Name: Aaron Baker

Birthday: doesn't remember

Occupation: Rides Bikes Up Hills


The Challenge

The 10 Hardest Hills Around Berkeley In 10 Minutes Each, and/or 100 minutes total. 

1 Marin
2 Moeser
3 Lomos Cantados
4 Centennial
5 Claremont
6 Alvarado
7 Thorndale
8 Panoramic
9 Sobrante
10 South Park






left: can't tell cuz of all the mud but that could be aaron, or it might be the lion of flanders. whomever, he seems to be suffering sufficiently to do this tale justice.

Aaron's 10 in 10  Challenge   

Editors note: This idea has some history behind it. Basically, it was Russ McBride eclipsing the famous "Berkeley Death Ride" by adding 2 climbs for something he called the "7 Samurai". Aaron and Steve Edwards rode the Samurai with Russ in June, eliminating some of what Aaron called "easy" climbs in favor of what were truly the steepest hills in the east bay.  Whilst dropping Steve and Russ throughout the day (see story at bottom of page) Aaron was concocting the feasibility of a much more ambitious challenge, to ride the 10 hardest hills in under 10 minutes each. Training proved this to be futile on Claremont due to length, so he decided to do as many under 10 as possible and to keep his total time under 100. Because Aaron's descriptions may not do justice to the climbs, we'll borrow some info from the above site to give more objectivity of what normal really strong bike riders think of these hills. As you may notice, most of the additional climbs are harder than the Death Ride itself.

Well, I managed to conquer my challenge. Got 9 climbs done under 10 minutes, Claremont wasn't too bad at 14:30 or so. Really tough day on the bike. 

Wasn't sure if it was smart to try this today after the 200 mile weekend, but felt kind of psyched up this morning. Michelle went for her first mtb ride of the year, so I figured I'd try and see how I felt. Great that Lance interview was on tonight, haven't seen it yet so a perfect end to my day. 

Tonight, I hurt. but I survived.

Aaron's 10 in 10 From the Berkeley Death Ride description
Pretty overcast and chilly, which is good for me, so rolled out of here around noon to climb Arlington as a warm-up before Moeser. Started the clock at the bottom of Moeser (20%). Moeser has been one of the hardest for me in training and today as well, probably because it is first and I'm never totally warmed up. After Moeser, I was worried about finishing the challenge. Took 8:16.

not on the death ride

Cruised down the hill to Marin (25+%). Marin felt awful. I mean really awful. Couldn't relax, couldn't really get a rhythm. And the last three blocks were pure survival. Ready to fall over practically. However, I was encouraged by my time to Grizzly (7:07) and topped out at 8:30. Still, I was worried and starting to think about cutting the day short based on the suffering. Marin never hurt like that before. (ed-a "normal" time is 13-14 minutes!) Marin is simply ridiculous; one advantage of doing it first is that all the rest of the hills will look easy by comparison. The main disadvantage is that it could kill you before you get a chance at any of the other hills. I plan to ride it as slowly as I possibly can, and I recommend you do as well (13-15m). It crosses a number of quiet streets, which people often use as an opportunity to rest without getting off the bike; just turn down the side street and coast for a while as your heart rate comes back under your anaerobic threshold.
Riding over to do Lomos Cantados, decided on the way that it made more sense to do South Park (18%?) first as this has been one of the hardest in training based on length and consistent gradient at the end. 10 minutes is a tough time here. Surprisingly, I felt pretty good. Never really had to max out, and had 15 seconds in hand coming into the last brutal pitch. Stood up, stayed in the 23, let another 5 seconds go but still took 10 seconds out of my training time (9:50).  South Park is actually probably the easiest of the five climbs. It starts out fairly easily, then gets rather steep around the end of the straightaway. It continues steeply basically until the top of the hill, but with only 200 meters total climb, and grades which will look easy after Marin, it shouldn't be that difficult.
Rode back down S. Park to Toyonal off Wildcat (not the bottom because didn't see the point, still a solid climb.) Felt really good warming back up on Toyonal, just floating. Definitely turned a corner on South Park or something. Hit Lomos Cantadas (18%?) and just motored up it. Hurt at the steep corner, but made it to the top again in a best time (8:00). When pulling in to steam trains to get more water, some ass yelled put your helmet on. Wanted to tell him to go ride Toyonal in 8 minutes then tell me what to do. Jerk.  El Toyonal is a pretty rough climb, about as steep and long as the hard part of Centennial. But then the hard part starts. You can continue on El Toyonal and go over a partially washed-out bridge and hook up with Wildcat Canyon, but we're turning left and going up Lomas Cantadas, which is the hardest climb to Grizzly Peak from the east. It has about three switchbacks where you're already working pretty hard, and you see the hill getting steeper into the switchback, but then instead of easing off it actually gets steeper on the next straightaway. The straight climb towards the stables is the hardest part; once you make the right turn past the stables towards the llama pen, you have pretty much made it.
Cruised down Claremont to Alvarado. This kind of sucked because no pedaling and right into the next climb. Starting to feel a little heavy in the legs on Alvarado, couldn't push a 23, and couldn't really keep a rhythm. But put my head down and managed to grab another 10 seconds of best at the top (9:45). Meant to ride over to Tunnel to rest the legs and prepare for Claremont, but spaced and ended up riding down Claremont, which meant no spinning before climbing again. This may have been a mistake which caught up to me later. 

