Ride Report: Devil Mountain Quadruple
After last year's Devil Mountain
Triple, I wanted to do something more this year. Last year I
rode to the ride, but then I took BART home. So the obvious
"improvement" was to ride both there and back. And if I was going to
do that, I might as well aim for 400 miles too. That's where the idea
came from: ride there and back via Half Moon Bay. As a "bonus",
I could get over an Everest's worth of elevation as well. Seemed like
a worthy goal.
The Friday before the ride I worked from home,
and went to pick up a batch of special-ordered Kahnfections. These would be my
"fuel" for the rides to and from San Ramon.
This would be my third 300+ mile ride, and I'd like to think I'm
getting a bit better at preparing for them. I had a list of everything
I'd need, and worked to get it ready. Some things, like chapstick,
you only really regret not having when you're out in the middle of
nowhere with your lips chapped to the point they're bleeding, but they
don't come to mind when you think about all the stuff you'll need (at
least, chapstick didn't come to my mind last year...) So I had
that, extra chammy cream (sorry if that's TMI), all my food, a hoodie
(I get cold fast when I stop moving, which I would be doing to eat),
a spare tire, 3 tubes, sun screen and a mega battery pack with enough
capacity to charge my phone, Garmins (yes, I had two) and lights.
I rolled out from my driveway at about 2030 on Friday, and gingerly
made my way south. It was definitely "breezy", and I was worried (as I
always am) about having a brutal headwind. Fortunately, I lucked out:
I had a killer tailwind! I was cruising down CA-1 at 40kph with very
I quickly made it to Stage Road, and then the 84 climb. Just as I
was getting close to the top of the climb, I started to feel hungry,
so I stopped at the top to eat before heading down. I managed to spot
the easy-to-miss turn on to Portola Road, then on to the familiar
Sand Hill, Willow and ultimately Dumbarton.
Landing in the east bay, I made my way without issue on the deserted,
wide boulevards of Union City and Hayward before popping over to
Dublin on Dublin Canyon Road, right next to 580. From there I just
had a tiny bit of trouble finding the bike path I wanted to use to
get to San Ramon (the Iron Horse Trail), but managed to find it after
a few minutes. After about 20 minutes on the path, I knew I was very
close to the hotel where the ride would start. Unfortunately, San
Ramon is one of those horrible suburbs where you can be basically
right next to something and not have an easy way to get to it. To
make matters worse, I had very poor reception, so I couldn't even
easily check Google Maps. I did manage to find it eventually after
flailing around for about 30 minutes, and at that point it was 0330.
I tried to pass out in the hotel lobby for a while, but wasn't really
able to sleep. I ate a few more Kahnfections, and at around 0430
made my way to the registration room to pick up the cue sheet and my
number. While I was waiting in line, I heard somebody behind me say
"oh shit, that's the super strong guy who rides in from the city!" I
had a reputation, apparently! But I don't know where the "oh shit"
came from; this wasn't a race, and even if it were, I was in no
condition to do anything except ride a very modest endurance pace.
We rolled out at 0502 and headed straight for Diablo. We arrived
shortly after 0530, when the gate is supposed to be opened, but it
wasn't open yet. There were some people there who told us to jump the
gate and go on ahead, so we did. It was incredibly windy on Diablo, and
at several points I felt like I was almost blown off my bike. A little
ways past the ranger station a tree was down, completely covering
the road and necessitating a CX-style traversal. Because of this,
the ride vehicles couldn't get to the summit, which is usually where
the first rest stop is. After a chilly, blustery descent we popped
out on to North Gate to see the rest stop had been moved there. I
grabbed a quick bite before heading on towards Morgan Territory.
The Morgan Territory climb was quite pleasant and, being more sheltered
than Diablo, not too windy. However, at the top it becomes completely
exposed and the wind was fierce. I quickly became worried about the
next challenge, Patterson Pass. Last year it was my least favourite
section due to the wind, and I was worried this year would be even
worse. After eating a bunch at the Morgan Territory rest stop, I
rolled out to discover that someone had crashed only a few hundred
meters down the descent, and emergency workers had blocked off the
road. We would all have to wait about 30-40 minutes while a helicopter
(!) showed up, and the injured rider was driven in an ambulance a
few hundred meters to the helicopter. I later learned that the rider
suffered a broken foot and some bad road rash, but is otherwise OK
(well, aside from what is probably an enormous bill, that is...)
As the emergency workers were opening up the road for us to continue,
they warned us that the wind was very strong and to expect really hard
gusts as we came around the corners. Most folks started off descending
cautiously, but after about 30 seconds almost everyone gave up on that
and decided to just bomb down the descent anyway :-/ I took my time,
though, and at the bottom eventually found a few people who didn't
seem totally insane with which to share the work for a while.
