Posts filed under ‘Off-season’
The Double Oak Way climb has been a favorite of mine since I first rode it a couple years ago after somebody at Tuesday Worlds mentioned that they had rode their motorcycle up it the day before. The very next day, I went for a ride out to Mt Laurel and climbed it for the first time. I had scouted it out ahead of time using topocreator.com and knew that the road would take you up over 1400ft, which is very rare for the Birmingham area. The only other climb I am aware of that tops out at over 1400ft is the Pine Mountain climb north of Trussville.
So anyway, my first time up the Double Oak Way climb was the summer of 2008. Since then, I have climbed it probably 20 times over the course of a couple years. Well, as I was working on the topocreator.com website last night (yes, it is going to go into real beta testing soon!), I stumbled across a topocreator map of the climb and noticed for the FIRST time that there was a small thick contour line representing 1500ft not too far from where the road ends at the radio towers. The towers are at an elevation of just over 1450ft, but less than 3/4 of a mile away was the opportunity to ride up to 1500ft. I immediately scanned the map to find the lowest point in the area to see just how big a climb I could make it. And it turns out there is a spot in nearby Chelsea at 475ft meaning that the total vertical relief was just over 1000ft. Plus with a few downhills thrown in throughout the climb, there is over 1700ft of total elevation gain in the 10.3 mile climb.
Today, for the first time I did the complete 10.3 mile climb topping out at 1502 ft. Let me take you through the climb as I remember it. First, I didn’t get started until later in the day, so I knew that the only way to make it all the way out to Chelsea and back before it got dark was to bee line a good portion of the route on 280. Once I made it to Chelsea, I promptly turned around and began the climb. You first go through the Chelsea Corners shopping center before crossing under a small railroad bridge where the road turns into onto Old Hwy 280, which follows a creek on a fairly gradual incline right between these towering cliffs on either side of the road and creek. At the top, I just missed the light to cross 280 so after a short wait, it was game on again to finish the climb. There are a couple of steep rollers as you head out on Co Rd 41 towards Mt Laurel. Then, once you make the right turn onto Double Oak way just on the outskirts of Mt Laurel, the real fun begins!
The climb hits you hard right at the beginning with a 0.6 mile stretch that climbs 389ft for an average gradient of 11.8%. There are a couple of short spots where the gradient approaches 25%! There is also a gate about 3/4 of the way up this part of the climb, where you have to dismount and literally climb through the middle of the gate between the thick bars to keep cars and motorcycles out. Remount just in time for the 20-25% “am I going to fall over” 1/10th of a mile stretch which I went up at 7.1mph (avg), 5.9mph (min), 9.2mph (max). The next part of the climb starts out with a short steep downhill followed by the start of the next section of the climb, which is a 1.75 mile stretch with an average gradient of only 2.75%. This is where the best views are, too, and it is so nice and peaceful to ride on a road without any cars at all! The only thing you have to worry a little bit about is deer. I startled three on the ride today narrowly missing one on the way back down!
The road kicks back up to 16% gradient as you make it to 1425ft at the top of this first crest. On the other side, is a super steep downhill (20%) that bottoms out before you immediately start climbing again at nearly a 20% gradient up to the radio towers. This is where I have turned around the past 20 times I have done this climb. But after seeing the topocreator map last night, I knew that I was going to do my best to make it to the 1500ft circle on the map! So I headed off-road onto what is probably a hunting trail (have to be careful about that, I tried to make a lot of non-deer sounding noises, i.e., whoops and hollers which was pretty easy since I was having just about as much fun as I have had all year on the bike!). I followed the trail which was mostly double track covered in leaves and even some grassy areas. I flew through this area which was fairly flat at 1450-1475ft before it dives down again to an intersection with what is probably a motorcycle dirt trail judging by the ruts and rocks. This was really hard to ride because the rocks were big and loose.
