Bohlman/On Orbit, Black Road & China Grade. Only 55 miles, but plenty of classic steep grades!
(If you're looking for something a bit longer and starting from Woodside, check out our "Boony Doon Century" page)
Like so many of the rides on this website, this one is a "greatest hits" version, a ride whose features would be commonly found in a 100+mile epic ride, but it's been condensed to 55 miles of just the good stuff. We started our ride at Saratoga High School, less than a mile east of the Saratoga/Highway 9 intersection.
You start out on Highway 9 through Saratoga, and, for a very brief period of time, you're looking forward to an alternative to the traffic.
Brief because, in no time at all you're making a left turn onto 6th Street and heading up. Way up. Strange that I've lived on the Peninsula all of my life, and this was the first time I'd ever been up this near-legendary climb. For Sal and I, it probably felt harder than it really was because we had no warm-up to speak of, just straight up this wall. Yes, the views are incredible, but so is the stinging from the salty sweat streaming into your eyes. At one point it got so steep that I honestly thought I might have to get off the bike and walk for a bit... this was definitely a hill worthy of the lowest-possible gear (and I'd "temporarily" switched my 12-27 to an experimental 12-26 six months ago and was thinking about how much easier it would be with that slightly-lower gear!).
At the end of Bohlman, most people head back down the hill. Not us. On the map, it shows a dirt road that runs across the ridge and down towards Lexington Reservoir. The left photo shows the dirt road that goes off to the right, just before Bohlman ends. You head down this a ways to the gate shown in the right photo, and continue on through.
No need for a road bike to be scared of a little dirt! Besides, it's only for a couple of miles. At one point there's a fork in the road, with the main road seeming to go left and a less-traveled section going to the right. Head right. If you go left, it appears you can still get down to Lexington Reservoir, but it will be a very long, entirely dirt road. Head right and you'll shortly find yourself on Montevina, a narrow, twisty road that winds through a neighborhood whose price of admission is in many multiples of millions of dollars.
There are a couple stretches of flat road on this ride, but not many! Your next hilly encounter will be Black Road, seen on the right. Below Sal has found water at Lakeside School, about a mile up the climb.
Alba, Jamison Creek, Felton-Empire, China Grade... they've all got pieces of road that look just like this section on Black Road. What makes them worth climbing is the beauty of the surroundings and a relative lack of car traffic.
Black Road ends up on top of Skyline, your second significant hilltop of the day. This part of Skyline bears little resemblance to what you find further north, as the road is so narrow and twisty that even motorcycles tend to shun it. Thus the perfect road for bicycles!
After heading south a few miles on Skyline you descend Bear Creek towards Boulder Creek. This is a fairly fast, straightforward descent.
At Boulder Creek is the obligatory stop at Johnnie's Supermarket. The well-stocked cooler with cold drinks is immediately to the right as you walk in.
From Boulder Creek you head north a bit on 236, but instead of riding through Big Basin...
...you take the China Grade cutoff. A nice, scenic alternative to the heavily-trafficked 236.
But the BOD (Bridge of Death) awaits! Cross this creek and you'll find yourself on the third significant climb of the day.
This is my second time up China Grade with a camera, and I still don't have a photo that really shows how steep it is. You'll have to take Sal's word for it.
China Grade takes you to the top part of 236, avoiding the loop through Big Basin. This is the end of 236, where it hits Highway 9 at Waterman Gap.
From Waterman Gap to the top of Skyline is a 6 mile climb, with no significant steep parts. After Bohlman, Black Road and China Grade, it's easy!
Approaching the intersection of Highway 9 and Skyline. It's literally all downhill from here.
And back in Saratoga to end the ride. 55 miles, and about 7100 feet of climbing.
Above is a profile produced by the excellent "Klimb" program, which can be used to map most of the more popular road rides in the SF Bay Area.