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Refugio or Highway 166

Old 06-05-19, 02:14 PM
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army14
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Refugio or Highway 166

Iím looking to do my annual pilgrimage North. I will ride from Simi Valley and head towards San Luis Obispo. My family leaves about 6 hours after me to pick me up wherever I end up. I have done the 101 to Lompoc, 154 to Solvang and this Iím looking to try another route. I was looking into either 101 to Refugio and into Solvang or Ojai to the 33 and on to the 166 heading to Santa Maria. I donít have to get all the way to Santa Maria as Iím sure my SAG will catch me. I have read conflicting reports about the availability of Refugio and I have done the 33 but not the 166. Any advice? Thanks.
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Old 06-05-19, 06:35 PM
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i don't remember there being any reliable support from ojai via hwy 33 through ventucopa and then new cuyama on hwy 166 until you get to santa maria. if there was a general store or such, i missed it.
there is that usfs ranger station just after the final descent on hwy 33 heading from ojai (about 32 miles from ojai)...meant to check and see if they had a water fountain/water but forgot last time i chanced by.
the hwy 166 west from the junction with hwy 33 is straight as an arrow for miles but not very wide and with lots of big rig traffic between santa maria and maricopa/taft enroute to the 5 fwy/grapevine.
i can't really recommend it but if you take it, you'll want to pack all the food/water you'll need. hwy 166 pretties up substantially for about 10 miles or so once past new cuyama and as it climbs out of the valley.
the shoulder widens somewhat once you draw close to santa maria. it's approx 120 miles between ojai and santa maria with half of it scenic and the other half boring as hell with a headwind. i think it's better done
the opposite way from santa maria > ojai. cell service is nonexistent for most of those 120 miles.


the last people i recommended doing refugio heading south from san luis obispo encountered a road closure and were forced to take everyone's favorite racetrack-hwy 154. currently...it's open.

https://www.countyofsb.org/pwd/roadclosures.sbc

the 101 is plenty wide heading from goleta to refugio road. once out of goleta, there's no support except for the grocery store at el capitan state beach on the inland side of the freeway about two miles before the
exit for refugio rd. this is your last chance for supplies until you get to santa ynez, los olivos or solvang. it's about 16 miles once you start heading up refugio till you hit hwy 246 in santa ynez valley. first few miles
on refugio are relatively easy but then it comes on like a freight train for about 4 miles. if you can do gibraltar rd or hwy 33 to rose valley or farther summit, you can do refugio. road quality is pretty bad but when
you're going 4-7 mph, it's not a big issue. were you descending it? i wouldn't go faster than 25 mph. last half mile to the summit is relatively easy but the legs are pretty beat up by then. the descent is on generally well-packed dirt.
i wouldn't descend it too fast to avoid a wipeout but it's not as steep as what you just ascended. that said, your forearms will still get a workout from braking. i got off once to walk a little bumpy 25 yard stretch but
otherwise remained on the bike. i was riding 23's but you'll be happier with 25's, 28's or anything bigger than 23's. the descent is mercifully mostly in the shade. you will encounter some hikers walking along the trail.
the (downhill) dirt section of refugio is about 5.5 miles. once back on the pavement, it gets pretty with the sycamore trees. there will be multiple bridges crossing back and forth over the stream/creek that follows the road
for a few miles. this road looks smooth but has lots of "dimples" and unevenness (word?) and has a few rough bridge/road interfaces so i'd keep two hands on the bars until to the 246. i didn't have cell service the entire length of refugio rd.

https://www.strava.com/activities/1572410728

my vote? the 101 to refugio to foxen canyon road to santa maria.

Last edited by ooga-booga; 06-05-19 at 06:40 PM.
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Old 06-05-19, 07:29 PM
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I am smart enough to realize that when a guy, who has given as much advice about this area suggests 101 to Refugio to Foxen, that is exactly what I'll do. I've done Gibraltar and the 33 o the summit out of Ojai. I'm fat and old but I'll just keep pedaling. The grocery store has been my last stop a couple of times, I was glad I stopped before heading on to Lompoc along the 1. I'm still debating if I will appreciate my 23's for the first 80 miles, or will I wish I had gone 25 or 28 for Refugio. maybe i will split the difference and go 25 for the whole thing.

My 2015 trip to Solvang and last time I did the 154. https://www.strava.com/activities/326252575

I plan on doing See canyon and Prefumo out of Avila Beach and maybe a later trip to Lake Lopez.

Thanks for the help.

Last edited by army14; 06-05-19 at 07:36 PM. Reason: addition
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Old 06-05-19, 08:19 PM
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166 is NOT bicycle friendly, please choose an alternate route!
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Old 06-05-19, 10:03 PM
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Originally Posted by army14 View Post
I am smart enough to realize that when a guy, who has given as much advice about this area suggests 101 to Refugio to Foxen, that is exactly what I'll do. I've done Gibraltar and the 33 o the summit out of Ojai. I'm fat and old but I'll just keep pedaling. The grocery store has been my last stop a couple of times, I was glad I stopped before heading on to Lompoc along the 1. I'm still debating if I will appreciate my 23's for the first 80 miles, or will I wish I had gone 25 or 28 for Refugio. maybe i will split the difference and go 25 for the whole thing.

