Getting over the hill is something all Angelenos have to face someday. Whether you live on the westside, valley or even Palos Verdes, everyone at one point or another will have to go over the Santa Monica Mountains.
Most will either go through the Sepulveda or Cahuenga Pass, but if you’re a cyclist, neither are intriguing choices since they both pit you against high speed agitated drivers.
Make a left turn on Ventura? I think I’ll execute a box turn.
There are plenty of other options in between and being the beacon of information you all expect, I’m proud to say I’ve tried them all. Woodcliff, Dixie Canyon, Multiview, Beverly Glen and I’m just getting started.
The funny thing is the road I prefer now was the one I used to fear most.
Coldwater Canyon is one of the most clogged connections to the westside with bumper to bumper traffic every rush hour morning.
I always wanted to try it, especially since its the least amount of climbing for any road in the valley, but always got scared of being roadkill.
Logjam getting onto Coldwater Canyon
I finally got the courage after repeated accounts from my neighbor as Coldwater being his route of choice.
Now, I’ve ridden with him a few times. The fact that he rides more than a knucklehead than me hurt his case, but since he kept coming out of his excursions alive, I thought he may have something.
Beware the logjam still working itself out at the start
I finally gave it a try and probably the most discouraging part is the start at Ventura Blvd itself. There are a number of vehicles trying to merge into a small space that even when Villaragosa had traffic cops there, they could do little to stop the scurge. If there’s any relief, its that the cars aren’t going anywhere and if they are, you can guess where they’re going.
From there, the first section is a slight incline that you can push a pretty good pace. At this point, you’ll cover in two minutes what it takes cars at least five while the motorists sit there fuming about finding an alternate route.
Before, you had to worry about cars pulling out to the right, passing other cars in a space intended for one lane. Now, after the most recent repaving(doesn’t Coldwater always seem like it’s under construction?), the lines appear to be repainted that nearly eliminates the cheating. Still, keep an eye out.
Once Coldwater bends past the funky church, your stroll becomes a climb as you’re greeted by a narrowed road and rocky pavement conditions. The good news is that the cars aren’t going anywhere and if they happen to me moving, they normally give you space since that can’t move faster than you anyways.
If you want to commit some time to public shaming, you’ll find a good amount of people checking their phones while they’re stopped, but because Coldwater becomes really curvy, I haven’t seen too many drivers veer astray.
Even when cars veer, there’s time and space to react
The good news is the more you climb, the more of a shoulder opens up. There will be a pattern here of some cars passing you, stopping, then you passing them. Overall, you should come out ahead.
When you approach Mulholland, the road thins a bit and cars are chomping to get some speed, so be a little assertive here, but I’ve never been at a high anxiety here.
How about coming back down Coldwater into the valley? I love that too, but it takes some skill.
Under any traffic conditions, you should be able to keep pace if not exceed the speed of cars down to the funky church. It does take some dexterity, as the first time I rode down I got a bit over confident and went over a guard rail. Don’t worry, the bike was alright.
A little more breathing room when you hit the upper S’s
My biggest worry is hitting the section with the less than desirable pavement and the possibility of a car pulling out from the street on the right.
As you pass Harvard Westlake, Coldwater widens, but I’d watch out since cars may speed by you after taking offense you’re faster than them.
Lastly, you may have thought I skipped something. What about the Coldwater on the other side of Mulholland? Avoid it.
Poor road conditions, uncomfortable spacing, impatient drivers from being gridlocked on the way up. Not a lot of upside if you’re into safety. I ALWAYS use Franklin Canyon just to the east, not just for it’s beauty, but just to stay alive.
You’ve reached your final destination
Coldwater Canyon may not be for everyone, as I advise to find your own comfort level before riding through hills with traffic. At the same time, I can make it from North Hollywood to the Beverly Hills Hotel in less than 30 minutes. Try beating that in a car at 8am!