Category Archives: steep climb

Santa Cruz Mountain Challenge … Epic Ride

This year, for the first time in a couple of years, the Santa Cruz Mountain Challenge was delivered as an actual event. No virtual this time, but an actual event, with actual volunteers, sign up, food, and riders … actual riders. It’s as epic, and enjoyable as I remember it to be.

In years passed, some people referred to this as the local Death Ride. True, it did not have the altitude acclimation that you need for the Death Ride in Markleeville, but this included steep climbs.

I met up with my friends Amanda and Marshall, and we decided to do “just” the century option, which was just 101 miles, and 9800 ft of climbing. There was a double metric option, with 120 miles, and something like 12,000 ft of climbing … but if we did that, most likely, by the time I would finish, there would be no post ride meal. That’s no bueno!

I was hanging in with everyone, up until we did the long climb up Zayante. It’s a 10 mile, 1660 ft climb, but as with most long climbs, it kicks up at the end of the climb. I was definitely falling behind, but at least I wasn’t passed by too many people, which is always a positive sign. I was able to catch up to Amanda and Marshall just before reaching the next rest stop. All that work, and I probably could have just reunited with them at Bear Creek and Skyline. Oh well.

Was able to meet up with friends Shawnery and Yvonne (really strong riders). It was great just to say hi for a few minutes, because that’s the last we would see of them … until they passed us speeding through Ice Cream Grade near the end of the ride. Then I met up with my friend Cha Cha … and at first, I saw her face, and just couldn’t put my finger on it … I knew I’d seen her before on some other ride. Funny how that all works out … how could I forget Cha Cha … especially with a name like that! She’s a hoot! She saved me from going the wrong way later on in the ride. Cha cha hung in with us as we descended down Hwy 9 into Boulder Creek. While in Boulder Creek, we caught up with some Western Wheelers friends … Dang, we’re meeting up with everyone on this ride, that we haven’t seen in a while. Cool!

The marquee climb for this ride is Jameson Creek. Oy vey! This climb reminds me of the Decker Canyon climb on the Mulholland Challenge, that I did in April. Tough climb, with 15-17% grades … The strava segment shows it’s only 2.9 miles, but average grade is 9.8%. My friend Adam passes by me like I was standing still. I was wondering if he would be on this ride. He’s another really strong, good climber.

I finally get to the top, and my legs felt the same way when I got to the summit of Jameson Creek, as I did when I summitted Decker Canyon … like jello!

Ok, next is lunch. But lunch is all the way down in Bonny Doon, right? But Adam says it was just over the next hill. Well, Adam was wrong, it was down in Bonny Doon, but it’s mostly downhill, with a few rollies. I then saw Cha Cha, point me to a right turn. It’s a good thing, because I would have flown past that. So we ride together, looking forward to lunch, which should have been at the 77 mile mark. One problem … we get to the 80 mile mark on our Wahoo/Garmin … wait, did we past it? We then see a sign pointing us to go left for 100 mile … Lunch would have been good, but then, I started thinking .. lunch at 77 miles, and post-ride meal at 100 miles? Almost seems pointless. At this point, what I want more is water, because I have plenty of energy food to munch on.

We were a little worried that Amanda and Marshall might be wondering where we are, and start looking for us. We decided to just head over to the next rest stop, which is not that far away, and text them to tell them we went to the next rest stop. We get to the rest stop, and who do we find??? Amanda and Marshall. Apparently, they missed the lunch stop too. In fact, at least 6 riders missed it. Hmm … I wonder if the lunch stop is wondering why they have so much extra food!

The group is all in good spirits, despite missing lunch. We head down to Santa Cruz, and we could feel the nice ocean breeze from Santa Cruz.

From here, we head up the hill back to the start. We got back, and it’s only 9800′ (according to my Wahoo). We’ve done 101 miles, and we’re only 200′ from 10,000, so we gotta do an extra 200′ … There’s just something magical about a 5 digit elevation gain.

After doing some extra hills, we got back for the post ride meal. Hmm … burritos are so good after a hard ride.

The actual stats for what I rode was 103 miles, 10,300 ft climbing. Woohoo … that’s a nice ratio.

Yes, I Still Ride my Triple

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.

Mt. Umunhum to the Top

Finally, Mt. Umunhum is open to the public … no longer do I have to do this partial hill climb … no more “No Trespassing” signs … and we can climb all the way to the top. The road was officially opened to the public Monday. I was itching to get up to the top, but unfortunately, a co-worker already has Monday off for PTO. So I went ahead and schedule to take Tuesday off.

