Double Oak Commute
What do a midterm exam, excellent students, and a beautiful day all equate to? Answer: a 55 mile commute with nearly 5000 ft of climbing. In the map above, I have numbered and labeled the six major climbs on the route. Also my ride crossed four different river valleys – Shades Valley, Cahaba Valley (2x), Little Cahaba Valley (2x), and Shoal Creek!
My computer architecture students have done really well this semester and are way ahead of schedule, so when I gave them their second take-home exam yesterday, I also decided to give them the day off from class. This meant I had the opportunity to go for a long ride on the way in to work, how long? My longest “commute” yet at 55 miles and over 5000 ft of climbing. I did one of my favorite climbs in Birmingham (Double Oak Way), and I also discovered a cool addition to the Grants Mill climb from the Cahaba River.
Contents of my jersey pockets for the 55 mile commute: 2 powergels, 1 chocolate milk, 2 powerbars, 1 set of keys, 1 wallet in a grocery bag, 1 saddle bag with holes.
The ride was awesome, and my legs felt good so I attacked the hills pretty hard. I had ridden all these roads before with one exception – the cement path down into the Cahaba River (literally) for the Grants Mill climb. There is a cement path that leads from a parking area on Grants Mill Rd down a 24% gradient to the Cahaba River. Near the river, there is a ramp leading to a canoe/kayak landing with a gradient of at least 35% maybe even 40%.
Annotated Grants Mill / Cahaba River bridge area.
The ramp down to the landing is pretty short as shown in the satellite image above at about 15-20 ft long and leads to a 6′ by 6′ landing. So when you are heading toward a flooding river with your brakes completely engaged and the bike not stopping, you contemplate life a bit right before you roll to a stop at the edge. Then you get to turn your bike around and attempt a standing start climb of a 35+% gradient ramp. It might not work so well, and you might tumble back down the ramp onto the landing again. Or if you are lucky like me, you manage to clip both feet out of the pedals and catch the bike as it starts to wheely over backwards onto you. Then you might reasonably decide to walk the bike back up the ramp and remount to tackle the 24% gradient back up to the road to begin the 2.8 mile climb up Grants Mill onto Old Leeds Rd with 665′ of climbing and a vertical elevation difference of 540′ (a lot for Birmingham).
Lastly, here is a picture of the Double Oak Way ridge and my iBike elevation data for the ride … the climb looks much bigger in person when you are at the bottom of it.
Double Oak ridge with neighborhood off of Co Rd 41 in foreground.