Winter Cycling Sojourn in Santa Barbara County

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Added by Joel Blatt

Steep gradients, picturesque vistas, and scenic roads.

Adventure.  Three months winter-road-biking in Santa Barbara County.    

Living in Pacific Northwest, I've mostly dreamed of riding outside during winter months.  This year, I wintered in Santa Ynez Valley and accomplished weekly distance and elevation gain goals.        

Reconnaissance.  Myriad segments create modifiable-by-design routes. 

Ride inventory is impressive, albeit spread across extended geography.  There is spiritual quality to Gibraltar, Figueroa Mountain, and Tepusquet climbs.  Honorable mentions, include Refugio Canyon to Santa Ynez Peak, Jalama Beach, Stagecoach, OSM, Painted Cave, East Camino Cielo.  Pick your favorite canyon, including Foxen, Cat, Drum and Ballard.  Santa Rosa Road and Harris Grade are others.  Create your own "Valley Loop" including Armour Ranch Road.    

If you hunt Strava, here is subset (with my efforts:)

Group rides: 

  • Solvang departure from bike shop, Saturdays @ 9 am, "Valley Loop" (expect 19+ mph over 40+ miles; suggest confirming)
  • Santa Barbara offers many; see http://www.echelonsantabarbara...
  • Saturday mornings, Dolphin Fountain in SB, @ 7:00/7:30am for longer rides (e.g. Ojai/Lake Casitas/Ventura)

Extra.  Pine Mountain in Ojai.

Suppress.  There is one mile dirt section on Figueroa Mountain loop, but I did ride with road bike, once both directions; easier going clockwise.  Jalama Road will have busy beach traffic on weekends.  North of Sisquoc, Foxen Canyon has nasty traffic.  Betteravia Road in Santa Maria is stop lights and suburban traffic.  As for highways, 246 has wide shoulders and Hwy 1 from Gaviota Peak TH to Jalama Road is not bad; 154 has limited shoulders and high-speed traffic heading towards Santa Barbara.  Winter creates wet crossings on Paradise Road.

Disclaimer.  If you suffer from acrophobia, potential issues with Gibraltar, Old San Marcos (OSM,) East Camino Cielo, Figueroa and Painted Cave, whether bike or car.  As with "what goes up must come down" adage, expect chilly descents.

Events: 

  • Figueroa Mountain Gran Fondo in mid-November
  • Gibraltar / Hillclimb World Championships race in mid-October
  • Ride Santa Barbara 100 is ride (not race) in mid-October 

Enjoy and safe travels!  See Strava and online maps for navigation and supplemental logistics.  If you're bringing gravel bike, leverage even more interesting options.   

Appendix: Hiking

Winter is tick-season; give dog preventative meds in advance.  Also, buy bug-spray for yourself.  Hikes include Trespass Trail, Grass Mountain, and Tequepis to Broadcast and Santa Ynez peaks.  Santa Barbara trailhead on Tunnel Road is congested.  Follow Tanya Young on AllTrails for articulate reviews.

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