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  1. #1
    Senior Member mkadam68's Avatar
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    Difficulty Ranking of Area Rides

    With all the talk of upcoming rides, I was curious: is it possible to rank, in terms of difficulty, organized SoCal rides? I'm sure there would be much debate, and if you're not familiar (like myself) with any of the rides, you can't knowledgeably participate in the discussion. But I love to read what you all have to say about the various rides.

    Of course, how do you decide what's difficult or not? Double centuries are probably harder than centuries. The 508 harder still and Paris-Brest-Paris (not in SoCal) hardest of all. Climbing definitely comes into play. Steepness of climbs has to count. But not if there's only 2-miles of them.

    So let's limit the discussion to single centuries (not metric) for now. I'll watch and listen to your arguments and follow-up with a poll so we can make it "official" .

    What are your impressions?

  2. #2
    Senior Member ronjon10's Avatar
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    I rate difficulty by looking at the ratio of Mileage to (Feet of Climbing/100). I divide the feet of climbing by 100 to get the 2 numbers on a similar scale.

    So A 100 mile ride with 2000 feet of climbing is a .20 ratio. That should be a relatively easy century with a max of one BIG hill, or several smaller hills, and otherwise flat.

    A 100 mile ride with 10,000 feet of climbing is a 1.0 ratio (The 12/30 Bloat ride was a 1.0). I can keep that up for 40-50 miles, but I couldn't do 100 miles of that.

    I like using this ratio because it keeps things nice and mathmatical for me. So far, it's served as an excellent way for me to compare rides.

    Most organized rides around here are falling in the .40 - .65 range. I don't bother with wind, since it's unpredictable and inconsistent. But if we're talking about rating the organized rides, and it's generally a windy course, then I'd just know it's a little harder.
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    Merlins are forever... madmike's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ronjon10
    I rate difficulty by looking at the ratio of Mileage to (Feet of Climbing/100). I divide the feet of climbing by 100 to get the 2 numbers on a similar scale.

    So A 100 mile ride with 2000 feet of climbing is a .20 ratio. That should be a relatively easy century with a max of one BIG hill, or several smaller hills, and otherwise flat.

    A 100 mile ride with 10,000 feet of climbing is a 1.0 ratio (The 12/30 Bloat ride was a 1.0). I can keep that up for 40-50 miles, but I couldn't do 100 miles of that.

    I like using this ratio because it keeps things nice and mathmatical for me. So far, it's served as an excellent way for me to compare rides.

    Most organized rides around here are falling in the .40 - .65 range. I don't bother with wind, since it's unpredictable and inconsistent. But if we're talking about rating the organized rides, and it's generally a windy course, then I'd just know it's a little harder.
    That's actually a pretty good way to do it. I do something similar but not mathematic. I've always looked at distance, total elevation gain and the elevation profile to get an idea of the difficulty of the ride. I look at the profile as this lets me see where the hills are along the course. For instance take two centuries both with 5000 feet of climbing. One with all the climbing in the first 50 miles would be easier than the one with the majority of the climbing in the last 30.
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  4. #4
    Live To Ride Another Day! MarkAJ's Avatar
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    So Stagecoach is rated .33 assuming 100 miles and 3,300 feet elevation?

    I always look at the miles to vertical gain and where the climbing is loaded: front, back or both. I already know I enjoy Century rides 4K and under front loaded, but that is because of trial and error. (And age.) This not to say I do not attempt other rides but it’s a yard stick I use. I agree you can not use weather for ratings, but one must factor this in on the day of the ride. I love a good elevation profile so I can plan my ride which is pedal until you’re done. Another important factor in rating a non-supported ride is access to water and potty.

    I see bicycle clubs using a numerical or star rating system. The higher the number or more stars the more difficult the ride. All in all I use all the information I can gain to judge the ride.

    From the SVBC web site: 1 means a short-distance, relatively flat ride; 3 means an intermediate, medium-distance, somewhat hilly ride; 5 means a difficult, long-distance, and/or mountainous ride

    From the Channel Islands Bicycle Club web site: RIDE DIFFICULTY: A=flat; B=rolling; C=climbing; D= major climbing; E= catch a tram!

    Bicycle Ride Director’s Association of America (BRDAA) scale: The Bicycle Ride Director's Association of America (BRDAA) has developed the ride difficulty rating scale described in the chart shown here.
    The 50 mile route is rated * * * *
    The 100 mile route is rated * * * * *
    Last edited by MarkAJ; 03-05-08 at 01:59 PM.
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  5. #5
    Senior Member ronjon10's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by MarkAJ
    So Stagecoach is rated .33 assuming 100 miles and 3,300 feet elevation?

    I see bicycle clubs using a numerical or star rating system. The higher the number or more stars the more difficult the ride. All in all I use all the information I can gain to judge the ride.

    From the Channel Islands Bicycle Club web site: RIDE DIFFICULTY: A=flat; B=rolling; C=climbing; D= major climbing; E= catch a tram!
    Correct, that's how I'd rate the stagecoach ride, a .33. This blew my mind though. The Death Valley 508 ride is a .77 with its 39,000 feet over 508 miles. To me that means the course is rougly 2.5x harder, and of course, 5x longer. That really puts that ride in perspective for me.

    The problem I have with the star system which incorporates both mileage and distance, is that every century gets rated very difficult. Basically, if it's 100 mile, it's a 5 star difficulty. That doesn't leave variation for differences between Palm Springs and Breathless Agony.

    So for me, I just use the elevation rating and make my own judgement on distance. A 40-50 mile 1.0 is something I'd tackle (bloat ride (I cut early at GMR)). A 1.0 century (mulholland challenge) is clearly beyond me right now.

    The channel island system looks like it uses my method, they just make it even simpler by grouping the ratios into buckets. (ie, 0-.30 = A, .3-.5 = b etc) <- I don't know their official measurements, just an example.
    Last edited by ronjon10; 01-11-07 at 04:53 PM.
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  6. #6
    got the climbing bug jsigone's Avatar
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    what about rides that are less then 100 miles but have boat loads of climbing, how can we caluculate factor?

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    Senior Member big john's Avatar
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    I prefer the "Seat of the pants" system for centuries. I think Breathless Agony is the hardest local century, Muholland Challenge close second. Flip these for some riders.I thought Solvang was a little harder than Cool Breeze, but niether of them compares to the other two. Heartbreak Hundred falls in between the first two and the second two. While not quite 100 miles, the L.A. Wheelmen Angeles Crest to San Gabriel Canyon and Two Tujungas rides are both harder than Cool Breeze. I think the climbing is the biggest part of the difficulty. Lets face it, 100 flat miles isn't that hard, barring huge headwinds. I once rode from Julian to Laguna, around 85-90 miles, and with the wind and touring bike it took about 11 hours.

  8. #8
    In beaurocratic limbo urbanknight's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by mkadam68
    Steepness of climbs has to count. But not if there's only 2-miles of them.
    That's my biggest complaint about the ratings on local rides, they don't mention how steep the hills. I'd rather do 3000' of consistant climbing over, say 40 miles than gain 1000' in only a mile. It's hard to tell what the grades are when looking at the elevation profile on the route planners so that leaves us guessing,

  9. #9
    Senior Member ronjon10's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by urbanknight
    That's my biggest complaint about the ratings on local rides, they don't mention how steep the hills. I'd rather do 3000' of consistant climbing over, say 40 miles than gain 1000' in only a mile. It's hard to tell what the grades are when looking at the elevation profile on the route planners so that leaves us guessing,
    I think (and could be very, very wrong) that most organized centuries take the longer gentler grades rather than the brutal insane climbs because the insane steep grades just hurt most normal folks. The ones that have the killer climbs advertise that fact, so they can attract the true crazies

    Now then, if it's just an unorganized ride, you're right, we're on our own. If we accidentally pick Las Flores rather than Malibu Canyon to get from PCH to Mulholland, well, ouch.
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  10. #10
    Senior Member mkadam68's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by big john
    I prefer the "Seat of the pants" system for centuries. I think Breathless Agony is the hardest local century, Muholland Challenge close second. Flip these for some riders.I thought Solvang was a little harder than Cool Breeze, but niether of them compares to the other two. Heartbreak Hundred falls in between the first two and the second two. While not quite 100 miles, the L.A. Wheelmen Angeles Crest to San Gabriel Canyon and Two Tujungas rides are both harder than Cool Breeze. I think the climbing is the biggest part of the difficulty. Lets face it, 100 flat miles isn't that hard, barring huge headwinds. I once rode from Julian to Laguna, around 85-90 miles, and with the wind and touring bike it took about 11 hours.
    Okay... So how would anyone else order the following, hardest to easiest? (Feel free to expand the list with others upcoming or ones you have done as well as insightful comments .)