Plan was all set, but then I caught some cold/flu bug at work, and that put me under the covers, in bed, from Saturday all the way through the weekend. Ugh … this is putting my plans for climbing Umunhum on Tuesday in jeopardy. If I didn’t go Tuesday, I would have to wait two further weekends, as I’m on call this coming weekend.

I woke up on Tuesday, and just decided to tough it out. See how far I can make it, and if I can only do partial, well at least I tried. I definitely am not climbing in the best shape (being off the bike for the past 4 days). Getting to Hicks is a good 10-15 miles, so at least I could get a nice warmup.

I was probably going at 80%, and surprisingly, I was making good time, and legs strength is still in good shape.  One thing I noticed is there is a lot more traffic on Hicks, than I’m used to.  I guess this is expected, if people are going up to the top of Umunhum.  In the past, I’d be lucky to see 3 cars on my Hicks climb, but there have probably been about 20 cars in my stretch.

Whoa, that is one smooth road.  This is going to be fun!  No potholes?  No cracks in the road?  This is awesome.  And that box on the top of that hill … that is my destination!

There were several people who had the same idea that I had.  About 5 other people decided to ride up, on a Tuesday morning … although a couple of them may be retired, but at least it’s good to have some company.



Well, whaddayaknow … no gate here.  And the road continues to be smooth.  One thing I noticed I didn’t run into … cattle grates!  Wow, it’s worth doing this, knowing you won’t even have any cow grates.




I remember the no trespassing point, and as I climbed further, it just seemed to level off a little bit, so it turns out the toughest part of the climb was before the white line of death, something I already climbed on LKHC before anyways.  The rest of the climb was nice … it flattened, with some descents, before kicking up again at the end.

And here’s the final push



A finally, getting to the final destination … all I could say is wow!


Oh and probably the biggest reason to climb this, is to see the views.  Tremendous views up here.



Now descending down the mountain … this is going to be fun.  In the past, the road was full of crater sized potholes, tons of cracks in the road.  This time though, with smoothly paved road, it’ll be a pleasure.  No more stress on the wrist trying to reduce your speed.  Now if we could only get Hicks Rd to be repaved this smooth … but that’s asking for a lot!

Tearing Myself Inside and Out up Mt. Umunhum to the White Line of Death

Profile for Mt. Umunhum LKHC Week 6,

I’ve done Mt. Umunhum many times before, so this LKHC shouldn’t be anything out of the ordinary. When I read the LKHC web site, it was claiming that this is the highest rated climb of any of the LKHC. Now I know it is tough, but I still think it’s doable … so reading that it is the toughest came as a real surprise to me. It is true that in the past, I usually take a rest after taking the right turn onto Mt. Umunhum, and in this ride there was no stopping … but damn!

Courtesy William von Kaenel

There was roughly 128 riders, and taking a look at all the riders, I thought “What have I gotten myself into?” Plus, when I stepped up to register, I saw this really young looking chap in USA jersey … I wasn’t sure if this was something someone had just bought at a bike shop … and then when he announced his name, Adrien … everyone then said “Oh, that Adrien” … for those that don’t know, this is Adrien Costa. Ok, we all know he will be the first one to finish.

Registration was at Venture Christian Church, which was 4 miles from the start of the climb.  The plan was to ride over to the start, and then start the climb.  But I know this road, and the run up to the start is not flat at all … there are rolling hills, and one section that is a bit steep, and it’s not even part of the LKHC.  So Sandra and I decided to just ride up ahead.  Never before did I ride this stretch of Hicks, just for a warm up ride.

When we did start, I made sure I was off the back.  This was a mass start, and eventually, everyone spread out after about 1/4 mile up the climb … and it was a steep climb.  I mean, 20 yards into it, we’re grinding it up a 15% grade.

As long as I had someone in my sights, it still gave me motivation to continue pushing up the hill.  In the 1.2+ mile section of Hicks, I was still in contact with the riders ahead of me.  We make the right turn on Mt. Umunhum, and then it continues on some more.  At this point, I usually stop off at the bathroom, and take a little breather, but not today.  I didn’t feel dead at this point, so I felt confident enough to continue up the hill.

