Tag Archives: Zayante

Epic Sunday Mini Santa Cruz Mountain Challenge

Sunday’s ride was another Meetup Ride, and in a way, it probably should have been posted as a biking++ ride.  This is not what I consider a leisure Sunday ride … in fact, it was epic.

I rode from home, which made it more impressive, since the start of the ride was at Saratoga Gap (corner of Hwy 9 and Hwy 35).  First, it’s a 16 mile ride up Hwy 9, and it get in 2000 feet of climbing before the ride even started.  There were plans to have a group start from Starbucks in Saratoga, but Bronwen has to bail, and I think that lead others to drive up instead.  Not me!

Last time we did this, the descent down Hwy 9 was cold, and a little damp.  And did I dress early for this?  No, of course not.  I only had arm warmers and a light vest.  Lucky for me, it wasn’t that cold, and it was dry, so I was okay.  However, the group sped down Hwy 9 like a locomotive train.  I thought I can get down into a tuck and catch the group, but they were nowhere in sight.  I had to high tail it.  Do they know what the climb is like?

I caught up to the group on the next turn, which was just after Bear Creek.  This is a nice alternative from the usual route I do, which avoids a busy section of Hwy 236.

We finally get to Jameson Creek, and the fun begins.  It’s something like 1700 feet of climbing, but in a short 3.5 miles.  Damn, that’s steep.

Jameson Creek

Jameson Creek

I didn’t feel like I was climbing strong, but much to my surprise, it was my third best.  Amazing what the body can do when you just work within your limits.  I did get passed my one guy from Team Fremont, and we briefly chatted about why we are doing this tough steep climb.


I get to the top, but the lead group went on ahead.  I decided to wait for the rest of the group.  In the meantime, the rest of the Team Fremont group reaches the top.  They are a fun group, and they had a sag wagon following them.  They even offered me water and bananas, even though I’m not on their ride.  Cameraderie in cyclists is just awesome.




Rhysly and Dillan

Rhysly, Steve, and Dillan get to the summit, about 30 minutes after I got to the top.  Big kudos to Rhysly for completing this, who 1 year ago could hardly finish climbing Mt.  Eden.


We continued on Empire Grade to Alba, where we then take a hair raising descent down to downtown Ben Lomond.


Don’t believe the 10% sign …. there were done 20% sections there.  My disc brakes came in handy here, but just hope it doesn’t overheat.  At least only the disc will get hot, and not the rim.  That was a crazy descent.

We regroup at a gas station, but that was really the last we stayed together.  We got separated once we started climbing Zayante.  At this point, I think my legs are recovered from the steep Jameson climb, so now it’s steady 10 mile climb up to Summit Road.

I ended up climbing solo, and when we got to the top, I then went on , my own route back home.  It’s a little less climbing, and makes the whole ride one complete loop.

I was tired by the time I got home, but not completely exhausted, so I guess this is a good thing.  One problem … it’s a Sunday, and there is no recovery day before going back into work.  I guess I’ll have to use my commute in as a recovery ride.

Totals: 78.2 miles, 8494 feet climbing.  Epic climbfest.


Meetup Group to ride to a Meetup Ride to do Zayante


Today’s ride was a loop to climb Zayante, which starts somewhere in Felton, and end up at Skyline.  The start of this ride was at Saratoga Gap, at Hwy 9 and  Hwy 35, but I wanted some extra miles, and so did a number of others.  We decided to meet at Starbucks in Saratoga.  This was a big group.

Official Group Start at Saratoga Gap

Official Group Start at Saratoga Gap

We got to the official start of the ride in plenty of time to spare.  The official start had even more people.  I think there were about 27 riders signed up for this … awesome.

Dew from trees dripping on us

Dew from trees dripping on us

First up, the descent down Hwy 9. It hit cold on that descent, and it was a good thing I wore a base layer … I just didn’t want to bring a vest. There was a lot of dew from the trees, and it gave us the illusion that it was raining, but we were just being dropped on by the trees. A few didn’t bring jackets and were freezing. Luckily Steve had extra jackets, and offered to those in need.


Descending Hwy 9 got really sketchy after we passed through Boulder Creek. There was not much shoulder room, and a lot of car traffic. It got so bad, one of the riders in the back took a fall. He flipped over the handlebars, and suffered a broken clavicle.  It seemed to be a matter of crossed wheels.  Luckily, an ambulance happen to be rolling by, and was able to assist. Kudos to Steve and to John for jumping in and heading back to be with our fallen rider until he was safely transported in the ambulance. They also made sure his significant other made it to the scene. Scary moments. This was definitely on every rider’s mind.


