Southern California: Best Mountain Biking Locale in the World?

A recent press release by the Bicycle Retailer and Industry News website mentioned that Bicycling Mag has decided to move its offices from Burbank to Valencia, California. For those of you who are unfamiliar with Southern California, Burbank is a city just north of downtown Los Angeles while Valencia is a little farther northwest of Burbank, another 25 miles.

Riding next to the beach… +1 for So. Cal riding

Bicycling Mag’s Steve Madden (I thought he made women’s shoes) stated that their reasons for keeping an office in Southern California is because its “important to have a place with access to sunshine.”

Jumping the gap on a So. California trail

That got me thinking: yeah, Southern California is a great mountain biking locale but could it be one of the Best Mountain Biking locales in the world? Could it be THE best Mountain Biking Locale?

Off chamber singletrack with some nice exposure to boot! yum

Here are my thoughts:

1. Diverse trails: You can’t start off any list of best mountain biking spots in the world without a list of what that location has to offer. I live in north Orange County and within one hour of me I have access to literally hundreds of trails. The Santa Monica mountains northwest of me are world renown for their challenging yet beautiful trails. The San Bernardino mountains to the northeast is home to what is widely considered the best singletrack in So. Cal.: San Ana River Trail (SART). To the east are two major race courses in Fontana’s Southridge which runs Cross Country, Downhill and Super D races as well as Temecula known for its Endurance racing. To the south, within an hour and a half drive, there are a ton of trails. I would not be exaggerating if I said that I could ride every Saturday for a year without riding the same trail twice.

Riding SART in the middle of December

The sheer variety of all that is available can make choosing a weekend ride particularly difficult. Want to ride in the mountains? Want to ride in the hills along the beach? Want to do a 100 mile epic? You can find them all in Southern California.

Lance ready to race in early November… notice the beautiful skies

2. Spectacular weather year round:
You can not qualify your locale as the best mountain biking spot in the world if you can not ride on dirt at least 3 seasons of the year. Year round riding gives you another point. Sure there are a ton of great spots in Colorado and Utah to ride but if they’re closed down 6 months of the year for the white stuff then you can’t really stake a claim to being the best. Maybe we’ll give you the title of best mountain biking locale 6 months of the year. 🙂

Think of it this way: I’ve been mountain biking through the last few winters and the coldest its ever been is the high 30s. What did I wear? For my legs: leg warmers & shorts. For my upper body: wicking base layer, long sleeve t-shirt & windbreaker pull over. No parkas, no snow boots, no ear muffs. On the other side of the coin I’ve ridden into the dead of summer with just shorts and tank-top type wicking shirt, no problem. Some guys even ride shirtless… although I’m not sure if that’s a plus or not.

Just an aside but why would you send products to test in places that are packed down by snow 6 months of the year? Unless you’ve got a mountain biking product made for extremely cold weather most products sent in the fall/winter can’t or shouldn’t be tested until spring/summer in those areas. Do you want your mountain bike getting ridden in conditions most mountain bikers wouldn’t venture out in? OK, now I’m just being selfish. 😉

Early MARCH race at Bonelli with temps in the low 70s

3. Tons of Local Bike Shops: If having choices are good then having a ton of choices is even better right? A few weeks ago, I visited 4 different bikes shops to check out there 29er collections. These four shops were within 5 miles of each other, not “as the crow flies” but actual driving miles. In Southern California you are not limited to the one LBS in town. Don’t like one place’s service or bikes? Stroll down the street and see if the next LBS doesn’t do better.

Not only are there a ton of LBS’s but some great big name e-tailers such as & are located in Southern California. Why is that good? Because if you buy something from them and select ground shipping, many times you can get your purchase the next day! No need to pay for expensive overnight shipping if you live here.

Pricepoint is almost down the street in Gardena, CA.

Jensonusa not only has quick shipping to So. California residents it also has two brick & mortar stores. Can’t wait until tomorrow to pick up your order? Roll on over to their store and pick up orders that you make from their online store.

4. Huge mountain biking community. I’m not a fan of riding solo, but that’s usually not a problem with such a large mountain biking community. The strengths of this is not just meeting friends and riding together, it also has fringe benefits. Having a large mountain biking community means demos are always swinging by. Just last week Specialized, Pivot and Rocky Mtn had demos going. This weekend Giant will be doing demos in So. Cal.

Demoing the KHS Flagstaff

Another fringe benefit to having a huge mountain biking community is that there are a lot of bike companies who have offices in Southern California. How is this a plus? Well, you can’t spend 24/7 mountain biking, right? You’re going to have to work sometime to pay the bills and what better place to work, for the mountain biker, than for a bike company? Niner, Intense, KHS, Felt, Shimano, Giant, Turner, etc. all have offices or are headquartered in So. Cal.

OK, enough bragging. Now I want to hear your arguments. Why do you think your location should be considered the best mountain biking locale in the world?

14 Replies to “Southern California: Best Mountain Biking Locale in the World?”

  1. I’m sure people in Utah and Colorado would have something different to say, but I agree, we get maybe 2 weeks out of the year where its actually too cold to ride. Other than that, it is the best place!

  2. While I’m sure Southern California is a very nice place to ride, I’m sorry, British Columbia is where it’s at.

    1) Thousands of miles of trails across tens of thousands of square miles of relative or absolute wilderness.

    2) A large and quickly-growing mountain biking tourism business, hosting people from around the world to ride our trails, try our stunts, and enjoy our mountain-bike culture in places like Cumberland, Whistler, and Squamish.

    3) In the Vancouver area, and much of Vancouver island, year-round riding.

    4) Beautiful, quiet, moss-laden trails weaving through verdant green forests, with, if you like, lots of technical rocks and tree routes to navigate, in contrast to the dry, drab, relatively smooth, dusty trails through often-treeless terrain underneath powerlines in SoCal.

