Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Nifty 2014 Results and Banter!

Results and other post ride banter on the Facebook Page. Scroll for overall results, Marin KOM, and Claremont/Grizzly KOM. Look for a full report here soon. Nifty Ten Fifty Facebook Page

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Nifty Ten Fifty FAQ

What is the Nifty Ten Fifty?
Please read 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.

I'm not sure what group I belong in, can you help? 
As you can see, above I have established groups by racing category. "Elite" is Pro 1,2, "A" is Cat 3, "B" is Cat 4 or strong, fit, recreational rider. The Nifty Lite is for anyone capable of getting up a few steep hills at any pace. Here is another benchmark — If you can ride Mt. Diablo, South Gate, from Athenian School to Summit, any day of the week in under 55 minutes, you are Elite. If your Diablo time is more like 55 min. to 1:05, then you are "A" group. If you are more like 1:05-1:25, then you are "B" group. If you're not sure, a Nifty trick is to start in the slower group. When the faster group passes, you can latch on. You'll be more rested and they'll be more tired, so you may hang. If you get dropped, no worries, slide back to the slower group. You certainly can ride on your own and navigate, but that's less fun.

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 volunteer guides, and refreshments/light snacks at the half way point. 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. I provide my phone number for emergencies, and am only half joking when I say “…but don’t call me.” There will be a well-stocked, self serve rest stop at the half way point with energy foods, bars, gels, etc., along with drinks, sodas, and a bathroom. Please take only what you need. This is where, hopefully, all the different groups congregate at approximately the same time for a social and feed break mid-ride. Please close the hatch on the Subaru if you are the last to leave.

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, food, sunscreen, helmet, and appropriate clothing for the weather. Bring enough food and drink for the first 3 hours, and some money to buy food later. We've got plenty of food for you at the mid point. 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 occurs on the first Sunday in April, that Sunday closest to April Fools day. There is an email list. If you’d like to be on it, email me,

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 no longer be providing route sheets at the start.
You can find the courses here:
2014 Courses Posted!

The latest, greatest, course download for the

Nifty Ten Fifty 2014

The Nifty Lite 2014

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 show up on time for the ride you want to join. We have four guided rides, for four levels of riders. If you stay with your group, you will not need to navigate, but please bring a route sheet in case you get separated. We have an Elite ride for P 1,2 riders, an "A" ride for Elite Cat 3 or Masters 1,2,3 level riders, led my me, a B ride, for strong, fit, recreational cyclists, who truly want to complete the entire ride, but at a more sensible pace, and the Nifty Lite, for those just wanting to join the Nifty fun with a pleasant ride with a few manageable climbs at a leisurely pace. The Nifty Lite avoids all of the worst climbs.

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.

Friday, March 7, 2014

Nifty Ten Fifty 2014 Edition

Nifty Ten Fifty Scheduled for April 6, 2014!

* The date is set, folks, Sunday, April 6! Get yer climbing legs ready!

* Please carpool or ride to the start if you can. If you BART, get off at El Cerrito Plaza, and head north to Moeser Lane, via Richmond Ave, turn right and continue to Pomona Ave. We start at the intersection of Moeser Ln. and Pomona Ave in El Cerrito.

* Please be ready to ride 5 minutes before start time for your group. We start "on time." We will have a rider meeting for all groups, I will be there for Nifty Lite/B group start and A group start. Elite group will be small, and I will be gone. You guys are on your own and can take care of yourselves. Leaders will be Josh Dapice and Bill Laddish. There will be other Elite vets as well.

* Bring food at the start for up to 3 hours.  There will be a stocked, self serve, rest stop at half way point, about mile 25. Water and bathroom available. Bring money for coffee and pastry at Peet's Domingo after climb 9, before the final climb to the finish on Vollmer Peak. And don't forget the scrumptious new bakery, Fournée, next door to Peet's!

* A voluntary donation of $5 is requested to cover costs. Please find me and make your donation. I will be wearing a Marc Pro - Strava vest and Black STRAVA baseball cap. Some of my teammates will be there. Don't confuse them with me. They're thieves! :-)

* Bring low gears and a positive attitude. If you know the roads, lend a helping hand to others so they can find their way.

* Guides will wait a short time at the top of climbs to regroup. This is NOT a "No Drop" ride. If you fall behind, the guide will continue on with the group. Print out the route sheet and/or upload the route to your Garmin so that you can find your own way in a pinch. If you expect to be one of the slower riders in your group, the ability to self navigate may be crucial.

* I am expecting a large group this year. Please fuel up at the rest stop, drink up, fill your bottles, and take just one or two snacks in your pocket for the next climbs so that others have enough treats to stay fueled. You'll stop again at Peet's Domingo within 1-2 hours. There is also a bakery next door to Peet's.

* Upload your data to Strava and I will post results for KOM on Marin and the final climb up Claremont and Grizzly Peak to Vollmer peak. I will also track overall moving time for the entire course. But... it's not a race. KOM Results from last year are in the 2013 Ride Report

* Please ride safely, obey all traffic laws, descend at a sensible pace, wear a helmet, and do not do anything that might jeopardize the ride going forward.

* We will meet at Lanesplitter, in Berkeley, San Pablo Ave near University after the ride for suds and Pizza. 5 PM approximately.

