Saturday, March 28, 2015

Official Nifty Ten Fifty 2015



The Nifty Ten Fifty will occur on Sunday, March 29, 2015. The date is earlier this year for a variety of reasons. The Nifty Ten Fifty features a new course for 2015! Please scroll down for information about the event. Riders will self guide on the new, improved, easier to follow course, and can start any time between 8:00 AM and 9:30 AM. Register any time beginning 8:00 AM at Cerrito Vista Park, El Cerrito. Please RSVP on the Official Facebook Page. Do not download the 2014 course. Use the new 2015 course below. There will be no rest stop, but we have a new food stop after 7 of the 10 climbs, so do bring food for several hours. There is plenty of water on the course in the East Bay Regional Park system.

Here is the 2015 course in beta form. Note that I will always update the version number if and when any changes are made. So do be sure you have the latest version:

Nifty Ten Fifty 2015 Course If you drive to the event, you'll need to get back to the start to fetch your automobile. Here is the Nifty Ten Fifty Return to Start. If the full Nifty seems a bit daunting, consider the Nifty Lite which is about 42 miles and 7,000'. Still a tough ride, with some difficult climbing. Here is the Nifty Lite 2015 Course.

Do read What is the Nifty Ten Fifty and Nifty Ten Fifty FAQ.

You can also read the New Nifty Ten Fifty Ride Description, a new, fully updated description for 2015 and beyond! I'm very excited about the new course and hope everyone enjoys it. Don't worry, all of the epic banner climbs are still intact!

Nifty Pre Flight Notes:


• Weather is looking awesome. It'll be warm, there is plenty of water on the course, and you'll need it!

• There is no rest stop on the new course, but we pass services 4 times, although two of them are just off course. After Climb 2 in Orinda, then Peet's on Domingo in Oakland, then full Services after climb 7 in Oakland, then again at Peet's Domingo after climb 9. BRING MONEY!

I will have some light snacks and gels at the start.


* As always, be courteous to others while riding. Be careful not to impede traffic when regrouping at the top of climbs.

* Please sign the waiver and donate $5 if you would like to be an official part of the ride. We will have friendly Strava KOM results on Marin, Thorndale and Claremont/Grizzly/Vollmer. We will also track overall moving time on the course. Your stops do NOT count against you. Descend with caution.

• Check in any time between 8:00 and 9:30 AM. After I finish checking everyone in, I will be rolling just after 9:30. Feel free to join my group if you like. We will be riding at a moderate pace. If you know the area, please help others navigate.

• Upload the ridewithgps file to your garmin, and print out the route sheet on ridewithgps.com  See links above. if you like. I have made up custom route sheets that fit on one page and have been modified to be more accurate. These will be available at the start to those who sign in.

• Ride safe, have fun, and post your photos on the Facebook page.

Friday, March 27, 2015

Nifty Ten Fifty New Ride Description 2015 and Beyond

The Nifty Ten fiftyThe Nifty Ten Fifty is a difficult bicycle climbing route in the East Bay Hills, primarily in Berkeley, and Oakland, California. The goal was to fashion a ride with 10,000’ of climbing in 50 miles. The finished route comes close to that goal, with 10,050’ of climbing in just 54 miles. There have been other attempts at this sort of madness. Grizzly Peak Cyclists did a similar route annually back in the late 70’s and 80’s. I understand they may still be doing a similar route called “Vicious Hills”. And there is “The Berkeley Hills Death Ride” consisting of 5 very difficult climbs in Berkeley. All 5 of those climbs are included in the Nifty Ten Fifty, but there are, in addition, 5 more climbs! Part of the appeal of the ride besides the suffering on the climbs is the bay views, the nice roads through the parks, and the incredible tour of bay area architecture, from old Berkeley homes, to the new, modern, post fire Oakland hills homes.


Climb #1 Moeser Lane

The route starts at the corner of Moeser Lane and Pomona Ave. in El Cerrito. If you are a cyclist that needs a warm-up, then a couple of trips back and forth on Richmond Ave. (3 blocks east of San Pablo Ave.) will do the trick. The cyclist heads straight up Moeser Ave to Arlington. It’s a 700’ climb with grades up to 20%. The average grade for the final .8 mile is about 15%. The route then descends through El Cerrito neighborhoods going mostly down Stockton Ave.

