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Looking for the easiest possible century route in the southwest US

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Looking for the easiest possible century route in the southwest US

Old 02-22-21, 05:34 PM
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trevorjfitz
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Looking for the easiest possible century route in the southwest US

My eight-year-old has set a lofty goal of riding a century--I plan to ride with him. Over the past year he's done a couple of 50 miler's and can't seem to get enough. Seems with a reasonable training plan and a little help from me it may actually be possible for him. He's a couple weeks into preparations and I'm struggling to plan a good route for him--I could use some help.


I'm hopeful someone can suggest a route with the following characteristics:
  • start of ride is within a day's drive of southern CA (Orange County area) -- nor cal, AZ, NV, southern UT all seem reasonable
  • minimal elevation gain, an average descent ideal
  • safe--he has surprisingly mature road sense but I'm confident fatigue will challenge his mental acuity
  • unlikely headwind mid-May

Route nice to have's:
  • Interesting (i.e. not repeats on a boring section of road)
  • Probable tail wind mid-May
  • Occasional civilization
  • Comfortable weather in Mid May - likely rules out Palm Springs/Phoenix corridor

Other relevant info:
  • The route does not need to be a loop or an out and back
  • The route does not need to be a known century ride
  • The rest of the fam has offered to be a support crew

Any suggestions would be much appreciated. Routes that match the criteria but are beyond the one-day drive would also be interesting to hear about.
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Old 02-22-21, 06:47 PM
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Originally Posted by trevorjfitz View Post
My eight-year-old has set a lofty goal of riding a century--I plan to ride with him. Over the past year he's done a couple of 50 miler's and can't seem to get enough. Seems with a reasonable training plan and a little help from me it may actually be possible for him. He's a couple weeks into preparations and I'm struggling to plan a good route for him--I could use some help.


I'm hopeful someone can suggest a route with the following characteristics:
  • start of ride is within a day's drive of southern CA (Orange County area) -- nor cal, AZ, NV, southern UT all seem reasonable
  • minimal elevation gain, an average descent ideal
  • safe--he has surprisingly mature road sense but I'm confident fatigue will challenge his mental acuity
  • unlikely headwind mid-May

Route nice to have's:
  • Interesting (i.e. not repeats on a boring section of road)
  • Probable tail wind mid-May
  • Occasional civilization
  • Comfortable weather in Mid May - likely rules out Palm Springs/Phoenix corridor

Other relevant info:
  • The route does not need to be a loop or an out and back
  • The route does not need to be a known century ride
  • The rest of the fam has offered to be a support crew

Any suggestions would be much appreciated. Routes that match the criteria but are beyond the one-day drive would also be interesting to hear about.
I did my first (and so far only) century last summer in an area near Lake Tahoe called the Sierra Valley. The route was a loop approximately 54-56 miles around going through the towns of Loyalton and Sierraville where supplies can be found.
The route takes you on wide open, well maintained roads with little traffic until you reach Hwy70 where there is a fair amount of cars but a massive shoulder and virtually straight with no blind spots.
Altitude in this area is about 4500 but I couldnít tell it affected me at all and I live at around 350.
This is of course a bit further than you asked for but the scenery is beautiful and it is one of the safest routes Iíve found regarding traffic and the mildest of hills.

Last edited by Tomm Willians; 02-22-21 at 09:15 PM.
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Old 02-23-21, 08:52 AM
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In a similar discussion a while back, someone suggested Leadville to Canon City, CO. Follow the Arkansas River downhill and downstream, there's only one significant uphill to go around Royal Gorge 10 miles out of Canon City. The terrain is beautiful, and if you need to recover a day before heading home, take the train up the gorge or a whitewater rafting trip. You might want to delay until mid-June for the rafting, though.
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Old 02-23-21, 11:17 AM
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Originally Posted by pdlamb View Post
In a similar discussion a while back, someone suggested Leadville to Canon City, CO.
I can imagine that to be just an incredible bike ride. I've driven from CO Springs to Bueno Vista and then onto Leadville about 10 years back with my family to came near Mt Elbert. The views were jaw dropping, especially coming from Brighton Michigan.
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Old 02-23-21, 11:20 AM
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Originally Posted by pdlamb View Post
In a similar discussion a while back, someone suggested Leadville to Canon City, CO. Follow the Arkansas River downhill and downstream, there's only one significant uphill to go around Royal Gorge 10 miles out of Canon City. The terrain is beautiful, and if you need to recover a day before heading home, take the train up the gorge or a whitewater rafting trip. You might want to delay until mid-June for the rafting, though.
No. Not for an 8yr old. Hwy 24 from Leadville to Salida is a 60mph two-lane-no-shoulder puckerfest.