not on the death ride

Claremont went pretty well, rode the 14:30 when I figured it would be 15. This ate up all but 1 minute of my time buffer (trying to keep it under 100 minutes). Time to head over to the next two climbs, the super steep Thorndale and Sobrante. Thought it might be okay because Claremont is mostly seated and these climbs are totally standing. But legs were really feeling weird now. I was seriously worried but could see the light at the end of the tunnel. Four climbs left and I was over one hour ahead of my 5 hour schedule.  Claremont is the least steep of all the hills we're climbing today, but it's harder than Centennial or South Park because it's longer. Unlike most of today's climbs, it comes at you in waves; there are sections which are well above 10%, particularly the first of two switchbacks near the top. There are pitches which are less steep, but really nowhere you can get a rest until after the last switchback.
Rode down Thornhill to Thorndale, Thornhill seemed steeper going down (note to Steve and Russ, who thought is was steep going up), but nothing like what was about to hit me. The first couple hundred yards on Thorndale really sucked because came right off a descent. Legs were heavy. Fortunately, there is a flat after the first steep section, so you can spin for a bit. Hit the climb proper and it was a disaster (Steve word)! It had just been worked on and was wet in spots, muddy, loose rocks, kept losing my rear wheel. that hurts. Happy to see the final switchback, hammered to the top in about 8 minutes. Eliminated that extra section since it's a different street and felt contrived. 

not on the death ride, but why? this sucker is monumental in difficulty.

Rode back down Thornhill to Sobrante, again no spinning as it descends until you go up. This really is a bad way of doing things. legs felt absolutely leaden on Sobrante, which is harder in some ways than Thorndale. Starts steep at about 20% for a quarter mile or so, then gets steeper! probably 25+, steep as anything on Marin. You take a sharp left and it eases back to about 15%, keep going then a sharp right and it gets really really steep. Really steep. You practically stop. I could feel my abs as I yarded on the bars. Fortunately, it's flat after that, just have to hammer to get time. 8 minutes. 

not on the death ride

Two to go, again, I was worried. Panoramic has a tough section that comes after several hundred yards at 20%. Would my legs survive? Then, I had to get up Centennial. I knew I could get up that, but could I break 10 minutes? Panoramic really hurt. This is where I suffered most today. Going too slow to keep a momentum, like starting from stop every pedal stroke once it got steep. After the 20% section, it chicanes up over 25% for 150 meters or so, then eases off. The problem was, I was tight on time, couldn't take it easy because lost too much time lower on the climb. Put my head down and went, and made it in 9:15, over a minute slower than training time. 

