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  1. #1
    need to go out and ride.. ruirui's Avatar
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    Tips for first timers heading up Mt. Hamilton?

    i've been riding for quite some time now but only in the recent 2 yrs i've been riding a lot more and gotten into logging more miles. mt. hamilton has been a route that i've only dare to read about and it was only recently a group i ride with (we're all amateurs and not racers or anything - kinda like on/off weekend warriors) one of them said we should try mt. hamilton. i thought i was a joke till they started to seriously talk about it and plan it.

    as one of them put it.. we'll never know till we try it; which i believe it is so. we'll be heading out there this coming Saturday, time has yet been determined, but plan to start from alum rock and 130 intersection. then try to make it up to lick and back down - alive and in 1 piece.

    here's what i am riding with besides the safety gears:
    gears: compact 50/34 & 11/28T
    hydration: 2 x Camelbak Podium Big Chill 25 oz Bottle
    fuel: power bars, jelly belly beans, protein bars

    i'll be going slow to conserve as much energy as possible staying seated. for hydration, should put 1 bottle with water and 1 with gatorade? or should i bring both + my Camelbak HydroBak 50 oz Hydration Pack? i heard there's no cell reception and no water source till you get up to lick. so don't wanna die of dehydration going up or retreating back down and bonk.

    any suggestions and tips are very welcomed... cuz i think i'll need all the help i can get, unless if someone wants to tow me up there...

  2. #2
    moth -----> flame Beaker's Avatar
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    Hard to believe, but I've only climbed Hamilton once. As I recall there is water at a park facility just after the first (or second) climb on e way up (it comes in 3 waves at you). Hamilton isn't that steep, so I'd just focus on riding at a sustainable pace, depending on how long/hard your normal rides are.

    Two things you didn't mention that are worth thinking about - 1) temps are heading up again at the end of the week, plan to start riding early to avoid getting baked - some time between 7&8 maybe depending on how long you think it'll take you 2) be mindful of the descent - there's nothing particularly bad about Hamilton, but if you're not used to an 18mile mountain descent plan to take it easy, don't ride your brakes etc. Everyone thinks about the climb part, but if you're not used to descending hills, that can be just as big a challenge.

    Have fun and report back.

  3. #3
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    Gotta agree with Beaker re; temps. Gonna be in the 90's this weekend, so that's going to be your biggest concern. Personally, I never ride Hamilton unless it's no hotter than about 85. The last 6 miles or so up to the observatory can be brutally hot. Not trying to dissuade you, but even if you find water, the heat could slowly sap your energy. Also, as Beaker mentioned there are 3 sections, separated by longer-than-I'd-like descents. Fine on the way up, but on the way back, it's hard to get the legs going again after being idle so long. Just keep those climbs on the return in mind. Lastly, Caltrans has a new surface treatment method for some of their roads, which is terrible for bikes. And of course they've done it on a long stretch of this road. They chip seal roads with a ridiculously large chip (3/4 to 1" chip) which makes it really slow going, and quite a slog for bikes. This occurs throughout the second section of the road.

    Just like when you meet a person for the first time, you only get one chance to make a first impression. Hamilton is a great endurance climb, but you don't want to have your first impression be that it's just a brutal hot mess (literally!) Still, if you make it up, it's a good accomplishment, and know that it will only be better the next time you go. If you are comfortable descending at speed, Hamilton is really awesome, especially in the sections not ruined by the chip seal. Good luck!

  4. #4
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    I've been riding up Hamilton on a fairly consistent basis recently. Yesterday ended up being the best. It began misting at about the four mile point until about three miles from observatory and then the road seemed to dry out. I had seen a few dozen cyclists descending on my way up and most seemed to employ a particularly paranoiac style of riding the brakes and consequently were going downhill at climbing speed (road and tires were damp, but the rims/brakes wouldn't have been).

    Anyway, I got to the top and since a dry breeze seemed to have kicked in, I decided to linger at look at the San Antonio Valley for a while. I proceeded down and the road was completely dry and I didn't encounter any autos until the second uphill section when about five cars passed me. This was a very non-typical day around here as usually when our roads get wet they stay that way. I felt like I was riding in Hawaii yesterday actually.

