Sunday, September 21, 2008


Here is a formula to compare ride courses with. With weather being equal, what is easier, a full century (100 miles) with 2,000' climbing or a metric century (64 miles) with 6,000' climbing?

On the face of it this formula is (ballpark) accurate, as it rates the Terrible Two and the Devil Mountain Double as the two hardest rides, which they are (weather dependant on which one is harder in a given year, the TT has more flat road that DMD but it climbs are steeper.) They also provide a great example of how outlook varies and what factors are important in a ride from the feedback I got from Steve and Kitty, the King and Queen of long distance cycling. Steve has done 36 doubles and became infamous when completed the TT with a broken neck, Kitty has won the 200 mile stage race series a couple of times and finished P-B-P. Anyway, they don't exactly agree re what is the harder ride, which shows there is no conclusive answer:

"I still say that the TT is harder than the DMD, having done both 3 or 4 times each...since TT's really steep monsters come late in the ride and you are under time pressure to hurry it up and finish before a cut off time." -Kitty

"Having done both the DMD and TT multiple times under various weather conditions, I have always felt that the DMD was tougher of the two rides. Why? Well, because it has always taken me longer to do the DMD and I hurt more when I'm done. ...The TT has many more miles of paceline opportunities than the DMD so 1) riders are 'resting' more while in a paceline, and 2) the average speed while in the paceline is faster than if the rider was going solo. This then has the potential for offsetting what seems to be the other 'difficulty factors' that can 'skew' the ratings.-Steve

In any event, weather (extreme heat or cold, and wind) can turn a fair ride into a beast--and obviously the ratings below can't account for weather. But the ratings do account for the following:

Miles-1 pt per mile. Obviously a 100 mile ride over the same terrain should be twice as hard as a 50 mile ride.

Climbing-1% of climbing feet. No doubt climbing makes a ride harder. One web site has a formula that shows that a rider putting out 225 watts on level ground would go approximately 24 mph, on a 4% climb speed would be reduced by half. Additionally, as Kitty alluded to, you suffer more on climbs late on a ride. Slug Gulch on the Old Sierra Century was such a bear as you hit it late in the ride--ditto Ft Ross Road on the Terrible Two.

Originally I wanted to used .008 per climbing feet, with .012 used for feet after mile 75 and .016 used after mile 150. But this would be dependant on information beyond my reach. And .01 is easy to use. 5,000' x .01 = 50 points added to the rides miles to the ride.

Severe Climbs-15x miles. Go up the 12 miles of fairly steady 4-6% of Mt. Diablo and early on everyone is talking about "THE RAMP, the last .1 mile of 18%. Many people who are having fun on Diablo spinning away are terrified of the ending portion. On some rides the 18% isn't .1 mile but 2-3 miles of the whole ride.

An arbitrary cutoff for killer climbs is 10%-Big Creek on Climb to Kaiser averages 10% for 4 miles and it is brutal. At 4% our 225 watt cyclist who was doing 12 mph on the 11% grade is now doing 5 mph.

I think there should be a 50% bonus for portions of climbs over 10%, and without GPS measuring I can just recall miles from hell. Using a x15 (for miles) multiplier comes close to giving us this bonus.

Non Descending (Non Coasting) Miles above 6000' -1 x miles As anyone doing the Death Ride knows, being over 6000' for most of the ride--breathing is labored, easy to lose ones breath upon too much exertion, and constantly drinking more. In 2007 I saw Don get "altitude sickness" on Eastern Sierra, which seemed pretty easy at the time, the next year I blew up upon too much exertion and couldn't recover.

So a 25% bonus per miles is in order for these rides. Unfortunately these are the one's I'll have to go back and attempt to approximate miles at high altitude where we are fairly level or climbing, so the list below isn't complete.

