Although many novice bicyclists avoid hills on their bike routes, sooner or later they’ll decide to put those gears to work and challenge themselves on a steep climb.
Suffering through the experience, many will go back to avoiding hills. But some who enjoy the suffering or the relief that comes when the ordeal is finally over, will be drawn to steep climbs.
One of the steepest in my neck of the woods is SE 76th Street between Lake Washington Boulevard and 116th Avenue SE.
As luck would have it, the climb is located right next to Peterson’s Bicycle Shop in Renton, owned by Tom Peterson of Team Garmin Barracuda. He’s going to sponsor a series of bike races on the hill beginning this spring. (Check the Hill Climb Spring Series page for updated schedule.)
Today’s bike ride (No. 16 for 30 Days of Biking) took me past his shop so I stopped in to find out more about the race.
Short and steep
First, this has to be one of the shortest races ever — the distance is about 1 kilometer from the bottom of the hill to the top. It also has to be one of the steepest at 24% gradient.
Later by phone, Tom told me that he’ll occasionally train by climbing the hill, then recover on a gentler slope that returns to the shop.
I asked him about similar climbs in his experience as a professional cyclist. Pausing a moment, he said it’s similar to the Mur de Huy (Wall of Huy) at the Belgian cycling classic La Fleche Wallonne. Checking Wikipedia, I learn that the Mur de Huy is a little longer, at 4,300 feet, with some sections at 17% gradient (up to 26% in one bend).
Wall of Renton
I couldn’t return home without attempting to conquer the “Wall of Renton.” Riding my vintage Specialized Rockhopper, I started in my stump-puller gear and struggled to keep the front wheel from lifting on the pavement. Standing in the pedals, I quickly ran out of steam, my thighs screaming.
My pride shattered, I walked to the top, pausing to take a few photos that really don’t do the climb justice. What’s the toughest climb in your area?
The city of Seattle certainly has its share of steep climbs for bicyclists. The steepest graded street in Seattle is Northwest 60th Street, which is 28% between 2nd and 3rd avenues northwest. More than a dozen blocks rank between 18% to 26%.
There are lots of Seattle area climbs posted on the interactive map at bicycleclimbs.com. One of the steepest, and longest, is the climb to the Cougar Mountain Zoo from Newport Way, which is listed as 8.8% for 2.7 miles with a maximum gradient of 20%. (It’s featured in the Veloce Velo commercial that airs locally.) The nearby Lakemont Boulevard is listed at 6.6% average for 1.5 miles with a maximum 15% gradient.
Some of the best hills on the Eastside can be tested at the 7 Hills of Kirkland on May 28. Here are routes for a couple of torturous metric centuries, one north of Redmond and the other around Lake Sammamish.
By the way, Tom is returning to the cycling circuit in May as a member of Garmin’s squad at the Amgen Tour of California.
30 Days of Biking
Total days — 16/16
Total miles — 225