up on the backlog! First, a very unique cycling adventure…Costa Rica!

I did not travel to Costa Rica for cycling. As such, I did not bring any cycling clothes or equipment along. I was not expecting to get on a bike at all during the time there. However, the pervasiveness of mountain biking in the country piqued my interest. Towards the end of our stay in Playa Flamingo (along the western coast..Liberia being the nearest big city) I found a nearby resort that rented mountain bikes. The bikes were even Marin mountain bikes – pretty funny to travel thousands of miles from California to Costa Rica and end up renting a California bike. Anyway, the bikes were relatively low end but just fine for our purposes.

So, our chosen ride was to head up from Playa Flamingo to Playa Potrero and then head inland on the Monkey Trail. This trail eventually leads to a monkey preserve over bumpy, steep, dirt roads. The first part, heading out from Potrero, however, is quite pleasant:

From 2009-09-05 – Costa Rica – 2 – Playa Flamingo – Monkey Trail Bike Ride

A nicely maintained dirt road that meanders past picturesque farmland. My brother (aka Brendan) seemed to be enjoying it…or was at least was willing to be expressive…

From 2009-09-05 – Costa Rica – 2 – Playa Flamingo – Monkey Trail Bike Ride

Heading out beyond the town into more rural countryside:

From 2009-09-05 – Costa Rica – 2 – Playa Flamingo – Monkey Trail Bike Ride

Action shot of mom:

From 2009-09-05 – Costa Rica – 2 – Playa Flamingo – Monkey Trail Bike Ride

And an action shot of me to round things out:

From 2009-09-05 – Costa Rica – 2 – Playa Flamingo – Monkey Trail Bike Ride

Shortly after heading out of Potrero, the road started to meander up and down a bit more:

From 2009-09-05 – Costa Rica – 2 – Playa Flamingo – Monkey Trail Bike Ride

At this point, mom decided to head back and spend time with dad (also, thunderstorms were threatening..):

From 2009-09-05 – Costa Rica – 2 – Playa Flamingo – Monkey Trail Bike Ride

Brendan, being the awesome sport that he is, continued along with me. Not two minutes later and it starts pouring on us. I suppose we could have turned back…but that wouldn’t be very fun! As the rain is beating down, we hit the first of many truly steep sections:

From 2009-09-05 – Costa Rica – 2 – Playa Flamingo – Monkey Trail Bike Ride
From 2009-09-05 – Costa Rica – 2 – Playa Flamingo – Monkey Trail Bike Ride

A video of the first steep section (click to view the video):

From 2009-09-05 – Costa Rica – 2 – Playa Flamingo – Monkey Trail Bike Ride

These steep rollers continue and continue…and the rain continues and continues…we are heading up stuff like this while being poured on:

From 2009-09-05 – Costa Rica – 2 – Playa Flamingo – Monkey Trail Bike Ride

Mind you, I took these photos on the way back after the rain stopped. Imagine riding up that with buckets of rain falling on you and rivers of water running down the road. So yes, fun times (actually, it was awfully fun!). This photo is a fair representation of the road surface shortly after the rain subsided:

From 2009-09-05 – Costa Rica – 2 – Playa Flamingo – Monkey Trail Bike Ride

As we head back, a fun descent:

From 2009-09-05 – Costa Rica – 2 – Playa Flamingo – Monkey Trail Bike Ride

Further along, a wet and rocky section:

From 2009-09-05 – Costa Rica – 2 – Playa Flamingo – Monkey Trail Bike Ride
From 2009-09-05 – Costa Rica – 2 – Playa Flamingo – Monkey Trail Bike Ride
From 2009-09-05 – Costa Rica – 2 – Playa Flamingo – Monkey Trail Bike Ride

Brendan, happy and soaked:

From 2009-09-05 – Costa Rica – 2 – Playa Flamingo – Monkey Trail Bike Ride

Me, happy and soaked:

From 2009-09-05 – Costa Rica – 2 – Playa Flamingo – Monkey Trail Bike Ride

Nice shirt Bren:

From 2009-09-05 – Costa Rica – 2 – Playa Flamingo – Monkey Trail Bike Ride

Soaked:

From 2009-09-05 – Costa Rica – 2 – Playa Flamingo – Monkey Trail Bike Ride

Jungle, no?

