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Avg & Max Sustained Grades on Markleeville Death Ride?

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Avg & Max Sustained Grades on Markleeville Death Ride?

Old 01-12-11, 09:10 PM
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melgarpoe
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Avg & Max Sustained Grades on Markleeville Death Ride?

Against my better judgment, I've been cajoled into riding the Death Ride this year. I really know better than to ride a route that has the word "death" in the title, but somehow one of my regular riding partners has convinced me.

I'm trying to decide whether to ride it on my older Giant which has a triple (53x39x30) and a 9 speed 12-27 in the rear or my newer Trek which has a double (50x34) and a 10 speed 11-28 in the rear.

I have looked around to see what the average and/or maximum sustained grades are on the 5 passes, but can't find too much in that regard.

Anyone out there who has done the ride before happen to have any info in that regard and/or advice generally on which bike would be the better choice.

I know that since I haven't ridden with most of you (I rode 60 or 70 miles of the Hemet Double in 2010 with Curtis & Dan) it's not really possible to advise me on which bike to ride, but I'm just hoping to get a sense if most of the folks doing the Death Ride are riding either triple cranks or compact doubles with something bigger than a 28 in back.

Anyhow, I welcome your input...

Michael
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Old 01-12-11, 09:22 PM
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I use a compact 50/34 and a 27 rear. It works for me fine. Without knowing your fitness, weight, age, etc, your results may vary. Did you complete the double with the compact? if so, it should do fine for you.

Just my $.02,

BR
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Old 01-12-11, 09:23 PM
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Good for you, you will enjoy it.

As far as bikes a 30/27 (2.2 gear ratio) won't provide you with much easier gears than a 34/28 (2.4 gear ratio) so I would go with the lightest bike. You can even install a MTB cassette with the compact crankset if you have a long cage rear derailleur to get a 2.1 gear ratio with a 32.

If you have climbed Mt. Diablo you will find the DR climbs to be very similar, 5-6% average with some short spikes up to 13-14%. The couple of times I rode the DR I didn't find the climb grade to be challenging, it's more the length of the climbs and their repetition. The first time I had a 29 in the back, the second a 32, both with a 34 front. The 32 allowed me to spin more and prevent cramps for an additional climb.

Start early, before the official 5:30 start, so you don't have to worry about the time cuts and ride at your pace.
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Old 01-12-11, 09:38 PM
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I've not done the Death Ride, but I have done most of the climbs (never Ebbetts Pass, at least not yet) at one time or another, mostly on a loaded touring bike, and have never done more than one at a time.

My advice: If in doubt, go with the lower gears. Far, far better to have 'em and not need 'em than to need 'em and not have 'em. So bring the triple and slap a 30, 32 or even a 34 on the back. At a minimum, put a 34 rear cog on the compact double setup. Interloc Racing Design has what you need. https://www.interlocracing.com/cassettes_steel.html
If it turns out you don't need the lower gears, you can always change the gearing next time.

As for the climbs themselves, Luther is shortest and easiest of the bunch, Carson is the next easiest (you have to go up a roughly 4 mile stretch of steady 5% or 6% to get to where the ways to them split), Monitor is a long grind on either side (and the descent on the Nevada side is one of the all-time great joys of cycling, both for the descent itself and the view) and Ebbetts is the steepest. Keep in mind that Luther is the lowest pass at about 7900 feet and the others are all well over 8,000 feet. The elevation will make a difference.
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Old 01-12-11, 09:45 PM
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try searching strava

if you have some sort of gps software you could download the files from garmin connect
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Old 01-12-11, 10:29 PM
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Luther is no longer part of the DR. You start with Monitor (both sides), then Ebbetts (both sides), and finish with Carson (one side only).

I think your pacing at the beginning dictates the rest of the ride. The DR map says there's nothing over 11%. Well, big surprise to most newcomers, Monitor has a 14% pitch a couple of miles from its base. Combine that with the altitude and you could be on for a shock, I was the first time. So go easy on that section, it's about a mile long, the rest of Monitor is easy.
The descent on the Nevada side is breathtaking as mentioned by bikingshearer. The way up is long, very long but without steep pitches, it's like Diablo South Gate. Just enjoy the view and chat with your friends to pass the time.
The front side of Ebbetts starts easy up to the rest stop. You then have a sharp hairpin and the grade get steeper. After the rocky ridge section there is a series of steep bumps all short. The back side of Ebbetts is short, 4-5 miles, but a constant steeper grind like Summit Rd. on Diablo.
Carson is long, 16 miles, not steep but not easy either as you are tired and the traffic is really annoying especially if you are hit by a late afternoon storm.

The DR is really a fantastic ride. The only part I don't enjoy is the Carson because of the traffic. Close the roads on it as on the other pass and it would be perfect.
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Old 01-12-11, 10:50 PM
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I've done it with both a triple and a compact - as has been noted already, there really isn't much to choose from between them on the gearing. I'd go with the bike you are most comfortable on - yes, there's lots of climbing but it is most of all an endurance event. You have to be comfortable on the bike pretty much all day (for some of us, that day will last a lot longer than for others!).

If you can handle something like Mt. Diablo, then you can handle any of the passes. It's doing all 5 together that makes it hard. The 5th pass is actually the least steep, but it's just a long grind since you will most likely be pretty tired by that point.

JB
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Old 01-12-11, 10:54 PM
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I rode the Hemet Double on the triple crank, but that was because I didn't own a bike with a double crank yet. I did the Eastern Sierra Double and Grand Tour Highland Double with the double crank and were both fine with that gearing.

