Back in April, I wrote a blog entry about rating the hills in the Cuyahoga Valley. I want to revisit this topic because I’ve actually started hitting some of those long-feared hills and mostly in the last few days as I successfully climbed Hines Hill, Boston Mills West, and Wheatley. I am having a good season; I’m probably at my peak of climbing ability since I started riding. So I think I’ve got a better grasp than I did in April of some the difficulty of these hills as compared to each other.
The rating system I used was based on the one used by ski resorts with my own explanation for each. I’ve added a new category of “blue black” which is used on some slopes out west.
- Green – Good hills to learn climbing on. Not necessarily the easiest hills known to man, but the easiest hills to climb in the Cuyahoga Valley.
- Blue – A little more challenging than the green hills. Intermediate.
- Black – Difficult either in steepness or length of the hill or both.
- Blue-Black – Intermediate difficult hill. I assigned this rating to those hills that have one hard part that qualifies as a black at some point but which taper off into a regular blue for most of the climb.
- Double-Black – Extremely difficult, even if just in one short section of the hill. On these type of hills, I’ve personally had to stand on my pedals after I ran out of gears in order to get up them (which I don’t do very often). This does not mean everyone who attempts these hills will have to stand on their pedals (Michael didn’t on ones I had to). But in all cases, I had to stand or I was screwed.
- Not Rated – Simply means I haven’t tried it. Yet.
Okay, this time I’m putting them in alphabetical order (rather than by side of the Valley)…
Bath East – NR
I haven’t done this in awhile (too trafficky) so I’m not really sure what I’d rate it. The last time I attempted it was two years ago and I was not as good of a cyclist as I am now. I walked part of it that time, but I’m thinking I wouldn’t need to do that this time.
Bath West – NR
I haven’t done this for a few years. Not sure. I think it turns into Yellow Creek.
Boston Mills East – Black
It’s really not too bad for me. The hardest part is once you cross the bridge over I-80; it’s steeper when you’re climbing (heading east) than when you’re coming down Boston Mills. You have to be careful about switching gears because you come off the bridge at 30+ mph and the hill increases in steepness fast so getting down to the little ring quickly is often a challenge. If you have a compact double, though, you’re probably okay.
Boston Mills West – Double Black
I had to stand at the hard part. Fortunately, it doesn’t last too long, but it’s a zinger.
Columbia – Black
The hardest part lasts for a very short time. It’s painful, but nothing to lose sleep fearing.
Everett – Blue-Black
I’m good at just hunkering down and slowing going up this hill without stressing myself out. I have never had to stand on it. It seems the hardest at the beginning of the year, but then by this time of the year, it really doesn’t kill me. The steepness of it is generally pretty even with one particularly hard part in the middle.
Highland/Vaughn – Black
I did this one on a commute home from work this summer. It has one hard part in the middle and it’s pretty difficult but it doesn’t last long enough for me to need to stand or anything. It’s actually a kind of fun climb.
Hines Hill – Double Black
Yeah. This one was a lot harder than everyone else I know would have me believe. I personally think it’s as hard as Boston Mills West. But maybe that’s because I did this one on the same night I did Boston Mills West so my legs were not as fresh. Still, in the hardest part you are also contending with a narrow road. If a car comes up behind you, they have to tail you for a little bit before they can get around, which I find really nerve-wracking. I still kind of liked the climb after I conquered it because the abundance of trees on both sides of the road made it rather “scenic.” And, really, there’s not a whole lot of traffic on this road.
Ira – Black
I’ve only gone down Ira this year, but last year, at the end of the season when I did it, it seemed pretty hard.
Major – Green
This hill has no particularly hard part. I can do it on Beau, a hybrid, or probably a fixed gear. Okay, maybe not a fixed gear. A good training hill for people who want to start climbing hills.
Martin – NR
I haven’t climbed this one yet… To be continued…
Northampton – Blue
This hill seriously looks worse from the bottom than it actually feels when you climb it. I don’t think I even bottomed out on that very first part. After you get past that, it’s rolling, which anyone can do because you gain a lot of momentum. In fact, I passed a guy on a hybrid while I was climbing it and he wasn’t having much trouble either. This would be a crappy hill to go down, however, as the windy fast down ends abruptly at a stop sign.
