Coastal Pull - The Coast Road

February 26, 2020

The Pacific Ocean pulls on all of us.  And when you reach its shores, it’s binding. You take pause and realize our shared primal connections to the earth, which we have numbed all too easily. You are simply where you belong, in the crisp air, at peace with forces stronger than yourself, and inspired. 

As a couple of lucky local Pivot riders in Monterey, CA, access to the great Pacific is almost taken for granted. It’s on the right as we ride out along 17-mile Drive, and on the left as we head back. It’s the endless horizon from the top of the coastal dunes and fire roads, which have adopted us as frequent shredders on training rides.  

We’re Lindsay and Max. We ride the Vault for Pivot. And we like bikes and the ocean. Join us as we explore an off-road paradise among the cow pastures, giant redwoods, and famous landmarks of Big Sur… all in the hunt for pastries. 

As locals we see the massive cruise liners parked off-shore, the excited visitors performing perplexing selfies, and the traffic jams on one of the most beautiful roads in the world. All for Highway 1. It’s the pipeline connecting Monterey and Big Sur, with miles of winding, storied coastline usually packed with a mix of distracted tourists in search of the perfect Instagram photo, locals just trying to go about their lives, and a few anxious cyclists precariously navigating the nonexistent bike lane. We’ve tested our luck there riding road bikes, and let’s just say we recommend life off-road. There’s a little escape we’d like to tell you about, and how the Pivot Vault, some bar bags, and 40mm tires will show you what Big Sur cycling has to offer. 

If Big Sur could write a novel, Coast Road would be a primary character. Meandering through the coastal foothills between Big Sur and the iconic Bixby bridge, Coast Road is one of our favorite stretches of dirt on the central coast. We wanted to test the new Vault on what is quite honestly a stacked route, requiring fitness, preparation, the right bike for the job, and a thirst for epic. Coast Road’s out and back route packs 5,000 feet of climbing into 25 miles to deliver a blend of “where’s my 50t cassette cog at?” climbs and loose, rowdy descents, punctuated by stunningly varied scenery and a distinct separation from Highway One’s flurry of traffic. We set out to write our own story. 

We began from Andrew Molera State Park (because bathrooms). After a quick front wheel install and brake check, the pavement quickly disappears into rutted, rock-strewn Jeep track. The road and temperatures climb sharply to a rolling ridgeline high above the marine layer and a reward of expansive coastal views. The amount of time before Coast Road isolates you from the world is truly worth experiencing. It’s immediate, and we both were instantly transported to a gravel mindset.  

In what seemed like just 2 miles, we were at our first of many ocean views. If you’re on this road to crush segments, we’re not sure why. You need to take this in. It’s one of the most stunning vantage points in all of California. Fog, ocean, Point Sur, Hwy 1, all welcoming you but not intruding on your off-road freedom. Just there to be seen. We descended off the ridge and the road dove through wide open ranch lands with cow grates - intermittent reminders to be mindful of furry roadway friends. As we hit the next climb, well let’s just say keep the psi low, cause it’s a loose one. 

Oofda” best encapsulates the middle climb. It’s the longest, maybe the steepest, with swooping switchbacks and layered, mountainous views. Looking at the footage after the ride, we would be ok having that be our driveway just to live there. We took a snack break at the top, took in the scene, and gabbed on in awe of the Vault’s versatility. It climbs with finesse, tracks exceptionally well, and smoothes the washboards that are coming up. 

Redwoods!! Taking a hike in redwood groves is incredibly immersive, but riding the Vault through them is adventure elevated! And of course it’s twisty. If you wanted to rip it, now would be a great time. It got a little sendy among the forest of dappled sunshine, before a quiet roll over a small creek and leaf adorned county bridge. One final microclimate shift brings you back out to the scrubby, coastal desert and just a bit more climbing before dropping back to the coast into the melee of Bixby Bridge. We’re all a little bit of a tourist at heart, so grab that selfie-stick and enjoy!  

We wanted to end with pastries and coffee, so we opted to have Bixby be our major turn-around point. But you can easily create your own story here, parking at Bixby and riding south as far as you would like. We happily turned a 180 and did Coast Rd all over again, but this time in the hunt for snacks. As a general rule more than and recommendation, if you go as far as Andrew Molera, you do Big Sur Bakery. Don’t question the cycling gods. 

The Vault is a drop bar bike, which means it doesn’t shy away from the road. After 5,000 feet of gravel in just 25 miles, a bit of smooth pavement actually hit the spot as we rolled farther south on Hwy 1, led by the smell of espresso and croissants. Big Sur Bakery boasts delicious drinks, refreshing air, and massive chocolate croissants to make the stomach just as happy as the soul. Just look at the size of that pastry!! 

We closed out the day back at the Molera parking lot, which in addition to bathrooms, has a gorgeous, easy beach-access single track. How amazing is that?! We took our final pull, meandering over a creek crossing and through ocean foliage to lounge on bleached logs and take in the magic of the Pacific. The end of our Coastal Pull, and a perfect day on the Vaults.  

The ride: 

35 miles 

5700 feet of climbing 

3 hours 45 mins ride time 

(click image for GPX file download)

 

 

The bikes: 

Pivot Vault w/ SRAM Force etap AXS and Zipp tubeless wheels 

Gearing: 

Lindsay - 38T chainring, 10-33t cassette 

Max - 42T chainring, 10-33t cassette