Climb #2 Marin Ave

This is the big daddy. Absurd. Ridiculous. No matter how strong you are or what your gearing, you will suffer on this climb. It is, by far, the most difficult climb on the ride. It climbs city blocks one by one, with a flat section at each block where it meets a cross street. The first block is about 14%, then there are some “easy” blocks of 10%. Then it kicks up again to about 15%+. Once you cross Euclid you are in for a real treat. 3 blocks averaging 22% with sections of approximately 25%-26%. Fortunately, you have the luxury of catching your breath by circling the flat area at each intersection, thereby possibly avoiding the dreaded “topple”. The route then descends the East side of the hills through Tilden Park, down Canon Dr. and up Central Park Drive, which doesn’t actually count as a climb… but it does have a short steep section that hits 16%.

Climb #3 El Toyonal/Lomas Cantadas

This a long climb on twisty, wooded, narrow, residential roads. It’s quiet and beautiful. This is a manageable climb, with a few steeper sections on the lower part. However, near the top, by Grizzly Peak Stables, the cyclist encounters some extended 17%. It’s difficult, but everything will seem easy after Marin Ave! The ride then descends Claremont Ave. Take note, we'll be back here to climb Claremont at the end of the day.

Climb #4 Centennial Drive

The route descends Claremont Ave (please be careful and watch your speed), then takes a secret route through Clark Kerr and around the football stadium to catch Centennial Drive. Watch your navigation here, we take a paved path! Centennial starts off gradual then steepens to about 11%. It goes for quite a distance at this pitch, then flattens out at Lawrence Hall of Science, then finishes with a less steep section, perhaps 9% or so. The route then descends through Tilden Park via Golf Course Drive and Shasta..

Climb #5 South Park

South Park is a beautiful road through the Park that is closed to vehicle traffic in winter (Save the Salamanders)! It has some extended stretches of 12-15%. The route then heads South on Grizzly Peak and Skyline Drive into the Oakland Hills. The cyclist gets a break from climbing for a while. Snake Rd. is the descent.

Climb #6 Shepherd Canyon

ShepherdCanyon is the next climb. It starts off gradual, then has a slight downhill. From there it’s a false flat for a bit, then kicks up strongly with some hairpin turns at the top. Fun climb, with the steepest sections at about 13%.

Climb #7 AscotT

his is a brand new climb for me, just added it this year and just rode it for the first time in 2015. This climb is tough, it starts steep and stays steep all the way to the top. It rarely dips below 10%, and has pitches as steep as 15%. Good, hard climb through the Oakland neighborhood.


Climb #8 Broadway Terrace/Thorndale

Broadway Terrace to Pinehaven. This is a nice climb through the Oakland Hills. The 1991 fire destroyed most of the homes on this road so the cyclist is treated to some new and interesting architecture along the way. These are luxury homes with splendid views. Some are quite nice. The pitch on Broadway Terrace varies, and there are some steep sections, especially at the bottom, but it’s mostly pleasant. Then we descend Pinehaven, and head up Sobrante/Thorndale. This was a descent on the old course and I’ve always wanted it to be a climb. It’s awesome, steep and tough, and this will be our second Strava timed KOM. Hit this one hard!

Climb #9 Hiller Ave/ Norfolk

At the bottom of Tunnel road, the rider cannot miss Hiller. Tunnel is a very popular cycling route, however most cyclists avoid Hiller Ave like the plague. It’s pretty ugly to look at, sporting a straight-up .2 mile section of 20%. Fortunately, it’s relatively short, but tired legs will be a factor at this point. The route then winds through residential streets with a short descent on Charring Cross and some more short steep climbing sections. The ride then descends again through hilly residential streets to the Claremont Hotel. Next is the only mandatory rest stop. Peets Coffee on Domingo Ave

!Climb #10 Claremont/Grizzly Peak/Vollmer Peak

This is the longest climb of the ride with the most ascent. It’s actually three climbs but there are no breaks between the climbs. Claremont has some extended sections that are about 10% or so. Then Grizzly Peak is a relatively sane pitch of about 7%. The final climb is up Vollmer Peak on a foot path. This much discussed climb sports a 28% kicker at the top. It’s difficult, but the recently paved path is much easier than it used to be when it was horribly pot-holed and full of gravel. The Peets caffeine should be in full effect now. Just grunt it out for a short section and you’re done! Though the ride officially ends here, you have to coast back to the start (about 7 miles), and there are a few short rises, but if you’ve gotten this far, you’ll make it back.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Nifty FAQ (Updated for 2015)

What is the Nifty Ten Fifty?

Is there a ride description?
Please read the Nifty Ride Description

I’d like to do the Nifty, but I am terrified of the difficulty of the climbs. Can you say anything to comfort me?
No... But let me try. If you are reasonably fit, and have really low gears, the ride is quite manageable. The exceptions are Marin (climb #3) and Hiller (climb #9). Marin is painful no matter what your gearing or fitness level. Hiller, while not quite as severe, comes late in the ride when you're tired. Those two climbs are easily skipped. And we have the Nifty Lite for those who just want a pleasant day on the bike with a few good climbs.