We went on ahead and we all decided to regroup at the Zayante Market. We refueled here, ready to tackle Zayante.

It was about 10 miles to the top, but the real climbing didn’t start until about 5 miles later. Some of the switches were pretty steep, and you could see it as you were approaching it. You gotta just shift, and power through it.

The climb was well shaded with an abundance of trees, and it kept the sun away most of the way, and the temps reasonable. One rider made a comment about how shady the climb is, compared to those in Contra Costa County, which are all completely exposed.

Made it to Skyline where we all regrouped. I offered an easier way back by going on Summit, t Hough Lexington Dam and into Los Gatos, but everyone wanted to continue on the route. Besides, it will add to the mileage and climbing on Strava.


The rest of the ride was a series of rollies, and this is tough when you have miles and climbing already in your legs. But at least it was still pretty scenic.

Everybody split off when we got back to Saratoga Gap … one thing nice about this … it was all downhill.

Great ride, except for the accident. Just wish there was a better way to get down to Zayante. I guess the other way would have been to go up Jameson Creek, then go down Empire Grade, and onto Felton, but that has tons of traffic too. I guess there is no good option … gotta just be very aware and careful.

Stats: 74.3 miles, 6870 ft climbing.  Legs are feeling it the next day.


Climbfest Continues in NorCal at Santa Cruz Mountain Challenge

So if Baldy and Crystal Lake wasn’t enough, we had to continue with Santa Cruz Mountain Challenge.  Actually this was Karen’s idea … asking if I would do it … well, I’ve never done the ride before, and I knew it would be tough, but sure, why not.  Since Mt Tam Double is next week, and Ramon is out of town, I wasn’t expecting many other rides to come up.

I met with Karen and Mike (crazy fixie man).  I still had to check in so they went on ahead.

There wasn’t much of a warmup on this ride.  Mt. Charlie was the first climb, coming in after only a few miles in.  The weather, for the time being was cool, and fog was omnipresent.  We’ll see how long before the sun comes out.

Mt. Charlie is a stair step type of climb, where you do get some relief, then climbs again.  Because of the fog, there were some damp stretches, but nothing really hazardous.

After Mt. Charlie, we turn left onto Riva Ridge with grade up to 21%.  What a way to start a ride.  Near the top of this climb, I met up with Karen and Mike briefly, until I climbed on ahead.  We would be climbing at our own rate for the first half of the ride.

The next significant climb is Bear Creek then Skyline.  This also happens to be when everyone decides to pass me on the hills.  Then, out of the blue, my friend Jim, from Stockton, says hi, and we proceed to speed on into the 2nd rest stop at Saratoga Gap (Hwy 9 and Skyline).  Just as we are ready to leave, I see Mike and Karen.  So it looks like we’re going to be on a schedule where I’m ready to leave just as Mike and Karen roll in.

I went on with Jim and proceed to hammer down Hwy 9 to Big Basin Park.  I forgot how fast Jim is.  I could descend fast enough to keep up, but somehow I ended up in front of him.  There weren’t any really significant climbs on this stretch … just some annoying rollies.  I decided to roll into the next rest stop to wait for anyone to show up.  I spent a bit of time there but I wanted to move on, and prevent my legs from freezing up, and also anxious to do Jamison Creek … yeah, right.

I reached the timing table, letting them know I really don’t expect to put on some killer time, but they timed me anyways.  What the heck …  ready set, go.

I kinda wonder, with this being 40 miles into a 100 mile ride, with at least 4000 feet climbing already in, how hard do they expect everyone to push it?  We still have 6000 more feet of climbing to do.

I don’t know what the official time was, but according to Strava, I got in 32 minutes.  Not bad.  I did pass a couple of people, as well as getting passed by several.

While waiting at the top, I met my friend Laura, from Western Wheelers.  She is one strong woman, but even she told me she wasn’t turning herself inside out for this.  We still have 6000 feet climbing left to go, and there’s still Zayante.

I rode into lunch with Laura and the group she was riding with.  Lunch is only 3 miles on Empire Grade … cool.

At the mid-way point, I’m not feeling too bad.  I kept hearing horror stories about Jamison Creek, and all in all, my feeling is … not bad.  It ranks up with the rest of the difficult climbs I’ve subjected my body to.

