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The climb to Big Bear

Old 04-26-19, 10:22 AM
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The climb to Big Bear

After years of not having a car, I have finally purchased one. Still do not need it for my normal day to day, it mainly is to get to farther trailheads!

Going to finally hit up the San Bernardino mountains, starting with Big Bear. It seems like there are two options: straight up the 330/City Creek Road or the longer way on the 18/Rim of the World Highway. I can see the elevation profile on Strava, but I was more interested in the difference in traffic and scenery. Perhaps ascend one and down the other? Do not think we will circle the lake this time around.

Other questions:
  1. Where to park? Public park with restrooms are always ideal.
  2. Where to eat afterwards? Calories out, calories in.
  3. If we were to circle the lake, is one direction preferred? I would assume clockwise so that the lake would be on our right.

https://www.strava.com/segments/787836
https://www.strava.com/segments/12523282
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Old 04-26-19, 02:39 PM
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funny, i was thinking of doing this area mon or tues. the 18 (vs the 330) is the preferred ascent. heading up the 18, you can bail out onto old waterman canyon rd
which runs parallel to the 18 for a few miles. it's a little steeper but a helluva lot less traffic. when you do rejoin the 18, it's for the relatively easy last push up to the top
of the ridge. really nice views the last mile or so up. the 330 (imho) seems to have a little more traffic and that traffic seems to be a little faster. i'm okay descending
the 330 (or the 18) but wouldn't ascend the 330 unless i had no other choice. riding along the 18, then 330 to/from big bear is really pretty whichever direction you head.
you're close to the views most of the way and the sightlines for you and motorists are better than you would think. i'd still rock a front and back blinker or two because
you'll be darting in and out of the canopied shadows occasionally.

there is always hwy 38 from mentone up to onyx summit then down to big bear lake. a counterclockwise loop involving descending hwy 330 is approx a century ride
with that ascent from mentone to onyx summit checking in at about a 33 mile climb. similar in effort with the climb up the 39 from azusa to dawson saddle.

https://www.strava.com/activities/165655290

seems like there is always roadwork up there once winter ends so a good idea to check this before going:

Division of Traffic Operations - Road Information - California Highway Information

north side of big bear lake is pretty chill and more picturesque. rolling on the south side carries a bit of distracted traffic and meh pavement so be on guard.
an alternative shorter ride is to circle around lake arrowhead. not as much traffic and a surprisingly challenging up/down road with some nice views.
as always, weekdays are nicer if you can swing it. weekends, if you must, should find you starting at dawn.

i've parked in various places over the years but don't have an absolute starting/finishing point. there is a handy dandy (unpaved) parking area at the top of the 18 on your right
driving up just as you hit the top. there's a stop light there. it's big enough for 18-20 cars if you get there early enough (like before 8am). this is a great spot to start from if you
don't want to deal with the longish ascent from the san berdoo bottom and just want to ride the undulations (plenty of elevation gain) and maximize the views.

https://www.strava.com/activities/686572741

simple enough to head west to lakes arrowhead and gregory or east to big bear. a great place to start from for a first ride into the area if you wanna cover more of the good stuff
vs the slog up from below.

Last edited by ooga-booga; 04-26-19 at 02:45 PM.
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Old 04-26-19, 04:29 PM
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If it's the first time to Big Bear Lake (~6700 ft), I wouldn't miss Onyx Peak (~8400 ft). Very basic long climb, nowhere is particularly steep. Altitude could play a significant role since the effective oxygen is down significantly, from ~21% (Elev ~0) to ~15% (Elev ~8400 ft).
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Old 04-29-19, 02:23 PM
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I really would not want to ride up 330 unless the road is closed (which they used to do for ride around the bear, not sure if that's still a thing anymore). The road up the back way via Onyx is a much nicer place to spend an afternoon on the bike and you can grab chow / fresh water in Angelus Oaks both ways. Park at the ranger station at the base of the hill (mill creek visitor station). If you start early enough, you'll have time to drop into Bear Village for some chow before you climb back out.
Watch out for weather, it just snowed up there yesterday.
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Old 04-29-19, 05:30 PM
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Ride Around the Bear is no more. Yes it went up 330, no they did not close the road to traffic, but they did put one of those portable electronic signs at the bottom of the hill saying Watch for Bikes. I did the second-to-the-last RATB in 2015. I didn’t have any terribly close calls on 330 but it was less than ideal, especially the boat trailers, their wheelbase is wider than the tow vehicle and a trailer cuts inside the line the tow vehicle takes around a turn.

