Rose avenue is a name that pops up often if you ask any local cyclist here in Pretoria what the steepest road in the area is, alongside Tom Jenkins Drive. With an average gradient of 15.5%, it isn’t a hill to scoff at. After looking at my maps one lazy Friday as a means of procrastinating before a test, I see that Rose Avenue is actually a couple of blocks wayward of my usual training route, so I decide to give it a try the next day. I’ve already conquered Tom Jenkins during a race, so Rose can’t be that bad, right? In short, Tom Jenkins is almost flat compared to Rose Avenue.
The street starts intimidating you long before you even start climbing. When looking up the street from the bottom, trees cloud the steepest part like ominous clouds, leaving the summit well out of view and leaving you wondering as to exactly how steep it gets. Well that answer is revealed quite soon after and boy does that climb have a nasty sting in the tail.
Sitting at an average gradient of 15.5%, those seasoned in cycling will know that is not an easy climb. According to an article from the Bicycling magazine, a 16% gradient is so steep that it would be more mechanically efficient to walk up the hill instead of cycle up it. This puts it into perspective for those who can’t judge gradients too well.
The first couple hundred or so meters are reasonably pleasant actually. After that the steepness rises and morale drops the higher you go. The main climb is about 300m according to Strava and in that climb I noticed a few things: its impossible (for me atleast) to pedal whilst seated on such a climb as my front wheel kept lifting and I simply couldn’t put the power down, I had to really concentrate on every single pedalstroke to make sure I didn’t stop as that would force me to walk up the rest of the way and I recall grunting quite profusely as I strained to make it up there. The steepest section is right near the top at around 30% gradient all while the road makes a near 90 degree right turn before flattening out at the summit a few meters after that.
I was damn near dead by the time I reached the summit. I got off my bike and slumped on the handy wall at the top to recover. I was there for a good 10 minutes or so. I barely made it up there despite 6 years of mountain biking with tens of thousands of kilos of hilly training rides and what was a really light bike that has so far made light work of other hills. I would have been much more comfortable with a 30 or 32 tooth gear at the back (I currently have a 23 – 11 cassette but with compact 50 – 32 chainrings up front).
I had all of my energy sapped that day by that hill alone. Soon after recovering I went the few kilos straight home. Despite the suffering and struggling, I will be back soon to include that hill with my hills training from time to time. But for now I am proud to have achieved yet another goal in my cycling life.
Rose Avenue, you are a formidable foe.