Rating the Valley’s Hills

Saturday as I was riding in Think Spring, I started thinking about how I would rate the hills in the Cuyahoga Valley using the ski resort rating system. Mind you, the Valley is its own experience so you have to imagine it like the Breckenridge of NE Ohio (although, there are also other very hilly places in Ohio that would probably make the Valley look like Holiday Valley in comparison). Here is how I would classify each rating:

Green – These are good hills to learn how to climb hills on, hills I’ve personally used to train myself for climbing bigger and harder things. I wouldn’t assume these hills are easy to someone who has never climbed a major hill, but they are good starting point on which to practice. If you can do them without getting off your bike, you can probably try something a little harder.

Blue – These hills are a little more challenging, a little steeper than the green hills. I would move to them next after feeling comfortable on greens.

Black – Not for the faint of heart, these climbs usually require major cardio output and lots of spinning. They are often a struggle to keep yourself going on. Even experienced riders admit to the vast superiority of these hills.

Double-black – In most cases, these are hills even I’m too scared to attempt due to their reputation.

Anyway, I wanted to share what I thought and, if you’re a regular rider in the valley, feel free to comment, suggest a different rating, or add personal experience of a climb.

West “Face” of the Valley:

  • Martin – Double black – Never climbed it, but I’ve got it on good authority that this one is hard.
  • Yellow Creek – Black – I think I did it once.
  • Ira – Black
  • Everett – Black
  • Wheatley – ?? – I don’t think I’ve ever climbed it so I don’t know. A friend in the bike club says it’s not too hard.
  • Oak Hill – Double black
  • Major – Green – Doesn’t really have a part that’s any steeper than any other. It’s a great slow climb.
  • Stine – Blue – Nice climb that looks easier from the bottom than it actually is.
  • Boston Mills West – Double black – I’ve done it! It’s only really hard in the beginning, the rest is a nice slow climb.
  • Columbia – Black – Even though I walked it two weeks ago, it’s not quite as hard as Boston Mills West.
  • Snowville – Blue – Not really too bad. This will be my primary route to work should I start commuting by bike.
  • Valley Parkway – ?? – I’ve only gone down it. I’m not sure how hard it is to climb. I suspect it’s either a blue or a black.

    East “Face” of the Valley

  • Theiss – Blue? – I haven’t done this one in awhile.
  • Bath East – Black – I haven’t done it in awhile, but the last time I did it (2 years ago), I walked. I made it up once without walking on my hybrid, the year before that.
  • Steels Corners – Black
  • Northampton – Black – Michael and I did it last year on the tandem. It didn’t seem too bad, but that was four legs. I haven’t done it on my own bike yet. Just don’t attempt to go up it when there is a show at Blossom. Then the road becomes a double-black as you have to ride among angry, drunken or high drivers on the way to the latest concert.
  • Wetmore – ?? Blue?? – I’ve never climbed it, only rode down it. It doesn’t look like it’s too bad. Just a little steep at the beginning, then a long gentler climb.
  • Quick – Blue – It’s only hard at the very beginning, the rest is a nice long slow climb with a few bumps towards the end. I like this road a lot, especially since it goes by my favorite trail head on the other side of Virginia Kendall.
  • Truxell – Green – A great starter hill for newbies with one hard part in the middle. But since I rarely have to bottom out at that part, it’s green.
  • Rt. 303 – Green – Though easy, this road is kind of sucky because of all the traffic. Definitely not the most scenic exit out of the valley.
  • Boston Mills East – Black – Difficult, but not so bad. It’s definitely harder to climb up than come down (there’s a bump in the middle that one has to climb over even when going down the hill).
  • Hines Hill – Double black. – I’ve only gone down it. It didn’t seem so bad going down in memory, but I’m told it’s quite a nasty climb.
  • Highland/Vaughn – Black – It’s only hard in one part, but that part is kind of hard. Though I’m remembering that I didn’t have much trouble with it last year.

    I’ve never done Smith Road–too highly trafficked–but most of us cyclists have expressed an interest in attempting it early some morning when there is lighter traffic. I would suspect that this road is a black. It seems pretty hard going up it by car. I’m not sure I’m ready for it.

    North Portage Path (towards Stan Hywit Hall) now has a bike lane on it. Reports from TDB, who has climbed it, is that it’s a bit nasty. It looks blackish to me by car, but not too scary that I don’t want to attempt it, especially now that it has a dedicated bike lane. Though, I really don’t like to climb where traffic is passing me because I’m self-conscious about drivers watching me. A lot of Ohio motorists have a nasty habit of screaming out the window at cyclists to scare them and sometimes guys will cat-call out the window, which makes me uncomfortable. So I don’t know if I will get over my self-consciousness to attempt it.

    Portage Trail is road that I use frequently in the car to get out of the Merriman Valley towards home. It too looks like it might be a fun challenging climb; however, it’s really trafficked and doesn’t have a dedicated bike lane. I sure wish they would build more bike lanes down in the valley. Perhaps it would calm down all the angry drivers and the city of Cuyahoga Falls whose officials seem intent on squeezing cyclists out down the valley by coming up with ridiculous rules every few weeks to come down hard on cyclists about.

    Anyway, I might have missed a couple of climbs. I was mostly thinking about the roads we frequently use. I’ve also heard rumor of this Stanford Road that merges with Brandywine. It’s technically closed, but people like to do it to add the extra challenge of navigating broken pieces of road while climbing. A friend showed me a picture he took of it–looks quite beautiful. But you should definitely use more knobby tires than what my bike has. I’m told it’s a great place to take a cycle-cross bike.

