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Archipelago: The Ultimate San Diego Mountain Bike Ride

National Bike Month kicked off early with an extreme trail ride


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Archipelago 2016 riders pass Lake Hodges. | Photo by Jose Galaz

National Bike Month got an early start in San Diego when more than 200 mountain bikers took the ultimate trail challenge—riding across the county almost entirely on dirt—in a 44 mile, all-day trek across San Diego County on April 30.

Called the Archipelago Ride, this annual fundraiser for the San Diego Mountain Biking Association started in 2008, when a dozen industrious riders figured out how to link ‘islands’ of open space via trails, fire roads, and paths connecting canyons and cresting hills from Carlsbad to Sorrento Mesa.

Now capped at 225 riders—almost ten percent of them women—the ride requires the approval of multiple land managers for access, and is one of SDMBA’s biggest fundraisers of the year.

“The route changes depending on development and construction which impacts connections between the parks,” said Susie Murphy, executive director of the San Diego Mountain Biking Association. “This is the biggest challenge of Arch Ride. Trail users should be able to have permanent connector trails that will link up our city and county parks and open spaces.”

riders climb the switchbacks of the Crosby. | Photo by Jose Galaz

Starting at La Costa Canyon High School in Carlsbad, the meandering route is an amazing tour of backcountry San Diego, climbing the red switchbacks of La Costa, then dropping down to San Elijo Hills, where startled Saturday morning dog walkers smiled at the sight of dozens of muddy riders on the path paralleling Elfin Forest Road.

A lone equestrian sauntered by the first pit stop while riders fueled up on anything they could, before things started to get vertical again on the brutal hike-a-bike climb of Elfin Forest’s notorious Way Up Trail. Once on top, a fast gravel road descent brought everyone along Lake Hodges, past the dam and through the wind tunnel of the San Dieguito River trail, part of the emerging Coast to Crest trail network.

A second pit stop provided food and tech support before more switchbacks at the Crosby, leading to a traverse of the rolling Lusardi Creek Preserve and the final pit stop on the shoulder of Black Mountain. From there it was a familiar trail south under the 56 and up another steep climb to Del Mar Mesa, with some newly made trails in Pensasquitos Canyon thrown in before the final climb up Lopez Canyon.

Like many great mountain bike rides, this one ended at a brewery—in this case sponsor Green Flash Brewing in Sorrento Mesa, complete with a bike valet, food trucks, raffles, and the hardest-earned, most delicious Hop Boxed IPAs from Alpine Beer Company ever.

The route of the 2016 Archipelago Ride: 44 miles and 5,000 feet of climbing from Carlsbad to Sorrento Mesa.

“We are so lucky to have such a hard working and dedicated group of mountain bikers giving so much of their time so that the rest of us have more trails to ride,” said David Turner, owner of Temecula’s Turner Bicycles, who has ridden Archipelago with his wife Christina Probert-Turner five times now. “Everyone on the ride Saturday knows this and it was great to see the support from the community of riders.”

With more than 5,000 feet of climbing, the fastest riders took about five hours to do the ride, while the slowest rider took close to ten. I burned 4,000 calories and finished somewhere in between.

“The Arch Ride also showcases the great trail system we have in San Diego County and underscores the necessity for all of us to work together to protect those trails,” said California State Assemblyman Brian Jones (R-Santee) who rode Arch for the second time this year. “San Diego's trail system is becoming a tourist attraction.”


May is National Bike Month. We're celebrating the many reasons to ride this month with a series of weekly blog posts exploring biking in San Diego.

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