From 2009-09-05 – Costa Rica – 2 – Playa Flamingo – Monkey Trail Bike Ride

Cows on the way back:

From 2009-09-05 – Costa Rica – 2 – Playa Flamingo – Monkey Trail Bike Ride

On the outskirts of Playa Potrero there is a plaza with a gelato shop…we were quite happy to find it (on the parents’ recommendation) after finishing the ride!

From 2009-09-05 – Costa Rica – 2 – Playa Flamingo – Monkey Trail Bike Ride

And, finally, dinner!

From 2009-09-05 – Costa Rica – 2 – Playa Flamingo – Monkey Trail Bike Ride

Fish and chips and beer on the water! In Playa Potrero there is an excellent restaurant right on the beach (forget the name, but easy enough to find…just head to the beach!) with great seafood and a casual atmosphere. To say that plate of food hit the spot would be an understatement.

After devouring our food and relaxing a bit we headed back to Playa Flamingo:

From 2009-09-05 – Costa Rica – 2 – Playa Flamingo – Monkey Trail Bike Ride

…and enjoyed the sunset (along with a few other people):

From 2009-09-05 – Costa Rica – 2 – Playa Flamingo – Monkey Trail Bike Ride

An awesome day of cycling (even without my own bike, proper clothes, etc). I really want to get a mountain bike now!

Here is the overall route:

Here is the Monkey Trail portion we rode (and the road continues at least a few kilometers beyond where we turned around despite google maps thinking otherwise):

So yeah, I know..not road cycling. But, if you happen to be in Costa Rica, I would highly recommend renting a mountain bike. So many great dirt roads to ride on! Just watch out for the rain ;)

6

San Diego – Palomar Mountain South Grade Climb


Palomar has been on my list of must-do climbs for a long time, but one thing or another kept it from happening. The distance to get to the climb from Long Beach also didn’t help. Nor did the reports of reckless motorcyclists and other enthusiast drivers on weekends. Nor the reports of the high temperatures to expect during the summer. But, finding myself with a free Friday (being unemployed at the moment does have a few advantages), I decided to tackle this climb at the last minute. While this meant only a couple of hours of sleep, it also meant some pleasant temperatures.

The Harrah’s casino seems to be the popular spot to park, so that was my official starting point. After rubbing my eyes a few times and strapping on my shoes, I headed north along Valley Center Road. My first thought was basically questioning my sanity in waking up so early to simply torture myself with cycling up thousands of feet. Must be a disease. I’ll have to ask my doctor about that.

Anyway, Valley Center Road is mostly forgettable. One cow crossing, a few buildings, a couple of side roads, decent traffic and a touch of climbing. Pretty boring but it quickly led to the turn for 76 (aka Pala Rd). This intersection is home to the Taco Shop, the (un)official start of the climb. Start your timer here!

The climbing also kicks up immediately here – nothing all that steep, but some good, consistent climbing. This section was actually a little creepy – heavy fog silhouetting the occasional palm tree with some wickedly thick wisps of fog..

From 2009-08-14 – Palomar Mountain Cycling

Another mile or so and I’ve ascended above the fog level. Continuing along 76, the scenery is actually pretty nice:

From 2009-08-14 – Palomar Mountain Cycling

Some fog back in the distance, left behind:

From 2009-08-14 – Palomar Mountain Cycling

Continuing on:

From 2009-08-14 – Palomar Mountain Cycling

76 passes quickly enough. While decently scenic, I was still glad to hit the the turn for South Grade and shed a bit of the traffic. That said, 76 was actually pretty calm – don’t know if this is always the case or if it was just because it was early enough. On to South Grade! This road is a solid climb. Nothing crazy-steep, but it consistently climbs. Soon enough I hit 3,000 feet:

From 2009-08-14 – Palomar Mountain Cycling

Heading up around one of the many switchbacks:

From 2009-08-14 – Palomar Mountain Cycling

A little farther and a very beautiful switchback:

From 2009-08-14 – Palomar Mountain Cycling

Above 3000 feet the views really start to open up:

From 2009-08-14 – Palomar Mountain Cycling
From 2009-08-14 – Palomar Mountain Cycling

That, right there, is one reason why I torture myself in attempting such climbs.

