9/19/06: Montebello, Page Mill & Skyline (49.6 Miles)

Today I did an amazing ride that really wound up being an adventure. I havent kicked my cold/flu yet and I started out really slowly. I was planning on riding over to Montebello Road to scout it out and do about 25 flat miles in the process. On the way over to the Stevens Creek Reservoir through Los Altos, I was really gassed and I figured there was no way that I could climb Montebello today. I stopped into Chain Reaction Bikes on the way over and asked a couple of questions about Montebello. I like to research my roads before a I climb them so I had a good idea of what was in store for the paved section but I had no idea how long the dirt fire road would be and whether or not it really was doable on a road bike. I was told in the shop that the dirt fire road was a mile, maybe a mile and a quarter and doable on a road bike.

As usual, once I got to Montebello I was tempted to try riding a little bit of it. I started by saying I would just try to do a mile, after a mile passed, I thought I would try to get to the flat part at the end of mile two and finally about an hour later I found myself at the top of the climb staring at the fire road. Considering my pulled hamstring, nose running like a faucet, lungs coated in gunk and the fact that I hadn’t eaten all day it was probably quite stupid of me to try it but standing at the top sure was rewarding.

Montebello road is a 5.24 miles climb. The first 2 miles are very steep and definitely more difficult than Old La Honda. They are also exposed and would be especially difficult on a hot day. However, after passing Montebello School the road has a false flat section that frankly feels like a down hill. The easy section lasts for about .75 miles and leads to grade that feels nearly spot on Old La Honda the rest of the way.  Like most climbs Montebello has its fair share of spectacular views. Most of the climbs that I’ve done are further North, so it was kind of neat to get views with a slightly different perspective. It was also interesting to be able to see down on top of the quarry that is next to the Stevens Creek Resevoir… man is that thing big! They’ve teraformed half of a mountain! The ride is long, and the first two miles are very difficult, but is beautiful and definitely worth riding.

After getting to the top, I stopped for a quick bathroom break and then road around the gate on to the fire road into the Montebello Open Space Preserve. At first the road is just paved poorly but it quickly breaks down into gravel and dirt. Also, its a lot closer to 4 miles than the 1.25 that I was told in the bike shop. It really isn’t a good idea to ride on a road bike and definitely not what I was expecting. Most of the road is rideable with caution but the middle section is especially bad. I actually fell and wound up walking my bike 3 times. Fortunately, I didn’t have to walk anything longer than 50 yards but it was anoying nonetheless. Toward the end there is also a dirt down hill section that was really dangerous. My road tires were so squirely in the loose dirt of the decline that I unclipped and squeezed the breaks tight to ride it as slowly as possible. The drop-off cliff on the side of the road served as the perfect accent to this harrowing stretch of road. Over all the Montebello Open Space preserve is beautiful and I’m glad that I road it. However, doing it on a road bike was dangerous and I would not recommend trying it.

Eventually, the fire road comes to another gate which leads to a private driveway and then on to Page Mill Road. After 4 miles on dirt, riding this newly paved road feels like floating on air. Furthermore, just after passing the gate on to the private driveway, at 4201 Page Mill, is a drinking fountain on the left hand side of the road. I had pretty much run out of water on the way up Montebello so the fountain was a big relief and I refilled both of my water bottles.  The combination of water and smooth pavement really felt like I’d reached an Oasis after all of that dirt.  After several hundred yards, the private driveway comes to a second gate that is not passalbe on a bike when it intersects with Page Mill. It wasn’t tough to lift my bike over the right side of the gate and then walk around the left side, but it did make me wonder if I had just been trespassing.

I actually had no idea how far up Page Mill I was but I figured that I would try to take it slowly and that I could always just head back home by coasting down Page Mill if my legs gave out. Fortunately, I was just below the Montebello Open Space Preserve parking lot and only about 2 miles from the top. The last 2 miles up Page Mill really aren’t that hard so I made to the intersection with Skyline easily. I took Skyline for 7-8 miles over to Highway 84 and then coasted back down into Menlo Park where I turned right on Alameda de las Pulgas and headed home.

This was an amazing ride. Definitely an adventure. I’m probably stupid enough to do it again at some point, but I really would not recommend riding the dirt section of Montebello on a road bike to any sane person.

Here are my stats:

4h 14m 26s

49.59 Miles

11.6 Avg Mph

37.7 Max Mph

1605 Calories

128 Avg Heart Rate

178 Max Heart Rate

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