Monday, November 23, 2009

Exploring in the Back Yard - Soda Springs Road

Our local area is very blessed with the vast amount of terrain for on- and off-road biking. Over the past couple of months with the intensity low on my training radar I've done a few rides that normally I wouldn't have tried previously. Not sure as to the specific reason why I wouldn't have done these rides as part of my normal training, but it's probably because I've felt less in a rut around riding and more carefree about where my bike ends up taking me. That's a good thing and something I need to do more to counterbalance the demands of training and the impending slew of interval work I see on the horizon.

I recently decided to explore Soda Springs Road. The low-key'ers did this climb a few weeks ago and though I missed it, I felt I should at least make the effort to give the climb a go. What really prompted me to get my rear up to this climb was the announcement that the Los Gatos Creek Trail had reopened the upper part of the trail across the front of the dam. No more nasty climbing on the gravel road (I actually never did it, but it was a deterrence). I came down it plenty, but never found a reason to be joyous about climbing it. With the change in the trail in place, I figured it was worth heading up to Soda Springs.

The sign at the bottom is h
armless and gives no real indication of what was in store. As the climb began I was surprised at how this road meandered up through the canyon. For some reason I thought I'd end up with a nice few of the back side of Mt. Umunhum as I climbed but that wasn't the case. I did keep getting views of the trails in the Sierra Azul area where folks typically mountain bike.

I'm not going to go into too much detail, but I captured some interesting things along the climb that caught my interest. The autumn colors in the leaves on the vines aren't done justice by the iPhone camera, but they were ablaze in vibrant fall hues.

As you climb higher the road narrows and leaves just enough room for a cyclist and a single vehicle. This is probably one of my favorite pictures on the climb because it gives you a real sense of what the climb entails. Pretty steady 8% grade the whole way up. You just have to find that happy gear and mash out your feel-good cadence. Mine happened to be at at nice tempo pace on the day I took these pictures. I came back a week later and went a bit faster (sub-threshold) and shaved off three plus minutes from my previous time up the climb.

Higher up on the hill you come across less pe
ople and more outstanding views. There was some local valley haze in the area and it wasn't completely clear; the following week at the top it was much cooler and clear. I could see all the way to Mt. Tam, SF, Oakland and the foothills up near Sonoma and Napa Valleys.

I'm still surprised at myself for not making the effort to get up to this excellent climb sooner. From my house it's roughly a 1.5 hour ride to the top. Not bad considering that I'm only having to really deal with cars for the first twenty minutes of this ride from the house over to the LG trail head. Once you get up around Lexington and the climb the volume of cars is very low.

On the way home I decided to hop over and give Montevina a climb. I've cut across the dirt trail numerous times to descend Bohlman, but given my adventurous bent, I decided to stick to the dirt trail (on the road bike...25mm tires mind you) and descend into Los Gatos. Of course I took it easy on the descent because coming home in several pieces is not an option. Overall it was fun to explore some new parts of the hills and open myself to new adventures in the dirt descent.

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