Central Coast Challenging Climbs for Cyclists: Highway 1 Winds
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January 30, 2024

Central Coast Challenging Climbs: Highway 1 Hills & Winds

Ali Tetrick rides on Highway 1 from Ragged Point to Cambria on the Central Coast in California

The Central Coast is known for its smooth oceanside riding along Highway 1, but that’s not always the case—your challenge depends on the time of day and headwinds. If you don’t plan for the winds along this historic highway, your ride can turn into an unexpected challenge, and while we like a challenge, it’s best to be prepared for it.

We chatted with Don Berghoff, a Central Coast local who’s made a stretch of Highway 1 his regular ride of choice, and he gave us some tips and tricks to navigate the winds as you climb or descend the hills on Highway 1. Read on to find out the ways you can tackle this stretch of road, whether you prefer a breeze or a blast.

Highway 1: A Standby Stretch On the Central Coast—At the Right Time

This particular stretch of Highway 1 is covered along our Ragged Point Route, a 37-mile ride from San Simeon up to the titular point and back. Alternatively, you can take the Gorda Route if you’re riding from Cambria.

The ride on its own features some challenging hills that pay off with rewarding views. Embarking in the morning, the headwinds on the way up sit at around 7mph, with gusts of 12-13mph. That can be comfortable enough, but heading out later leads you into wind speeds of a consistent 10-12mph—you’ll feel the difference, for sure.

The route also features wide shoulders on the road up until you hit Ragged Point, at which time the shoulder is lost. Also, you’ll need to watch out for cars coming around the corners here. Be advised that there are no restrooms or other amenities along the way, save for in Ragged Point, itself.

Best Times to Head Out

“One thing you learn about the Central Coast…everything in the area is planned around the wind.”

-Don Berghoff

The winds will be your guide for when you decide to head out on Highway 1. They primarily blow northwestern for most of the year, save for October, November, and December, when they shift northeastern. Mornings are the optimal times to engage with comfortable winds, so plan to leave for your ride between 7 and 9:30 a.m. Any time after that, by 10 a.m., the winds become, “pretty brutal,” Don said.

A smartphone with the Windy App on it, surrounded on the left and right by screen captures of different features

Monitoring & Preparing for the Weather

Monitoring the weather is always a good idea before going on a long-distance ride, but it becomes even more important when heading out on Highway 1. Don’s go-to app for checking and monitoring the wind is Windy, but other apps that tell you the wind and other weather conditions tend to be fairly consistent, he said.

Dressing for the Weather & Wind: Jacket, Warmers, Gloves & Goggles

The weather on the Central Coast tends to be temperate enough that you shouldn’t have to worry about the heat too much. However, during winter months, consider layering when riding into those Highway 1 winds, including things like arm warmers and a thicker jersey. You might also consider wind-resistant cycling gloves, cycling wind pants, and goggles to protect your eyes, especially while planning on riding into higher winds.

Headwind Challenges

Hitting that Highway 1 headwind can impact your riding speed more than you might expect, offering a new, invigorating challenge. Don recalled when he warned a friend who went out for a ride that a heavy headwind was coming and would hit him on the way home. Upon returning, his friend said, “What should have taken me an hour, took two hours.”

While the winds may not cease, the ups and downs of the hilly terrain leading into Ragged Point can dampen the effects of the wind, easing your ride while still testing your limits.

A winding roadway segment of Highway 1, just south of Ragged Point, on the Central Coast of California

Unique Weather of the Coast

One thing cyclists on the Central Coast know is that the wind is a factor of almost any route you take in this area. That means deciding if you’re going to head out on Highway 1 early to enjoy the more comfortable breeze and tailwind, or engage with the challenge of riding head-on into that wind.

Either way, the rest of the coast’s unique weather should make for a consistent riding experience. Year-round temperature variances are very mild, meaning you can focus on gearing up specifically around the wind you expect based on the time of day.

Other Central Coast Rides

Highway 1 brings the bonus of being able to choose your challenge, but it’s not the only ride on the Central Coast worth taking on. The gravel climb on Santa Rita Road and the steep demands of “The Wall” on Santa Rosa Creek Road, among other ascents, also offer their own appreciable challenges.

The Central Coast is worth exploring to find these satisfying rides as well as the unique stops they offer along the way. Check our Resources page to connect with local bike clubs and services that can point you in the direction of other adventures in the area.

Ride Highway 1 Your Way

“There are no other rides like the coast!”

-Don Berghoff

Highway 1 holds a variety of cycling experiences and challenges on the Central Coast, where even the time of day or way of the winds can present new route-conquering rides. Use our guide and plan accordingly for the kind of trip you prefer. Visit the towns in the area, such as Cambria, San Simeon, or Avila Beach, check the unique setting out for yourself, and get the most out of your seaside ride. You’ll find out why cyclists love this region as much as they do.

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