I also recommend 38 to Onyx Summit as the better route. Our club is planning on it for June 1.
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Old 04-29-19, 11:34 PM
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the lack of responses to the thread (w/300+ views) after a few days tells me that the san berdoos are, well, underridden (word?).
sure, plenty of people have done breathless agony and onyx summit or been stupid enuff to negotiate damnation
alley +- forest falls or even rolled around big bear lake. doesn't seem like there's much love for the rest of the range.
i get it...the semi-nearby gmr/grr/baldy, the 39 up to crystal lake and the ride up to mt. wilson are sexy.
seems like peeps that have done the 173 or the 18 or the 138 or the 330 are either dead, nearly so, mute, off the grid or super stealthy/lurky.

i still posit that the santa monicas (sammos) are the best mtn range in la area to ride based on sheer number of connectable routes/climbs. angeles nf/san gabriels
a pretty close second place. the san berdoos still not too shabby and may surprise your jaded self.

Last edited by ooga-booga; 04-30-19 at 01:24 AM.
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Old 04-30-19, 01:32 PM
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Originally Posted by ooga-booga View Post
the lack of responses to the thread (w/300+ views) after a few days tells me that the san berdoos are, well, underridden (word?).
Well, you follow me on Strava, so you know what I ended up riding. My friend just came back from a long-ish vacation, so he was not up for 8K+ feet of climbing. We ended up doing "only" 6.5K feet in the Santa Monica mountains, trying to find new segments. We kept on getting caught by closed portions, such as a bridge gone due to last year's fire.

So many great comments. I had a feeling that 330 was not the way to go, and it looks like my feeling was right. I like ooga-booga's route and that probably is the one I will attempt once I finally get to the San Berdoos. Are there other climbs to do in that range?

Did not consider closures/weather, so thanks for those comments. I assumed that the San Bernandino area would be warmer than the Santa Monica mountains. I have one more weekend ride for training for the Lobster Ride. Weather will decide it.
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Old 05-01-19, 08:25 AM
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Originally Posted by ooga-booga View Post
the lack of responses to the thread (w/300+ views) after a few days tells me that the san berdoos are, well, underridden (word?).
sure, plenty of people have done breathless agony and onyx summit or been stupid enuff to negotiate damnation
alley +- forest falls or even rolled around big bear lake. doesn't seem like there's much love for the rest of the range.
i get it...the semi-nearby gmr/grr/baldy, the 39 up to crystal lake and the ride up to mt. wilson are sexy.
seems like peeps that have done the 173 or the 18 or the 138 or the 330 are either dead, nearly so, mute, off the grid or super stealthy/lurky.

i still posit that the santa monicas (sammos) are the best mtn range in la area to ride based on sheer number of connectable routes/climbs. angeles nf/san gabriels
a pretty close second place. the san berdoos still not too shabby and may surprise your jaded self.

I too agree GMR/GRR/Baldy/Ski Lift (~6500' Altitude) and Crystal Lake (~5600' altitude) are just sexier, more bike friendly, more challenging, and therefore more fun. A Caffe at the top with ice cold Gatorade on a hot summer day or warm chocolate milk on a cold winter day has been super rewarding. I also enjoy the Crystal Lake descent to East Fork: not much traffic, not too steep, and excellent pavement.

Climbing over ~6500' altitude to Onyx Peak on a hot summer day could be a very unique experience, particularly when short of water (water supply is very limited along the climb). In last year's Tour de Big Bear, I was with tens of fellow cyclists experiencing cramping together, when the event organizer failed to fill the water stations in between and most riders didn't fill their water bottle to full at the Angelus Oaks rest stop.
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Old 05-01-19, 08:44 PM
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Originally Posted by hsuehhwa View Post
most riders didn't fill their water bottle to full at the Angelus Oaks rest stop.
Whoops.
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Old 05-01-19, 09:57 PM
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Riding a bicycle up 330 is something I would not recommend. Probably half of that road is shoulderless, and all of it is narrow and heavily populated with mountain locals who think they're Hans Stuck. The 18? If you wanna. But you will notice that the Strava segment has 22 attempts by 17 people-- compare that to the 38 climb, which has 1,920 attempts by 1,280 people.

Traffic is lightest by far on the 38. If you're gonna come down the 330 (your very own Ride Around the Bear) stick to the weekdays, and try to time your descent for the late morning / early afternoon-- say 11-2 or so. Traffic will be lightest.

