Monthly Archives: May 2014

Hills of the Eastside–Finn Hill (Juanita)

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Finn Hill is located Northeast of Kirkland, near the north end of Lake Washington. Most cyclists call this hill “Juanita”, because Juanita Drive is a common way to ride up it.

There are many ways up Finn Hill. Some are easy, some are hard, and a surprising number are stupid-hard.

From the South

By far the easiest way up the hill is from the South, riding up Juanita Drive (A). The first part of the street (up to the stoplight) is pretty flat, though it kicks up to 7-8% on the last pitch before the top. The first part is featured as “Hill #2 (Juanita)” in the 7 Hills of Kirkland. It has a great shoulder so it’s not too bad from a traffic perspective and it has some nice views of the lake as you climb up. Coming down is a bit more intense’ the shoulder isn’t as well configured and the traffic is more impactful. There are bike lanes at the bottom .

This is also the only real way up from the South, though there is a variant from the south and from the east. See also “the Western Climbs”.

From the North

There are four basic ways up from the north.

Climbing up Juanita drive (D) is a mostly constant climb, with a slightly steeper pitch at the top. There is unfortunately a curb right at the end of the traffic lane, which puts you in a thin section of pavement next to the curb. It may be a good place to ride, or it may have debris or other cyclists in it. This is a nice descent with a great run-out at the bottom that may be marred by traffic and some sketchy pavement near the bottom. It pays to pay attention on the descent.

If you head East a bit, you have two options. There is Simonds Rd NE (E), a 430’ climb with a hard constant 12-13% section in the middle, and there is a variant that starts on Simonds and then heads south on 81st (G), which is slightly steeper, but with the advantages of less traffic and a little break part-way through. They both end up basically at the same place.

Finally, there is 76th Ave NE (F). This climb starts serious (10%), levels off, gets steep (13-15%), and then it gets silly (17%+). Bring your low gearing. There is a variant that turns off at NE 163rd St partway up that I have not ridden but promises a similar amount of fun. Have fun with that.

If you have done any of these climbs, I suggest heading south on 78th; it’s  a nice street without much traffic. Turn right when it ends to get to Juanita drive.

From the East

Climbing up from the east, you can climb up Simonds Road (H). There isn’t much of a shoulder, but there are two lanes so you can ride in the right lane. The gradient peaks at 10-11%. This is the easiest way up from the east.

A bit more to the south is NE 132nd St (M), which has easy and hard sections. Like Juanita from the north, it has a curbed-off section on the side. I’ve had decent luck with that section, but IIRC there are some drains you really need to watch out for. This hill has a lot of traffic, so keep that in mind.

Between these two climbs, we have three other choices. They all have the advantage of being short, they have good pavement, and they are through neighborhoods so there isn’t too much traffic. They are all, however, bastards. Climbing these, I don’t ask myself when it will end. I ask myself whether I can tack back and forth because I’m riding so slow that I think I might fall over, and I hope that my drivetrain keeps working cleanly because, if something happens, there’s no way I could clip out before I fell over.

NE 137th (L) is a pretty straight shot of pain, peaking at something more than 15%. It is probably the least bastardly of the three, but that is a somewhat dubious distinction.

Heading north, next up we have NE 139th (K). The description on the site says, “short, steep, and brutal”, and that’s a pretty good summation. Has an extended section well about 15%, and comes close to 20% in places. After that steep section, it levels out and gets easy. Ha Ha, I make joke. It does level out, but only to a 10+% section.

And finally, that brings us to NE 140th (J). This climb has two sections; a nice 13% warmup, a short respite, and then a brutal climb with two spikes nearing 20%.

I go back and forth on which of the two are the worst. I usually settle on 140th because the spikes are so painful to deal with, but I sometimes go the other way. I suggest riding both of them and making up your own mind, preferably one right after the other. Bring your own defibrillator.

The Western Climbs

To the west of Juanita Drive are two wonderful climbs. They are in a loop; you go down one of them, and up the other one.

If you are heading north, you turn left at the first light on the Juanita drive climb (76th Pl NE), and descend. At the bottom, you will find a nice little waterfront park, and, as you head north, you will reach the base of Seminary Hill (C). This is one of the classic climbs in the area, and it rose from obscurity amongst all of the great climbs in the area because it is climb #3 in the 7 Hills of Kirkland, and it is the first indication how hard that ride is going to be. For first time participants in the ride, Market is a challenge though not too steep, the first part of Juanita is pretty easy, and then Seminary rises up and slaps you in the face, and its 414’ gives you a lot of time to think about what you got yourself into.

