Ventura to Santa Barbara: The Perfect Ride for All Cyclists

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Cycling is a gift, but not one you can always share with the ones you love.

Deep down, I have wished my wife I could discover of freedom and discovery riding a bike, but I would never be selfish enough to force this upon her.

She’s already broken her wrist cycling once and needs to be physically all together in order to work.

Wanting her to do more than just riding on a sidewalk for her one mile commute would have to come from her doing, not mine.

 

 

Whether it was osmosis, the need to try something new or she just wanted to spend more time with an awesome guy, she bought her first proper road bike about month ago.

So far, it’s a bit of an adjustment getting her to ride longer distances and climbing hills, but her fitness level is quickly improving.

With our anniversary approaching, finding a ride for us to do that would be safe and manageable, yet scenic and noteworthy wasn’t too hard to find.

Ventura to Santa Barbara instantly came to mind since the route scenically hugs the coast and has few vertical elements to challenge us.

Mention this route to non-cyclists and it sounds like quite a feat, but with a distance just under thirty miles, it’s a ride almost any cyclist no matter the bike can cover.

 

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We actually headed past Moorpark, but you get their drift.

 

We love taking the train, so we started our journey hopping onto the Amtrak from the Van Nuys Station with our coffees and breakfast sandwiches in hand.

The train ran a little late, but we ended up getting off in Ventura a little before 10 o’clock with plenty of cloud layer keeping temps in the high 60’s to start.

We were dropped off by the fairgrounds which we had to circumvent to make our way to the coastal bike path.

It’s nice to start off your ride directly next to the ocean, but there was a lot of foot traffic which I’m wary of clipped in.

We soon paralleled the 101 and the were the path was mostly clear of walkers once we made it into Emma Wood State Park.

 

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Tracks and beach to your left, Highway 101 banked on your right.

 

The bike path was a little grainy, but we quickly made it over onto PCH where the smooth pavement allowed us to pick up the pace.

Many riders we going in the opposite direction which is the smarter choice taking advantage of the tailwind.

At the same time, Mr. CiclaValley was doing all the pulling into this headwind even though an anniversary is supposed to be a mutual celebration of our love.

Part of the hindrance was my fault choosing to ride my steel bike with nobby 32s to level the playing field on her first big ride.

Of course, I also carried all our clothing, locks, shoes and cycling supplies which displayed how much more my love stretched.

There were a few periods where she said, “you can go a little faster” when I thought it might be her turn to go to the front.

 

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Roads are still calm once you’re off the bike path.

 

The good news is that the coast is flat and we were making pretty good time, so we found the right balance of keeping a nice pace without winding ourselves.

Your focus is mostly on the ocean, not the oil refineries on the other side, but when the freeway crosses over you still don’t feel like someone’s going to drink your milkshake.

Time spent on this side of the freeway is brief as you cross underneath to the dedicated bike path overlooking the water.

Most probably remember that cyclists had to ride on the shoulder of the 101 years ago, but this newer piece of infrastructure definitely calms a lot of nerves.

 

Transitioning onto the Highway 101 Bike Path

 

There are two of these segments, separated by a brief pause in Mussel Shoals.

They are actually shorter than they feel, but that’s fine since you’re absorbed by the pleasantness riding next to the water.

Because of this optical illusion, you’ll find locals skateboarding, jogging or even walking on this stretch.

Your seaside sojourn soon ends as the path terminates in reach Rincon Point.

As you reach the street, you are bookended by a couple of parking lots that are used for beach access.

 

 

We met a woman that had driven out from Simi Valley just to train on the path for the Mammoth Gran Fondo.

I warned her that ride is probably a bit more hilly….

To procede west, you have two options.

You can choose to ride the shoulder of the 101 uphill for about a half mile or take a longer route on Rincon Road to reach Carpinteria Ave.

It was obvious which one she was going to choose.

The climb was short, but making the left turn onto Highway 150 was harrowing for her.

