In which I ride with Cyclofemme and climb Mandeville motherf’n Canyon on Mother’s Day.

After a late Saturday night, I was not feeling it Sunday morning when the alarm chimed at 6:30. My pets were planting themselves upon me, imploring me to stay put in bed:

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Somehow, for once, my bad habit of checking social media before I get up paid off. My feeds were full of #cyclofemme and #togetherweride and it’s a beautiful day and I have nowhere to be and a big-ass climbing challenge that’s only 68% complete!

I opted for the Santa Monica ride after Erika, one of the (insanely fast) women from the Friday ride, sent me a link. I’d heard murmurings about Franklin Canyon (which didn’t stop me from riding there Saturday, when I was still undecided about Sunday). I planned to drive the 10 miles to the start, but then I realized my bike rack was in the garage and my car was parked on the street and my non-bike shoes were up two flights of stairs, and I just hopped on my bike and rode over.

I pulled up to 901 Colorado, but no bike store! I checked my phone. 910 Colorado. Brunch! Other women and their bikes! Alison from the shop pulling espresso shots for us!

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They had two rides: a 15-miler and a 30-miler to… Franklin Canyon! So I knew I was booked for about half the elevation I needed, and figured I’d hit Nichols on the way home, just to be sure.

As always, it’s great to ride in a group. It feels safer, I feel happier, and I didn’t even mind being on the front in hideous headwinds.

Up Franklin, onto Mulholland (which, as we’ve documented, I no longer ride solo), down Benedict Canyon after a photo op:

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Down Benedict, which wasn’t half as bad as I’d imagined it in a car. Our ride leader, Angel, chastised me for having my hands on the hoods, not in the drops, but I haven’t gotten around to a proper bike fit, and my tiny little fingers can’t reach the brakes when I’m in the drops!

When we returned to the shop, Angel asked Diego, the best mechanic in the shop, to adjust the levers, and suddenly braking from the drops was possible!

And then she and Erika invited me to go ride Mandeville Canyon with them.

I’ve tutored there. The relations between motorists and cyclists are fraught with tension, to say the least. Not to mention that most of the stories about climbing Mandeville Canyon I hear involve puking at the top. But I had a challenge to complete, and I figured that the spinach quiche would make for an epic Instagram post.

Off we went, and my vastly superior companions dropped me before the first stop sign. Which I was totally fine with. I was committed to riding my ride and not dying before the top. I’d been told that it didn’t get bad until the end, but I couldn’t elicit a clear-cut answer as to whether the Mandeville wall was worse than the Nichols wall.*

Up, past a “ride single file” or “share the road” sign every 100 feet. Past the “open house” signs, noting the addresses, noting as I passed the addresses. Finally I spotted my fellow riders hanging out in the shade.

“You’ve already been to the top?”
“No. You wanna go?”
“I’ve come this far.”
“No turning back once you start.”
“Whatever. I’ll clip out, I’ll fall over, I’ll puke. I’m in.”

It did get steeper. Then I saw the “no outlet” sign and a gate at the end of the road. A left turn up something really horrid. But my leaders were stopping at the gate and what looked like a rustic mailbox next to it.

I pedaled up to the gate, turned around, clipped out.
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Angel said, “you’ve earned your cookie,” which I took as a metaphor.

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Then I saw the box they’d been investigating:

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COOKIES! Cookies to benefit Mountains Recreation and Conservation Authority!

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$1 in, one peanut butter oatmeal and peanut m&m cookie out. Nom nom nom.

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So, the lessons of the day: Get out and go. Go with the big girls. Go to the top, even if you’re afraid. Earn your cookie.

Oh, and when I uploaded to Strava from the Garmin?
111% complete!

*For the record, both the Nichols and Mandeville walls are 11%, according to Strava.

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