I’m not usually one for New Year’s resolutions, and this year was no different. However, it dawned on me a few weeks ago that I don’t get out and ride nearly as much as I should, or as much as I want to. I realized I’m paying for this thing so I may as well ride it. So, with this in mind, I made a New Year’s resolution, in May, to ride more. That’s just the kind of guy I am.
When I want to head out for the open road, and let’s face it, here in the city there’s not an awful lot of open road out there, I usually opt for a quick blast up Carbon Canyon. This lesser of the three popular Orange County canyon rides (Santiago Canyon and Ortega Highway being the two more popular choices) is a perfect getaway for North County riders looking for a quick fix. As a busy father and freelancer I don’t always have a lot of time to venture further afield (something I will seek to rectify under the auspices of the afore mentioned resolution). So with little over an hour running time this route gets me out on two, into the countryside and rejuvenates my soul without destroying my day.
When I head out from my home in Fullerton, I do a little warm up by heading up and across Skyline Drive. This road is fantastic. It gets me out of the city in a matter of minutes, feeling like I have instantly dropped into somewhere much more rural. Of course this only lasts a few thousand feet before I am back to clay tile roof’s and SUV’s, but it whets my appetite for the rest of the route. After Skyline Drive, I cross State College and end up on Bastanchury Avenue heading East, where I’ll hang a left onto Valencia for a few blocks.
If you are following along, you will go north on Valencia until the junction with Lambert, which turns into Carbon Canyon at the stop light. Turn right at the light onto Carbon Canyon and you are on your way. You go past the Carbon Canyon Regional Park on the right and the two lanes merge into one, and the suburban landscape quickly morphs into beautiful green countryside.
Carbon Canyon is about 10 miles long and it winds through a couple of small villages where speeds drop down from 55 to 35, but these are brief and you are quickly up to speed again. It is a pretty well travelled road so it is hard to get a clear run in, but I’m usually too taken by the beauty of the surroundings to be in that much of a hurry. I’m often passed by riders splitting lanes down a double yellow line, which is pretty reckless considering the straights are short and book-ended by blind bends.
Towards the end of Carbon Canyon the road starts to climb and at the peak there is a sharp left hander which marks the beginning of the short technical section of the route. Dropping downhill at quite a steep angle of descent you flip into a very tight downhill left-hand hairpin, followed almost immediately by an equally challenging downhill right-hand hairpin. On my 1000cc its first gear all the way and slipping the clutch, dragging the rear brake, especially if there is slower traffic in front of you. There is a short straight that can trick you into higher speeds before the final suite of turns crops up, a left, right and long sweeping left bak onto the open road.
When I first began riding Carbon Canyon this section of the route freaked me out. The hairpins are very cambered and finding the right line though them took some practice. Nowadays I love the challenge and it can be fun when you get a clear run through them and you can flow cleanly from one to the next.
After this, it is a 45mph flowing ribbon, that most travelers take at closer to 65mph. It’s not long on here until the landscape opens up into rolling hills and back into suburbia at Chino Hills. At the stop light at the end of Carbon Canyon you take a left onto Chino hills Parkway for a short stretch until you reach Grand Avenue. Again take a left at the stop light onto Grand and immediately climb steeply to the summit where the landscape once more opens up to wide open rolling hills of green and yellow (or brown depending what time of year).
This section of Grand reminds me of the Central Coast, and I love winding it up as the road drops down into the valley and then climbs up into Diamond Bar. Here its a few miles of city traffic, but Diamond Bar is far from Anaheim Blvd. in rush hour, so it’s an easy wind down the hill to the stop light at diamond Bar Blvd. Take a left at the lights and cruise out of town, slowly heading downhill towards the 57 freeway entrance.
Before you reach the freeway however, the final rural jaunt awaits if you take the left turn at the lights onto Brea Canyon. Again the suburban landscape subsides and green hills and trees take over. It’s a much shorter ride through the canyon but enjoyable nonetheless. You can get some good speed up, under the freeway overpass, where you have to be aware of cars exiting the freeway and entering your highway path. Keep your headlights on through here. There are a few connecting corners that have you flipping from side to side with a nice rhythm as the road flows through the shady hills.
Before too long though you emerge from the wooded glens and are right back into suburbia at Brea Blvd. and State College. For me its a roll back down the hill into Fullerton, back to the pits (my garage) and put the kettle on. Just like Guy Martin I like to reflect on the ride over a hot cup of tea.
There are moments on this ride that you feel like you are riding the Isle Of Man mountain course. You feel far from the city traffic. When you get a clear run, which is not easy, this can be one of the best local routes. Especially for those of us in North Orange County, it’s close and easily accessible. There is a little of everything from long sweepers to tight switchbacks to keep it interesting. It does get quite busy, Carbon Canyon is a main route out to Chino, and there are some of the usual idiot impatient cagers that you will have to look out for.
I’ll be hitting this route quite a bit over the next few months, as I honor my Mid-Year’s Resolution and get out on two much more often. In future chapters in this series about local rides I’ll get out on to Santiago Canyon, Live Oak Canyon and Ortega Highway. I’ll even get further afield to Glendora Mountain and Mount Baldy.
Subscribe to my page so you don’t miss a thing.