Bohlmon, On Orbit, Hicks Kicked My Ass

Some rides are just meant to be epic … case in point, any time we do Hicks, the group decides since we are in the area, we gotta do Bohlmon /On Orbit. Well, we did this today, and it always has a way of kicking my butt.  Granted, it was pretty warm today, and Bohlmon / On Orbit has to be the toughest, steepest climb in the San Jose area.  Plus, there is absolutely no water on the route when you go and do Hicks.

Bohlmon and On Orbit is one of the fabled climbs in the San Jose area.  If you are in the area, and want a challenge, you gotta do this.  There are sections of 22% on this climb, and it’s not just a short section either .. one of the substantial portions of the climb are > 20%.

This this being such a hardcore ride, I wasn’t expecting a big turnout.  Michael had to cancel the last minute (I moved the ride back to 10 am to accommodate him, but too bad he couldn’t make it).  We had a great turnout … I’d say 13 people, which is huge.

I led the group on the way down to Stevens Canyon.  This was an aggressively paced group, and I was wondering how long I would be able to keep up at this pace.  We must have been averaging about a 20 mph pace going through the canyon … I knew that wouldn’t last, as soon as we hit Mt. Eden.  Mt. Eden and Pierce would be good warmups for the monster climb to greet us ahead.

Everyone on the ride was game for doing Bohlmon/On Orbit.  A right turn on Sixth Street, then right on Bohlmon, and on we go straight up.


Bohlmon is not a heavily traffic’d street, so that gives us an opportunity to tack up the hill.  If we didn’t have that luxury, this would be an even tougher climb than it already is.  The sun was out, and shining pretty hard on us.  As if the steep grade isn’t bad enough, we gotta contend with being exposed to the sun.

Two turns before the Bohlmon / On Orbit split, the grade turned really steep … I think I glanced down and it was 22%.  I alternated between a sit climb, and a standing climb.  This is one of those sections where you clearly grunt from the bottom of your gut, till you get all the energy you can muster up here.  My max heartrate was 178, and I can almost guarantee it was during this part of the climb.


As if the climb up Bohlmon wasn’t tough enough, the left turn on On Orbit was even tougher.  It’s not too much further to the summit, but sometimes there is only so much one can muster.  I saw Ramon stopped up ahead, so if he’s willing to stop, so am I.  While waiting for my heartrate to come down to a normal level, I decided to take a shot of Marco and Ruth climbing up on the tandem.  It’s still amazing they are making up here on the tandem.


After  catching our breath, we continue on some more.  I ended up stopping at least 3 more times before reaching the top of On Orbit.  This was an epic climb, and I’m glad I completed this.  It’s amazing to see the views when you are at the summit of such a climb like this … and just to think this is not the top peak in the area.

Ok, now to go down the hill.  Descending on these new wheels I got on my bike are fun … it’s a lot quieter than my previous wheels, and it just feels smooth as silk or butter.

Speeding down, I come around one corner, and I see the tandem off to the side of the road.  Crash???  No, tire blow out … and what a blow out that was.  As far as we can recall, it was probably due to the rims overheating, causing the tube to burst.  In fact, the rim was probably riding the tire against the road.  When we looked at the rim, there were a number of dents in it.


The tube wrapped around the fork … jeesh.  I’m amazed that they didn’t go down … I’m glad they didn’t, which is a testiment to Marco and Ruth’s handling of the tandem.


I’ve never seen a tube that was split apart like this.  They went ahead and fixed this, but later, we discovered there was some sidewall damage.  Eventually, the tube we seep out the sidewall, and cause another flat.  So we headed over to Summit Bicycles in Los Gatos for supplies.  Seems like every time we do this ride, we end up having to visit the bike shop.

It was pretty funny, one of the shop mechanic comes out and sees us … asks us where we are going … we mention Hicks.  He hates Hicks, and then when we tell him we just did Bohlmon / On Orbit, he starts wondering “what’s wrong with you” … I kinda wonder that myself.

After fixing this, some of us went on to Hicks, some others were running on a time crunch, so they headed back home.  Before getting to Hicks, you gotta climb Kennedy and Shannon.  It’s not too bad, but it does give you a precursor to the climb.  The climbing on Hicks doesn’t really get that bad until the last 1.5 miles, which pitches up really steep in excess of 15% … and this is all out in the sun.

I was riding with Reid, and as we started to climb the steep pitch of the climb, I heard him yell out … I knew right away, he was having cramps.  Damn … so quickly, I had him stretch, and gave him a couple of electrolyte pills.  I should have taken a couple myself, but I didn’t.  This would haunt me later on.  After a couple minutes of stretching, Reid was fine, and we continued on.  About 1/4 mile from the top, the pitch was too steep, and my energy had drained too low, to the point where I could not turn the crank.  All the water, Heed, Hammergel, and I still couldn’t turn the crank.  I had to walk it, at least until I got to a section of the climb where I could get back on the back, and pedal.

Some of us original planned to climb Mt. Umunhum when we got to the intersection … climb it at least to the no trespassing gate.  Well, that was a good plan, but unfortunately, some of us just didn’t have the energy to do that … I was one of them.  I just wanted to get off the hill, and descend off this friggin’ hill.

At this point, my energy continued to be low … any hill would be quite a chore.  We still had to climb back up Kennedy and Shannon, and that spelled doom for me.  I struggled to get up that hill.  I was so exhausted at the top of the hill, that I savored the rest time in the shade, before it was time to descend again.  I didn’t even think about getting food in downtown Los Gatos … I just wanted to get home.

At this point, each of us wanted to find the most direct route back home.  I just barely rolled in back home, and immediately crashed on the bed for several hours.  This really wiped me out, but I am glad I did it.  What an adrenaline rush!


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