The New Year’s ride up to Mount Wilson is such a tradition, it reaches landmark cycling status because it’s one of the few events that’s older than me!
Now in it’s 46th year, CiclaValley finally made his maiden voyage after many failed attempts.
My first attempt was five years ago when I woke up pretty sick which started an amazing annual streak that finally let up this year only because I was “lucky” to get sick the week before.
Since my fitness and overall well-being was still recovering, I decided to bring out my gravel bike with 36mm tires just in case the ride turned into a hammerfest, then I’d be forced to stay back.
Also, in the back of my mind, I figured this bike would come in handy if things got icy near the top of Mount Wilson, but that’s best case scenario thinking.
Part of the crew assembling at the 7-11.
I met in Toluca Lake with my fellow IBPers Ken, Dave and Bernd and left for the landmark 7-11 in Tujunga around 9:20ish.
We’re probably really badass because we got there way too early leaving us plenty of time to practice our shivering until the main group riding out of Van Nuys arrived.
Ron finishing up instructions. Ken taking the early lead in photobombing.
The parking lot was pretty filled at that point and everyone was eager to get moving as Ron Skarin laid out instructions including the all important “no matter where you are at 1 o’clock, turn back” piece of advice.
That definitely sounded like that was tried and true information not knowing what the elements will give you (more on that later).
All morning I was lamenting whether I was wearing too much or too little clothing for the ride, so the fact we were moving finally shut me up a bit.
The start of Big Tujunga Canyon is relatively flat and its ease is largely dependent on wind conditions which seemed to be neutral.
It was a nice conversational pace to start and if things kept up this cordially, this was going to be a perfect experience.
Nice calm start to things.
Ken and Dave rode alongside me, but Bernd who is a workhorse of a rider was nowhere to be found.
He was feelling a sick before the start, so it was a little unclear if he was with the group.
As we started that short, annoying hill before before crossing the creek, you could feel the pace pick up a little bit, but still easy enough that the bulk of the group stayed together.
From this point Big Tujunga pitches up ever so slightly and so did the pace of the leaders feeling this opportunity.
If there was any other indication, Bernd zipped by so I decided to catch his wheel and see where it would take me.
Descending before the bigger bridge.
Slowly, riders began to peel off the back and I knew about a mile and a half later this wasn’t happening.
There’s no shame in spinning, especially when your reward is taking in the San Gabriels.
Despite temps being the 40’s, I got crisp views of the mountains and the air felt clear…
…except for the number of cars going by.
I normally avoid this area on the weekends, but even by those standards the roads seemed extra crowded on this holiday.
It wasn’t just the car clubs, but a lot of families in search of snow. On the other hand, there were very few motorcycles out there.
About nine miles in, you have a short, but very fast descent over the river where the views really open up.
At the same time, you’re always trying to get your speed up to get as much momentum before crossing the bridge.
Once your speed quickly slows, you realize all this work is all for naught as it is a slow grinding three miles up to Angeles Forest Highway.
The “long” part of Big Tujunga.
The turns are long and repetitive and no matter how many times you see AFH above you, it always seems to be unreachable.
Some of the other cyclists brought music, while others had their families following their rides which added to a festive mood.
Can I join this cheerful family?
Near the turnoff, I caught up with John Morlock from Ride2Recovery who has been very supportive of valley cycling issues even with his other responsibilities.
Since I lived in Dallas briefly, I asked about their Texas Challenge which is a four day ride where many people from towns of all sizes come out to cheer.
As we spoke, this stretch of the road was absolutely gorgeous as the clouds curtained the mountains.
John Morlock of Ride2Recovery giving a thumbs up!
There were a few out of towners who were experiencing the Angeles National Forest for the first time and you could tell they were completely awed by its beauty.
As we reached Clear Creek, there were still a number of cyclists waiting around to make their next move.
Experiencing the glare.
Red Box looked clear enough and I hung around for the rest of my group to leave.
After a healthy descent, it’s a four mile climb to the junction where traffic somehow even seemed to increase.
At 4100 feet of elevation, we came across our first roadside patch of snow.
That’s not dandruff…
You definitely keep and eye out for ice on the road, but the highway looked pretty healthy, that is until we got about a mile from the top.
A small rockslide had entered the roadway which was passable, but not safe for regular traffic.
As we got to the top, the clouds once again draped back across the valley for a view everyone pulled over for.
Everyone stopped for this view.
When we finally reached Red Box, we partook in a routine everyone else tried.
Everyone took a little ride up Mount Wilson to see how icy it was just to stop and take a picture before turning back.
I left my Zamboni at home.
If I took some air out of my tires, I might have been able to do it, but I was content on calling it a day before I got any sicker.
To be safe, you could say I brought a few extra clothes, but after my experience on Mount Pinos, I wasn’t taking any chances.
Normally, if you’re returning from Mount Wilson, you can easily make the ride all the way down ACH in less than an hour.
As we started to make our descent, traffic was blocked off as crews were cleaning off the rockslide we had earlier passed.
Fortunately, these stoppages gave us some pretty traffic-free riding as we made our way down and by the bottom half I realized the extra clothing wasn’t doing me good anymore.
Saying goodbye to the San Gabriels for today.
This is a great group ride and an even better way to start the New Year.
I just wish there were fewer days in the year so this would happen more often.