When Should I Start? 
The start window is 8:00-9:30 AM. Slower riders should start on the earlier side, but it’s up to you. Arrive at the start and be friendly. If you don’t know the roads, try to hook up with someone who does.


Is the Nifty and organized ride, is there a fee?
The Nifty is a friends ride, there is no fee. Participants are mostly by invitation, but I throw the challenge out and anyone is welcome. I provide a route sheet, a pat on the back, some light snacks at the start. A voluntary donation may be made if you'd like to help with the costs of hosting the event. $5 is suggested. After climb #9 we stop at Peets Domingo, for coffee and pastries. Bring money or your Peet's card.

Is there support on the ride?
No. You are on your own. You will likely ride with a group as the route is difficult to follow alone, although the new 2015 route is easier to follow than the older route. I provide my phone number for emergencies, and am only half joking when I say “…but don’t call me.” The first food opportunity is later in the ride, at Mile 38. This is easily 4 hours in for the average Nifty rider, and perhaps 3 hours for the speediest climbers.  At mile 38 there is a gas station with services, a Safeway, Subway, Mexican food, Peet’s, Starbucks, Noah’s Bagels, and many others. Do bring enough food for those first 3-4 hours. There is plenty of water at the various East Bay Regional Park staging areas.

What should I bring?
Aside from low gears and a positive, friendly attitude, bring what you normally would on a long adventure ride. 2 tubes, patch kit, pump, small multi-tool, plenty of food, sunscreen, helmet, and appropriate clothing for the weather. Bring enough food and drink for the first 3-4 hours, and some money to buy food later. If you need lights, you’re in serious trouble. Don’t bring ‘em.

I missed the Nifty but would like to do the next one. When is it and can I get on an email list?
The Nifty generally occurs on the first Sunday in April,  or that Sunday closest to April Fools day, sometimes late March. There is an email list. If you’d like to be on it, email me, macpaulster@gmail.com

How long does it take to complete the Nifty?
The strongest riders can complete the Nifty in a bit over 4 hours riding time. The Elite group completed the ride in under 4 hours. Our fastest A group time was 4:20, but usually in the 4:30-4:40 range. The B group will be about an hour slower. Add in stops and regroups and you’re looking at 4.5-7 hours, depending on your ability. Then add another half hour to return to the start.

Can I do the Nifty on my own? Is there a route sheet or map?
You may download the route from the link supplied here, upload to your Garmin, and/or print out a cue sheet from that link. I will provide custom, accurate and edited route sheets at the start.
You can find the courses here:
2015 Courses Posted!

The latest, greatest, course download for the


Nifty Light 2015 Course (Coming Soon)


OK, I understand the route is complicated with over 100 turns, I don't have a GPS and I really don't want to decipher a route sheet. What do I do?
You will need to show up and try to hook up with other riders who know the ride and are of similar speed. Take a route sheet just in case you get isolated.

What gearing is recommended?
Gearing of course depends on your fitness, climbing ability and your ability to suffer turning the cranks at 30 rpm. The ride has been done with 39/23 low gearing. I did it for years with 39/27, and it seemed fine (now I run a 34/28). With that said, it's prudent to put on the lowest gears you have. The lower your gears, the less time you'll spend at an uncomfortable cadence, and the more you will enjoy the ride.

Strava KOM’s?
For those who register and make the donation, we will have a friendly Strava KOM competition. The first segment will be Marin Ave, or “The Big Daddy.” Next up will be a new climb this year, Thorndale. Be sure to note that the timed segment starts at the beginning of Sobrante, where the road kicks up steep, prior to the sharp left at Thorndale. Then the segment continues on Elverton, all the way to Skyline. The third segment is the last one, Claremont/Grizzly/Vollmer. And we will also track moving time for the fastest overall on the entire course. Stop time does NOT count against you. So take your time at Peet’s or Safeway to fuel up and recover.

The Nifty looks way to hard for me, but I suffer from FOMO, and I want to be a part of the extravaganza, what do I do?

Consider the Nifty Lite. It’s still a very hard ride, with some challenging steep climbs, but it eliminates the real monsters, and is shorter with less elevation gain.

