The Roads of Rapha Travel: Highway 39

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For the first time ever, Rapha Travel are hosting Randonnées in America. The first outings took place earlier this year, travelling across California in searh of the best riding, cuisine and camaraderie the state has to offer. The next round of late summer, U.S.-based Randonnées are taking bookings now at rapha.cc/travel.

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Highway 39 bears the scars of recent landslides and years of neglect. A web of cracks runs along its blacktop, edge to edge. Having ‘highway’ in the name might make you think of a four-lane behemoth of a road, packed with cars and trucks speeding to a Californian metropolis. Highway 39, it turns out, doesn’t connect anywhere to anywhere – it’s an access road, closed in the winter and opened at the point of the year when it’s time for California’s fire service to start worrying about the dry forests that line the mountainside.

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The road stretches up above Los Angeles, to the west of Mt Baldy, a favourite climb of the Tour of California. The metrics of the climb give pause – more than 1,900m (6300ft) of climbing without an inch of descent. Rapha Travel tackled the road for the first time this year, before the State opened the barrier that allows traffic through; the guides filled their pockets with tubes, tools and food, the support car was pointed back down the mountain, and the riders set off for an adventure along deserted roads and, near the summit, untouched snow. The descent, car-free and fast, rails through the woodland of the Angeles National Forest.

Highway 39 is a real road to nowhere. The only reason to climb it is the need to climb it (unless you’re particularly devoted to the brownies at the Crystal Lake Café, in which case there are two reasons).

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Rapha Randonnées are inspired by the classic brevets of Europe – they are about discovery and new experiences. Each day of the trip covers 130km of mountainous riding, with Rapha providing pro-level equipment and support to take care of all the details. To find out more about Rapha Travel’s upcoming trips, visit rapha.cc/travel.

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  • azusa

    I live just a couple of miles from highway 39 and ride it year round. It’s never closed as described in this post with the exception of the final four miles above crystal lake cafe which connects to Angeles Crest Highway. Also, the first photograph doesn’t look to be from the area and I’ve lived here my whole life.