A Crazy Stinging Climb in the Verdugo Mountains a Coffeeneuring Challenge Finishing Ride.

Since I didn’t meet the criteria for an official Coffeeneuring Challenge ride on Wednesday I had this upcoming weekend and another opportunity to get a ride in. And it so happens I had a ride in mind, thanks to Laura & Russ of *The Path Less Pedaled who reminded me of the virtues of the **Verdugo Mountains which are a short ride from my home and once you summit affords great vistas of the Los Angeles basin and if the air quality is good a glimpse of the Pacific Ocean. I can personally attest that they live up to their name and multiple meanings as the climb and ride offered me many challenges.

I’ve been making some modifications to the Rivendell A.Homer Hilsen, principally reimagining it as a light off road gravel tour bike. So I re-shod Homer with the new set of ***Soma’s Cazadero a 650b light weight knobby and Soma’s ***Portola drop bar. With these new changes I was excited to test them on this mixed terrain ride, knock off my last Coffeeneuring ride and work out a mixed terrain route I can host to our ****SoCal All Rounders group.

There are multiple ways to enter the Verdugo’s but this is the quickest from my home. Right away I climbed approximately 400′ to Tujunga Canyon Blvd, then a short downhill and right turn on La Tuna Canyon Road with more climbing. At the intersection of the 210 Fwy and La Tuna Canyon you make a left onto South La Tuna Canyon Rd with a small parking lot and gate. No cars hurray but not free of danger as I soon discovered. The first mile is paved and you have to overcome a steep 18% grade as the road becomes Hostetter Fire road and soon transitions to dirt but the grade mellows out and makes it easy to maintain a decent pace. The road isn’t gravel but hard packed sand with rock and lot’s of loose sand.

Verdugo Motorway
Verdugo Motorway

Being a weekday I had the area nearly to myself, I only passed two hikers on my way up but danger was just lurking around the next bend. About half way up I heard the sounds of fast moving tires from around a blind curve. I was climbing up the inside and knew what was coming down hill, MTB’s! My immediate decision was to move to the high side to avoid them! The problem was I was in a high climbing gear so moving at a snail’s pace and found myself in the middle of the road when the first MTBer emerged disc brakes locked up and skidding. I saw his expression and can only imagine what mine looked like? So in that millisecond I saw that impact was imminent I braced myself for what would come. He T-boned me and I fell partly over but not completely, my frame pump was kattywompus but after a quick survey no blood was spilled and the Hilsen hadn’t picked up any damage. We exchanged words like hey there are hikers here and old guy’s under biking and you’re going to fast! And he said he tried to go wide. His buddy just said “there’s nothing here let’s go!” and off they rolled. I gathered my composure and continued upward but now hyper alert for more of their kindred.

Verdugo Motorway Swithbacks
Verdugo Motorway Switchbacks

The rest of the climb was a pleasant serene climb up. But I still had a few challenges ahead of me.

Back when I was descending Tujunga Canyon Blvd I was in fast moving car traffic and attempted to shift into my big ring to keep the pace up but that wasn’t happening. I wasn’t turning around for home and I figured I was going to be doing a bunch of climbing. At the summit I figured I could do a field repair. The night before I had made the cockpit change so I thought I had just missed something. I took off the bar end shifter and reassembled it and tightened the cable at the front derailleur to no avail. So I just decided to do what I’d come up here to do and brew up a cuppa coffee and eat my sandwich.

Yeah this weather sucks!!
Yeah this weather sucks!!
Brew setup.
Brew setup.

I brewed up a cup of Jones Columbia Excelso and took it black. The coffee was strong the breeze light and the views were forever! I’ve been up here before but the Pacific was obscured by haze, not today there it was with the sun gleaming off its surface. I’d taken my obligatory model pose ( and the one above is by far the more flattering of the lot. If the other images were in organic film I’d have burnt em! Thankfully I simply clicked delete) above it all. I was joined up on my perch by Donovan who had hiked up from Burbank.

Coffee with a view.
Coffee with a view.

Donovan lives out in New Jersey with his wife and two children. He’s a actor and gets work as a voice actor as well. We had what I would characterize a deep and heartfelt conversation. We exchanged info and he mentioned he planned on bringing one of his bikes out to ride.


So remember I mentioned more challenges? While I was deep in conversation with Donovan I was also munching on my sandwich and finished off the last bite. I began to chew and felt an intense pain in my mouth! Like a slow light bulb turning on my mind recognized that this wasn’t supposed to feel like this, ejecting the remnants of my sandwich into my hand I discovered a hitchhiker. Yes that’s right a yellow jacket stung my tongue.  No my tongue didn’t swell up but it was mildly painful and fortunately didn’t ruin the overall experience. It did teach me to look at my food before eating.

The view
A. Homer and the view.

I felt the sun starting to edge closer towards the West and knew it was getting late, looking at my phone I made that confirmation and made my farewell to Donovan and my Verdugo perch.

I had brought along a map but it just shows the fire roads, however there are a bunch of single track crisscrossing in all directions. Basically I rode along what I’d call the backbone of the Mountain called the Verdugo Crest. I made my way past Verdugo Peak and Whiting Woods Motorway which drops you down to Honolulu in La Crescenta on the Eastern side of the range. Instead I wanted to explore new territory so made my way to the Beaudry North Motorway.