I get the desire to mix in different scenery --if you're gonna do a century, you should enjoy a new locale, right? That being said, is something like Malibu->San Clemente not under consideration? And if you were looking for super flat, Palmdale to Victorville and back? But that would be boring, deserty, and boring. And it's been so long since I've been out there I dunno how traffic would be. And it'd be boring.
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Old 02-23-21, 08:29 PM
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If in SoCal, an easy flattish century ride is to use SART-PCH-Laguna Cyn Rd-El Toro Rd-Aliso Creek Bikeway-Santiago Cyn Rd. You could include the Huntington Beach bike path along the beach to avoid PCH to add some miles as well to put you near 100 miles.
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Old 02-24-21, 08:40 AM
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Originally Posted by superdex View Post
No. Not for an 8yr old. Hwy 24 from Leadville to Salida is a 60mph two-lane-no-shoulder puckerfest.
You may be right. But doesn't that description apply to almost all rural Colorado highways?
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Old 02-24-21, 09:02 AM
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Find a 400m track and ride 400 laps. Have fun!
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Old 02-24-21, 11:14 AM
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Originally Posted by pdlamb View Post
You may be right. But doesn't that description apply to almost all rural Colorado highways?
For the most part, kinda yeah. That's why I qualified my comment. It's a doable stretch, but no way I'd take a child on it. But there are plenty of side roads depending on where you are. You can do a flat-ish 100mi going from Denver to Ft Collins and back, all on farm roads and good shoulders. But in the mountains? Not a lot of the routes have quality shoulders for extended miles on end.
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Old 02-24-21, 03:07 PM
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The Century a Month thread has several SoCal routes where a person took the train N, then rode South. LA to north county, maybe? But 100mi and only 3300ft of climbing.
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Old 02-25-21, 01:47 AM
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The Sacramento Century route is pretty flat. Less than 1000 feet of elevation over 100 miles.

https://ridewithgps.com/routes/31149377

None of the elevation is an actual hill. The route sort of meanders between sea level at 40 feet ASL and you've got a nice midway point via Walnut Grove. South River Road is not the most bike friendly road in the area but it's got a decent shoulder and lots of visibility. So you won't have vehicles jumping up on you (or you them). Weather up here is mid 50s for the lows and mid 80s for the high. Winds in Sacramento are interesting, I've ridden a rectangle loop in the area and I've had a headwind the entire time. I would say prevails winds are out of the north and west.
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Old 02-25-21, 03:36 AM
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Originally Posted by tgot View Post
The Century a Month thread has several SoCal routes where a person took the train N, then rode South. LA to north county, maybe? But 100mi and only 3300ft of climbing.
yeah...done it multiple ways from la to san diego but nearly always through camp pendleton which can get a little busy at the south end/entrance with freeway on/off ramps.

if it's gotta be in may, that kills (as said in the op's og post) off palm springs and phoenix (and death valley and the tucson loop) which could all be very doable in early/mid april.

