Mulholland Double Century Felix Wong

“This course can best be described as dramatic, epic, diverse, and beautiful,” proclaimed the website of Planet Ultra, the organizer of this ride. “More difficult than Heartbreak,” suggested another cyclist who had done both rides in the past.

Fortunately, for one who has not been training very much in 2004 and who had been sick all week, the latter turned out not to be the case. The former, however, was right on!

I took Friday off work to drive down to Malibu, slept in my car in a school parking lot near the official start of the ride, and started with over 100 others at the 5:00am mass start. Wearing neoprene booties, full-fingered gloves, 2 jerseys and arm warmers (with a wind-breaker and balaclava handy just in case), the morning temperature was comfortable, esp. while riding southbound on Highway 1, the Pacific Coast Highway, by the bungaloos overlooking the crashing ocean waves not far below.

The story was a little different after ascending up to the world-famous Mulholland Highway. This ascent began at Mile 7 and already by this time I was one of the last people on the course. Here the weather was notably damp–not drenching, mind you, just drizzling–with stunning mountain vistas abound and virtually no motoring traffic for the first 50 miles. What a wonderful contrast to the Hemet Double of just 2 weeks prior!

After this stretch of highway was perhaps the highlight of the ride–a breathtaking, 11% plunge down Deer Creek Road to the endlessly blue Pacific Ocean. Then we’d go northbound up the Pacific Coast Highway to Ojai for 30 miles of virtually flat, but very windy, cruising past notable landmarks like the Missile Park near Ventura and the Channel Island Harbor.

The climbing resumed in Ojai and after lunch, climaxing in a new-for-2004 climb: Balcom Canyon Rd. This was a 22% grade towards the top! Fortunately, the steep section is just .6 miles long, and hence didn’t feel too bad. I stayed relaxed and seated most of the time concentrating on applying force at each part of the pedal stroke, only popping out of the saddle when my cadence in the lowest gear of 32 X 23T fell below 20 rpm or so.

Not to long after Balcom, the course began to head south, including down the Pacific Coast Highway again, culminating in the first significant tailwind of the day. Hence the 10-mile stretch down the PCH was very pleasant, being able to sit up and just relax.

Of course, afterwards was back up to the Mulholland Highway again! This was particularly spectacular with the morning clouds now gone and a dawning western sun just over the horizon. The sun began to reach for its nadir as I ascended perhaps the most significant climb of the day–a 3.5-mile ascent up Stunt Rd. at, perhaps, a 6-7% grade. My nose sniffing all day but my body feeling pretty good by this time, this would be the first time I tried to push a little harder. By the time I reached the top I was definitely breathing harder than any other point in the ride, but hey, it would be almost all downhill from here!

Unfortunately, I did not achieve my goal of getting to the “cold, dark.. gnarly, twisty, narrow” and “mind-boggling” descent (as warned by Planet Ultra) before the sun was entirely down. Fortunately, I did bring two of my 5-LED Cateye headlamps, which were much appreciated (and yet barely adequate despite being very bright) while descending with another guy riding right behind. We were braking the entire way, it was that dark and steep! A few miles later it was back to the Pacific Coast Highway and Malibu. Lots of cars were out in Malibu by this time, but this coastal town with all of its lights along the crashing waves was still a joy to ride through.

Just before 9:00pm I rolled into the finish, where Chris Kostman and Deborah Kaplan, the friendly Planet Ultra hosts, were waiting. Also there was Brian Bowling, who I had met at Paris-Brest-Paris last year! It was really good to see them all. Despite the lack of a full post-ride meal in the tradition of Planet Ultra, I have to say, I am beginning to really respect and admire the way Planet Ultra runs its rides. The rides are “no-frills” but well-organized and highly efficient (in its use of volunteers and resources). The emphasis is more on the ride and not on the food–perhaps the way it should be. The Mulholland Double, for example, was a huge contrast to Hemet… as I’d remark to Chris and Deborah at the finish, “this is probably the best (most beautiful) California double there is!”

Ride Data

  • 195 mi
  • 5:00am start, 8:55pm finish—15.9 hours
  • Average Speed: 13.4 mph moving, 12.3 mph overall
  • Max Speed: 41 mph
  • Total Climbing: 14,600 feet

Rating

(1=ho hum; 5=best)

  • Scenery: 5. Amazing!
  • Support/Organization: 4+. Kudos to Planet Ultra for running everything so efficiently and smoothly with relatively few people.
  • Food: 3. No frills and no post-ride meal, but had all you needed at checkpoints.
  • Weather: 2+. Rain in the morning, strong winds from Mile 50-130, and Tuna Canyon was cold… but otherwise, not too bad.
  • Relative Difficulty: 4
  • Overall Rating: 5. An amazing course in one of most beautiful areas of California. Highly recommended!

Route Sheet (PDF)

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Another long road trip for the Alfa Romeo!  Here she is with my little race bike, taking a short break at a rest stop just north of Santa Barbara. (April 16, 2004)[Mile 17, 6:21am] Now for the bicycle ride: here is its namesake, the world-famous Mulholland Highway east of Malibu, California.[Mile 26, 7:08am] Homes lining Malibou Lake, a man-made lake created in the 1920s.  What a lovely place to live![Mile 47, 9:03am] As the morning showers and fog burned away, cyclists were treated with stunning vistas as the undulating Mulholland Highway carved its way through the Santa Monica Mountains.[Mile 52, 9:24am] A quarter of the way through the ride, the #1 treat of the day: a dramatic, 11% descent down Deer Creek Rd. towards the blue waters of the Pacific Ocean.[Mile 55, 9:37am] Felix Wong at the Sycamore Cove checkpoint by the beach.  Despite being a little under the weather all week, not to mention somewhat out of shape, I was starting to feel pretty darn good.[Mile 55, 9:37am] Canny's "navigation system": map, cyclometer, compass, thermometer, and armrests.[Mile 62, 10:11am] Missile Park south of Ventura Ventura was pretty cool.  Seemed like all of the missiles were pointed towards China, though![Mile 69, 10:42am] The going towards Ventura was very flat... but also, very windy.  Roads were generally good, though, and many parts of town were pleasant and green like here.[Mile 75, 10:56am] The Channel Island harbor and boats abound.[Mile 94, 12:26pm] Now in Ojai and out of urban areas, just a couple of miles before Checkpoint #3.[Mile 121, 2:31pm] Test of the day: the "insane" climb up Balcom Canyon Rd., which was a sustained 22% towards the top!  This section is just .6 miles long, though, and I managed to stay >6 mph under the 10-mph speed-limit by spinning at only ~20 rpm in my 32 X 23T low gear.[Mile 141, 4:00pm] Finally, back to the Pacific Coast Highway with a much-welcome (and long-awaited) tailwind![Mile 148, 4:30pm] Along the PCH, there were many para-surfers to watch.[Mile 160, 5:21pm] Back on the Mulholland Highway, where beauty takes many forms.  This is the address marker for the [Mile 166, 5:45pm] Continuing down the Mulholland Highway was great country.[Mile 179, 7:22pm] The dawning sun lighting my way on the 5km-long ascent on Stunt Rd., the longest climb of the day.  Just a few miles after this climb was a treacherous, hand-numbing and super-dark descent down Tuna Canyon, to the PCH and back to Malibu.  An absolutely gorgeous ride; perhaps the finest double!

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