Tag Archives: Sierra

LKHC #2 Sierra Road


Second on the calendar is Sierra Road.  I ride to the start from home, and that gives me a nice 13 mile flat warm up.  When I left the house, it was actually a bit chilly, so I had to come with light vest and arm warmers.  Just as I thought, the sun would come out when the actual ride starts.  Oh well, off with the vest and arm warmers.


Sierra starts off with a visually insane road.  It just has the illusion of the road going vertically to the heavens.  It actually is not that bad, but it is a tough way to start the climb.  Everyone was really eager to attack, and I know I’m not going to keep up with that, so I just let them all go on ahead of me.


Once you get to a left turn bend, then road actually pitches up more (believe it or not).  That’s when even more people pass me up.  This is one of those climbs where you don’t care what’s around you, and you just concentrate on turning the crank and it’s just your own personal journey.


I thought I was the last in the pack, but then I heard someone yell out “car back!”. I was eventually able to muster enough energy to pass a few people (how the heck did that happen?)


I got the sense that I was feeling pretty good at this point.  Sometimes it’s just hard to tell, but you know when you feel good, you might be putting in a good time.  I didn’t want to think about it, but that adrenaline does feel good.  I also seem to put in better times when I know a inch of people are climbing the same hill as me.

Being a LKHC ride, it’s great to hear the support folks on the side of the road cheering you on and giving you words of encouragement.  I also get to do mug shots … I wonder how they turned out.

Photo Courtesy Christine Holmes

Quimby and Sierra, a Bay Area Climbfest

Karen came up to visit in the Bay Area, so we decided to do Quimby and Sierra.  We did Quimby once before, so she knows how intense that climb is.  This time, we are adding Sierra into the mix.  She’s heard so much about Sierra, so it’s time to acquaint her with Sierra.


I decided to start the ride at the base of Mt. Hamilton, so we can get some warm up climbs in.  We started out looking for a road that climbs up that would take us down to eventually meet up with Quimby, but I got ourselves lost.  In fact, I found ourselves going around in a circle.  So much for using the Garmin for mapping out route. However this did give us a really short, but very steep hill, just to get our legs used to the pain.

Ok, over to Quimby we go. This is the first time doing Quimby on the Volagi, compact double, so I have a little fear that I won’t be able to make it up, since the previous times were with a triple. First time for everything, right?

Karen is a stronger climber than me, so I tried to stay with her on the hill as long as I can. That kinda helped me get a PR on the first third of Quimby segment, but was not able to maintain that for the whole climb.


The upper section was definitely much tougher. I got into my lowest gear possible to try to soon as much as I could up, but sometimes the intensity of the grade makes it difficult to spin. At this point I was wondering whether or not I should have brought the Seven.


Cadence was much slower but was still able to spin the cranks. I get to the last switchback, which is the toughest, and I stand, lean in, tack, do anything to keep moving. No matter what, I did not want to get off the bike. Somehow I made it through, and finally get up to the top, and well deserved rest, waiting for my heartbeats to go down to a respectable level.

We now descend Mt. Hamilton Road. Quimby actually takes us halfway up Hamilton, so after a few rollies, a nice descent back to the start. I had my baselayer on and it was way too warm for that, so I took that off, dumped it in the car.

Off to Sierra we go, following the DMD route markers on the street. I tell Karen to look up at what’s ahead, and OMG was the reaction. Let the suffering begin.


I normally do this climb as the first one of the day, but I already have a lot of climbing done in the legs, so I’m not expecting a great time on this. Karen paces up ahead of me, so it’s just me, the shadows off my wheel that I’m looking at on the ground, the sound of my rotor, and the sound of rubber as in climbing this. There’s nothing else v on my mind at this point, just concentrating on pedaling, and hearing those sounds of solitude.


There are a number of riders on this road (more than on Quimby) and all of them passing me. At least that gave me something else too concentrate on, but I still didn’t want to look up too much. I needed to stay within my own pace. Once again, I had to fight within myself to keep pedaling, and not stop, no matter how much my legs were screaming. I’m just remembering what it has printed on my bike … the will to go. Encouragement from the guys passing me also helps. That’s what I love about cycling and climbing these hills … a deep respect.


One final push … I see a group waiting at the top, and just pedaling with enough force just to keep moving. I’m definitely not making a final sprint up to the summit like I normally do. Success at last.

After a final rest, it’s over the other side and a descent down to go back to the cars. We were originally thinking of extending the ride, but I think our legs were saying enough. Besides, it’s not about the miles today, it’s all about the climbing. Awesome ride. Awesome climbfest!

Here’s the strava link … short but epic http: //app.strava.com/activities/53675317

Stupid Steep Holy Sh*t Climbing Day

My first double of the year is coming up in a couple of weeks, and I figure another century is in store to prepare for it.  I did a 50 miler yesterday on my fixie, so that gave me some base mileage, but I wanted something to kick my butt today.  I originally called this climb climb climb to ring in Daylight Savings Time … nice rhyme, eh?  Climb mentioned 3 times for each of the climbs we were to do.

I posted this on Meetup, and much to my surprise, I got some takers.  The first climb of the day was Sierra.  I warned everyone that the when you look up, the road just goes into the heavens.  Even with that, the first reaction was “Holy Sh*t”.  Yet, those same riders were the first to the summit.

The weather was perfect for this ride … a little chill in the morning, but as soon as we started climbing, it warmed up really nicely.  Arm warmers were all that was needed (vest would come out on the descent).

We all survived that ok.  We then descended Felton with a quick water stop at the park on Calaveras (there is no water between here and Welch Creek, the 2nd climb).  After that, it’s on to climb the Calaveras wall, followed by some rolling hills before getting to Welch Creek.  I was describing how Welch Creek is harder than Sierra, and how the steep grades continue on, relentless, without too much relief.  As we approached, we see where we go, and the thought was, that’s not too bad.  At the base, it still didn’t look that bad.

As we start climbing, we see the first steep stretch, and the same guys let out a “Holy Sh*t”.  Time to grunt it out, and if it’s even possible, relax … uh, yeah, right, relax, on this hill?

The strava segment says it’s 3.9 miles, and 1871 feet climbing.  Those numbers don’t even begin to describe the difficulty of this climb.  As Ramon would say, it’s stupid steep.  A lot of this road is narrow, where only one car can really pass on this road.  Good thing this is an isolated road, and there weren’t too many cars we had to contend with.

The last 1/2 mile or so got even tougher, pitches were steep.  We already had a lot of climbing in our legs, and it all accumulated to fatigued legs.  This one 16% stretch was just a bit much for a lot of us.  I had to walk a stretch of this till the pitch leveled out to about 5% … level …. hehe.

Finally at the top and a much deserved rest, and getting our heart rate down.  This is one of the toughest (if not the toughest) climbs in the Bay Area.  The only one that may trump it is Mix Canyon, but I haven’t had the pleasure of trying that yet.

After this, everyone just wanted this thing to end, so down to downtown Sunol, and we’re only doing 2 climbs … Welch Creek took its toll on the group.  We then took to quickest, most direct way back home … and I mean quick.  It’s like two different rides … morning climbs, afternoon all out sprint.  In the end, it was a great ride, great weather, and great company.


Ringing in the New Year with … What Else … A Tough Climb

Happy New Year everyone.  The weather was cooperating this time around, and that requires a bike ride.  I was originally going to do San Bruno Mountain race, but I wussed out.  I just didn’t feel like sprinting up a hill.  I’d rather just finish the hill, so I bailed on that.

Instead, I went for a tough climb, Sierra Road.  Yes, it is evil … what a better way to ring in the new year, eh?  I went there for a solo ride, but much to my surprise, I saw Donald there at the base of the hill.  Cool, so I have someone to ride with … well, for 1 minute … he climbs really well.  But at least we re-grouped together at the top of the climb.

Temp?  Not that bad.  This was probably due to very little wind … that is until we started descending on Felton, and then onto Calaveras.  However, my extremities were not suffering, so all in all, pretty pleasant day, considering the cold winter weather warnings.

I wonder how the conditions were up on Mt. Hamilton?  I was originally thinking of doing that first, but then I thought better of it … Sierra instead.

Happy New Year’s everyone.  Hope the coming year is a prosperous one for all.

