This bike route is great for anyone who lives in Oakland or East Bay. Mount Hamilton is located south of Oakland and just east of San Jose standing at 4,265 feet tall. It’s home to the LICK observatory and a whole lot of beautiful scenery that had me at awe the entire way.
Strava Route links and rating are located below.
I’ve been wanting to ride Mount Hamilton for quite some time as I’ve been told it has very similar features to Mount Diablo, one of my favorite climbs in the Bay Area. The two other fellow cyclists that joined me were Kevin Mihovic and Sean Martin, both who had ridden the route a few times already.
Sean had a big part of putting this ride together and had suggested we take Mines road back. Mines Road happened to be one of the most beautiful rides I’ve done within the area. The road is tucked in between what seems like two little mountain ranges within the east side of the Ohlone Wilderness. The Ohlone we’re actually some of the first known Indigenous settlers of the area before the “Western” invasion of the Spaniards, specifically the Chochenyo – Ohlone speaking Taunans who lived with the land for centuries. What is left of the Ohlone Wilderness is a 9,700 acre preserve, which hosts life such as the bald eagles, mountain lions, bobcats and tule elk. We didn’t see any of these majestic animals but it was a very special ride and I’m glad we we’re able to see what has been preserved.
The ride begins with a steady climb through the neighborhoods and two-way roads that slowly begin to climb up the face of the mountain.
The mountain was named after a Westerner, Laurentine Hamilton, who was invited by another fellow named, Josiah D. Whitney, to summit the mound of land in 1861, Laurentine ended up blowing past the man who invited him on the trek and claimed his stake a top the peak. The complete opposite of my case.
This was one of those rides that I could never forget because I broke several rules before embarking on a long ride.
- Didn’t get 8 hours of sleep.
- Had a weak breakfast
- 2 days prior I did a major climb that left my legs in recovery mode and I should have probably just gone on a 20-30 mile recover ride by instead I signed up for century with 7k of climbing :] Go Further, Suffer More!
All was good until we reached about 1,400 feet of climbing. I didn’t feel right, I was hungry and felt something coming over me, so I ate one bar, then I ate a second, and then I was on my final bar. Within 15 mins I went through 2 bars. I knew I was about to hit a wall, and then it happened, like a ghost entered my body. At this point we were only about an hour and half into the ride with about 1,750 feet of climbing, we had another 4 hours of riding and another 4,000 feet to go. When I came to the realisation that I was going to bonk, I actually began laughing to myself. I spread the bars out enough so that I could get to the top and regroup with the boys.
I’ve only bonked about 2 other times in my life, but usually at the end of a ride. If you’ve ever been really sick with the flu or cold this is what it sort of feels like, almost as if you’ve lost feeling of your body, a total physiological displacement of mind and body.
I try to look back and think about what got me through it and it comes down to how funny the situation was. I’m out here riding a bike up a damn ass mountain and I have absolutely zero energy left and I still have some 3,500 feet to climb. I actually laughed. I saved the last bar and slowly nibbled on it as I kept my bars straight and focused on the sounds of nature and my breathing. Displacing your self from the pain can be difficult but my personal method has always been to keeping form while breathing deep into my stomach and exhaling slowly. As I came down to the last bits of the energy bar I saw Sean off in the distance signalling me for the turn, the observatory was just around the corner.
Never was I so happy to see the boys… and a vending machine 🙂
I should mention there is a vending machine and access to a water fountain at the top so bring some money if you think you will need a re-stock.
I quickly downed a soda and a bag of chips as I plopped down onto the asphalt to recuperate my mind and body back into one.
Ultimately speaking that was one of the most difficult sections of riding I have ever done, not because of the incline or the route but because of the choices that I made few days prior to my ride. At this point there was no turning back.
In addition, I don’t think I would have been able to complete the ride without Sean and Kevin. Utilising the descent to regain my energy I pedalled a majority of the descent to keep my legs active and drafted a whole lot behind Kevin who’s much taller than me. Thankfully Mines Road is generally flat but I’m not gonna lie, every small hill put me back into the cave of pain. Pushing and breathing was the only thing I could do.
Like all other things in this life and universe, the light at the end of the tunnel finally came, we were back on the main roads and made a quick stop at the gas station a few miles before BART. Most of the ride back was flat and once I hit the seat pad of the BART train, I knew I was home.
The Strava route link can be found here https://www.strava.com/routes/16913893
I would rate this ride an 8.5/10 on the difficulty scale. This is an 8.5/10 if you’re in your best shape and have had a good amount of rest. On this particular day, for me, it felt like like a 10/10, and I paid for it.