it could be done from (as mentioned preciously) from just south of malibu-santa monica, starting along the bike path-to the "enforced" edge of camp pendleton at las flores rd.
only one adult chaperoning rider is mentioned...i'd want two-one ahead and one behind for certain stretches such as the exit from the bike path in redondo and transitioning
into palos verdes estates (your longest grade), along with the rancho palos verdes into san pedro, dropping down into the la harbor area, negotiating anaheim st until the la river bike path into long beach
segment as well as the mariners mile along pch in newport beach. the path would take you inland along the newport back bay trail (climbing out onto jamboree rd sidewalk would be
your steepest short stretch the entire ride) and take advantage of the irvine bike path network to deposit you as close as possible to the corner of trabuco rd/marguerite pkwy.
from there, it would be staying along the south side of the 5 fwy in that corridor until ortega hwy/hwy 74 where you would make a quick left just before crossing over the 5 fwy,
then a quick right to them hook up with the san juan capistrano bike path that deposits you at doheny state beach. from doheny heading south thru san clemente and utilizing the well-signed
and rolling bike route south of el camino real and the 5 fwy until about a mile north of the trestles bike path access. easy ride past trestles and the san onofre nuclear power plant
and enter san onofre state beach area. once thru that and onto the northern part of the (usually) open camp pendleton, it's another few miles to las flores road junction where there is a
large turnout and plenty of parking just east of the 5 freeway/las flores intersection. a couple of thoughts on this section besides wanting a lead and trailing adult rider in certain areas
if doing this ride:
1. no matter how you zig and zag, it's a little steep (and long) for an 8 yo to climb from redondo beach up to palos verdes estates, then up (easiest) via del monte to via montemar and then a right
down to the bluff cove area within the space of 3-5 miles.
2. taking into consideration the various bike paths you pass north to south (ballona creek, la river, san gabriel river trail, santa ana river trail), you would only be on the la river trail for approx
2-3 miles. there are some situations along there that i wouldn't feel comfortable exposing my kid(s)-mine are grown now-to at that age. you could incorporate some part(s) of
the sgrt and or sart as a there and back or starting/ending point but those two trails, along with the la river trail i would save for 16+ yo's. haven't had any such vibes on ballona creek,
the irvine trail network (including back bay) or the sjc to doheny path.
3. if i mock up and dump the ride north of long beach and go all the way to las flores, i come up with 85 miles by doing much of the balboa peninsula and jutting inland with the back bay
trail and following the relatively gentle trabuco rd/marguerite pkwy corridor to sjc (which is a little quieter and wider than the other side of the freeway). noodling and doodling within the
irvine trail network might net you another 6-7 miles w/o repetition and/or doubling back.

i mocked up a san diego coastal century ride that isn't as dicey but could still use a second chaperone here and there. the good news is that it's got about half of the elevation gain.
the bad news is that you repeat about 70-75% of the ride, albeit in the other direction, and it's a more complicated route to follow. the strava route says less than 1,100 feet in elevation
gain but my experience tells me it's closer to 1,500-1,600 ft. still less than half of the la to oc ride where much of your el gain is in the south redondo/palos verdes peninsula area along with the
trabuco/marguerite stretch. the coronado stretch along the silver strand state beach nearly always has a 3/4 headwind heading north for approx 6 miles and the fiesta island loop heading
west and south usually has a decent headwind for approx 1.5 miles.

https://www.strava.com/routes/2799935935163360562

a question is what roads/routes has he ridden (conceivably, orange county) in preparation/doing 50-mile routes so i/we have a better idea of difficulty/traffic exposure?

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Old 02-25-21, 06:31 PM
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Wow, thanks for all the thoughtful replies.

I figure the easiest routes are ones that start high in mountains and at least give you 10-30 miles of downhill freebie miles in the beginning.

Originally Posted by CAT7RDR View Post
If in SoCal, an easy flattish century ride is to use SART-PCH-Laguna Cyn Rd-El Toro Rd-Aliso Creek Bikeway-Santiago Cyn Rd. You could include the Huntington Beach bike path along the beach to avoid PCH to add some miles as well to put you near 100 miles.
This is our current riding area and it's great practice. Someone else mentioned the hope of going somewhere different. That's true, but certainly just hopping on the bike from home in Laguna Niguel and heading south or north along the coast is a pretty good option. A similar route I looked out started out on the top of Palos Verdes and then heading south. You get some of the early freebie miles, but not too many. We used to live in Long Beach and are very comfortable with this route, even through the port area. (I can't post links, so I'll put the route ID that goes at the end of the URL strava..../routes/[route id]) -- 2799079206554984182

Originally Posted by SalsaShark View Post
Find a 400m track and ride 400 laps. Have fun!
If he does something bad, this will be his punishment route 😂

Originally Posted by tgot View Post
The Century a Month thread has several SoCal routes where a person took the train N, then rode South. LA to north county, maybe? But 100mi and only 3300ft of climbing.
I love this idea and that's actually what we've done on some of the half-centuries we've done. We just left South Orange county, rode as far as we could, and hopped on an Amtrak back home. The tickets were $15 each and it's a self-sufficient way to cover a lot of ground. It's a good idea because it can easily be done in reverse depending on wind forecasts.

Originally Posted by softreset View Post
The Sacramento Century route is pretty flat. Less than 1000 feet of elevation over 100 miles.
As you mentioned, the wind in this area worries me a little, but I've found a lot of the routes I've been testing in the route planner work really well out here.

