Local Rite of Passage and a Biking Milestone

Every weekend is another opportunity to test my legs and lungs.

Road cyclists who live in the East Bay area of Northern California like to test their fitness and skill  by riding up and down Mount Diablo. It’s 3,848 feet high, and on a clear day, you can see the Sierra Nevada range across the Central Valley from its peak. A year ago, I swore I’d never ride on that curvy road with its long climb up and fast ride down. This is big time biking: it’s part of the Amgen Tour of California every year.

Mt. Diablo

Mt. Diablo

But there I was with Dan and my fellow Team Chevron riders on a foggy morning in July. We headed east and began to climb. I was worried on the ascent because I had no experience with a long climb like that. How much is in the tank? What if I can’t make the pedals go around?

I was relieved to make my objective for this first time, the junction of South Gate with North Gate roads. I was proud and jubilant! After a brief rest, I watched just about every body else head up for the final third of the climb, which culminates in a brutally steep but short strech to the very top. After supporting me as I made my first (partial) ascent up the hill, Dan rode away with them.

Aftermath of success.

Aftermath of success.

On the long descent, I tried not to brake continuously, but my hands did get tired and I stopped to shake out my arms at a pull out. I was alone except for the two or three guys who whizzed past me.

The following weekend, as Dan joined Team Chevron on a 35-mile loop that included Altamont and Patterson Passes, I was eager to check my progress on something I’d ridden after only 4 months on my new bike a year ago, the hills on Calaveras Road.  I rode the full 32-mile route on my own (with lots of company from bikers I didn’t know). In solidarity with Dan’s harder ride, I also biked the steep hill at the end, which I’d skipped last year.

Braking down that hill felt stressful, and I confess I got off and walked down the S-curve.It’s a struggle to get my fingertips out that far to squeeze the brakes, and the weight on my hands and stress on my thumb is considerable. I think I need to add another pair of shims to bring the brake levers closer.

On the ride back, I practiced banked turns on the curves, standing on the pedals to pass people for the few uphills, and getting into the drops.  I felt amazingly good. I rewarded myself with Ooie Gooie chocolate cake as soon as I got home!

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