Tag Archives: off-road

Mt. Madonna … Off-Roading with a Road Bike

This was a ride, designed by Ben, which went up Hicks, then onto Mt. Madonna, then over to Eureka Canyon.  What was unique about this ride was some of the climb on Mt. Madonna was unpaved, and was hard-packed dirt … essentially off-roading, using road bikes.

This was a strong group, but missing from here was Ramon (Bostic), Marco (uspspro), and Ruthness (Ruth). Well, Marco and Ruth were doing the Everest Challenge, and Ramon? Well, let’s say thunder and lightning played a factor, and he wasn’t able to sleep well overnight.

We had chrisoco, mellum76, ygduf, silentben, dl33, and bam show up. Although Bam had to leave a little early, so he headed back before our water stop at Uvas.

It was nice to actually do Hicks without climbing Bohlman/On Orbit … and we got Hicks out of the way the first thing in the morning.  The group was going at a faster pace than I normally climb up Kennedy and Shannon.  However, this is the first climb of the day.  Hicks was still kicking our butts, but our legs definitely felt fresher. At the bottom, when we normally make a left turn at Almaden, they were doing some construction, and we had to cross a short dirt path to get onto the regular road. Hmmm … this is a sign of things to come. Off roading on road bikes …

We then proceeded for a bunch of rollies, what Ben calls mostly flat! In Ben’s defense, he didn’t realizes the rollies we had to do, but I have to rib him on that. The group was pushing a really fast pace, and I was not able to keep up all the way. I couldn’t narrow the gap, and I ended up time trialing a good 7 miles of it, going south on Uvas Rd.

After a quick water break at a park (I remember mellum76 saying where the heck are we?), we continued on to tackle Mt. Madonna. Half of Mt. Madonna is paved, but the second half, the higher elevation portion of the climb, is unpaved, dirt, but at least it is hard packed.

Here’s the paved portion …

and the unpaved, hardpack dirt portion

What made this unique was not just that it was about 9% grade, and that the climb from bottom to summit is 1200 feet, but that you have the combination of dirt and 9% grade. This was hard … normally, when you get to a steep section you want to climb standing up, but if you put too much power, your rear wheel will slip, and loose traction. So I had to climb the last 700 feet of it in the saddle. I’d like to see them use this as a LKHC.  Having dirt pavement probably made this climb twice as hard as it actually was.


Here’s Chris trying to take a group shot, by leaning two bikes against each other, and placing the camera on the saddle, and hitting the self timer.

… and the results … not bad


Off we go onto lunch, and the fast descent down Hecker Pass … yes, Hecker Pass.   I can only imagine how fast the tandem would have gone down this stretch, but I was being very cautious down this stretch. There were a few tight turns, and since I wasn’t familiar with these switchbacks, caution was the order of this descent.  I was averaging around 25-35 mph down this stretch, and even though I was taking it cautiously, it was a lot of fun descending that fast.

I think lunch was at Watsonville, but not sure. Anyways, it was in a remote area, and we stopped off at a general store, which had everything you’ll need in a small little farm town. They had food, first aid, old trinkets like earplugs (not walkman headsets) … they even had an old fashioned phone from the 1800’s.

This is Ben and Michael waiting for their sandwiches to be made.  The store was run by a single man, and it must have been daunting to have 6 customers all come in for sandwiches, all at the same time … but I’m pretty sure he appreciated the business.

Next climb up … Eureka Canyon. This climb was not a majorly advertised part of the route, but it was still pretty significant climb. It was 8 miles, and 1600 feet climbing. The grade itself wasn’t too bad, ranging anywhere from 4-8%, but you gotta remember this is after doing 60 miles, and about 6000 feet of climbing already.

Oh, as if we didn’t have enough off-roading for this ride, in order to get back to the cars, we had to go through Lexington Dam, and then traverse … you guessed it … unpaved, dirt roads, leading all the way back to downtown Los Gatos.