Another half hour of climbing and I hit the ridge line. Despite being rather tired, I was happy to have maintained a 2600 feet of climbing per hour pace. To finish the climb, I throw in a few hundred more feet along Crestline Rd up to Palomar Mountain County Park. This last bit leaves me with a finishing elevation of 5600 feet. Nice little park:

From 2009-08-14 – Palomar Mountain Cycling
From 2009-08-14 – Palomar Mountain Cycling

Sadly, this park affords no expansive views of what you have just conquered. It does, however, offer a bathroom. This more than makes up for the lack of expansive views.

Finally, heading back down:

From 2009-08-14 – Palomar Mountain Cycling

A fair warning! This is a very fun descent (minus the 3 or so cattle crossings)! My average speed from Palomar Mountain Park all the way back to my car at Harrah’s was 29mph. 40.0 mph top speed as well. This descent is both fun and challenging – tons of 180+ degree switchbacks to keep you alert! Can’t wait to try it again and see if I can up that number.

The full route map:

Just the South Grade climb portion:

Also, socalvelo has an excellent page on Palomar.

In conclusion, this is an excellent climb. Solidly steep for many miles, nice views and not too much traffic (at least on a Friday morning). Next time, I have two things to add to this ride – a visit to the observatory and a cruise down E Grade to Lake Henshaw. These two attractions alone will keep Palomar high in my to-do-again list. And, next time, a stop at Mother’s is definitely in line as well!

Prost!

01

Old Waterman Canyon Rd, CA-18 (Rim of the World Hwy) & CA-138 to Crestline Loop


A few weeks ago I was hunting for a new, long climb to do within an hour or so of Long Beach. Flipping through my Complete Guide to Climbing book (a must have for anyone who enjoys climbing), I decided on CA-18 heading up to Crestline and the Lake Arrowhead area. 18 is pretty heavily trafficked and the speeds are high (55mph speed limit), so early Sunday morning was the chosen day. And, more importantly, I found out about Old Waterman Canyon Road – a steep, super low traffic road that takes the place of 18 for about half of the climb.

Sunday morning. 6:15AM. Already around 80 degrees. Luckily, a layer of clouds took the edge off of the heat. Climbing in hot weather can, of course, be masochistically grueling. Those clouds stuck around though, so the heat was bearable for the day.

After climbing a bit on 18, I turn on Old Waterman Canyon Road. This road takes a route mostly parallel to 18, but, instead of lazily winding up along the hill, basically goes straight up it. This is a tough, almost 3 mile climb. The average gradient is around 8.6%, with the last mile and a quarter averaging 10%. I would have taken pictures, but I was too busy suffering my way up. Next time!

After those tough 3 miles, 18 was a nice relief when it came to the grade. 5.3% grade for just over 4 miles and 1200 feet more of gain. The road itself is huge – two lanes each way winding up into the mountains:

From 2009-07-19 – CA-18, Crestline Cycling

The views along the way are very good – Rim of the World Highway is a very appropriate name for the road:

From 2009-07-19 – CA-18, Crestline Cycling

This would qualify as an exceptional climb in my book – lots of elevation gain, great views along almost the whole thing – if it weren’t for the traffic. 7 or so in the morning on a Sunday and there was already a somewhat consistent stream of cars heading up at the 55mph speed limit. The shoulder was decent enough for most of the way, but there are a couple of spots where you will have to hop into a traffic lane for a few feet. That said, the road itself is pretty impressive:

From 2009-07-19 – CA-18, Crestline Cycling

4 more miles down and I am to the junction with 138. This rather precariously placed junction itself is rather amazing to look at:

From 2009-07-19 – CA-18, Crestline Cycling

By the way, if descending 138, make sure to scrub some speed before hitting the junction. Unless, of course, you like descending a couple thousand feet in a matter of seconds. 138 itself is quite steep for this portion. This shot gives a rather accurate idea of the grade:

From 2009-07-19 – CA-18, Crestline Cycling

My legs were burning going up a couple of the steep switchbacks. This portion is only a mile long, but averages around 10%. And, finally, civilization:

