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.

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