Tag Archives: Loop

112 miles in February. On a beautiful day like this, why not?

It was Thursday the subject came up- where are we going to ride on Sunday. And both Kevin and I were thinking the same thing, but there’s this strange unwritten rule that, if it’s the Santa Cruz loop, it can’t be spoken. It’s simply understood.

It wasn’t going to be fast; we knew that ahead of time. It’s February, after all. The “fast” longer rides come later in the year. But Kevin’s been riding better lately, keeping up with the faster guys on the climbs (which means he’s way ahead of me), and I’m good for 100 miles pretty much anytime.

This was the “classic” Santa Cruz loop, heading up Old LaHonda, over Haskins almost to Pescadero, taking the Cloverdale/Gazos Creek “shortcut” to Highway 1, then south to Davenport for lunch, further south to Santa Cruz, up Highway 9 to Skyline, north on Skyline to Sky Londa and then descend back into Woodside on 84.

It’s a rare winter day that you can ride without legwarmers, baselayers or long-fingered gloves, but we took our chances that today would be that rare day and we were almost right. The forecast had shown lows in the upper-50s, but there were parts of the run to the coast where we saw it drop as low as 45. Thankfully it warmed up as we got out of the trees, so we didn’t quite get to that “sure wish we’d brought warm stuff” stage.

Winds were very light, which meant we missed out on the often-strong tailwind on the coast. But better no wind than a headwind!

Lunch at the Davenport Cafe was as usual… phenomenal. Best burritos anywhere. Service was a bit slow today, but worth the wait. These are not quantity burritos, they’re quality. One of the things that makes the difference is that the meat is lightly crisped (probably fried for a bit after cooking), giving it a different type of texture than the typical burrito.

The only bad thing about stopping for lunch in Davenport is that you immediately have to tackle a small hill when you start out, but it is small, and about 10 minutes later it was time to clear out the cylinders and see what I could do. There was a chance I could pay for the effort later, but it felt like the thing to do at the time, and it felt good. I’ve ridden that segment quite a bit faster at other times, but those were, frankly, wind-assisted. Today, it was just me. And of the 9 people riding that segment on Strava today, mine was tied for fastest, so I’m ok with it. :-)

Highway 9 was the usual slog to Boulder Creek, narrow road, fair amount of traffic, but could have been worse; the road was closed between Santa Cruz and Felton for maintenance, but not closed in the way that would keep bikes out. Of course, we didn’t know that would be the case, just hoped it would!

Boulder Creek was the usual stop for Mtn Dew before the run up to Skyline. Kevin was running low on energy while I was feeling better as the ride went. So no records broken there either, but Kevin became re-energized upon seeing that Mr. Mustard was back in business at Saratoga Gap. Heading north on Skyline we were passed by someone near Page Mill, and Kevin would have none of that. The guy had passed us on a climb and seemed to have a lot more horsepower than we did, but looks like it was mostly for show; he started slowing down after a bit, and Kevin sped up. We passed him in a mile or so and by the time we covered another mile, he couldn’t be seen.

In the end it was 112 miles that felt like a lot less.

A ride we’re glad we did, scratched off the list, but no need to do again soon (Mt Hamilton loop)

I’m 55 years old, been riding seriously since I was, what, 11? And in all that time I’ve never ridden the Mount Hamilton loop. Between 97 & 105 miles depending upon route options, and heads from Livermore (or elsewhere; obviously you can start wherever you wish), over Calaveras and down towards the bay, then up Mount Hamilton, down the other side & finally north on Mines Road. to Livermore.

I’ve ridden up Mount Hamilton many, many times, and sometimes down the back side to the bridge over the creek and then head back up. And I’ve ridden Calaveras and every other piece of this ride at one time or another. I’ve even ridden over Mount Hamilton and on to Livermore, in the Mount Hamilton Road Race, but that was many, many, many years ago. Long enough that I retained dim memories of the backside not being much fun.

Today, Kevin and I decided to test those memories. Besides, as I’ve written before, Kevin likes to try new rides, something that becomes increasingly difficult over time. His first choice was to head to the Sierras and do Sonora Pass, but it’s been busy enough at the shop on Saturdays that I really haven’t felt like a long drive in the dark after work.

We started the ride in Livermore instead of someplace a bit closer because I was concerned about having to continue riding much further after Mines Road. I remembered the main reason I didn’t enjoy the backside- that long run down the valley towards Livermore, punctuated here & there by annoying “junk” climbs (not long enough to really get a rhythm yet incredibly efficient at sapping your strength and making you feel like you’ve spent too much time out in the sun) but, worst of all, steady headwinds that make you fight your way downhill.

The first 25 miles or so went by easily enough, but it did feel a bit weird hitting the base of Mount Hamilton nicely warmed up rather than at the very start of a ride. We stopped at the top for the mandatory coke (remember, crisp $1 bills only, anything soggy from a back pocket won’t work) before heading down the back side.

If you haven’t been down the back (east)┬áside of Mount Hamilton, it’s just like the front (west) side, only a lot steeper. So very bumpy, gravel here & there, and not really a very fun descent. But the climb back up is both challenging and fun, making the descent worthwhile to try someday. But we weren’t coming back up; our car was in Livermore and Mines Road was standing in our way.

The small rises between the bottom on the east side and San Antonio Junction weren’t as bad as I had remembered, but still, by the time we got to the Junction, it felt like we had already put in a tough 100 miles, not 65, and we had another 30 to go. But fueled up with a cookie and coke from the Junction bar, we felt ready to go!

Or not. That last 30 miles was one of the toughest of my life, battling the two remaining (and significant) climbs along with the headwind. Kevin was pretty much cooked by the time we finished the final climb, so it was my job for about 22 miles to just go to the front and fight the wind all the way back to the car. Ouch. The first dozen miles were the worst, because they paint mile markers in huge numbers on the road, and between 22 and 10, it felt pretty discouraging. Somehow I kept it up though, towing Kevin back to the car, both of us more exhausted than anytime in recent memory.

My recommendation? Do this loop if you want a challenge, but if you’re looking for “fun” look someplace else. Or find out what time of year you have tailwinds heading towards Livermore rather than headwinds.