Coachella Valley Cycling: Biking Up Highway 74

Whenever Mr. CiclaValley makes it out to a valley of any sort, there’s only one thing he wants to do. Bike.

Last weekend, I found myself in the Coachella Valley and hoped I could fit in a ride of some significance, temperature be damned.hwy74_03

Wait, I take that back. If you aren’t living in the Los Angeles area, you might not be aware that we’re in a bit of a heat wave last week. As hot as the 818 gets, the Palm Springs area is at least ten degrees hotter.

Of course, the only time I had available was in the afternoon during the worst part of the day, so riding in terrible conditions is better than no riding at all, so let’s go!

Actually, I was a bit fortunate with temperatures “only” reaching 101F, but still I had to prepare. I had two 24 ounce water bottles on my bike and two 10 ounce ones tucked into my shirt.

Riding through the desert communities can be a little harrowing with most of the streets having speed limits starting 45mph, but at least there is plenty of space on the flatlands.

After about ten miles of flat riding, I made my turn onto Highway 74 and the ascent begins immediately. It starts at a modest slope, as I kept a 16 mph pace with a bit of a tailwind, but it slope slowly ramped up as I continued up the straightaway.


When it gets this hot, CiclaValley pull out his sun protective band aid

It was roughly three miles of this crescendo leading me by a cornucopia of planned communities before the road took a sharp left and narrowed into a two lane highway with little to no shoulder the rest of the way as cars passed with a posted 55mph speed limit.

Oh yeah, also at this point my two little runner bottles were empty and served as tourists for the rest of the ride, so let’s see what happens.



Deceptive pedestrian crossing sign

Once things thinned out, I saw my first cyclist of the day…and my last. The climb then turned into a series of sweeping switchbacks through an endless supply of starkly beautiful desert scenery, if you’re into that type of thing.

It’s hard not to keep looking up to see the road continually cut into the mountain realizing that yes, I have to climb that.

As you gain elevation, you get a vaster view of the Coachella Valley while you marvel at the s-curves you just conquered below.


Information and stuff

Around the final big serpentine turn, you get greeted by “pedestrian crossing” sign, which seems a bit out of place, but it’s a cue you’re about to hit the scenic overlook. Looking across this desert, it is quite remarkable how much of it is covered in greenery despite the heated conditions. I decided to continue up because, heck, I still had water.

Continuing up the San Jacinto Mountains, you want to chase the sky and the forests that loom above. Unfortunately, at this pace going uphill, progress is only seen incrementally.


The only other cyclist out there dumb enough to brave this heat

I kept going around each turn to see some type of oasis or at least a has station, but my breaking point was right after hitting the 3,000 foot elevation sign having already dipped into my final bottle.

The descent was a little harry. I thought I would have been able to be near the 55mph speed limit, but I could only linger around the 40mph range meaning cars would build up behind me with few shoulders to let them pass. Factor in the rumble strips in the middle of the road, I was just happy I made it to when to road expanded again.


Only part of the view looking down to the Coachella Valley

Still, it was a great little adventure and I’d love to venture deeper, especially now that I checked google maps to find I wasn’t too far from a convenience store. Sigh.

At least, I’ve got more roads to ride.


End of the line