Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Riding in Ukiah, CA

I work for a liberal arts college on its accreditation. The campus is in Ukiah, CA, and I live 2 hours south in Berkeley. I ride up with colleagues weekly to spend 2-3 days up here and then work from home the rest of the time. I grew up partly in Ukiah so I know the surroundings very well.

Ukiah is in the valley surrounded by some hills. I brought a bike up here at some point and more recently have been riding after work more regularly. At first I had my Rivendell Bleriot here, after I sold it I brought its replacement--an 80's Specialized Sequoia, which had a fork change recently--up here as my ride up here. As the late rain season slows tapers off, I expect to do more riding up here in the spring and summer.

The rides up here near Ukiah have varied terrain, surfaces, and difficulty. I can do a fast-tempo flat ride on Old River Road all the way to Hopland, which is filled with bucolic vineyard scenery. The almost-pancake-flat ride is 14 miles long and has its shares of twist and turns. I can extend the ride to Hopland by going south from Hopland on Mountain House Road. Mt House Road is more hilly, and the 7 or so miles long road ends at HWY 128. From there one can ride mostly downhill to Cloverdale or turn west for a dozen miles to Boonville.

In the last 2-3 weeks, I rode some hills nearby that were spectacular. 3 weeks ago I rode on Ukiah-Boonville Road (HWY 253) for the first time. Even though I have driven many times on it, this is the first time I was traversing it on a bike. From Talmage (where I stay), one rides to the main north-south thoroughfare State Street, then head south until HWY 253. A short rolling section comes before the decent climb (~ 6% on average for 4.5 miles). The road surface is very good, and most sections have ample room for bikes and cars to coexist. I rode during commute hours and there were surprisingly many cars going toward Boonville during that time. I never felt threatened. At first I didn't know about the gradient, but knew I was putting in a good effort based on my heart rate monitor readings. Although I didn't feel under pressure and i was able to turn the cranks over fairly smoothly, my speed was pretty low. The climb winds quite a bit, but the scenery is great. Toward the top, after riding in a variety of bushes and forests for a while, one gets to a open stretch with a view of the forested valley. At this point you know you are close to the top and the view acts as a mental boost. Finally, the top is reached and the road will stay on the plateau for a while before dipping down toward Boonville. I wasn't planning on going far today and turned around. According to mapmyride, the climb is approximately 4.5 miles and the elevation gain is 1844 ft. At stretches the gradient goes up above 8%, as was indicated by the road signs warning trucks to get in their low gear. I certainly got a good workout. From Talmage to the top of Boonville road and back is 25 miles.

Then 2 weeks ago I rode on a route that has similar distance and terrain. This time I traveled north on State Street and turn on Orr Springs Road. M. and I love this road as it's an old stagecoach road that's seldom traveled on by cars and has beautiful stretches of giant redwood forests and open vista of the valley. Plus the climb is a challenge. The road takes one all the way to Comptche and then on to coast via Comptche Ukiah Road. That day I was only interested and had enough time to get to the top of Orr Springs before turning back.

It had less cars than Boonville Road did at the same time of the day a week prior. The road surface is equally good mostly, but the grade is slightly steeper. The scenery is on par, if not better than on Boonville Road. I got down to 36/28 combo on the Sequoia and turned the pedals smoothly for the 5-mile climb, getting off the saddle occasionally, and tried not to go over into the anaerobic zone. The road first enters a more dense forest near the top, then after a slight dip, gets to an open stretch with a view of the valley. Then after another short climb, one arrives at the entrance of "Wonder Ranch". This is where I turned around that day. The total elevation gain is 2000 ft in 25 miles of riding.

The Sequoia as currently set up, with fenders, two racks, and a front handlebar boxy bag (Velo Orange) is not light, but it didn't feel heavy--the limitation is certainly my legs. The flexier tubes work really well with me on the seated climb for me to get into a good rhythm. I really appreciate the short-reach on-one midge bar which allowed me to ride on the drop almost the entire time up, seated or standing. I rebuilt a pair of used Crank Brothers Candy C pedals and used them for the first time going up Orr Springs Road. They are butter smooth and silent.

Ukiah has much to offer in terms of riding. I look forward to riding regularly during my work days here.
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