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After spending the last 50 minutes climbing, we round a final major switchback, head through another tunnel and reach the top of the Rose Valley climb. Soon, the gradient shallows out and the road narrows a bit. We find ourselves pedaling down a straight road, a fresh set of desolate mountain peaks dominating in the distance.
As we ride further along, we pass by some cattle grazing on the last few patches of green grass in their golden-brown pasture. A sign along the wood pole fence offers a friendly warning: “No hunting. Our deer shoot back.” Luckily our plans today involve hunting neither deer nor KOMs. Today we’re heading deeper into the Sespe Wilderness in the Los Padres National Forest to visit a magnificent natural landscape, Piedra Blanca.
We cruise along quickly thanks to our Bontrager Aeolus RSL 37 wheels, which, having just helped immensely up the climb with their low weight, also offer the same amount of speed as wheels 10mm deeper than their 37mm. This “all-around” wheelset compromises on nothing, making not one but two wheelsets obsolete in its wake.
As we progress deeper, the road becomes gradually more blemished. We’re past the ranchland and frequently used—if you can call them that—parts of this road. The only people venturing out this far are coming to hike or camp. The tarmac reflects it. These roads haven’t seen much in the way of maintenance in years, forcing us at times to weave around cavernous potholes.
But the less-than-ideal road conditions are worth it. In the distance, massive white rocks come into view around a switchback. We drop down a couple-hundred vertical feet arrive at an outcropping overlooking a wide-open vista, not another soul in sight. We’ve arrived at Piedra Blanca, which translates to “white rock.” It’s hard to argue with the name. This bright-white rock formation, weathered smooth over millennia, stands triumphantly alone. We linger a while, enjoying a snack, until eventually deciding to turn back.
Descending back down to the Ojai Valley below, we hit the corners hard, with full confidence instilled by our Aeolus RSL 37 wheels. Though light, the wheels are stiff and in control through tight chicanes. We crank out more speed, the wheels taking over as the gradient falls below 5 percent and we spin out our cranks. All that’s left to do is enjoy the ride down.