Saturday, August 8, 2009

W2W Training Ride: Kings Mountain Rd

Fresh from our success climbing Old La Honda a few weeks ago, I suggested we try Kings Mountain this week. We did this last year, but I was on the single bike. It's officially a tougher climb than anything on the Waves to Wine Ride. Well, the climb up Hwy 1 from Mill Valley has a steeper sustained grade but it is much shorter. Kings is about 1540' of climbing in 4.3 miles, as shown here. I've ridden it countless times on my single, and it's one of the "passes" on my Pensinsula Death Ride. However, never before on the tandem.

We started at Gunn High School, which is just behind our house, and the meeting place for many Western Wheelers rides. There was one lone cyclist waiting for a WW ride; it turned out he was 30 minutes early. The group consisted of Garland, Dave, Josh and Sue and us. Jenny and I rolled out at 9:25, 5 minutes ahead of the others, en route to Woodside by way of Foothill, Alpine Road, Portola Valley and Mountain Home Rd. It's a familiar ride by now and a nice warm-up on modest grades. At Woodside we met up with John who had come all the way from the Dublin in the East Bay. Josh, who had to be back early, had elected to do a timed ascent of Old La Honda and meet us coming down Kings.

While climbing on the tandem is definitely harder than on a single, I'm always pleasantly reminded that we have very low gearing available so, although we may go slowly, we do not blow up and can spin at a comfortable rate. The Da Vinci has four front chain rings, 24, 36, 48 and 60 and we climb steeps in the 24. The cassette is an 11-32, so we can get well below 1-1. And, yes, we can pedal downhill in the 60-11 if we are so inclined - not usually! We see Josh on the first third. He's not entirely happy with his 19 minute time on Old La Honda - I'd be ecstatic - and slightly pissed that he didn't really pay attention to my warning that there was a lot more climbing between Old La Honda and Kings!

We stop halfway for a break as we haven't really mastered the art of standing often enough to relieve the stress on the glutes on long climbs. John is keeping us company - it's his toughest climb to date - but the others are way head. Jenny is in need of food and the captain is remiss in not having brought any supplies. Fortunately, John has plenty. I had suggested to the others that they ride back down and pull/push us up but there is no sign of them as we head up the steepest section towards the summit. Eventually we see the "stop sign ahead" and its a sprint finish to the top - not! About 55 minutes, which is respectable. The others are waiting patiently for us!

Lots of rollers initially on the way to 92, past the Kings Mountain Volunteer Fire Station and the Buena Vista restaurant, then a long, long, runout at a modest grade to 92. Our turn to leave the singles in the dust as we hit 40 on this section. Then onto 92, which is good practice for Hwy 1 as there is no bike lane and quite a bit of traffic usually. Today, there are long lines coming the other way heading to the coast.

Then a rather bizarre experience. We're doing 35 and a group of cars are staying well back, matching our speed, which I appreciate. I've learn't that staying close to the right on a road like this is an invitation for a bad driver to try to pass too close and since there is a ton of traffic coming the other way, it's not safe today, so I'm in the middle of the road. And we're doing 35 anyway. They do get to pass on the final flat section across the reservoir and the fourth car back blows his horn and shouts something out of the window. As luck would have it, they stop at the light and I ask them what their problem is. The answer is "you have all that f^%&!$^g room, why don't you move over". Remember, this is the fourth car back! And, of course, there isn't room. Some people! You sometimes forget that, while most of the people in the Bay Area are entirely well behaved, there are still some crazies out there.

Nice ride back along Canada Road, initially past the very scenic reservoir, aka Hetch Hetchy water holding tank, and then by the not so scenic 280 down to Woodside. We stop for some food - love the fruit tarts at the bakery - and then head back down Whiskey Hill and up Sand Hill, through Stanford, to Palo Alto.

In the end, it's 47 miles, 3100' climbing, 3:40 on bike at average speed of 12.8. Good training ride! Nearly two-thirds of the first day's W2W distance and 75% of the first day's climbing.

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