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Comparing Climbs: Bluffers Park (Toronto) vs Sausaltio (San Fran)

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Road Cycling “It is by riding a bicycle that you learn the contours of a country best, since you have to sweat up the hills and coast down them. Thus you remember them as they actually are, while in a motor car only a high hill impresses you, and you have no such accurate remembrance of country you have driven through as you gain by riding a bicycle.” -- Ernest Hemingway

Comparing Climbs: Bluffers Park (Toronto) vs Sausaltio (San Fran)

Old 08-26-11, 01:05 PM
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spunkyj
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Comparing Climbs: Bluffers Park (Toronto) vs Sausaltio (San Fran)

All summer I've been doing a longish bike ride each weekend (50-80 Km). (Started with my commuter and finally picked up a used road bike--about 10 lbs lighter--about a month ago).

In any case, one of my first long rides (on my commuting bike) was to Bluffer's Park from downtown Toronto. The climb out of the park killed me and I had to dismount and walk. More recently (and in better shape) I rented a bike in San Francisco (a Giant brand aluminum "fitness hybrid") and biked over the Golden Gate bridge into Sausilito (big long downhill into town), and up to a pretty and hilly park near Mill Valley. After a fair bit of uphills in the park (already a good workout) we headed home which required cycling back up the hill towards the Golden Gate bridge. It wasn't easy, but I made it this time without any problem. I would say it's probably the single largest and longest hill I've cycled successfully at this point.

To those who are familiar with both hills: I'm now curious as to how the hill out of Sausilito in San Fran. compares to the hill out of Bluffer's Park in Toronto. Which one is steeper/longer/more difficult? Is it time for me to try the Bluffer's Park hill again with the new road bike? (And yes, I'm aware that I could simply go see for myself--I'm just curious as to the opinions of others who have done both these climbs). Cheers!
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Old 08-26-11, 01:25 PM
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I'm not familiar with the Bluffer's Park hill in Toronto (my biking there was confined to the more level streets downtown and on my way to/from the airport), so I can't answer your question directly. But another factor that can play a big role is the gearing of the two bikes. Rental hybrids in SF tend to have some very low gearing making it much easier to climb hills without having to walk. Your road bike is probably significantly lighter but is also likely to be geared higher - this will usually have a much bigger effect than the lower weight.
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Old 08-26-11, 01:47 PM
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Toronto has climbing???
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Old 08-26-11, 02:22 PM
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Originally Posted by rbart4506 View Post
Toronto has climbing???
I wouldn't generalize to "climbing".

According to Wikipedia the Scarborough Bluffs are around 200 ft high. The hill out of Bluffer's park is from the Marina (bottom of the cliffs) to the top in a rather short distance. Being new and all, I don't know how challenging this short climb is for the more experienced riders out there. Perhaps some Torontonians can chime in...
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Old 08-26-11, 03:25 PM
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Cool. I've done both on the same bike, so I think I give some input here.

Assuming I'm talking about the right stretch of road here, the climb out of Sausalito on Alexander Ave towards the Golden Gate Bridge is really easy. A quick check shows about 300 feet of climbing, with the steepest grade of 15% only lasting for about 1/4 mile.

Bluffers Park along Brimley Rd, on the other hand, is something like 20% slope for 1/4 mile, then <5% for another 1/2 mile, which I guess would be the kicker if you emptied the tank on the first part of the hill.

All that being said, neither hills stand out in my mind as more difficult than the other, but if you go strictly by the numbers, maybe Bluffers Park?
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Old 08-26-11, 04:55 PM
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Originally Posted by spunkyj View Post
I rented a bike in San Francisco (a Giant brand aluminum "fitness hybrid") and biked over the Golden Gate bridge into Sausilito (big long downhill into town), and up to a pretty and hilly park near Mill Valley. After a fair bit of uphills in the park (already a good workout) we headed home which required cycling back up the hill towards the Golden Gate bridge. It wasn't easy, but I made it this time without any problem. I would say it's probably the single largest and longest hill I've cycled successfully at this point.
I'm not familiar with Toronto, but Alexander Ave up to the GG Bridge from Sausalito isn't really considered a big hill. However, I hate that part. The reason being it's always the last hill on a ride, I've been out all afternoon and start feeling tired, it's a blowhole, and the cold foggy air from the gate comes whooshing at you. It's usually too soon to have pulled out a jacket and put on a light (I usually do that at the lot up top before crossing the bridge). In addition it's starting to get dark, it's full of tourist drivers not always focused on their driving. You also tend to want to get it over with, so push it just a little hard after a long ride. All negatives tend to collect on this annoying little stretch of road. Of course, it's also where you always discover you have an slow air leak or forgot to bring a jacket. We frequently get on the ferry across the bay from Sausalito solely to avoid this stretch around sunset. It doesn't inspire happy thoughts.

