Tag Archives: climbing

Climbing comparisons and Rapha Rising goodies!

Prizes from the Leadville Trail 100 MTB race – big belt buckle and full zip jacket. Mt Massive is annotated in the background. (click to enlarge)

Prizes from the Rapha Rising climbing competition on Strava – circle of death jersey and rapha bib shorts. The Shades Crest ridge line is annotated in the background. (click to enlarge)

Close-up of the collar of the circle of death jersey … embroidered on it are the four climbs and their height in meters. Awesome! (click to enlarge)

Nothing like a trip somewhere else to make you see your own backyard in a whole new light. I recently returned from Leadville, Colorado and have been drawing comparisons between the climbing in the high mountains of Colorado vs the climbing in the really low mountains of Alabama. I came back to Alabama to find the prizes I won on the queen stage of the Rapha Rising competition (Read my ride report here – Rapha Rising Wednesday Mega-ride). I’ve been thinking about this topic for quite a while – so I’m going to let my annotated screenshots illustrate some conclusions I’ve reached from a quantitative perspective, but from a qualitative perspective I have to conclude that neither is better than the other. Climbing big mountains is just so radically different than climbing smaller hills that it really is like comparing apples to oranges. Fortunately for me, I like them both.

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