Sylvan Park on University Ave. in Redlands is a popular start spot, it's close to most everything. Full amenities, and about 1/4 mile from the 10 Freeway.

As to what direction to circle the lake, I've done it both ways, and make that choice based on where the wind is coming from that particular day. But I prefer doing the South shore first, as the section of 18/Big Bear Blvd. just east of the dam is the tightest and most heavily trafficked. North Shore, Fawnskin, and toward Baldwin Lake are largely empty.

Where you eat depends on if you want to eat up top or when you get to the bottom. The Grizzly Manor Cafe on the boulevard is fantastic, but only open for breakfast (until I think 1pm.) In Highland/Redlands/SanBdno, too many places to name. Though if you do Sylvan to Sylvan, you're minutes from downtown Redlands, and they've got pretty much everything. We've even got poke and sushi out here now, it's almost like civilization.

My personal recommendation as a local? Up the 38, but don't turn at the cutoff. Keep going up Valley of the Falls into Forest Falls. The last 3 miles are so are absolutely brutal, with pitches up to 14%, but it's quiet, so low trafficked it feels abandoned, and the prettiest of the lot. I'll head up to the campground and the Vivian Creek Trailhead, take a break to soak it in, and start the descent, usually stopping at the Elkhorn General store on the way down. It's so quiet. I'll take Forest Falls over GMR most any day.

38 to Jenks Lake is also nice, or Morton Peak if your tires are a bit wider.
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Old 05-02-19, 12:49 PM
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Originally Posted by TrojanHorse View Post
Whoops.
On paper it's "only" ~20 mi + ~2600 ft elevation gain from Angelus Oaks to Onyx Peak, plus most riders just rested and drank tons of liquid at Angelus Oaks. Some might choose not to carry the extra weight of an extra water bottle in climbing, under-estimating the heat, warm head wind, and altitude factors. Some others might just need more than two water bottles. They did have two-three unattended water stations in between, unfortunately no water left. There were tons of complaints afterward. I wasn't particularly fast or slow. I was approximate ~35% in the century group.
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Old 05-02-19, 08:29 PM
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I am looking at the weather. That's just too cold. I assumed it would be warmer at that region, even at elevation.

My friend still wants to do it, but he is not affected by the cold as I am. I moved to California to never be cold again. Never want to see snowfall again. As much as I want to do a new route, I hope I can skip!
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Old 05-03-19, 10:54 AM
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Originally Posted by DrIsotope View Post
Riding a bicycle up 330 is something I would not recommend. Probably half of that road is shoulderless, and all of it is narrow and heavily populated with mountain locals who think they're Hans Stuck. The 18? If you wanna. But you will notice that the Strava segment has 22 attempts by 17 people-- compare that to the 38 climb, which has 1,920 attempts by 1,280 people.

Traffic is lightest by far on the 38. If you're gonna come down the 330 (your very own Ride Around the Bear) stick to the weekdays, and try to time your descent for the late morning / early afternoon-- say 11-2 or so. Traffic will be lightest.

Sylvan Park on University Ave. in Redlands is a popular start spot, it's close to most everything. Full amenities, and about 1/4 mile from the 10 Freeway.

As to what direction to circle the lake, I've done it both ways, and make that choice based on where the wind is coming from that particular day. But I prefer doing the South shore first, as the section of 18/Big Bear Blvd. just east of the dam is the tightest and most heavily trafficked. North Shore, Fawnskin, and toward Baldwin Lake are largely empty.

Where you eat depends on if you want to eat up top or when you get to the bottom. The Grizzly Manor Cafe on the boulevard is fantastic, but only open for breakfast (until I think 1pm.) In Highland/Redlands/SanBdno, too many places to name. Though if you do Sylvan to Sylvan, you're minutes from downtown Redlands, and they've got pretty much everything. We've even got poke and sushi out here now, it's almost like civilization.

My personal recommendation as a local? Up the 38, but don't turn at the cutoff. Keep going up Valley of the Falls into Forest Falls. The last 3 miles are so are absolutely brutal, with pitches up to 14%, but it's quiet, so low trafficked it feels abandoned, and the prettiest of the lot. I'll head up to the campground and the Vivian Creek Trailhead, take a break to soak it in, and start the descent, usually stopping at the Elkhorn General store on the way down. It's so quiet. I'll take Forest Falls over GMR most any day.

38 to Jenks Lake is also nice, or Morton Peak if your tires are a bit wider.
Forest Falls is hands down the most beautiful ride in the area.