2014 Courses Posted!

The latest, greatest, course download for the

Nifty Ten Fifty 2014

The Nifty Lite 2014

At the ride link, go to "Export," output a .tcx file, then upload to your Garmin by placing the .tcx file in the "New Files" folder of your Garmin device (DO NOT load the file into the "Courses" folder. Be sure to properly eject your Garmin or the file won't stick). Then you can follow with your Garmin. If you are old school, just print out a route sheet. Actually, print out a route sheet either way. I will no longer be providing route sheets at the start.

The NTF is scheduled for April 6, 2014, always the first Sunday in April. Start times will be:

"B" Group and Nifty Lite: 8:30 A.M.
"A" Group: 9:00 A.M.
"Elite" Group 9:30 A.M.

Where: Cerrito Vista Park
Moeser Ln. and Pomona Ave., El Cerrito, CA.

Park at the South end of the diagonal parking area, about 100 Meters from the corner.

Please scroll down to read much more info about the Nifty, and please do read the FAQ section.

Check out the Nifty Ten Fifty Film by Chris Leavell if you have not already done so.

As you can see, we will again have an "Elite" group, for super strong Cat 1,2 riders.

I will be leading the "A" group as usual. There will also be an Elite group, the usual "B" group,  and the "Nifty Lite" group. Scroll down below for more information on which group you should join, but in a nutshell:

Elite: Pro, Cat 1, Cat 2
"A": Cat 3, Strong Masters riders
"B": Cat 4, Strong, fit recreational riders
"Nifty Lite": An easier, shorter course, with a more relaxed pace

If you are not sure what group you belong in, start with a slower group and latch on to the faster group when they catch. This way you won't be dropped.

The ride is NOT a race, however the different groups allow everyone to keep moving and ride at their own comfortable, (or not so comfortable), pace. There will be KOM's on Marin and the final climb up Claremont, Grizzly, Vollmer. Data will be pulled from Strava, so be sure to upload your data. It's free, and you just need a Garmin, iPhone, or Android device.

Feel free to contact me:

Cheers, Paul

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

What is the Nifty Ten Fifty?

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 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.

There will be two groups, an "A" group and a "B" group. "A" group will consist of riders capable of climbing Mt. Diablo in around hour or so, give or take a couple of minutes. The B group will consist of riders who might climb Mt. Diablo in about 1:05-1:25 or so. You will need good fitness to complete this ride, and unless you are an extremely strong climber a 39/27 low gear is recommended as a minimum! There are grades of up to 28%. And, for those who want to be involved in the fun but do not find 10,000' in 50 miles appealing, there is the "Nifty Lite." The Nifty Lite is not a set course but rather an easier ride, led by Janet, that covers some of the less intimidating climbs, and some terrain that is not included in the Nifty route. The Nifty Lite is the easiest option and will be custom tailored to the group that shows up.

There is a detailed route sheet so that anyone can do the ride on their own, at their own pace, but with about 100 turns, it's better to follow someone who knows the way lest you spend all your time cursing the route sheet.

The ride starts from Cerrito Vista Park in El Cerrito. on the first Sunday in April. "B" and "Nifty Lite" group starts at 8:30 A.M. "A" group starts at 9:00 A.M.

The Nifty Ten Fifty is dedicated to the memory of Bill Ripke.

Photo of Marin Ave courtesy Mike Nachtwey. Visit

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Nifty Ten Fifty Ride Description

The Nifty Ten fifty

The 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 Terrace/Edwin

The next climb is Terrace to Contra Costa Ave, Edwin Street, cross Arlington and ascend a short, steep (20%+) footpath to the Kensington School. The route ends up at Spruce and Grizzly. In total this climb is not terribly difficult, but there are a few very short steep sections. The route descends Spruce, then turns right on Montrose to Santa Barbara then passes by Indian Rock, a well-known Berkeley landmark.

Climb #3 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 Shasta and Wildcat to San Pablo Dam Road.

Climb #4 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 residential roads back on the west side of the hills above the UC Berkeley campus. Avenida and Buena Vista are the primary roads traveled on the descent down to Euclid.

Climb #5 Centennial Drive

The route passes briefly through the UC Berkeley Campus, entering at Euclid then turning east near the Campanile,then up around the La Crosse field and football stadium to catch Centennial Drive. 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 Park Hills. The rider continues past the Tilden Merry-Go-Round to the bottom of Canon Drive at the Tennis Courts.

Climb #6 Canon/South Park

Climb 6 is really two climbs separated by a more or less flat section on Wildcat Canyon Rd. through Tilden Park. Canon drive is a short climb of about .4 mile and boasts a 12% average grade. Then the rider heads east on Wildcat Canyon to the base of South Park drive. 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. Shepard Canyon is the descent. The pavement used to be horrible on this road, but it has recently been re-paved.

Climb #7 Snake/Elverton

Snake/Elverton is the next climb. Snake is not terribly difficult. It averages about 7% and has a few steeper sections but it’s really quite pleasant. You can even spend some time climbing in the saddle on Snake—a rare luxury on this ride! You will then go left on Skyline to Elverton. Elverton slices through a steep area of the hills where a few daring souls have built homes with spectacular views. Riders will still enjoy the views without the worry of their home sliding down the hill. A twisty descent down Thorndale and Thornhill follows.

Climb #8 Broadway Terrace

Broadway Terrace to Old Tunnel. 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, but it’s mostly pleasant.

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.