Courtesy Mark King

Photo coutesy Bill Bushnell

Photo coutesy Bill Bushnell

After about a mile of 15%+, this was just the start, and more 15% climbs up ahead.  The fact that we’re able to sustain the steep part of Hicks seems to make the Umunhum part of the climb not so bad.  I figure, if I could make it up Hicks, my body is already used to the pain, so just continue it for another couple more miles! I guess that’s why stating this is the most difficult climb of the LKHC season seemed a little odd. I guess it’s all a matter of perspective.

As soon as I started thinking about how it’s not the most difficult, I sense others starting to pass me. I was thinking I was alone on the climb, and then I hear someone else’s gear grinding … Damn, I’m losing ground, and then I start ending up in the back.

I start seeing fast riders heading down the hill, and normally that would demoralize any rider, but on this ride, it’s expected. I just have to make sure I stay on my side of the road. Passing the gate at Bald Mountain, people are cheering us on, ringing their cowbells, it’s very motivating. I only wish I had a line of people ringing cowbells all the way to the end.

Courtesy Ryan PC Gibson

Courtesy Ryan PC Gibson

White Line of Death Courtesy Rich Hill

I finally made it to the finish, and I was sure I was the last one … But I forgot there was one other behind, who I saw as I descended down the hill. Major kudos to everyone who finished this epic climb. I can only imagine how epic this will be when it’s officially (and legally) opened to the top of the mountain. It will make other mountain challenges pale in comparison.

Here’s a portion of the climb I recorded on my Shimano Sports Camera

Epic Sunday Mini Santa Cruz Mountain Challenge

Sunday’s ride was another Meetup Ride, and in a way, it probably should have been posted as a biking++ ride.  This is not what I consider a leisure Sunday ride … in fact, it was epic.

I rode from home, which made it more impressive, since the start of the ride was at Saratoga Gap (corner of Hwy 9 and Hwy 35).  First, it’s a 16 mile ride up Hwy 9, and it get in 2000 feet of climbing before the ride even started.  There were plans to have a group start from Starbucks in Saratoga, but Bronwen has to bail, and I think that lead others to drive up instead.  Not me!

Last time we did this, the descent down Hwy 9 was cold, and a little damp.  And did I dress early for this?  No, of course not.  I only had arm warmers and a light vest.  Lucky for me, it wasn’t that cold, and it was dry, so I was okay.  However, the group sped down Hwy 9 like a locomotive train.  I thought I can get down into a tuck and catch the group, but they were nowhere in sight.  I had to high tail it.  Do they know what the climb is like?

I caught up to the group on the next turn, which was just after Bear Creek.  This is a nice alternative from the usual route I do, which avoids a busy section of Hwy 236.

We finally get to Jameson Creek, and the fun begins.  It’s something like 1700 feet of climbing, but in a short 3.5 miles.  Damn, that’s steep.

Jameson Creek

Jameson Creek

I didn’t feel like I was climbing strong, but much to my surprise, it was my third best.  Amazing what the body can do when you just work within your limits.  I did get passed my one guy from Team Fremont, and we briefly chatted about why we are doing this tough steep climb.


I get to the top, but the lead group went on ahead.  I decided to wait for the rest of the group.  In the meantime, the rest of the Team Fremont group reaches the top.  They are a fun group, and they had a sag wagon following them.  They even offered me water and bananas, even though I’m not on their ride.  Cameraderie in cyclists is just awesome.




Rhysly and Dillan

Rhysly, Steve, and Dillan get to the summit, about 30 minutes after I got to the top.  Big kudos to Rhysly for completing this, who 1 year ago could hardly finish climbing Mt.  Eden.


We continued on Empire Grade to Alba, where we then take a hair raising descent down to downtown Ben Lomond.


Don’t believe the 10% sign …. there were done 20% sections there.  My disc brakes came in handy here, but just hope it doesn’t overheat.  At least only the disc will get hot, and not the rim.  That was a crazy descent.

We regroup at a gas station, but that was really the last we stayed together.  We got separated once we started climbing Zayante.  At this point, I think my legs are recovered from the steep Jameson climb, so now it’s steady 10 mile climb up to Summit Road.

I ended up climbing solo, and when we got to the top, I then went on , my own route back home.  It’s a little less climbing, and makes the whole ride one complete loop.

I was tired by the time I got home, but not completely exhausted, so I guess this is a good thing.  One problem … it’s a Sunday, and there is no recovery day before going back into work.  I guess I’ll have to use my commute in as a recovery ride.

