Category Archives: climbs

Pikes Peak Hill Climb Challenge

The inaugural USA Cycling Hill Climb National Championships are taking place on America’s Mountain in Colorado Springs Saturday, August 13.  There is also a Gran Fondo fun ride on the same course, which begins at 9,390 feet and ends at 14,115 feet while traveling 12.42 miles.  That’s about 7% gradient average at altitude in thin air under Rocky Mountain splendor.   The Gran Fondo also has two shorter options with less climbing for the more reasonable set.

noncompetitive Gran Fondo Fun Ride with a link to a nice video of the ride by Col Collective
Hill Climb National Championship
Schedule of Events August 13 for both rides, the championship races and Grand Fondo

This event is my top goal for 2016.  I’ve done the Pikes Peak climb before back in 2013.  That year, the Mt. Evans Hill Climb was July 20 and Pikes Peak was July 21.  My teammate and I drove from Flagstaff and did both races.  Climbing to over 14,000′ on back to back days was challenging for sure, but the stimulus kick started the second half of my season.  I didn’t get good results but the experience was extraordinary.  The next month I had more grueling racing at the Everest Challenge, once again without the results I had been expecting.  But I kept working and by September the form rolled around, and we won the State Team Time Trial.  The next weekend I won the Individual Time Trial.  And two weeks after that I we won the State Hill Climb up Mt. Graham.  What ended up being my best season started out with checking in and getting some good feedback so I knew what kind of work I had to do to reach my objectives.

This year I am putting my work in in advance.  I know one thing for sure, I am looking forward to going to the races and Gran Fondos and seeing everyone.  At Pikes Peak no matter who you are at some point in the ride your goal is going to be singular and the same, to get to the top.  A big thanks to the promoters and USA Cycling and Colorado Springs for giving us this challenge.

flat lake reflection

About this photo:  Mai and I were south of Albuquerque yesterday observing Sandhill Cranes and we caught this sunset.  To our surprise there are still thousands of Cranes here but soon they’ll be leaving for the Platte River to fatten up on Nebraska corn.  A bicycle ride through a beautiful landscape, especially on a mountain road or trail, will give you a glimpse of the light in your heart, just like this lake shows the sky reflected atop a sheet of water on the broad earth.


Bike Friendly City

I don’t know if you follow Stephen Clark on Twitter, but you should.  Stephen used to be the bicycle coordinator for Boulder, Colorado, and now he leads the Bicycle Friendly Community program at the League of American Bicyclists.  Stephen visited ABQ last April.  He shared this story via Twitter on Minneapolis’s ascent to bicycle friendly Gold Status.
How Frozen Minneapolis Became a Biking Mecca

SVEDC mural time

I don’t think there’s any one formula for bicycling success in a city, and it has to be an ongoing and authentic process.  But there were a couple key factors in Minneapolis that sparked the journey.  The elected leadership began advocating for bicycling improvements, working with community-based organizations including the Minneapolis Bicycle Coalition.  Then they earned a 25 million stimulus to support new biking and walking infrastructure that tied the active transportation networks in with their “long-standing heritage of parks, trails and outdoor recreation.”  They started downtown and connected neighborhoods working in sections.  Ridership kept growing and the city’s identity coalesced around bicycling and walking.

Bear Canyon trail

In Albuquerque we have a competitive advantage with our geography.  Even if you’re into snow bikes, just go higher.  Minneapolis has “four full-time city planners dedicated to pedestrian and biking matters”.  That focus, networked with a broad alliance of supporters, committed leadership, dedicated funding, and a creative spirit, weaves together all of the community-wide assets, most importantly by nourishing social connectedness between land and people.

Trek on top

Albuquerque is a great city for bicycling.  I feel very lucky to be here.  Bicycling dovetails into everything else we’re doing from addressing climate change to creating inclusive growth with economic innovation.  From caring for human health and well being, to energy efficiency and wise land use.  Moving bicycling forward is an affordable solution, and quite fun.

Here’s the article on Minneapolis:
Photos: 1 the mural at the South Valley Economic Development Center.  2 Commute home today on the Bear Canyon Arroyo trail just west of Wyoming Blvd.  (fresh snow on the mountains is so pretty).  3  Sunday on top of the Sandia Crest looking South, what a high.
Federal Resources are available, read more here:

Ned Overend Never Grows Old

I don’t know if you’ve ever cycled in Durango.  If you have then you know what it feels like to ride with the whole community behind you.  That is a great feeling.  Ned Overend is one of the reasons why Durango is an epicenter for Southwestern bicycling.  Outside Magazine just featured Ned in an article that includes a great video. Here’s a summary of Ned’s top ten tips for riding your bike and never growing old.  Ned makes bicycling more fun.

Keep it fun (“I use Strava and Group Rides”–Ned)
Mix it up
Pay attention to your health
Understand training theory and recover completely from your training
Be able to adjust your bicycling equipment on your own
Keep it within the envelop of control
Focus your competitiveness on yourself
Don’t assume age will slow you down
Stay positive and trust yourself
Find the right ratio of intensity to recovery
Mold your training program to your preferences and racing plan

Here’s the whole article from Outside Magazine:
Ned Overend is the Champion Cyclists Who Never Grows Old
Here’s another article on Ned’s training regime for masters
On Ned’s Fat Tire bicycle that won him the 2015 Fat Tire National Championships

PS that reminds me, I’m a little bit behind on naming SBI’s bike org. of the month.  For November 2015 it is the place called Durango that is the bike org of the month.  It’s the complete chemistry there–the riding, the people, the way the racing community is integrated with the identity of the place–that makes for greatness.  Bicycling is a place maker in Durango.  Durango wouldn’t be the same without bicycling.  The inverse is also true.

Sandia Zen in Early Morning

“Great Road.  Elevation’s a killer…almost there…almost there…almost…”  –


The Sandia Crest road carries the melody through the heart of the Wilderness enveloped by this forested mountain range tilting upwards towards the sky.  With this ride within reach from my home in Albuquerque staying home is almost always better.  I love riding from home.

I started a ride before 5am last Wednesday with all my lights (two front, two rear) to get over to the eastern side of the Sandia Mountains for the long climb up the Crest.  So worth it.  I took the preferred approach through Gutierrez Canyon.  The landscape is changing rapidly from repeating monsoon showers and August’s dazzling sun.  Every day is looking better.


early in the morning


Pedaling a bicycling in the early morning restores that youthful feeling.  The measured breathing.  The rhythmic cadence of circling pedals.  Any extemporaneous thought is quickly grounded and dissolved in the moment.  I’ve climbed the Crest 41 times this year.  Sometimes I go really slowly or stop to look and listen.  It is surprising how much more you hear and see when you have the mind and time for watchfulness and ample oxygen to process thoughts.

chaos disorder

morning light


Going up a climb has a way of quieting the mind and dissipating tension.  Sometimes at the top there is a feeling of peace and resolution.  The suffering is not so bad as long as you are eating, drinking and prepare sufficiently.  It is purifying.  The Crest is a beautiful climb for many reasons, one of them being the road takes you all the way to the top.  Might as well take a breather and go up to the observation platform.  Persistent effort pays off.  Look at this beautiful day.

twist two

sunflower on film

On one ride with an ecologist friend I listened to all his skills and words to recognize and describe the life on the mountain.  The bird songs he knew.  The landscape is teaming with plants and animals.  Understanding little we watch to learn more.  We don’t even know how many bears live here.  A bicycle ride is a window to a fuller sense of this place perched atop the eastern shield of the grand circle of the American Southwest.  This poem comes to mind:

Stay Home by Wendell Berry

I will wait here in the fields
to see how well the rain
brings on the grass.
In the labor of the fields
longer than a man’s life
I am at home.  Don’t come with me.
You stay home too.

I will be standing in the woods
where the old trees
move only with the wind
and then with gravity.
In the stillness of the trees
I am at home.  Don’t come with me.
You stay home too.

roots down


I feel at home on the mountain.  I share this property with over 300,000,000 Americans and many foreign guests and I realize it is not property at all but my growing knowledge of it, and respect for it, is all that matters as I cycle onward.  Through movement I am still.

