Monday, June 08, 2009

The Montreux Climb is a Piece of Cake

Eric "Lo-Phat" Gunnerson recently published an excellent preview of the upcoming Livestrong course where he wrote the following words of caution:

Montreux is, to put it simply, a beast. If you have a climbing cassette for your bike, bring it. If you have a small electric assist-motor, bring it. If you have a supply of EPO, use it. If you are like me, you will be spending about 20 minutes of time on this hill. On the upside, the pavement is excellent, and there's also a view, if you have the oxygen to turn around and see it.
Right from the start, it's at about 10% for the first little bit, then it will turn a bit to the left and ease down to around 7%. Then it will kick up to about 14% for a bit, taper down to 10%, up to 14%, and then there's a nice section that's even steeper. I was climbing at about 3.9 MPH on that section.
I really recommend finding time to pre-ride this hill, so that you know what you're in for.
Now despite living in the Issaquah Alps area for years and having ridden up and down various roads and trails on Tiger, Cougar, Squak, and Taylor Mountains, I couldn't actually recall riding Montreux. Probably because I've opted to ride the even more beastly Zoo Hill or maybe I was having one of those episodes where I'm blocking out a particularly painful memory.

This morning, I decided to check out Montreux.

Now I go by the turns for Zoo Hill

and Montreux every day on my commute but somehow when I'm either going to work or going home, the tendency is to continue straight to my destination and not indulge in a bit of extra alpine adventure. But Mondays and Tuesdays are my virtual weekend and this looked like just the day to check out the climb.

The Montreux climb is a piece of cake on a bike with a single 42*17 gear ratio. A piece of stale cake that lodges in your throat and threatens to cut off all oxygen. And if, I'm just saying if, mind you, a fellow were to happen to stop at the part of the hill that Eric describes as "a nice part that's even steeper" (than 14%) to peal off his jacket and take a picture of the nice roadside flowers, he might find he has one hell of a time turning the pedal over from a dead stop.

The view from the crest is pretty good.

Going down the other side, (which is the easy way to go up Cougar Mountain!) I get to use that fancy freewheeling option I put on the Shogun. Handy for situations like this.

My single-speeding plan for the Livestrong seems doable. I'll work the Montreux climb into my commute a few times a week between now and the ride and of course when I do the ride for real, I won't be lugging around all this heavy hair on the top of my head.

Keep 'em rolling,



Robert H said...

Maybe you can carry 5 Slim Jims instead of your regular 8 to keep the weight down.

Gunnar Berg said...

And I tend to look the the flatist route possible.

TheGuth said...

I rode about 80 miles of the LS-Sea route yesterday with a couple buddies (start/stop at Leschi instead of downtown). Met a couple other groups of recon groups along the way. Consensus on Montreaux (Mon Dieu!): 'wow, that sucked.'

Janet said...

Pre-rode it on Sunday, missed the turn-off, and instead went up Lakemont Blvd from Newport Way... any insight as to how much easier/more difficult we made it on ourselves? Looks like same elevation gain, but Montreax is 2.5 miles instead of 2... (not thinking about RiderX's emergency wimp option...)

Kent Peterson said...

Janet, my sense is that you made it a LOT easier by going up Lakemont. Lakemont is a steady slog, like dragging a load of bricks behind you. Montreux, with its varying pitches, is like having a series pianos dropped on you.

Bruce said...

Your sense of metaphor is astounding. Dry cake sticking in one's throat...series of pianos dropping on you.

Here in northeast Ohio we have no climbs that inspire such metaphorical musings.

Andy said...

With this description to match Eric's, I now qualify as intimidated about the Livestrong ride.

Thanks for the motivation as well as the pictures!

Ricky said...

I chanced upon to view your blog and found it very interesting. Great ... Keep it up!

bikelovejones said...


They can ride topless, sweat like pigs and SHAVE THEIR HEADS, all without worries over job security or societal approval. Harrumph!

..::tongue firmly planted in cheek::..

Seriously, I was bummed when they moved Livestrong from Portland to Seattle for this year. Climbing up to Hagg Lake and zipping back down again was a challenging but satisfying highlight of my Livestrong ride last summer. I'm sure Seattle's five zillion little dead volcanoes will provide lots of fun all their own. Enjoy the ride!

Anonymous said...

Ya know sumpin? That thar rattle canned Shogun is actually a purdy sharp lookin' lettle machine.

I've got a Huffy "Raleigh" I plan to give the treatment this summer, but I don't figure that Taiwanese gas pipe will provide the same ride. Still it ought to make a tolerable scoot over to the library "Dutch" bike.

I wish when I was rather younger I had had the wisdom to hang on to my Nottingham Hercules. You might want to consider not rotating the Shogun out. From here it looks like a winner.

Kent Peterson said...

Last night I rode up the Lakemont side of Cougar Mountain to compare the climbs. Lakemont is only a 10% climb for more than a mile and my sense was right, it's much easier than the Montreux climb.

Montreux is the kind of climb that makes you feel like a 10% mile plus climb is "wimping out".

Janet said...

Sweet fancy pancakes, Kent, your experience and further research are ruining my fantasy that the Montreaux ride will be easier than the Lakemont slog! The longer run to rise (Montreaux) SHOULD be easier!!! Why, oh why, are math and reality so often at odds?

But thank you, really, for helping me mentally prepare!

Anonymous said...

"Why, oh why, are math and reality so often at odds?"

Because your model is flawed, not math. Who woulda thunk that parallel lines intersecting is actually reality?

beach cruisers said...

I got a new bike two weeks ago and want to give it a good workout. I consider the Montreux Climb is the right to place to do it and enjoy those views on the pictures.

Eric Gunnerson (Low-phat) said...

Finding your way in that area can be difficult, and the directions may be confusing, so if you *happen to* get lost, I've added two ways to get back on the route to my original post.

Unfortunately, they do *not* go up Montreux.

As for Lakemont, I don't like it very much, but it's no Montreux, or Zoo hill.

Laguna Niguel Bail Bonds said...

When I was looking through your blog, I found the pictures very familiar. I just remembered that I was biking up the Montreux Climb last year and enjoyed it so much and these nice emotions cannot leave me even now.