When mountain biking back in my late 20s, I used to set goals. Those goals usually involved riding a specific trail. It didn’t have to be a difficult trail to ride (although sometimes it was), it just had to be a trail that would test my limits.
Later in life my goals changed a bit. It was no longer about riding a specific trail. It was usually about losing weight, getting in shape, or just being out there. Those aren’t bad goals, but for me, they don’t necessarily motivate. Personally, I think it’s better to set a goal that’s a little more visible to the naked eye — like riding a specific trail. Besides, in working towards that goal, it knocks the others off the list.
Before the end of 2017, I would like to ride Charcoal Road (or Charcoal Grade). There are a couple of reasons I have picked this ride: 1) it was something I did in the past and 2) there seems to be a lack of Charcoal Road biking videos on YouTube. Yes, I’m going to wear my GoPro while doing it.
For those of you who don’t know, Charcoal Road is an infamous climb out of Stevens Canyon that brings up all the way up to Skyline Blvd. When referring to Charcoal Road, I’m actually talking about two trails (or really three) in one, because they’re all linked together making one continuous climb.
The climb on Charcoal Road itself begins after a brief ride on Table Mountain Fire Road. It’s 1.4 miles up to Saratoga Gap Trail. You can expect 10-20% grades throughout this ride. You’re also exposed to the sun throughout, so if it’s hot, it’s even worse.
Just to get to Charcoal Road itself, you have to ride up Table Mountain Trail and Table Mountain Fire Road. When all is said and done, it turns into a just under 3 mile ride with around a 1,500 foot elevation gain.
Thing thing about this is that it’s almost nothing but climbing. You do get a brief break just over a mile in for a bit, but it doesn’t last all that long and before you know it, you’re climbing again. Oh, and it would be one thing if this was the only riding I would be doing — it’s not.
This will be just a portion of a larger ride. Bay Area Rides (a fantastic website) has a write up on a version of this ride. It’s version starts with the downhill at Grizzly Flat Trail, then uphill on Table Mountain/Charcoal Road, with a finish riding through Long Ridge Open Space. It says 10.5 miles and 2,550 feet; Strava puts it at 9.2 miles and 2,153 feet. Either way, it’s a ride!
My planned ride, or I should say our planned ride is a little more intense (no, I’m not riding this alone). The ride will begin at Stevens Canyon Road and Redwood Gulch Road. This is where you’d typically park if you’re going to ride Canyon Trail. From there, it’s a 3.1 mile 563 foot elevation gain ride just to get to Table Mountain Trail. Aside from the starting point, another variation on my ride will be the fact that it gets us on Peters Creek Trail as soon as possible. I think by that time we’ve done enough climbing. Besides, there’s still one climb to go just to get out of Long Ridge Open Space! In the end, this ride is 15.1 miles with 2,640 feet of elevation gain.
I’m not exactly sure of the timeline. I would like to do this before the end of the year. I’m thinking this would be a good November ride — the weather will be cooler and Peters Creek Trail should still be open. The last two years Peters Creek Trail has been shut down between December and March.