ATOC Stage 4 – a Bay Area Cycling Holiday!

We should make it a cyclist holiday … every year, and I think it’s the same stage, on a Wednesday, ATOC goes through San Jose, and always has a huge turnout.  Everyone must be utilizing their PTO’s this day.  The question is, which cyclist was not out here enjoying the tour, and has to be slaving away in the office?

I rode to Sierra with my friends Michael and Henry, and met up with JoBob, who took this shot.  Thanks Jo.

I also took my helmet cam with me, and took a short video of me grinding my way up the initial steep part of Sierra (and there are many other steep sections to follow too).  But when you watch it, notice the guy in front of me with the Swiss flag.  I have a hard enough time climbing Sierra, and to carry a flag, with the wind kicking around?  That’s HTFU!

With the sucky weather (in May!!!), there was still a gloomy outlook that it might rain, but luckily it held off.  It stayed dry, but it was still very chilly.  We got a spot about 1400 feet up … couldn’t miss it … there was a “Kitten of Flanders” flag proudly displayed.  Gee, could you tell it was cold???  Everyone shivering waiting for the race to come by.

Reports were that riding up to the top … you couldn’t get to the top, as it was all roped off.  Still, we had a really good spot.  We could see the riders coming from below coming up.

We got really lucky, as the race got closer and closer to Sierra, clouds shifted, and the sun shined exactly where we were.  Perfect timing.

There was huge separation between the leaders in the front, and the rest of the riders.  There were probably 10 different packs on the climb up.  After a while, we started seeing some of the lead climbers, who made it to the finish, descent back down Sierra.  Someone forgot to tell them the back of the pack is still climbing up Sierra Road.  Wow, that could have been dicey.  It was actually quite dangerous, flying down the hill, and not knowing there’s a big pelaton still climbing up the hill.

Finally, the broomwagon comes, and we now know the end of the race has passed by.  Wow, that was fun!  Now for the descent down.

For more pics, click here

First Century of the Year – Sierra, Calaveras, Palomares and Dumbarton

With all the emphasis on completing 5 doubles this year, it’s odd to realize that I haven’t actually completed a full century this year (I would consider anything 90-100 miles a century).  I think not riding this distance may have actually had some impact on how I did on Camino Real Double Century.

This weekend was not good timing with others, but I was able to coordinate a ride with Donald, doing Sierra Road, then Calaveras, Palomares.  I would also do an extended ride over the Dumbarton Bridge, then back home.  That would make a good loop around the bay.

Funny thing about Sierra Road … it starts out at 14% … that’s a rude awakening.  The picture doesn’t really give you a clue as to how steep it really is … trust me, when you see it in person, it is freakin’ steep.  It’s hard to determine how to really prepare for this.  I even rode from home, so I already had logged in 15 miles before hitting this climb, but I still was not prepared.  I realized you just have to suffer while climbing, then you get into the climbing rhythm.

I can’t imagine doing this on DMD after about 150 miles.  It’s hard enough just doing this after 15 miles.

This is a brutal climb.  It hits you with a steep pitch at first.  You do get short breaks of 5-8% but then continues at 10-14 %.  About 200 feet from the top, it does level off a little bit, before it kicks up to 14% again, then finally summits at about 12%.

Can you imagine ATOC riders, racing up this … and this year it will be a hill top finish.  This is going to be epic.

Donald ran a little late, so we decided to meet at the summit.  I was actually surprised he didn’t pass me up on the hill, but I did see a number of people pass me up … no surprise there.

Swooping down Felter, on the other side of Sierra is exhilarating.  The views are breathtaking … sorry, it was too good to just descend down this, and I just couldn’t stop and take pictures … you’ll just have to take my word for it.  There are a few straight stretches where you could pick up some serious speed, but I kept it conservative, maxing out at 43.5 mph.

Calaveras, other than the one short steep wall, is a nice gradual climb.  There is nothing too significant as far as grades.  There was a lot of riders coming the opposite direction on Calaveras.  There was the cinderella training ride, and a bunch of Team in Training riders going the same direction.  Not sure if both groups were the same training group, but I thought it was an actual event ride, but found out it wasn’t.  There were definitely a lot of cyclists out there today.

We made our usual stop in Sunol for lunch, then onto Palomares.  Normally, going through Dublin Canyon (to get to Palomares) has some stiff headwinds, but it wasn’t really that bad today.  However, I still had some issues just turning the crank.  Who knows … maybe e-pills would have helped here, but I forgot to bring them.

I made it up Palomares with no problems, but that’s not to say I was really fast either.  Let’s just say that I was just able to get into a climbing rhythm.  I guess that’s the trick with climbing … just getting into the right rhythm.

Back to Fremont, and no onto my detour to Dumbarton bridge.  Donald helped me out there by leading me on Alameda Creek Bike Trail.  It’s a nice detour, that avoids city streets and traffic.  That led me onto Paseo Padre, then onto Thornton and onto Marshland, where I got onto Dumbarton.  I had forgotten how bad the road is on Marshland.  It’s not too much of an exaggeration to say that the road on Marshland Rd is like riding on cobbles.  I had to ride about 2-3 miles on this, and was glad when I got onto the bike trail, and onto the bridge.

The rest of the ride was almost like a commute home from work.  Just a long cruise on Middlefield, then back home.  This was a tiring ride, even though it was only about 5000 feet of climbing, and 99 miles … but you gotta start somewhere, right?

Viewing Tour of California Stage 4 – Sierra Road

Stage 4 starts in downtown San Jose, and after a few miles, they climb vertically up Sierra Road.  Anyone, who could take the day off, who was anyone in cycling in the area, made the trek over to Sierra Road.  Some in fact climbed it all the way to the top … yours truly included.  Here’s proof … me and my friend Michael, at the top by the KOM.

They actually had an amateur competition … a Sierra Road hill challenge.  They had it all professional, with a booth and everything.  It’s pretty cool.  Too bad I didn’t find out about till later.  My friends Chris and Deborah did the challenge.  In a way, I’m glad I didn’t know about it.  Otherwise, I’d be stressing about how good … or how bad I did.  This way, I didn’t have to tweet about my power output to the rest of the Wrecking Crew.  LOL

I also got to hook up with a bunch of old friends.  This seems to be what the tour does … it provides reunion of sorts.

I met my friend Michael, from BF, at the top.  Later on, Jo, Lee, Deborah, Chris, and Bassem … we all hung out together at the top.  It was very cool.

Now this was a change … it was actually sunny out there.  The last time I was up here, for the Tour of California, it was sunny too.  Maybe this isn’t cursed after all.

After being moved around a bit, I situated myself on the right side shoulder of the finishing stretch of the KOM.  I had some really excited cycling fans to the left of me … these are the type that can’t just stand behind the white line, and have to get in the middle of the road, yelling like a crazed animal, ringing their cowbells … and obstructing everyone’s view in the process.  Why do I complain about this?  Well, there is this law of physics, you see.  In order to take a picture of an image, the light that forms the image of the object need to reach the CCD of the camera by line of sight.  If this line of sight is obstructed, you won’t get the image you want.

I was lucky enough to get one shot of the first two cyclists to make it up the KOM.  It was not one of the top GC contenders, but it was still cool to see them really charging for the line.  Gotta love Gimp (open source alternative to Photoshop).

What’s my point?  Well, if you are at the top of a KOM, and it’s a very popular KOM, don’t even try to take a picture of the racers as they go past you.  You won’t get a shot in.  I should have learned from my experiences at Balcolm Canyon 2 years ago on TOC … same thing happened, but I guess my mind is going these days.

After the pelaton had gone through, we decided to descend the other side by way of Felter, then Calaveras, then back to the cars.  Chris and Deborah didn’t know this route, so I decided to guide them through.  It’s a nice alternative, instead of just doing an out and back … plus descending the 16-20% grades we had just climbed, didn’t seem like a lot of fun.

Everything was going alright, until the cars in front of us just stopped.  One of them was a Calfire truck, and one thing I feared was that it was a cyclist down.  Why did I say that … it turned out it was a cyclist who had gone down.  Looks like they already had him in a neck brace and on a stretcher.  Oh, I hate seeing that.  This is the second day in a row I have seen this, after coming down a hill after watching the TOC go by.  Why, people why???  Be careful when you are descending.  It is not good karma to have cycling accidents on the day of the TOC.