A bigger hill would be heading up out of Mill Valley to Panoramic and Stinson Beach/Fairfax Road/Alpine Dam. That's our usual 'short' (60ish miles out and back from my garage) ride. Longer rides tend to be flatter, continuing up hwy 1 and cutting inland to Nicasio Valley then pick our way back via Fairfax. Fairfax to Sausalito is kinda dull so we often ride out further then plan to return via the ferry in Larkspur. These usually end up around 120mi or so with a stop for lunch, but not with a whole lot of vertical so lots of easy cruising.

I think Mill Valley to Stinson Beach, then back up Bolinas-Fairfax Rd via Alpine Dam to Fairfax and returning via the sprawl to Mill Valley is the quintessential Marin ride... (It's also pretty short if you don't have to ride to Mill Valley from SF and back as well, so start the hill with fresh legs and are done with the hills when the downhill roll into Fairfax begins.)
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Old 08-26-11, 05:09 PM
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Originally Posted by davecheng View Post
Cool. I've done both on the same bike, so I think I give some input here.

Assuming I'm talking about the right stretch of road here, the climb out of Sausalito on Alexander Ave towards the Golden Gate Bridge is really easy. A quick check shows about 300 feet of climbing, with the steepest grade of 15% only lasting for about 1/4 mile.

Bluffers Park along Brimley Rd, on the other hand, is something like 20% slope for 1/4 mile, then <5% for another 1/2 mile, which I guess would be the kicker if you emptied the tank on the first part of the hill.

All that being said, neither hills stand out in my mind as more difficult than the other, but if you go strictly by the numbers, maybe Bluffers Park?
Thanks for the great response! It's exactly what I was looking for. Sounds to me that the 20% grade out of Bluffer's park is the more intense climb. And, as another poster correctly pointed out (thanks btw!) the gearing on my road bike is probably higher than on the rental bike in SF.

Given the above, I should probably get some practice on some shallower grades with my road bike before attempting Bluffer's Park again (my real fear is of stalling on the Bluffer's park hill, coming to a standstill, and then not being able to clip out before falling over--potentially into traffic if I were to fall the wrong way!). Any recommendations for easier hills to practice on in Toronto?
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Old 08-26-11, 05:25 PM
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High Park and the surrounding area has some good hills to practice on
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Old 08-26-11, 05:32 PM
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Originally Posted by sfrider View Post
I'm not familiar with Toronto, but Alexander Ave up to the GG Bridge from Sausalito isn't really considered a big hill. However, I hate that part. The reason being it's always the last hill on a ride, I've been out all afternoon and start feeling tired, it's a blowhole, and the cold foggy air from the gate comes whooshing at you. It's usually too soon to have pulled out a jacket and put on a light (I usually do that at the lot up top before crossing the bridge). In addition it's starting to get dark, it's full of tourist drivers not always focused on their driving. You also tend to want to get it over with, so push it just a little hard after a long ride. All negatives tend to collect on this annoying little stretch of road. Of course, it's also where you always discover you have an slow air leak or forgot to bring a jacket. We frequently get on the ferry across the bay from Sausalito solely to avoid this stretch around sunset. It doesn't inspire happy thoughts.

A bigger hill would be heading up out of Mill Valley to Panoramic and Stinson Beach/Fairfax Road/Alpine Dam. That's our usual 'short' (60ish miles out and back from my garage) ride. Longer rides tend to be flatter, continuing up hwy 1 and cutting inland to Nicasio Valley then pick our way back via Fairfax. Fairfax to Sausalito is kinda dull so we often ride out further then plan to return via the ferry in Larkspur. These usually end up around 120mi or so with a stop for lunch, but not with a whole lot of vertical so lots of easy cruising.

I think Mill Valley to Stinson Beach, then back up Bolinas-Fairfax Rd via Alpine Dam to Fairfax and returning via the sprawl to Mill Valley is the quintessential Marin ride... (It's also pretty short if you don't have to ride to Mill Valley from SF and back as well, so start the hill with fresh legs and are done with the hills when the downhill roll into Fairfax begins.)
Thanks for the route advice. I'll have to try something like that the next time I'm in SF. I'm looking at a Google map now, and for our ride I think we went through Mill Valley to Cascade park, and then up into a hillly region north of that (shallow but steady climbing, can't seem to identify the exact roads on the map) and then westward toward the Panoramic Highway, which we rode back down toward Sausalito. All in all it was a beautiful ride through a lovely shaded/forested region with cabins and rustic homes. I wish we had something similar close to Toronto!
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Old 08-26-11, 07:29 PM
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I live pretty close to Bluffers park, tried it a few times. I've never been able to climb it in one shot. It's a goal of mine to conquer it. Hopefully by the end of this season.
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Old 08-26-11, 07:32 PM
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Originally Posted by spunkyj View Post
I wouldn't generalize to "climbing".

According to Wikipedia the Scarborough Bluffs are around 200 ft high. The hill out of Bluffer's park is from the Marina (bottom of the cliffs) to the top in a rather short distance. Being new and all, I don't know how challenging this short climb is for the more experienced riders out there. Perhaps some Torontonians can chime in...
That was more of a tongue in cheek type of comment...Forgot the smiley face...

