Monday, January 16, 2012


Since I had MLK day off again (for the second year in a row!), I decided to get in a short second ride this weekend. I wanted to see how my body would react to a substantial climb just two days since the previous ride, and I wanted to check my form. So I took a quick ride to the closest hill near me: Mount Umunhum.

View Umunhum in a larger map

As usual I got moving at 9 AM. With the temperature near 40 F, I was wearing just about all the bike clothes I own. I slowly pedaled up Hicks Road, trying to generate some heat on the shaded road. I felt pretty good, and when I got to the hairpin turn on Hicks that marks the beginning of the climb, I settled in for a long slow climb.

Hicks climbs for just a mile, but it's quite steep. As you can see on the diagram below, it sustains a 13% grade most of the way up, with little respite until it nears the junction with Umunhum Road.

San Jose from Mount Umunhum Road
Mount Umunhum Road takes up where Hicks left off, with unrelenting 10% pitches climbing away from the junction. But after that difficult start, it gradually eases as it approaches the gate mid-way up the climb. After the gate, however, there's a steep section of a few hundred yards with a grade above 12%. But by now you're used to it, so it's not so bad.

The weather dome, observation stand and
monolith on Mount Umunhum
Although there were some cars at the gate, I hadn't seen a soul on the whole climb. And that includes rangers. Nonetheless, at the signs announcing the end of the preserve I dutifully stopped and turned around. The MROSD has announced an intention to be more strict about keeping the open area near Umunhum closed (temporarily, during the permanent construction period), and I didn't feel the need to test their resolve today.

I may be imagining this, but on the descent the road surface seemed substantially worse than it has been in years past. In many sections I was having trouble finding a smooth line at all, and had to keep my speed down. And needless to say, the descent was awfully cold.

I descended the south side of Hicks to Almaden Reservoir. At one point I was thinking of taking McKean Road south for a bit to extend the ride, but my mission was accomplished and I decided I could be useful around the house. So I just headed back home on Almaden Expressway.

Elevation profile
I noticed no effect from my ride on Saturday -- no lingering soreness or lack of energy. So that's good. I got up Umunhum without drama, albeit very slowly. So that's good too. After all, it's a 4.5 mile climb that averages 9.5%, so it's a substantial climb. Today's ride was just 23 miles with 2680 feet of climbing, which is short but points out how lucky I am to live so close to a great hill. And, after all, today was just a bonus anyway.

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