Posts tagged ‘climbing’
The Rapha Rising climbing competition started on Sunday, and today I had a fun ride per the pics and Garmin screenshots below. I started out with lots of laps in the neighborhood to start out the ride while Kristine was at work and the kids were playing in the front yard. Then when Kristine got home I rode over to Brick Alley carrying my race wheel with a broken spoke – but they were closed so I had to ride back carrying the wheel – about 7 miles of climbing hand-carrying an extra wheel. Then I did some Skyland Repeats in Vestavia and RTB loops in Mountain Brook and snapped a few photos along the way.
Well, today’s mountain bike ride definitely fit the bill for a “cycling adventure”. Highlights included riding in and behind a thunderstorm, riding through a pilgrimage of devout Catholics, stumbling upon a small forest fire, discovering another Strava Cat 2 climb for Alabama, lots of mud, lots of flying ants, and lots of yellow jackets. Here are annotated topocreator maps of my route.
We had some thunderstorms roll through Birmingham this morning, so it was lots of rain on the long ride out to Double Oak and eventually over to Signal Mountain. Most of the thunder/lightning activity stayed just to the east of my location, but it was still disconcerting to be on the edge of a thunderstorm while climbing over the highest ridges in the area. Apparently, lightning from the storm had struck the top of Signal Mountain as I would later discover a small forest fire near the top.
Before climbing Signal Mountain, I had to first climb up and over the Double Oak ridges taking me down into Bear Creek Valley. As I rode north on Co Rd 43 through Bear Creek, I noticed hundreds of cars parked alongside the road. This was really unusual, but it got even stranger as I started reading the license plates which were from all over the country. I eventually made it through the cars to this field and found out by asking someone walking back that some devout catholics believe Mary appears in this field every year near the Fourth of July.
Continuing on Co Rd 43, I eventually made it to this barn which used to have a cool concrete statue of cyclists resting on the ground with their bikes propped up behind them, and turned onto the street/driveway (Moss Rock Trail) that leads straight down to Bear Creek itself and the low point for the start of the Cat 2 climb up Signal Mountain. I turned around at the bridge and began the climb by heading back out to Co Rd 43 and turning left to go back all the way through the pilgrimage area until I reached Season Rd, which is the start of the steep part of the climb.
I’m pretty sure this will be the only time I ever do the climb. It is a good climb through a beautiful area, but the majority of it is on private hunting grounds (hence the name “Season Rd”). I reckoned that on a rainy Monday morning in the middle of summer everything should be deserted, which it was. But this is property that should generally be avoided. At the top of the climb is a single radio tower, which is ironic given that the name of the mountain is Signal Mountain.
The climb starts out steady and steep for the first mile before leveling out when you cross over from the back side of the ridge to the front side of the ridge. The view along the front side of the ridge is absolutely amazing – overlooking the valley over 1000 ft below and the adjacent ridge of Double Oak at nearly 1000 ft above the valley floor as well. After about a half mile, the climb bends around the side of the mountain again and really kicks up in elevation. It was just past this bend where I saw the forest fire. Also, I had to run the last bit because I got off-balance in the wrong gear, and it was too steep to remount – but theoretically the entire climb is rideable without stopping.
After I made it down the mountain, I rode back to the pilgrimage area and reported the fire to a Shelby County police officer who was helping with crowd control. He thanked me and called it in on his radio. Then it was time for me to head back up and over Double Oak ridge … the mountain was swarming with yellow jackets and flying ants. Because of the earlier rain, I had to run several sections and with every footfall there would be a yellow jacket rooting around in the rocks and mud. I was super careful, but it wasn’t until I was actually riding on a slight downhill at about 15mph when a yellow jacket, bee, or wasp came from in front of me and collided directly with my head. The sting was immediate – I couldn’t tell a difference between the “thud” of the bee hitting me and its sting. One day later as I finish off this post, the entire righthand side of my face is swollen along with both sides of my neck.
To view the ride interactively on Strava, click this link:
Finally, here are all the pics that I took during the ride:
My bike at the Cahaba Beach road bridge. You have to hoist your bike over the barricade and carefully ride the planks to make it over to Cahaba Beach road. Watch out for the holes straight through to the river!
A post about climbing the ridges in Birmingham wouldn’t be complete without my favorite ridges southeast of town – especially the two high ridges on Double Oak Mountain. I rode out there today armed with my camera and ended up taking more than 50 photos. I picked out the best ones and created a topocreator map to highlight the ridges southeast of Birmingham.
Two screenshots merged to form a complete ride profile (10 mile, 250ft scale). The numbered ridges and creeks are labeled on the topocreator map below.
