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After attacking the spectacular Torrey Pines climb on the Southern California coast in the morning, we’re only too happy to go out in search of another local climbing destination. First though we can’t get enough of the stunning views of the coastline on this early winter’s day, as the Pacific Ocean is producing classic swells under a blue December sky. And then, of course, Torrey Pines has given our climbing legs a perfect warm-up.
“Let’s hit Mount Soledad,” says Blaize, one of our two local riders. “Yeah, that’s a perfect ride,” adds Sonja. “It’s a real go-to ride for anyone around San Diego. You get away from things quickly there…and the views are unmatched. And it’s quite the workout!”
Mount Soledad towers above La Jolla, just north of San Diego. Capped off by a distinctive white cross that houses a war memorial, with plaques honoring more than 3,000 U.S. veterans, it can be seen for miles around. And the inverse is also true, for anyone that ventures up these steep slopes is treated to views up and down the Southern California coast.
On paper, the Mount Soledad climb may not be that intimidating. After all, it’s not even 1,000 feet about sea level. But starting at the ocean, with a total distance of less than 2 miles, it gets real steep, real fast, with pitches up to 19 percent.
“There are several ways to climb up Mount Soledad,” Sonja explains before the start. “You can come at it from several directions. But we are going to go up it from Via Capri, probably the hardest way up. It just gets very intense, very fast.”
Rolling first up Hidden Valley Road, we quickly come to Via Capri where our two riders turn right as they wrap around the lower portions of the climb. And while Sonja is again riding her trusty Dogma F10, Blaize is excited to test the true potential of Pinarello’s new Dyodo e-bike on such a steep and grueling climb.
Soon enough, they opt to spice up the ride even more as they turn onto Hillside Drive, an older road that’s clearly less travelled. Leaving the last houses, Hillside Drive quickly becomes a challenging gravel path, long closed to traffic. And while the reprieve from cars is always welcome, the disintegrating roadbed and steep pitches prove quickly challenging. “Coming up the Via Capri is already hard enough. It’s just very, very steep,” says Sonja. “And then when you add in a detour along Hillside Drive you throw some gravel in the mix. Well, that makes for one very tough, very complete climb.”
An experienced rider who knows Mount Soledad well, Sonja picks her line with precision. “The road goes from asphalt to cement, and any time you hit cement you just know that it includes a certain grade. You don’t even have to be looking ahead. You just know it’s going to get steep and you have to be ready for it.”
While Sonja negotiates the climb like a classics rider on a Belgian muur, Blaize appears relaxed in comparison as he shifts between the Dyodo’s three electric-assist modes. Clearly, he’s experiencing the climb in a different manner and he soon finds that the lower settings provide the perfect assistance over the challenging surfaces offered by Hillside Road. Little matter that the road continues to narrow as it’s reclaimed by Mother Nature, or that the pitch remains persistently steep. Blaize rides easily.
Finally exiting Hillside Drive, the two turn right again on Via Capri as they make their final ascent toward Mount Soledad. Sonja knows her gearing well and rides with economy. Blaize, however, can wait no longer. Hitting the full-assist mode, he explodes up the final pitches and is quickly out of sight.
“Man, I just wanted to put the motor to the full test. And, I can tell you, it just rocks! I’ve never gone so fast up Mount Soledad in my life,” he says, still smiling, when we finally catch up to him near the summit. “My heart rate was just jacked! I mean, I was still digging deep. I was still putting out over 400 watts for a sustained effort and my heart rate was over 180. I was going 50-percent faster than on a traditional setup. I was just flying! Obviously, I was benefiting from fullest power assist. But on a climb like that, you are still working really hard, and yet it’s so fun!”
As soon as Sonja arrives at the entrance to the park, the two roll up to the war memorial. “I thought maybe you’d give me a little push with your Dyodo,” she says laughing. “But I could see you were having too much fun!”
Once at the memorial they roll around easily before stopping off at a park bench to take in the views. “There are a lot of roads up to here,” Sonja says. “But eventually you always get to the same destination, Mount Soledad. It’s a beautiful tribute to our veterans and a real focal point of San Diego. It’s a special place.”