not on the death ride

Down to Centennial. I felt like shit. Wanted to go home. Wanted to lie down. Centennial is easier if you divide it into three parts--four really. The first quarter is flat, normally I can ride it at 20mph, today between 12 and 15. Uh oh. In training, I can do a nine minute time. Not a lot of time to work with and I was losing time from the first pedal. Hit the hill proper and just went into survival mode. If I didn't do it in 10, at least I would make sure I didn't blow to bits and lose the 100 minute limit. Put the head down and didn't look at computer or hill, just kept the 25 turning. Turn turn turn, first section done and a short (25 foot) flatter section. Get psyched, go. The second section is hardest with a blind, steeeeep hairpin halfway up it. this means you don't know how far you have to go until you get around that corner. And though I've ridden this thing 100 times (in college, I didn't know there was an easier way up), I was so faded I couldn't remember the climb. Stood up and mashed through the turn, ugh, it's far to the next section. Keep going Baker. Get to the next section at 8 minutes, 15 seconds of lower angle climb and then its out of the saddle sprinting as much as I can to get to the top before time runs out. Pain, yes. Suffering, yes. But this is the last climb. Don't have to save anything now so give it everything. 9:30. Thank god. That means I don't ever have to do this fucking thing again. Centennial is the road most frequently used by strong cyclists to get out of Berkeley. It starts fairly gently, then starts to climb steeply near the Botanical Garden and past LBL. It's a fairly constant 11% grade from the LBL gate to the rest point at Lawrence Hall of Science. There, it flattens out for a while, and then climbs a little more, less steeply, to reach Grizzly Peak.

7 Samurai
by Steve Edwards

Russ McBride, of Titanium Man and--now--Hans' 50,000 fame came up with a harder version of the Berkeley Death Ride a few months back which was supposed to include the 7 hardest climbs in Berkeley. Yesterday, Russ, Aaron Baker, and I upped the 7 Samurai just a bit by doing a harder variation. Not only that, Baker decided to make it even harder next time, concocting a 10 in 10 challenge where someone (probably only him) does the 10 hardest hills around Berkeley all in under 10 minutes. Yesterday, Baker did them all under 10 except one, Thorndale.

Here's the breakdown:

Moeser: the sign says 20% but we never thought it exceeded 18%. Fairly short with a few easy sections, it was our 'warm-up' climb. Actually, we did a real warm-up climb first but this was a first time to push beyond our AT. This climb is not on the Death Ride but was on Russ' original 7.

Marin: The steepest street around Berkeley that--reportedly--has a 30% section. Didn't find that exactly but is was very steep and very crowded. Employing a weave tactic would be deadly. Hard for both me and Russ, Aaron blasted up it so fast I lost site of him.

El Toyanal to Lomas Cantadas: The last section of this climb is hard, about 1K at 15% (similar to Las Floras in Malibu). It was also quite long, so I suspect Aaron's 10 minutes was only the last section, and the first part wasn't exactly a picnic.

Claremont/Drury/Maroborough/?: This was my favorite, a new climb the Aaron found to miss "non-steep" Claremont. You turn off Claremont and immediately hit a 15% grade and undulates all the way to the top. Great climb where you gain a lot of height and exposure amazingly quickly.

Thornhill: We were looking for Thornton, didn't find it (not on the BDR, or any ride), and ended up doing what Aaron didn't want to count except that it was just as hard as everything else (over 15% sections) to Russ and I so we wouldn't allow him to nix it. Ended up on Snake, which seems flat in comparison, then went searching for Thornton. Hmmm

Thorndale: We had trouble because it was actually called Thorndale. Aaron had mentioned that he was scared the first time he descended it, cause Russ and I to pause at the top as Aaron dropped in. Talking to a neighbor (who was warning us how dangerous is was to go down), she then assured us she had seen cyclists come up it. "Not often, but I've seen it," giving us no choice but to head down. Perhaps it was our dread/fear, but this one went well, even though I think it's the hardest of all, and the only one Aaron missed 10 minutes on.

Centennial: This is a 'standard' climb but still hard that heads straight up to Grizzly Peak from the UC football stadium. 

Russ headed home, but Aaron had one more climb to do which I, fearing I wouldn't make it up and it was on the opposite side of home, backed out of. Aaron then added Canon, which was steep but only took 3 minutes. 

For the 10 in 10 he plans to add South Park and one more which he hasn't found yet, making a very hard day out completely psycho.