The Crest is ranked the 65th toughest climb in the U.S. by–sandia-crest-hwy–nm.html

Wendell Berry’s poem appears in Literature and the Environment by Anderson, Slovic, O’Grady

Santa Fe Hill Climb: Sunday Morning Ride

The Santa Fe Hill Climb is coming up this Sunday morning.  It is one of the best rides.  Registration is open online through today and also available in person Sunday morning.
Here’s the website:  Santa Fe Hill Climb 2015 or you can go to

sweet pies

Anyone can do it.  All you need is your bike.  Take the initiative to ride.  I love to spend a Sunday morning climbing up above 10,000 feet in elevation in one of the most beautiful cities on earth.

the view

The view won’t be exactly like these photos taken above Albuquerque, but similar indeed.  The Southwest monsoon is strong this summer.  The bouquet of piñon essence in the clear mountain air coupled with the eruption of roadside sunflowers will make a great setting.

tierra mixture

Sandia Crest Race 2015: Photographs

Sansai Photography has photos available from this year’s race.
Galleries from Heartbreak Hill, Sandia Crest, and Race Highlights
Here are some highlights from Heartbreak Hill.

sansai heartbreak toby

Sansai Heartbreak

sansai heartbreak Cat 1 2 3 peloton

Sansai heartbreak suffering

sansai heartbreak natural grocers


All Blue: Tramway to La Luz

All Blue  When we were first moving here Chris and Thomas took me on an after work ride down Diversion and up Tramway and La Luz.  What a great way to cap the day.  On the way home we took time to have frozen yogurt.  I realized that day what a special bicycling place this is.

Destination: western flank of Sandia Mountain

Destination: western flank of Sandia Mountain

oh I'm glad I went for a bike ride today

I’m glad I went for a bike ride today

We have this gem of a climb on route 556 that starts near the traffic circle by the river, passes by the Sandia Casino, then veers left on Forest Road 333 (La Luz) for the final approach up into a little nook in the Sandia Mountains.  It gains about 2,000 vertical feet, is accessible from town, with beautiful views.  It is a very special asset to the cycling community.

On the way to the base of the climb I passed this sign on Edith.

On the way to the base of the climb I passed this sign on Edith

The Sandia Pueblo farms the riverlands.  Looking northwest from Roy Rd.

The Sandia Pueblo farms the riverlands. Looking northwest from Roy Rd.

The fancy Sandia Casino Resort

The fancy Sandia Casino Resort

I think everyone visiting town flocks to this climb.  The Sandia Pueblo keeps abundant space open on the north side of Albuquerque so the road has expansive vistas.  It is inspiring to ride.

Yes there are buffalo in Nuevo Mexicano, even in Albuquerque!  The Sandia keep them at the base of the big mountain

Yes there are buffalo in Nuevo Mexicano, even in Albuquerque! The Sandia keep them at the base of the big mountain

Smooth riding

Smooth riding

Yeah, they did a good job on the shoulder.  Thank you!

They did a good job on the shoulder. Thank you!

It was 14 degrees this morning.  These winter days make for clear air and incredibly blue skies.  A long climb like this is a great way to warm up.


Mesmerizing.  As I was looking around I felt sad the camera would not capture the atmosphere

Mesmerizing. As I was looking around I felt sad the camera would not capture the atmosphere

you just ride right up into better

you just ride right up into better

Mai unpacked our rechargeable batteries, so now I have a steady supply of double A’s to run my camera.  I set a new record taking almost 300 photos today.  Got it down to 15 good ones for this blog post.  Taking photos helps me see with precision.

What did DH Lawrence say, just day itself was worth celebrating in New Mexico

Day itself seems to throw a celebration in New Mexico

On Forest Road 333 now, La Luz, traffic is light

On Forest Road 333 now, La Luz, traffic is light

a different kind of blue here

a different kind of blue here

This climb humbled me today.  I took a rest day yesterday and I was trying to gently rekindle the system.  I definitely knew how I felt once I got into the top half of the climb.  So I took it easy.

I had my jacket open to dissipate that heat.  Wore my special SESES wool jersey today.

I had my jacket open to dissipate that heat. Wore my special SESES wool jersey today & on Applied Ecology Lab pedals

Even when alone I'm still relying on all the help I receive from my friends and family.  Gracias

Even when alone I’m still relying on all the help I receive from my friends and family. Gracias.  Bicycling is wonderful


La Luz

“You do that for a while and you really build your strength up.”  T. Emmanuel on practicing.

big cholla cactus at the base of La Luz

big cholla cactus at the base of La Luz

La Luz is a most beautiful climb to practice bicycling on.  It is easily accessible from town but it takes you a world away.  You climb 975 vertical feet in two road miles.  That’s steep.  It begins at about 6,000′ and goes up to 7,000′.  There’s a trailhead for a path leading to the top of the Sandia Crest at the end of the road.  Many people run up that trail and then take the Aerial Tram back down.  There is usually very little car traffic on La Luz.  The road is windy so be careful.

