The San Diego Mountain Biking Association (SDMBA) annual membership ride, the Archipelago Ride aka “ARCH” ride, is best described as a mountain bike adventure through the backcountry of North County. Permission from the city of San Diego is granted to SDMBA to use a connection of local trails that links a chain of “open space” islands, like the Archipelago chain of Islands (SDMBA has the goal of developing safe connecting trails and preserving open space). The event is hosted in April and has the reputation of selling out fast.

Lusardi Preserve is a jewel hidden away along the ARCH ride. The preserve contains 195 acres of land made open to hikers and mountain bikers and is one of the open space ‘islands’ that are connected during the ARCH(ipelagos) ride held in April for SDMBA members and invited guests. Join by January to get your invite. (Photo by: Joshua Bonnici, courtesy of SDMBA)

The year I rode was challenging in every way, mentally and physically. The ride tests your nutrition management, equipment, and even your ability to navigate a variety of terrains, including tree-covered tunnels. The ride was a little over 41 miles in length and began at La Costa Canyon High School in Carlsbad and finished at Green Flash Brewing in Mira Mesa. The ride begins with mountain switchbacks over single track trails, and a descent through Elfin forest features 6’ tall brush and passes through deep streams on single track. A rattlesnake or two has been spotted lying across the trail in previous years.

Climbing through the Elfin Forest, the ride continues for about a mile onto the “Way Up” trail of switchbacks. A fast descent trails to the metal bridge at the south end of Lake Hodges. More switchbacks challenge you when you crest the hill and drop into Lusardi Valley, i.e. the West side of Rancho Bernardo Valley. From there, it’s a slow and steady ride across open countrysides, back up into Black Mountain Park followed by a descent past Del Mar Highlands through Penasquitos Canyon (where you’ll see those tree-lined tunnels.) There are dried-up stream beds and “cobbles” for trails, followed by a refreshing ocean breeze in Penasquitos Canyon.

The Elfin Forest Recreational Reserve is one of San Diego’s most popular natural resources for adventurous cyclists. The Reserve offers approximately 11 miles of mountain biking trails, as well as scenic mountain viewing points.

The last quarter of the ride is a long and pretty climb up Lopez Canyon behind the Qualcomm building, then towards the finish at “Green Flash” Brewery in Mira Mesa. It’s there, I enjoyed a well-deserved pint of “Willy Vanilly” IPA, good food and stories of the day. (Robert Leon, from the San Diego County Bike Coalition kindly parked our bikes in the valet.)

The people are friendly and the ride is epic. Join the San Diego Mountain Biking Association and give it a try next year. It’s for a good cause and it’s a blast.

Invitations go out to current members and donors in January. If you have a membership question, please email [email protected], or visit the San Diego Mountain Biking Association facebook page.