Originally Posted by ooga-booga View Post
...i mocked up a san diego coastal century ride that isn't as dicey but could still use a second chaperone here and there...
...
a question is what roads/routes has he ridden (conceivably, orange county) in preparation/doing 50-mile routes so i/we have a better idea of difficulty/traffic exposure?
Thanks for the route mock up, I'm actually really interested in the route. Really flat, good mix of city and coastal to keep it interesting.

He grew up riding in Long Beach. It was scary teaching a little kid to ride on those busy streets, but I think it was really stimulating at the same time. He his vigilant with cars, driveways, pedestrians, etc. because of it. Now we live in the suburbs with lots of bike trails, large sidewalks and bike lines. More hills too.

I appreciate the comments on having a second adult on some of these routes and think it's a smart idea. Consequently, I've recruited my dad. He's pretty sure he can keep the pace

Regarding the CO ride. Wow, I want to go there. Following the river bed is smart and the scenery seems spectacular. I'm going to file that one away for a couple years from now. The drive out there wouldn't be too crazy, but with no familiarity of the area, services, and no friends/family there CO becomes logistically tougher.

I've got four routes so far that I'm seriously considering--all three with lots of freebie miles at the beginning. As my son continues to train that will inform a lot in terms of how realistic any of these are.

The first is starting near Big Bear and heading down toward Anaheim via Redlands. Can anyone speak to the second half of this ride? (strava route id 2799311640530882366)

The second ride that I really like (I think it would be gorgeous) is Solvang north to San Luis Obisbo. It's likely the max amount of climbing I could consider, and there is a pretty high risk of headwind. That said, it would be a rewarding ride. I suppose a good candidate for a shorter training ride. (strava route id 2799439026218074166)

The third one is kind of random, but we drove from Crater Lake last year to the Oregon coast. A memorable and gorgeous drive. It's a long and generous descent and the weather would probably be great. Street view confirms that the road is ok--not great, but seems doable. Primary issue with this ride is how far away it is, but that's not a deal breaker. (strava route id 2799798886832470322)

I haven't thought too much about this final route, but generally it seems to check a lot of boxes. If anyone has experience cycling in Yuba City/Chico area, feedback on this route would be appreciated. (strava route id 2800159669395807966)
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Old 02-25-21, 09:45 PM
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The river trails take you through some very scenic parts of the metropolis but maybe you have seen all that and are looking for something new. Riding to Azusa on one one path and back on another is neat and very dramatic approaching the mountains. The Pacific Coast Coast Randonneurs have some routes. I did one with them called 5 rivers or some such.
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Old 03-02-21, 09:05 AM
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My eight-year-old has set a lofty goal of riding a century--I plan to ride with him. Over the past year he's done a couple of 50 miler's and can't seem to get enough. Seems with a reasonable training plan and a little help from me it may actually be possible for him. He's a couple weeks into preparations and I'm struggling to plan a good route for him--I could use some help.
I don't actually think enabling an 8-year-old to try an 100 mile ride is a good idea. only one good thing can happen - but dozens of bad outcomes are possible......

However this may be the best way to claim a "first century ride" for the future champion......

Go to your previous 50 mile route. but start the ride in the afternoon. Go home, comeback early the next morning and complete the route again - before the previous day's starting time.. There you have it --- 100 miles in less than 24 hours - and much less chance of injury.

If this doesn't appeal - at least setup some alternate test of endurance with rest to be sure the child won't hurt himself. I have no proof - but I just think eight could be a little young - although I can see trying it for 10 and up.
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Old 03-03-21, 04:09 PM
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Originally Posted by Richard Cranium View Post
I don't actually think enabling an 8-year-old to try an 100 mile ride is a good idea. only one good thing can happen - but dozens of bad outcomes are possible......
I appreciate the sincere concern and expected some to have this response. My imagination can dream up far more than one good thing happening. In fact, the actual completion of the event, in my opinion, is not even the ultimate goal. The primary goals are teaching my son about building endurance, teaching him about the discipline of following a training program, hours and hours on the bike together, hours off the bike together looking at maps and Strava, etc. All of that in a low-pressure environment where I allow him to lead and be the source of his motivation is a wonderful outcome.

If we actually make it to the big day and attempt the full 100 miles, the goal of this thread is to minimize the risks while balancing the trade off of providing a rewarding ride.
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