    5) Ever bought or rented a mountain-biking video? Pretty well all of them were at least partly filmed in British Columbia and many of their stars live here. North Shore style freeriding was invented in B.C.

    6) Bike shops and bike companies galore are here — Norco, Brodie, Cove Bikes, etc.

    7) Home of Whistler, acknowledged almost universally as the best mountain biking resort in the world. There is a reason most of the ads in magazines feature Whistler, why KHS and other manufacturers sponsor contests that offer winners trips there, and why magazines do much of their equipment testing there.

    8) Check out any of the photo issues in the magazines — eg bike magazine or Mountain Bike Action. You will see a majority of the stunning photos in there are from B.C.

    I have not ridden extensively in SoCal, but based on my experience I would characterize it as a nice place to get into mountain biking, but if you are serious, you need to visit British Columbia.

    Come on up! You won’t regret it.


  3. One word KLUNKERZ two words MARIN COUNTY. In my personal opinion the bay area has better trails and is way more bike friendly. I’ve never seen the movie but i have ridden the trails first hand with and with out Gary Fisher. I think So cal is the best mountain biking locale in So cal. I’d take bay area trails over so cal any day.

  4. Maybe not the world, but probably the US? I’ve ridden Colorado, yeah it is nice… when it is not hot or cold… so that would be like 2 months out of the year?
    As far as So. Cal goes, I haven’t had the chance to explore the north side like JPL, Santa Monica Mtns, Malibu, Ventura, or the South side like San Diego, Julian or Poway . And how about Big Bear? Yeah, it is too bad that lawsuit happy people shut down the downhill trails, but you can still ride the lifts and come down the XC course.

    As far as the bay area goes, we have better weather…

  5. I vote for the offroad trails in and around southern Alabama…the network isn’t too extensive, but you get clouds of mosquitos, hordes of biting yellow deer flies, mud and quicksand, alligators and the occasional marijuana farm or moonshine still to negotiate!

    I’m kidding, of course…those trails couldn’t hold a candle to SoCal OR B.C. Too many biting critters…

  6. I love the Backbone trail from The Hub all the way down to Sunset.

    BUT ONLY DURING THE WEEK. Weekends are too crowded. Another favorite is Chumash trail off of Rocky Peak.

  7. John does have a point on #4…but that’s a matter of opinion 🙂 some of us likes the treeless exposure so we can have the sun on our backs. Here are my two cents:

    1) Thousands of miles of trails. From the mountains to the desert, by the beach.

    2) CA is slowly but surely moving to this idea. Most resorts like Mammoth and Lake Tahoe have a large mountain biking tourism business during the summer hosting people from around the world. They have developed similar stunts as BC.

    3) CA has year round riding. Never stops during winter 🙂

    4) Majority of our trails are quiet but you have a variety of exposures (#1) I’d stay away from the power lines though; might have mutants for kids 😉 However, I don’t know too many trails that run through them.

    5) Ever bought or rented a mountain-biking video? – Yes, they are awesome!

    6) Bike shops and bike companies galore are here — same in So Cal: Intense, Turner, Foes, Chumba, Ibis, Santa Cruz, just to name a few…

    7) Home of Whistler, acknowledged almost universally as the best mountain biking resort in the world (agreed). There is a reason most of the ads in magazines feature Whistler, why KHS and other manufacturers sponsor contests that offer winners trips there, and why magazines do much of their equipment testing there. (this is relative to the area/rider. Fox/Santa Cruz does a lot of testing in Nor Cal; Marzocchi in Valencia, Ca and Italy; Intense in So Cal mtns., etc…) Check out any of the photo issues in the magazines — eg bike magazine or Mountain Bike Action. You will see a majority of the stunning photos in there are from B.C (Agreed, they are stunning photos. Scenery makes a big difference in pictures compared to flat open area where there are huge boulders. But if you look at the Mountain Bike Action when they are testing their bikes, it’s mainly in So Cal if not all.)

    I agree that Whistler is awesome. I’ve been up there once but during winter. I’d love to ride up there someday, but now I cant find my passport so taking a trip up there will have to wait 🙂

    I’ve ridden from the Bay Area to San Diego. California is the meca for MtBiking… after all, didn’t it start here…

  8. You detractors are either tripping or in denial. It’s just like the man says. Anyone who thinks So Cal riding is easy stuff has never been here. There are far more climbs, descents and open area’s than malls and freeways. There is no such thing as an easy ride in So Cal. It’s mostly straight up and straight down! Oh, I can off road on the dsescribed terrain starting 1/2 mile from my door. I never have to drive anywhere to go on at least half a dozen different challenging rides!


  9. Well everyone thinks their spot is the best, including me. Now the weather may be nice, but riding in the smoggiest place in the country just doesn’t much appeal to me. But at least you can enjoy the smog while riding across hills covered with vegetation that looks dead 8 months of the year. I know, it’s not all like that, you can go up in the mountains where there are some very nice areas. Now if you compare it with my backyard (I’m not saying where it is) you might think twice. Here there are beautiful forests and rivers with numerous technical trails winding down huge vertical (4000-6500 feet). There are granite slickrock areas that you can freeform ride on for over 5 miles. We don’t build the North Shore style terrain features here. We don’t have to. The summer weather is perfect (unlike Moab) and you can ride all day without seeing another biker. Oh, but there are no guidebooks or magazine articles about this area and the Pros don’t photoshoot or test bikes here, so it might not appeal to everyone.

  10. I have read over a number of of your blog entries and I had been itching to know if you wanted to swap website links? I am constantly looking to swap links with blogs on the same subjects! I look forward to hearing back from you shortly.

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