My 2015 trip to Solvang and last time I did the 154. https://www.strava.com/activities/326252575

I plan on doing See canyon and Prefumo out of Avila Beach and maybe a later trip to Lake Lopez.

Thanks for the help.
you're welcome. quiet roads demand more intel.

harris grade north of lompoc riding into orcutt is fun as an alternative vs foxen canyon but it sounds like you may have done that before.

see canyon and prefumo are on the list but last time i was up there, i only had a few hours to ride.

most intriguing ride in the semi-nearby area to me (besides the jalama beach burger ride which i haven't done yet) is the one from santa maria/orcutt/casmalia south/southwest to point sal beach state park
via brown rd. road was closed this april when i rolled out there heading south from the 1 and i could see roadwork in progress. local intel says the road is beat all to hell. still curious. no access from the south
without appropriate military clearance. i tried but the old, closed road was uber-overgrown and not navigable.

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Old 06-05-19, 10:21 PM
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Originally Posted by army14 View Post
I am smart enough to realize that when a guy, who has given as much advice about this area suggests 101 to Refugio to Foxen, that is exactly what I'll do. I've done Gibraltar and the 33 o the summit out of Ojai. I'm fat and old but I'll just keep pedaling. The grocery store has been my last stop a couple of times, I was glad I stopped before heading on to Lompoc along the 1. I'm still debating if I will appreciate my 23's for the first 80 miles, or will I wish I had gone 25 or 28 for Refugio. maybe i will split the difference and go 25 for the whole thing.

My 2015 trip to Solvang and last time I did the 154. https://www.strava.com/activities/326252575

I plan on doing See canyon and Prefumo out of Avila Beach and maybe a later trip to Lake Lopez.

Thanks for the help.
sometimes a smaller/skinnier tire is a good thing. it forces you to pick better lines and get conservative on an unfamiliar road. the dirt part is entirely downhill so there's that. i never slid out on
the downhill. i generally don't recommend 23's for people riding any substantial segment of dirt but i did it w/o a flat running 100 psi. granted...i'm an idiot like that and the skinny tires definitely helped on the
ascent of refugio. it's a matter of knowing your riding style/acumen and comfort levels. that said, i think you can roll 23's with a bombproof wheelset. i went with a medium weight wheelset and 23's and rode
35 miles (up hwy 154 and down old san marcos rd.) after the descent.
a lighter/racing wheelset will get beat up all to hell with 23's. if that's the wheelset you're rollin, i'd def rock 28's. and yah...low traffic on refugio. i think i saw 4 cars on refugio in 16 miles.
it's a shame that more people don't even consider refugio heading through the area. granted, it's challenging and a proper sense of adventure (said that somewhere before once or twice) but not
wholly unreasonable if you're a decently seasoned rider or have tons of form./gumption. hwy 101 and hwy 154 scare riders and for good reason because of high-speed traffic. this route doesn't
have that. it does make you question your sanity once or twice but the views and the solitude more than pay the fare.

Last edited by ooga-booga; 06-06-19 at 01:54 AM.
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Old 06-06-19, 12:00 AM
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I can recommend See and Prefumo. And I think you are doing it right going from Avila to SLO. Nice tree canopy on much of the See climb. Maybe a mile or so of dirt at the top, I was on my gravel bike running 38s at the time but donít think Iíd have difficulty on my road bike with 25s either.

I also agree 166 is not bike friendly, both due to [lack of] shoulder and truck traffic. Enjoy your rides.
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Old 06-06-19, 01:29 AM
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there are tons of places to ride in california. plenty of great 8+ mile climbs, alpine routes, desert vistas and diversity.
not sure that anywhere is generally as awesome, low-key, harmonious and diverse as the area east of the pacific, south of monterey, (waay) west of the 5 fwy and north of santa barbara tho.
for those with a low opinion of california, spend two or more days in this central california area...i dare ya. quintessential california chill and vibe.
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Old 06-06-19, 08:02 AM
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Originally Posted by jimincalif View Post
I can recommend See and Prefumo. And I think you are doing it right going from Avila to SLO. Nice tree canopy on much of the See climb. Maybe a mile or so of dirt at the top, I was on my gravel bike running 38s at the time but donít think Iíd have difficulty on my road bike with 25s either.

