Up and down the bench?

Boise has an interesting set of elevations in town called ‘benches’. Here’s a Wikipedia description:

The bench is named such because the sudden rise in elevation gives the prominent appearance of a step, or bench. The Bench (or Benches, there are 3 actual benches throughout the Boise Valley) was created as an ancient shoreline to the old river channel.

The edge of each bench is like climbing a plateau, but instead of coming down the other side, you are greeted with another climb to another bench after the one you’re on. The area on top of each bench is fairly flat, so once you’re there it is all good. The battle is getting there.

The Rickshaw had never been up the bench for obvious reasons, but I figured I’d give it a shot. I called my friend Joe (who is the all time leader in Rickshaw miles as a passenger) and said I’d try to get him and his girlfriend down the bench and we’d hang out for some Karaoke. They were going to have to take a cab back though, because I was not going back up. Sounded like fun, so it was a go, or at least a try.

Water is power, so I took in a lot of water and Gatorade before I left the house. I decided the easiest way up was going to be the old rail bridge route that goes from the Boise Greenbelt, across the river, and ends up in the Orchard/Emerald area on the near bench. This route is smooth and about as gradual as it gets. Could I do it? Could the Rickshaw make it without snapping the chain or something else?

I took it easy on the way there. I wanted to be fresh for the climb. I hit the climb for the rail bridge and it wasn’t easy but I made it. I crossed the river and then kept going. I tried to keep my speed up so I had the crank turning at an optimal speed. There’s only one speed on the Rickshaw so I don’t have an easier gear to kick down to. A quick glance down revealed that I was going 7.9 MPH, which is a hair slower than normal cruising speed. I dig in a smidgen more and get it in the 8 MPH range. That’s cruising speed while climbing the bench.

There’s a point where the path up the bench actually starts to go down a bit before going back up more. I stop at the top of that point, not because I had to, but I wanted to assess myself and the Rickshaw. Both were doing well. I consumed 16oz of water, and then rode on to the top. Victory!

From there, I rode over to Joe’s place. I lost a bolt on the way (thankfully not a problem), which Joe replaced with some cool looking carriage bolts which looked much nicer than the regular bolts they replaced:
Carriage bolt
Once the bolts were replaced, it was time to load up and head out.

Because of my concerns about downhill braking, which had never received a real test, I wanted the safest route down which I guessed was Ustick Road:

  • It has a bike lane.
  • It has a lot of road texture, so it is a slower roll than the path I took up the bench.
  • Though it is steeper than the route taken up, it also goes back up hill part way before the next intersection so even if the brakes went bad, gravity would stop the Rickshaw long before reaching the next intersection.

I went slow and the brakes took it. No noticeable brake fade. No noticeable smells coming from the brake. All was good.

We made it down the bench, on to karaoke, and then I hauled myself on home to finish the night. All in all, I’m thinking about 18 miles of traveling that day. The odometer is now sitting at 80.75 miles. That was the most demanding trip to date, but I took it much better than many other trips in the 2006 and 2007 seasons.

I’ve wanted to clear the 100 mile point in a season and it appears that will happen this season. I’m still fat but my cardiovascular and leg strength have improved significantly this year, and I have lost some fat. These days, hopping on a bike almost seems like taking a car, which is odd. More odd, the Rickshaw is increasingly starting to seem like riding a bike. If you’d have told me last year that I’d get the Rickshaw up the bench with a single speed I would have been surprised.

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