Ride Report – Hwy 1 and Santa Cruz

Santa Cruz Surfing at the Lighthouse
Santa Cruz Surfing at the Lighthouse

My ride reports are intended to give you some idea of what you can expect.  We start with the Coast Ride. This is a long one, but rightly so because you’re taking in the Pacific Coast and Santa Cruz, the best destination on a long ride with beach weather. It starts in Santa Clara Valley and makes a loop.

Highway 84 climb or Old LaHonda Rd
I have gravitated to riding up Hwy 84 in recent years, mainly because as I get older I prefer easier climbs. Skylonda is only about 1460 feet. Traffic is moderate. I usually count two dozen cars passing me on the 3.4 mile climb from Portola Road around 9 a.m. on a Sunday.  I don’t count cars going down. Alternate route: Old LaHonda Road.

Highway 84 to the coast is downhill with a good shoulder; the fastest section (35-40 mph) is a couple miles from La Honda. La Honda is an ice box in the winter, pleasantly cool in the summer. There’s a store here, but it has fallen on hard times.

Old sections of the highway reveal themselves here and there. They’re private driveways now. The road took a much more circuitous route, following the lay of the land.

San Gregorio is the last food stop until Gazos Creek Road, where there’s a restaurant, unless you want to ride two miles into Pescadero. There’s also a food stop in Davenport.

Beware the wind
The only time the wind comes out of the south is before a storm, so plan your rides north to south along the coast. Even a slight tailwind makes the ride easier. What can I say about the coast? It’s beautiful. It rejuvenates the soul. It has some ups and downs where creeks flow into the ocean, but they’re short climbs of about 80-100 feet.  Watch for whale spouts off the coast, sea lions basking in the sun on rock outcroppings near Pescadero, and be sure to stop at Pebble Beach just south of Pescadero. This tiny beach is covered with agate, carnelian,  and jasper pebbles. You won’t find anything like it anywhere else on the coast.

Traffic moves fast and it’s steady. Pay attention.

Bike path through Santa Cruz
Entering Santa Cruz, turn right at the light on Swift Street and continue to the T junction that’s West Cliff Drive. Follow West Cliff and stop at the lighthouse to check out the surfers. Then continue through the Boardwalk following the bike path to the end, where you enter a parking lot and then pick up the bike path along the San Lorenzo River. It’s THE way to get through Santa Cruz on a bike.

Follow the bike path until it ends at the Ross clothing store parking lot. Head through the lot and out onto River Street, cross Hwy 1 and you’re on Highway 9. This road has a narrow section where cars will likely slow down to pass due to restricted sight lines. It goes on for a couple of miles before you start to see some shoulder. Traffic is moderate to heavy most weekends.

In Felton there’s a decision to be made. Turn right on Graham Hill Road and head over to Zayante Road or continue straight on Hwy 9? Depends on where you live. If you’re in the South Bay, Zayante takes 7 miles off the ride. It has a steep section of 14 percent for a mile and a final steep section of 17 percent for .2 miles. There is no traffic.

At Skyline you can ride south on Skyline Boulevard or head down to Saratoga continuing on Hwy 9. Hwy 9 has a good shoulder with moderate traffic and grades from 5-7 percent. It’s about 50 percent in the shade. Distance is about 115 miles, depending on where you live.

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