From 2009-07-19 – CA-18, Crestline Cycling

There are a couple of restaurants here to grab a bite to eat..well deserved after nearly 4000 feet of climbing. From here, Lake Gregory is very nearby and Lake Arrowhead is only a few miles away. While I didn’t have time to do this, grabbing a sandwich at a store or restaurant up here and bringing it to one of the lakes would probably be quite pleasant. Continuing on Crest Forest Drive, I enjoyed the peace and quiet of this heavily forested road:

From 2009-07-19 – CA-18, Crestline Cycling

Light traffic, thankfully. Additionally, it got me above 5,000 feet – no way I was finishing at 4,800 feet at the village when I could continue going up and get above 5,000. Rolling over those thousand foot increments is just so satisfying. I also found a road called Great View that I figured would lead to some great views. There were some great views along the way and some rather amazingly located houses. Imagine your backyard looking down 4000 feet, unobstructed, to the valley below. I also found that this road is private (it is only posted at such at the other entrance to the road…grrrr…) and, more importantly, contains two dogs that will chase you for daring to glance at them. Actually, I imagine they will chase you no matter what. So, yeah, you may want to avoid this road. Aside from that, riding around here was very pleasant!

Finally, you reconnect with 18:

From 2009-07-19 – CA-18, Crestline Cycling

From here, the descent is great. 9 miles of almost continuous 35+ mph riding. With two lanes descending, taking the lane was no problem at all (and traffic wasn’t going that much faster). Top speed of 45 mph – while pacing a car to my left and watching an officer run radar on the side. Fun!

Ultimately, I enjoyed the ride. I just wish the 4 mile stretch ascending along 18 was nicer. The rest of it was great. And Old Waterman Canyon would make for a great training road or repeat road if you lived in the area.

Back down by about 9:30AM and the temperature was already approaching 100! Glad I left when I did!

The whole ride:

Just the Old Waterman Canyon part:

Make sure to click View Elevation for that. It is a nice graph ;)

And, the full set of pictures can be viewed here.

Cheers!

01

Santa Monica Mountains – Las Flores Canyon Climbing


Another ride that I can cross off of my must-do list! This is a steep, strong climb that gives you over 2,000 feet of elevation gain. Let’s put it this way – once the grade eases back down under 8%, you will think you’ve found a flat section. On to the ride report!

I parked at Malibu Bluff Park as this meant my descent would drop me right at my car and allow for a few miles of warmup before starting the climb. A rather nice park area:

From 2009-07-15 – Malibu – Las Flores Canyon Cycling

But we’ll get back to the park later. I should also note that driving from Long Beach to Malibu at 8 in the morning is not very fun. But missing morning rush hour often means hitting evening rush hour; given the choice, I’d prefer the drive back to be the quick one, so this was acceptable. A couple of hours after leaving Long Beach and I am finally on the bike heading south on PCH. This stretch of PCH is rather unremarkable:

From 2009-07-15 – Malibu – Las Flores Canyon Cycling

At least it isn’t as narrow as some of the other sections. 4 miles later and the turn for Las Flores Canyon. Initially, you go through a small residential area:

From 2009-07-15 – Malibu – Las Flores Canyon Cycling

Don’t be lulled into thinking the rest of the road is this flat (or shaded for that matter!). A nice little community park a few hundred feet farther along:

From 2009-07-15 – Malibu – Las Flores Canyon Cycling

Very quickly, the buildings get sparse and the grade picks up a bit:

From 2009-07-15 – Malibu – Las Flores Canyon Cycling

Not too much farther and the scenery gets much more rugged and the road gets steeper. The picture doesn’t do the grade justice, but gives you a nice feel for the road:

From 2009-07-15 – Malibu – Las Flores Canyon Cycling

By this point I was starting to get a bit warm. Despite a reasonable low 70s temperature along the coast, Las Flores was devoid of any wind for, basically, the entire climb. And, the only shade you get is at the beginning, before you actually need it. Farther along, looking back:

From 2009-07-15 – Malibu – Las Flores Canyon Cycling

Ok, I lied about the shade. After suffering a couple of miles of hard climbing, you do get some brief respites:

From 2009-07-15 – Malibu – Las Flores Canyon Cycling

That respite, however, led into this nasty switchback:

From 2009-07-15 – Malibu – Las Flores Canyon Cycling

Getting nearer to the top of Las Flores (but not the top of the full climb) and some more houses are encountered:

From 2009-07-15 – Malibu – Las Flores Canyon Cycling

Pushing on, and the last hundred feet of the punishment that is Las Flores:

From 2009-07-15 – Malibu – Las Flores Canyon Cycling

Skyward ho! Finally the intersection with Rambla Pacifico!

