In early September, Southern California becomes home to one of the best training rides in the country, the Simi Ride. Starting in Simi Valley and ending in Calabasas, this winter training ride is visited by many national-level and (sometimes) international professionals when they’re in the area. When they’re not, the local pros and top-ranked amateurs (cat 1s & 2s) regularly attend. The presence of these high-caliber riders moves the ride from just “strenuous” to “Oh-my-God-I’m-Going-to-Die” level.
While your efforts to match the pace of these incredibly gifted riders makes this ride hard, what really moves the difficulty up the scale is the terrain covered while at this pace. Not really covering mountain passes, the Ride hits many rolling hills with a few longer climbs thrown in for good measure. The higher-level riders climb these with ease at a high clip.
For those who would try their hands at the Simi Ride, be forewarned: self-sufficiency is necessary. Riders who have a flat, mechanical, or just can’t keep up will be left behind. If you don’t know the area, at least have a cell phone available for taxi service. There is one re-group point (Triunfo Park in Westlake Village) with water and bathrooms, but even there, others won’t wait if you dilly-dally. Also, keep in mind that the finish (Calabasas) is in a different location than the start (Simi Valley), about 15-miles away.
During September through November, the ride is in its “off-season” phase. This is the time when I ride as I most definitely cannot keep up once the ride “proper” begins in December. At this time, the pace is kept conversational, with a few shouts of “Tempo!” to control the testosterone-fueled few who struggle to contain themselves. Even though there aren’t any attacks, and the climbing speed is moderate, this clydesdale is at his max!
When November arrives, the ride incorporates one of its features: the infamous Norwegian Grade. While not an overly difficult climb (averaging 8% with some early 12% sections), it’s the pace that hurts. Still in the off-season, the 10-12mph pace during November is “just” grueling. When December and the ride “proper” arrives, the riders will go over this climb in their big rings at a 15-16mph (or more) “race pace”, dropping anyone who can’t keep up.
While Norwegian may be the first significant obstacle riders face, it isn’t the only one. After the break, the route heads east and south along Agoura and Cornell roads until reaching Mulholland Highway, a scenic highway over and through the Santa Monica Mountains. Along here, there are several longer climbs than those in Simi Valley, with a handful of short, sharp walls. The ride finally finishes just off Mulholland at the top of “7-Minute Hill”, a 2-mile undulating climb where the front riders will push each other for the virtual win.
The course can be somewhat complicated for new riders. There are at least four routes to choose from. The off-season, September/October route is the shortest at about 42 miles (add on another 13 or so for travel to/from the start or finish). This off-season route is left behind with the addition of Norwegian Grade (basically the “Medium” route) in November moving the route to about 51 miles. The long route in December & January adds an excursion onto Easy Street in Moorpark that brings the total to 56. A fourth, 50-mile, short route in December/January is available to riders needing to get home sooner, or for slower climbers to catch up at the regroup in Triunfo Park.
Once leaving Simi Valley, the routes are mostly scenic. with some nice vistas of rolling hills and green trees. Automobile traffic on the rural roads is sparse. Once on Mulholland Highway, water sources are non-existent until the finish, 12-miles away.
October-November, steady tempo. 20-25mph on flats, 15mph on shallow climbs, 10mph on steep climbs.
December-January, game on!
Start Location: Corner of Los Angeles Ave & Kuehner
Start Time: 8:40am. Prompt.
Parking: This is entirely up to you. Most everyone parks between the finish & start locations, somewhere along Valley Circle Blvd. How much riding you want to do before the start or after the finish is the deciding factor. Some typical parking solutions: