Tag Archives: Dalewood

7 Hells … I survived it … sort of

SF Bike Coalition has this traditional ride, aptly named 7 Hells, where they climb 7 of the most notorious hills of San Francisco.  I didn’t realize this till I started doing a google search (http://www.sfbike.org/main/seven-hells-of-san-francisco-ride/).

I met Ramon at Sports Basement at Crissy Fields.  I mis-read his posting, as the plan was to meet at 9:40, then ride over to the start at the panhandle.  We were both running late, so we kind of had a pre-hill warmup, sprinting to get to Golden Gate Park.  I started to get my climbing and breathing skills preparing for the real hills.

We did get to GGP in plenty of time, and was able to rest a good 5-10 minutes before the group came.  And boy, was this a big group.  I don’t have actual numbers, but it had to be in excess of 30-50 people.  This meant a lot of re-groups, which was good and bad … good to be able to rest, bad that there were a little more stops than I would like.

The start of the ride was overcast, and not as hot as I anticipated.  With 90 degree forecast in Santa Clara, I figured it would be pretty sunny here … but thankfully, it was not.  Good way to start 7 Hells.

The first climb was on Warren Street.  The picture does not really show how steep it is.  When you first look at this, you’d think “holy shit!”  But the only way to proceed is just do it.  But I know these are all short climbs, so down to granny gears, and just power up this climb.  Surprisingly, I was able to climb this, with not much difficulty, not worrying how high my heartrate goes (turns out I topped out at 180 bpm … surprisingly, this is not even close to the highest I would do today).  As I was climbing, I noticed one of the guys had a huge cog in the back.  Later, found out he had a 34 tooth cog in the back.  Dang, that’s as large as most compact cranks!

After the summit, we proceed with a screaming downhill, en route to twin peaks.  Normally, I’d think this as one of the major climbs, but apparently, this is not considered one of the hills.  WTF!

Twin peaks gives us a view of San Francisco, but since it was so overcast, there was really much to see here.  It must suck to be a tourist, coming to San Francisco, coming to the famed Twin Peaks, only to see this.  Not much of a view, huh?

Ok, now down the hill, and the next destination is Dalewood.  This is Ramon’s favorite climb of the day, and luckily for me, I’m familiar with this climb, so it’s not such a big surprise to me.  As expected, Ramon is up at the front, but I’m just going to settle in the middle of the pack.  However, during my climb, I had to contend with cars coming up the hill from behind, avoiding cars on the side of the road, and to my surprise, my speed up the climb.  What do I mean by that???  Well, there were some climbers that stopped on the road, and I just could not ride around them (due to cars coming from behind).  Damn, I had to dismount at that point.  I wasn’t tacking this hill either, aiming to just go straight up.  At this point, the hill was most likely at 21%.  It’s really hard to re-mount on a 21% hill.  I lost probably a minute due to this.  Oh well.  Heart rate check … 181 bpm.

Next hell … I mean hill, is 21st Street.  This is a straight up hill.  What do I mean by straight up?  Well, start at the corner of Valencia and 21st Street, and look up towards 21st Street, and all you can see is a hill going just about vertical.  Ok, so it’s a little exaggerated, but you get my point.  It’s like a stair step climb, where it only levels off at an intersection … but it does give a little breather.  This is one of those climbs where I dug deep down, trying to get more power out of me, try to get as much air in, and out as I could.  It’s a bit strange, but during this climb, I wasn’t even thinking about the pain in my legs, but just trying to not stop and keep going.  Made it up to the top, and another hill climb done.  That was tough.  That topped out at ~ 27%.  That’s one of the steepest climbs I’ve ever done.  My HR topped out at 186 bpm … WOW!!!!  I don’t think I’ve ever gotten it up this high.

Ok, 3 down, 4 more to go, but first, a lunch stop.  We head down towards the Embarcadero, and then get food, drinks, and bathroom stop there.  We didn’t really have a good place to store the bikes, so we took turns watching the bike, then heading off for bathroom, water, etc … I didn’t want to eat too much, so I decided just to go with the food I carried with me.  In retrospect, maybe I should have gotten something, as I’ll tell you more about that a little later.

It was a zoo here, but that’s kind of expected.  You have many touring buses coming along here … and we had some ladies there, seeing a group of lycra-clad cyclists, so what happened here?  Well, what do you think … they took a picture with them in a group of cyclists … and I was one of the targets.  I guess they thought I looked hawt?  Okay, so now I’m famous … somewhere.  Who knows, maybe I’ll end up on the Internet.  Oh wait, I already am, to some extent :p

Anyhow, the next climb up was to Telegraph Hill, up to Coit Tower.  On the way over, we had a little optional detour, to do a gratuitous climb up Filbert.  I thought about that for a minute … and …. no.  I’ll skip it.  Of course, Ramon couldn’t pass by this challenge.  He went straight up it.  About half of the riders went for this … pretty good percentage if you ask me.  I here it tops out at 28% .. well, I think I’ll conserve myself for the climbs ahead.

The clouds have burned off at this point (as you can see in the shot of Filbert).  However, I didn’t stop for a view, as we were all huddled around the tower.  It was crazy crowded here (it was around 1 pm at this point).  We had a lot of tourist looking at us like we were a spectacle or something.  I guess to some tourists, and natives, in fact, we were.  I got a kick out of tourists taking action shots of us, as we were either climbing a hill, or descending a hill.  It felt great!

Anyhow, back down the hill, getting prepared for our next hell destination … Jones.

Jones is another tough one, very similar to 21st Street.  It’s also the same type of climb, where it just goes straight up.  Now switchbacks, just bucker down, get as much power as you can, and just get to the top.  At this point, I started to feel a little queezy in my stomach.  I don’t know what it was … I wasn’t hungry or anything, but I could start feeling like I have indigestion or something … but I figure I’ll charge through this one.

Now, we have completed 4/7, and this is the 5th one.  Fatigue is starting to settle in, but I have enough in the tank for this.

This was just punching me in the face, the more I climb this.  I powered up the first part of it pretty good, and thought I was done with the climb when I got to the stop sign … think again.  I had one more section to do.  I had to keep thinking, don’t stop.  Keep going … I felt like stopping, but I had to go.  I started tacking on this climb, but then I decided to give one final charge, and go straight up.  Pain was settling in, and then, I decided to belt out some primal yells as I am climbing.  This seemed to give me that extra adrenaline, till I finally made it up to the top.  I looked, and this was only 25%!  I guess this was a bit harder than 21st Street, only because of the fatigue factor settling in.

Okay, next climb … California Avenue, right in the heart of downtown SF.  I think this was actually passing by Pete’s old apartments, but not sure.  These are hills Pete affectionately refers to as “ski jump”, but we’re doing it in the reverse direction.  At this point, my stomach was still suffering through this, so I am not putting very much effort into it.  I just got enough mustard to make it through to the top.  We had now completed 6 of the 7 climbs.  The last one was to be the toughest, Divisadero, which is supposed to top out at 38%.  However, with my stomach, I gotta bail on that one.  Lucky for me, Divisadero is very close to Sports Basement where I parked, so it was easy just to make a slight detour to the car, and the bathroom.

Despite the last setback, it was an excellent ride.  One of these days, I’ll have to come back and do Divisadero with the rest of the Wrecking Crew.

Totals:  32.4 miles, 3493 feet of climbing.  Even with all of this, my average heartbeat was still a scant 140 bpm.  Must not be working hard enough, eh?

Here’s the online version of this on Strava … http://www.strava.com/rides/138253

Not so Lazy Sunday Stroll through San Francisco

Just to change this up a little bit, the crew, or at least the partial crew, decided to do a little stroll through the streets of San Francisco.  Ok, it’s more than a little stroll.  It’ll be a nice change of pace, with no real sustained climbs, but they will be steep.

We started out from Sports Basement in Crissy Field in San Francisco, and it was a really nice day.  There were no clouds in the sky, and it was almost like a postcard day.  It was still cool enough where we needed arm warmers and a vest, but it wasn’t bone chillingly cold like it was on Saturday.

Right off the bat, we started climbing.  Ugh, this was a bad sign … off the back already, we hardly went a mile into the ride.  Here I am with my triple, while Ramon and Michael are there, touting the benefits of their compact double, all while I am just struggling to pedal.  As I struggle, I say f#$k it … granny gear, and continue on this short climb.  They’re still waiting for me, but hell if I’m going to give up my triple.

The next several miles would be a continual spike up, spike down … pitches were significant, but they were short distances.  The one saving grace here is the climbs are not long or sustained.  I guess if you were strong enough, you could sprint up each of these hills, given enough strength.  Hey, I’m just fortunate enough to ride with these guys!

This was just a warm up.  We somehow wound our way back to the cars again.  Nice way to bail, huh?  That would be the calm before the storm, because the bulk of the climbing was now just awaiting us.  Upcoming … Divasadero, which is hella steep, Filbert, short but even steeper, Twin Peaks, which gives us a nice view of the city, and then Dalewood, which is even steep steep steeper!

Now this is Divasadero from a distance.  Just contemplate here … some cars struggle just to get up the hill, and sometimes roll backwards at an intersection … and we are climbing this on our bikes????