From 2009-07-15 – Malibu – Las Flores Canyon Cycling

Looking back down along Rambla Pacifico:

From 2009-07-15 – Malibu – Las Flores Canyon Cycling

The half hour it took to get here sure felt like longer! I was (and still am) quite happy that I was able to make it to this point without a single break. So, I took a much-deserved 15 second break here before turning right to continue the climb:

From 2009-07-15 – Malibu – Las Flores Canyon Cycling

This section was rather exposed as well! A little farther and you get a glimpse of Saddle Peak:

From 2009-07-15 – Malibu – Las Flores Canyon Cycling

Great views along the way:

From 2009-07-15 – Malibu – Las Flores Canyon Cycling
From 2009-07-15 – Malibu – Las Flores Canyon Cycling
From 2009-07-15 – Malibu – Las Flores Canyon Cycling

Pretty quickly and the final part of the climb:

From 2009-07-15 – Malibu – Las Flores Canyon Cycling

Schueren is a nice little finishing climb:

From 2009-07-15 – Malibu – Las Flores Canyon Cycling
From 2009-07-15 – Malibu – Las Flores Canyon Cycling

Nice views once again:

From 2009-07-15 – Malibu – Las Flores Canyon Cycling

And, finally, coming up to the saddle:

From 2009-07-15 – Malibu – Las Flores Canyon Cycling

This section is currently being completely rebuilt. Luckily, most of the work has been finished. The road section in the above photo was dirt just a few months ago. Anyway, for this loop, everything is in place. If you were to head east towards Fernwood though, you might not be able to get through. Fair warning.

Finally, some descending! Down Stunt:

From 2009-07-15 – Malibu – Las Flores Canyon Cycling

Stunt is a nice descent. A couple of technical sections, but, all in all, I was able to carry some decent speed. A few miles later and I connect with Mulholland for a brief section before heading left on Cold Canyon Road for a fun, short descent:

From 2009-07-15 – Malibu – Las Flores Canyon Cycling

The rest of Cold Canyon contains a few short uphills and the residential area of Monte Nido. A nice little ride before connecting to Piuma and then Malibu Canyon Road. Malibu Canyon is one of the relatively high speed, well-trafficked canyon roads. Descending is not too bad, but I definitely would prefer not to ascend this road. While the traffic is not enjoyable, the canyon itself is pretty cool:

From 2009-07-15 – Malibu – Las Flores Canyon Cycling

Note that you get to go through an old school tunnel:

From 2009-07-15 – Malibu – Las Flores Canyon Cycling

And, finally, back to the park:

From 2009-07-15 – Malibu – Las Flores Canyon Cycling
From 2009-07-15 – Malibu – Las Flores Canyon Cycling
From 2009-07-15 – Malibu – Las Flores Canyon Cycling

The park makes for an excellent place to cool down, refill bottles and stretch out sore muscles. Very pleasant.

Las Flores is a tough climb, but definitely worth doing. I think I still prefer Deer Creek or Decker for the views, but Las Flores is tough to beat if you want a sustained, tough climb (for the Santa Monica mountains). And the views get pretty good once you get to a decent elevation.

Here is the full loop:

For a better idea of the steepness of Las Flores (click View Elevation):

While the overall average is a solid 8.3% for Las Flores, this includes the relatively flat first mile. Cutting out the first mile (as in the above route), and you are left with 2 and a half miles at about 10.5% (!) with lots of up to 20% pitches. Oh, and the middle mile averages about 13%. Fun!

And here is the route/elevation profile for the full climb up to the saddle:

Check out the elevation profile for that to get an idea of the full climb. Not too shabby!

Now, get out there and ride this!

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