    The big change in the road since last year is that the very worse two mile section--just past the bridge on the final six mile ascent to the observatory--has been wonderfully smoothed out. This makes a huge difference in the enjoyment of the descent; the middle section before this was I believe paved with a rougher conglomerate chip seal--but I really don't find it too uncomfortable or annoying like what was done to Skyline (and I'm certainly a kvetcher in matters like this). Overall I'd agree with posters in an earlier thread about the road that it's in far superior shape to what it was early last year.

    That all said, going up it isn't really a big deal. It's just long and I'd avoid doing it on a warmer summer afternoon when auto and motorcycle traffic is likely to be higher and your personal energy is likely to be sapped. Descending one has to watch for rocks (and the occasional deer--I saw one two weeks ago) and apply brakes judiciously before entering turns.

    Should be a definite "do" for any cyclist around these parts--you'll never look at those egg shells adorning the mountain the same way afterwards...

  5. #5
    need to go out and ride.. ruirui's Avatar
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    @beaker: thanks for the tip. i did notice this saturday will be hot, so that's why i thought maybe bring extra water would be a good idea. but you are right.. the descent is what i worry about the most actually, since i'm not too comfortable with my ride going past 35mph and have heard many ppl descent like kamikazes. might be more afraid to get run over.. lol.

    @cthenn: wow.. now that you mentioned chips on the road and on the descent part.. i'm wondering if i should get my front wheel trued. it's off a bit, but not too much. you're right.. besides worrying about the descent.. i worried my legs being idle for so long.. not sure if muscle can take the climb on the way back.

    @SClaraPokeman: the view look awesome for ppl's photos and blogs.. but i know being there to experience it all is even more pleasant.

    on another note.. i have carbon clinchers.. which i know if i ride the brakes.. it'll overheat and i'll be deadmeat... any suggestions on how to apply brakes downhill? i'm use to pumps and squeezes.. but not sure if that will be enough?
    Last edited by ruirui; 05-28-13 at 10:47 AM.

  6. #6
    derailleurs are overrated bigbenaugust's Avatar
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    Water and patience... and also a good granny ring.

    I have done it three times, once each in '04, '05, and '10. Can't add much to everyone else's tips above. It's a lot of fun.
    --Ben
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  7. #7
    need to go out and ride.. ruirui's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by bigbenaugust View Post
    Water and patience... and also a good granny ring.

    I have done it three times, once each in '04, '05, and '10. Can't add much to everyone else's tips above. It's a lot of fun.
    man.. i wish i have granny ring.. i only have a 50/34. maybe i should ride my sirrus out.. now that has a tripple in front.

  8. #8
    Come on, it'll be fun BenRidin's Avatar
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    Is this an out and back from Livermore?
    Looking for a chateau. Twenty-one rooms but one will do. I don't want to buy it. I just want to rent it for an hour or two.

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by ruirui View Post
    man.. i wish i have granny ring.. i only have a 50/34. maybe i should ride my sirrus out.. now that has a tripple in front.
    You said earlier you have an 11-28 cassette? A 34x28 certainly qualifies as a "granny" gear . That should be more than enough to get you up there. It's never steep, only averages like 5%, some sections of 6%, but nothing more than that.

    Also, don't worry about the chip. I like to think I'm reasonably fit, and it definitely slows me down, which is more annoying than anything else. No need to worry about your wheels.

    Also echo what was said about watching out for rocks. Not so much big rocks, but a lot of smaller rocks/sand in some of the tight turns, especially in the second section on your return. Be careful of those, you don't want to be going too fast and hit a patch of sand on your road slicks...

    Carbon wheels are kind of a mess, but that's just my personal opinion. I've ridden carbon wheels, and I don't like them. Like you say, they get ridiculously hot very easily, and SQUEEEEEEEEEEEEAL all. the. time. Unless you are a racer looking for the latest tech, and lightest stuff, I much prefer the (relative) security of a well built alloy rim. Same with handlebars and stems! But again, you don't really have to worry about riding the brakes, since the grades are pretty mellow. Especially the last part...enjoy the speed, it's great!
    Last edited by cthenn; 05-28-13 at 04:31 PM.