North Portage Path – NR
I’ve never climbed it, but it does have a bike lane going up to Stan Hywet Hall. I’d be game to try it.
Oak Hill – NR
Most would probably describe this hill as the Alpe D’Huez of the Cuyahoga Valley. But Michael climbed it yesterday and didn’t think it was too bad. In fact, he thought I could do it, comparing it in difficulty to Liberty Road in Butler (which I climbed a few weeks ago on Fall N Leaf). So now, for the first time ever, I’m actually kind of curious to try it. *gulp*
Portage Trail – NR
Too much traffic. It looks like it might be a blue-black or a black. I’d have to try this one early on a Sunday morning when there’s no traffic. I’m not sure it’s scenic enough to inspire me, though.
Quick – Blue
This is my favorite road, actually. Probably because it goes by my favorite trailhead in the Valley–Pine Hollow. The first part of the road used to intimidate me; now, since climbing Snowville all the time on my commute, I don’t even bottom out on my gears anymore.
Route 303 East – Green
Pretty much a long, steady climb without any particularly hard section. The only thing that sucks is the traffic. But now there’s a nice wide berm on both sides so I see people climbing it all the time. I personally prefer more scenic climbs. Breathing exhaust fumes as I climb is not my idea of the ideal ride.
Sand Run – Blue
We always seem to hit this one in the fall. I don’t think it’s too hard. You have to watch out for water at the ford, though. Remember my picture from XOBA where the ford yielded to a raging river? Avoid this road during the rainy season! (Maybe that’s why we do it in the fall?)
Smith Road – NR
Too much traffic on this road to try it during normal cycling hours. I think I need to get up early some Sunday morning and do it.
Snowville – Blue-Black (down-graded from previous rating)
Like all the hills on the west side of the Valley, the hardest part is at the very beginning. I do bottom out on it, but I can find a comfortable pace and I’ve never had to stand. Once you get past that section, it’s pretty easy and I can switch into my middle ring for most of the rest of the climb (with the exception of one short steep bump before Orchard Drive). It’s just a llllloooooonnnng four miles.
Steels Corners – Black
There are some hard parts of this climb which are not made any more enjoyable thanks to all the traffic. I don’t climb this road much since it’s another opportunity to suck exhaust fumes that I’d rather avoid when there are far more pleasant hills to climb.
Stine – Blue
Short, sweet. But it doesn’t really go anywhere; it takes you from Riverview to Route 303. Sometimes I use it to avoid the dip on Riverview before the Route 303 stop light when I think there’s going to be a traffic backup there.
Theiss – Black
This road mirrors Steels Corners, only with much less traffic and more pleasant scenery. I did this road three times this year: once before XOBA, once on XOBA where it caused my injured knee to erupt in pain, and once a few weeks after XOBA. It seemed a lot harder after XOBA than it did the time I tried it before XOBA. I don’t know what happened there. Though its steepness stays pretty consistent, it’s kind of an uncomfortable steepness. But I do like this climb a lot.
Truxell – Green
Some people would debate this one with me, but I really think in comparison to all the other stuff in the Valley, this hill is relatively easy. Except at the beginning of the season when you haven’t climbed anything yet. Then it sucks. But so does everything else (and everything else sucks worse). This is always the first hill I do the first time I’m out in the Valley for the season. I know that I can always get up it. I use it as my lazy way to get back home when I’m in a lot of physical pain.
Valley Parkway – NR
I’ve only gone down it. I imagine it might be a bit of a heart-pumper.
Wheatley – Blue-Black
I did this one last night. There’s one hard part that goes around a bend. That’s it. The rest really isn’t that steep and I was able to find a comfort zone. Definitely easier than Everett.
Whetmore – Blue
I did this one on a commute home from work (my last one of the year, in fact). I got a flat on it, which sucked. There’s a few steep bumps, but they aren’t that painful. The scenery is very nice and the road lacks traffic. I almost like it better than Quick.
Yellow Creek – NR
I think I’ve done it once but that was a few years ago so I don’t have an accurate measure. I thought it was pretty hard. It’s probably black.