Monday, September 10, 2012

Umunhum and Metcalf Road

Saturday I took a short bike ride around some pretty steep hills in the area.

View Umunhum and Metcalf in a larger map

My bike's rear tire was flat, which conspired with normal morning stuff to get me out a little late. As it turns out, the hole was on the bottom side, so I suspect that I must have pinched it last time I changed the tire. I've been riding on Serfas Seca 25 mm tires since just before I went to France. That was perhaps 700 miles ago. The back tire was worn quite flat, but worse yet had lots of cracks and cuts and whatnot. I swapped it for the 23 mm Ritchie slick that had previously been on the front, and was still noticeably round. I set out at 10 AM, hoping that I hadn't pinched this tube, too.

The currently-legal top of Umunhum, the highest point you can legitimately go, happens to be almost exactly 10 miles from my front door. I headed that way, passing from noisy suburbia to the very quiet, isolated Hicks road. Six miles into the ride I crossed the bridge that marks the start of the climb up Hicks.

The first time I rode up Hicks on my road bike, I weaved all over the road. When another rider passed by, offering encouragement, I remember saying that while I was familiar with the climb, I had only previously done it with mountain bike gears. I guess I must be a little stronger now, since I don't weave (much) anymore. Still, it's a slow and difficult climb for me.

This time I saw no other riders, either on Hicks or after I had turned up Mount Umunhum Road. This road always seems manageable because although it is very steep, it's not as steep as Hicks. I got up to the top in good order, and ate a Clif bar near the little forest of signs at the top. Then I made my way slowly and carefully down, dodging potholes and patches and gravel on this awful road. I took Hicks road south, toward New Almaden.

Normally on a ride like this I just head back home, for a quick 25-mile trip. This time I wanted a little more, so at Harry Road I took McKean south to the Calero reservoir, then took Bailey Road over the hills. I had ridden on this section of Bailey Road a long time ago, shortly after I moved to this area, and I knew there was a climb before the descent into the Santa Teresa Valley. But my memory was playing tricks on me; there's practically no climb from this direction, although there's a good descent on the other side.

Looking back at Santa Teresa Valley
from Metcalf Road
When I got near the IBM facility, I looked at a map to think about where I ought to go. One glance showed that Bailey heads west to the base of Metcalf, which was basically perfect. I hadn't done enough climbing today, so Metcalf would help. The problem was that I was nearly out of water; on the ride so far, there is zero water.

I climbed up Metcalf with creaking knees, wondering what I had got myself into. On the way up I was thinking that the motorcycle park must have water available, and when I got there I found not only a fountain but three vending machines. I enjoyed a "sports drink" before heading down the other side of the mountain.

Along San Felipe Road
The only other time I came up this way, I ended up going to the end of San Felipe Road, then returned back the way I came, over Metcalf. This time I took a left on San Felipe Road and descended into San Jose. Well, first I actually had to climb a little, which was rough on my now-tired legs. Then it was a quick descent toward San Jose.

I took Farnsworth Drive over to Silver Creek Valley Road, a little disappointed to find that I still had a bit of climbing to get to the top of the hill. Silver Creek Valley Road is wide, with two wide lanes in each direction, plus generous bike lanes. It's pretty steep and straight and doesn't get much traffic, so on the descents you can really get some speed. In my case I got to 45 mph heading down the west side of the road, taking up the right lane because the dusty bike lane's not quite enough at that kind of speed.

After that it was a quick trip home on Blossom Hill Road.

Elevation profile
This was a relatively short ride, coming in at 49 miles and 4800 feet of climbing. But pretty stiff climbing, I must say; both the Umunhum and Metcalf climbs average a 10% grade. The most difficult kilometer was near the bottom of Hicks, where it averaged over 14%. Not bad for a short ride.

1 comment:

  1. Next time ya gotta go through IBM. About the safest illegal road you can imagine.