Biking to the valley guide – Part 1(Westside edition)
I’ve logged a lot of miles over Mulholland. So much so that I can properly spell Mulholland now. In the hunt for the most efficient route to the valley, I’ve tried every route possible. One thing for certain is you’re going to do some climbing. There are varying degrees of grade and elevation, but for the unexperienced rider the first few rides may be a challenge. My purpose is to rate the best routes which take difficulty, road conditions and safety as factors.
All of these routes are also accessible by car, but I would rank them far differently as a driver because my rankings would be primarily dependent on when your commute takes place. Not as much as a problem on a bike. But still, be aware as a cyclist as non-rush hour rides promises faster driving.
While I’m covering the region between the Hollywood Freeway and the 405, there are some options I’ll be leaving out due to their difficulty. Of course, what I consider the best route may not be the most accessible route for you, but it’s good to have options especially now we have limited sunlight.
Lastly, I want to be clear that the options going northbound do not offer the same amount of safety in its reverse direction. Some roads are not as forgiving going up versus coming down, so please take note. Also, this gives me a good excuse to split this writing into two parts. From west to east(from 1-4):
Sepulveda should be a signature pathway for reaching the valley. Not only is it the most direct route, but the easiest climb(the steep part is on the last third). While there are bike lanes on the descent, you don’t have protection on the climb. Sepulveda was in terrible shape before the 405 widening. Now you’re faced with a lot of extra debris that’s not going away anytime soon. Cars also reach speeds of over 50 mph, there are blind turns and very little margin for error. I ride this way occasionally, but never feel safe.
Roscomare goes all the way through to Mulholland while Stradella meets it after the first climb. Separately, Roscomare has far more traffic due to it’s more direct route. While there are speed bumps to temper car’s speeds, I fear cars from the other direction more because they can scare other vehicles ascending along side you. There’s also a very steep climb right before it meets Stradella. The Stradella route is harder to find and less travelled, but you’ll still find cars reaching good speeds due to some wide portions. There are a couple of steep climbs, but shorter than what you’ll be missing on Roscomare.
When you meet up for the second half of Roscomare, you’ll find a couple descents each accompanied with a climb. Each nadir is accompanied by a watery stop sign, so beware the speed. The most unsafe portion of this trip is the final climb to a stoplight where cars are usually backed up. The grade is such that if you stop, it’s very difficult to start again. Your options are to navigate in a narrow space around the traffic(sometimes to the left) or walk. To get over the hill, I would recommend taking Mulholland down to Sepulveda unless your brakes can handle the steep downhills of Woodcliff or Scadlock.
The first portion has a slight fun little incline where you can pick up decent speeds to fend off the cars. You’ll be competing for the lane and swinging doors from parked cars, so be careful. I find during the afternoons, there’s more traffic so vehicular speeds are a bit slower. The second half say, “Hello steepness!”. While you loose most of the parked car problem, you aren’t handed any extra room either for the initial grade, so beware. At the very end of this climb, there’s plenty of space to pass severely backed up traffic, but sometimes eager drivers might cheat by driving up the right side. Probably because they realize that during rush hour, Beverly Glen is faster on a bike. The most direct descent is continuing down Beverly Glen, but speeds + traffic + road conditions = potential for cicular Chernobyl. If your bike takes to dirt, try Dixie Canyon. Otherwise, I’d probably head to Coldwater Canyon or Sepulveda depending on your destination.
Benedict is similar to Beverly Glen. It has a significant “flat” portion, the same type of traffic and they meet up at Mulholland at almost the same part. The difference I see is that Benedict feels slightly wider, giving you more space but allowing for faster vehicular speeds, so pick your poison. The steep portion is also far more managible. For some reason, drivers have a knack for honking at me right before they meet their backed up fate. See, there is a god. After reaching Mulholland, you have the same options down as Beverly Glen because you’re right there. If you want to avoid the traffic, you can take the more challenging climb up San Ysidro,Oak Glen(gated for cars) and Deep Canyon. But if you’re going that way, you might as well try…
The least known route is among my favorite. It parallels Coldwater Canyon and because the majority of the route is through parkland, traffic is very limited. The most danger you’ll face is on the initial stretch to the park from people speeding to their Beverly Park mansions. It’s relatively flat, but speed bumps meter speeds. The approach to the park is a little bumpy and upon entrance you’ll face the steepest part of your climb. There’s a similar climb in the middle which is about half the length of the first, but the rest of the ride is somewhat easy.
Wait. Why did I include this? I wouldn’t recommend this way. That is, unless you’re one of those born with the adventurous gene that puts your life in danger. That’s me! If you’re able to brave the highly distracted zone that is Sunset Blvd., it’s Plaza brethren is just as dangerous. Firstly, you’re going to have to do two climbs. The first half is windy, confusing to keep yourself on track and cars zipping their way to Chin Chin’s. Once you reach the peak, Sunset Plaza turns into Appian Way which is about as rugged as it’s Roman namesake. There’s a few different ways to descend, but hanging a left on Lookout Mountain is the “safest” choice. If you survive the hackneyed road conditions and narrow space, beware the stop sign at the bottom. Make a left there at Wonderland Ave. and then immediately veer right up Laurel Pass. It’s another steep climb, but at least the road is smooth and there’s some speed bumps. It’s the theory of relativity in action.
I’m not really going to cover this because you should avoid this route at all costs. Firstly, there is a street-wide drainage channel that is unfriendly if you’re riding with road tires. Secondly, you might think about taking the parallel road for the first third(Laurel Canyon Rd.), but I find that cars see it as a faster option as well and are not to kind to cyclists inhibiting their speed. The middle third of the climb is highlighted with bad road conditions and drainage excess. The last quarter is bumpy and very dangerous as it splits into two lanes as cars pick up speed. Enough for you? Yes. Move on.
There’s not a lot of extra space for cyclists, but the speed bumps and turns seems to limit cars from reaching high speeds. My guess is that it has the smallest max grade out of any climb, save making a final right turn onto Woodrow Wilson to hit the “wall”. One way to mitigate it is to turn off onto La Castana right as you hit your only downhill portion. Then again, a walker yelled out “pussy” for avoiding the climb. Small price to pay.
This road is frequented by a lot of folks taking a short cut. Half the time it’s folks trying to circumvent a lot of the Highland traffic. The other half it’s disgruntled Runyon Canyon hikers unable to find parking off of Franklin only not to find parking up Mulholland.
What makes it dangerous to me are the number of bottlenecks that expose you to cars at high speeds. Not a lot of fun as it’s the steepest option as even the more adept climbers are going to get buzzed by a Fiat or two. It’s a road where drivers make you feel like a second class citizen. A few more speed bumps would help. Until then, move on.
Envelope please. Now for my overall rankings before the orchestra plays me off:
- Franklin Canyon
- Franklin Canyon
- Nichols Canyon
- Stradella Road
- Benedict Canyon
- Roscomare Dr.
- Sunset Plaza
- Beverly Glen
- Sepulveda Blvd.
- Outpost Dr.
- Laurel Canyon
In reality, I would probably only recommend Franklin and Nichols if you’re a novice, but I would still encourage to build your skills before trying some of these roads out. My tips are be on the watch for opening car doors , give yourself enough space in case of the unexpected and of course, wear a helmet. I would also note that when I wear my Go Pro(knockoff), I also notice a change in driver’s attitudes when seen.
Next time, Part 2! Coming over Mulholland!