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Portola Valley Hills
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A series of short, challenging climbs around Portola Valley!

Results are closed!

Results are posted!

NoeHill photo
The fun begins here ( NoeHill photo )

results?right here!
distance2.95 miles (4.7 km)
climbing1613 ft (491 meters)
where?see below
when?26 Oct 2013
what timeregistration none to none
climb starts @ any time Saturday
ResultResults are closed
waiverno waiver for self-rides
how much?$10 (free for juniors
and those with volunteer credit)
why?Ask not why; just do!
volunteerssign up!
aerial viewStanford Cycling (Joaquin)
Will Van Kaenel (Summit Spring)
Will Van Kaenel (full route)
Will Van Kaenel (Joaquin)
weatherWeather Underground

Cover your head, not your ears...

Sorry, folks! Our insurance requires all riders wear helmets during the climb, and we follow the USA Cycling rule against ear buds or other head phones. Rock to tunes before the climb, perhaps, but we need riders to pay attention to what's happening during the climb...


This week presents a series of short, challenging climbs around Portola Valley. Rider time will be based on climbing time, not the time riding from one climb to the next (within a limit).

The different aspect of this week is it will use ride data recorded on Strava. Low-Key software will download the ride data from the Strava web-site and apply our customized timing algorithms to determine the rider times between checkpoints. So to get a score from this climb, you need access to a Strava account (they're available free). Then you can record your ride using either a specialized GPS device or a phone with GPS. If you don't have one, feel free to ask on the Low-Key mailing list, and you can surely borrow one. Note we're not taking GPS data directly, nor are we taking data recorded on Garmin Connect or other web sites: only Strava, since we did a considerable amount of code development using the Strava API and want to make use of that rather than develop methods for other data sources.

Study the route carefully, as this week presents a navigational challenge in addition to a physical one. Ride the route continuously, in order, any time on Saturday. You have plenty of time to get from the summit of one climb to the base of the next riding at a moderate pace. In every case 10 mph average (including stop time) is plenty. For the climb to Joaquin you have one hour to descend Golden Oak then climb the 690 vertical feet to the base of that climb. Barring multiple mechanical delays, this shouldn't be a challenge for any Low-Keyer regulars. So save the legs for Joaquin.

The start is at the Alpine Inn at the intersection of Arastradero Road and Portola Valley Road. However, riders will surely want to warm up before this, so it is recommended those driving part elsewhere. For example, there are parking areas at the 280 exits at Sand Hill Road, Portola Valley Road, and Page Mill Road. Sand Hill will give the quickest escape route from the top of the final climb, while Page Mill provides a nice short route over Arastradero Road to the start of today's fun.

The route is challenging: one guy tried to ride it without navigation and I think he's still out there. Franz Kelsch has some nice directions on how to use navigation with the Garmin Edge 500.

The course is on Garmin Connect. From the Garmin Connect page, select "Send to Device" with your Garmin plugged into the USB port. Then when it's done, unmount your Garmin, unplug it from the USB, then turn it on. For example, in the Edge 500, if you hold the "Page/Menu" button, then go to "Training", then "Courses" it should be there.

Alternately, we also have the route (starting across the street from Arastradero on Alpine, just east of the turn onto Golden Oak) on BikeRouteToaster. BikeRouteToaster provides turn-by-turn directions, and allows printing of a queue sheet.

A third option is Paul McKenzie's set of routes on RideWithGPS. These avoid the problem of the course crossing itself, which causes Garmin units to become easily confused. The down-side is you need to follow the courses in sequence. Don't waste more than a few minutes starting the next course, however, since there's time limits: Part 1, part 2, and part 3.

The best option, perhaps, is old school: we also provide a pre-formatted cue sheet, suitable for taping to a top tube:

Second, riders will probably want to ride in small groups. The timing code will allow riders to go as slowly as a 10 mph average (6 min per mile) via the preferred route from the top of one climb to the start of the next. If you ride slower than this, the extra time will be added to your total. So regroups at the top of climbs, within reason, shouldn't be a problem.

Riders are responsible to ride safely and with respect for other road users at all times. There's no rush to get from one climb to the next. So just spin, relax, chat, and prepare yourself for what lies ahead.

In the case of wet weather in the forecast we may modify the route in the days before the climb. So watch these pages if it looks like rain's in the picture!