Finally Did Welch Creek … Damn, what a tough climb

In honor of all the DMD riders, we decided to ride Sierra Road, which they will all be climbing after already riding 150+ miles.  Ooooh boy.  Anyhow, it was just Donald and me, and I knew right away that he would be waiting for me at the top.  I felt a little guilty about having him wait, but he was perfectly fine … gives him a rest while waiting for my slow butt to make it up the Category 1 hill climb.  Funny, I thought it should be more of an HC … but that’s my personal opinion.

As I’m climbing this, I kept thinking of something Donald said … Sierra is just a warm up for Welch Creek.  Oh lovely … and here I am struggling up Sierra.  As tough as Sierra is, it’s actually pretty enjoyable, just because of the scenic views as you are climbing, overlooking all of San Jose.

Another observation is how few riders I see coming up here.  All the locals here, who are into cycling, know about Sierra, and how much of a great climb this is … and yet I hardly ever see a large contingent of cyclists up here.  But hey, at least I didn’t get passed by anyone.

Finally got up to the top of Sierra, and who knows how long Donald was waiting.  But hey, I made it.

Now for the screaming downhill, then sharp right, and up Calaveras, before doing some rollies before hitting Welch Creek.  There were a lot of cyclists out there on Calaveras, but most of them going in the opposite direction from us (we were going northbound, but everyone was going southbound).  As far as we can tell, it was probably because of a club ride.  Anyhow, I digress.  As I mentioned with Sierra, all the locals know about Welch Creek, and eventhough there are a ton of cyclists riding on Calaveras, you can just make a right on Welch Creek, and start this epic climb.  Donald and I were the only cyclists making this climb today.

Welch Creek is also pretty scenic, but doesn’t have the views that Sierra Road has.  The climbing doesn’t start for about a 1/2 mile, then it starts to kick your butt.  Now there are breaks in the climbing, so it is not one continuous climb.  However, when the climbing continues, the grades are really tough.  There were some stretches where it kicks up to 22%.  I kept trying to stay on my bike, but the only way I could do that, without falling over, was to tack the hill.  However, some stretches of Welch Creek is pretty narrow, so there is not much room to tack there.

About 3 miles up the climb, I am soooo ready to have the climb be over with.  I was going so slow, I was thinking I might fall over … but my speed kept registering 3-4 mph, so that was good.  At least I still have the leg strength to still turn the crank.  Finally, I see Donald sitting on the hill, but not at the summit.  About a 1/4 mile later and I reach the top, where the road dead ends.  Kind of anti-climactic, after all the pain and suffrage climbing this friggin hill.

This really took a lot out of me, and hopefully with the long downhill descent, my legs can recover.

We stopped off at a cafe in Sunol for a quick bite to eat.  The bearclaw felt good, but it wasn’t really something that was going to wake my senses to another level.  The only bad thing is the cafe didn’t have any energy drinks, like Gatorade, or anything like that.  We had to resort to coke.  That kind of left Donald light headed, and gave me a little woozy tummy.  Oh well … that’s the carbonation getting to us.  I guess it might have been better just to have coffee.

Next up is head north on Foothill, over to Dublin Canyon, then to Palomares.  What sucked here … no pun intended … was the headwind.  This easily had me distanced, as Donald was much better at slicing through the headwinds than I am.  It seemed like no matter where we went, the headwinds followed us.  My legs were already a little lifeless, so adding the headwinds is just more punishment.  I guess I’d just have to suffer, and try to survive till we get to Palomares.

The climb on Palomares is really not that bad.  I think southbound, is actually a little easier than going northbound.  I say this now … one of these days, I’m going to eat those words.

All in all, not a bad ride.  At least I finally did Welch Creek.  I still think Sierra Road is a little tougher, but I would guess the two of them are very close in difficulty.  But then again, you’re talking about a guy who is not a natural hill climber.

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Total stats: 76 miles, 6580 feet climbing

For those Strava enthusiasts, I did upload my data to Strava.  You can see that at http://www.strava.com/rides/93396