Untying the Big Sur Gordian Knot

Bixby Bridge can be quite a sight on a clear day, as it was on Friday, May 6.


Everyone imagines a wonderful ride down the rugged California coast of Big Sur, but the reality is rarely ever so pretty. There’s traffic, fog, wind, and rain. It’s a Gordian Knot when it comes to planning the memorable ride.

On our two-day ride, the Gordian Knot turned out to be the Gorda slide that has closed Hwy 1 for more than a month. The plan was to ride from King City to San Simeon via Nacimiento Fergusson Road – 84 miles – spend the night, and return via country roads like Santa Rosa Creek Road the next day.

Brian Cox and I started from King City at 9:30 a.m. after a two-hour drive south on Hwy 101. By the time we started, temps hovered in the mid-70s. We crossed the mighty Salinas River on a bike bridge that took us to Jolon Road (County Rd 16) and south.

As we pedaled through rolling hillsides of endless vineyards we noted a most unusual wind pattern – southerly. That’s odd. It’s almost always northerly, and the only time it’s out of the south is when a storm is coming.

When planning a ride in this area, beware of the fierce northerly winds that blow at a steady 20-25 mph most days. It’s the same with winds on the coast as it is in the King City area.

Fortunately these winds were mild, only about 10 mph, so we made good speed on the road rising gently at 1 percent. After about 10 miles we came to the only notable climb, a one-mile hump with grades up to 9 percent, for 300 feet of climbing. Over the top we descended into an oak-studded valley at about 1,200 feet altitude…. To be continued.

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