Tag Archives: China Grade

Big Basin – China Grade

I decided to do Big Basin today.  It’s my typical route, which went up Hwy 9, south on Hwy 35, then west on Bear Creek, then onto China Grade before making the climb back on Hwy 9 back home.

Was a typical Bay Area September, and wasn’t too hot .. Sunny and in the 80s.  How could you ask for anything more?  Started out partly cloudy, and by the time I started the climb on Hwy 9, the sun came out … Got “Mr. Blue Sky” ringing in my head (yeah, I’m a big ELO fan). 

Only thing annoying about the Hwy 9 climb is the two stop lights along the climb.  Well at least it gives us a break on the climb.  What did annoy me was some cyclists were going even with the light still red.  What’s your hurry?  You still gotta stop anyways.  All I could do was shake my head in disgust.


Just before getting to Bear Creek, I pass through some Christmas tree farms.  I always have to take a pic here.  I must have 5 pictures of the same shoot from previous rides here.

Onto Bear Creek, and a nice decent … Until I get to the section of road that is chipsealed … Oh I forgot all about that.  Oh well, I’ll have to just suffer through it.

Onto China Grade.  It’s been a while since doing this climb.  It first lulls you with the beautiful forest-like scenery, with Redwood tree trunks everywhere … And then the steep grades begin.  I had forgotten how tough this climb is, but at least it’s not as bad as Jameson Creek.


When finally reaching the top, I was so happy, and took a break here, and not in a real hurry to continue.  I still had a 6 mile climb up out of Big Basin up to Skyline.

Totals according to my Garmin is 70.12 miles, while Strava gives me 69.2 miles.  It’s robbing me of 1 mile.  Why is that?  The Garmin is giving me raw data, so why short change my total mileage?  I may just use Garmin Connect, but that’s 3 years of days accumulated.

Check out my 69.2 mi Ride on Strava: http://app.strava.com/activities/197236977

Santa Cruz Mountain Challenge with a modified 3 Spur Option

Saturday, we did the Santa Cruz Mountain Challenge.  The original plan was to do the 200k, with 3 spurs (basically additional loops), which was supposed to have a total elevation gain of < 15,000 feet of climbing.  However, with lack of long rides leading up to this (2 weekends prior were shot), I didn’t have too much confidence that I would last.  I rode with Karen and Ramon, and we pretty much stayed together the whole ride.

Started the day leaving at 6:30 am, and on the way over, we drove through a bunch of fog, so it was still misty at the start, and a little chill in the air.  I only brought a vest and arm warmers, and that should be sufficient, since we are doing a bunch of climbing.

This is one of my favorite rides (can you tell?  I’ve only done it the last 4 years consecutively).  The views are spectacular, with lots of tall trees, but you pay the price with steep 15-20% grades.  Of course, with the fog bank, it was kinda hard to see much of a view.

Old Santa Cruz Hwy

The first spur was a loop out to Hwy 17, straddling Old Santa Cruz Highway, then up Summit Road.  We seemed to be the only ones doing the spurs, until a few of them came up and passed us a bit later on in the spur.  Then, we saw more come up … they must have been the 7 am starters.

There is one thing about doing the spur … the rest stop comes at mile 33 … that’s a pretty long stretch to go without a potty stop, especially at the beginning of the ride.  It might have been good to include a potty stop at Old Santa Cruz Highway, after making that long descent down Bear Creek Road.  It was easy for me to just pull over, but for Karen, that’s a little more of an issue.  We got to the corner of Bear Creek and Skyline, and saw a porta potty there … but unfortunately, it was locked.  Oh, how cruel.  Guess we’ll have to hold it, but there’s another 1000 feet to climb before we descend into Saratoga Gap for rest stop 1!

First Rest Stop

First Rest Stop

After a few rollies, we finally rolled into rest stop 1.  We probably spent a bit too much time at rest stop 1 … Looking back at Strava, we were there a good 20 minutes.  Dang .. we should have a rest stop timer, especially since the next 10 miles or so is a downhill descent.

Fresh faces before climbing China Grade

Fresh faces before climbing China Grade

We descent down Hwy 9, and we break off to the 2nd spur, while the rest of the group continue into Big Basin.  Actually, we end up taking a different route to the same rest stop, then doing the climb up China Grade, for the 2nd spur.  Karen kept urging me to do at least the 2nd spur, so I caved in, and said I would.

China Grade

Once again, we were the only ones out there, until we get passed by one big guy … and I mean big.  Later on, we find out he’s 250 pounds, and he was on a 58 or 62 cm frame.  I end up later passing him.  I was stuck trailing, and then I saw him, and that was my target.  He was a good uphill climbing target, and that kinda helped me up the hill.