La Luz is also known as Forest Road 333 and begins at the NE corner of Tramway

La Luz is also known as Forest Road 333 and begins at the NE corner of Tramway.  View from the base of La Luz.

Scintillating sky, mountain blue

The climb lures you in gently

The climb begins gently and lures you in

Scintillating mountain blue sky

Last winter I lifted weights in the gym.  This winter I’m looking forward to spending more time on the bike.  I much prefer being outside.  La Luz helps build strength and power.

you cover a lot of ground in two miles and come up face to face with the immense wall of mountain rock

you cover a lot of ground in two miles and come up face to face with the immense mountain

pinyon pine trees give off a sweet aroma and the air smells as clean as it looks

piñon pine trees exude a sweet aroma.  The air is pure goodness up here

Everywhere you look is inspiring and you are going slow enough to appreciate it

Everywhere you look is inspiring and you are going slow enough to appreciate it

The Sandia Pueblo call the range Bien Mur=Big Mountain

The Sandia Pueblo calls the range Bien Mur=Big Mountain

“All I’m interested in is this” Tommy Emmanuel tells us regarding his guitar playing.  Bicycling is the same for me.  My triathlete friends blow my mind.  I thrive on simplicity.  I am trying to learn to play new tunes on my one instrument.  That is endlessly challenging.

La Luz is one long crescendo

La Luz is a crescendo

2014.11.3 La Luz 180

The final bend before the top

The final bend before the top

Give La Luz a try after you have some base level training.  There is one hill more difficult than this in the area called Heartbreak Hill.  That is over on the other side of the Sandias and I’ll try it for a ride report.  The Sandia Crest Road Race goes over Heartbreak.

practicing on this climb humbles one

practicing on this climb humbles and uplifts

a road curving up

a road curving up toward a big adventure

felt sky

felt sky

You can play this climb over again, or do other climbs in the nearby foothills, or drop down Tramway toward the river and come back for an approach kind of like a tempo climb before you turn onto La Luz and go as hard as you can go

La Luz is a grand way to cap off a ride

You can do repeats on La Luz, or simply do it once.  You can combine it with other nearby climbs in the Sandia foothills, or drop down Tramway toward the river (elevation 5,000′) and come back for a tempo climb approach before you turn onto La Luz and go as hard as you can go.  La Luz is a great one for recruiting muscle fibers to work through your pedal stroke, and for training the ones you’ve got to sustain power!  Build the aerobic engine by climbing lots.


First Strava Ride: Three Times Snowbowl

First Ride by Don Ross

I did my first ride recorded on Strava today.  Here it is:

It was the three times Snowbowl workout where I try to do three ascents with a combined climbing time under 1 hour and 30 minutes.  The first time up today was 29:05, then 29:53, and 30:30.  That is using the “Snowbowl (Official sign-to-sign)” route name on Strava.  Who is this Drew Miller guy with the record of 26:54?  He is a legend and still doing legendary rides.  In 2003 Drew set the race record on Snowbowl with a 26:23.  When I spoke to Drew’s then teammate Jake Rubelt about the record in 2003 Jake was still wincing from leading him out so hard.  I guess Drew was on fire that day.

It looks like my watts were calculated incorrectly so I checked the weight on my Strava profile and sure enough it thought I was slightly slimmer than I am, by about 40 kilograms.  I adjusted it and next time should be right.  I will do this same workout again perhaps and certainly do a one time up as fast as I can go attempt.  But I think I’m going to have to put some work in over the winter to really get better at climbing.

Thanks to Mike W. for the pull up on the third ascent today and great to see Erin O. out there too, the Queen of the Mountain, trying to break her own record today.  Watch out for her when she puts her mind to it.  What a great climber.  Lots of great climbers here in Flagstaff.  Snowbowl Road is one of the reasons why.

