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Southern California is known for a staggering amount of city life hustle and bustle. However, the surrounding beauty within a few hours drive from L.A. leaves endless options: Angles National Forest, Santa Monica Mountains, Los Padres National Forest and Santa Barbara to name a few. Nestled between the Channel Islands and Santa Ynez Mountains, Santa Barbara provides the perfect playground for our escape to the outdoors.
We decide to begin our weekend of riding at the stunning Santa Barbara Mission. It’s situated at the base of the aptly named Mission Canyon, putting both downtown and the Santa Ynez Mountains’ many climbs within easy striking distance.
Within moments of pulling the bikes from our Küat Sherpa 2.0 we can feel the cool breeze and moist air blowing off the Pacific Ocean—the inspiration for this entire adventure.
We can’t resist a quick spin around the Santa Barbara Mission, which is known as the queen of California’s missions, thanks to its dual bell towers. The chalk artwork from the Madonnari street-painting festival earlier in the summer was still visible, a reminder of how important the 1786 mission remains in local culture.
You may need to dodge a few joggers or tourists in surreys, but no ride in Santa Barbara is complete without a spin along the bike path, flanked on one side by slender palms and the other by the Pacific Ocean.
Santa Barbara’s iconic Dolphin Family Fountain sits at the intersection of State Street, the beach and Stearns Wharf. It has become the de-facto meeting place for many riders in the city’s exploding cycling scene.
Just two blocks off bustling State Street is Handlebar Coffee Roasters, the perfect spot to grab an espresso after a spin around town and before the real adventure begins.
Handlebar Coffee Roasters owners Aaron Olson and Kim Anderson, both ex-professional cyclists, roast their coffee on the spot. We’re lucky enough to show up on a roasting day and Aaron shows us Hercules, his 1993 Probat drum roaster.
Aaron and Kim traveled to Colombia to see exactly where some of the coffee they roast comes from and to meet the families that farm it. They want to ensure the famers they work with are growing coffee in a sustainable and responsible manner.
Maybe it’s the cycling-themed interior, the welcoming atmosphere Kim and Aaron have created at Handlebar Coffee Roasters or just the exceptional coffee, but our quick stop turned into an hour or so of great conversations over cups of coffee.
After sipping our final cup and before getting ready to roll, our gaze turned to the Santa Ynez Mountains standing sentinel over Santa Barbara and our true challenge for the day: the climb up Gibraltar Road.