Thursday, December 27, 2012

Redwood Gulch

After a spring and summer dominated by cycling, my fall was quiet. Far too quiet. With a newly-packed, reality-oriented schedule, I hadn't found time to take a nice long ride in a couple of months. Or even a nice short ride, for that matter.

So it was that on Christmas Eve, given a nice long weekend and a one-day respite from the rain, I climbed back on my bike.

View Redwood Gulch in a larger map

Despite two months of Brownian dispersion, I managed to find all my clothes and gear and water bottles and whatnot. I decided that the recent rain, especially the very heavy rain of the day before, precluded the Los Gatos Creek Trail, so if I wanted to head into the Santa Cruz Mountains (and I did), I needed to head toward Saratoga. Recently a neighbor told me about his favorite cycling route, which took him out that way. I was familiar with the whole thing except Redwood Gulch, which I've never ridden. Today would be that day.

Stevens Canyon Road, next to Stevens Creek
As I rode over Kennedy Road toward Los Gatos, I got an idea of what the rest of the day would be like. First of all, I had lost any fitness I ever had, but that was no surprise. Second, the roads had mounds of leaves and twigs, left behind by the flowing water of the past few days. Slowly going up was fine, but on fast descents the twigs and slimy leaves could be tricky.

On the Saratoga/Los Gatos Road I got a flat in my rear tire. No obvious cause, but there was a hole in the tire. I think water on the road makes flats more common, possibly by lubricating an object that would otherwise have stuck in the rubber. No problem; I always have an extra tube, so the replacement was easy.

I passed through Saratoga and started up the lower part of Congress Springs Road, enjoying the sunshine and the relatively light traffic. I took Pierce, feeling pretty good while climbing up to the Mountain Winery entrance. After descending to Mt. Eden Road I remembered that there's a steep little hill in the middle of that road, but I managed to get up there with little drama. Still, this ride had some pretty steep sections, considering my weak legs.

At Stevens Canyon Road I took the left turn, following the heavy Stevens Creek and enjoying its roaring. Stevens Canyon Road climbs very gently to meet Redwood Gulch at about 800 feet. I took the left on Redwood Gulch, and began a very slow climb up a very steep road.

Redwood Gulch Road
Being so out of shape I managed to let my heart rate get out of control, and had to stop to catch my breath. It was then I noticed that my front tire was now going flat. Since I had already used my one spare tube, I was going to have to patch this one, which is rare for me. So rare, in fact, that my glue had completely dried up. I was going to have to nurse this back, at least into cell phone range. I could have turned around right there, but that would put me near Stevens Creek Reservoir, where there might not be coverage. So I decided to head up to Highway 9, at the bottom of which was Saratoga.

I pumped up the tire and headed up. The road wasn't quite as steep at this point, and in any case I wasn't putting much weight on the front tire. It lasted pretty well. I stopped to put air in a couple more times (nothing to do with my heart rate on the steep hill, I'm sure). I topped the tire off again when I reached Highway 9 at 1550 feet of elevation, then descended into Saratoga. At this point the tire seemed to be holding up pretty well, so I decided I could make it home, only pumping air into it every 10 minutes or so.

Elevation profile
In that way I made it back home, after a ride of 33 miles with about 3000 feet of climbing. It was a short ride, but with some steep stuff that left my poor legs aching. The most difficult kilometer was the upper part of Redwood Gulch, which seemed quite steep but only registered a 10.8% grade. Compared to the rides of the summer it wasn't much, but it was something, and I even managed to cover some new ground. A very enjoyable morning.