  10. #10
    need to go out and ride.. ruirui's Avatar
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    @BenRidin: nah.. just from alum rock to lick and back down.

    @cthenn: ok.. will give that a try and see. hopefully my friends will chicken out and we can go when we are more prepared.. i hope... haha. but first need to get my front wheels trued first.

  11. #11
    moth -----> flame Beaker's Avatar
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    No need to postpone, I bet you'll find it's well within your grasp. If you're not used to long descents, the carbon clinchers don't sound like the best option. Paging ericm in 3....2.....1.....

  12. #12
    derailleurs are overrated bigbenaugust's Avatar
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    I did it twice on my touring bike with 46/36/26 front and 11-28 rear and once (2010) on my CX bike with 50/34 front and 11-26 rear. I was in much better shape for the '10 ride and we took a long stop at Grant Park for the group to regroup at the SAG wagon. We also attempted to change a flat on the SAG wagon, but there was too much crap in the back and the driver decided to wait for the other car.
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  13. #13
    Senior Member ericm979's Avatar
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    Yea, I am not a fan of carbon clinchers for climbs with technical descents. On a climb the aero benefit is low, as is the weight benefit (I know the OP has a pretty light set- most carbon clinchers are heavier than good aluminium wheels). So low that it's not worth it unless you are racing and even then it's pretty small. On this descent the aero benefit is both small (it is not a high speed descent) and pointless, since descending speed on something like Hamilton is determined by skill level.

    When I am doing a ride or race where I am unsure if the carbon clinchers can handle the descents, I use aluminium wheels. I have used carbon clinchers for the Mt Ham RR (there's always a headwind for the last 30 miles of the race). But I don't weigh much, am a reasonably good descender, and know the descent down the east side of Hamilton well.

    OTOH lately I have been passing a lot of guys with carbon clinchers while riding up Hamilton, and I don't see them wrecked by the side of the road when I go back down, or see flocks of vultures circling. So maybe it's not a descent that is steep enough to cause problems.

  14. #14
    Member bobonker's Avatar
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    There's a water stop after the first climb. Definitely stop there and refill. I did it in January of last year (ie, it wasn't hot) and I was really glad that I didn't skip that water stop! Nothing worse than running out on a hot day...especially on a climb.

    Bob
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  15. #15
    Family, Health, Cycling Lanceoldstrong's Avatar
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    If you get it done in under 2 days you will smoke the time posted by this guy on his first Hamilton.
    http://bikemaster.org/road-history/m...ton/fuller.htm
    In Escendo Est Verum

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    Senior Member ericm979's Avatar
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    Bob, where is the water? Somewhere in Grant Ranch?

    For those of you who do the east side of Mt Ham there is a spring at the hairpin right below the 3 mile mark. I have not drunk from it but it's good for wetting your helmet down on a hot day- the spring box has a spigot. It can get really hot on that side. The highest I have seen was 107 degrees.

    (I do not suggest the east side for people new to big climbs- it's steep).

  17. #17
    need to go out and ride.. ruirui's Avatar
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    man.. so far, the group i'm going is in a limbo. since everyone is a first timer and with the weather that hot, chances are... we might not go out on Sat. but we'll see how it goes..

  18. #18
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    Quote Originally Posted by ericm979 View Post
    Bob, where is the water? Somewhere in Grant Ranch?

    (I do not suggest the east side for people new to big climbs- it's steep).
    there's a water fountain on the right side of the grant park visitor center after quimby road. I usually only need one bottle to get to the observatory from there, but when it's hot i fill my second bottle up there to use for 'thermoregulation'.

    When I do hamilton I usually come from my house in south SJ, go up metcalf, then quimby, the frontside of hamilton, and if it's not too hot/i have enough daylight, the backside. After doing those first two climbs, everything else (including the backside of Hamilton) doesn't seem very steep.

  19. #19
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    Wow really? Never knew that, thanks!! So the fountain is at, or beyond the entrance kiosk?

