Page Contributor(s): Dan Razum, Campbell, CA, USA
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Cycling Bohlman - On Orbit, Bohlman
Ride 4.1 miles gaining 2,045’ at 9.3% average grade.
This climb is a beast, ranking as the fourth most difficult in Santa Clara County, with a quarter-mile that averages 17%.
“The route up Bolhman/On Orbit is one of the most difficult in the United States over a similar length. From the cemetery this road heads uphill at a modest incline but quickly becomes very steep. You are riding through a scenic and mostly shaded neighborhood here but may not be able to notice due to the severe grade. At mile 1.1 there is a short section of 20%+ grade within a series of switchbacks that is the beginning of one of the most difficult miles of climbing in the United States. At the ‘T’ you get a short break and then go left on On Orbit Drive. Soon you will find gradually increasing grade that includes another short ramp of 20% near its top. The grade finally eases and at mile 2.2 turn left on Apollo Heights Court to find one more steep pitch before the listed climb soon mercifully dead ends. Eat your Wheaties for this one.” (This quote is presented with the approval of John Summerson, from his book, The Complete Guide to Climbing (by Bike), 2nd Edition, pg. 164.)
Climb summary and photos by PJAMM’s Dan Razum:
The climb starts at the intersections of Bohlman, Oak, and 6th St, across from Madronia Cemetery.
Bohlman climbs up the mountainside and dead-ends at the top, so luckily there isn't too much traffic. This climb gets steep quickly so it's a good idea to warm up ahead of time. Bohlman is definitely a steep climb and the gradient just keeps increasing as we climb higher. After about a mile there is a series of curves that are particularly steep. After these curves we come to the intersection with On Orbit. The intersection is basically a T-junction, with Bohlman going to the right and On Orbit going to the left.
Left on On Orbit at mile 1.8.
Merge back with Bohlman at mile 2.6.
In this stretch there is 1/10 at 20.4% and 2/10 at 20.2%.
The steepest part of the Bohlman-On Orbit climb is a quarter-mile at 19% during your 0.8 of a mile On Orbit.
On Orbit will meet up again with Bohlman about a half-mile later so at this point you can decide whether to continue on PJAMM Bohlman Route or to take the PJAMM On Orbit route instead. Bohlman climbs away more steeply from this intersection than On Orbit, so at first glance it appears that On Orbit may be the easier route. But appearances are deceiving. After the intersection Bohlman gets a little less steep, while On Orbit goes around a few curves and then really cranks it up.
The second half of On Orbit is steeper than any of the previous climbing on Bohlman, which is saying something. On Orbit reaches a mini-peak and then descends down in order to meet up with Bohlman again. After On Orbit and Bohlman come back together there are a few hundred yards of double digit gradient, and then the gradient becomes more reasonable and remains so for the rest of the climb, around another mile and a half.
Brief descent where On Orbit reconnects with Bohlman.
There are lots of trees and shade up to the T-junction with On Orbit. Bohlman continues to have a lot of
shade after the junction but On Orbit is more exposed, and with a lot of nice views, which unfortunately
are difficult to see and appreciate when you are trying hard to remain upright on the bike. Not to worry,
though, there are also some very nice views further up Bohlman, where the gradient isn't so bad.
Views along the climb.
The lower part of Bohlman, until it comes together again with On Orbit, is very narrow with no shoulder.
However, little traffic and very good pavement combine to make the ride feel quite safe. The upper
part of Bohlman is a proper two-lane road, still without a shoulder, but significantly wider than the lower part.
A lot of this ride has a rural feel but it's actually not very rural at all, there are many houses the
entire way but they are hidden back off the road so you don't notice them.
Moffett Field left; San Jose right.
The section past where Bohlman finishes to Montevina.
Because of the steepness and sharp curves, Bohlman is not a great descent. However, while Bohlman is a
dead end for cars, there is a dirt trail over the mountain that connects to Montevina Road so a bike has
the option to descend on Montevina instead. Montevina has great views, is less steep, and has fewer tight
curves than Bohlman, so it's a much nicer descent than Bohlman. However, Montevina comes out at Highway 17
so you’d need to either take Los Gatos Creek Trail from Lexington Reservoir to Los Gatos, or climb Black Road
or Old Santa Cruz Highway up to Summit Road to go anywhere from the base of Montevina.
If you decide to go to Montevina from the top of Bohlman, just take the first right after the dead-end sign,
on a dirt road that almost looks like a private driveway and that will lead to a three quarters mile long
trail through El Sereno Preserve that comes out on Montevina. The trail is rideable on a road bike although
there are some short steep sections with gravel that are probably better to walk through, just to avoid any
nasty spills on the gravel.
That’s a wrap!!