Whiting Woods
Whiting Woods
Beaudry North Motorway descent
Beaudry North Motorway descent

This is a 2.8 mile descent with extreme hairpin turns, some that I came into with a touch too much speed and had to brake pretty hard. The Cazadero tires handled most of the descent well, but keep in mind these are not meant to be a full on dedicated off road tire. I knew this going in (there’s always a compromise) I think of them more like a extra wide cross tire. On many of the turns I felt the limits of the tire side knobs in the sandy surface just slightly give way but I was also running them at 50 psi and could have deflated them in the 40’s which may prove to be the sweet spot as I weigh 157lbs. More testing to come. I did hit what I would call a gnarly section of sand and almost went down but I relaxed and kept myself upright.

At the bottom of the descent I popped out in a neighborhood of Glendale by Oakmont Country Club. After most likely going in the wrong direction I asked a gardener directions and made my way back up Verdugo Blvd and to my local Bike shop in Montrose. After inspecting my bike I discovered  that the small plastic cable guide located under the bottom bracket shell had broken on the front derailleur side.

This doesn't look right
This doesn’t look right

Izzy at Montrose Bike Shop (that’s the perfect bike mechanic name) gave me a new guide and I purchased two new sets of shift cables. When I got home I removed and replaced the guide and new shift cables. Feeling on a roll  I decided to make a slight adjustment to the brakes. When I went to loosen the cable at the rear brake point of attachment it sheared off from the side pull brake arm.

This doesn't look right either
This doesn’t look right either

Did I mention I had planned to participate in a ride out in Redlands? Yep that was the plan but I figured the Universe was telling me something so I called it. Sorry David.

Saturday I called rivendell to see if they had a spare rear Tektro 559 laying around. I’ve wanted to upgrade to the Paul Racer Center pull brakes but currently I can’t spring for them. So on Monday we’ll see if Riv can help me out?

On the Portola bars, they have confirmed that I favor a drop bar with a bunch of hand positions and the flared drop hooks are sweet for off road handling.

On the Verdugo’s,  though I was hit, stung and had mechanicals I find myself wanting to explore these rugged mountains more than ever and hopefully convince others to join me on a mixed terrain ride surrounded by the urban jungle that is Los Angeles.

And I completed my 7th Coffeeneuring Challenge ride for this year. All I need to do now is compile all those rides and send them to Mary of Chasing Mailboxes to make it all official and some money for the great new Coffeeneuring patch!

Strava ride

Stat for: A Crazy Stinging Climb in the Verdugo Mountains a Coffeeneuring Challenge Finishing Ride:

  • Distance ridden: 24.6 miles.
  • Elevation  3260′
  • Temp range: Mid 70’s just darn perfect!
  • My bike ridden: 2012 Rivendell  A. Homer Hilsen
  • Coffee: Jones Coffee Roasters Columbia Excelso pour over.
  • Date: Friday November 13th 2015
  • Bike Friendliness: Off road yep. On the streets of LA well you’re taking your chances but really pretty darn good.

*Isn’t it interesting how people from out of town clue us into our local surroundings that we take for granted or just don’t fit into our day to day.

**The Verdugos, Spanish and Portuguese: from verdugo, which has a variety of meanings, ranging from ‘switch’, ‘whip’ to ‘tyrant’, ‘hangman’, some or all of which may have contributed to the surname.Galician: habitational name from O Verdugo, a town in Pontevedra province, Galicia.

***I plan on writing about these tires & bars in a future post.

****An offshoot of the RBW Owners Bunch Google group.

As always thanks for reading and keep the rubber side down

You can check out my other pictures not posted here on my Flickr & Instagram accounts to the side.

And I’d love to hear from you.

5 thoughts on “A Crazy Stinging Climb in the Verdugo Mountains a Coffeeneuring Challenge Finishing Ride.

  1. Great job! Sorry about the momentary yellow jacket mishap, but your final ride looks like it was lovely– a great way to complete the 2015 coffeeneuring season!


  2. What an adventure! I think you’ll have plenty of company for a repeat of this ride. That cable guide failure is not unusual. Just this week on a short trip down the coast one of our group couldn’t get his big chainring & started messing with the cable, only to discover the same failure. The brake problem sounds rare.

    In the context of the area, the Verdugos were the family granted the original Spanish land grant for the area. I suspect their name derived from one of the roots you found. Can’t wait to get up there.


    1. Doug, over on the RBW group Chris Lampe 2 mentioned it was Friday the 13th! I hadn’t even considered this coincidence…but seriously I sort of remember hearing something the night before hitting the garage floor, when I looked around I didn’t see anything? I figure it was part of the cable guide. The brake sheer off did surprise me! And was in large part the reason I reluctantly bailed on David’s ride. I’m hoping Riv takes care of me on this. Or perhaps they can give me a discount on those Paul Racers 🙂 I can dream. I’m planning on working out a longer version with more dirt perhaps linking the Verdugos & San Raphael Hills. Yep on the land and it’s origins. Look forward to you and the group coming up here too.


  3. Well that was a day, wasn’t it! Verdugos are the new it spot. R&L, along w/ Radavist up there. Now you!!!

    The yellowjacket portion of the story sure had my attention and sympathy!


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