Please note I know this is inexact and I'd be the last person to argue that a 280 ride is necessarily harder than a 250 ride based on the numbers alone. I'd just say that they are in the same ballpark. And either one is probably more than twice as hard as a totally flat century. And of course cobblestones add 20x per kilometer, 50x when wet. Pictured Iowa Hill--1.75 miles at 13.5% average--for every "flat section" of 6% there is a section of 21%

Ten hardest one day rides that I've done, with assorted rides for comparison
(Recalculated 9/25/08-changing "hard climbs" from 25x to 15x to limit the hard climb bonus to @ triple regular climbing)

1-Devil Mountain Double-512 (206 miles, 18,600' climbing, 8 miles of hard climbs)
2-Terrible Two-501 (201 miles, 16,480' climbing, 9 miles of hard climbs)
3-Climb to Kaiser-385 (155 miles, 13,500' climbing, 5 miles of hard climbs) (#subject to revision, estimate 20 non-coasting miles over 6000')
4-Central Coast Double-362 (209 miles, 13,800' climbing, 1 mile of hard climbs)
5-Mt. Tam Double-359 (199 miles, 14,500' climbing, 1 mile of hard climbs)
6-Knoxville Double-342 (201 miles, 12,600' climbing, 1 mile of hard climbs)
7-Eastern Sierra Double-340 (190 miles, 10,000' climbing, 2 miles of hard climbs) (#subject to revision, estimate 20 non-coasting miles over 6000')
8-Auburn 140 Miler-330 (140 miles, 15,000' climbing, 2 miles of hard climbs) (#subject to revision, estimate 10 non-coasting miles over 6000')

9-Death Ride-329 (129 miles, 15,000', 1 mile of hard climbs) (#subject to revision, estimate 35 non-coasting miles over 6000')
10-Davis Double (w/ Cobb Mountain) -315 (200' miles, 10,000' climbing, 1 mile of hard climbs)
---Davis Double (w/ Big Canyon)-284
---Old Sierra Century Double Metric (in Amador-El Dorado)-269
---Solvang Spring Double-269
---North Fork Grizzly Century-260-- (#subject to revision, estimate 15 non coasting miles over 6000')
---Humboldt Tour of the Unknown Coast-212

---Mt. Hamilton Double Metric Challenge-208
---Tierra Bella Double Metric (w/ Henry Coe)-206
---Tour of Napa Valley Century-180
---Haleakala from Sea Level-178
---Santa Rosa Wine Country Double Metric-169
---Chico Wildflower Century-148
---Foxy Fall Century-125
---Stockton Delta Century-105
---Mt Diablo (N Gate)-61
Diablo Cyclist Rides
---Plymouth Backwards Sierra Century-231 (w/ Charleston 261)
---Walnut Creek-- Calavaras inc Sierra Road, out and back, Century-217
---Walnut Creek --Mines Road Junction, out and back, Double Metric-184
---Los Gatos--Aptos, loop, Metric--113 (w/ Rusty Bonus Loop 138)
---Woodside--Tunitas Creek loop with Pigeon Point bonus, Metric--126
---Walnut Creek--Sunol-Calavaras, out and back, Metric+--100
---Walnut Creek-Sunol-Palomaras, loop, Metric--95
---Walnut Creek--Bears--Tilden Park--Peets Berkeley--back Redwood Road--85
---Diablo Cyclist loop-Morgan Territory North-Livermore, loop--85

Note: seemingly @ 265 is a nice tipping point re a ride being so hard that casual cyclists will be discouraged. On 9/4/08 (with rumors about this much earlier based on post ride comments) the Sacramento Wheelmen indicated they were ending the Sierra Century Calavaras (ride rating 265) Route after 2 years, based on the toughness of the course which saw a huge reduction of riders.

"... in a formal letter Aug. 25 to Calaveras County officials that (Sacramento Wheelmen) felt welcomed in the county but that the steep hills here and high gas prices are forcing the move to more moderate terrain closer to Sacramento.... In June 2007, 1,800 people signed up for the ride....This year, however, only about 600 riders signed up. "

1 comment:

Murali Krishnan said...

Fantastic work.

I have been looking for a way to quantify the different rides. The fact that the result rankings are about what one would subjectively expect gives validation to your formula.