Malibu Barbie…

If you’ve never ridden in the Santa Monica Mountains above Malibu, California, consider doing it before you die.


The views are to die for

The climbing isn’t too bad, either.

The “Mulholland Challenge” (organized by the nice folks with Planet Ultra) has something for everyone:


  • Mileage (this year it was 101 miles, due to closure of Stunt Road)
  • Elevation gain (my Garmin clocked at 11,400’+ total for day after I downloaded device to laptop)
  • Steep climbing (upwards of 16% at the 80-mile mark)
  • Beauty (See images below I took with my iPhone)
  • Even a bit of attitude (welcome to L.A., now go 100 mph in the fast lane with your hair on fire)



I used this century ride as part of my training build-up for Climb to Kaiser (155 miles and 14,500′ of climb) in two months. While the weather at Mulholland did not come close to matching the furnace-like conditions of C2K’s last 20 miles, it didn’t disappoint. Ocean crosswind and temps in the 40s greet you on the initial descent. You might want to don warm gloves (I didn’t). What the ride lacked in heat this year (100 last year with reports of people barfing on Decker Canyon Road), it gained in fantastic views and technical pieces of pavenment. 

I rode my trusty Moots Vamoots outfitted with Mavic Ksyrium SLs and Vittoria Corsa CX tires (a bit lighter for climbing than the Open Pros). Given the very choppy condition of asphalt beyond the summit of Little Sycamore Creek Road at the 50-mile mark, I was wishing for my Open Pros. You may want to leave your Zipp 404s at home. 

The ragged pavement in sections was a minor disappointment. I heard a few similar grumbles. C2K descents are far smoother, superior–and, in turn, more rewarding in the bike-handling department. You’ve climbed the hill. You deserve something nice; not a beating.

OK, so about those views. Best of the day was descent of Deer Creek Road. The only way to really take it in is to dismount your bike, which I did. Second best view was Encinal Canyon Road. Absolutely stunning on a clear day.

And did I utter something earlier about attitude?

Yes, unfortunately a few Lance wannabes showed up in full pro race kits (except they weren’t pros), barking at anyone who didn’t immediately yield as they “raced” by to their pro peloton times in this officially titled “ride.” To these aggressively delightful souls (sarcasm), a piece of advice: Get your USCF license, go race against real bike racers who want to rip your legs off, and please leave the machismo schtick at home if you’re going to do a century ride. Seriously, please. Or at a minimum, ride alone at the front from the get-go. That way, no one can be impressed with your social skills–except you.

Yes, I once raced. It was a blast. I still get down to Fiesta Island now and then to compete in time trials. There’s a time and place (rhymes with “race”) for real competition, and it ain’t in a century ride. 

I’d rate the Mulholland Challenge a solid 8/10. 

Pros: Easy to reach for SoCal century riders, glorious views, inland and coastal variety, LA-chic vibe, ride support, nice Subway sandwiches and ice cold Pepsi at the conclusion.

Cons: Easy to reach for wannabe Lances who’d belong in USCF races, ragged pavement between 50-60 mile marks.

For more info, click here for a ride profile from previous years.

For more on Planet Ultra and its offerings, try this link.

Here’s the elevation profile and map off my Garmin from the 2009 version of the event. You cover some of the same roads twice (both ways). Images I took below that.



Mile 50 up on Little Sycamore Canyon

Mile 50 up on Little Sycamore Canyon


Mile 60 Deer Creek Road descent

Mile 60 Deer Creek Road descent

Malibu views from mile 77 on Encinal Canyon Road

Malibu views from mile 77 on Encinal Canyon Road


2 thoughts on “Malibu Barbie…

  1. Great report, Jeff! Yes, I too cannot stomach the Lance-a-bees (my nickname for them; well, that and douchebags or DBs). Planet Ultra rides draw these sorts because, although Deb advertises this ride as ‘ride,’ they time folks (which is kind of like a race, don’t ya think?) so people damn near kill themselves and others racing around the Santa Monicas to beat everyone else’s time. I’ve ridden all of those roads (except Deer Creek) and I know how messed up the pavement can be at any time of the year. Those roads are unpredictable and, personally, I wish PU would take the timing out on this particular ride. Then, maybe I would consider taking it on as a challenge some year. In the meantime, I’ll just ride out there in those beautiful hills ad hoc and live vicariously through you types who love the thrill! Oh, and your pics are gorgeous, thanks for sharing. 🙂

    • roadchickie, aka MErider, I hope you can come out and do Mulholland Challenge next year. If you find a great group of people to ride with, you can feel some form of protection from a stampeding herd. Clocks and bikes are a funny thing. If you’re on a pro team in a pro race, there’s a hierarchy, and the protected leader gets the glory, then must defend in the ITT alone against the wind. That’s why I love the “race of truth,” i.e. time trial. I’ve never ridden with a pro rider who was aggressive toward non-team riders that he/she may have passed during a training ride. Pros I’ve crossed paths with actually waved, smiled and showed class (Team OUCH, for one; Chris Horner of Astana for another). It’s usually recreational peloton fantasy types who seemed absolutely crazed to pass a pro (as if it matters). The pro could crush them any second he/she wanted, but stays with his/her training ride plans to maximize time in saddle.

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