30 Days of Rapha – Thanksgiving on Sierra Road

Sierra Road Loop: 20 miles, 2300 feet
Weather: Partly Cloudy Temp: 50 deg.
Rapha Kit:  Rapha Fixed Base Layer, Bib Shorts, Rapha Light Weight Softshell Jacket
Accessories:  Merino Socks, Softshell Gloves

Sierra Road rises sharply into San Jose's Eastern Foothills. It's been a decisive climb in the previous two editions of the Tour of California. It averages 10% but has plenty of turns and ramps in excess of 15%; it grinds relentlessly upwards for 1950 feet over 3.6 miles. I thought it would make a good Thanksgiving appetizer before the big meal this evening.

The last time I climbed this wall the mercury topped 100 F and I had to stop twice during the ascent. Sierra Road begins with a double-barreled pitch of 15% that needs to be treated with respect because there's no real let off till the summit. I climbed this too quickly last time and paid for it... I rode those pitches smarter today and made the follow on left in good shape.

The sun was visible down in the valley but the higher I climbed the colder and foggier it got. I'd chosen Rapha Bib Shorts and the new long-sleeve Fixed Base Layer for the essentials. The latter is more dense than Rapha's regular Merino Base Layer but just as smooth and comfortable against the skin. I topped this with my Light Weight Softshell Jacket, and I'll admit it's become one of my favorite Rapha pieces, the red is very smart. It didn't take long before I was running hot and unzipping the Jacket to compensate. I can see wearing the Fixed Base Layer and Jacket combination a lot on warmer days this winter, preferring two layers to three.

I left my Winter Hat in the car, which I would later regret. An effort like this in the cooling cloud covered hills is a classic recipe for hypothermia if you stay out too long. I kept this in mind when I eventually crested the summit. The Base Layer and Jacket had done a good job of wicking moisture on the way up but with the air temperature in the low 50s and mist at the top, there was no evaporation happening any more.

I stopped to take a few pictures when the sun made a brief appearance then continued in the direction of Calaveras Road and my intended route down. After covering two or three miles I began to wonder if I'd missed the left turn, and with the afternoon fast disappearing I doubled back hoping to get a few pictures on the descent of Sierra instead. I spotted a rafter of wild Turkey's crossing the road ahead, oblivious to the fact so many of their kind were the guests of honor at dinner tables across the country.

By the time I crossed the summit on the way back visibility was down to 100 feet making descending on the steep road even more interesting. Good thing I was staying alert, as I was passed by a driver on the way up using the whole road. I guess he figured no one else would be out there.

Thanksgiving... so many things to be grateful for. Another safe year on the bike, good friends to ride with, the Rapha peloton, heated seats in the Audi (turned up full tilt today) and most of all, a fabulous girl who puts up with me year round. Thank you.

10 Responses to 30 Days of Rapha – Thanksgiving on Sierra Road

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  2. timcox says:

    Beautiful pix, Michael.
    Yes, we all have a lot to be thankful for.
    See you soon.

  3. Scott H. says:


    Blown away by the 4th pic in today’s series. Any chance you could email me so we can discuss how I might be able to come by a copy of it for my wall?

    Regarding you liking the red Lightweight, I am so close to ordering the red Long Sleeve, but I might end up going with the safer black… I am also torn between the merino hat and the Winter cap… too much choice.

    Your ride looked like it was great, I hope your Thanksgiving was much the same.


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  5. Sure Scott I can do a print when the dust has settled.

    Is you’ve read, I’ve become a huge fan of the RED, might be a nice change.

    It was a perfect day for Sierra Road… just me and the suffering. It is an absolute bear of a climb.


  6. Scott H. says:

    Thanks Michael,

    I am happy to do the print myself, but I can understand if you would rather not share a digital file. You have my email, so let me know how I can get that amazing picture.

    Scott. (Have been looking at the red Long Sleeve… a lot…)

  7. That’s even better Scott. I have no problem sending you the file. It’s the ribbon of road with the sun setting in the background, right?

  8. Scott H. says:

    Yes, the photo with the double yellow line in the foreground and the sunset on the horizon. Like the camera is on the floor.

    That would be really appreciated. Would you mind sending through your recommendation on how big you would enlarge it to? Oh, and the road name and location. Gotta do this right I suppose!

    Thanks again,


  9. Will do Scott.

    I’ll try to get to this in the next couple of days. I owe several people photographs of non-cycling photography and prints I’ve neglected.


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