Note the sign … Walk your bike … we didn’t walk our bikes.

And this is what we had to look forward to …

What this picture doesn’t really show you is how steep the drop off is.  If you look at the picture below, you can see how steep it goes down, and since this is on dirt, descending on road bikes is very precarious.


This was a definitely a different type of ride than we have done in the past. Thanks Ben for that adventure. Now we gotta all wash down our bikes.

Total Stats:

86.6 miles, 7089 feet climbing



Montebello On and Off Road

Montebello is the local hill that anyone in the area loves to climb.  It’s about 5.1 miles, and ~ 2000 feet climbing.  However, the road ends at that point, and there have been rumors that you can cross the gate there, and continue on the fire road, which turns into a dirt path, to go all the way to the other side of Page Mill Rd.  At that point, you can continue to bomb down the mountain, and not have to rely on an out and back.

Well, I decided to go for it.  The road starts out with hard pack, so it is fairly rideable.  Keep in mind, I’m riding my road bike, with 23’s and not really meant for off-roading.  There are some pretty fantastic views from up on top.




Now the one thing that worried me was finding the right trail to get to my final destination.  I figure that there would be signs pointing me the way, and there was.  I see a sign that says “Montebello Parking 2.8 miles”, with an arrow pointing the direction.  I figure perfect, I should just be able to follow the sign, and be home free.  The trail that this took me on gave me fantastic views, but some of the grades were pretty steep, and yes, the were full of dirt.  It got to a point where the dirt was loosely packed, and when I’m going down a 10+ % grade, with no traction, on a road bike, that could only mean trouble.  Instead of continuing down with questionable traction, I slowed down, but even then, I lost traction, and fell over.  I was smothered with dirt, as if I was sliding into second base in a baseball game.

I dusted myself off, and continued on, and the grades only got steeper, but at least the views got more spectacular.  I eventually got to a section, where it mentions Montebello Parking, so I follow that sign too.  Bad move … this took me to what looked like a hiking only trail.  I couldn’t find any other signs, so I just kept going down, until there was no road to ride on.  OMG … I even tried walking across, but I couldn’t find anything resembling a trail to get onto Page Mill.  So I had to backtrack my way to where I came from.  This also meant climbing on soft packed trails, and that meant no traction, and no way to climb, no matter how hard I pedaled.  I had to walk portions of this, and ride portions of it.  This was very tiring, exhausing, and frustrating.  When I got back, I double checked the sign, and it did say Montebello Parking … damn.

The sign originally took me to the left, so when I got back to the junction, I instead went straight on ahead.  I saw a sign to go to Page Mill, and took that direction, regardless of what the sign said for Montebello Parking.

Ah, concrete pavement.  I never that I would be so happy to see pavement.  If I weren’t in such a hurry to get home, I’d kiss it!

By the time I got home, I had gotten in about 36 miles, and 3600 feet climbing.  I think I’ll have to make a special asterisk for this ride.  This was a hairy ride, doing a mountain bike ride on a road bike!  Now I know what it’s like to do cyclocross.  My reaction to those racing cyclocross … why?

Later on, Eric (aka ahpook) sent me his GPS tracking of the ride he did, and looks like I made a wrong turn.  Damn!  Here is his ride trace …


Now compare this with my route


I did make a wrong turn.  I don’t think I’ll attempt this ride again solo.  If I do it again, it will be with someone else, so that I am not out there all by myself.  I only saw one other person on this route, and that was a mountain biker, coming up on the hairy trail designed for a mountain bike.  I must have gotten off my bike about 10 times on this off-road detour, and took a spill twice.  I had so much dirt on me, I felt like I was mountain biking.

I was fatigued by the end of the day, but it was a little different type of fatigue.  You get a different type of fatigue, losing traction on dirt, and walking on dirt, as opposed to climbing 20+ % hills on concrete pavement.  This affirms why I love road biking a lot more than mountain biking.