I personally don't do the 330 or 18. If I climb around here its the 38/Forest Falls, 38/Onyx, Old Waterman Canyon, Oak Glen, or Devils Canyon. IMO, the 18 is doable but really there are better options out there. I haven't even came close to hitting all the Cat 1/HC climbs around here.
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Old 05-03-19, 01:49 PM
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How are the 18/38 compared to the 2/ACH going up to Wilson/Newcomb's/Dawson Saddle? I don't mind the ACH, but I do wish there were less motorcycles.

Looking at Google Street View now. Much uglier than I assumed it would be.
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Old 05-03-19, 06:24 PM
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The 38 is fine. It's old and twisty. The 18 is basically a highway. Cars are doing 50+, both up and down-- and there's a lot of 'em.

Most times I head to Forest Falls, I might see one or two cars past the 38 cutoff. The lower 38 (below the cutoff) is freshly paved, and in most places the shoulder is 4+ feet.

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Old 05-04-19, 06:03 AM
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it's still too cold for this codger. off mon/tues generally but haven't had any luck weatherwise those days in regards to the higher socal mtns lately except
for a little escape to gmr/grr in march and the julian area in april. optimistic that it'll change soon and i'll be able to hit the berdoos in the next two weeks.
looking to do a 60+ mile ride from lake gregory area to big bear lake and back. looking to hit a new pie shop along the way.
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Old 05-08-19, 04:25 PM
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Finally did the climb on Sunday. Since I now had a free day on Saturday, I hung out with some friends. Big ride the next day, but a little day drinking would not affect it. Long story short, we started late because we were hung over.

We only had time to climb to Onyx Peak via 38. Nice road. Much nicer than 2/ACH. Instead of the direct way, we took the scenic "detour" via Jenks Lake suggested by the only cyclist we met. Next time we will do a full loop.

Surprised by the complete lack of cyclist. Only saw one. No matter the time of day (on the weekend), you will see another rider on the ACH.

Overall the weather was decent. Cloudy during the entire hour-long drive to get there, but it opened up as soon as we started. Short sleeve on the way up, a bit chilly on top. Thin baselayer and sun sleeves for the way down.
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Old 06-24-19, 09:42 PM
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Originally Posted by ooga-booga View Post
funny, i was thinking of doing this area mon or tues. the 18 (vs the 330) is the preferred ascent. heading up the 18, you can bail out onto old waterman canyon rd
which runs parallel to the 18 for a few miles. it's a little steeper but a helluva lot less traffic. when you do rejoin the 18, it's for the relatively easy last push up to the top
of the ridge. really nice views the last mile or so up. the 330 (imho) seems to have a little more traffic and that traffic seems to be a little faster. i'm okay descending
the 330 (or the 18) but wouldn't ascend the 330 unless i had no other choice. riding along the 18, then 330 to/from big bear is really pretty whichever direction you head.
you're close to the views most of the way and the sightlines for you and motorists are better than you would think. i'd still rock a front and back blinker or two because
you'll be darting in and out of the canopied shadows occasionally.

there is always hwy 38 from mentone up to onyx summit then down to big bear lake. a counterclockwise loop involving descending hwy 330 is approx a century ride
with that ascent from mentone to onyx summit checking in at about a 33 mile climb. similar in effort with the climb up the 39 from azusa to dawson saddle.

https://www.strava.com/activities/165655290

seems like there is always roadwork up there once winter ends so a good idea to check this before going:

Division of Traffic Operations - Road Information - California Highway Information

north side of big bear lake is pretty chill and more picturesque. rolling on the south side carries a bit of distracted traffic and meh pavement so be on guard.
an alternative shorter ride is to circle around lake arrowhead. not as much traffic and a surprisingly challenging up/down road with some nice views.
as always, weekdays are nicer if you can swing it. weekends, if you must, should find you starting at dawn.

i've parked in various places over the years but don't have an absolute starting/finishing point. there is a handy dandy (unpaved) parking area at the top of the 18 on your right
driving up just as you hit the top. there's a stop light there. it's big enough for 18-20 cars if you get there early enough (like before 8am). this is a great spot to start from if you
don't want to deal with the longish ascent from the san berdoo bottom and just want to ride the undulations (plenty of elevation gain) and maximize the views.


https://www.strava.com/activities/686572741

simple enough to head west to lakes arrowhead and gregory or east to big bear. a great place to start from for a first ride into the area if you wanna cover more of the good stuff
vs the slog up from below.


the intersection/parking area i was thinking of is lake gregory drive and ca hwy 18. the parking area's been paved since i was last up there. the times i parked there, the lot had at least 8-10 cars.
when i rode thru the intersection last tuesday around 10 am, there was one car parked. go figure.

https://www.strava.com/activities/2461171894
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Old 04-20-20, 05:39 PM
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Thanks again to everyone that responded almost a year ago. In addition to the ride I did last May, I eventually spent a few days in Big Bear last September and rode around the area.