This was like a stair step … you climb your way to the first intersection, then it flattens out.  Then, climb some more, and repeat this until you reach all the way to the top.  The problem here is this street has traffic, and with the cars parked on the side of the road, if you are not careful, you could have someone pull out, while you are struggling up this hill … and you’re only going 4-6 mph (at least that’s what I’m doing).  Then when you get up to the top, you look back and are in awe.

Ok, next up is Filbert.  Now this is short but steep.  This part of Filbert is a one way street … one way in the opposite direction of where we are going.  This is about half the distance of Fargo St in LA (the steepest paved road in LA at 33%), but I’m not sure if Filbert is that steep.  My Garmin only posts it as 20%, but I’ve been told it’s a 31% grade.  At least I now know what Fargo St is like.  When I was climbing this, there was a car coming down, so I couldn’t tack this climb.  I eventually lost my leverage, and had to dismount.  I tried in vain to mount back up, and continue climbing, but it was a no go.  Even trying to zig or zag, wouldn’t do.  I could not balance myself on this, so I ended up walking this hill.  I remember thinking, this is so steep, it’s hard walking up the hill, especially in cycling shoes!

Whew, made it up this .. now for an easy hill up twin peaks.  No, seriously, it is easy, compared to Divasadero and Filbert.  You gotta remember the type of hills we’re doing here.

What’s also ironic here is when you look at a glance at the elevation profile, this is the highest peak on the ride, but it’s probably the easiest of the significant hills.  But in the end, the reward is the amazing view at the top, over looking the city.

And now the cream of the crop awaits us … Dalewood.  This is one steep climb … after a while, we were thinking about this ride, and we think this can be categorized as a “Howie Long tough guys” ride.  The last time we did this, it was reported that this was a 26-27% grade, even though my Garmin only registered 20% (probably because I was zig-zagging so much, that the average grade suffered).

This picture doesn’t tell it all, and I didn’t take a picture at the steep part, because I wanted to finish the climb … but I think you get the hint from this teaser:

By the time we got back to the cars, we exceeded our litmus test … 1000 feet per 10 mile.  We ended up with a whopping 36.8 miles, and 4142 feet climbing.  Wow, and I could still walk on Monday after this ride.  I just my fitness is helping me here, not being a vegetable a day after the ride.  It was a nice change of pace, where the emphasis was on climbing, and who cared how many miles we did.  We had a blast!

To see more pics I took on this ride, go to http://spingineer.smugmug.com/Cycling/Streets-of-San-Francisco/10358815_42VFW#716917775_MJ99L

Sadistically Sick Hills

It’s interesting how stubborn one can get when it comes to cycling. I think I am buckling to peer pressure, as I originally was leaning towards not doing the BF ride today. The reason being Ramon is leading the ride, and he usually includes sadistically sick, ultra ultra steep hill climbs. I wasn’t feeling too strong, and didn’t feel I had my mojo … and yet here I am doing a ridiculously hard ride.

How hard was it? Well, maybe this is a slight indication?

According to Glenn, who took this picture, his Garmin registered 27%, and his VDO registered 28%. And just to show you that I actually did this, take a look at the grimace on my face … dang, it looks painful just to look at this:

I had to tack this hill all the way up. Even then, I had to stop, and dismount half way up. This wasn’t due to lack of leg strength, but that my arm strength wasn’t strong enough to support me climbing up. My heart rate climbed up to 185 bpm, with my HRM beeping like crazy. But at least I made it up to the top.

Now I can’t say this ride was completely painful. We did take a nice ride through Golden Gate park, and stopped by the Polo fields, where they do a hammer fest on Tuesdays and Thursday nights. Just imagine riding through this completely in the dark, but with everyone carrying the brightest possible lights you can mount on a bike:


After a short break, we headed for Twin Peaks, which hovers over the entire city. Got some gorgeous views from up there.


Here’s another doozy we did, but not as bad … still got my heart working really hard (as well as my legs):


Now the original plan of the ride was to do some “warm up” miles in SF, then head over Golden Gate Bridge, and continue on to Mt. Tam, then do the Marin Headlands. However, the “warm up” miles were really hard climbs, and after 30 miles and roughly 3300 feet climbing, it took a lot out of me. Pete and I decided to call it a day, and proceeded back to the Sport Base Ment parking lot. Still got in a good ride, with 30 miles and 3600 feet climbing.

More pics at http://spingineer.smugmug.com/gallery/7298761_fdXky/1/469684401_mNEPD

Tomorrow will be a stark contrast to today’s ride. It is dubbed the “slowpoke” ride, which will be a nice change. Maybe I’ll bring my folder bike. I would bring my recumbent, but I can’t figure out how to transport that in my car.