Bonny Doon and Zayante

Of all the roads I have ridden, and living here in the Bay Area for 10 years, it’s amazing that I haven’t ridden Bonny Doon and Zayante. Well, we can mark that off the list now. Bonny Doon was the featured climb in Stage 2 of the 2009 Tour of California. This would definitely be one of the tougher non-supported rides, as it is advertised at 105 miles, and 9500 feet of climbing. Plus, it’s led by Ramon, who is notorious for bringing on the pain. This also marks as the last tough ride before the Death Ride. I was the only one on the ride who is not preparing for the Death Ride … Ramon, Ben, Michael, and Chris, all are doing the Death Ride next week. So why the heck am I subjecting myself to such pain? Knowing the group, I am definitely going to be the last to finish every hill.

We had best intentions of leaving Foothill/Homestead no later than 8:15 am, but sometimes it’s not in the cards. First, Ramon was a little late. Second, Chris was running late, and we decided to just proceed on our route, and meet him up at Moody and Page Mill.

Moody has a steep grade, but it’s only 1/2 mile in length … starts out at 7% then pitches to an average of 10-12%, and up to 16%, before it intersects with Page Mill. However, this will get your heart rate way up, to the point where you can heart how hard your heart is pumping.

We went on climbing up Page Mill, which would be another 6 miles and 1200 feet of climbing later. Chris did peel back and climbed with me, and that made the climbing a bit more enjoyable. Thanks Chris! But eventually, near the top, I let him go up … I didn’t want to hold him back, and I just needed to climb at my own pace.
Descending Alpine is very technical with a lot of switchbacks. Even though the descent is going from 2200 feet down to about 500 feet, you couldn’t really pick up any good speed at all. On this day, it was mostly due to car traffic descending Alpine … and this one idiot on a motorcycle decides to pass us up, only to brake hard due to the cars in front of us. I mean, what’s the point in exerting so much energy to pass one car, only to stop. Eventually, he made a daredevil move and passed 3 cars with about 2-3 feet of room to pass with (due to the narrow roads). He probably gained about 30 seconds as opposed to waiting for the cars to finish to the bottom of the hill. Ok, that’s my rant.

The next climb is not quite as long, but still annoying … this is the climb up Haskins Hill, which is roughly 3 miles and 500 feet climbing, but it is a pretty wooded area, with lots of redwood trees surrounding you. As I anticipated, I was the last one, with the group waiting for me at the top.

On the way down to Pescadero, a head wind is expected, so everyone wanted to get into a paceline, so we wouldn’t be working so hard … well, that’s a great plan, if you can keep up with the pace of the paceline. With 100 miles, and 9000 feet of climbing, I had to conserve my energy, so I ended up dropping off the back.

After a quick break in Pescadero, it’s off to Hwy 1, and southbound towards Bonny Doon. We all started off with a nice pace, but it soon turned more and more aggressive. I lost touch with the pack really quickly, and this wasn’t even a hill! In fact, I saw Ramon and Ben just in front of me. Chris and Michael were on some crazy pace. I had thoughts of turning at Gazos Creek, and not doing the whole route, but since I was so far back, I couldn’t inform anyone … so I guess I gotta HTFU, and do the whole 105 mile route.
We stopped in Davenport, which is just before Bonny Doon. We stopped here when I was on the Tour of Ca, so I immediately recognized this place, and noticed the gang stopped here too. It’s a cute little seaside town, population of ~ 350. It’s also a nice little gathering for various tour buses as well.
Ok, onto Bonny Doon. Reflecting on this climb, it’s not as bad as I thought it would be. It is very scenic, with redwoods everywhere. I can only imagine how much faster the Tour of Ca riders climbed this … probably even faster than the folks driving this road today.
Steepest part of the grade was about 1-2 miles into the climb, where steepness varied from 8-12%, but even after that, the climbing kept continuing. It’s a 7 mile climb, and about 2000 feet climbing.
After cresting, it’s down Empire Grade, and onto Felton Empire. Now this was one wild descent. You could easily reach 25 mph without even trying, and if you had no traffic in front of you, you could easily reach 40+ mph. This was one of the few times we wanted traffic in front of us, so that it would slow down the traffic on the descent. Eventually, it got ahead of us, but we were also confronted by very technical switchbacks, and some very rough pavement, teeth chattering pavement. This was one descent where you definitely did not want to have a tight grip on the handlebar. It’s descents like this that makes you wonder with amazement at how well our bikes are built, and that it can withstand the vibrations. There were a few spots there where I misjudged the pitch and the radius of curvature, and had to slam on the brakes a few times. It was a wild descent.
We stopped in Felton for some food, water, and topped off our bottles with ice. It’s a good thing the days are longer, as we observed by the time we left Felton, it was already 4 pm. Next climb is Zayante.
Zayante is a long, 11 mile, 1900 foot climb. That length does tax your system, especially after already riding 77 miles, and ~7000 feet climbing. The climbs itself weren’t too bad … most averaged from 5-8%, and once getting to Upper East Zayante, it kicked up to about 13%. When we get to the end, we made a left turn at Summit, but this was not the end of the climbing … in fact, there’s still at least an additional 1200 feet climbing, while on Summit and on Skyline. It’s those rolling hills that gets you.
The top elevation, as far as I can tell, was up on Skyline at 3100 feet. Whenever I ride this area, on Skyline, I can’t help but feel like I’m barely moving, and struggling just to turn my cranks. I was averaging about 4-5 mph at this point, and consistently in my granny gear. This is where I earn my HTFU points. Every thing aches, and the end just keeps getting longer and longer.

I was glad to finally get down to the bottom of Redwood Gulch, which meant Starbuck’s at the beginning of the ride is within sight. A nice hot grande latte and cinnamon swirl is just what I needed … ahhh!!!!
This was one full day … it started at 7:45 am, when I left home, and I got home almost 12 hours later at around 7:30 pm. The biggest thing that was on my mind as I was making the final push on Skyline is to make it home before dark. Mission accomplished.
Ride totals:
Total Distance: 115.1 miles
Elevation Gain: 9709 feet

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3 Responses to Bonny Doon and Zayante

  1. gtinla says:

    What an AWEsome ride! – thanks for sharing

  2. Ygduf says:


    You did well to even finish the ride. I felt particularly bad the whole way up Zayante to the top of Skyline. I was so out of it that when I flatted about 1/2 mile from home I chose to walk it in rather that fix it in the field. 115 and 10k, especially after a light month for you, is well into HTFU territory.

    I'm glad you came with us, and I'm sorry I couldn't wait at some of the later re-groups. I knew if I stopped for more than 30 seconds I was going to lose my will to make it home! Barely made it before 8pm as it was.

  3. Brian M says:

    Wow. What a ride. I was thinking about going to Santa Cruz tomorrow and trying Bonny Doon. I remamber doing it a decade+ ago on a Century.

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