What is the Nifty Ten Fifty? (Updated for 2015)

What is the Nifty Ten Fifty? It's a bicycle ride in the San Francisco East Bay Hills that climbs 10,050' in just 54 miles visiting the steepest and most difficult climbs in the East Bay Hills. Berkeley Hills Death Ride and the Vicious Hills Ride, also play a role in the history of this event which usually takes place on the first Sunday in April each year.

There is a ride description that details each climb. It's nonsense really, but fun, (sort of), and unique for sure. I'm not sure what came over me in late Winter back in 2002, but my early mornings before work were spent exploring the most difficult climbs in the East Bay hills. The Nifty strings those climbs together in a somewhat sensible way, though applying the word sensible to this ride seems a bit of a stretch. Along the way you will experience east bay parks, old Berkeley architecture along with new, post-fire Oakland hills architecture. You will see hawks riding the updrafts, incredible bay views (weather permitting), and if you ride slow enough, maybe you’ll see an Owl in the evening light on Vollmer Peak.

New for 2015 is an easier to navigate course. We will no longer have “guides.” Riders sign in any time between 8:00 AM and 9:30 AM and roll in smaller groups when they are ready. We will also have a Nifty Lite ride, that eliminates the most brutal climbs, and is a bit shorter… but still a plenty challenging route!

There is a detailed route sheet so that anyone can do the ride on their own, at their own pace, but with many turns on residential streets, it's good to upload the route to your Garmin or follow someone who knows the way lest you spend all your time cursing the route sheet.

The 2015 Nifty Ten Fifty is dedicated to Paul Stimson who suffers from ALS and may not be with us by the time we host next year’s Nifty.

Photo of Marin Ave courtesy Mike Nachtwey. Visit mikenachtwey.com

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Nifty Mixty 2015



Nifty Mixty is a 46 mile mixed terrain adventure ride in the East Bay Hills with over 6,000' of climbing. There will be 10 timed Sectors, while the remainder of the course is neutral. Take your time, socialize, navigate, etc. About 80% dirt and 20% paved. Most dirt is smooth and most (but not all) grades are not steep. The course is doable on a road bike with sturdy tires, however a gravel. cross, or mt. bike is recommended. The event is March 15, 2015, Cerrito Vista Park, Moeser Ln & Pomona Ave, El Cerrito, CA., 7 A.M. Please check out the Nifty Mixty Facebook Event Page and RSVP if you are coming. Here is the Nifty Mixty 2015 Route. Check back for updated versions.

Below is a list of Rules for the Nifty Mixty:

1. This is a handicapped event. All riders compete on equal footing. I have scientific data that accounts for differences in gender and age. So if you are a studley Cat 1, 28 year old dude, you have the same chance as a fit, 60 year old woman who is age group National Champ.

2. This is a fun, mixed terrain ride with timed Sectors. Between Sectors is neutral. Rest, chill, eat, drink, socialize, regroup, chat, and have fun!

3. Be courteous to other trail users. Slow down, call out to hikers, and pass as to not frighten anyone. Say hello, Good Morning, and comment about how nice a f-in day it is! If you see a horseback rider, you MUST STOP! Ask the rider if it is OK to pass. And then do so slowly and carefully. No shifting, skidding, or any other movements or noises that could spook a horse. This is SERIOUS!

4. For each timed segment, the results will be handicapped and a leader board with placings will be determined. Riders will then have 10 scores with individual placings. The individual placings for each Sector will be added up, and the rider with the lowest score will be the winner. This means that all segments are weighted equally, regardless of length or elapsed time. It is possible, depending on accuracy of GPS data, that each rider will be allowed 1-3 "throwout" segments. Regardless of throw outs, a rider must complete the entire course to be scored.

5. Riders will be responsible for delivering accurate Sector times and uploading them to Strava. If you have a Garmin 500, I highly recommend that you also bring your iPhone or Android device and record a second file. Garmin 500's have inferior GPS accuracy, and your iPhone is actually much better. If a rider has shitty GPS data, I will be unable to match segments and that rider will not be listed in results. Again, if you have a Garmin 500, try to take backup measures.

6. There are 10 Sectors on Stava, all labeled with Nifty Mixty Sector X. You are responsible to know where these are. The Sectors are designed such that there is little or no navigation required within the Sector. But it will be prudent to know where the Sector starts and ends. Sectors will start well after, and end well before any gates or obstacles, so plenty of time to get rolling at the beginning, and plenty of room to stop before the end. Each Sector is called out in the Cue Sheet with mileage and a short description.

7. There are some downhill Sectors. The safety of you and other trail users is of paramount importance. If you jeopardize that, you will be DQ'd or penalized. Read Rule number 3 again, please.

