Cycling Training Camp: The Agoura Hills

Part 2 of our training camp was located in the Agoura Hills, which would be our base for the remainder of the training week.

We stayed at a motel called the Goodnite Inn. It was a great location and very central for most of the rides (though, I have seen cleaner places).  For the price, it was a good deal, and overall I was happy with it. Some friends rented an Airbnb close by in Topanga, about a 20-minute drive away. Their place was secluded and it had an inviting feel. I would prefer booking something like this in the future, however, a motel is very convenient for large groups, simplifying planning.

There’s a great pool called the Calabasas Tennis and Swim Centre where you can soak up the sun and swim some outdoor laps in the Agoura Hills region. It’s a very clean and nice pool.

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There are also endless running trails with great views (and plenty of hills). I would definitely come back here to train after my experience due to the surprising diversity of routes, great weather, and proximity to resources like food and water stops. Keep in mind that all of these routes have long and challenging climbs. The elevation gain means longer riding times, so try to allocate time accordingly.

Ride 1: Piuma, Fernwood & Decker

Day 1 of riding, we set out to ride in the Agoura Hills: a route including 3 climbs, Piuma, Fernwood and part of Decker Canyon Rd. I ended up riding only about 70km of this 110 km route, and I cut out the last climb to be safe with my hip. The first two climbs, Piuma and Fernwood are challenging, but very rewarding. Piuma especially has breathtaking views of the hills. I particularly liked this climb because of its winding road and great views, however it is a long one.

THE RIDE:

  • Distance: 70 to 110 km (43-68 miles) depending on where you turn off
  • Climbing: Difficult, 2700 m
  • Difficulty: Difficult, 2 difficult climbs, Piuma ~ average 7% grade, Fernwood ~ 5%
  • Highlights: Lots of climbing practice, beautiful views and lookout on Piuma

Here is a link to the route.

The first climb up Piuma is winding and beautiful, and almost immediately I fell in love with cycling all over again. The grade is fairly steady, and the road switchbacks, offering great views along the way. There are some outstanding views of the mountains, with some pink rock and greenery interspersed throughout. There’s a lookout part of the way up Piuma. The climb itself is about 7 km and an average 7% grade. The climb officially ends and flattens out and you will descend slightly, but you’ll turn on Schueren Road to ascend a few more kilometers before reaching a beautiful vista point with expansive views of the surrounding mountains. This is a great place to take a break and some photos.

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Following this lookout, you’ll descend Stunt Road, a smooth and gradual descent with wide turns and beautiful views. This is a really fun descent as it isn’t too steep and winding. The next major climb is Fernwood. After some small ups and downs on Topanga Canyon Rd, you’ll eventually turn onto Fernwood. We actually made a mistake here and turned right onto Grand View Drive. This was a BAD MISTAKE. Grand View Drive is extremely steep, with grades over 20%. We barely made it up this road. Luckily, it linked up with Fernwood, so we could get back on track. Apparently, the beginning of Fernwood is quite steep as well, but I didn’t ride it so I’m not 100% sure how steep exactly. The Fernwood climb goes for about 10km and it’s an average of 5% grade. I chose to return home after these climbs, but continuing on will provide some shorter, less challenging climbs to finish off a solid ride. You can stop part way through this ride at a small general store in Topanga, right before you make the turn onto Fernwood at about 40 km into the ride. Overall this is a great ride, with plenty of climbing, views and variety. A great start to the training week!

Ride 2: Stunt & Latigo Canyons

For the second day of riding we planned a loop of about 80km to the ocean and back, ascending Stunt on the way out, and Latigo Canyon on the way back. The climbs on this ride are slightly less steep than the previous ride, and they offer amazing views. Overall, this was an awesome ride, with plenty of climbing that felt slightly less challenging due to the lower grades. The only drawback of this ride is Malibu Canyon Road, as there’s very little shoulder and fast moving traffic on the way out to the ocean. Ride carefully on this section.

