Get access to everything we publish when you sign up for Outside+.
Sometimes we like the comfort of a frequently-ridden road or loop. After all, it’s a simple, easy choice. On many routes, we know the turns so well that we can ride almost on autopilot. But there’s nothing quite like riding a new road, or revisiting a beloved classic—especially one few others ride.
Matilija Canyon Road is one of those classic roads for us. Located above the Ojai Valley, it is seldom ventured out to. Other than the few homeowners who live out this way, on their way to pick up the mail or groceries, we rarely encounter another soul out here.
Originating just off the well-travelled Highway 33, Matilija Canyon Road snakes along for miles, running alongside the Matilija Lake and the creek that feeds it. But before reaching the fun part of this road, we’re first met by a daunting, steep pitch. We’re glad to be riding along on Bontrager’s Aeolus Elite 35 wheels as we tackle these initial 20-percent-plus gradients. But like most difficult things, this dauntingly steep part of the climb soon passes. We round a corner and Matilija Lake comes into view.
The road here narrows in, hardly wide enough for one car to pass another. We’re not too worried about encountering any drivers, though, as we drop down, losing the elevation we just worked hard to gain. Soon enough, the road levels out. We take the opportunity to really open up the legs and see exactly what these $900 carbon wheels can do.
Bontrager hasn’t dumbed down these 35mm-deep wheels just to hit a price-point. They feature the wheelmaker’s proven D3 rim shape, and the speed reflects it. These wheels hit the ground running. The road never quite remains flat, undulating up and down as it winds along the Matilija Creek. The wheels in turn respond positively to everything the road throws at it.
Several miles later, we find ourselves at the end of the pavement. We’ll need gravel bikes if we want to go any farther—but we still consider it for a moment. Luckily, the way out is just as fun as the way in. We retrace our ride back out to Highway 33 and start our journey back to the coast. Once we reach the shoreline, we put in one last hard effort, milking every minute of light we can out of the day. From the familiar go-to routes to the special, lesser-travelled roads, we want to ride all the roads we can on these wheels.