Thursday, September 1, 2011

Road Riding is Hard...

Geesh, I sure did get an ass-whoopin' yesterday...

One of my clients rescheduled, leaving my entire afternoon empty. I'm not one of those who jumps for joy in celebration when that happens because not seeing a client translates to not making money. As much as I love riding, I always get nervous when my afternoons and evenings don't have a work related activity.

However, with the "extra" time, I decided that it was time to tackle Hicks Rd. to Mt. Umunhum on the Surly Pacer. I haven't done any hardcore climbs with my new compact crankset yet, so I guess if I was going to do it - might as well go big. Also, I've lightened it up a bit with some new tires and a carbon fork, so the steel beast is coming in at a healthy 22 lbs., even.

For all those unfamiliar, Hicks Rd. to Mt. Umunhum is "4.1 miles. 2,199 ft elevation gain. 10.2% average grade. 17% max grade." has a great write up about this climb that I won't bother to reiterate - but let's just say that it's a killer.

Yesterday I realized something: I've been riding my mountain trails and fast road rides with interval style mashes, fast transitions, etc. But in doing so, my road riding has suffered in a big way. I truly thought I was going to be stronger than I was on this climb, but I got incredibly smoked... the only thing that forced me to continue to go up was my mindset - otherwise there were many opportunities to just turn around.

I eventually did make it up to the top of Hicks Rd. and I know that my average speed going up those steep areas HAD to be in a 4-5MPH range, which sucks. I was sweating like a turkey on Thanksgiving, and water was starting to run low. BUT! my mindset was to get all the way up to the first gate of Mt. Umunhum, and thus I did.

I guess the Cliff Bar helped because I felt stronger on the second half of the climb. I was getting frustrated that the top wasn't coming as fast as I wished, but it finally happened.

This climb was a big wake-up call - I realized that my riding habits have really formed me into a one-trick pony and I need to do more of this style of riding. Aside from my poor road riding fitness, my Surly Pacer rocked. This bike has been molded/changed/repurposed at least a half dozen times since I've owned it, and no matter what parts I've put on it, it has always been a great bike.

Here's how I ended up:

If any Bay Area, Ca. road riders have not yet done this climb, DO IT. I've seen some riders blaze up this mountain, and others simply turn around. It's a great mind-over-matter game and a test of will.


  1. woah that does sound like a monster!

  2. Mind over matter... test of will... good description. I've been wanting to climb this forever but figured it would take a day and I'd have to be prepared for it. The other day while walking my dogs I saw a neighbor coming back from a road ride so we chatted and I gave him my number. We both lost our jobs recently so he called me the other afternoon and said "let's ride... I've been up Mt Umunhum once and want to do it again" so I said "sure, what the heck!". No matter that he's 60 and I figured it'd take all day but we hit the intersection in just an hour and a half... did I mention his resting heart rate is 44?? I was peaking on some of the steepest parts with thoughts racing through my head of being back in the ER for a cardioversion (yeah, I've pushed too hard before) but he was chugging along huffing and puffing and saying "C'mon, it;s just a little further...". Anyway, it was a challenge, mostly mental as you say, but now I'm looking to go back as soon as possible and keep attacking this thing until I can sing "Yankee Doodle Dandy" the whole way up with nary a missed breath. Sadly I uploaded it to Strava and the grades didn't look so scary, and it maybe not the toughest but rest assured it's not easy. And I used to think Montebello was hard...