You don’t find many LBS carrying triple chainrings, with the thought that a compact double has the gearing enough for any rides. Well, for the Bay Area, that may be fine for fit racers, but for us average weekend riders, who love to climb hills, the triple is a much needed weapon.
Take for example my last ride. Al and I decided to go on this epically hard ride on President’s Day holiday. The highlight of the ride was a ride up Bohlman, Norton, Kittridge, Quickert, then On Orbit. Now this was epic. However, to prepare for these climbs, a little warm up is really needed. So I kicked it off with a little climb up Montebello Road, which in itself, is no slouch either. It’s 5.1 miles, with about 2000 feet of climbing.
It started out frigidly cold, so we started fairly late, 9:30 am … it was still about 45 F at the start. It was windy, cold, and the temperature didn’t really warm up. The sun was out, but don’t let that fool you. We definitely needed to bundle up.
It’s a bad sign when you start the ride, and you ride into a headwind. Usually, the winds around Sunnyvale are fairly calm, but not this day. After doing a few local short hills around Rancho San Antonio Park, the wind calmed down considerably. It also gave us a chance to warm up a little bit. However, the wind and the cold was concerning, and I was even thinking about bailing on some of the climbs, but look at this … blue skies all around. We were thinking if it gets too windy, and too cold, we could shorten the climb to the Montebello school, which is halfway up, but the wind and cold actually calmed down on the mountain. I’ll say that again … it’s windy and cold in the valley, but calm, and a little warmer in the mountains, with higher elevation. That’s backwards!
We got to the top, with no issues. I for one was not pushing too hard on this climb, knowing what we have to come later. I’ve been averaging between 51 to 55 minutes on this climb, and today, we came in at 53 minutes. I guess I’m still in shape. The view was spectacular today, and it was very clear. And there was no wind evident up at the top.
Descending Montebello was cold … frigidly cold. So there were two trains of thought for the descent … get off the mountain as fast as you can, but then the faster you go, the colder you’d get. For me, I decided to go slowly, because once you get into the shady sections of the descent, the temps drop. The low on my Garmin showed 34 F, and I think that was during our descent. We just needed to get to any place where there was sun, so we saw a sunny spot, and just sat there, soaking in the rays, while our body temperature warmed up.
We were originally going to climb up Redwood Gulch, but that would mean we would have to go into Stevens Canyon, and the temperature would drop going there … uh … no! Up Mt. Eden we go, and adding in a few short, steep hills, like Teerlink, Saratoga Summit … nice 16% grades, to warm the body up.
Ok, now for the big climb. I always get a kick out of this climb, as it passes by a cemetery at the base of the climb. Is that a little omen? Well, we’ve done this all before … Norton is fine, Kittridge is tough, but then when we got onto Quickert … oh boy. I think it was sustained 15-18% there (maybe even more in some spots). Al even had thoughts of stopping and walking, but he knew I was behind him. When we finally got to On Orbit, we had to take a breather.
I had to give Al the bad news that what we did, wasn’t even On Orbit, that this left turn we are making is On Orbit, and this is where the real climb starts. WTF ??? Yes, onwards to more 18-25% climbs. Thank god for my granny gear, 30-28 … and using every gear inch of that thing. There is something soothing about you on the climb, with no cars, just hearing your derailleur in the back, climbing to the rhythm of your breathing, and not worrying about what is ahead. I did take a quick peak near the summit, just to know where I am, but I just kept at my same rhythm … it’s kind of a mental, psychological thing.
We made it!!! It’s not the highest peak, but it definitely is one of the toughest. Looking back, we started to wonder if this is the toughest climb in the Bay Area … it definitely is one of the toughest. Another one that comes to mind is Welch Creek, off of Calaveras, east of Fremont. Al thinks On Orbit is tougher, but I think Welch Creek … both of them are hard, but picking which is tougher is a tough call.
Anyhow, this is why I still have a triple chainring. If you are doing something this epic, you need those extra gear inches, especially since we are not getting any younger. I’m definitely tagging this one as a climbfest.