I love bicycling up and down mountains. Ironically I live in Champaign-Urbana, IL (i.e. the flattest place on Earth). The past several times I’ve travelled to San Francisco for WWDC I have ridden Mt. Tamalpais, just to the north of the city in Marin county. I decided to mix it up a bit this year, so after the conference ended on Friday I grabbed my bike, hopped on BART, and travelled to Contra Costa county in the east bay to ride Mt. Diablo.
I started at the Walnut Creek BART station. From there I headed down Ygnacio Valley Road (which had a little more traffic that I was expecting). From there I turned onto Walnut Ave. (not Walnut Blvd.). I turned right at the traffic circle at Oak Grove Rd., then I took a quick left onto North Gate Rd. This leads into Mt. Diablo State Park. Before the ride I read that bikes didn’t have to pay so I blew through the park gate.
Mt. Tamalpais rises 2500 ft in around 10 miles, whereas Mt. Diablo rises 3500 ft in 10.1 miles (average 6.5% gradient). So Mt. Diablo is noticeably steeper most of the way.
Mt. Tamalpais has a fair amount of shade, while Mt. Diablo is almost completely out in the open. So I baked in the sun. This was somewhat unexpected, as the weather had been 60˚ F and overcast all week long in San Francisco. As soon as I left the city the temperature was much, much hotter.
Traffic was light. I think I saw more bikes on the road than cars. Incidentally, most of the cyclists were all decked out in cold weather gear like jackets. Meanwhile I was sweating like a hog and shedding clothes. The flies apparently liked the way I smelled, because a swarm of 6-8 of them followed me the last 6 miles of the climb.
Just like both the West and East peaks of Mt. Tamalpais, the road up Mt. Diablo throws in a 16% gradient to just before cresting the summit, though this steepest section on Mt. Diablo was much longer. I was afraid to stop for fear that I wouldn’t be able to get started again. It was that steep.
The views were spectacular the whole way up. The lack of trees (and guardrails) allowed an unobstructed view. The view from the top did not disappoint either. I could see miles in all directions. I couldn’t quite see San Francisco. I think there was a shorter range of mountains/hills between Mt. Diablo and the city that blocked the view.
The ride down was super fast (well above the posted 25 mph speed limit). I recorded the whole thing with my Flip video camera. Here it is at 5X speed.
Anyway, the ride was awesome. I’m a little sad I didn’t get a chance to ride Mt. Tam also, but maybe I’ll do that next year.
|Date:||2009-06-12 1:33 PM PDT|
|Road Elevation:||3849 feet|
|Climb Distance:||10.1 miles|
|Climb Ascent:||3471 feet|
|Climb Average Grade:||6.5%|
|Climb Maximum Grade:||16%|
|Ride Distance:||32.75 miles|
|Ride Total Ascent:||4400 feet|
|Ride Maximum Speed:||35.9 miles/hour|
|Ride Start:||Walnut Creek, CA (200 feet)|
|Ride End:||Walnut Creek, CA (200 feet)|