Tag Archives: climbing

Loving where you ride

My friend and teammate Jacob Tubbs sent me this link to a Fat Cyclist post from earlier this week: http://www.fatcyclist.com/2012/07/30/how-climby-is-your-climbiest-ride/. Even though it was a contest with a specific set of rules, what I got out of the post was that the Fat Cyclist really loves riding where he lives and was wondering if other people had cooler places to ride. My personal thought on this is that a person who really loves cycling will adapt their interests so that wherever they live is the BEST place in the world to ride. I’ve lived and ridden in several places all around the country, and each has been my favorite place to ride during whatever phase of life I was in at the time.

So without a doubt, Birmingham, Alabama is the best place to ride – especially if you like the trifecta of climbing, descending, and cornering. The appeal to me is summed up in these two screenshots from Strava. The first one illustrates how many times your speed changes in a single ride. The second one has the ride map demonstrating the amount of cornering in a single ride plus the elevation profile. Those are just the quantifiable aspects of the ride that are appealing to me … the qualitative aspects go on and on, but the top of the list has to be the scenery with everything from ridges stacked on top of ridges to beautiful trees, gardens, neighborhoods. Plus, since there are so many neighborhoods to ride through, you see a bit of the everyday life of people from all walks of life.

Ride performance graph – the blue is speed – look how frequently (and dramatically) it changes (click to enlarge)

Ride map and elevation profile – look at all the turns (click to enlarge)

Ride highlights today alone included seeing (again) the mountain goat statues on Monterey Pl setup for the olympics as if they were in a high diving event (see pic at the end), seeing all kinds of clouds and cloud patterns from the thunderstorms firing up all around, scaring a wild turkey as it was crossing the road at the top of Shook Hill (never seen one this close into town before), and just the usual fast descents and steep climbs. Today was extra special, though, because I really felt the entire ride was a fun “dance” … very delicately balancing the maximum amount of climbing I could do without repeating the same road twice (in the same direction) while still trying to hit the highlights of some of my favorite roads – AND while avoiding huge thunderstorms moving through the area. I was successful in avoiding the thunderstorms, but ended up getting a flat tire, then flatting again on the spare. Luckily I was right next to Cahaba Cycles when I flatted the second time.

So I set out to do a “climby” ride and ended up on one of the best training rides of the year covering 73.9 miles and climbing 12,327ft, exploring part of Cahaba Heights that I haven’t ridden in a while. Plus, one more thing about how much variety and selection there is in the roads to ride around Birmingham … this ride is probably less than 10% of the available roads in the area – including entire sections of town I had to avoid because of the thunderstorms. Bluff Park, Georgetown, Hoover, Homewood, Birmingham proper including Red Mountain and Ruffner Mountain, the Double Oak area including Leeds – none of these made it into this ride. This ride traverses parts of just three suburbs of Birmingham: Vestavia Hills, Mountain Brook, and a small portion of Irondale.

I didn’t have a camera with me today, but I’ve dug up a selection of photos I’ve taken from spots on the route I covered today.

High diving olympic mountain goats

Sunrise on South Cove Dr – check out all the ridges

Samford University from Vestavia Dr

Vestavia Dr looking over Brookwood Hospital (where my son Josiah was born) over towards Red Mountain with Montclair (Trinity) Hospital where I was born visible on the side of the mountain

Ridges in my neighborhood

Rapha Rising Day 8

Family vacation time at the beach started yesterday – so I squeezed in a super fast climbing ride in Birmingham yesterday before driving down to Florida. I am not really a beach person at all, but my family loves it so I’m here to have a good time with them. One of the things that is so fascinating to me about the drive down 331 to the beach is how the rolling hills pick up once you make it past Montgomery. Opp, Alabama is really hilly – and then it stays hill through the high point of Florida near Florala, Alabama and all the way to De Funiak Springs, Florida. Then the terrain really starts to flatten out as you get closer to the beach.

For the last day of the Rapha Rising competition, I had to decide whether I was going to do hill repeats on the 331 bridge or if I would head up into the hills near De Funiak Springs. Given the traffic on the bridge, I opted for the 23 mile drive up to De Funiak Springs. I parked just off of 331 at the Rock Hill road intersection. This sits at the top of a long ridge line, but I discovered that the road snakes across the top rather than diving up and down. I found myself with a nearly 3 to 1 climbing ratio (which is really, really flat) by the time I made it to Knox Hill. I went up it once and then thought I would go for the KOM on it on my second time up. I wanted to make sure that I matched the segment completely so I went hard up and over the top of the hill. This turned out to be great because it helped me make it to a perfect bowl for hill repeats (see pics below for both directions of the bowl) -

Northbound section of the “Knox Hill Bowl”
Southbound section of the “Knox Hill Bowl”
The climbing alternative was this bridge … not much traffic at 730AM on a Sunday morning, but only a couple hours later it would have been jammed packed with cars.

As I started to do repeats on the Knox Hill Bowl, my climbing ratio quickly dropped down nearly to 1:1 by the time I had to leave to go find water. It was a mind-numbing number of repeats, but it was fun to watch the stats, speed, and marvel at the fact that the road was so deserted (no cars). I ended up getting lost on the way over to De Funiak Springs and running out of water, but the road I was on had some good hills. Finally, I bee-lined it straight back down Hwy 331 to the Rock Hill intersection to get my car and head home. This section of 331 was very busy, but the shoulder was wide and free of debris – and there were some more good hills like the one below:

Traffic and hills on US331 south

Finally, some stats and records from the week:

* Longest week of riding ever – 649.5 miles
* Most climbing in one week – 100,342 ft of climbing + 4200 feet missing from Wednesday
* Longest ride ever on Wednesday – 249 miles
* Most amount of climbing in a single ride – 42,200 ft

And here are all the screenshots and photos from the ride: