If you’ve ever driven along the Italian coast from Sorrento to Amalfi, your senses captivated by the chiseled green Lattari Mountains above and the azure waters of the Tyrrhenian Sea below, Santa Monica’s “Amalfi Loop” might seem a little underwhelming by comparison.
Think Vegas’ Luxor to Giza’s Khufu, or something along those lines.
Still, where riding is concerned, there’s no denying the appeal of this 6-mile route that takes cyclists up into the stately grandeur of the Pacific Palisades. It’s a favorite for local early morning clubs, and pretty much anyone else looking to mix leg burning climbs with some smooth Santa Monica straightaways.
Speaking of straightaways, one of the undisputed highlights of the loop is its 2-mile stretch along San Vicente Boulevard. Wide, quiet, and lined with the types of coral trees that would make an arborist leave his family nursery, this is cycling royalty for Santa Monica residents. Just after sunup and just before dusk you can expect to see droves of Lycra-clad locals either pushing the slight incline westward or crushing the descent down towards the beach. We’re not employing hyperbole when we say that this is about as enjoyable as biking gets around these parts.
As you work your way from the base of the Ocean Ave Extension onto Amalfi Drive, get ready for things to take a turn for the…intense. A series of winding switchbacks take riders 250 ft uphill in just over a mile, easing the discomfort of burning calves with views of ever more luxurious real estate.
The road names here make no effort to hide their aspirations of European opulence, with titles like Napoli, Corsica, and Capri Drive. Of course, with this kind of traffic-free cycling at your disposal, you might start to feel a little aloof, yourself.
Things get noticeably less refined on the downhill jaunt from Sunset Boulevard to Allenford Ave, where a combination of moderate to heavy traffic and no shoulder means riders have to remain vigilant for passing vehicles. Thankfully this section only lasts for less than half a mile, which isn’t quite long enough to erase the memory of all that Italian-inspired bliss above.
Once you’ve circled back around to San Vicente, you’re free to make as many passes of the Amalfi Loop as you’d like before you’ve satisfied the day’s workout. This ride also pairs up nicely with the nearby Mandeville Canyon Road, for all of you masochists excited to see what an unbroken 5-mile ascent feels like. Enjoy.