Tepusquet Road

Distance: 30 miles out and back
Elevation gain: 3170 ft

What is more delicious than discovering a great ride where you thought there was none?  Tepusquet Road, surely one of the better road names in Bestrides, was suggested to me by a Friend of Bestrides who has local knowledge of Santa Maria.  It’s a delightful surprise.  Rising out of the flat, dry, dusty agricultural fields, it climbs easily and steadily up through lush, shady canopies of riparian oaks to a pass, then makes a joyous little descent into the valley on the other side.   Rewards include grand vistas, lots of banked switchbacks, and a ton of solitude.  Not a life-changing ride, but a very good one, made all the more pleasant by how little you were expecting (or did I ruin the surprise now?).

This is an excellent ride for through-riders, because there’s good riding on either end—see Adding Rides below.


The oak canopy

Start at the intersection of Tepusquet and Foxen Canyon Rd.  (more on Foxen below) and follow the one and only road to its end, where it T’s into Hwy 166.   This being farm land, there’s endless huge dirt shoulders to park on at the trailhead.  Immediately start climbing, and climb without interruption at a moderate pace to the summit pass at 9.6 miles.  The climbing is consistently mellow, and the trees are beautiful, but it is 10 miles of nearly unaltering pitch, which gets a little monotonous.  That lack of variety in the contour is the only negative about the ride.   There are houses (at least I saw a lot of mailboxes), but they’re unobtrusive, and the traffic drops to nearly zero soon into the ride.

Just over the summit looking north: your road is dead center

At the obvious summit, you could turn around, but I warn you, the ride back is straight enough and shallow enough to be thoroughly pleasant but not thrilling.  For thrill, keep going.   The back side of the ride is a notch steeper and much curvier for the next 3 miles, with some very nice banking in the constant switchbacks.  Here you can really practice your cornering skills.  You’re on the drier north side of the divide now, so the landscape is harsher, but the payoff is, great vistas of the grand valley before you and the hills beyond.  You can see your own road ahead of and far below you—always a thrill.

Climbing the back side: drier, curvier

When the descending peters out, it’s a short, mellow roll past backcountry ranches  to the dead-end at Hwy 166.  Turn around, do the challenging but not nasty 3-mile climb back to the summit (7-8%), and cruise back to your car at a descending pace so leisurely you’ll probably pedal a lot of it for grins.

Adding Miles: As I promised, you can keep riding in either direction.  At the southern end you’re on Foxen Canyon Road, a beloved cycling route that runs to Los Olivos.  Now you’re in the heart of the Solvang cycling network, discussed in the Mt. Figueroa ride.  Cat Canyon Rd. and Palmer Rd. are also reputed to be worth riding.

At the other end, Hwy 166 is a highway but not a frantic one, and you can ride west, then take surface roads paralleling Hwy 101 to the riding around San Luis Obispo, Corbett Canyon Road being a local favorite.

Love those oaks

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