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Quadrophenia #10: Sierra Road (5/10/2014)


Date: Saturday, May 10
Meet time: 9:30 a.m.
Ride-out time: 10:00 a.m.
Meeting place: Parking lot at Villa and Franklin streets, Mountain View (across from the Tied House) (map)
City: Mountain View
Rain policy: Heavy rain cancels
Category: 2 - moderate pace (10-12 mph)
Terrain: 4 - one very long, steep climb
Miles: 72

Description:
It's the grand journey of our season! All of our climbing this year has prepared you for today's epic challenge: Sierra Road, "the meanest, nastiest climb on the entire Tour of California." And you can do it!

We start with 15 miles of flat, urban riding to get across San Jose and over to the east side, where we'll take a very quick stop at a grocery store for restrooms and last-minute supplies. But then, the fun begins in earnest.

According to Strava, Sierra Road climbs 1,788 feet in just 3.6 miles, for an average grade of 9.5% that tops out at an elevation of just over 2,000 feet above the valley below. As with many climbing averages, though, that's somewhat deceiving, because there's a significant flat-to-gentle part near the top that brings the average down. There are significant parts of the climb that are well over 10%, but each part really isn't anything worse than hills we've already done. The tough part is that this is all one big, giant hill with very little relief. Oh, and did we mention that most of the climb is free of trees and completely exposed to whatever cold, heat, and/or wind the National Weather Service decides to throw at us on ride day? You will most likely need to take one or more breaks on the way up; that's perfectly OK, but be sure to do so only in safe locations, and get as far off the narrow, winding road as possible.

After you've made it to the top, take a quick break ... and some photos of the amazing views. Then you're in for a special treat: 7 miles of mostly downhill, remote backcountry riding along the rest of Sierra Road and onto Felter Road as you drop about 1,200 feet in elevation. You'll be amazed at how secluded everything feels (and you'll probably have no cellphone signal, too), just so close to the city.

At mile 26, we could just head back home (and if you're already spent for the day, you can do just that), but instead we'll turn right onto Calaveras Road and climb the infamous "Calaveras wall." Once upon a time, we thought that 0.2 mile at 12.7% was insurmountable. Today, however, you might be pleasantly surprised at how easily you can climb the wall!

The reward for this climb is the scenic, meandering ride northbound around the edge of the Calaveras Reservoir. We eventually begin to descend again, and we pop back into civilization way up at the junction with I-680, where we stop in beautiful downtown Sunol for food and water. After that comes the 6-mile gentle descent of Niles Canyon Road (Highway 84), where the traffic can sometimes be heavy and fast, so use caution and be sure to always ride single-file.

We're not quite done with the climbing yet, though. After we enter Fremont, we'll head south on Mission Boulevard for the gentle climb up to the Mission San Jose district, where our final rest stop of the day awaits. We get one last climb to the top of Warren Boulevard for one last epic view of the bay, and then we drop down to Dixon Landing Road and ride mostly on trails along the southern edge of the bay through San Jose, Santa Clara, Sunnyvale, and back to Mountain View. Wow! As promised way back in January, you are now totally ready to EAT Quadbuster for BREAKFAST in June!

Ride With GPS reports about 3,500 feet of climbing with its new 2014 calculations; most GPS devices should report about the same.

This ride is Caltrain- and VTA-friendly. The first southbound train of the day leaves SF at 8:15 and arrives in Mountain View at 9:29. We're about four blocks from the station. This ride includes a 25-mile segment with no food or water available and no cellphone service.

These rides are for experienced cyclists who know how to safely handle their bikes on climbs and descents.
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