The Devil Mountain

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 Diablo map

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 Diablo elevation

Mt Diablo gradient

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.

Rob at summit of Mt. Diablo

A very sweaty Rob at the summit of Mt. Diablo

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.

View from summit of Mt. Diablo

view to the north from the summit of Mt. Diablo

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.

Ride Information
Date: 2009-06-12 1:33 PM PDT
Mountain: Mt. Diablo
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)

8 thoughts on “The Devil Mountain”

  1. That is a beautiful sight. I have two questions:

    Did you have any problems with ears popping or balance when you were going up?

    How did you keep from wrecking going down. I know you’re a pro, but that was a pretty steep downward ride.

    I’m just happy you got to do it.

  2. No ear popping. The change in elevation happens pretty gradually.

    As for not crashing… caution, concentration, skill.

  3. i have no questions … except to ask you to please put a few stops in the ‘down’ video so i can watch it again without getting sick!!!!!!!!
    cannot begin to imagine the ride ‘up’!! Great stuff!!
    hugs, auntie

  4. ABOUT THE RIDE DOWN THE MOUNTAIN! I thought, hmmmm. ok, I’ll try it. sooooooo I put on my helmet , strapped on my SEAT BELT and HUNG ON FOR DEAR LIFE!!!!!! ( I may have thrown up in my mouth a couple times) In fact, I almost took a breath/’at the one stop THINKING WHEW~~ IT IS OVER, and YOU WERE OFF AGAIN<<<< ..thanks for the ride, sure glad we made it down SAFELY!!!! take it easy, hugs, nan

  5. Looking at the pictures and videos of your cycling and feeling very jealous. :) The video from the the descent looks scary at 5x.

    My wife’s and my bikes were stolen from the storage in our building back in April, and I can’t work up the courage to get a pair of new ones. Wasn’t easy to get over the whole incident.

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