Just as I’m ready to leave the lunch stop, guess who I see rolling in … Mike and Karen.  They mention they may be opting for the metric instead of the century, but we’ll see.

We roll on, and meander through parts of Bonny Doon … we turn off from Pine Flat onto Bonny Doon, but it’s very easy to miss that … in fact, I missed it, and had to make a U-turn, just 100 feet past.  As soon as I get back on the route, I hear at least 5 or 6 others wizz on past it.  They did say it was easy to miss … they weren’t kidding about that.

We wind our way through Felton, then a left onto Zayante, and this is where the fatigue sets in.  Zayante is a long long climb … it is unrelenting, and it seems to go on forever.  This is one of those roads where you expect to be riding this solo, and you start to wonder if you are on the right road … then suddenly, you see the water stop, and there are other people there too.  About a mile after the water stop, I see Mike and Karen again.  Woohoo!!!  We are reunited again.

Zayante is a beast.  It lulls you to thinking that we just have a few rollies, then it kicks us in the ass with some 15% climbs, and we cannot wait till we get to the end … but where is the end?  This is almost like Mines Road, except with 15% climbs.  This sure tests your will.

Finally, we turn onto Summit Road, then onto the next rest stop.  This will be the last rest stop, aside from the water stop, 9 miles from the end.

There’s a lot of long descents in the last 20 miles of this, which makes it interesting for Mike, since he is riding this on a fixie … again, when is that guy going to get a normal bike???  Anyhow, we proceed onto Soquel-San Jose Road … wow, this has a long fast descent.  It’s a long way to get back to the start, but it’s a fun descent.  Only one problem … this is a fairly heavily traffic’d road, so we always have to be mindful of staying as far to the right as possible.  We are warned of a large pothole … actually it’s a ditch.  Now I mention this, because with the fast descent, we are going in excess of 35-45 mph … before I could alert myself to avoid it, I’m going right into it, and the only thought I have on my mind is to hold on tight.

Whew, survived that.  However, I do see some others off the side of the road, tending to flats.  They were not so lucky.  Mike and Karen made it through fine too, and on way go to Laurel Road to the home stretch.  Suddenly, I hear a familiar voice … well it’s Marco and Ruth.  Woohoo!  This is one hell of a ride, meeting up with so many friends.

The last 9 miles was not without hills.  One thing’s for sure on this ride … there are no junk miles.  One terrific sight to see was the Scotts Valley city limit sign, but I’m not rejoicing until I get to the finish.  I finally roll in, just before 5 pm, and luckily, they still have food at the end.

Totals:  101 miles, 10,802 feet of climbing.  This was one hell of a ride … a ride that yes, is 10,802 feet of climbing, but the climbs were intense, and no junk miles at all.

Bonny Doon and Zayante

Of all the roads I have ridden, and living here in the Bay Area for 10 years, it’s amazing that I haven’t ridden Bonny Doon and Zayante. Well, we can mark that off the list now. Bonny Doon was the featured climb in Stage 2 of the 2009 Tour of California. This would definitely be one of the tougher non-supported rides, as it is advertised at 105 miles, and 9500 feet of climbing. Plus, it’s led by Ramon, who is notorious for bringing on the pain. This also marks as the last tough ride before the Death Ride. I was the only one on the ride who is not preparing for the Death Ride … Ramon, Ben, Michael, and Chris, all are doing the Death Ride next week. So why the heck am I subjecting myself to such pain? Knowing the group, I am definitely going to be the last to finish every hill.

We had best intentions of leaving Foothill/Homestead no later than 8:15 am, but sometimes it’s not in the cards. First, Ramon was a little late. Second, Chris was running late, and we decided to just proceed on our route, and meet him up at Moody and Page Mill.

Moody has a steep grade, but it’s only 1/2 mile in length … starts out at 7% then pitches to an average of 10-12%, and up to 16%, before it intersects with Page Mill. However, this will get your heart rate way up, to the point where you can heart how hard your heart is pumping.

