Grizzly Peak Century

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

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We’re heading for the hills today and will be riding the Grizzly Peak Century route with the start/finish at the Holiday Highlands Park in Martinez.

We take Morello to Center Ave and drop down Muir Station Rd to Alhambra Ave. The turn on Alhambra Valley Rd has quite a bit of early morning traffic from parents dropping off their kids to school. Once we pass John Swett Elementary School, it’s pretty quiet with a few passing commuters taking the back roads to work.

The gentle rolling climbs on Alhambra Valley Rd takes us to the first steady climb up east Pig Farm Hill; it’s 0.6 mile long with grades of 6-9% grades.

The fast descent drops us down to Bear Creek Rd for the climbs up along the Bears; Mama Bear is 0.7 miles with a steady grade of 7% followed by two additional humps before the descent to Briones. Papa Bear is 0.7 miles with a steady grade of 7% followed by a small bump before the downhill on Pumphouse Grade. Baby Bear begins after you cross the bridge over San Pablo Creek; it’s short and steep with grades of 9-11% up to the traffic signal on San Pablo Dam Rd.

We ride the flats through Orinda on Camino Pablo out to Moraga Way; watch for all the traffic around the freeway interchange, it can get dicey! The gentle grade on Moraga Way takes us out to Moraga for the turn onto Canyon Rd. The short 1.8 miles on Canyon takes us into the redwoods for the climb up north Pinehurst Rd.

The 1.5 mile climb up Pinehurst Rd to the summit at Pinehurst Gate is a gorgeous section of road that goes under the canopy of redwoods with grades of 4-7%; you’ll even catch a glimpse of the San Leandro Reservoir near the top; take a second to look around!

The descent on Pinehurst brings us to Redwood Rd, we opt to do the out and back on Redwood to the golf course as opposed to doing the full south loop-we don’t feel the need to ride out through the zoo into east Oakland.

Redwood Rd out to Willow Park Golf Course is 7.6 miles long. The climb up to the summit at Marciel Gate is about 3 miles; it begins with gentle grades of 2-3% up towards Bort Meadows and increases to 5-7% grades up to the false summit. The short descent is followed by another climb up towards the grove of eucalyptus trees. The sweeping descent on Redwood down to the golf course is one of my favorite down hills in the Bay Area-you’ll love it!

Willow Park Golf Course is the turnaround point for us; we’re going to head back up Redwood Rd to Pinehurst. The climb on south Redwood begins after crossing the bridge over San Leandro Creek; it’s 1.9 miles up to the summit with gradient ranges of 6-7%. The rolling terrain has one short steep pitch up towards Bort Meadows before the long descent to Pinehurst Rd.

We’re back on Pinehurst Rd; the climb up to Pinehurst Gate from this end is about 1.2 miles with an average grade of 4%, there is one short steep 9-10% pitch on the approach to the top. Be careful on the descent, it’s very twisty with a few hairpin turns on a narrow road!

From the intersection at Canyon Rd, we continue on Pinehurst Rd up to Skyline Blvd. The lower section of this road follows an old railroad grade through gorgeous redwoods along the San Leandro Creek into the small town of Canyon. The actual climb up to Skyline begins when the road takes a left hairpin turn; it’s 1.3 miles with an average grade of 5.25%. The last quarter mile has steeper grades of 9-12% as you near the top at the guardrails.

We continue on the bumpy bad pavement along Skyline Blvd to our lunch stop at Sibley Park.

Grizzly Peak Blvd is up next; the first few flat miles go along the ridge of the Berkeley Hills with spectacular views of the East Bay! The road descends to the intersection at Claremont & Fish Ranch Rd.

The 1.5 mile climb on south Grizzly Peak Blvd has an average grade of 6% up to the summit just past South Park Dr. Take a moment to enjoy the spectacular views of the East Bay, SF Bay and the Golden Gate Bridge-it’s awesome!

The descent on Grizzly Peak Blvd from the ridge through the Berkeley hills is absolutely horrible; the road is full of cracks, potholes and poor patch jobs!

When you get on Wildcat Canyon Rd, the road conditions get worse! You can’t even enjoy the flat terrain or the scenery because you’re busy dodging all the huge potholes, cracks and sunken patches-be careful!

As you near the Island Picnic Area, the road conditions greatly improve when you cross over the county line into Contra Costa. The rolling terrain goes through Tilden Park out to Inspiration Point followed by a shaded descent down to Orinda.

The north loop of this route begins on the flat rolling terrain along San Pablo Dam Rd to the reservoir. The descent into El Sobrante brings us to the short steep climb up Castro Ranch Rd through the Carriage Hills neighborhood to Alhambra Valley.

We take Pinole Valley Rd through the city of Pinole and continue on San Pablo Ave out to Hercules and Rodeo. This section of the route has lots of traffic going in and out of the shopping centers and certainly around the I-80 freeway interchanges-be careful!

San Pablo Ave continues north with several climbs up to the refineries, towards Cummings Skyway and the Carquinez Bridge. It becomes Pomona St when you enter the town of Crockett. The climb on Pomona St takes you pass the Veterans War Memorial and onto Carquinez Scenic Dr.

Carquinez Scenic Dr is a quiet road that runs along the shoreline of the Carquinez Strait with gorgeous views of the Benicia waterfront. The gentle rolling terrain winds down to Canyon Lake Rd for the short detour into Port Costa.

At Port Costa, there is a short steep climb out of town on Reservoir St back up to Carquinez Scenic Dr.

The climbing is not over; the infamous McEwen Rd is just up ahead! It’s a one mile steep climb with immediate gradient ranges of 12-15% followed by lesser grades of 8-10% under the shade of the eucalyptus trees. You’re near the top when the road opens up to the tree lined ridge up ahead.

The descent from the valley takes us down to Franklin Canyon Rd; this road through the canyon follows the Santa Fe RR tracks out to Alhambra Ave in Martinez.

The last 6 miles of this century goes around the some Martinez neighborhoods along Vine Hill, Morello, Center and Hidden Lakes before finishing at Holiday Highlands Park.

The weather was fabulous for this hilly century and it’s always great to be able to ride during the weekday with a bit less traffic, motorcycles and cyclists around the beautiful back roads of the East Bay Hills and beyond.

Garmin Stats:
100.62 Miles with 8271′ of elevation gain
Max elevation: 1620′
Avg grade: 4%
Max grade: 15%

Weather: Perfect! Sunny and warm with clear blue skies and mild NW winds. Temps ranged from the morning low of 55F to the afternoon high of 84F

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I’m gonna make the rest of my life, the best of my life.
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