Tag Archives: Hicks

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, http://lowkeyhillclimbs.com/2014/week6/profile.png

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

No I’m Not Driving at 2 am for 2 Hours then Ride a Double

I signed up for Davis Double, but I didn’t reserve the day off like I normally do.  Things happened all of a sudden, and with my worries with my Debit Card, I didn’t think about taking a PTO day and renting a motel the night before.  So this meant waking up really early Saturday morning, driving at 2 am for 2 hours, checking in, then ride for 14+ hours.  When I finally got everything together, my mind was not on the mood, so I went back to sleep.

It was a shame because a bunch of my friends are riding it, and it would have been cool to ride with them.  After my DNF at DMD, I didn’t do much riding at all.  I had my list DL and debit c to deal with … I was on call, so no riding on the weekend, and I had to waste another Saturday waiting for my replacement card via UPS.  My only real riding was last Sunday, and even on that, I was suffering and a fairly flat 62 miler.  Basically, I lost core fitness, and not really ready for a double.


To make up for it, I decided to do a pretty tough 50 miler up Mt. Umunhum.  At first, I would see how I feel climbing up Kennedy, and if I felt well enough, I’d do Hicks, and then if I’m up for it, Mt. Umunhum.


I surprised myself that I was able to make it to the corner of Hicks and Mt. Umunhum Rd.  Since I’m here, what the heck, let’s continue. 


It always amazes me that I never see any other cyclists up this road.  I know others climb this, but I hardly ever see any others when I do this solo.  Or an I just that insane?  Don’t answer that!


As I get closer, I can see the cube at the top of the mountain.  Currently, it’s off limits, and looking forward to when they open that up to the public.  It would be one hell of a chimbfest though.


I’m kind of lucky that the weather cooperated nicely … Temp was in the high 70s, so heat exhaustion wouldn’t be creeping up on me.  I think that helped me get to the Umunhum gate.


I continued past this gate, and the further I went up the steeper the climb got.  Funny how that works out.  It also slowed me down a lot.  I know I’m pretty close to the no trespass line, and its not much to see there.  I figured I shouldn’t kill myself to get to that spot, so now is as good a time to turn around. 

As I’m on my way back, I do notice my back aching a little bit.  This must mean my core strength has gone south.  My endurance is shot, and this makes me glad I bailed on the Double.  I continued on, and was ok as long as there are not too many hills.  This just means I need to do some abs work, planks, and just keep working on endurance rides.  Daily commute are not helping on endurance. But at least I was able to complete Mt. Umunhum, which is no easy feat.

Stats: 56.5 miles, 4164 feet climbing

Getting the Double Century Bug

This Saturday was the first double century of the year Camino Real Double, and I had a number of my friends doing it.  I saw so many Facebook postings from it, that it really has inspired my double century training.  I can’t wait till my first double, Solvang, which is what I’ll use as a training ride for DMD.

They looked like they were having so much fun, and I wish I was down there doing it.

Instead, what I did do was a pair of rides on the weekend to train up.  Saturday, it was a ride with Ramon and Karen, with two steep tough climbs, Hicks and Metcalf.  Was not long on distance, but made up for it by intensity of the climbs … We’re talking 16-20% on Hicks.  Then, if that’s not enough, stiff headwinds on the way to Metcalf, then some punch your gut steep climb.  Both of them on the same day just tires you out.

When I finished this ride, I didn’t feel overly fatigued, but others reading my Strava posts were saying I was a glutton for punishment. Well it was tough, but I didn’t really think too much of it. I guess it was a good thing I canceled my original Sunday ride, which was Diablo – Morgan Territory. Instead I just did an out and back to Kings Mountain, then descent Skyline to Hwy 92, then back on Canada.

I met up with Marco at Robert’s Market, to climb Kings, and we took it easy going up, but took it aggressively going down on Skyline. That is one fun and fast descent, averaging 30-35 mph.

Every Now and Then, You Need a Break … Even From Cycling

Although I haven’t been on the rigorous double century schedule, I have to say that the body is starting to wear down.  After the demanding SCMC, and climbing Crystal Lake on a heavy 20 year old bike, I may need some recovery.

Take this past weekend, for example.  I didn’t have anything planned, so I decided to do my usual Mt. Umunhum climb.  I did feel a slight twinge in my left knee, just before climbing Kennedy, and then onto Hicks, and eventually Umunhum.  I figured it would work itself out on the smaller Kennedy climb.  I probably should have listened to my body at that point, but being the stubborn “in it to finish it” rider that I am, I continued on.

Ugh, big mistake that was.  I went on to climb Hicks, but shortly after the steep part of Hicks, I could not go on.  I was probably about half way up the steep climb, but I just didn’t have it in me.

I go to Sports Basement, and get this thing called “The Stick”.  It’s kinda like foam roller, except you take this stick, and you roll it on the affected body part.  I rolled it on my knees, and wow, that hurt, but felt so good.  I don’t know why I didn’t get this before … it’s great!  Also laid an ice pack on the knee.  I figure I’d rest up the rest of the day, and see how it is in the morning.

The Sunday ride was starting at 8:30 am, but I had to ride 18 miles to the start.  With the way my knee was feeling, I figured it would be best to ride to the start.  Now I’m known for not driving to the start of a ride (I mean, it doesn’t make sense to me).  Immediately, Brownwen says “you’ve got a car?”.  LOL.

The actual ride was to go up Kings Mountain, then onto Half Moon Bay.  However, I felt I wanted to make it a short day, so I opted for the Kings > 92 > Canada, back to the cars.  It was still a great day.  I had some extra zip in my legs this day … I got a PR going up Kings.  Here’s the last KM of that PR.

We proceeded going north on Skyline to Hwy 92, where the group would split off.  Actually, half of us went the short route, so that was cool.  One of the riders was chatting with a motorcyclists, and says we were going fast … I guess they must have referring to me.  I mean, it was only 40 mph … I guess they’re not used to seeing a cyclist going that fast.  Hey, at least we weren’t impeding traffic too much.

Don’t You Dare Turn Back – HTFU

The day started out a little slow.  I felt a little twinge in my back, which was kind of limiting how much power I can output on the bike.  Plus, it was a little overcast, and it felt a little cool.  I was not going very fast.

Ok, first climb of the day is Kennedy, a short 1 mile climb, with about 300 feet climbing.  Not too bad right?  But my thought was just get to the top then see how I feel.

I took a nice break, then down the hill.  I figured I would soft pedal for a little bit.  Well, I figured I have gone this far, just keep the pedals cranking.  The smaller hills somehow helped get myself into the groove, enough to just spin away at high cadence, and make it up Hicks.  If I feel weak, I can just head back down the hill.

I made it to the top of Hicks.  I definitely want breaking ant records today, but it did feel good making it up there.  I guess I channeled my inner Jens today.


I was spinning around the parking lot so I decided to soon a little bit up Umunhum.  Spinning turned into climbing … and yup, you guessed it …. I climbed up Umunhum.  Amazing how the battle off mind over matter goes. I guess my stubbornness and not giving up is a result of this.

I’m glad I did go up … spectacular views up there






Enjoying The New Ride on My Volagi


This was the first weekend I had to give the Volagi a good test, so I decided to ride up Hicks and Mt. Umunhum on Saturday, and OLH and the chipsealed Skyline on Sunday.

I was actually quite worried about Hicks and Mt. Umunhum, because it is really steep (stupid steep) and before, I did this on a triple.  I’m riding a compact double on my Volagi.  On the low end, I’m losing 3 teeth, so it will be harder.

Riding a compact double, I almost had to re-learn how to ride, or how to shift.  I didn’t have the luxury of going into my middle chaining, so I guess it’s either all or nothing.  Getting to the base of the steep climb of Hicks, I was riding incredibly well, and I figured it’s just a matter of time before everyone starts passing me, but that didn’t happen.  I was in my lowest 34-28 gearing, and I seemed to be passing almost everyone in the group.  Wow, am I really that strong, or is the novelty of the new bike giving me extra adrenaline to go up the hill.

We re-grouped at the base of Mt. Umunhum, giving us a little time to catch our breath. That one stretch of Hicks was brutally tough and steep, and although the beginning of Umunhum looked tough, it wasn’t as bad as the tough part of Hicks. After the first few switchbacks, it seemed to either level off, or the legs just got used to the pain and torture.


We all kept going up to the no trespassing sign. I had forgotten how tough the last part after the gate was, and I ended up having to tack it. I still think I would have done the same thing if I had my triple.


Now the true test … the descent … the road is about as chopped up as you can possibly imagine. When we got to the bottom, we were all wincing from the jarring our hands, backs and legs felt. So this is what it’s like to ride cobbles? This Volagi performed well, and I could really appreciate the design after going through this ride. I’ve done this before on my Seven, but I think I felt better after riding this on my Volagi.

