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Old 02-01-09, 11:25 PM   #1
Ritterview
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Low traffic, moderate hill climbs in South Bay

I am seeking to get Mrs. Ritterview more acclimated to cycling in general, and hill climbing in particular. We've both signed up for the Death Ride, and she might do 1-2 passes, while I do all 5 again. So, I am looking for some training to work up to Monitor Pass. My wife goes to spin 5-6 days a week, has a svelte BMI of 19, and has no problem with the watts/kg needed for climbing. Her problem is lack of confidence, dread fear of descents, and being spooked by traffic.

I've tried Old Santa Cruz Highway, which isn't that steep, and fairly lightly trafficked. It was nonetheless harrowing for her, and Summit Road at the top has a lot of traffic. I am thinking of Mount Hamilton, which has light traffic and a very steady moderate grade. We'll start out at the County Park, to cut down on the climb. Anybody have some other ideas? I'd like to keep the grade at less than 6%.
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Old 02-02-09, 12:17 AM   #2
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Other than Mt. Hamilton, I can't think of any low traffic, long climbs that are less than 6% in the South Bay. Some short climbs you can do repeats on are Mt. Eden in Cupertino and Shannon and Kennedy in Los Gatos. Also Gilroy Hot Springs and Canada in Gilroy.

Old Santa Cruz Highway has nearly zero traffic. If that is too much for you, Mt. Hamilton will have somewhat more (though still light compared to most roads).
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Old 02-02-09, 09:27 AM   #3
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Mt Hamilton road is very bumpy. It's a much more technical descent than anything in the Death Ride. It's a more technical descent than Old Santa Cruz. At the moment the upper reaches have sand on them- the county sands the road when it's icy and doesn't sweep it later. The first climb up from Alum Rock is the best descent- much of that part of the road was repaved last year, and they did a good job of it so it's pretty smooth. There are a couple places where the gravel that they used to fill in the shoulder get kicked up by cars cutting the corner. The upper two climbs are the same old bumpy stuff.

What scares people in the Death Ride is the speed of the descents. With the exception of Ebbets east they are pretty straight and it's easy to get to 45-50 mph, which is scary to some riders. The other thing is the other riders- on Monitor there's always some creeping down at 25, others doing 45, and a few doing 50+. Some guys think they can "win" it on the descents and ride a little too agressively.

But if you go up there and ride on some other weekend, she can practice when there's no one else around. There is very little traffic and most drivers are very polite. Undiscovered Country Tours (udctours.com) runs a "kiss of death" tour which covers the Death Ride passes and is a good way to get to know them with much less pressure than the actual Death Ride. There is also Arnie Baker's death ride training camp.

VeloGirls put on clinics that include descending skills.
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Old 02-02-09, 10:21 AM   #4
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Calaveras Road starting from Sunol is a nice climb that rarely exceeds 6%. The climb itself begins near Geary Road and from there to the false summit is about 3 miles. Then there's a short downhill followed by a bit more climbing. Then there's the Wall that takes you down into Milpitas, about a 13% grade over (1/4 to 1/2?) mile.

There ususally isn't much car traffic on Calaveras.

The plot below shows the elevation profile starting in Sunol, and turning around & back just before the Wall - about 25 miles and roughly 1400 feet of climbing.



If you're feeling spunky you can continue down the wall and turn left to head up Felter Road which takes you up the backside of the Sierra Road climb - much easier than Sierra Road, and a much nicer descent (less steep) than Sierra.
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Old 02-02-09, 03:14 PM   #5
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There ususally isn't much car traffic on Calaveras.
Thats a good suggestion but don't go on a week day.

During commute time on a weekday it's a friggen' race track. The commuters assume that it's one way their way so they speed and use all of the road (there's no center marking for much of it even though it's just wide enough for two cars).

I have ridden it on my motorcycle and driven it in a car during commute hours. Both times I came across at least one head-on accident where a speeding commuter cut a blind left turn and hit another vehicle. I am used to fast commuters in the santa cruz mountains but this is a whole nother level of stupidity.
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Old 02-02-09, 03:57 PM   #6
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Thats a good suggestion but don't go on a week day.
Ah, good point. I've never been on it on a (non holiday) weekday but I can see how it might be used as a shortcut for commuters.
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Old 02-02-09, 04:54 PM   #7
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One day, you should make the drive up to the East Bay and climb Diablo. Just to mimick the amount of ascent/descent in terms of footies that it gives you compared to Monitor, et al. The road is in good shape and there is plenty of opportunity to pull over and critique one another.

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Old 02-03-09, 04:19 PM   #8
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How about Tunitas Creek? It starts gradual and becomes steep in the infamous middle section. There is low traffic and it is plenty scenic. The surface is patchy, so it isn't such a great descent. What would be the least harrowing way back down? The classic 84 loop?.

Or how about Old La Honda West as a climb? It has a 3.7% grade and very little traffic. Is there a non-harrowing descent that we could use?