Totals: 78.2 miles, 8494 feet climbing.  Epic climbfest.

Jamison on the 4th of July

Happy 4th of July, and welcome to Jamison Creek

Happy 4th of July everyone. We were still recovering from the massive week-long heatwave here in the Bay Area, and Saturday was the first real day where it wasn’t sweltering heat. This was my first opportunity to do Jamison, in preparation for Santa Cruz Mountain Challenge.

It’s too bad, because here we have a long 4 day weekend, and the heat limited what I was going to do for the 4th.  All I did was do an out and back to King’s Mountain.  It would have been longer, but the heat and humidity really sapped my energy, and I had no urge to climb any additional hills that day.

This day, Saturday, was much better.  In fact, the fog back reached all the way to Boulder Creek, so it was a little overcast, perfect conditions for climbing the beast (aka Jamison Creek).  The corner house always has some decoration to give you a landmark (whether it be Christmas, Thanksgiving, Easter, or 4th of July).

There was only a couple women on the road besides me, but they took a break, and I didn’t have any target, so look like it’s a time trial for me.  I guess this was good for me, so that I didn’t burn myself out.  The steep switchbacks didn’t catch me by surprise this time, and I felt as long as my pedals kept moving, I’d be in good shape.  I don’t think my speed went below 5 mph, so that was a good thing.

Just my luck, the sun peeps out while on the climb, but at least it was still in the 70’s.  However, sweat kept dripping down my face, so off with the glasses.

My original plan was to climb Jamison, then descent Empire Grade, and do Zayante.  Well, after that effort, I didn’t feel in the mood for doing the long slog up Zayante, so back down the hill I go.

The only way to go back home is up, so China Grade awaits me.  As expected, I didn’t have too much in my legs for China Grade, so I was in mere survival mode up this hill.  Sure, I could have gone through the park entrance to Big Basin, but China Grade is a short cut … a vertical short cut, but still, a short cut.  🙂

Great day for a ride … temps in the 70’s, and a good training ride.  75 miles and 8100 feet of climbing … I’d say that’s a good training day.  Plus, going through Big Basin is always a scenic ride.  Guess I should get ready for my recovery ride today.

Quimby and Sierra, a Bay Area Climbfest

Karen came up to visit in the Bay Area, so we decided to do Quimby and Sierra.  We did Quimby once before, so she knows how intense that climb is.  This time, we are adding Sierra into the mix.  She’s heard so much about Sierra, so it’s time to acquaint her with Sierra.


I decided to start the ride at the base of Mt. Hamilton, so we can get some warm up climbs in.  We started out looking for a road that climbs up that would take us down to eventually meet up with Quimby, but I got ourselves lost.  In fact, I found ourselves going around in a circle.  So much for using the Garmin for mapping out route. However this did give us a really short, but very steep hill, just to get our legs used to the pain.

Ok, over to Quimby we go. This is the first time doing Quimby on the Volagi, compact double, so I have a little fear that I won’t be able to make it up, since the previous times were with a triple. First time for everything, right?

Karen is a stronger climber than me, so I tried to stay with her on the hill as long as I can. That kinda helped me get a PR on the first third of Quimby segment, but was not able to maintain that for the whole climb.


The upper section was definitely much tougher. I got into my lowest gear possible to try to soon as much as I could up, but sometimes the intensity of the grade makes it difficult to spin. At this point I was wondering whether or not I should have brought the Seven.


Cadence was much slower but was still able to spin the cranks. I get to the last switchback, which is the toughest, and I stand, lean in, tack, do anything to keep moving. No matter what, I did not want to get off the bike. Somehow I made it through, and finally get up to the top, and well deserved rest, waiting for my heartbeats to go down to a respectable level.

We now descend Mt. Hamilton Road. Quimby actually takes us halfway up Hamilton, so after a few rollies, a nice descent back to the start. I had my baselayer on and it was way too warm for that, so I took that off, dumped it in the car.

Off to Sierra we go, following the DMD route markers on the street. I tell Karen to look up at what’s ahead, and OMG was the reaction. Let the suffering begin.


I normally do this climb as the first one of the day, but I already have a lot of climbing done in the legs, so I’m not expecting a great time on this. Karen paces up ahead of me, so it’s just me, the shadows off my wheel that I’m looking at on the ground, the sound of my rotor, and the sound of rubber as in climbing this. There’s nothing else v on my mind at this point, just concentrating on pedaling, and hearing those sounds of solitude.