    Like Big John:
    1. Breathless Agony
    2. Mulholland Challenge
    3. Heartbreak Hundred
    4. Solvang
    5. LAW Angeles Crest-San Gabriel Canyon (??)
    6. LAW Two Tujungas (??)
    7. Cool Breeze

  11. #11
    In beaurocratic limbo urbanknight's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ronjon10
    I think (and could be very, very wrong) that most organized centuries take the longer gentler grades rather than the brutal insane climbs because the insane steep grades just hurt most normal folks. The ones that have the killer climbs advertise that fact, so they can attract the true crazies

    Now then, if it's just an unorganized ride, you're right, we're on our own. If we accidentally pick Las Flores rather than Malibu Canyon to get from PCH to Mulholland, well, ouch.
    Yeah, I was mianly thinking of some of the "moderate hills" I went up on some SFVBC rides.

  12. #12
    late braker
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    climbs in the santa monicas, hard to easy(er)

    los flores canyon (including los flores)
    tuna canyon (all the way to saddle peak)
    decker
    piuma
    encinal
    westridge
    latigo
    stunt
    tigertail
    mullholland (rock store)

    there are others, just not as much fun (traffic, etc)
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  13. #13
    Senior Member big john's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by mkadam68
    Okay... So how would anyone else order the following, hardest to easiest? (Feel free to expand the list with others upcoming or ones you have done as well as insightful comments .)

    Like Big John:
    1. Breathless Agony
    2. Mulholland Challenge
    3. Heartbreak Hundred
    4. Solvang
    5. LAW Angeles Crest-San Gabriel Canyon (??)
    6. LAW Two Tujungas (??)
    7. Cool Breeze
    That's pretty cool, Mark. I'd say you could put the Wildflower and the Lighthouse close to the Cool Breeze, and those 3 rides are pretty close to Solvang on paper, but I think Solvang is harder than them for reasons other than just vertical gain. There is a section of Solvang (Foxen Canyon) that just wears me out, it's 20 miles of false flat and the surface is rough, then there is a hill at the end. That's part of the difficulty of rating rides, there can be factors other than just climbing.

  14. #14
    Senior Member big john's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by dangerman
    climbs in the santa monicas, hard to easy(er)

    los flores canyon (including los flores)
    tuna canyon (all the way to saddle peak)
    decker
    piuma
    encinal
    westridge
    latigo
    stunt
    tigertail
    mullholland (rock store)

    there are others, just not as much fun (traffic, etc)
    What is Tigertail? I would put Latigo harder than Encinal. What about Westlake, (Decker north of Mulholland), and Deer Creek would be close to the top of that list. Yerba Buena could be right below Decker. Fernwood right around Stunt, just longer.

  15. #15
    Senior Member mkadam68's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by big john
    That's part of the difficulty of rating rides, there can be factors other than just climbing.
    Yeah...that's why I was hoping we could start a discussion about it...get input from all the riders who have done them. The listing would then be more accurate.

    Quote Originally Posted by big john
    That's pretty cool, Mark. I'd say you could put the Wildflower and the Lighthouse close to the Cool Breeze, and those 3 rides are pretty close to Solvang on paper, but I think Solvang is harder than them for reasons other than just vertical gain. There is a section of Solvang (Foxen Canyon) that just wears me out, it's 20 miles of false flat and the surface is rough, then there is a hill at the end.
    Okay...revised:
    1. Breathless Agony
    2. Mulholland Challenge
    3. Heartbreak Hundred
    4. Solvang
    5. LAW Angeles Crest-San Gabriel Canyon (??)
    6. LAW Two Tujungas (??)
    7. (tie) Cool Breeze, Lighthouse, Wildflower

  16. #16
    Queen of France Indolent58's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by mkadam68
    Yeah...that's why I was hoping we could start a discussion about it...get input from all the riders who have done them. The listing would then be more accurate.

    Okay...revised:
    1. Breathless Agony
    2. Mulholland Challenge
    3. Heartbreak Hundred
    4. Solvang
    5. LAW Angeles Crest-San Gabriel Canyon (??)
    6. LAW Two Tujungas (??)
    7. (tie) Cool Breeze, Lighthouse, Wildflower
    What about the Burrito Century?

  17. #17
    late braker
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    Quote Originally Posted by big john
    What is Tigertail? I would put Latigo harder than Encinal. What about Westlake, (Decker north of Mulholland), and Deer Creek would be close to the top of that list. Yerba Buena could be right below Decker. Fernwood right around Stunt, just longer.
    It was late last night, and I kinda threw encinal in there. yes, its easier than latigo.

    Haven't done Westlake, only driven it. Looks fun. I couldn't remember the name Fernwood, but that should be in there.

    Tigertail runs off Kenter just north of the Sunset/Kenter intersection. Its three distinct pitches. 1st one is short, just a prelude, second pitch is steeper and longer, and the last pitch gets above 15%.

    Other climbs I looked over...and glaring in their omission:

    Mandeville. Starts off easy, progressively harder to the top.
    Amalfi: Never too hard, great recovery climb
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