The next day, I took a ride up Old La Honda, and was able to put in a decent time, 28 minutes. I was impressed by that, since the last few times on it, I mustered 30 minutes. It still is 4 minutes off my PR, but it’s a time I feel good about. I then took this on Skyline, which has rough chipseal. Again, I didn’t feel as much suffrage on this, so I’ve gotta say kudos to the engineering and design of this bike. I think this will be less fatiguing for me on long rides.

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

You Mean You Don’t Have Monday 1/3/11 Off???

I was fortunate to get the Monday after New Year’s off.  I guess they figured 2 days to give us an extra day to round out the number of holidays, and I thought everyone had that day off too … well, I was wrong.  My friend Jack thought he had the day off, so I was going to meet him in Palo Alto to do King’s Mountain … but reality sunk him … everyone’s in the office.  Oh well, so I guess I had to go to Plan B …. Mt. Umunhum.

One thing I had to realize … since a lot of other people went back to work today, riding through busier streets are a bit more dangerous.  I realized that really quickly, when a Prius was breathing down my back as I was in the right turn lane.  Jeez!

I was lucky to get at least one day without rains, but it was still a cold adventure out there.  It started out pretty sunny, but as luck would have it, the further I climbed, the cloudier, and colder it got.  The cold really does affect my performance, and I was not really feeling it out there … I was not out to break any speed records, so I saved myself, as the steep part on Hicks really sucks.

Made it this far, might as well head up to Umunhum

Well, I made it this far, and Mt. Umunhum is just ahead … might as well forge ahead and say hello to the white albino.  When you look at the hill from the parking lot, it looks really steep, but when you start going, it’s really not that bad.  Of course, on a sunnier day, the view would be awesome, but beggars can’t be choosers.

The cube, is so close, yet so far away

Of course, with any climb, the more you climb, the steeper it gets.  Why is that?  Anyhow, at least I didn’t have to worry about dehydration too much … sunshine is not an issue here, but I wish it were just a little warmer.  I did see one other cyclist ahead of me … he was definitely not in a hurry … he had mountain biking gearing, with what looked like a 32-34, or something like that.  However, I did seem to be breathing much harder than he was.

Overlooking Silicon Valley from Mt. Umunhum

I get to the gate, and I could go up some more, till I get to the no trespassing banner, but I just wasn’t in the mood today.  I was content with just enjoying what view I have before me.

And now the fun part … or the scary part … descending back down the hill.  The terrain wasn’t as bad as I remember it, but maybe it’s because the last time, I went up a little further, and it had more potholes.  Whatever … all I knew was I was not in a hurry to get down.  Actually, the switchbacks descending Umunhum wasn’t too bad … it’s when you get down on Hicks, on the steep section, what can be a bit hairy.

Coming back, all I knew is I wanted some hot soup.  Just hope I don’t catch a cold from this.

80 Degrees in California … Great Weekend for a Bike Ride


Last time I checked the calendar, it is November … Christmas is one month away … and it was in the mid-70’s, low 80’s.  This is why we live in California … why we pay so much to live here.  This is great!  Couldn’t ask for a more perfect day … the above photo was taken on Saturday.

Believe it or not, it was even better on Sunday.  Knowing the weather would remain great, I decided to finally do the famous Mt. Umunhum.  Want more information on Mt. Umunhum?  Check out http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mount_Umunhum .

In order to get to Mt. Umunhum, we had to first climb Hicks, which is not small chore either.  I’d really categorize the climb as starting on the steep section of Hicks, then continuing onto Mt. Umunhum.  That’s about 4 miles of 12-18% climb, all the way to the end of the public road on Mt. Umunhum.  This was one real ass wooping climb … one of those where you wish you were at the end, even though you just started the climb.

Had some great views from up top.  I thought it would be windy at the top but it wasn’t too bad.  However, coming down, the winds started really swirling.  I think the winds may just have picked up later in the day, which meant for a pretty hairy descent.  I was riding the brakes, pretty much all the way down from Umunhum … the road was pretty chewed up, but that gave time to reflect on some amazing views from there.

After doing the climbs, coming down from the mountain, you really get a sense of how tough this climb was.  No words can describe it, but all I can remember was myself saying “holy shit, this thing is steep”.  I’m just glad I was able to climb it.  I just knew visibility would be crystal clear, and what better time to climb Mt. Umunhum than today.