 

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Crossing the quaint Rincon Road Bridge

 

We had just a few drivers pass us at higher, but legal speeds than at any point of the ride.

I was used to it, but for a first timer, she was a little scared.

The segment was super short, so had we faced this for a little longer, I’m sure she would have adjusted.

Turning onto Carpinteria Ave., we picked up speed enjoying smooth pavement, the emergence of a bike lane and a bit of a downhill.

Mrs. CV enjoyed this part, perhaps a bit too much as the surprise of a dead snake made her hit a crack harder than she hoped.

Unshaken, we continued into downtown Carpinteria where groups of cyclists passed either coming or going, including a dad biking with THREE KIDS plus an empty handlebar seat!

 

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Rack ‘em & Stack ‘em

 

We stopped off at Coffee Bean for a beverage and to assess her condition as we were already two-thirds done with the ride.

Unfortunately, the hissing sounds I previously failed to investigate amounted to dreaded double flat.

Since this was the first time changing a tube on this bike, I had trouble getting the tires off and were low on tubes, we decided to step into Gonzo Cycles which happened to be a block away.

Everyone in the shop was super friendly with an enthusiastic Aloha spirit (I don’t think they were Hawaiian), especially when talking mountain bike riding.

 

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Great help from Gonzo Cycles.

 

Since this was a new bike, they also out of charity gave the gearing some slight adjustments and we were soon on our way.

Heading west, we made the same mistake as two Big Orange riders in front of us about a half mile out of town missing the bridge across 101 to continue our route.

I mistook one of the pair as the infallible Eric Bruins, but while I didn’t identify the other rider at first, I recognized him once I heard his voice.

Although we never played together, I knew Matt from UCLA Hockey who became the team’s goalie after my final season.

It had been years since we had seen each other and as we chatted side by side, we discovered there were quite a few parallels in life finding cycling and being bike dads.

 

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Matt is basically saying “hi”.

 

The two of them were actually doing a century and back with just a few miles left before they doubled back to the South Bay.

While our conversation could keep going, I knew my wife was pedaling hard to keep up so after a couple of miles I peeled back and let them continue their adventure.

Coming across the polo club, the ride becomes slightly less rural and the surrounds have more of that Santa Barbara flare.

We bypassed the main strip of Montecito and meandered between the freeway and the ocean making our way to the Four Seasons Hotel.

 

 

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Santa Barbara starting to look very Santa Barbarish

 

This is a beautiful spot for a break and happens to be the site of my sister in law’s wedding (pre CV).

As much as my wife wanted to stop for lunch, we were about 15 minutes away from downtown SB where I’d be more inclined to have an adult beverage.

Riding by the beach, we transitioned to an adjoining bike path with a short climb that spit us out onto the streets for our final leg.

 

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Making a State-ment on State St.

Turning in front of the lagoon, we biked on the streets instead of the beach bike path because of my aversion to riding through a sea of tourists.

The lights were not timed for efficient movement for cyclists, but being on the home stretch dampened that feeling.

We turned onto State St. making our way to Eureka for it’s approved gastropub fare and visible bike racks.

 

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Eureka! We found bike parking!

 

Yes, beer does taste this good….

With time to spare, we headed near the station to Figueroa Mountain Brewing, but since bike parking was full, so we headed to one of the nearby wine bars.

I can’t remember the varietal, but I’m sure I cried into it when it came time to leave.

Jumping onto the Bike Car, we met Bernard and Andrew who rode up from LA with the RCC.

 

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I was the only non-pinked cyclist on this train.

 

It was fun conversation all the way back and through osmosis, my wife ended up buying a couple of Rapha jerseys online the next week.

Getting off the train ended our journey, but not our hopes.

We had the perfect day that left her wanting more of this freedom.

Bikes are an amazing gift.

 

 

  • I don’t believe I have ever seen State so empty.

    • We happened to get ahead of a pocket of traffic. Don’t worry, there’s still plenty of cars to go around.