Ok, back down the hill, back to the same rest stop before we started the climb.  However, we had a big wake up call.  They were starting to tear down the rest stop!  One of the support workers asked us “is there anyone behind you”?  Wow, are we that slow?  We started thinking about whether or not we should cut short the ride, should we do the last spur … but then I said, we still have to do Jameson!

Re-fuel, then get on the road, and do this Jameson climb.  Since I had done this as a training ride about 4 weeks ago, I figured I’m prepared.  It was all business, just concentrate on smooth pedaling, getting efficient power into my drivetrain.  I notice the switchback that every falters on, and just power from the heels.  I felt pretty good about this climb, and I was averaging around 5 mph, dipping at the lowest at 4 mph.  I still didn’t beat my PR from the 2011 SCMC, but at least finishing it felt good.

Lunch came after Jameson, and by the time we were about to leave the lunch stop, it was about 2:10 pm.  I noticed the sign saying lunch closes at 2:30 pm.  Wow, we are really behind.  Now if we went straight back on the 100k route, we would get in only 90 miles, so we decided to continue onto the 3rd spur, then finish off with the 100k once we got back to Felton.  Sounds like a good plan, right?

It was a long descent down before we hung a right onto Smith Grade.  I think Jameson plus lunch did me in, and my legs had no strength for Smith, which really is not that bad, if your legs are fresh … mine weren’t.  I was way behind Ramon and Karen, and when I finally re-grouped with them at Bonny Doon, “I’m all spurred out”.


Still a few climbs more before we get to Ice Cream Grade.  Before getting there, we cross over the charred remains of a fire from a few years ago, and the charred remains are still present.  Kind of eerie coming through here … reminds me a little of Yellowstone when I toured there after their big fires.

Ice Cream Grade is the last significant climb we do before we make the descent down Felton Empire into the town of Felton.  We did get the ire of a local, who didn’t like the idea of cyclist being on the road.  Just can’t please everyone.

We got into Felton, and it was about 4 pm.  At this point, we were at the 94 mile mark.  Now if we continued on the 200k route, we would climb up Zayante (a long 18-ish mile climb), going over to Summit, loop around on Soquel San Jose Rd, before coming back to the school.  That would be a hard climb, especially since my legs felt like jello, with no zip in them at all.  We decided to take a more direct route, climb Mt. Hermon Road, before getting onto Scotts Valley Road.  This was a direct route back to the start.  However, Karen’s Garmin had 1-2 miles less than mine, and she had to get at least 100 miles (because she was advertising to everyone she’s doing the 200k).  So we ended up doing a few extra miles, before I ran into some thorns, which flatted both my front and rear tires.  At that point, after fixing both flats, I just told them go on ahead, and I’ll just ride back to the school.  It turns out, I would end up with just over 100.

More importantly, we got back, just in time to take advantage of hand rolled burritos back at the school, and a couple scoops of ice cream too.  You can’t climb Ice Cream Grade without having ice cream at the end!

It was a long, hard, painful day, but it all felt good.  This is one reason why I prefer the long hard ride on a Saturday, instead of a Sunday.

Links to more pics: https://plus.google.com/photos/107775104280723216283/albums/5908256887341515889?authkey=CNvg7JbC3bXbkgE

Strava data : http://app.strava.com/activities/71996600#

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.


Uphill Suffer Festival Videos

I’ve been playing around with my Contour helmet cam for several weeks now, and came to the conclusion that it’s more fun to show the pain and suffrage of climbing a hill, rather than the fast descents (although that is a lot of fun too).

Actually, the inspiration for filming suffer videos is bikeforums member freighttraininguphill. I saw a few of her suffer festival uphill videos, and that got me thinking of filming my uphill adventures.

I got a lot of great feedback on my Potrero climb, from the Grand Tour Double.

I decided to climb Redwood Gulch, which had similar grades to Potrero … In other words, double digit grades (from 12-20% grades). I took this video with the handlebar mount, which picked up a lot of road noise … Kind of annoying.

Another steep climb is Moody, and I decided to film this with the helmet mount instead. This is a short but steep climb, and perfectly suited for a suffer video … And you can hear that suffrage too.

I went searching for a mother steep climb, and then I hear people talking about China Grade, so I looked this up …. Hmmm 10% grades for a little over a mile … Ok, I’ll go for that. As you can tell, this was on the handlebar mount.

I’m still undecided on which is the best way to film these. On the one hand, helmet cam won’t pick up all the annoying road noise, but on the other hand, I would have to concentrate on keeping my head up. On steep climbs, you tend to look down on the ground, so that’s where the handlebar mount would be handy.