There are a number of riders on this road (more than on Quimby) and all of them passing me. At least that gave me something else too concentrate on, but I still didn’t want to look up too much. I needed to stay within my own pace. Once again, I had to fight within myself to keep pedaling, and not stop, no matter how much my legs were screaming. I’m just remembering what it has printed on my bike … the will to go. Encouragement from the guys passing me also helps. That’s what I love about cycling and climbing these hills … a deep respect.


One final push … I see a group waiting at the top, and just pedaling with enough force just to keep moving. I’m definitely not making a final sprint up to the summit like I normally do. Success at last.

After a final rest, it’s over the other side and a descent down to go back to the cars. We were originally thinking of extending the ride, but I think our legs were saying enough. Besides, it’s not about the miles today, it’s all about the climbing. Awesome ride. Awesome climbfest!

Here’s the strava link … short but epic http: //

Exploring Montevina, an Epic Climb

I haven’t done Saratoga Gap in a while so I decided to do that today.  I was also planning on doing Big Basin today, as I haven’t done that in a while either.  However, when I’m out on a solo ride, plans can change really quickly.


I set out to do the Hwy 9 climb right at the base in Downtown Saratoga.  I didn’t want to do the Redwood Gulch.  After a quick stop for water at the fire station, I headed south on Skyline, with all good intentions of going all the way to Bear Creek, then heading over to Big Basin. However, I always pass by Black Road, and never ride it.

Today, I decided to take Black Road. It’s a nice descent, with many Redwood trees and was thinking thank God I’m descending not climbing this beast. This road took me all the way down to Hwy 17.


I could just cross over too the other side of the highway, then take the gravel bike path back to Los Gatos, but I decided I didn’t want to do that. No, instead, I remember Montevina connects up to Bohlman, and I can take that back through Saratoga. Nice plan, right?

Montevina runs parallel to Hwy 17, but then it cuts up into some steep hills. How steep? Well let’s say it’s in the double digit altitude gains. This road was totally exposed, with a few trees here and there. It was noon, so the temps were high … not quite 100 … but 99°F.

There was absolutely no one on this road, with the exception of a few residents and a mail truck going up the hill. The grade was consistently staying at double digit numbers. There were a number of fantastic views overlooking Lexington Dam, but it was so hot, and the climb so tough, I couldn’t afford to stop to take a picture.

As it turns out, the hill got the best of me and I ended up going for a breather a few times, particularly when there was a shade with a slight breeze. I definitely was not going for any records (since this was my first time going up). I could see one last stretch before the paved road ends, and I had to stop one more time, take a deep breath and push it.

Finally made it up, but I still had 0.7 more miles off-road, but hard packed. I had to stop a few more times and even had to walk it for a while, more to get traction. But then, right before reaching another gate, there was a little steep descent, still on dirt. That was scary, especially on a road bike.


Reaching the summit, someone left a cooler with water. Oooh that’s so nice. Thank you!


I still had a little ways to go still on dirty but the hard part was over. I was so relieved to be back on pavement, but more importantly, on the other side of the mountain. Now all I had to do was negotiate the steep descent down Bohlman.

Got into Saratoga, and I was, hot, I was tired, and there’s a Starbucks. Ice froappuccino time. I think I’m dinner, 5300 feet climbing in this heat … that’s enough for me.

Epic Suffering on L’Etape du California, Mt.Diablo

It is the peak of the century riding season, and so far, I haven’t even begun getting into any events.  DMD was this weekend, Wildflower is also this weekend, so I decided to tackle L’Etape du California, which does the same route that ATOC Stage 7 will be doing.  I didn’t really decide until Friday night, and the ride was Sunday.


As part of the registration process, they required everyone to sit through a safety talk first, then register.  They wanted to stress that this is not a race, and to point out the danger areas.


Since I had to drive this far, I might as well bring my bike and do a quick Patterson Pass loop, and do part of tomorrow’s course. Good thing I did, acclimated my body to the heat. It was friggin hot out there, and no wind.


Okay, Sunday morning and it’s a mass start at 7 am. The turnout was a little less than they expected .. 300, and they were expecting 1000. I was up near the front with all sorts of racer types. We rolled out pretty quickly, with a brisk pace. I started wondering what did I get myself into. People were passing me left and right. Even more people past me going up Morgan Territory.