THE RIDE:

  • Distance: 80km or 50 miles
  • Climbing: 1700 m
  • Difficulty: Moderate to Difficult
  • Highlights: A beautiful view of the ocean, long and gradual climbs

Here is a link to the route.

The first climb up Stunt (which was descended the day before) is about 6km at an average of 6% grade, although you need to climb a bit before to reach the beginning. This climb is very steady and manageable, with beautiful views of the hills around you. Eventually, you’ll reach the same lookout point, which joins Stunt and Piuma, and you’ll descend Piuma.

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This is a bit of a steeper and faster descent, so it’s best to be careful here. The following stretch along Malibu Canyon is a long descent to the ocean, which as mentioned before has a lot of fast moving traffic. You’ll eventually reach the Pacific Coast Highway (PCH), where you can head towards Malibu for some food, or you can turn right on the PCH where there’s a gas station to stop for some re-fueling. We stopped at the Malibu Kitchen on Cross Creek Road, which had great sandwiches. The next climb is Latigo Canyon, which was a favourite among our group due to the great ocean views it offers and its shallower grades. The climb is long, at about 14 km and is an average of about 4% grade. Be aware that there is little shade here, and on a hot day this climb can be very warm.

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The return home is along Mulholland Highway and Cornell Road, both beautiful, rolling country roads. I highly recommend this route to everyone. The next day would be a swim day, before a final ride to finish off the training week.

Ride 3: Mulholland Highway & Decker Canyon

The final ride of the week in the Agoura Hills would be a ride out to the ocean via Mulholland Highway, which includes a climb that people call “Rockstore,” as it passes a store named exactly that. Mulholland Highway is a beautiful road and probably my favorite road to descend of the whole trip. It has great views, winding through the hillside, and it’s never too steep or sharp.

THE RIDE:

  • Distance: 74 km or 46 miles
  • Climbing: 1800 m
  • Difficulty: Moderate to Difficult
  • Highlights: Beautiful descent, stop at the beach, rolling country roads

Here is a link to the route.

The ride starts out on smooth country roads. You’ll reach Mulholland Highway and ascend the Rockstore climb. This is a shorter climb than others at about 4km long and an average of 6-7% grade. Then the descent begins along Mulholland towards the ocean. The road is winding with wide turns and the grades are shallow making for a fun descent.

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At the Pacific Coast Highway, there is a beach that is part of the Leo Carrillo State Park. This is a great place for a break, and you can watch the ocean waves and surfers while you snack. There is also a restroom and taps for water.

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After your break, there’s a short stretch along the PCH before turning left onto Decker Canyon Road. This climb starts off quite steep, so be prepared. Be careful of traffic on the Highway when making a left hand turn here, as the cars move fast. Decker Canyon was an enjoyable but tough climb. There are great views of the ocean, but they’re difficult to see on the climb unless you look backwards towards the ocean. The climb is an average of 8%, fairly steep, and about 6 km long.

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We then joined up with Encinal Canyon Road, and Mulholland Highway again to return the way we came. One of the best parts of this route, in my opinion, is the rolling road along Mulholland Highway.

After a week of riding, we were all sufficiently exhausted and satisfied, as cyclists are after beating their legs down for several days.. I absolutely loved training here, and getting some fitness back in such a beautiful setting was exhilarating. I thoroughly enjoyed each route, and every ride had something different to offer. Not to mention, there were several other routes we didn’t even have time to try. This is a great place to come for a spring training camp, where you can whip yourself into shape before a season of racing–or simply enjoy the beautiful roads and views in the region! The weather in March was excellent. I definitely hope to come back to this area for more training in the future.

For food, I would recommend Malibu Seafood on the Pacific Coast Highway. It’s a short drive and has great fish and chips! It’s a ‘bring your own alcohol’ spot, and there’s outdoor seating with ocean views.

Have you cycled in the Agoura Hills? I would love to hear any thoughts or comments on your experience.

Happy riding (and recovering)!

Leigh

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