Friday, February 01, 2008
The Steepest Hill in Los Angeles
There are a couple of races that I know of where the toughest cyclists climb the steepest hills in Los Angeles. One is the Fargo Street hill climb race and the other one is "Feel My Legs I'm a Racer" ride where they race up 10 super steep hills in Los Angeles.
I tried practicing for the race later this month by going up Baxter and Fargo streets. These hills have a 32-25% grade. At first I wasn't sure where it was so I went the entire length of both streets.
I climbed the first couple of hills on Baxter and Fargo in Silver Lake. At first I went to the west side of Glendale Blvd. I climbed up all the hills there on each side. Boy was that tough! There were nice views of the Silver Lake reservoir. Then, I crossed over to the east side of Glendale, and I could see the intimidating hills up there. I just barely managed to climb the first few hills.
When I got to the steepest hills on Baxter and Fargo Street, I was totally exhausted. My heart was pounding and almost fell like giving up. But, through sheer will power, I managed to climb all the hills. I shouldn't have saved the steepest hills for last, because at that point I was pretty weak.
I fell a couple times on my 7th and 8th hill. That was a humbling experience. I had to clip out several times, because I just could not pedal up. There were a lot more cars on Baxter St. than I thought there would be. Maybe it was because it was at rush hour and people were going home.
I went up the hills on my Motobecane Nemesis triathlon/time-trial bike. My time-trial bike is built for high speeds and not climbing. The gear ratios are very high. I had no granny gear to get me up the hills. I think I can do it on my mountain bike which has much lower gears. I thought it was going to be tough especially after watching videos of other guys do it, but it was tougher than I thought. You think you can do it until you actually go up there and try.
I had to zigzag up hill. There are some pretty steep hills in my neighborhood, but these hills are the steepest in the country.
There's a technique to going uphill. You need to power through when turning while zigzaging. Otherwise, it's extremely tough to pedal uphill at that angle. If you lose your balance, concentration, and/or momentum, then it's really hard to get back on the bike again at that steep of an angle. You will fall if you can't keep pedaling up.
Even downhill was tough. The hills were so steep that my brakes couldn't even stop me. I kept going down. Sometimes, I even felt the rear tire skidding downhill. I need new brakes already.
These hills are extremely tough on bike and body. I felt like I could almost rip off the handlebars from my bike when I put so much force on it while pedaling up. I felt like the chain and gears could even break. One time my chain actually broke going uphill on my mountain bike on a steep hill in San Diego.
I also had a backpack full of clothes, shoes, lunch tupperware, bike support stuff, etc. It weighed a good 20 lbs.
I think I could complete the race. I think I will only get a mediocre time though. I think it will be easier and much safer with many other cyclists and no cars around. It was dangerous because cars can't even see anything when they're going uphill especially at the crest. Downhill, the cars' brakes are getting fried too.
You can see Fargo Street from the entrance/exit to the Glendale 2 Freeway. I've always wondered just how steep that hill was and now I know first hand. It's no joke.
Even though I couldn't get up the steepest hills in one complete go (since I was tired from climbing all the other hills), If I could finish them on a high-geared triathlon bike, then I'm pretty sure I can do it on a lower geared mountain bike. It will still be tough, especially on a race of the 10 steepest hills in L.A. These hills are steeper than the ones in San Francisco.
Plus, I'm getting old. Before biking there, I twisted my back and pulled a muscle near my rib. I had a hard time breathing too, because it hurt when I tried to inhale.
It's a good thing I like physical challenges. No pain, no gain, right? If I'm free that day, I want to do that race.
My hats off to the guys who can do it on fixed gear bikes and guys who can do it 50-90 times in one day.
As you know, pictures don't really show just how steep hills are. You've got to go there and do it yourself.
Check out the links to find more about these races: