Sometimes all you have time for in a ride is one canyon, and for me, if I’m keeping a ride short, that canyon will almost always be Old Topanga. I zip down through the narrow side streets to Route 27 and ride through “downtown” to the beginning of Old T—as it’s known to the locals. I ride over a bridge and by the Inn of the 7th Ray, a 40-year-old restaurant by the creek, housed in what used to be a gas station. Then, I’m on the climb.
Repaved last year, this road is smooth, fast and grippy. It’s the perfect place to put the Trek Émonda through its paces. This bike feels like it slices through the air with the least resistance possible. It’s just a feeling, but I swear I can sense the lack of drag. No energy is wasted pedaling this bike forward, every stroke giving you maximum forward velocity. And the Bontrager Aeolus RSL 37 wheels are perfectly matched to the width of their 25c tires, giving you the right amount of aero benefit, rolling resistance, smooth ride quality and grip when you start carving downhill.
And carve downhill I shall! I’m looking forward to the descent that I’m earning as I work my way through the bends on the gradual ascent to the sunnier and steeper final push to the summit. The feral parrots who’ve made a home in Topanga squawk loudly as they fly overhead, always seemingly springing from the trees in the same place when I ride through here. I high five the roadside cat statue (catue? scatue??) that is always costumed appropriately for the season, and ride past Cheese Rock, Dragon Manor, Alligator Alley and through the oldest neighborhood in Topanga, Bonnell Park. This is where Neil Young hosted a three-day party that famously led to his and Eric Clapton’s arrest and the supposed breakup of Buffalo Springfield.
Eventually the houses melt away and the road pitches up. The last few minutes become steeper and twistier until you reach the top and hurtle down into the valley on one of the shorter but more thrilling descents in the area. The Émonda feels right at home, giving you the confidence to push that little bit faster through the apex—appropriately giving you the feedback to know how much grip you have left. Then I turn around and do it all in the other direction because it’s such a great road.