Category Archives: Ride reports (not Tu/Th)

Ride reports for everything *but* the Tuesday-Thursday morning ride

Could NOT miss opportunity to ride in “hot” weather!!! Mt Ham, here we are.

After missing Thursday morning’s ride due to the break in at the bike shop (more on this in a future post), there really wasn’t a choice but to get some real miles in, another tougher ride, like last weekend. But where?

I’m dying to do another Santa Cruz loop, but the weather isn’t quite there yet. I have become determined to do rides WITHOUT base layers, leg warmers and, due to my hands, thermal or heated gloves. So at the last minute, Sunday morning in fact, I looked at the temps and Mount Hamilton looked like it could fit the bill. Had to tack in some extra miles, not just from downtown San Jose, so we got off at the Mountain View train station and rode from there (but took the train all the way back). Found a great Vietnamese coffee place in San Jose (The Coffee Cup on Toyon) where we enjoyed iced coffee, ham & cheese croissants, and a couple other pastries, all of it very good.

Hot? It was definitely warm, but not that bad. My Garmin was reading 99.6F at one point on the climb, but I’m guessing that was about 6 degrees high. I know, most would think of that as hot, but I deal with warm temps a lot better than cold. On the other hand, Kevin prefers it cooler, so we were pretty evenly matched today.

Not very crowded road, auto or cyclist. Strange for such a nice day. Just prior to the final descent on the way up (Mt Hamilton has three main climbs, punctuated by two fairly short descents, on the way up) we stopped and drank cokes that we’d brought up the hill in our “France” seat bags (they have a pocket at the back for a coke bottle, which is super handy in France) before final section. I think this is the first time up Mt Hamilton that we made a point of actually stopping along the way for food or drink),

At the top, again, very few people. I think just two other cyclists? We bought cokes from the machine, used the bathroom, checked out the view for a bit and then headed back down. Due to getting a pretty late start, we didn’t want to risk later and later trains, so we headed back down (after just 20 minutes) at 3:46pm, hoping to catch the 5:12 train. Not a good plan; it can take up to 1hr 45min to get from the top to the train station, and we had 1hr 26 minutes.

And that would have been with a couple minutes to spare if we hadn’t had to save a snake, who really didn’t want to be moved out of the roadway, about 2/3rds of the way down. This guy wouldn’t have survived on a typical busy day on that road, but today he was fortunate. He didn’t want to cooperate though, constantly moving in the opposite direction we wanted. Eventually we finally got him going in the right direction. We didn’t waste time on the run-in to the train station, but unfortunately there’s not much you can do about the massive number of lights, none of which seemed to be in sync with our speed. Things were looking really grim.

Finally the train station’s in site, and we race through the parking lot, into the station and notice on the big board that our train is leaving in 1 minute. Yikes. And we have to walk down the ramps and through the “subway” to the tracks. No way would we make it, but you gotta try.

At first glance, things didn’t look good. No train on the tracks, but there were people. And just as I turn to look in the other direction, the announcement is made that the train is approaching. And I turn around again and… where’s Kevin? Yikes. He’s only halfway up the ramp and tells me he’s beginning to get a seizure. Talk about bad timing! That’s what you see in the far-right photo. Kevin’s feet on the ground, the ramp, and the approaching train towards the very top of the photo.

OK, the train is a minute late, but it’s here, we gotta get on it and go! But Kevin’s having a seizure, which can last 2-3 minutes, and the train would leave before he’s recovered if it’s a long one! Fortunately, it was only a couple minutes and he was back up on his feet. With no time to spare, to say the least; the train started moving as soon as we were on it.

Overall a really, really good ride. No single part of it warrants such enthusiasm; this was a ride that was much more than the sum of its parts.

My Garmin told me “Your Joy is Serious Business”

Seriously, this is the cycling alternative to Highway 17?
How long will it be before we get rid of the fog and drizzle along the coast? It’s end of May and high temps in the low-60s should be a thing of the past. But they’re not, so we’re compensating by doing a lot more rides on “this” side of the mountains, trying to find ways to keep from having to put on leg warmers, base layers and, in my case, heated gloves. The tough part is making the rides challenging enough; I’m dying to get in a Santa Cruz loop (113 miles), but really need a bit nicer weather!

For today’s ride I let Strava help design something “new” while revisiting a climb we haven’t done since 2009. Wow. Hard to believe the last time I rode up Black Road was 2009. We rode up through the Los Altos Reservoir (the old quarry) using a different route than we’d done previously, headed through a too-crowded Rancho San Antonio park (beginning to think it’s not worthwhile riding through this anymore), the crazy maze along the foothills of Cupertino (avoiding the busy 4 lane roads) and finally Saratoga/Los Gatos road, stopping for lunch at the Farmer’s Market in the Los Gatos town square.

And here’s where it gets not-so-fun for a bit. How do you get up to Black Road, which starts at Lexington Reservoir, without riding up Highway 17? There still appears to be only one way, and it’s not a whole lot of fun on a road bike. It starts out not-so-bad but deteriorates before you get to the dam, then you have a brief respite on the paved zig-zag up the face of the dam. And you think great, you made it, no issues! Your Strava-designed route now puts you on a bike path that’s parallel to 17, next to the lake. But look at the photo above. Bike path? Kevin and I stared at this for a bit, thinking it must be wrong, there must be a different route. Well, no. You have to cross 17, and there’s no way to do that without heading up this path for half a mile or so.

I really don’t understand this. Highway 17 would require some pretty heavy work to install a safe shoulder for bike use (and, by the way, it is legal to ride a bike on Highway 17, it’s just not a very good idea due to significant sections with no shoulder at all), and the current parallel gravel path certainly gets enough use to justify being paved. But that top section, along Lexington Reservoir? That’s a cruel joke. You get there and really can’t believe that’s what you’re directed onto.

But we got through, no flats, and headed up Black Road. I’ve been up it maybe 4 times previously, although just once since Strava began, back in 2008. The grade varies between about 9 & 17%, and I found I’m doing OK until it gets past 11%, at which point I start losing power. Not just speed, but actual power. Not sure why, but it’s a very real thing for me. Kevin, on the other hand… the steeper, the better. He just goes! This was the part of the ride where my Garmin told me that my joy is a serious business, and I wasn’t feeling that much joy at that time. However, I was able to just keep on going, never feeling like I was going to fall apart.

Black Road ends at Skyline; you keep climbing a bit more and then descend into Saratoga Gap (intersection of Highway 9 & 35), and at that point, you feel like home isn’t too far away (about 23 miles to go). Unfortunately we ran out of “good” weather after passing Page Mill, where we stopped to put on leg warmers and the lightweight rain jackets we brought with us, as well as long-fingered gloves. I will be so happy when we don’t have to worry about that!