Sunday, March 21, 2010

Finding a new wormhole: Climbing hard or climbing easy

Years ago a friend of mine taught me about wormholes: those semi-secret byways that locals know that cut miles out of a route or let you skip traffic lights or pesky left turns on busy streets.

Seems to me a wormhole for cyclists does all those things, keeps you out of the heaviest traffic (I’m experienced at riding in traffic but you never get to relax and we all know some streets are more hostile than others), and also does what it can to make climbs easier, which is no small feat in a city with Spokane’s topography.

Twice in the last couple of weeks I’ve needed to climb from downtown to a location around 9th and Cedar, then head east across the hill from there.

I used to live on Cedar, so I know that coming from downtown if you can take that steep climb up old brick pavers on Jefferson from a dead stop at 4th under the freeway, turn right/west and climb another block, then turn left at Adams and climb a bit more, you’re on the shallowest hill climb on that end of the South Hill and it gets easier.* (The bike lane up Maple to Cedar would be okay if I were coming from the west, although it’s not in great shape. The traffic is a lot heavier too.)

On Adams you’re still climbing, mind you, but you don’t have to look at a vertical hill right in front of your face the way you would on Lincoln, say, or Bernard if you were farther east—those streets that make a heart monitor shoot off the charts (or a cyclist get off the bike and walk up the sidewalk, pushing the bike. No false pride for me!).

Choosing your hill—that’s cycling in Spokane.

Going east from 9th and Cedar a couple of weeks ago, though, I rode like a driver. I went to 14th and headed east. After hitting the light at Lincoln, I got to do another one of those steep climbs from a dead stop.
I climbed some more up Grand to 18th, then cut east. This kept me on main through streets, cheek by jowl with a pretty steady flow of traffic (some of it speeding on Grand). It wasn’t particularly pleasant and those steep climbs meant hard work.

The second time, I rode like a cyclist. I remembered that Adams is—wait for it—the shallowest hill climb on that end of the South Hill. So I used that knowledge.

I rode up to 18th, then headed east. While it climbed pretty steadily the whole way, it was gentle and the streets were quiet. You have to make a jig-jog at Lincoln south half a block to continue east around the edge of Cannon Hill Park. Then you can cut through Manito Park and admire the duck pond and the gentle greens of incipient spring growth.
If I were in a car, I couldn’t use 18th all the way—I’d have to turn left at the park to 17th and then double back—but on a bike I had the advantage and the prettier route. I’m aware that uncontrolled intersections add a variable I wouldn’t have on those main through streets with the stop signs and I stayed alert but it was still a lot more enjoyable. Incidentally, something pretty close to this is the route Google Maps shows if you choose the new Bicycling option. (Strangely, though, they send pedestrians over to Monroe and route them along the busiest streets.)

Another great thing about Spokane’s topography awaited me at the corner of 18th and Upper Terrace. From there to get to my destination I had two choices: left and downhill to Rockwood, and then a climb back up, or right and downhill to Rockwood and downhill to my destination. (These are choices I’m intimately familiar with, as Rockwood Bakery is on 18th and I take these routes regularly….) How cool is it that I had two very different options for the same destination?

Adams/18th: SO much easier than 14th/Grand. But if you still want those climbs because you’re in training, hey, you go for it.

Got any wormholes to share?

*Right after writing this post I saw a relevant comment at the end of the March 20, 2010 Slice.


Gary R said...

Or, as I do, ride the 43 or 44 STA Bus to 29th. It is all down hill from there.

Bill Foss said...

Adams is good going up. But going down it will rattle your teeth!

Favorite way to get up the hill home: Wall until it dead ends at 6th. Right on 6th, through the Deaconess Parking lot to the jumble of stop signs at Lincoln/Lincoln Place and 7th, an immediate left hand turn to head south on Lincoln (real steep for just a little bit)and then down and around and back up to Cliff.

mark said...

I agree with Bill. I liked that route. You get all your elevation gain out of the way in 3 blocks and once you are on Cliff you're golden!

Barb Chamberlain said...

The route along Cliff looks interesting. I need to go farther east so I'd have to climb Grand or get across it to use Rockwood Blvd (which is a lot friendlier traffic than Grand).

I don't much like riding through parking lots because I feel as if drivers aren't expecting through traffic when they're backing out, although they can provide a connection where one otherwise doesn't exist.