Tag Archives: Bohlman

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.


Bohlman LKHC, a Must Do Climbfest


This week’s LKHC was epic.  This is one of the most popular, and arguably most painful hill in the area (only Welch Creek may top it).  As a result, there were s lot of late RSVP and check in which made it extra difficult for the volunteers.  My hats go off to the volunteers … they are the ones who make these LKHC so successful.


The start was at the Saratoga Elementary school on Oak, with less than a mile lead up to the climb.  It’s an excellent staging area, with a Starbucks down the street, and a few other cafes in downtown Saratoga.



My friend Bogdan came on the ride with not over, not two, but at least 5 cameras, with one of them being a DSLR.  And yes, he did finish ahead of me.  In fact, 10 minutes ahead of me.  What a beast!

We took off right at 10:10 as scheduled, and positioned myself near the back, as that was where I was expecting to finish. Right away, I saw a bunch of people race in front of me, but I knew what is on this hill … pain! There were a number of riders who I knew I could stay with, and I maintain my pace with them.

We turn on Norton, which then goes on Kittridge, then Quickert, then On Orbit. This is an alternative to taking Bohlman straight on. I wonder which is tougher?

When it turns into Quickert, that’s where the climbs get tough, into the 17% range. Then onto On Orbit, which kicks it up even tougher. I saw a section of 25% on Strava. I saw a few poor souls stopped, by I had to avoid stopping at all costs, and keep going, even if it did mean sustaining 183 bpm heartrate. I spent a lot of time in zone 5.

Photo courtesy Tom Everman

Photo courtesy Tom Everman

I heard encouragement from Dan at the top of On Orbit, and that drove me to push even harder, and grunt even louder from my gut. I passed about 5 guys at this point, and I never looked back, and wasn’t passed at that point.

Whew, the hard part was done, but after a short descent, it’s a left turn to do yet more climbing. The ringing of cowbells was my sign for the left turn and off I go.

Photo courtesy Bill Bushnell

Photo courtesy Bill Bushnell

The rest of the climb wasn’t bad, but it’s all that climbing that was in my legs to this point which made it challenging. There were still a few 12% grades, but nothing like what we did with On Orbit.


I got to the top, and yelled my number out, but not knowing if it was recorded. Some people were on the climb that didn’t report a number, so who knows what the results were. I’ll have to wait later today for official results, but at least Strava says I got a time of 45:16, which was 45 seconds slower than my previous LKHC. I’m just happy I finished this.

wpid-20131019_111117.jpgI’m really anxious to see the suffer photos from this ride. After the climb, a bunch of us were comparing this to the toughest climbs in the Bay Area. Welch Creek seems to be tougher, with Bohlman being punchy-er, if that makes sense. Funny, I knew exactly what they mean.

Unfortunately, I didn’t have many pictures. I thought I had my GoPro set for time lapse, but I guess it wasn’t on. I was hoping to capture the suffering on On Orbit, but nothing. Damn.

Strava: http://app.strava.com/activities/90067341

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.


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 https://plus.google.com/photos/107775104280723216283/albums/5861508720868290513?utm_source=chrome_ntp_icon&utm_medium=chrome_app&utm_campaign=chrome&partnerid=gplp0&authkey=CMuEkonTuKSUAQ

And of course, the Strava data – http://app.strava.com/activities/46543599

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!