As we approached Patterson Pass I was relieved that, miraculously,
the wind didn't seem to be as bad as last year. That's what low
expectations will do for you, I guess! On the climb itself, most
of the crazy descenders were easily dispatched, leaving me to start
the journey over to Mines Road solo. Eventually a few of the saner
folks caught up and I took the opportunity to sit in on the way to
the Mines Road rest stop.
I rolled out of the Mines Road rest stop at 1205, a bit worried about
being close to the "back" of the ride, because they have a 1300 cut off
for that rest stop. I'm not sure if they really enforce that though,
since it turns out I wasn't very close to the back.
After a somewhat slow jaunt down Mines, I landed at the Junction for
lunch. It was actually open! This was the first time I'd ever seen it
open, so I ventured inside out of curiousity. Rather than eat more ride
food, I opted for a coffee milkshake and grilled cheese, which really
hit the spot. Another dude came in and had a beer, which looked soooo
very tempting, but would definitely have put me to sleep at that point.
Now full of sugar, caffeine, salt, carbs and fat, I kept up my modest
pace to the base of Hamilton. The climb was a bit of a grind after
250 miles and no sleep, but I made it OK. Fortunately it wasn't very
hot, and I rolled right past the "0" marker and on to the descent,
which was quite enjoyable.
The next major source of anxiety was almost at hand: Sierra Road.
Last year I found it to be a real struggle, being so steep and coming
so late in the ride. At the Crothers rest stop, I stretched and drank
Coke and got some nice ice cold gatorade in my bottle in anticipation.
When I eventually hit Sierra Road it....... wasn't so bad! Maybe I
can actually do this! Surely it's going to get much worse? Actually,
wait a minute, maybe it's almost over? It is! That was it!!! It was a
HUGE relief when I finished Sierra Road and made it to the "pet a goat"
rest stop. All the tough climbs had now been slain: Diablo, Patterson,
Hamilton and now, Sierra. "All" that was left was reverse Calaveras,
reverse Palomares and Norris Canyon.
Calaveras was absolutely STUNNING, and I had to stop to take a picture:
I made it to the final rest stop in Sunol without issue, stopped
there briefly and then started off towards Palomares. Between the
rest stop and Palomares the course is Niles Canyon Road (aka 84), and
it kind of sucks. There really isn't a shoulder and there's a decent
amount of traffic. As such, I was being extra careful and taking it
easy. Since Palomares was only a few miles ahead it didn't make much
sense to push it here.
Just as I was thinking that, a group of 4 dudes blew past me. I
didn't give them much thought, but as I approached the Palomares
turn I saw that they had crashed due to some gravel on the corner.
I later learned that one of them broke his collarbone and fractured
his pelvis in the incident. Ouch! I stopped, of course, to see if
they were OK. The guy who had the worst of it insisted that he was
fine, and was able to get up and walk around. His friend agreed to
stay with him and urged me to keep going. I made sure they had cell
reception before taking off, in case they would need to call someone.
The rest of the ride was uneventful though tiring. Dusk had come and
gone, and I was now back to night riding. I rolled in to the finish
at around 2140, feeling relieved but also a bit anxious about the
ride home. As I was grabbing some of the famous post-ride lasagne,
I heard the ride organizer (Scott Halverson) getting an update on
the phone that there were still another ~100 riders out on the course.
After inhaling the lasagne, downing a few of the free hotel coffees and
re-applying the all-important chammy cream, I rolled out for the ride
home. I stopped at a gas station in Hayward to buy some Cokes before
making my way over the Dumbarton. When I landed back at Facebook I
felt like I was almost "home" even though I had at least another 60
miles to go.
Riding up to the top of 84 went smoothly, and I stopped there again
to eat more Kahnfections and re-fill my water bottle with Coke. There
were some petrol-head type dudes with souped-up cars hanging out in
the Alice's parking lot, and I was a bit worried they might do crazy
shit while I was descending. They did pass me on the descent, but
because their cars were so loud I could hear them coming for several
minutes before they finally passed me, and they actually gave me a
decent amount of space.
It was a struggle to stay awake on the final slog up CA-1, but every
time I found myself losing concentration I had a sip or two of Coke
and that seemed to help. The sun was rising as I made my way through
Pacifica, up Skyline Drive and on to Callan before the final home
stretch on Mission. I'm not gonna lie, my butt was sore at this point
and I was even more acutely aware of the awful road surface on Mission
When I finally got home, I woke Christine to let her know I was still
alive, uploaded the Stravas, and jumped in the shower. Getting all
the layers of sunscreen, dead bugs, road grime and sweat off felt
wonderful. And after that, I flopped into bed for some well-deserved