Pacific Coast Highway west of Trancas in Malibu is a great place to ride a bike, cruise on a moto, or drop the top on your convertible. No more traffic signals, no yield or stop signs, just rolling and curving pavement with mountain slopes on one side and ocean waves on the other. Most likely you have seen multiple TV auto ads filmed here, or pictures taken for auto/moto magazines. I have ridden or driven along this road many, many times, and been up or down all of the canyon roads that run between the PCH surf and the ridges of the Santa Monica mountain range. Except for that last one out beyond Neptune’s Net restaurant, Deer Creek.
Rolling by Deer Creek where it stops at PCH, if you glance up the narrow canyon what you see is exactly that – up. There is no flat run in along a shallow watercourse before the grade starts increasing, it just goes up from the first yard. So many times I have gone past it and wondered what the climb is like. So… I figured out a course that would include a number of places I have not ridden in the Santa Monica mountains, including Deer Creek, and sent out an invite to a limited group of riders who I know are capable climbers.
On a Saturday morning, Gale McCall and I met Lloyd Huff at Neptune’s Net restaurant where Yerba Buena Road descends to PCH. We started by heading back east towards Los Angeles for a couple of miles and then turned up Mulholland Highway, which is named after William Mulholland, a person of historical import to Los Angeles and the most influential head of the LA Department of Water and Power. We climbed Mulholland to the top of the range and then descended the far side on Decker Canyon Road into Westlake Village. I’ve been on all these roads so far, but not what we did next.
In Westlake Village we turned west onto Potrero Road, which runs through narrow valleys on the north side of the Santa Monicas. Upscale exurbs, horse ranches and farm fields, rolling and curving two lane blacktop. We hooked up with a local riding group here and sat in with them for several miles. The western part of Potrero Road drops sharply over the lip of a canyon that descends to the flat farmland stretching out to Oxnard and Ventura. It’s a fast, curvy descent, and mid-way down we encountered paramedics tending a down cyclist who probably overcooked a turn. At the bottom we got together with a couple more riders and swapped turns pulling in a pace line back to PCH at the west end of the Santa Monica range.
Back on PCH we rolled around the west end of the mountain range and then onto the stretch of highway where so many car ads have been shot. Sure enough, there was fellow shooting a new Mercedes SUV with Michigan plates. A few miles down the road we came to Deer Creek, turned in and started the climb. Ouch, ouch and more ouch, right away. The road kicks up steeply, immediately, and just does not relent.
Lloyd was calling off grade numbers and there was lots of 12/13/14%, at one point he called off 15% and then he was too far ahead of me to hear. I have a triple and was in my easiest gear combo, but I still had to stand a lot, going just fast enough to not fall over sideways. I kept thinking about the Col de Bagargui in the French Pyrenees. Back in July 2003 I was climbing it at a similar pace, although Didi the Devil was there to poke me on my way. Thankfully, the weather was cool enough today that I was not overheating.
We all survived the climb, slowly, slowly, without having to dismount and walk. Up top we rolled along Pacific View and Cotharin Road over to Yerba Buena, then dropped down to PCH. Neptune’s Net where we started is right there at the bottom. Great, great ride, 50 miles and about 5000′ of climbing. Here is the route at MapMyRide.
Full set of pictures for the ride at Shutterfly.