Experimental music, photography, and adventures

Larksville Mountain

Tuesday, October 28th, 2008

Yesterday, I decided it was time to test my mettle and planned a short ride up Larksville Mountain. I had driven out this way before and wanted to see if I could make the climb on my bicycle. Here’s the route.

It was chilly and overcast — great riding weather. I rode out of Kingston and into Edwardsville. Traffic was light, and drivers were courteous. After a slight road construction delay, I was on my way.

Approaching Edwardsville

Riding through Edwardsville, mountains in the background

The climb started innocently enough, there were even a couple of switchbacks. But then the road got steeper, and mostly stayed that way for nearly two miles.

The climb begins

I have to say, I knew this was going to be difficult, but it was harder than I imagined. While no single part was too steep to pedal up, the climbing was simply relentless. I had to stop probably three times during the climb to catch my breath.

Looking back, for a glimpse of the mountains on the other side of the valley

Riding past a cemetery

The climbing did let up briefly a couple of times, which was good because I needed flatter ground to stop and rest. A few switchbacks were in place, but at times they did little to lessen the grade. Of course, I don’t have photos of the steeper parts. I was too busy riding.


I entered a pattern: climb for a while, rest for a while. I was aware of the fact that with the twists and turns and steep climbs, it’d be tough for motorists to see me. Here, my mirror came in handy, and I learned that if I rode closer to the center of the road, I’d be more visible. Then I could always move to the right to make it easier for cars to pass me. Since I was going maybe 5 mph, pass me they did. I was in the lowest gear on my Long Haul Trucker, which is a very low gear indeed, and I was pedaling hard and a lower cadence than I’d like just to keep moving.

Gaining ground (looking back again). It’s hard to believe I came from the valley below.

View at a power line right-of-way

My bicycle

Finally, the grade lessened, and I even got to coast for a couple of minutes, giving me a false sense of security. Was I at the top? At first it felt like it, but as the road gradually climbed further, I realized that wasn’t the case. The road got steeper once again and I climbed another half mile or so, finally cresting the mountain and starting down the other side.

Deceptively easy

Never has a “Reduced Gear Zone” sign been a more welcome sight

Larksville Mountain Panorama
Panoramic view from the top, looking down the other side.

I had been planning on riding down the other side, then turning around and riding back. But I decided I’d had enough climbing. I turned onto a residential street to get a photo of the valley and ended up talking to a retired guy who was out getting his mail from the mailbox. He was quite a character, and we discussed everything from bicycles to diesel engines, bike and car tires, “those crazy French bikes,” the local climate, etc. He described his commute to Mountain Top, a town on top of a mountain on the other side of the valley, where at times it’d be snowing at his home on the mountain, he’d drive through the valley in the rain, and end up in Mountain Top with snow falling once again, all due to the change in elevation. I’d expect this kind of thing in bigger mountains, but it didn’t occur to me that the same would happen in smaller mountain ranges (we were at around 1400 feet).

I turned back. I had been hot on the way up but now felt quite chilly, and I didn’t have my jacket with me. I’ll have to make sure to carry it more often. What was a punishing climb was now a blissful, but challenging descent. My brakes got a good workout, and I found myself wishing I had gotten the Kool Stop salmon pads instead of the black ones I ended up with. They worked fine, but the black ones aren’t as grippy as the salmon pads.

A slight climb before the descent

The steep downward slope sign reads 1 1/2 miles

I kept my speed down during the descent. Since I’m not familiar with the twists and turns, I was extra careful. Some turns were even slightly banked, which was pretty cool, although some were not. I made it down the mountain in a fraction of the time it’d taken me to climb it. It was a grueling climb, rising over 1,000 feet, mostly in about two miles, but also very rewarding. It’s amazing to stand on the mountain and look down at the valley, knowing you’ve arrived at this point high above under your own power. It makes you feel very strong, but at the same time, it’s a humbling experience. Truth be told, Larksville Mountain kicked my ass, I just lived to tell about it.

5 Responses to “Larksville Mountain”

  1. furiousball Says:

    what a beautiful town you rode through. i’d really like to take a ride now, except that we’re having some supremely nasty weather over here

  2. Tim Says:

    All I can say is Wow! You went from rolling flatlands to the up-n-down of the nee’ mountains. Imagine what epic rides you’ll be able to pull off in the future.

  3. Dave Says:

    As you turn into an East Coast rider, you’ll be doing this hill with no stops and a grin on your face. Great views; I’m glad you have so much good riding right out your front door!

  4. John Says:

    The colors are in full force. Beautiful ride. Now let the raking begin.

  5. Jon Grinder Says:

    When I moved from central Ohio to here, in Colorado, I was shocked at how much longer a 30 or 40 mile ride takes when you are gaining and losing elevation measured in thousands of feet, rather than hundreds. Fifteen years on, though, and it seems natural.

    Keep riding. LiYou know what they say, “It might never get easier, but it will get faster.” 😉

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