I joined the 250K club

By Michael Collier

Today I set a Personal Best for cycling. I surpassed my goal of reaching 250,000 feet of climbing on my bike this year.That’s more than eight times the elevation of Mount Everest.

Here it is:


I had fun setting my record, rolling off more than 5,000 feet of climbing in the East Bay Hills on a moderately warm afternoon, including a very steep Claremont Canyon in Berkeley. Worried that I’d need a wild card hill to get me over the top, I added Claremont on the spur of the moment.

It was a good instinct on my part. My total for the day put me about 500 feet above my goal.

Elevation gain is just one measure of cycling success — along with distance and speed. I chose to focus on hills this year because they had been one of my weaknesses over the years.

If you’re wondering how 250,000 feet stacks up, well here is some context. My hill-climbing numbers exceed those of most of my cycling pals following me on Strava, the cycling app based in San Francisco.

But a couple of my buddies have stacked up way more elevation gain than I have — one has tallied nearly 650,000 feet, another has climbed more than 550,000 feet this year and another has exceeded 350,000 feet.

I am quite satisfied with my progress on climbing. Now it’s on to another goal — for 2014.

From darkness to clarity

By Michael Collier

One of my favorite cycling experiences is riding in the low light of late afternoons in December. In the San Francisco Bay Area, it’s possible to see a full moon rising right after a golden sunset — with a great view of the Golden Gate.

Sunset over Mount Tamalpais, Calif.

Sunset over Mount Tamalpais, Calif. Photo by Michael Collier.

Darkness dominates our waking hours come winter, when the Dec. 21 solstice brings the longest nights and shortest days of the year. It’s what makes us want to sleep in and go down early. As the daylight hours shorten, so do my rides.

Instead of 40-50 miles, I am satisfied with 30 miles up on top of the East Bay ridge line between Berkeley‘s Grizzly Peak and Sibley Volcanic regional park in the Oakland hills. The serenity is comforting, even as he days slip into darkness.

On the shortest day of the year — and the longest night — a friend of mine who practices inner healing held an event for her Facebook friends that aimed to open us up to the state of darkness, the abyss of nothingness. I used the process to let go of some of my demons.

I got on my bike the day after Christmas and rode back up the ridge to Grizzly Peak on a brilliant sunny morning. I felt a lightness of spirit as I viewed 360 degrees of vistas from Mount Diablo to the east to Skyline south of San Francisco.

A sense of clarity envelopes me as I near a personal milestone: to ride 250,000 feet of elevation gain on my bike this year. I am at just under 245,000 feet and expect to crack my ceiling on Sunday.

As I approach that milestone, I realize the importance of having short-term goals. They keep me attentive and on a course — and keep my mind free and clear and concentrated on riding and soaking up the beauty of my surroundings.


On one of the darkest nights of the year, clouds veil a near-full moon over the San Francisco Bay area sky. Photo by Michael Collier.