Three Hills of Issaquah

I met up with some of the guys who do the Native Planet group road rides each week over in Issaquah on Tuesday for their hill-climbing ride. I had heard about the legendary "Alpe d'Zoo" climb near Cougar Mountain Zoo and wanted to finally give it a shot. The ride leader was riding a 1x5 Specialized hybrid/barcalounger of a bike with wheels that looked straight out of the 70's. He not only crushed everyone on the climbs, but he did so with a courier bag draped over his shoulder.

Apparently he did the climb in under 13 minutes on a single-speed hybrid bike in last year's annual Zoo Climb race.

Incredible. Alpe d'Zoo was our second climb of the day and I was holding some in reserve for the third climb up Squak Mountain, but I barely managed to do the climb in 20 minutes. Sub thirteen on a single-speed? Crikey!

Here's the elevation profile from the ride.

Click to enlarge.

Ride Stats:

Climb 1, 164th Street: 2.7 miles, 566 feet
Climb 2, Alpe d'Zoo: 2.4 miles, 1061 feet
Climb 3, Squak Mtn: 2.9 miles, 1039 feet

Total: 20.3 miles, 2841 feet

Avg Speed: 13.2 mph
Top Speed: 44.5 mph

I was on the brakes almost the entire time descending and, honestly, I was scared out of my mind. Maybe it's because I haven't been on the road bike much yet this year; perhaps it's flashbacks of cartwheeling down a road at 30+ mph once; and maybe it's because my brake pads are worn out the stem is too long and I simply don't feel safe on my road bike. Whatever the reason, I was much happier going uphill than down and think I'd rather descend technical singletrack at speed than a road with crazy guardrail-ringed hairpins.

As for the group dynamics, there were four of us. The aforementioned mountain goat on the 1x5 Specialized led on all of the climbs, then there were me and two other guys, both of them who looked quite strong and were sporting fancy Italian and French import bikes. I had to casually mention owning a Moots to ward off any inferiority complexes that might set in. After all, my road bike is nothing but a Performance Bike off-the-shelf special that I reeled in for under a grand. These guys' wheelsets (and the one on my Moots, for that matter) cost more than my whole bike.

I held back a bit on the first climb to make sure and finished about 1 minute off the back. On the second climb, Alpe d'Zoo, I pulled even with the third rider about 100 yards before the top and could have passed him, but chose to just finish up with him. I rode strong on the final climb and was alone in second of our group for much of the climb, until I got a stomach cramp and fell back to third 1/2 mile before the top. It wasn't a competitive group at all, everyone was really nice, but it was obvious everyone was looking to establish a sort of pecking order on the climbs and in that respect, being the new guy, I was glad to show obvious signs of getting comparitively stronger as the ride went on.

It dawned on me while holding on for dear life coming back down Alpe d'Zoo (and yes that is definitely a pretentious roadie name, but I kind of like it) that my road bike is over two years old now and it's not only running on the original chain and cassette and brake-pads, but it's never even been given a tune-up. Gulp!

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