Living in Los Angeles, we are truly blessed with a number of great climbs that are easily accessible.
With the San Gabriel and Santa Monica Mountains so close to reach, we don’t just have hills to climb, but a number of emblematic ones that are always worth sharing a tall tale to share your accomplishment.
One of the biggest discussion I throw out to the Velominati is what are the most essential climbs in Los Angeles?
I’m not talking about the toughest or my most favorite, but which climbs are the must do that are in everybody’s lexicon.
Still, this is more than just a popularity contest. When I think of essential, there should be some sense of accomplishment.
When you arrive at the office the next day, how excited are you to tell the story?
Even Little Tujunga missed my list
It’s a difficult debate and one that went through a lot of shuffling until I finalized my list.
If you listened to last week’s Bike Talk, I had a spirited discussion with my co-host Victor that bobbled my list.
For the next three days, I’ll take you through my rankings starting with No. 10 – No. 8.
I may still consternate in that time period too, but odds are I’m done.
No, really. This is final.
Mount Lee / Hollywood Sign – No other climb on this list has a cooler view, but still is a bit tough to get to and has sketchy road conditions. You’ll win tons of IG points.
Topanga Canyon – While not the most coveted, Topanga Canyon plays a variety of roles in LA’s cycling scene. Coming off the ocean, this climb sees a lot of westsiders looking for the nearest climb off of PCH or a link to other climbs, like Fernwood Pacific(who Victor made a great case to make this list).
Palos Verdes – This area is super popular and there are a number of climbs to pick from. You could add any one of the climbs from the Donut Ride which rolls every Saturday. Maybe there’s too many to choose from.
Little Tujunga / Camp 9 – This is one of my favorites and hard to omit, but this is one of the most signature climbs in the valley / Santa Clarita area. Culminating with the helicopter base at Camp 9, most people that finish this climb can’t wait to return.
And now onto the list:
If you live on the westside, riding Mandeville Canyon seems mandatory. There are a number of other climbs in the area, but this five mile stretch is a favorite for its slow and steady pitch.
La Grange’s Wednesday mornings and July 4th rides are the most popular when you’ll see a large group giving the beat down.
Somehow meshing a pastoral setting with a high proportion of homes built on F you money, riders still flock despite the speeding cars and unwelcoming signs.
How about some “Give Three Feet” signs too?
Many cyclists may also remember Mandeville for the famous 2008 road rage incident involving Dr. Christopher Thompson that led to a landmark conviction.
The ride itself is simple. The first half you can keep up a pretty good clip, but once you roll by the grassy horse ranch, you’ll shift gear or two as you try to keep your momentum going.
You can still keep a solid tempo until the last half mile as it pitches up with a steep kicker the last couple hundred feet. It’s a fun little climb and sometimes you’ll find yourself going back for repeats the same day.
Difficult? Not really. Special? Yes. It’s one thing to have a great urban park in the middle of a city, but another to have a road closed off to cars(when there’s no filming).
Coming from either the Trash Truck(Valley) or the Griffith Observatory, you’ll find this road filled with cyclists over the weekend.
During the week, you’ll still find a good number of commuters crisscrossing each other at all hours.
Each direction is less than three miles of climbing length and does offer a respite in the middle, but both also offers steep pitches along the way.
The bear is always available for a picture.
Even though there are a fair amount of hikers, there is still plenty of space to roam as you navigate the minefield of potholes along the way.
Perhaps the best part about it is the panoramic view of the Hollywood Sign, Santa Monica, Catalina, Long Beach and Downtown LA.
Stopping off to take a picture with the bear or getting a coffee from Trails Cafe is part of the experience too.
If you’ve got a friend in town and you want to show them a lot while doing just a little, you take them to Mt. Hollywood Drive.
I went back and forth not only on it’s inclusion, but whether to go with the slightly steeper Eldred. Both of these streets rank in the top five for steepest roads in the US, but I went with Fargo because of its usage.
Part of that has to do with its more convenient location Echo Park. The other factor is that Eldred is so much more beaten up with cracks and wrinkles after a hundred years making completing the climb nearly impossible.
Making it to the top of Fargo is no easy feat either. Just the view from the bottom makes you question the sanity of engineering at the time it was built.
Looking at the Radavist trying to make sense of it all.
Starting the climb, you have a chance to hit a little bit of speed as you make the turn, but right away you’ll find all that momentum disappear.
It’s not a question of if you’ll run out of gears, but when.
If it was that easy, then that would be it, but there are a couple more stages everyone experiences on the way to the top.
One is that moment when you get out of the saddle and realize it doesn’t make it any easier.
The other is when you painfully weave across the road trying to cut into that grade somehow.
Make it to the top, you’ve accomplished something, but your day isn’t done yet.
Next problem: try to figure out how to get down.
Coming Wednesday: #7 – #4