It has often been said that cycling's greatest road rides are defined by their climbs. Climbing most completely exercises a rider's fitness since other factors that mitigate a cyclist's forward movement are reduced. Also, since the geology of that mountain is probably not going to change much in a lifetime, the mountain becomes an excellent gauge of our development as a cyclist if we ride it over the years.
Mountains are also glorious in that they have a summit. A final destination that places you at a high point of local terrain and allows you to recognize the fruits of your efforts not only for the day but for your overall training as well. If you climb the mountain at the right time you can become exposed to some of cycling’s greatest experiences. My favorite is starting a climb beneath a cloudbank, ascending through the clouds and breaking through to a beautiful sunny day.
It is no secret to those that know me that Mt. Diablo in the East Bay is my favorite climb. It is a pure climb in that the road up the mountain only goes to the top. The mountain is there simply to be climbed. It offers little to no traffic, beautiful panoramic views, exceptional wildlife (including tarantulas), other cyclists for company, incredible stillness and quiet and a spectacular summit. As a time trial, a race of truth, there is no better mountain in the Bay Area. It will reveal to you your fear of fatigue and suffering. It will present you with a true test of you against yourself. So much so that if you don't want to know what you have inside you, don't climb the mountain. Stay at the bottom.