The hill gets its name from the Seminary that used to be just north of the top of the hill, the present-day location of Bastyr University.

The climb is rolling and curvy, making it hard to judge your progress and presenting a couple of demoralizing steep stretches as you round corners. It’s definitely a climb where starting easy and settling in is a good approach, but it’s not particularly easy to do. It’s quite a pretty climb, under a tree canopy the whole way up, so if you have a few brain cycles free I recommend looking around. You will eventually top out at the top of the Juanita drive climbs.

Going the other way, Seminary is a fun and curvy descent. Note the stop signs at the bottom.

If you are heading south, you descend down Seminary, and then climb up Holmes point road (B). This is a great little climb that almost nobody rides; it’s under full canopy the way Seminary is but the total elevation is less and the gradient is much easier. And, when you get to the top, you can turn right and have a big chunk of the Juanita drive descent remaining.

Juanita Business Bypass

If you are heading north out of Kirkland, there’s a nice option that lets you bypass much of the business district of Juanita and adds in a little elevation.

On Juanita drive, you turn north on 93rd Ave NE and work your way to the base of 94th Ave NE (N). It’s a short but steep pitch that gets you up to 132nd, at which point you can either turn left and finish the 132nd climb, or you can turn right and descent, and either keep heading east on 132nd or head north on 100th.


7 Hills 2014

The forecast did not look good. In fact, it looked pretty bad.

It was Sunday of Memorial day weekend, and I was forecast-shopping. That’s what I do when I want to ride and the weather is marginal; I look at the different weather forecasts (Accuweather, wunderground, weather.com, national weather service) to see if I can find one that I like. They said – if I recall correctly – Rain, showers, showers, rain.

I was registered to ride 7 hills for the nth time (where 5 < N < 10) on Memorial day. To be specific, I was registered to ride the 11 hills “metric century”. Quotes because a kilometer is about 8% shorter on this ride, needing only 58 miles to reach the metric century mark.

I had tentatively agreed to ride with a few friends, which is not my usual modus operandi; after a few rides where a group ride turned into a single ride, I started doing most rides by myself.

I rolled out of bed at 6AM on Memorial day, and took a look outside. It was wet but not raining. A look at the radar (the NWS National Mosaic is my favorite) showed that not only was there no rain showing, it looked like it was going to be that way for the next 6 hours or so.

Normally, my ride prep would be done the night before; I’d have everything that I wanted out on the counter, appropriate clothes chosen, and a couple of premixed bottles in the fridge. Since I expected not to be riding, I had to do all of this in a bit of a hurry. I got packed, grabbed my wallet, keys, phone, and GPS, and headed out.

I passed the first group parking on Lake Washington Blvd (people always park too far to the south), find a spot and unload. I roll into the park, get my registration band, route sheet, and find my companions. I’ll be riding with riding friends Joe and Molly, and their friends Bill and Alex. We roll out at 8:20 or so.

Market street (Hill 1) is quickly dispatched, and we head up Juanita (Hill 2). The first two hills are fairly easy; something like 5-7% gradient max. We regroup at the top of Juanita (well, actually not the top of the hill, but the part where we head back down). My legs have felt pretty good so far, but we are coming to Seminary hill (#3), which is steeper and harder than the other two. I think it’s the second-hardest climb of the ride. It also is a bit misleading; there’s a steep kicker right at the beginning, a flat part, and then it steepens up again for the remainder of the climb.

I start the climb. I’m have a secret weapon – my power meter. I know from the intervals that I’ve been doing that I can hold 300 watts for 2 minutes. I also know that I can hold 240 watts for 10 minutes, so I set that as my “do not exceed” level. I pass a few people, pass a few more, and before I know it, I’m at the top. I do have legs today.

The others filter up soon after. Well, that’s not factually true; Joe and Alex finished quite a bit faster than me, and Molly and Bill filter up soon after. Joe is my benchmark for comparative insanity, so I know that him finishing in front of me just means that things are right with the world.

