Riding The South Bay Peninsula

05 April, 2017

In a car dependent city like Los Angeles, it may not come to mind to most cyclists that the area is surrounded by an array of scenic cycling destinations. Bike paths such as the Marvin Braude Bike Trail, a.k.a. The Strand, a 22-mile, mostly car-free ride along the sand and shimmering waves of the Pacific Ocean offers a wide connection to the most spectacular views and beaches. From Will Rogers State Beach in the north to Torrance Beach in the south bay, the path provides a flat beach cruise through L.A’s vibrant beach towns. However, for a more challenging cycling route, extending this ride south from Torrance to include the classic donut ride around the Palos Verdes Peninsula is a California treasure. The scenic but challenging loop of climbing rolling hills follows Palos Verdes Drive along the edge of peninsula which offers beautiful vistas and plenty of open road space that only cyclists can dream of.

Over the weekend, I dared to cycle the Donut Loop in Palos Verdes only to find myself going halfway. There is no sugar coating this ride, it's brutal even for a moderate climber like myself. For most Southern Californian cyclists, this ride is top of the list of great rides in Los Angeles dating back to 1973 and has maintained a reputation for being adorned with beautiful views of the ocean cliffs, nasty ascending switchbacks, serpentine descends, and some more climbing. Indeed, this ride lived up to its reputation and I found this route was exactly that, consistent hilly terrain that will challenge you to climb well and still maintain speed on the flatter roads. If your cycling solo, the climbs won’t hurt so badly as you keep your own pace, however, if your in it for the group, you'll most likely be dropped by those who want to race to the top for a UCI world ranking. Not everyone is out for a medal, however, being on my own during this ride, I wanted a good challenge as much as a leisure ride to take breaks from climbing to catch my breath with the many others stopping to soak in the views too. 
To characterize the ride, along the first 10-mile loop around the western waterfront, and over the aptly named Rolling Hills, delivers some of the best bluff side ocean views in Southern California. I began in Torrance Beach early enough avoid the heavy Saturday traffic along the bike-friendly Palos Verdes Drive and rode up to Bluff Cove where steep rust-colored cliffs drop dramatically to the waves. Leaving the main drag and heading inland,  I brace for the long climb up a quiet residential street with luxurious Spanish style homes and drought resistant gardens. This 2-mile ascent might have you huffing and puffing, maybe even puking, but the long views north up sandy beaches will take your breath away when you make it. After gaining 850 feet in elevation, I topped out where the coast was clear—literally. 

This was a very impressive ride, challenging the most. Long stretches of ascends and descends can make for a good leg and technique challenge. You may even doubt your skills at best but that will fade when your admiring the panoramic views. I found that there are many ways to ride and experience this gorgeous side of South Bay Los Angeles, from hiking trails, mountain biking, driving, or cycling, this is a place to definitely catch some climbing miles. Just remember to bring a camera, loads of water, a can-do attitude and actual donuts to reward yourself for your hard work. 

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