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When temperatures rise in Southern California, there’s one guaranteed cure, point your front wheel to the coast and start pedaling. Heading down from the hills of Ventura County, it’s easy to find a 25 degree delta in temperature. A day that’s 100 degrees in the valleys is frequently 75 degrees on the coast, with blue skies and a breeze adding to the perfection.
While the PCH of Malibu and Big Sur steal the thunder of coastal riding in California, the Coast between Ventura and Santa Barbara has much to offer, without the traffic of Malibu or endless rolling hills of Big Sur. It’s one for the very few places in California where you are actually riding on the coast, no homes of the rich and famous or crumbling cliffs between you and the Pacific. In fact, rolling past Emma Wood State Beach just south of Ventura, if a swell is rolling on high tide you’re likely to feel a lot more than just a bit of ocean mist.
After Emma Wood the ride cruises along PCH and the Rincon Parkway. It’s a favorite beach spot among locals to escape summer heat with your vehicle close by. You’ll wind your way past day trippers, RV’s ensconced for the week and plenty of surfers living #vanlife. If you choose to ride this coast during a hot summer weekend, be ready to dodge a WaveStorm foam surfboard or two being pulled from a minivan, freshly purchased from Costco, in the hands of what surfers not so charitably call a ‘kook’, the surfing equivalent of a ‘fred’. But on its busiest day, the road has half the traffic of Mailbu. You’ll ride past Solimar, ‘Soli’ if you’re a local, then past Mondos, a soft mushy wave preferred by longboarders and beginners, and then Faria, a small camping area with a fun little peak on the right swell.
As you reach the south edge of La Conchita, PCH dribbles out and you’ll cross under the 101 highway. This is where you’ll pick up the Ralph Fertig Memorial Bike Path. Named for a tireless local cycling advocate, prior to this bike path, riders had to brave the shoulder of the 101 Highway, removing much of the appeal of a ride from Ventura to Santa Barbara.
Running from Mussel Shoals, a tiny beach community best known for the man made island disguising an oil platform connected to it by a long pier, the path hugs the beach past La Conchita, another funky beach community, and guides you in a long arc to Rincon, one of California and the world’s premier surf spots. A point break known for a long, perfect right that comes alive like a spitting beast on the right west swell in winter, on a summer day Rincon’s likely to be calm and tranquil, no hint of the huge barrels and cold water to come in December.
As you pop off the bike path at Rincon, you’ll need to make a decision, one that might be made for you by your bike. You can turn right on Bates and take a short climb up Rincon Hill to reach Carpinteria Ave and stick to the tarmac, or go straight up the hill to back side Rincon, cruise through the parking lot and hit the trails that run across the bluffs all the way to Carpinteria.
No need for a mountain bike, or some gravel racer, in our minds, the perfect bike is one like the New Albion Drake. It’s a capable adventure and touring bike, with 650b wheels. It’s a long and relaxed bike, ideal for enjoying the coast and it absolutely eats up the miles. It begs to be set up with a nod to its classic lines. We opted for some bars with significant flare, and beautiful bar end shifters. With a Shimano Deore derailleur shifting an 8 speed cassette we get plenty of gear range with classic simplicity. We run an Izumi CIC Jet Black chain with gold plate accents. It gives a classic bike like the New Albion Drake just the right look, another conversation starter without going over the top. The Izumi chain also provides the smooth shifting that makes friction shifting such a wonderful tactile experience, moving across the cassette quietly and reliably with the durability a touring setup demands.
The Carpinteria bluffs offer hard pack, single track trails that skirt the cliff edge on your left and railway tracks on your right. The trails lead right to Carpinteria State Beach, where you can turn up Linden Avenue away from the beach and towards downtown. The small coffee shop, the Lucky Llama, offers the ideal spot to take a break and enjoy a very good americano. Carpinteria’s an active town, and you can count on some good local conversation, especially if you’re riding a bike as beautiful as a New Albion Drake, with classic, flared bars, bar-end shifters and a CIC Jet Black Izumi chain.
What we Rode: New Albion Drake with eight speed drivetrain and Izumi CIC Jet Black chain.
For more from Izumi: izumichain.co.jp