Considering going back this weekend and riding up the 18. Traffic is very light every nowadays, EXCEPT for roads going to hiking spots. The ACH is busier than I have ever seen it. How is the traffic like on the weekends lately?

It will be very hot this weekend. Hot at the start, but how will be the road be?

ooga-booga, that last activity you posted seems very interesting.
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Old 04-20-20, 06:00 PM
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Originally Posted by Tycho Brahe View Post
Thanks again to everyone that responded almost a year ago. In addition to the ride I did last May, I eventually spent a few days in Big Bear last September and rode around the area.

Considering going back this weekend and riding up the 18. Traffic is very light every nowadays, EXCEPT for roads going to hiking spots. The ACH is busier than I have ever seen it. How is the traffic like on the weekends lately?

It will be very hot this weekend. Hot at the start, but how will be the road be?

ooga-booga, that last activity you posted seems very interesting.
1. count me in. 7:30am start will negate all the flatland heat.
2. gotta consult the ca hwy road conditions website/phoneline. i'm assuming there will be some kinda roadwork along the way.
3. which one?
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Old 04-20-20, 06:16 PM
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Originally Posted by ooga-booga View Post
3. which one?
This one: https://www.strava.com/activities/2461171894

Was looking at various rides in the area and found this one that does a loop, descending on the 18: https://www.strava.com/activities/2415375708/overview
Also found this nearby cat 2 climb: https://www.strava.com/segments/624260

Would not mind a bit more mileage/elevation.
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Old 04-20-20, 06:46 PM
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oh yah. that one. it was a blast. def wall of pain approx a mile long tho ascending the 138 once it turns into the real mtns. pretty tho.
when i do that ride again...i've got a little variation with approx 5 miles of mixed pavé/dirt enroute. i don't think you're dumb enuff to try it on 23's but i am.

first strava link...not a fan of ascending or descending for a mile+ on the 15 fwy in cajon pass area. i'd avoid it unless i absolutely hafta utilize it. if i did, it would be descending.

second strava link...lytle creek is def worthy but kinda out of the way and difficult to incorporate into a ride w/other destinations. can always do repeats.
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Old 04-25-20, 07:50 PM
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Originally Posted by Tycho Brahe View Post
Thanks again to everyone that responded almost a year ago. In addition to the ride I did last May, I eventually spent a few days in Big Bear last September and rode around the area.

Considering going back this weekend and riding up the 18. Traffic is very light every nowadays, EXCEPT for roads going to hiking spots. The ACH is busier than I have ever seen it. How is the traffic like on the weekends lately?

It will be very hot this weekend. Hot at the start, but how will be the road be?

ooga-booga, that last activity you posted seems very interesting.
traffic wasn't too bad. old waterman is an awesome, albeit steep, alternative to the 18 for a few miles. i expected traffic to be busier.
the 7:30am start was key to beat the heat but if i had a do-over, i think 6:30am woulda been slightly better. road quality in the san berdoos was generally
really good...a 7/10. descent of the 18 was a blast...only that last mile of pavement on the 18 descent was ruff. those low guardrails along the 18's bottom half will
never not be a source of angst tho. the shouts of encouragement from multiple drivers was a nice change from the usual shouts emanating from
vehicular traffic. thanks to Tycho Brahe for the daylong social dropping (of myself) and for being semi-receptive/too groggy to say no on the two "little" sidebars...

https://www.strava.com/activities/3353356330

Last edited by ooga-booga; 04-25-20 at 09:02 PM.
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Old 06-26-20, 01:20 PM
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Wow this photo makes me want to head up there soon!
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Old 01-11-21, 09:56 AM
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Hi everyone, I'm new here, enjoying the forum! I'm considering a ~100mi ride in March from OC up to BB. By the comments, looks like my best bet is up the 38 or 18 (I've never rode San Bern). Strava shows guys do it, but I'm trying to consider how brutal the weather typically is March time? Any input appreciated.
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