I am not going to climb Eldred Street.
It’s a narrative I’ve been pushing for years. Yes, it’s been a curiosity I’ve mentioned briefly, but I’ve been at peace with my noncompliance. Just to remind you, it is the 2nd steepest street in the continental US.
So as you can guess, I have a new story to tell today. On fridays, I go on a small group ride with friends that lasts about a couple of hours, but we change the route every week.
I love riding the hills in the Mt. Washington area and I had enough pull this week to lead the group in that direction. We started up the Mt. Washington Drive climb itself, a twisting 1.3 miles of windiness and 450 feet of climbing. It’s a very quiet road and has a rural feel to it, which isn’t something you’d expect in the middle of Los Angeles.
We all put in a strong effort, although I couldn’t quite catch back onto the lead pack after getting boxed in early. After the climb, we didn’t have an exact game plan where to ride next other than being back before 11am to get breakfast.
I suggested the Montecito Drive stretch, which is slightly shorter than Mt. Washington Dr. and has a grade that’s docile enough where you can consider climbing in the big ring.
On the way down Avenue 50, there it was again. Eldred Street. I wanted to pull off so the group could have a look at it, with the inner hope that someone would take the bait and give it a go. After all, I had never seen anyone climb it before in person.
I was one of the first to turn off onto Eldred and rolled down the initial descent at cruising speed just planning to be a spectator. When we reached the nadir of the street, the guy next to me said, “Alright! Everyone is doing this!”
Now, that was easy for that guy to say. He just finished 14th overall in last week’s Tour of California. There would have been no shame in turning down a challenge like this from Phil Gaimon, but it was enough of a kick in the balls to throw logic aside and give it a go.
The first portion of the climb, which is smooth and has been paved more recently, shouldn’t be that challenging, but I had the handicap of starting with a fraction of momentum had I planned to go full bore from the start.
Once I hit the older concrete portion where the street starts to pitch up more, I thought my day was done since I was quickly out of gears. Within a couple of stride, I came out of the saddle making me worried that I’d be weaving and taking out other riders coming up behind me.
Fortunately for the others, that’s impossible to do on this street. With all the cracks you have to stay in a straight line. Eldred only continues to get steeper and steeper the closer you get to the top, but somehow I kept going.
As a reminder, Eldred averages 33%, but when you look at the final sixty feet, you know the grand finale is above the mean. My legs kept churning and I was going to make it!….until I hit a patch of dirt.
If I had my wits about me this whole climb, I would have ridden in the smooth middle portion of the road and gripped my drops, but you don’t think of using your quantitative skills when holding on to dear life.
The slip was enough that I could only get a couple more spins before abandoning twenty feet from the top. I’ll take it.
In all, eight of us made it up(okay, one mostly walked up). I don’t care how crappy a day you’re having, climb that hill, you’ll have a smile on your face for days.
That is, if you can figure out how to get down it!