At Home on the Road

Today was a special day.  The last day of the Tour de France, but more immediate in my life, it was a beautiful rain touched Arizona summer day filled with conversation, bicycling, and friends.  I started out the day with Macy’s Costa Rican coffee and breakfast with Mai.  I rode over to Louis’s for his Champs-Elysees party.   While Louis was introducing me to his dog named Buddy, Buddy pressed his soft furry head to my leg.  Right, you’re Buddy!  Then I met the whole family and was handed a hot plate of food.  I said I’m trying to lose weight but they said you’re training today, you’ll need this.  Right!  We watched the Tour’s final stage with Corky and talked about ways to better support bicycling here at home.  The conversation, coffee, and special drink with orange juice were so good before I knew it I had to fly to keep my training commitment with Eric.  That was an awesome party for a Sunday morning.  Thank you Louis and Louis’s family!

Eric is training for the Tour of Colorado.  We met at Late for the Train Coffee and I said I’m game for whatever kind of workout.  On our way out Hwy 180 we crossed paths with Shawn, who told me he was almost hit by someone’s trailer the other day on this same stretch of road.  So close he was shaking for the rest of his ride.  Hard to tell why it happened (they forgot they were towing a wider trailer or did not see Shawn) but a related point came up with Corky earlier in the morning, and would come up with Eric later–if motorists were cross trained as bicyclists prior to drivers licensing,  a stronger connection between people would be forged that would bridge the gap of understanding across mode types.  Better training creates stronger mutual understanding and enhances reciprocal respect.   For bicycling to seem alien to anyone is not normal, but we are encountering a regular insensitivity for bicyclists.  I am working on Bike Yogi Consulting to implement action plans to change this.

Eric wanted to do two eight minute power efforts during a ride up Snowbowl Road.  He has a power meter on his bike so he could dial in the efforts and hold them exactly at the threshold he wanted to train.  I never use a power meter so this was a new kind of workout for me.  I learned efforts on the slighter grades felt harder for me than the same power output on the steeper sections.  This is basically because I’m a climber I’m guessing, and I naturally want to push harder when the mountain is pushing harder against me.  The first interval always feels kinda cruddy, especially after a day of relatively hard training the day before.  The second interval felt better.  My body must have flushed out some of the lactic acid and other leftovers from yesterday during the first effort.  We filled up our water bottles at the resort thanks to AZ Snowbowl’s complimentary cooler.  I told Eric I got married at the Grand Canyon four years ago and loved coming up here, looking out there, and remembering that turn in my life.  He had a wondering look on his face.  The paths are many, enjoy the one you’re on!  We descended and he said let’s climb it again.  Yeah, an easy one would be great.  Then Eric said same routine.  Oh mercy.  It was good gulping down all that pure blue mountain air a second time.  We kept the same power up over both runs and all four intervals.

Between efforts in the middle part of the climb we discussed ways of building a better understanding with drivers of what bicyclists’ experience.  We hear a lot of people lamenting that bicyclists are riding too far left or over the white “fog” line, but most often there are excellent reasons.  Most bike lanes and shoulders are not regularly maintained and glass, steel wire from burst tires, other puncture hazards, bad pavement, rocks, deceased animals and miscellaneous debris can cause a crash or blow out a tire.  Wind and wind gusts from passing vehicles can push one off the road.  Those “right edge” hazards are the number one hazards for bicyclists.  Motorists don’t necessarily think about that.  Riding too far right reduces one’s visibility, leaves bicyclists vulnerable to squeeze passes, and creates more lateral movement when cyclists have to move over to pass slower cyclists, runners, walkers, parked cars, and avoid road hazards.  The number one rule for bicyclists is to ride a predictable line.  If the pavement is not consistently good towards the right, one cannot ride there without creating a weaving in and out pattern to avoid the hazardous spots.  Motorists can help by developing a default disposition for respecting a bicyclist’s position in the road, slowing down, and navigating a pass only when it is safe to do so.  We are all the same, simply people using the road to get to somewhere important to us.  There are no classes, or priority categories.  We are all one.  When we act as equals, and treat one another as equals, we all feel more at home on the road.  This is good.

Kudos to Dave A. and his daughter who rode all the way up Snowbowl Road on their bicycles together, and then rode back down.  How old is your daughter Dave, nine?  That was amazing and inspirational to share the road with you today!  Way to go!