Topocreator map of the ridges southeast of Birmingham out to Double Oak (click to enlarge) or download the hi-res version (6.5MB)
After three weeks of traveling out west and enjoying some really amazing riding and sightseeing with the family, I have been enjoying a week of riding back in Birmingham. Today’s ride typifies the type of ridge riding that you can do here in Birmingham. I started out this ride with a loop on the side of Little Valley Mountain followed by a route crossing all the major ridge lines to Birmingham. Then I turned around and took a different route home recrossing the same ridge lines at different points. After a quick stop at home, I did a loop through Bluff Park bouncing back and forth between the two ridge lines on top of Shades Mountain. That last bit through Bluff Park is shown with ridge and creek crossings highlighted in the first elevation profile and map below:
- My neighborhood – on the remnants of Altadena Ridge
- Little Shades Creek – feeds into the Cahaba River
- Little Valley Mountain – Panorama Dr home of S Cove, Renfroe, VHHS
- Little Shades Creek again – after the S Cove Dr descent
- Little Valley Mountain again – this time descending off the other side of the mountain via Gay Way
- Patton Creek headwaters – near Vestavia Pizitz Middle School
- Vestavia Lake overlook – high point on the lower Shades Mountain ridge
- Vestavia Falls bridge – tucked down below a cliff, cool and shady
- Hwy 31 at Shades Crest – right before the descent past Brookwood hospital. Crosses the upper Shades Mountain ridge
- Shades Creek – high bridge (Hwy 31) over the creek and Lakeshore trail
- Red Mountain on Woodcrest –
– super steep descent to Five Points South
- Five Points South – still nearly hundred feet above downtown (Village Creek, etc…)
- Red Mountain Crest Rd with all the mansions across the top of the ridge –
- Shades Creek – after descending down through Mountain Brook (Crestline Village)
- Shades Mountain eastern ridge – the part of Shades Mountain east of US-280
- Shades Creek at the 280 flyunder –
– flying down westbound 280, cross under on Shades Creek Pkwy, back up the ramp/climb eastbound 280
- Shades Mountain high point crown – this includes the real high point at Vestavia Dr plus lower summits at Smyer Circle and Chester St
- Little Shades Creek – awesome descent down Vesclub – crossing the creek at an upper branch
- Dolly Ridge at Skyland roller coaster
- Little Shades Creek – down at the actual creek
- Dolly Ridge at Rosemary
- Altadena Ridge back in my neighborhood
Entire ride profile with 15 mile zoom (numbered ridges, creeks explained below)
- Little Valley Mountain
- Shades Mountain
- Shades Creek
- Red Mountain
- Shades Creek
- Shades Mountain
- Shades Creek
- Shades Mountain
- Little Shades Creek
- Patton Creek
- Shades Mountain
- Patton Creek
And finally, here is a topocreator map of the entire ride … plus a super hi-res version (10.7MB).
Entire ride – ridges and creeks annotated (click to enlarge) … or download the super hi-res version (10.7MB)
March 15th – April 30th – 96 rides, 3084 miles and 468,661 feet of climbing – the Strava Specialized Climbing Challenge is done.
Last year I climbed a lot because I really like climbing (and descending). This year in this climbing competition, I was driven by a desire to win so I climbed more and rode much more than I have ever ridden before. Jeremy Philippe still has a chance to win if he has any more rides that he hasn’t uploaded yet, and if he does win then he deserves it because all of his climbing was on real mountain climbs in the French Alpes. Earlier in the competition, it was a race to see who could get to the prescribed climbing total 105,312feet first, and Robin Squire in England came out on top there reaching the total in an amazing 9 days. My climbing has been on the short, steep (sometimes super steep) climbs in the southern suburbs of Birmingham. Almost all of my climbing has been on three different ridge lines with hundreds of different roads criss-crossing through neighborhoods on the sides of the hills – see maps below showing only the 96 rides that counted towards the climbing challenge.
The nice side effect of all this riding and climbing is that my racing has gotten even better as well. I assumed that there would be a trade-off as I bumped up the volume, my high end intensity would tank. But this didn’t happen – instead, I tied an all-time max heartrate at the end of a 422 mile week racing the Mississippi Gran Prix. Then the next week, I finished 26th in a really tough Sunny King criterium with some of the best criterium pros in the country near the end of a 475 mile week. Then towards the end of 510 mile week on the 75th mile of the day I finished in the top 20 (20th) of the Athens Terrapin Twilight criterium. I think there really is something to a term that a friend of mine coined – terrain based training (thanks Warren!) The secret is one word – recovery. Terrain forces you to go easy. If your legs are shredded from racing, then when you climb a hill you have to go so slow that it gives your legs a chance to recover. Whereas if you are on flatter terrain with smaller hills, then you might be tempted to punch it up a hill or maintain a fast speed if it is flat. If you are climbing a 15% grade, then it is easy to go 3-5mph and weave up the entire climb, and there is no mental pressure to go even the slightest bit faster. Plus you have a downhill coming up soon where you can coast, soft pedal, or tuck-and-fly instead of having to keep on pedaling on a long mountain descent or on flat roads. I’m going to write up some more about my training strategies in another post.
For now, here are some highlights/timeline from the final day of the challenge:
- 7:30AM – walk the kids to school
- 8:15AM – first ride – commute to samford with mind-numbing 25 repeats of skyland dr – 40+mph to 5mph each repeat
- 9:20AM – teach languages and theory course at samford
- 10:30AM – help student with senior project
- 11:30AM – second ride – run into Mark Fisher (almost literally) while doing more repeats on skyland – ride together doing some of my favorite climbs/descents in vestavia
- 2:50PM – finish second ride and pick up kids from school (literally – see photo below)
- 3:15PM – third ride – combine mountain brook climbing route with hoover – bluff park climbing route – new max speed coming back down from bluff park
- 6:45PM – finish third ride, shower, and go on date with kristine while grandparents babysit the kids – firebirds for dinner, world market, barnes and noble coffee, awesome
- 9:30PM – upload data – see that Jeremy hasn’t uploaded any more rides – start to get paranoid
- 10:45PM – fourth ride – laps in the dark, tired but full of adrenaline, hammer out 30 laps
- 11:50PM – upload last ride and screenshots, for some reason i really wanted to get all my data uploaded before midnight
Kristine got a video of Analise and Josiah running with me up the hill to our house on what I thought was going to be my last ride of the day. See video below: