Sunday, April 24, 2011

Epic Ride Saturdays - Live Oak Canyon

Live Oak Canyon
I've lived in Southern California for ten years and it wasn't until yesterday that I found what may be the area's perfect stretch of cycling thoroughfare - Live Oak Canyon Road.  Nestled above Rancho Santa Margarita in the foothills of the Santa Ana Mountains, Live Oak Canyon Road runs the length of Live Oak Canyon before dropping down into Trabuco Canyon and climbing up the other side.

About 12 of us from OC Velo, including TRI714 started at 7:30 from our normal starting point - Worthy Park in Huntington Beach.  It was a nice day and by the time we hit the Newport Beach city line we had swelled to about 30 riders, which is a great turnout.  The Live Oak Canyon loop is probably one of the clubs' harder rides.  At 67 miles, it's not the longest.  But before we even get to Live Oak Canyon Road, which starts about 35 miles into the trip, we have to ascend into the Santa Ana foothills.  First, there are 3 or 4 miles of relatively gentle but steady climbing.  Even though this climb only averages a 2 or 3% grade, you definitely feel it.  And only after a short respite, a more significant climb up Saddleback Ranch Road starts.  This climb is shorter, maybe a mile and a half.  But the grade is upwards of 5 or 6%.  According to, my ride up this climb was apparently one of my better performances of the day, as I now hold the 4th best time for the ascent out of all Strava users.  I suppose this means one of two things - either I actually did ride it pretty well or not many Strava users have logged a trip up this climb.  Perhaps it's a bit of both.

Once you top out on Saddleback Ranch Road, there is a very steep downhill into Cook's Corner, where Live Oak Canyon Road starts.  As I came to the bottom of the hill, I saw something that I've never seen before - a rider (not with our group) hit some road furniture and launch straight out of his saddle and over the handlebars.  It happened about 25 feet in front of me at an intersection.  He was coming fast from the left.  Suddenly he hit the curb and was airborne.  Seconds later he hit the deck.  I skidded to a halt, jumped off my bike, ran over to him and asked him if he was OK.  He didn't say much.  But then his friends rode up, got off their bikes and crowded me out.  So I got back on my bike and kept going.  I hope he's OK.

Finally it was time to start up Live Oak Canyon Road.  The first half mile is flat, but then the road starts to head up.  This was probably technically the easiest climb of the day, but for some reason it was pure torture.  Every ride has that (hopefully) short period of time were you question why you bothered to get out of bed, put on silly lycra clothing and hop on a bike you probably paid too much for.  This was that time.  All I could do is drop in to a 34/25 gearing, keep my legs spinning and think about coffee.

But every ride also has that (hopefully) long period of time where being on your bicycle is the best thing in the world.  Once we crested the climb, there was a 5 or 6 mile meandering downhill into Trabuco Canyon.  I found this video of a portion of the descent, check it out:

Once we got to the bottom of Trabuco Canyon, we took a bridge over a creek and started up the switchbacks that ascend the south wall of the canyon.  This was another fairly steep climb but it wasn't very long.  Plus I had gotten my legs back.  This was my favorite climb of the day.

From here, it was just a matter of cutting back across Orange County to Huntington Beach.  We rode through the undulating terrain that makes up Mission Viejo and Lake Forest before dropping into the flats of Irvine.  However, whoever created this route made one mistake.  From Irvine we should have cut down into Newport Beach and picked up Pacific Coast Highway for the run-in back to the HB Pier.  Instead, the route slip sent us through Costa Mesa and Santa Ana where we HIT EVERY RED LIGHT OVER A 10 MILE STRETCH.  This was maddening.  By the time we hit the Santa Ana River Trail it was almost 1 PM and TRI714 and I decided to blow off the last few miles of the ride and take a more direct route to the neighborhood.  Craig had some stuff to do.  I had to mow the lawn.

The Ride
Final stats of the ride:

- 70.4 miles
- 3,296 feet of climbing
- 17.3 MPH (avg. speed)
- 42.7 MPH (max speed)
- 4 hours 3 minutes moving time.
- 5 hours 47 minutes trip time (regroups + I'm not kidding about those traffic lights)


The Green Girl said...

Wow. There are so many incredible places around here that I've never heard of. We're so lucky to live here.

Jennifer said...

Hair raising decent! But that kind of stuff would be soooo exciting! You are really becoming a master cyclist Patrick! So cool!

Tri4Success said...

Looks like a great ride. Nothing like that in my neck of the woods - just a blazing sun and high winds.

KovasP said...

Really nice write-up, looking forward to riding with you and Craig someday, though you guys are way out of my league.

TRI714 said...

Nice read P. How about that Easter Sunday sluggishness. LOL !!! WOW

Petraruns said...

That looks like a PAINFUL workout - glad you enjoyed and it does look beautiful but hard!

Unknown said...

I want to hop on a plane just to come out for epic ride saturdays -- just once!! Great write up!


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