Both of those later double centuries had tougher climbing than Hemet, so it sounds like your advice is that I should be ok with the double crank on the Death Ride.



Originally Posted by BenRidin View Post
I use a compact 50/34 and a 27 rear. It works for me fine. Without knowing your fitness, weight, age, etc, your results may vary. Did you complete the double with the compact? if so, it should do fine for you.

Just my $.02,

BR
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Old 01-12-11, 11:02 PM
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The DR has more climbing than the ES Double but I found the latter tougher. I am sure the head winds we had at the ESD last year didn't help but the additional 65 miles made it more of a challenge.
You should be fine with the compact double.
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Old 01-12-11, 11:03 PM
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My recollection from 2008 is that the steepest sustained pitches were ~8%, but there were a few short 12-15% pitches here and there. If you can climb a sustained 6-8% in 34-25 or higher, than you can probably get by with the 34-28 as your bailout gear for the steep stuff. (That's what I used.)
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Old 01-12-11, 11:15 PM
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Wow! Lots of great advice. Thanks so much everyone...much appreciated!

I'm a SoCal person, so I've not ridden Mt. Diablo and as such can't really use it for comparison to the Death Ride hills. I'm not the strongest climber when things get up over 11-12%, but I'm pretty comfortable in the 4-8% range, even if they go on for quite a while.

I'm beginning to think I'll give it a shot on the double crank.

I'm going to take both bikes to the Eastern Sierras in June and I'll try some of the long climbs there on each bike to see how they each feel.

Again, thanks all for your helpful advice.
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Old 01-13-11, 08:58 AM
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I haven't done the Death Ride, but I have done the Alta Alpina Challenge. I have to say that it's not really the steepness that gets you, but the cumulative effects of climbing over and over again, which can turn a somewhat easy climb into a real pain. If you look at Carson on an elevation profile it's not going to look like much, but that will be the toughest one.



Don't let that sign (before Ebbetts) freak you out. First of all, there's a long time from where that sign is to where the actual climbing begins. Second, most of the steep stuff is around the switchbacks and it doesn't last very long. The switchbacks kind of keep your mind busy and that makes the climb seem to go by faster.

My advice to you is this: do hill repeats in preparation for the ride. They say it's 15,000 feet, so find the longest climb you can and do repeats on the weekends until you hit 10,000 feet or so. Start out with a repeat, do a threepeat the next week, and so on. That should tell you all you need to know about your gearing. I used a similar strategy for the Alta Alpina Challenge and it worked out very well.

Last edited by DXchulo; 01-13-11 at 09:01 AM.
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Old 01-13-11, 11:01 AM
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OK, thanks for the warning, but any sign that says the upcoming grade is 24% is going to freak me out, at least a little, Especially one that also says "NEXT 25 MILES." I'd like to be able to say that I'm a tough enough rider that I look at a sign like that and just say "BRING IT ON, B***CH," but that would be a lie. A 24% grade over a distance of, say, more than 24 feet, is gonna hurt me. And a sign announcing that it's coming up soon is gonna freak me out a bit. But I'm pretty well convinced to bring the bike with a double crank, which I prefer to ride whenever possible.

Anyhow, thanks for the info. I checked out your blog and saw your comment about wanting to ride in Monument Valley. I've had the same thought several times while on mountain biking trips in Utah. This April, a group of us from SoCal are heading to Utah & AZ to actually do it. A couple days in Monument Valley and then a couple more rides in AZ and Southern Utah...I can't wait!

Originally Posted by DXchulo View Post
I haven't done the Death Ride, but I have done the Alta Alpina Challenge. I have to say that it's not really the steepness that gets you, but the cumulative effects of climbing over and over again, which can turn a somewhat easy climb into a real pain. If you look at Carson on an elevation profile it's not going to look like much, but that will be the toughest one.



Don't let that sign (before Ebbetts) freak you out. First of all, there's a long time from where that sign is to where the actual climbing begins. Second, most of the steep stuff is around the switchbacks and it doesn't last very long. The switchbacks kind of keep your mind busy and that makes the climb seem to go by faster.

My advice to you is this: do hill repeats in preparation for the ride. They say it's 15,000 feet, so find the longest climb you can and do repeats on the weekends until you hit 10,000 feet or so. Start out with a repeat, do a threepeat the next week, and so on. That should tell you all you need to know about your gearing. I used a similar strategy for the Alta Alpina Challenge and it worked out very well.

Last edited by melgarpoe; 01-13-11 at 11:03 AM. Reason: Added a bit more...
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Old 01-13-11, 12:45 PM
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The sign before Ebbetts shouldn't freak you out, because you don't hit that section of road on the Death Ride :-). It's on the east side of Pacific Grade, which is after the Death Ride turnaround point.

I agree with Jonathan, it's much more of an endurance event. There's nothing really steep.
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Old 01-13-11, 02:09 PM
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Not everyone enjoys it, but the best prep I have done for the deathride was just to go ride Diablo 3x in a row. Takes about 4.5 hours at a good pace and simulates the length and difficulty of the first 10k climbing on Deathride. Then, you have the bit up to and over Carson, which is always miserable, but at least you're nearly done.

I've never found Altitude to be a big deal at DR, probably because you're dropping down to 4k in the valley each time. But ymmv, it gets some people quicker than others.
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Old 01-13-11, 02:20 PM
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I used a 50/34 with a 28T cassette at the 2010 edition. It was my first time doing the DR and the gearing was fine.
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