Awesome training rides today. Two rides totaling 65.5 miles and 7,360′ of climbing. First, I did a quick commute into O’Henrys on Lakeshore for a progress meeting on a collaborative research project for Samford. I wanted a lot of climbing so I picked out a route that climbed over Little Valley Mountain part of the way up Shades Mountain then back down before climbing the rest of the way up to the Vestavia Drive high point before a quick descent down to OHenry’s on Lakeshore. Just over 10 miles long and almost 1600 feet of climbing!
After a very productive meeting, I headed out on a ride I’ve wanted to do for at least the past two years. Even back when I first plotted out the route, I was thinking of calling it the “Red Mountain 1200s” as it climbs several of the Red Mountain peaks that top out at over 1200′. Today, I did three of the climbs. There are at least 6 total 1200′ points, but a couple of them on Ruffner Mountain are branches of the same climb and another two look like private driveways. Here’s an annotated profile of the route with the climbs labeled including power and VAM data. For those of you who are data junkies like myself and are somewhat unimpressed by the VAM numbers – keep in mind that there are downhills on a lot of the climbs which totally destroys your VAM plus I was riding steady hard tempo today on the climbs.
1200′ #1 – Ruffner Mountain
This climb starts out when you turn off of Oporto-Madrid Blvd onto Rugby Avenue. You immediately start to climb before a short steep downhill takes you to the 90degree righthand turn onto 81st St to climb all the way to the Ruffner Mountain nature center where you should stay to the left on the roundabout (assuming no cars are coming), carefully go around the gate of the narrow paved path leaving the parking lot heading to the top. Bikes are not permitted on the trails so you have to avoid any park workers who can’t seem to see the difference between a paved road to a firetower and a dirt hiking trail, so be especially courteous to any hikers using the paved road to get up to the firetower or any of the adjacent trails to the abandoned mines, don’t leave the paved road, and be very careful and slow on the descent back down to the parking lot. It’s pretty much a straight shot, so it’s extremely steep with a gradient nearing 20% for over a quarter mile. There is one small switchback towards right before the road flattens out at the top where the old, rusty firetower will be visible in front of you. The views are good in the winter, but during the rest of the year I’m pretty sure you can’t see anything because there are so many trees along the ridge.
1200′ #2 – St Vincent’s East Water Tower
This is a tricky climb, which starts when you turn onto US11 from Shadywood Ln. This is a very busy road, but you are only on it for about half a mile. Turn left at the light with the blue “H” sign for the hospital and tackle the steepest part of the climb. A couple small rollers later and you reach the hospital. Go to the last entrance and turn left. Stay straight on that road until you see the 30+% gradient cement ramp between two parking lots. There is no gate so if you swing a little wide you can ride straight up it before it settles down into a nicer 10-15% gradient on a mostly gravel and dirt road. Then as you enter the woods, the path steepens into the 15-20% range, so you have to stay seated to keep from losing traction on the rear wheel. It gets steeper all the way to the top. Have fun on the descent, but don’t crash.
1200′ #3 – Turncliff Rd Radio Towers
This road is somewhat a novelty for Birmingham. It is a one-way dead-end road that climbs very steeply through an amazing amount of kudzu that dead-ends into a mountain-top community with no side streets at all. The community itself sits at just over 1200′, but if you turn early up the clearly visible road to the radio tower, you can get closer to 1225′. There is a gate with an easy walkaround entryway, but it is too narrow to ride. Then once you make it past the gate, you have to remount at nearly the steepest part of the climb to make it the rest of the way. The road is well paved, straight, and narrow all the way to the top. There are some major communication relays at the top with surveillance cameras so I wouldn’t (and didn’t) linger at all at the top. Just turn yourself right around and go straight back down. Don’t forget about the gate as you need to brake well in advance of it to stop in time. The descent on Turncliff Rd is really fun and potentially dangerous. There are several sweeping turns – don’t overcook any of them!
Hover over each of the images below for a caption. These are the same images that appear in the slideshow at the end of this post. Detailed topocreator maps are linked after the slideshow.