At the intersection with another trail, my memory was getting a bit hazy about where to find the final stretch back up to 1500ft, and I almost turned around thinking I had missed it when I looked up and saw another split in the trail heading up to the top. It was super steep, sandy in spots, rutted, and rocky in some spots so I wasn’t sure if I was going to be able to make it up the 1/4 mile trail with max gradient of 18%. But as I got further and further and hadn’t fallen off yet, I thought maybe I could make it to the top. Alas, I got stuck in a rut not 50m from the top and decided it would be faster just to run the rest of the way up. At the top, there was another path off the trail that led to some rocks where I got a few of the pictures below. I had made it to 1500ft. Total time for the climb – 10.3 miles in 41 minutes for an average speed just under 15mph!
It was beautiful, and the sun was getting ready to set so I couldn’t enjoy it long. Took a few pictures and then booked it back through the trails, over Hugh Daniel, back across 280, and all the way home just after sunset. It was an amazing awesome ride. Check out the maps, pictures, and data below. Also, the bottom map shows the climb in relation to several of the other climbs and high points in the area. So who’s going to go with me next time??? I can’t wait to tour guide this climb to some adventurous riders!!! Click on the maps for the “medium” version or click on the link marked “huge” for a huge version where you can read all the residential road names.
Complete ride, shows entire 280 corridor (medium version)
Huge version (17.9MB, prints at resolution of 84″ x 84″)
How is that for a scenic view and ride profile? It took just over two hours to do the 22 mile climb out of Gatlinburg up to the Clingman’s Dome parking lot – and then only 42 minutes to make it all the way back down! That works out to an average speed of 11mph on the way up and 31mph on the way back down. My one mistake for the ride was not realizing that there is actually a paved path the rest of the way up to the lookout tower that is like a hot wheel’s track for grown-ups. When Kristine and I drove back up to the top later, we passed a small group of cyclists nearing the top. We then saw them riding up the path and caught up to them while they rested at the lookout tower. I found out they race for a team in the tri-state area (TN-NC-VA). The view is absolutely amazing. Check out the rest of the photos from the ride.
Yesterday I took two of my programming students to the University of South Alabama just west of Mobile for a programming competition. The competition involves a 5-hour session where we cannot make any contact at all with the students. What is a biking professor to do for those 5 hours? Well, let’s see, I’ll go for a bike ride! Here’s a topocreator.com map of the route I took from the university down to the coast and across a 4 mile long bridge.
I started out heading due south on Hillcrest Road which was surprisingly hilly with some 5, 6, and 7% grades. It was a very wide 4 lane road, but there was a bit of traffic. Eventually, I made my way down to Carol Plantation Rd which took me for the next 14 miles south towards the coast. This road had much less traffic, but it was a narrower 2 lane road with a speed limit of 55mph. The road was very straight so most cars passed on the opposite of the road. I had a pretty strong side-headwind to battle so my pace hovered right around 20mph. It was very windy once I made it to the bridge. The middle of the bridge rose up very sharply with a maximum grade of 7%. Just to the right of the white line was about 18 inches of smooth, debris-free shoulder which allowed me to ride the bridge without being in traffic and without worrying about getting a flat tire. The actual shoulder was probably 6 feet wide, but it was quite debris-strewn past that 18 inch mark. It didn’t matter much though because there was hardly any traffic.
Dauphin Island itself was a great place to ride with low speed limits, and wide smooth roads. I rode to the easternmost point of the island just past the ferry which is a 45 minute trip across the bay to Fort Morgan. Unfortunately there wasn’t enough time for me to ride the ferry across, so I turned around and headed back with a strong tailwind. I was able to average much closer to 25mph for large sections of the return trip, except for the portions of the route which turned northeast since it was a strong southeasterly wind. It was an awesome change of pace from my normal riding in Birmingham.
I biked home from work early today to make it ahead of the rain. Even though the lighting wasn’t good, the fall colors were absolutely amazing. I had my old camera with me and got to do one of my favorite things to do while riding a bike — taking pictures! These pictures below are all taken on the climb up Smyer Road or from the top of the mountain at the Baptist Church.
Not much new to report here other than I have been taking advantage of the off-season to get a lot of work done (academic research as well as work on my e-commerce website topocreator.com). It’s also left me a little more time each day with my family which I am really thankful for. I’ve been riding everyday to work so I have still been getting in about 75 miles of riding each week, but I haven’t ridden on the weekends now for a couple weeks. That will change on November 15th when Birmingham’s winter training series (called BBL because of its similarities to the Athens WBL) kicks back up again.