We head north to descend; Joe/Molly/Bill have an almost-incident with a right-turning truck. We get on the trail and spin to Norway hill. As we approach the base, Joe is talking with a few friends, and we turn right and the climb starts. The road turns left, and I see a bunch of people on the hill. I start passing people, and strangely, nobody is passing me. I hit the stop sign, keep climbing, and eventually top out. I passed 40 people on the way up, get passed by none. Though in the spirit of full disclosure, I did pass the last 5 as they were getting ready to pull off near the top, and most of these riders are out here for the “7 hills” version of the ride.

We head south, and turn left on 132nd. The previous course would take us all the way to my favorite intersection  – 132nd st and 132nd ave – but this year they instead route us south, and then to a food stop near Evergreen Hospital. Somewhere on the last section, the sun has popped out, and we feel pretty good. I get some sort of energy bar and pretty tasteless bagelette. After a bit too long waiting, we head out again, and take 116th north. We descend down brickyard, and turn right, heading towards back on the south towards Winery hill.

And into the headwind. I go into ride leader mode, and settle in with the rest of the group somewhere behind me. After a few minutes, Bill – who is tall and wide like me – passes and pulls for a little bit. Soon enough, we reach the base of Winery. The route that we are taking – through the neighborhood – is a series of climbs and flats. We hit the first one, which is something like 15%, and Joe and Alex ride off. I try to stay around 300 watts on the climbs and recover a bit on the flats. Soon enough, I hit the top, and find the the 7 hills bagpiper is too busy having his picture taken with riders to play. He starts playing as Molly pulls up and we ride off down to the next food stop. The new route has changed this experience; previously you would have to climb north while being demoralized by the riders approaching because they had already finished winery, and then have the opposite feeling when you come down the same road after Winery. The new route is fine but is missing a bit of the emotional experience of the old one.

I grab a dark chocolate chip cookie, refill my Nuun bottle and deploy some cheez-its, my wonder ride food.

We now have a decision to make. We have done 6 hills, and we can either descend down into the Sammamish River Valley, ride south, and climb up hill #7, Old Redmond Road, or we can head east to grab an extra 4 hills before returning for the last climb. We decide to do the full metric and head east. This takes us on 116th to a short but really steep (say, 17%) climb. There’s a route via 124th that is much more gradual, so I’m not sure whether this route is because the organizers don’t know about the other route or it’s a deliberate choice.

This is one of the downsides of being a ride leader; I know the vast majority of the roads out here and if I’m on an organized ride I’m constantly plotting where we are going versus what the other options are.

The next climb is Novelty Hill. There really isn’t a lot of novelty involved; it’s a 500’ or so climb with a lot of fast traffic. On the way up, I find myself stuck on “If you’re happy and you know it, clap your hands”, planted by Joe a few minutes before. A few minutes later, it morphs to the surprisingly appropriate “I’ve been through the desert on a horse with no name, it felt good to get out of the rain” (America, 1971).

We finish, regroup, and head south to Union hill road. There’s a bonus half hill here that isn’t part of the 11 hills, we finish that section, and head north to descend Novelty again, and head up NE Redmond Road (not to be confused with Old Redmond Road, which we will climb later). This is a fairly easy climb but everybody’s legs are a bit tired. Even Joe’s, though his are tired because of the miles that he has put in the past few days. Another hill top, another descent, and we head up education hill on 116th for the second time (re-education hill). That takes us to the last food stop, where I have a fairly pedestrian ham and cheese wrap and make up another bottle of Nuun. Unfortunately, it seems that I chose “moldy fruit” flavor, so I’m not too excited about it, but I choke a bit down.

We descend, head across the valley with a vicious sidewind which turns into a headwind as we head south. I pull for Molly for the couple of miles, then Molly and Bill and I hit the base of Old Redmond Road at the same time. This is the last hill, and I open it up a bit, passing X people (5 < X < 300,000) on the way up. We crest, regroup, and head down  the last descents and the final run on Lake Washington Blvd back into Redmond. I get ahead, wait for the group, Joe goes by, and I find that I have one last sprint in my legs, so I open it up, and catch him.

Then it’s through to the finish, chocolate milk, and strawberry shortcake.

Normally at this point, I would talk about stats, but I only have 30 miles of the ride. I *can* say that I got PRs on Seminary, Norway, and Winery hills, so it’s pretty clear that I did have legs.

 


Eric goes to Metal Shop–day #1

I’m pretty good with wood. I’ve done a lot of carpentry – decks, sheds, finishing off rooms, a fair bit of finish carpentry (stairs, railings, wainscotting), and a bit of cabinetmaking.