Morgan Territory is the first climb of the day. We normally descend down this road and we call it the plunge. However this time we’re climbing it. Epic. After we crest this, it’s down the hill on the other side. This is a rough surface, and I know others are hurting, because all the different bumps. My Volagi did just fine, absorbing then all, making it a bit more comfortable than if I brought the Seven. One thing that was annoying was a slow descender, and wouldn’t allow many to pass. Took me awhile, but I finally passed him. Sheesh!


At the bottom, rest stop #1. They need to learn how to support social rides as they only had 1 porta potty. This added time to the wait. This was also the only rest stop until the finish which had bread for pbj. Epic fail.

From here, the route to the next climb would be pretty flat, out Marsh Creek onto the city of Byron. There is nothing out here, and it’s brown. Nothing scenic about this, but at least it didn’t stink. I latched onto a pelaton of about 8 riders. Nice pace, not too fast so I didn’t blow myself up, but brisk enough to make some good time.


Rest stop 2 is at the base of the Patterson Pass climb. This is their second time doing this in two days. I conserved my energy in preparation for this. It was about 10 am when I started the climb, which is a lot better than 1 pm, which is when I started this yesterday. I did do a lot better. There still was not much wind. This is Patterson Pass, which usually had wind. For once I was wishing
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With a Name Like On Orbit, it’s Gotta Be Tough

This weekend, my friend Karen came up for another Bay Area visit.  Ramon tweeted me earlier in the week, “Bohlman/On Orbit, Hicks” … oh boy!  You know what that means … climbfest!  NorCal style.  This will be a doozy.

DCIM100MEDIAWe started out with a few warm up hills, Mt. Eden, Saratoga Heights (with some sort but steep 16% grades), just to get our legs warmed up.  This was just a teaser.  This in itself would be a pretty tough ride, but at least the length of the climb is short.

It’s kind of funny, that the start of the climb on Bohlman is right where the cemetary is.  That’s a strange omen … something about taking it’s victims that attempt to climb this.

It’s hard to tell which is tougher, Bohlman or On Orbit, but I like to think of On Orbit as an extension of Bohlman. Climbs were sustained at 15-25% for about 1.5 miles.  I was pretty quickly riding from the back, but I was not in a hurry to finish this climb, especially with Hicks later on in the ride.  The switchbacks on Bohlman were incredibly steep, and there was not much relief, no matter if you were on the inside or outside of the curve of the switchback.  It’s a good thing this is a small residential street, with not a lot of traffic.

DCIM100MEDIAThis is one of those climbs where you need to tack, and it’s no shame to get off your bike and rest, but the hard part is getting back on. I didn’t stop, but there were so many times where I was tempted to. Luckily, there was a flat spot where Bohlman and On Orbit intersects. That gives me a few moments to take deep breaths and compose myself, and ready to finish this damn climb.

I think On Orbit might be a little easier than Bohlman, but not by much … it’s still a sufferfest only because your legs have been under duress for some time.  I climbed pretty much seated, only because the grade was so steep, I was afraid if I stood too much, I’d tip over.  I did pass a couple of women who were walking on this road, and I can only imagine what their reaction was of me struggling up this hill.

Now we had to go down the same way we came up.  Now, keep in mind, these grades ranged from 15% to 30%, and we have to go down these hills.  It got so steep, Karen had to walk it down some of the steeper grades.  Now that’s a first.  We were not in a hurry to come down, and we broke up the descents multiple times.  This also helped cool our rims down, and save our brake pads.

DCIM100MEDIAAfter this we headed over through Los Gatos, en route to Hicks.  There was enough flat junk miles before hitting the hills that our legs, for the most part, had recovered.  I can’t really say that Hicks was as tough as Bohlman or On Orbit … it’s a notch below, but it was still tough.  16+% grade is still pretty tough, and I definitely wasn’t attacking Hicks.  I was still climbing from the back of my heels.  Strangely enough, we were the only ones climbing.  Either it’s not that popular, or people have more common sense than us.

20130330_123210It didn’t occur to me to climb Mt. Umunhum, as Ramon had specifically mentioned Hicks.  It would have been a great day for it, but we’ll have to save this for another day.  I think I had enough in my legs to climb to the gate on Mt. Umunhum, but Mt. Umunhum is not going away.  Next time, we’ll attack it without Bohlman … Hicks and Umunhum is tough enough without Bohlman and On Orbit.

More pics are at

And of course, the Strava data –