  20. #20
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    There is also water tap spigot next to porta pottie at parking lot on the left (when climbing) side. Right before road turns right and kicks up for 2d climb.
    Also, as you reach the summit (right after sharp right turn to observatory) there is another spigot on the building there.
    If you come too early the main entrance of observatory is closed (till 12pm) but you can enter on the left side where post office is and fill water and visit bathrooms. There are vending machines there as well, just make sure you have crisp dollar bills.
    Since it'll be hot this weekend simply start early and enjoy perfect conditions during actual climb.

  21. #21
    RacingBear UmneyDurak's Avatar
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    I am just going to say it: HTFO and ride the damn thing. It's not that difficult. Quit psyching yourself out.
    I see hills.... Bring them on!!!
    Stay calm and bring a towel.

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    The canyon classic ride on June 8 has a ride going from Patterson up the backside of Hamilton. That would be a nice supported ride that should ease your concerns about making it up.

  23. #23
    blt
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    Quote Originally Posted by Lanceoldstrong View Post
    If you get it done in under 2 days you will smoke the time posted by this guy on his first Hamilton.
    http://bikemaster.org/road-history/m...ton/fuller.htm
    Thanks for posting that. It raises SO many issues.

    First off, it reminds me of how much I am annoyed when I have to start my ride late because just when I am about to start, the pastor calls and insists that I do some duplication and typewriting. DARN THOSE PASTORS!!

    Next, I have to remember a variety of strategies to reduce my weight. Sure, it is great when those boys from Los Gatos pass by admiring my equipment and think that it could scarcely be improved on. Anyone who has seen me out riding knows that I am not a weight weenie, but me, when I'm going up Hamilton, I'm leaving the oil cloth tent at home. And really, an improvised broiler, a frying pan, a kettle, AND a granite pan? Surely not all of those are necessary. Me, I'm just going to bring the frying pan and the kettle. And while I know that a hearty mid-night lunch really helps get up the mountain, I think 6 potatoes is more than necessary, especially if I'm going to have lunch at the Smith Creek Hotel on the way up.

    Which reminds me, how do I find the Smith Creek Hotel? This is the first Mount Ham ride report I've seen mention it. Sounds like a great place to take a break!! I am also interested in following the telephone poles instead of the road and saving a lot of miles. I realize this means walking the bike up instead of riding, and I know that climbing a little over 1,000 feet per mile is hard enough without dragging a loaded bike along, but if I end up on one of those days where there is a continuous procession of machines, I might rather be on the road less travelled.

    I want to find those nice janitors who give tours. And the Lick Observatory website BEGS people not to come at night, claiming it is closed, but this ride report shows that to be false. I want those proffessors to explain things to me in an interesting manner.

    My favorite part of the report, however, is the part about the descent from Smith Creek Hotel: "Only took two headers resulting in slight bruises." Only two headers and only slight bruises? I can only hope to descend Mt. Ham so successfully.

    This fellow hopes he can go on a similar excursion soon. It sounds like the best. I wonder if he'd let me tag along?

    This was my favorite written ride report ever!! My favorite ride report ever is in video form, that of Mr. Pither's Cycling Tour, which, if nothing else, taught me the importance of never allowing my pump to get caught in my trouser leg, as well as introducing me to the best cycling food there is, banana and cheese sandwiches. But this is a thread about Mt. Ham, not Devon and Cornwall, so I'm sure this was the best Mt. Ham ride report ever!! Thanks again!!

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    I think you'd need to manage the intricacies of time travel to stay at the Smith Creek Hotel--it must have been nice though.

    On a more serious note, I think I've seen a for sale sign on the Grandview Restaurant (at mile 4.3, est. 1962) my past couple of trips up. People from out of the area I've taken there over the years at night have really loved it. I'll be seriously bummed if it closes...

  25. #25
    Come on, it'll be fun BenRidin's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by UmneyDurak View Post
    I am just going to say it: HTFO and ride the damn thing. It's not that difficult. Quit psyching yourself out.
    ^^^ This ^^^
    Looking for a chateau. Twenty-one rooms but one will do. I don't want to buy it. I just want to rent it for an hour or two.

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