Metal, however, is not my first choice, and when I do choose it, I’m a bit of a hack. I’ve decided to remedy that, and I’ve signed up for “Intro to Metal Shop” at Makerhaus, a hackerspace in the Fremont area of Seattle. The class started today. There are 7 students in all, 5 guys and two women.

Today was an introduction to the types of metal and how they can hurt you (be cautious machining zinc-coated steel), and how to use all of the tools in the workshop and all of the ways we can get hurt by them. The tools we covered:

  • Horizontal band saw (used for rough cutting)
  • Drill press (drilling holes)
  • Shears (used for cutting metal)
  • Brake (used for bending metal)
  • Lathe (used for machining round pieces of metal
  • Vertical mill (used for general machining)
  • Metal sander
  • Mig welder (used for, duh, welding)

The machine shop is pretty nice; there are two rooms, one for the clean tools, and then a second closed-off one for the loud and dirty tools. I tool a quick look through a window at the wood shop, and it looks nice as well. It is unfortunately inconvenient to my house, but as there aren’t any spaces like this on the eastside.


Hills of the Eastside–Hollywood Hill

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Welcome to the second installment of “Hills of the Eastside”.

After doing Education Hill in the last installment, it made sense to move onto Hollywood hill, because it is directly to the north and they are really the same ridge. I chose 124th / 128th as the logical dividing point between the two hills because it’s a bit of a valley and it’s a busy street.  The north boundary is Woodinville Duvall road, which is also a bit arbitrary. The west and east boundaries are the Sammamish river valley and Avondale Road, which, as the low points, are much less arbitrary.

 

I’ll break the hill into two sections; the north and the south. You can connect them a couple of ways if you would like.

South

The easiest way to the top from the South is A (172nd), a steady climb that doesn’t get very steep. The reason it doesn’t get very steep is that you’re already near the top of Education hill when you start, but you will still climb nearly 200’ to the top. At the end there is a bike/ped trail that can get you over to 168th (the top of climb C). It has a good shoulder most of the way and doesn’t have too much traffic. That’s really the only easy way up to the top.

Starting at 124th on the west, B (162nd PL NE to the north) takes you most of the way up. The road surface is good and traffic is calm, but it’s pretty steep – say, 13% or so – on the early pitches. At the top, the road is closed off with a barrier *but* on a bike you can go around it and continue on 168th to the top of C. There is another climb on that section that I should show but don’t; it isn’t that long but it’s pretty steep.

From the west, we have C (Hollywood Hill). If you say “Hollywood Hill”, this is the climb that most people think of, so I guess it’s the traditional way up. It’s a fairly nice constant climb, and would be one that I seek out except for the fact that a) it doesn’t have a shoulder and 2) it’s the main way up the hill from “civilization”, so it gets a lot of traffic. If you’re doing to ride it, a rear blinker is highly recommended. Pavement and traffic may be an issue on descents.  You can turn left at the first bend (155th) for another option.

There are two nice ways to climb up from the East (Avondale) side of the hill. J (NE 154th) is a nice climb up the east side from Avondale. Just before the top, there is a small dirt trail that takes you through to the west side of the hill. K (NE 143rd PL) is another nice climb up the east side from Avondale. It tops out near the top of A, and you can take the same trail through to the west side.


North

Starting in Woodinville, there are 3 ways to get up to the top.  D (NE 171st) and E (NE 174th) start at the same point. The first is hard, and the second one is harder. Both of these take you up to the high point on Hollywood. Nearby, you can find G (NE 178th), a steep climb up to a dead end. F (Woodinville-Duvall Road) is the traditional route up, and also the easiest, used by rides such as RSVP to get east enough to head north towards Maltby.

From the east side, there are a couple of ways up. I (NE 172nd Pl) is a nice rolling climb up from Avondale that isn’t too steep, and it will take you all the way to the top. It’s a great road to ride the other way; curvy and fast with a nice long flat spot at the bottom. On the way up, you can turn left (south), and H (171st Pl) will take you upfrom 172nd to the top of the traditional climb. It’s very steep at the top.

Climbs D and I meet at a stop sign at 164th and 175th. You can turn north and get up to Woodinville-Duvall, or you can head south and work your way back to the south and down the West side of the hill.