The Bonner Widowmaker and creating segments in Strava


Strava view of Bonner Widowmaker segment
Strava view of Bonner Widowmaker segment

This morning the fog was quite thick and had only just burnt away when I went for my ride. I intended to explore a few new tracks identified as segments on Strava.  The Border Run has an alternative downhill section I wanted to check out and I also wanted to create a segment that Amandeep and I have ridden (and in my case walked) recently.

Bonner Widowmaker

That name comes from the Widowmaker Hill Climb that I saw on Wide World of Sports 30 years ago.  The main event features 1000 ft (305 m) of climbing on a nearly impossible hill.  Despite modifications such as paddle-wheel style tread rear tyres and very long chain stays, only 19 riders have reached the summit in over 4500 attempts.  I can’t find a gradient measurement, but it is beyond steep.

The Bonner Widowmaker is steep and silly like its Utahan namesake.  The average gradient is 11.25% (the figure above for distance is rounded to the nearest 100m.) with sections as steep as 23%.  It is almost too steep to walk, let alone ride up.  Or down.  The path is mostly grass with thin tyre tracks in the hard clay.  Pink quartz is scattered in sections, making the path quite bumpy.  It is so steep that your front wheel is very light and can easily leave the ground and it’s all too easy to loop the bike.  Even sitting on the nose of the saddle with my hands on the bar-ends with elbows bent and my body forward and low wasn’t enough to prevent wheelies.  But at least I was able to keep a fairly straight line.

I stopped five times.  My elapsed time was 18:18, which felt like my earlier attempts.  My resting time was 12:41, time that I spent sitting, admiring the view and waiting for my heart rate to fall to a human level.  So my riding time was 7:27.  Had I stayed on for the length of the climb, I’d say that 7:27 was a good time.  With better fitness, I might just be able to climb that hill in a single go, or at least without stopping for death 5 times.

On my first attempt on 6 April 2013 I walked 90% of it.  I simply couldn’t stay balanced when the front wheel bounced around and it was almost impossible to get my clips into the pedals to push off again.

My second attempt on 12 April 2013 with flat pedals was much better and much steadier, as previously reported.  I spent a lot of time riding across the hill and zig-zagging up it.  I only walked a 10m section just before the top to get better grip.

Props to Amandeep who has ridden the entire length a few times.  He had to stop now and again, but unlike me he rode it.

Strava – making a segment

This is very simple.  Take an existing ride and mark off a section of it, give it a name and save.  Cross-referencing with the map and altitude graph makes it easy to pinpoint the section.

I might have missed something on MapMyRide but I got the impression that I could only create a “Course” from a real map; not from a Workout.  And since many of the tracks I took weren’t on maps, I couldn’t create a Course.  (Please correct me if I’m wrong.)

Segments are best made without pauses or stumbles

My segment has a few wobbles.  As my iPhone was in my jersey pocket (I can’t find my waterproof case anywhere!) when I stepped off the bike, a new wobble was recorded.  It also put little dips on the tracks that aren’t there.  It wouldn’t make sense for Strava to automatically straighten out a segment, especially if those dips and shuffles were part of the track.

I think that the solution is for me to walk the track (without the bike) and use that straight run as the basis of the segment.  I’ll record that as a walk so as not to post another impossible time.

Today’s time and my previous, impossible times

Strava recorded 18:18 as my time on the climb.  That was the elapsed time but I spent 12:41 of that resting for a total riding time of 7:27.

My previous times recorded on MapMyRide, converted to TCX files and then uploaded to Strava are 4:25 on 6 April 2013 for my first ride (or walk) and 5:03 on 12 April 2013 for my second.  Both seem to have been affected by the auto-pause function and seemed to have been tricked by my very slow progress.

The only way to post a fair time is to ride the climb in one pass or getting straight back on after stumbling.  I’m working on it.  My elapsed time of 18:18 should crumble soon as I didn’t need that much rest.  My riding time of 7:27 was slow and steady.   I wonder if I’ll even beat the impossible 4:25 one day!

Border Track detour – Mulligans DH

I’ve noticed a few Strava users taking a different line from the Border Track along a segment known as Mulligans DH (down hill).  About 1km from the junction of the Border Track and Mulligans Circuit and just over the second climb you’ll see the Treecreeper Gate to the right.  Through that gate and Mulligans DH is the track along the fence.  You avoid two steep climbs and a somewhat tricky descent adjacent to a pine forest on the Border Track going this way.

Mulligans DH is a nice down hill; no jumps, moderately rough terrain and some 90° corners just for fun.  Though the newly-metalled parts were a bit squirmy.

I took it easy at the top and let it go about 1/3 of the way down.  The final sharp corner and small climb caught me out a little so I took at fairly easy to the finish; the Curlew Gate on the Pipeline Track .  After seeing my Starva time of 3:00 was only 11 seconds behind the KOM, in hindsight I could have gone a bit faster.

Using Strava for the benefit of mankind

Perhaps that’s too high a goal.  But I am using Strava as a benchmark for my own times; firstly to log what I’m doing and secondly to see if I am improving as I go.  It would be interesting to combine heart rate and power over a ride because that’s where an improvements will be subtly obvious.  I mean that my time might be slower for a particular run but if my heart rate is relatively low, then I completed the ride more efficiently and I’m getting fitter.

The rides are a bit too hard to be in the zone for burning fat.  A 166 average HR is about 30 beats higher than it could be for a good burn and I spend 1/3 to 1/2 of the time above zone 3.  I’ll start using my cross-trainer for a steady HR-specific workout.  Winter sometimes gets an early start on ANZAC Day; we’ve had a few sub-zero mornings already.  Hopefully I’ll stick to a reasonable riding routine during Winter and be bursting by Spring.  Whenever that decides to visit.

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