Pico's Cycling - Tales of the Road is an online cycling magazine. It is intended for writers and riders who want to share their on the road cycling stories and pictures. Submissions that follow our guideline are gratefully appreciated. See the appropriate page in the site menu. Will publish the best of the best each month. Follow us on Facebook or Twitter @PicosCycling.

Sunday, 30 November 2014

The Vertical Mile



By Pico Triano
Photos: Pico Triano

“C'mon get on your bike and pedal!” he shouted as he whipped past me as if I were some sort of wimp. I don't care much what other people think so the comment stung only a little. Besides the man was built like a jockey, riding an ultralight racing bike, with only his water bottle for cargo. I'm a Clydesdale (200 lbs+) carrying a full touring load, camping gear, food and water for several days, stove, fuel and clothing. This was also my first mountain ascent. Training on little bitty hills only prepares a rider so much. This ride was to see what I had in me and how much more intense I needed to train. My goal was to cross the west coast mountains before the end of the summer and a flat lander like myself was intimidated by the task.

I found myself passed by dozens of racers that day climbing up through the Angeles National Forest Highway. I conquered Mount Wilson my own way. My touring bike wasn't equipped with a cheater gear so there were steep stretches that were too difficult for me once I'd tired some. I did accomplish what I set out to do though. My training was not far off the mark. Through the pain, I knew I was just about ready. Climbing a mile of elevation in one day with a full touring load is no easy feat. Screaming back down at the end of it all was its own kind of reward.

The additional training did pay off. My next run through the Santa Susanna Pass saw me stay on the bike right to the top with a full touring load. Before leaving I felt strong.

My plan was to follow the California coast up to the San Francisco area and then cut across the mountains. I wish I'd had the time to ride the Pacific coast all the way into Canada before crossing but that was not a luxury I had. If I had to do it again, I would have followed a more direct route. Mountains and deserts don't scare me like they used to.

The week riding up the coast was excellent preparation for the mountains anyway. The Pacific Coast Highway rides like a roller coaster. I did a lot of walking up steep hills to avoid wearing myself down but I did have the strength and endurance to keep to my planned schedule.

The initial ascent began as I left Sacramento. The road climbed steadily all the way to Donner Summit. One disadvantage of riding solo is that there are very few pictures of me in action. I did photograph a lot of scenery and especially those elevation signs. Those signs, because of the difficulty, meant a great deal to me.

From Donner Summit to Reno had me feeling like a cruise missile. I had several more mountain ranges to climb but after that first climb they were no big deal any more. Crossing the Continental Divide was a bit of an anticlimax.


The highest elevation I reached was 8640 ft. Impressive to my family, because as my dad remembers it, that was nearly the same elevation my parent's DC-3 flew over the Atlantic when they came to Canada as newly weds. Yeah mom and dad, I rode my bike up there.