Tuesday, August 31st, 2010...15:44

Biking Up A Hill

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A little over 10 years ago I planned on doing a charity bike ride for AIDS from San Francisco to Los Angeles. I was required to raise $5k to participate and the company I was working for at the time was supposed to match any donations I collected…but this was 2000 and that all fell apart when the Dot-com bubble popped. I had been doing some training rides though and at one point naively decided to try and bike up a fairly steep hill in Berkeley, CA (the right side of the elevation profile that appears below).

On that occasion I did not make it to my destination and instead turned around and went home. Recently, I decided to gauge my hill climbing ability on a bike and decided to attack that same hill from the other direction. This is roughly the route I took (Google Maps won’t let me embed a map with biking directions):

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I took my GPS along with me and using my handy gpx elevation plotting script, generated the elevation profile of my ride:

Track: GrzlyPkLoop
total distance: 13.93mi
ascent: 1911.3ft
descent: 1912.9ft
minimum elevation: 66.7ft
maximum elevation: 1681.5ft

Elevation Gain Via Google Chart API

I was able to make it to the Tilden Park Steam Train at the top of the hill without stopping, but it took me almost an hour. It’s easy to see why I had such a hard time coming from the other direction as on average it’s twice as steep, 1300’+ elevation gain in ~3mi. On the way down my GPS said I hit 30.8mph but it felt like I was going twice that fast, my eyes were watering and a couple of insects smashed into my face. I don’t understand how people can go 40+mph on a bicycle, anything above 23mph feels less than stable to me.

It’s easy to get lost in the maze of roads scattered about the Berkeley hills, but if I can find a few routes which will gradually increase the steepness, perhaps after a few more rides I will be able to conquer this hill via the route which turned me back 10 years ago.

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