I also agree 166 is not bike friendly, both due to [lack of] shoulder and truck traffic. Enjoy your rides.
Thanks. I'm pretty sure it was your ride description and Strava route that I found that made me decide to try those two canyons. I have ridden up there a few times but never would have found that route without your posting.
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Old 06-06-19, 08:25 AM
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Originally Posted by ooga-booga View Post
sometimes a smaller/skinnier tire is a good thing. it forces you to pick better lines and get conservative on an unfamiliar road. the dirt part is entirely downhill so there's that. i never slid out on
the downhill. i generally don't recommend 23's for people riding any substantial segment of dirt but i did it w/o a flat running 100 psi. granted...i'm an idiot like that and the skinny tires definitely helped on the
ascent of refugio. it's a matter of knowing your riding style/acumen and comfort levels. that said, i think you can roll 23's with a bombproof wheelset. i went with a medium weight wheelset and 23's and rode
35 miles (up hwy 154 and down old san marcos rd.) after the descent.
a lighter/racing wheelset will get beat up all to hell with 23's. if that's the wheelset you're rollin, i'd def rock 28's. and yah...low traffic on refugio. i think i saw 4 cars on refugio in 16 miles.
it's a shame that more people don't even consider refugio heading through the area. granted, it's challenging and a proper sense of adventure (said that somewhere before once or twice) but not
wholly unreasonable if you're a decently seasoned rider or have tons of form./gumption. hwy 101 and hwy 154 scare riders and for good reason because of high-speed traffic. this route doesn't
have that. it does make you question your sanity once or twice but the views and the solitude more than pay the fare.
I have never ridden on dirt or gravel, except for my journey over the Old Road, which included everything, including some quicksand I think. I made it and only walked when it was too sandy. I'm using the HED Ardennes disc wheelset. I'm in no hurry on a dirt downhill, so I will just take it slow. I'm using the GP4000. I have used the 23 and 25 and never really noticed a difference, but it was all on road. Probably my toughest descent is Deer Creek, in the Santa Monica Mountains.
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Old 06-07-19, 01:39 AM
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Originally Posted by ooga-booga View Post
the last people i recommended doing refugio heading south from san luis obispo encountered a road closure and were forced to take everyone's favorite racetrack-hwy 154. currently...it's open.

https://www.countyofsb.org/pwd/roadclosures.sbc
Not your fault man! But I think checking for road closures a couple days before hand would be excellent advice.

I will say that Santa Rosa Rd between Buellton and Lompoc was awesome.
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Old 06-07-19, 02:21 AM
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Originally Posted by TrojanHorse View Post
Not your fault man! But I think checking for road closures a couple days before hand would be excellent advice.

I will say that Santa Rosa Rd between Buellton and Lompoc was awesome.
still bummed you guys weren't able to ride it. aren't you due for another slo > la ride?

santa rosa rd is pretty sweet and a must-do in the area.
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Old 06-07-19, 08:29 AM
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Originally Posted by ooga-booga View Post
still bummed you guys weren't able to ride it. aren't you due for another slo > la ride?

santa rosa rd is pretty sweet and a must-do in the area.
I'm going to try for the fall again. Might opt for a different route from Ventura home though, malibu and long beach are not particularly pleasant.
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Old 06-09-19, 06:38 PM
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Originally Posted by ooga-booga View Post
still bummed you guys weren't able to ride it. aren't you due for another slo > la ride?

santa rosa rd is pretty sweet and a must-do in the area.
I'm doing one sooner rather than later
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Old 06-09-19, 06:54 PM
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@TrojanHorse and @tunavic, if you schedule another and wouldnít mind another rider, let me know. Lot going on this year with family stuff but it might work out.
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Old 06-10-19, 03:09 AM
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Originally Posted by tunavic View Post
I'm doing one sooner rather than later
wut. someone's feelin it...
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Old 06-10-19, 08:21 PM
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Originally Posted by jimincalif View Post
@TrojanHorse and @tunavic, if you schedule another and wouldnít mind another rider, let me know. Lot going on this year with family stuff but it might work out.
YA SHURE! It might almost be more fun to ride around up there for 2-3 days and then just train back...
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Old 06-10-19, 10:19 PM
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Originally Posted by TrojanHorse View Post
YA SHURE! It might almost be more fun to ride around up there for 2-3 days and then just train back...
yes. so many rides up there for all types of riders.

Rides - SLOBC

it is probably the best area of california for cycling. granted, it's a big area without high mountains and deserts but the scenery, lack of traffic and low-key vibe are pretty tough to beat.
you can always cycle locally. i don't think any of us get up to the central coast as often as we'd like. and then there's the wine...
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Old 06-11-19, 12:01 AM
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Originally Posted by TrojanHorse View Post
YA SHURE! It might almost be more fun to ride around up there for 2-3 days and then just train back...
I wouldn't mind riding around up there for a few days AND then ride home from there but either way is good for me.
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Old 06-24-19, 01:22 AM
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so how did it go for the op?
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Old 06-24-19, 10:22 AM
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Originally Posted by ooga-booga View Post
so how did it go for the op?
I have completed the ride.
https://www.strava.com/activities/2475564193

What I found a little difficult was the fact that I rode 97 miles with 2000í of elevation and then 3 miles with 2000í of elevation. It was a little steeper than I like but it was a beautiful climb. The 4 mile dirt descent was tough but all roads were open and I stayed upright until mile 107 when I pulled into a driveway for my sag pick up and didnít realize until too late that the driveway was all gravel. A little road rash and a new pair of gloves and I will ride again but not back up Refugio. I can take that off my to do list. I was looking for an adventure and this ride sure gave me that.

Thanks too all who gave advice, I would not have attempted this ride without the intel.
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