September 6 , 2004: Doin' the North Peak Shuffle

Lurking high atop the Montara Mountain skyline, North Peak is an adversary worthy of much respect. Like its big brother, Mt. Diablo, North Peak is a ride you really only want to do a couple of times a year. From McNee State Park at the southwestern base of the mountain to the radio towers that pollute the grandeur of its proud acmes is a 4.5-mile climb that will give your legs a run for their money.

The first part of the climb is the same route followed by L'Alpes D'Wheeze (See July 19, 2004: Cannonball's L'Alpes D'Wheeze time trial). This is a great set of gradually climbing switchbacks on the original road to the City, San Pedro Mountain Road, now a thin ribbon of elderly asphalt winding its way up through pampas grass and mudslides, eroded and perilous in some sections, deliciously shaded and scenic in others, but always angling up. At the splitoff for the San Pedro summit, the North Peak Access Road shears off to the south at about a 20-degree angle, and then it starts to get steep. From the San Pedro split there are maybe six to eight long, steeeeep switchbacks that are too steep and tractionless to ride out of the saddle, but almost too steep to ride sitting down either. I was on the Hoo-E today, so I had a little hardtail love helping me out, but I had to scrap and claw to make it through this murderer's row without stopping.

After the steep switchbacks, the trail slithers onto the shoulder of the mountain and continues to climb. This last part of the route is generally not too steep, maybe about 8 to 9 degrees, but there are also a couple of short climbs that hit the charts in the mid teens. Finally, it levels out in the crater of the mountain, a small bowl circumscribed by low knobs, one of which is North Peak. Usually it is extremely windy and foggy up there, and cold. Because of the hard climb, you're soaked with sweat when you get to the peak and shivering with borderline hypothermia by the time you start down. Not today, it was bayooteeful! No clouds as far as the eye could see, no wind, and hot. Oh sweet Nirvana. As one might imagine, the views were incredible. The whole gang was there: the Farallones, Point Reyes, Tam, the GG, Alcatraz, the City, the Oakland Hills, Mt. Diablo. I took advantage of the optimal conditions to relax and enjoy the view.

A view of North Peak from the Fitz
Looking north towards the Headlands and the City
Another day in paradise

dAfter my aborted double quarry last week (see September 1, 2004: Brake check), I replaced both sets of brake pads, but as I adjusted my glasses and buckled my helmet in advance of the plunge, thoughts of an out-of-control brakeless descent clouded my focus. The brakes ended up working better than they had in the Quarry, but not great. More work is needed to solve this problem. Because of the cable housing mount welded on the Hoo-E, I can't run a V-brake on the rear, only in the front. I've still got a cantilever brake in the back, and if the Hoo-E is going to be race-worthy, it's going to need some rear stopping power. I think what I might do is bypass the 2G brake technology and go right for 3G: disc brakes. I'll have to get a disc-compatible rear wheel, but a rear disc brake would be a nice touch for the old gal. Forks first though, then rear disc.

Got down to the San Pedro split with only a couple of near misses and after the palpitations settled down, I decided to go for a two-bagger and rip up to the San Pedro summit. That done, I headed for home with some tired legs and a nice sense of accomplishment. Coming down the White Whale on the way out of the Fitz, I racked my hand on a cement post that was hiding in the tall grass, and it sliced a pepperoni-sized wafer right off my right pinky finger. Didn't really start to hurt until about five minutes later when some sweat leaked into the huge raw crater. Though my racing season (one race all year, damnit!) is over, my motivation at least through the end of this month is to pace Romulus out to a top-ten finish at the NORBA Nationals in Mammoth. Next year, next year.

The unbelievable weather continued again today, and the beaches were packed. They'll be packed tomorrow too, not by people but by their disgusting garbage. No animals today.


Mileage: 25.47 Time: 2:41:58 Avg: 9.4 Max: 33.5 Weight: 170.5

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