8. Single Speed riders shall have a 5% time bonus in addition to the standard age/sex bonus. Since most of the Sectors are Single Speed friendly, it is reasonable to assume that if you are a strong Single Speed rider, you will have an advantage. Single speed riders must use the same gear for the entire event. Duh. It's Single Speed.

9. There will be a six place Podium with awards. All entry fees will go back to cash prizes minus any expenses to host the event. Prize money will depend on the number of entries. Entry donation shall be $10. This is a non profit ride.

10. Ride organizer will be listed in the results, but not eligible for official placing or prize money.

11. If a rider botches a Sector, that rider can go back and start again, but cannot go back to a previous Sector. So, if you flat or crash on a Sector, and wish to do it again, you can backtrack and have another go, as many times as you like. However, once you finish the next Sector, you cannot redo a previous Sector.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Inaugural Nifty Mixty!

Nifty Mixty is a 50 mile mixed terrain adventure ride in the East Bay Hills. There will be several timed Sectors, while the remainder of the course is neutral. Take your time, socialize, navigate, etc. About 80% dirt and 20% paved. Most dirt is smooth and most (but not all) grades are not steep. The course is doable on a road bike with sturdy tires, however a gravel. cross, or mt. bike is recommended. The event is April 27, 2014, Cerrito Vista Park, Moeser Ln & Pomona Ave, El Cerrito, CA., 7 A.M. Please check out the Nifty Mixty Facebook Page and RSVP if you are coming.

Here is a preliminary list of Rules for the Nifty Mixty:

1. This is a handicapped event. All riders compete on equal footing. I have scientific data that accounts for differences in sex and age. So if you are a studley Cat 1, 28 year old dude, you have the same chance as a fit, 60 year old woman who is age group National Champ. I'd love to see a mix of age and sex in the top 6 places. If you like getting chick'd, this may be your chance!

2. This is a fun, mixed terrain ride with timed Sectors. Between Sectors is neutral. Rest, chill, eat, drink, socialize, regroup, chat, and have fun!

3. Be courteous to other trail users. Slow down, call out to hikers, and pass as to not frighten anyone. Say hello, Good Morning, and comment about how nice a f-in day it is! If you see a horseback rider, you MUST STOP! Ask the rider if it is OK to pass. And then do so slowly and carefully. No shifting, skidding, or any other movements or noises that could spook a horse. This is SERIOUS!

4. For each timed segment, the results will be handicapped and a leader board with placings will be determined. Riders will then have 10 scores with individual placings. The individual placings for each Sector will be added up, and the rider with the lowest score will be the winner. This means that all segments are weighted equally, regardless of length or elapsed time. It is possible, depending on accuracy of GPS data, that each rider will be allowed 1-3 "throwout" segments. Regardless of throw outs, a rider must complete the entire course to be scored.

5. Riders will be responsible for delivering accurate Sector times and uploading them to Strava. If you have a Garmin 500, I highly recommend that you also bring your iPhone or Android device and record a second file. Garmin 500's have inferior GPS accuracy, and your iPhone is actually much better. If a rider has shitty GPS data, I will be unable to match segments and that rider will not be listed in results. Again, if you have a Garmin 500, try to take backup measures.

6. There are 10 Sectors on Stava, all labeled with Nifty Mixty Sector X. You are responsible to know where these are. The Sectors are designed such that there is little or no navigation required within the Sector. But it will be prudent to know where the Sector starts and ends. Sectors will start well after, and end well before any gates or obstacles, so plenty of time to get rolling at the beginning, and plenty of room to stop before the end. Each Sector is called out in the Cue Sheet with mileage and a short description.

7. There are some downhill Sectors. The safety of you and other trail users is of paramount importance. If you jeopardize that, you will be DQ'd or penalized. Read Rule number 3 again, please.

8. Single Speed riders shall have a 5% time bonus in addition to the standard age/sex bonus. Since most of the Sectors are Single Speed friendly, it is reasonable to assume that if you are a strong Single Speed rider, you will have an advantage. Single speed riders must use the same gear for the entire event. Duh. It's Single Speed.

9. There will be a six place Podium with awards. All entry fees will go back to cash prizes minus any expenses to host the event. Prize money will depend on the number of entries. Entry donation shall be $10. This is a non profit ride.

10. Ride organizer will be listed in the results, but not eligible for official placing or prize money.

11. If a rider botches a Sector, that rider can go back and start again, but cannot go back to a previous Sector. So, if you flat or crash on a Sector, and wish to do it again, you can backtrack and have another go, as many times as you like. However, once you finish the next Sector, you cannot redo a previous Sector.


More rules may be added or modified at any time before the ride.

Course Map