There are no organized rides that I have done as often as the 7 Hills of Kirkland. I started doing it in the early years, when there were only 7 hills, in the middle years, when 4 additional hills were found, and more recently, when a final 3 hills were located, giving a 40 mile option with 7 hills and about 3000’ of climbing, a 59 mile “metric century” option with 11 hills and 4600’ of climbing, and a full century with 14 hills and 7000’ of climbing.
It is well-organized, has good food stops, and strawberry shortcake at the end. And, if you like hills, you will like this ride, where even the short version has some very steep pitches (Winery hill hits 18% or so on one pitch). It has one flaw, however.
It is held on memorial day, and late May in Seattle is not a reliable source of good weather. 3 days before the ride, it looked like there would be a window of nice weather on Memorial day, but it shrunk and moved.
I got up at 5AM so that I could be sure to start by 7AM; the weather forecast was rain by 10AM. I got there, parked, and got my wristband. I rolled out by myself at 6:23 AM; I don’t ride hilly rides with friends because the majority of them are mutants and I’m tired of having my legs ripped off by them.
One of the problems with starting right at the beginning of a ride is that you have little chance to pass anybody; those who start behind you who are faster will catch you and go by, and everybody else is already behind you. Market, Juanita, and Seminary are quickly dispatched, and on the section before the next, I pick up a companion. We chat as we ride up Norway and head over towards hill number 5, but my light Karma catches up to me and I lose him up the hill. I had planned to skip the food stop the first time, which was a good idea because they aren’t quite set up yet. I head up towards hill #6, Seminary. On the descent down Boneyard (also a nice climb), it starts to spit, which is not unexpected.
Seminary is the steepest hill on the whole ride (18% or so)m, but the pitches are pretty short, so it’s not that bad. Head back to the food stop to use the facilities, refill my water bottles, and head out. It is spitting a bit more seriously now, and I gingerly pick my way down the steep descent to Willows. Last year a rider in front of me crashed on this descent, so I’m extra careful. I head south, and then turn off on 116th towards the east.
I had signed up for the full century, but my legs only feel average and I’m not excited about the rain; the century route takes you out in the Snoqualmie valley and up behind Duvall, and when the clouds get there, they tend to drop their moisture.
Anyway, at the end of 116th there’s a short but steep climb. I stand up to get some extra power, and my rear wheel starts spinning up. I make it to the top, and start heading up the Education hill climb. This section ends with a descent down 104th to Avondale. It’s a 18% gradient, and it ends right at a stoplight. I’m not excited about in the dry, much less the wet, so I take an alternate route; I head north until I hit 116th, and take that descent; a much nicer way down. A quick trip south, and I head east to climb up Novelty Hill. I said earlier that Seminary is the steepest climb, but I have a special place in my heart for Novelty. I’m not sure why, it just seems like a slog to me. Just after the roundabout I picked up another rider, and we together made the decision to only ride the metric. A quick trip on Union Hill Road (not an actual hill), back down Novelty (passing lots of soggy riders climbing up) then up old Redmond road, then back up 116th to the second food stop.
Where we were greeted with cheers – we were the first cyclists into the food stop, and the volunteers were happy to see us. We spent about 5 minutes; I had a ham wrap and a couple of salted new potatoes.
Then, all that was left was a trip up Old Redmond Road, a descent down, and a quick run along Lake Wa Blvd. Then chocolate milk from Smith Brothers (my favorite), and multi-berry shortcake (not just strawberry!). Picked up my Jersey, changed clothes (I was pretty damp, except for my feet, which were soaking despite my booties), and then a trip to Qdoba for lunch.
4462’ of elevation gain