Some of this is described with photo's here and here. The Western Wheelers have a listing of climbs here.
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Old 02-03-09, 04:36 PM   #9
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Both Tunitas and West OLH are scenic roads with low traffic. Both are somewhat of a drive from the south bay. West OLH is very short, in addition to barely being steep enough to count as uphill. Highway 84 is the easiest way down from Skyline to the ocean, but there can be a lot of fast motorcycle and car traffic, especially on weekend afternoons and there is no shoulder.

West Alpine Road and Pescadero Road are some other non-steep, low-traffic climbs in the area. You could come back down West Alpine Road if you really want to avoid traffic. The road is a little bumpy, but not really fast.

There are lots more climbs around Santa Cruz, which may be closer to the south bay (via Hwy 17).
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Old 02-03-09, 05:36 PM   #10
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Thats a good suggestion but don't go on a week day.

During commute time on a weekday it's a friggen' race track. The commuters assume that it's one way their way so they speed and use all of the road (there's no center marking for much of it even though it's just wide enough for two cars).

I have ridden it on my motorcycle and driven it in a car during commute hours. Both times I came across at least one head-on accident where a speeding commuter cut a blind left turn and hit another vehicle. I am used to fast commuters in the santa cruz mountains but this is a whole nother level of stupidity.
This hasn't been my experience at all. When I commute by bike from Pleasanton to or from work in San Jose, Calaveras Rd is my route. Most times both in the morning and evening I see little or no traffic between Geary Rd and Felter. I've had close calls with wildlife up around the reservoir, especially after dark, but not with cars.

-Glenn
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Old 02-03-09, 07:10 PM   #11
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Gilroy Hot Springs/Canada is worth a second nomination, but the leg along Highway 152 is miserable. No liight traffic there.

Head south on Hwy. 25 to the crossroads of Tres Pinos a few minutes south of Hollister. Park in the Catholic Church parking lot and take Quien Sabe Road, which is just across the highway. The first climb is short and steep. After getting to a T in the road, go right for about a mile and pick up Quien Sabe again. The climb is a good one, and the descent not particularly technical. By contrast, San Juan Canyon Road to Fremont Peak just outside of San Juan Bautista is pretty technical with a few off-camber hairpins, but it's a good climb: nine miles and nearly 3,000 feet.
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Old 02-03-09, 07:17 PM   #12
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Montebello Road is another good one. 5.1 miles and 2500 feet climbing.
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Old 02-03-09, 07:33 PM   #13
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If I may make a suggestion - it might be a good idea to help her get more acclimated to traffic sooner rather than later. As you can see, it's really difficult to find roads around here that don't have some traffic. Even on weekends, the more scenic, out-of-the-way climbs can attract large groups of sports cars and motorcycles.

And even though the first two passes of the Death Ride are closed to traffic (I think?), there are going to be lots of other cyclists to contend with. And, speaking from my own experience, I can be more spooked by a cyclist suddenly passing very close to me than by a car.

So you might want to get her out onto more flat but somewhat more traffic'ed roads so she can get adjusted to objects zooming past her. Just my two cents.
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Old 02-03-09, 07:49 PM   #14
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Montebello Road is another good one. 5.1 miles and 2500 feet climbing.
Montebello is well above the OP's 6% limit, especially the first 2 miles of the climb. Traffic is pretty light, though.
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Old 02-03-09, 08:02 PM   #15
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Montebello is well above the OP's 6% limit, especially the first 2 miles of the climb. Traffic is pretty light, though.
hmmm ... must have conveniently overlooked the 6% part ... lol
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Old 02-04-09, 05:05 PM   #16
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Here is a couple of sites which list various climbs with some descriptions:

http://www.westernwheelers.org/main/...BA_Climbs.html
http://www.actc.org/billygoats/index.php

Try to take your wife on short hills like Mount Eden and do hill repeats over and over again. This builds up the climbing strength and practices the descending skills. Its better to use a short hill that you go up and down repeatedly instead of one long one. This way you get very familiar with the hill and it takes the fear out of descending because you have done it so many times and you know all of the turns. Then expand it to longer climbs/descents. You can also try Crystal Springs starting at Crystal Springs & Polhemus in San Mateo. It has some car traffic but the shoulder is pretty wide and you can turn right at Skyline and take it to the golf course. Mount Eden and Crystal Springs are two climbs Team In Training uses for training their participants.
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Old 02-04-09, 05:16 PM   #17
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How about the climb up to Henry Coe, great views, little to no traffic, and its a good long climb. Climb from the park at Anderson Lake or from downtown Morgan Hill. Its E DUnne on the above link.

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Old 02-04-09, 09:08 PM   #18
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There are lots more climbs around Santa Cruz, which may be closer to the south bay (via Hwy 17).
The Santa Cruz area climbs that come to mind are Hazel Dell, a popular short climb with local cyclists, and Eureka Canyon, both near Corralitos. Neither are steep. Both have very light traffic.