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    9 thoughts on “Rating the Valley’s Hills

    1. I’d give North Portage Path a blue. It’s not that bad starting out, but kicks up steeply at the end. You not only have to worry about catcalls from motorists; you also can be annoyed by pedestrians on the sidewalk who are climbing faster than you are and who want to carry on a conversation while you’re out of breath.

      I used to ride up Portage Trail all the time when I lived in Timbertop Apartments at the top of that hill. I’m not sure how I did it on a 2-ring bike with a racing bike freewheel. I guess I was once younger and much thinner. Anyway, I’m not sure I want to go up it these days; too much traffic and really bad pavement.

    2. Oh, cool!! I will try North Portage Path, then. Although, I am not too happy about the passers-by and motorists. But at least there’s a legal lane. Maybe I should do an afternoon at Stan Hywett. Can you believe I’ve never even gone there?

    3. Oh, Jeff & I love visiting Stan Hywett. Although it makes me sick because my whole entire house can fit in the foyer. He took me there for my birthday this past year, for his birthday we went on a lantern-lit after-dark tour, and we want to go back sometime this summer to take their "nooks and crannies" tour.

    4. I’d say that I’d meet you there on my bike… except I’m not sure they’d let me in all sweaty and smelly and dressed in lycra. It seems a little more refined than that…

    5. Eh, throw a pair of regular shorts and some body spray & deodorant into your pannier bag. Unless you're going to some high tea function there street clothes are OK.

    6. Hill Ratings
      Every year Eric puts together a 14 hill challenge. He color codes all of the hills on the map. I should find a map and share it with you sometime. It will be interesting to see how your ratings compare to his ratings.

      I typically grade hills based on whether I need to use granny gear. Fro most hills I can stay on my middle ring in the front. There is only a handful hills that require me to use granny gear. For the hills that we typically ride on, I use granny at the bottom of Everett and Columbia. I hate seeing those hills on the que sheet.

      I’ll just chime in on some of the hills you listed in your original posting.

      Martin – Climbed it once during Eric’s 14 Hill challenge. It was quite steep. I seem to recall thing ‘I know why we’ve never climbed this on a Wednesday or Thursday ride.’

      Wheatley – I climbed this once. I would guess it is similar in elevation as to climbing Everett. So it probably deserves the same rating as Everett.

      Oak Hill – I climbed this once, only because I was forced to do it on Eric’s 14 Hill Challenge. I agree with the double black. I never want to climb this again. And the downhill is no fun. It is extremely steep at the bottom and there’s no place to run off speed before you reach the stop sign.

      Boston Mills West – I’ve never climbed it. I drove down it a couple of years ago. I remember the road be rough and having many pot holes. I’m not interested in climbing up it.

      Bath East – I don’t know if I have ever climbed this.

      Steels Coners – I’ve never climbed this. I have gone down this hill before. Blah! Too much traffic. I don’t enjoy biking on this road and would prefer to avoid it.

      Northampton – I only climbed this once on Eric’s 14 Hill Challenge. I remember Steve warning me and telling me it was steep at the bottom. I recall getting into granny gear before I made the turn onto Northhampton. I biked pasted there on Saturday and was wondering if it was as steep as Oak Hill. Northampton looked quite intimidating, even knowing that I made it up once before.

      How do you rate the following:
      Bellus, Oviat, and Harter-Parker?

      I thought Bellus was pretty tough when we had to climb that about mile 40 on the Sweet Corn Challenge. Bellus is a wonderful downhill, with plenty of run off at the bottom.
      I usually need to catch my breath at the top of Harter-Parker.

      One of my favorite climbs is going up the West Drive in Hinckley. I can usually kick butt on that hill. :-)

      Stan Hywett
      I have never been there and I have live in northern Ohio for most of my life.

    7. I need to use granny gear on ALL of these hills, including the ones I rated easy. ;) I get up them, but I’m slow going! For my ratings, green means that I dont have to use my lowest granny gear — “bottom out.” I bottom out anything harder than the green rating I gave it.

      Is Harter-Parker that rolling road we do on Wednesdays where there’s that overlook we all stop at? Usually there are buzzards or some other birds of pray circling on that field, waiting for cyclists to drop? ;) If so, I like that one. I’d probably give it a green blue. I dont bottom out my gears on that, and you do get a lot of propelling motion from the downhill before it, but it is a tough climb once your speed gets used up. I think I get better at that one towards the end of the season. The first time we do it, though, it usually kills me.

      I remember going up Bellus on the Sweet Corn Challenge in ’06 and I remember passing people on it. I didnt think it was that hard back then, but I dont know how I would do on it now. It is certainly a downhill that I rarely feel nervous on… unless there are cars behind me waiting to pass.

      I dont remember what Oviat is…?

      Northampton wasnt as bad as I thought it was, but Michael and I did it on the tandem so it’s hard to tell. We’re good at climbing on the tandem having four legs to do it… I would like to try it on my own, though.

    8. PS – We climbed Steels Corners last year on a Thursday night… You musta not been there that day. We waited for everyone in the driveway of Sarah’s Vineyard. It was a hard climb… since there’s two lanes, the traffic isnt so bad, but it’s not my preferable climb because of all the people going through…

    9. Yep Harter-Parker is the climb with the ‘scenic overlook’ marked on the que sheet.

      Oviat is where you climb up the hill to reach a park that is used as a rest stop on the Sweet Corn challenge. There is a gate we have to go around to exit the park.

      Actually the traffic on the ‘hill’ portion probably isn’t too bad. The traffic is worse up by Blossom, even when there isn’t a concert going on.

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