De Ronde is Portland's legendary course covering 50 miles and climbing over 7,000'. The course designers sought out the steepest of the steep and connected everything in one glorious route. Designed after a ride in Belgium called the Ronde van Vlaanderen. Course markers can still be found around town (a crested yellow lion painted onto the road).
Atop every steep climb lies a reward of sorts. Some hilltops are stocked with copious amounts of gummy bears, while others with kegs of ice cold beer and blaring rock music. Whatever keeps you going you'll need it on De Ronde PDX. We opted to travel in a cavalcade of hardened warriors, ready to rip each others legs off towards the crest of every pain induced climb. Met with smiles and soul crushing sighs of relief we pressed on, hill by hill, until the very end, atop Council Crest Park in SW, Portland.
The route begins by going northbound on Highway 30 from NW Industrial. The first climb is a gentle gravel-grind up Saltzman through Forest Park till you reach the top of Skyline. Now is a good time to assess your company as well as yourself to see if brought the right legs and bike to keep up. It's going to be a long day in the saddle, so you don't want to blow your wad here.
The first real test of the day comes at the base of Brynwood, arguably the hardest climb in Portland. It's relatively short with about a 25% average grade, topping 39% in some spots. You have to get into the drops just to maintain any sort of leverage along with legs of steel to topple this monster. Gummy bears await at the top.
Drop down Cornell Road and hang a right after the tunnel(s) as you make your way up to the top of Pittock Mansion.
The start of a series of short and punchy climbs begin here. Just keep following the yellow painted lions on the ground of key intersections to stay on track. The route is well thought out, taking you away from a lot of the main lines of traffic, affording you amazing views along the way, but be sure to have a general understanding of where to turn next. When in doubt, just wait a few minutes and someone will surely show you the way.
We left an hour earlier than planned as to avoid the craziness that's about to ensue throughout the west side of Portland. We weren't the only ones who had the same bright idea, and it made for some interesting company along the way. Our group swelled from 10, down to 6, and back up in numbers before the end of the day. Everyone in our group had the legs to press on, some had more to spare and made things interesting.
The near halfway mark starts at the base of Washington Park, just off Burnside. The climb starts to snake a bit more, which is where I'll stop to describe the route in further detail. Just keep following those yellow painted lions on the ground. The route brings you around the backside of Sylvan Heights and the Southwest Hills with cool gravel-grinder sections that cut through the neighborhoods, so be sure to stay alert and lay off that front brake.
Tackle a couple steep hills before dropping down into Council Crest. Pay attention to the amount of times you drop down Montgomery St. The day has you going down twice, but coming up two different ways. This is where things got even more confusing for the group and I. The first ascent comes at you like a brick wall. College Street tests your resolve as you punch your way to the top, only to be met with another long climb towards the top of the SW hills.
The first ascent comes
at you like a brick wall.
Tight & Twisty
I can't even begin to describe where to go from here. At this point my legs are filling with lactic acid with every turn. Fatigue and dread continue to grow, knowing the day isn't done just yet. We soldier on and bask in the sun we're so fortunate to have had all day. After a couple gummy bear, banana and PB&J pitstops we make our way deeper into Southwest Portland. Healy Heights turns into a complete maze of tight and twisty broken road. We choose our lines wisely and zig-zag our way across the the neighborhood.
With the end in sight it's just one more push from the base of Council Crest by way of the suburbs of Bridlemile. I decided to put a dig into the group and see if anyone dared to follow my wheel. No takers. I was feeling strong and decided to push myself into a state of eternal despair and partial regret. I'm nearing the top as a challenger sees my attempt at beating him up the hill. He surges past, dreaming of triumph, only to see me fly by for the invisible win with 500 feet to go.
For my first time doing De Ronde I can assuredly say that it's a must for any avid cyclist in the Pacific Northwest. The camaraderie of suffering together over Portland's steepest hills is unforgettable. Thanks to all my friends, old and new, for pushing me and making me smile throughout the day. I look forward to next year, and hope to host a post-ride party at our place in the coming editions.
Moving time: 4:33:23
Gummy bears consumed: 523