Lots of people I know consider the Dundas/Hamilton area as hilly because of the escarpment, but once we get a chance to ride a real mountain you learn that this is nothing....Still challenging, but it doesn't compare...
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Old 08-27-11, 12:35 AM
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I took a look at my bike's gearing. It's got a double chainring (40,52) and a 7 speed cassete (12-21). So my lowest gearing option is 40/21. Is this typical for a road bike?

Any thoughts on what kind of climbs I can expect to be doing with this gearing?
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Old 08-27-11, 02:31 AM
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Originally Posted by sfrider View Post
We frequently get on the ferry across the bay from Sausalito solely to avoid this stretch around sunset. It doesn't inspire happy thoughts.
I hear you on avoiding Alexander Ave via the ferry. It's a nice flat ride to Tiburon. But then you may have to subject your fancy carbon bike to this mess!

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Old 08-27-11, 02:46 AM
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Originally Posted by spunkyj View Post
I took a look at my bike's gearing. It's got a double chainring (40,52) and a 7 speed cassete (12-21). So my lowest gearing option is 40/21. Is this typical for a road bike?

Any thoughts on what kind of climbs I can expect to be doing with this gearing?
I personally need 34/21-24-28 to make it up hills like that. (I'm in decent shape but weigh a scant 63 kg.) 40/21 seems like a mighty tall gear.

For easier stuff in the GTA, you can try York Region (e.g. Leslie, Woodbine, Warden, Kennedy, Reesor, and York-Durham Line) anywhere north of Highway 7. Most of those routes get really nice north of Major Mackenzie. They're all mostly flat or gently rolling north-south routes that peak in elevation around Bloomington Road in Aurora.

Warden just south of Bloomington, for example, is a little less than 5% for about a kilometer. It's an easy climb that won't kick your ass and will let you get used to spinning your way up the hill. Woodbine south of Bloomington has something a little steeper. All of these routes are fairly low traffic rural two lane roads surrounded by cornfields, so they make for a really nice ride.

You should download Google Earth. It's really useful for mapping out routes and checking elevations. You can highlight sections of marked paths and inspect things like elevation change, %grade, etc. visually.

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Old 08-27-11, 06:03 PM
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Thanks for the Google Earth tip! Looks like a great tool for planning or re-examining routes.
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Old 08-27-11, 11:12 PM
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with that kind of gearing, its not really for climbing. but if you're in a flat town, maybe, that's ok. I live in san fran and there's hills everywhere and I run a 34/25 or a 38/28. you might want to go with a new cassette...12x27...but you might not like it since you will loose some cogs good for flat terrain.
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Old 08-28-11, 09:51 AM
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Originally Posted by davecheng View Post
Bluffers Park along Brimley Rd, on the other hand, is something like 20% slope for 1/4 mile
I don't think it's close to 20% anywhere on that road. I'd guess 8% at the steepest. BTW I'm just an intermediate strength person, 46 years old, 150 lbs, 18 lb 50/34 road bike and still struggling with quitting cigarettes after 33 years of it. Bluffers isn't that tough. Certainly I'm slow going up. I assume there's inaccuracy with the gradient reading of the Garmin 500 but the only time I saw a 20% reading was Twyn Rivers Drive, Pickering, Ontario (Google it). Where Sheppard Ave East turns south Twyn Rivers Dr begins. All Toronto climbs are short and this is very, very short. If it any were longer, without a doubt I'd fail quickly.
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Old 08-28-11, 10:58 PM
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Originally Posted by fogrider View Post
with that kind of gearing, its not really for climbing. but if you're in a flat town, maybe, that's ok. I live in san fran and there's hills everywhere and I run a 34/25 or a 38/28. you might want to go with a new cassette...12x27...but you might not like it since you will loose some cogs good for flat terrain.
Toronto really is pretty flat. My current gearing has been good basically everywhere so far (although I haven't really been out looking for hills yet, and haven't tried Bluffer's park again). I'm going to hold off until I really feel the need (i.e. I fail at Bluffer's park or another hill), but a new cassette might be the solution--and would fit my budget.

I'm just riding for fun and fitness and the current setup is certainly working for that purpose. And once I've earned it....maybe I'll upgrade to a modern road bike
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Old 08-28-11, 11:21 PM
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Originally Posted by MikF View Post
... but the only time I saw a 20% reading was Twyn Rivers Drive, Pickering, Ontario (Google it). Where Sheppard Ave East turns south Twyn Rivers Dr begins. All Toronto climbs are short and this is very, very short. If it any were longer, without a doubt I'd fail quickly.
Ah yes, Twyn Rivers, evil, evil little hill. I used to ride my mountain bike up that thing and it was a chore. The worst part is near the top as I think it gets even steeper...lol. I couldn't imagine trying to tackle it with 40/21 gearing!

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