One possible route including both would be to start left out of the Summit Market on Summit Road, which becomes Highland Way after Soquel-San Jose Rd.

Turn right at Mt Bache and then immediately left at Spanish Ranch to stay on Highland.

Highland becomes Eureka Canyon at the intersection with Buzzard Lagoon and Ormsby.

At Corralitos, the Corralitos Market and Sausage Co is on the right. There's water left of the phones outside.

Continue straight. Eureka Canyon becomes Corralitos Rd.

Turn left at Varni.

Varni becomes Pioneer after Amesti.

Turn left at Green Valley.

Green Valley ends at Hazel Dell. Turn left.

Hazel Dell becomes Browns Valley at the sharp left in the descent. Don't take the little road on the right.

Turn right to stay on Browns Valley at Amesti, crossing the bridge and returning to Corralitos.

Turn right to head back up Eureka Canyon, Highland, and Summit.
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Old 02-04-09, 09:20 PM   #19
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qpliu, funny you should mention those roads since just a couple hours ago I was plotting out a potential ride through that area. I am planning a self supported century there for when the days get a little longer
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Old 02-05-09, 05:51 PM   #20
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How about the climb up to Henry Coe, great views, little to no traffic, and its a good long climb. Climb from the park at Anderson Lake or from downtown Morgan Hill. Its E DUnne on the above link.
So, this is the route? The elevation below does look doable. It is on the Tierra Bella apparently. Thanks Sean!

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Old 02-05-09, 08:40 PM   #21
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As I look more into E. Dunne Ave, I become more apprhensive about the steepness. Maybe it is something to do when we get closer to the Death Ride, as it looks like a mini-Monitor Pass.

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East Dunne Avenue
distance: 10 miles, from initial start of climbing
climbing: 2900 feet

Dunne Avenue south from Monterey Road in Morgan Hill crosses Highway 101 and becomes East Dunne Avenue. It is flat and developed for 2 miles, when it becomes residential and the climbing begins with a mile at 8%. After this, the development ends, and the road becomes quite pleasant. A 2 mile descent over a bridge and past a picnic area next to the reservoir takes one to the main portion of the climb, which is much like Page Mill Road in character, with steep sections intermixed with lesser grades and intermediate descents, although even the steep portions are quite manageable. The climb effectively ends at the entrance to Henry Coe State Park, which is worth a visit after all the effort.
From what I can see, the main middle portion has a grade of 7.8%.

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Old 02-05-09, 10:11 PM   #22
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I think you're worrying too much. Just get out there and ride. 8% is not real steep if you pace yourself and your gearing is appropriate for your fitness level. The hills get a lot easier as you gain experience.

At worst, you can always just stop for a couple of minutes to catch your breath half way up the hill.

If you are really really out-of-shape, then maybe you have a doctor check your heart etc. before starting a serious training program.
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Old 02-06-09, 12:22 AM   #23
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I think you're worrying too much. Just get out there and ride. 8% is not real steep if you pace yourself and your gearing is appropriate for your fitness level. The hills get a lot easier as you gain experience.

At worst, you can always just stop for a couple of minutes to catch your breath half way up the hill.

If you are really really out-of-shape, then maybe you have a doctor check your heart etc. before starting a serious training program.
Um, I think you need to look again at the OP. I am looking for a sure-fire confidence-building starter hill for my wife, whose limitation is apprehension rather than fitness.
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Old 02-06-09, 12:55 AM   #24
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Um, I think you need to look again at the OP. I am looking for a sure-fire confidence-building starter hill for my wife, whose limitation is apprehension rather than fitness.
Apprehension comes from lack of experience. The only way to shed the apprehension is to get some experience. You've gotten a dozen excellent suggestions already. Any of them will help with your experience.
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Old 02-06-09, 02:41 AM   #25
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+1 for Henry Coe for a South Bay climb with very little traffic. I’ve done this dozens of times and can’t remember seeing more than a hand full of cars at any time. If you hit it in the middle of the week it’s possible you won’t see any at all after the bridge. You can shorten it a little by cutting out the junk miles through the residential area and parking at the picnic area by the reservoir (just after the bridge). Sometimes it feels like you have the whole mountain to yourself.
The scenery is some of my favorite in the Bay Area. Good views of the Valley and less trees/more open than the climbs up to Skyline Drive.

Interesting to see the profile like this for the first time. That last half mile is no joke! There's a spike that occurs after that short descent and you’ll cross a cattle grate right before you hit it, so be prepared for that. It’s super short but it goes over 10%. I’m guessing 12 or 13%. You might want to factor that in with your gearing. After that you’re almost to the top. The Tierra Bella riders made it to the top after putting in half a century, so I don’t think you guys would have a problem with it.

Keep your heart rate low and enjoy the scenery/lack of traffic. If you want, take extra snacks or a lunch and hang out at the picnic tables when you reach the top. Have Fun!!

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