In this week’s series of rides, Alexis takes us to the Bay Area of California bringing us some of the most interesting and varied riding we’ve come across.
He’s carefully curated this selection to provide something for every one’s taste, but there’s some brutal climbs in this series, so approach it with caution and be sure to read the route notes…
Quimby Rd (pictured above) is a short cut which bypasses the section of Mount Hamilton Road to the first intermediate descent, eliminating 8 miles and 1500 feet of climbing. This ride starts from the Mt Hamilton side. It’s a small climb with epic views from the Mt Hamilton valley and a classic from the Tour of California after they descend from Mt Hamilton.
Once you reach the top, you are rewarded with an amazing view of the South Bay on clear days.
Soda Springs is a rarely visited climb as it’s a dead end and away from more frequented routes.
Situated to the south west of Los Gatos, Soda Springs is accessible from Alma Bridge Road, between Old Santa Cruz Highway and the Los Gatos Creek Trail.
The gradient is quite consistent for the entire duration of the climb and averages 8% over the span of 5.3 miles. As a result, it climbs about 2300ft and is one of the few climbs longer than 5 miles in the area. It terminates at the gated private property at the top. Note: contains RW segment
Sierra Road climbs from busy Piedmont Road into the residentially-populated hills over Milpitas. The grade is steady at a consistent 10%.
This hill was used in the Tour of California and inflicted pain even on the seasoned professional cyclists. The views are fabulous, whether looking towards the Bay or towards Black Mountain, Mt. Day, Rattlesnake Butte, or Mt. Hamilton. At the top, Sierra Rd continues as a rolling, twisting, narrow road to Felter Road.
This section starts off innocently in a residential neighbourhood deep in San Jose, but the grade increases steadily until with 1 mile to go. Then riders are assaulted with a series of vertical switchbacks and an extremely steep, truly daunting final straight which, with the help of the pitiless sun, will sap any remaining strength from your legs.
Two farm gates mark the top of this climb. After surviving this, climbing the remaining 2800 feet of Mount Hamilton Road seems trivial. Wild turkeys will be on hand to observe your suffering from the sidelines, so try to put on a good show for them.
Kittridge On Orbit Bohlman
It is no coincidence that the climb starts at the Saratoga’s Madrona cemetery where many exhausted cycling souls may have found a rest! This ascent of Bohlman Road is just brutal with the best views of the valley if you are still alive!
Kittridge Rd will warm up your will of survival before putting you onto On Orbit: a small stretch of road averaging 20% which will put to test your will, before coming back on Bohlman for a nice finish to the top.”
Felton-Empire Rd (3.7 mi, 1520ft, 7.8%). Of the 3 main routes (Alba, Jamison and Felton-Empire) from Hwy 9 to Empire Grade, this is the easiest. It starts very gently in the residential area, then delves into the forested redwood area and steepens. The grade is highly inconsistent, and wide selection of gears may be required. The redwoods scenery is the most beautiful if to take time to enjoy it.
Jamison Creek, the northernmost paved route from Hwy 9 (via Hwy 236) to Empire Grade, nestled in the Santa Cruz Mountains. It starts out steep, then gets steeper and steeper. Near the top it sustains very strong grades, making the summit a long-overdue sight. Along the way, if you have time, you can enjoy the sound of the water in the creek as well as the nice vista of the valley.
Alba Rd was forged in19th century as a road providing the farmers at the north end of Empire Grade with a route to Ben Lomond, their nearest place of trade. It was known as Alba Grade, Ben Lomond Grade.This climb is also known as “A Long Brutal Ascent”.
The 10% average is rather steep for a road that climbs over 2,000ft .The grade is highly inconsistent with sections near 5% intermixed with significant portions at 15% to 20%.
Surviving this climb is an exercise in pain testing your fitness to the maximum. The steep sections aren’t so long that a fit rider can’t power through them, however.
It does offer some magnificent views near the top if you still have any energy to remember to enjoy anything at this point of time.
Brutal, oppressive, brutal, painful, savage, arduous, killer, murderous, blood-and-guts, formidable, backbreaking, grinding, fatiguing, unsparing, harsh, merciless, intense, exhausting, austere and even slavish. This is a really crank- twisting climb and will test your uphill determination.
It is no coincidence that the climb starts at the Saratoga’s Madrona cemetery where many exhausted cycling souls may have found a rest! The listed stats show a considerable average grade of 9%, but it is much worse than that because there’s considerable flat section and even mild descent at the top. Steepest section compensates with the best views of the valley.
Mt. Diablo North Gate
Mt. Diablo towers over the East Bay area with the summit altitude of 3,849ft. On a clear day, views from its summit stretch more than 200 miles. Mount Diablo has the largest view-shields in the United States and second in the world (the first one is Mt. Kilimanjaro).
North Gate Road to the summit is only a mere 11 miles. The ride is very curvy but not too steep. The unobstructed views are to die for as North Gate Road climbs up the west side of the mountain, and every single corner will have you pulling to the side to stare in amazement. This level of openness is probably unparalleled in the entire Bay Area. The lower elevation flows up a draw and then it’s a series of switchbacks weaving a tapestry of pavement up the mountainside. The very finish is quite steep – way over 10% and will demand some prayers!
About this week’s contributor
Originally hailing from the Caen in North of France, Alexis Berthillier, 48, has been living in Mountain View California for the last 20 years.
A seasoned ultra rider, to date, he has completed more than 100 double centuries (200miles non stop) as part of the California Triple Crown in the past 7 years.