Route details:

  1. Climb #1: Golden Oak (E) to Peak
  2. Descend other side to Alpine Road
  3. Turn right on Alpine, ride past intersection with Portola Valley Road, and keep climbing.
  4. Watch on the left for Joaquin Road. This road climbs steeply to the left. You have 1 hour to get here from the top of Golden Oak. This shouldn't require climbing at a hard pace or taking any risks on the descent. Take it easy and save your legs.
  5. Climb #2: Joaquin Road T @ Old Spanish Trail.
  6. At the top, turn left on Spanish Trail. Go with the flow on the descent until you come to Los Trancos. Descend that until it flattens out and eventually intersections with Alpine Road.
  7. Turn left on Alpine Road. Look for the right for Hillsview, the next climb. You have 25 minutes to get here from the top of Joaquin.
  8. Climb #3: Hillbrook. This is short but sweet. You need to start this climb to the east (a right hand turn from Alpine), not the west. Climb to the top, which is just past the last right hand turn before the straight to Sausal. You have 15 seconds to complete the right turn from Alpine before starting this climb. If you want to restart, repeat the right turn from Alpine, don't just go to the bottom of the climb and turn around.
  9. At the top turn left at the T. This is Sausal. Follow that to the end, then go through the gate, and ride the trail until you emerge on Cherokee. Watch out for the chain which can be difficult to see (Street View).
  10. Turn left and ride to the T with Cerventes.
  11. Turn R on Cervantes to the base of the climb at Kiowa. This is climb #4. You have 10 minutes to get here from the top of Hillbrook.
  12. Climb #4: Cerventes to Peak.
  13. Turn R on Peak to Golden Oak.
  14. Turn left on Golden Oak. Descend back to Portola
  15. Turn R on Portola. Ride to the the western intersection of Golden Oak. A right here takes you to climb #5. You have 10 minutes to get here from the top of Golden Oak, the precding climb.
  16. Climb #5: Golden Oak (W): to Peak. You must start this climb from the east (right-hand turn), not a left from Alpine. That would result in a time penalty. Don't pause at the bottom of the climb: you have fifteen seconds to get from right before the right turn to right after the right turn. This is plenty of time if you just keep pedaling. If you restart, restart from the east, on Alpine Road, repeating the right-hand turn.
  17. Left on Peak to Cervantes. It's a bit of a ride to the next climb, but it's worth it. Summit Spring is the steepest climb of the day, and the spin to the base will be very good for your legs. You have 45 minutes to cover the 10 km to Summit Spring: no problem.
  18. Left on Cervantes all the way to Westridge (R also goes to Westridge, but out of the way).
  19. Left on Westridge to Portola Valley Road.
  20. Right on Portola Valley Road
  21. Bear L on Portola Valley Road at Sand Hill and Mountain Home (stay on Portola Valley Road)
  22. Right onto Highway 84 (this is essentially straight from Portola Valley Road)
  23. Left on Tripp from 84. Watch for Summit Spring on the left. This will be the final climb of the day.
  24. Climb #6 Summit Spring all the way to the end. The actual finish is the first of two driveways in the final straight, so make your effort there, but keep it rolling all the way to the end, as fast as you can go, in case of GPS position errors.

You're done! While you're there you might want to descend Summit Spring part way (the final steep climb) then turn left on Patrol. That descends to an intersection with Entrance Way. If you stay on Patrol it is a nice out-and-back which may have the steepest grade of the day.... just in case you haven't gotten enough.

Additional Comments:

Safety Rulez:

Time Limits

Summary of time limits for getting from one hill to the next... these are all super-relaxed, plenty of time for faster riders to wait for slower riders:

segmentdistancetime limit
Golden Oak E to Joaquin7.73 km60 minutes
Joaquin to Hillbrook5.18 km25 minutes
Hillbrook R-hand turn41 m15 seconds
Hillbrook to Cerventes1.38 km10 minutes
Cerventes to Golden Oak W2.11 km10 minutes
Golden Oak W R-hand turn27 m15 seconds
Golden Oak W to Summit Spring10.15 km45 minutes

Route maps

  1. PDF route guide for the Portola Valley Hills course. Check it out: it contains maps of the precise locations of the critical points on the course.
  2. BikeRouteToaster. BikeRouteToaster provides turn-by-turn directions, and allows printing of a queue sheet.
  3. Paul McKenzie put together this excellent 3-part RideWithGPS route set, avoidng the course crossings which confuse GPS head units:
    1. Climbs 1-2
    2. Climbs 3-5
    3. Climb 5
  4. pre-formatted cue sheet (for top tube)


We don't need volunteers as much this week, since it's a self-ride, although we can still use help the day before marking the route. You can volunteer to help using our volunteer form! Thanks!!!

The Low-Key Way

Low-Key is all about a group of friends riding up a hill together. It's like any other informal group ride, except we time you to the top and report the results on our web site. But we have no road closures, no lead vehicle, no follow vehicle. We are traffic, sharing the roads with other traffic, following the laws and courtesy which applies to traffic. Think of it as a human-assisted Strava. We're each responsible for our own actions out there, on and off the bike, both as users of the road as as courteous visitors to the neighborhoods we pass through. "Ceci n'est pas un race".

"Get your ass up that hill!" -- Kevin Winterfield, Fovnder
Dan Connelly