We went on climbing up Page Mill, which would be another 6 miles and 1200 feet of climbing later. Chris did peel back and climbed with me, and that made the climbing a bit more enjoyable. Thanks Chris! But eventually, near the top, I let him go up … I didn’t want to hold him back, and I just needed to climb at my own pace.
Descending Alpine is very technical with a lot of switchbacks. Even though the descent is going from 2200 feet down to about 500 feet, you couldn’t really pick up any good speed at all. On this day, it was mostly due to car traffic descending Alpine … and this one idiot on a motorcycle decides to pass us up, only to brake hard due to the cars in front of us. I mean, what’s the point in exerting so much energy to pass one car, only to stop. Eventually, he made a daredevil move and passed 3 cars with about 2-3 feet of room to pass with (due to the narrow roads). He probably gained about 30 seconds as opposed to waiting for the cars to finish to the bottom of the hill. Ok, that’s my rant.

The next climb is not quite as long, but still annoying … this is the climb up Haskins Hill, which is roughly 3 miles and 500 feet climbing, but it is a pretty wooded area, with lots of redwood trees surrounding you. As I anticipated, I was the last one, with the group waiting for me at the top.

On the way down to Pescadero, a head wind is expected, so everyone wanted to get into a paceline, so we wouldn’t be working so hard … well, that’s a great plan, if you can keep up with the pace of the paceline. With 100 miles, and 9000 feet of climbing, I had to conserve my energy, so I ended up dropping off the back.

After a quick break in Pescadero, it’s off to Hwy 1, and southbound towards Bonny Doon. We all started off with a nice pace, but it soon turned more and more aggressive. I lost touch with the pack really quickly, and this wasn’t even a hill! In fact, I saw Ramon and Ben just in front of me. Chris and Michael were on some crazy pace. I had thoughts of turning at Gazos Creek, and not doing the whole route, but since I was so far back, I couldn’t inform anyone … so I guess I gotta HTFU, and do the whole 105 mile route.
We stopped in Davenport, which is just before Bonny Doon. We stopped here when I was on the Tour of Ca, so I immediately recognized this place, and noticed the gang stopped here too. It’s a cute little seaside town, population of ~ 350. It’s also a nice little gathering for various tour buses as well.
Ok, onto Bonny Doon. Reflecting on this climb, it’s not as bad as I thought it would be. It is very scenic, with redwoods everywhere. I can only imagine how much faster the Tour of Ca riders climbed this … probably even faster than the folks driving this road today.
Steepest part of the grade was about 1-2 miles into the climb, where steepness varied from 8-12%, but even after that, the climbing kept continuing. It’s a 7 mile climb, and about 2000 feet climbing.
After cresting, it’s down Empire Grade, and onto Felton Empire. Now this was one wild descent. You could easily reach 25 mph without even trying, and if you had no traffic in front of you, you could easily reach 40+ mph. This was one of the few times we wanted traffic in front of us, so that it would slow down the traffic on the descent. Eventually, it got ahead of us, but we were also confronted by very technical switchbacks, and some very rough pavement, teeth chattering pavement. This was one descent where you definitely did not want to have a tight grip on the handlebar. It’s descents like this that makes you wonder with amazement at how well our bikes are built, and that it can withstand the vibrations. There were a few spots there where I misjudged the pitch and the radius of curvature, and had to slam on the brakes a few times. It was a wild descent.
We stopped in Felton for some food, water, and topped off our bottles with ice. It’s a good thing the days are longer, as we observed by the time we left Felton, it was already 4 pm. Next climb is Zayante.
Zayante is a long, 11 mile, 1900 foot climb. That length does tax your system, especially after already riding 77 miles, and ~7000 feet climbing. The climbs itself weren’t too bad … most averaged from 5-8%, and once getting to Upper East Zayante, it kicked up to about 13%. When we get to the end, we made a left turn at Summit, but this was not the end of the climbing … in fact, there’s still at least an additional 1200 feet climbing, while on Summit and on Skyline. It’s those rolling hills that gets you.
The top elevation, as far as I can tell, was up on Skyline at 3100 feet. Whenever I ride this area, on Skyline, I can’t help but feel like I’m barely moving, and struggling just to turn my cranks. I was averaging about 4-5 mph at this point, and consistently in my granny gear. This is where I earn my HTFU points. Every thing aches, and the end just keeps getting longer and longer.

I was glad to finally get down to the bottom of Redwood Gulch, which meant Starbuck’s at the beginning of the ride is within sight. A nice hot grande latte and cinnamon swirl is just what I needed … ahhh!!!!
This was one full day … it started at 7:45 am, when I left home, and I got home almost 12 hours later at around 7:30 pm. The biggest thing that was on my mind as I was making the final push on Skyline is to make it home before dark. Mission accomplished.
Ride totals:
Total Distance: 115.1 miles
Elevation Gain: 9709 feet