Author Topic: Bike recommendations - loads of hills  (Read 4312 times)

nushagak

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Bike recommendations - loads of hills
« on: May 18, 2014, 06:38:35 AM »
Trying to incorporate more bicycle riding into my days - at least within a 5 mile radius from my home. But it's pretty clear that my 5-year-old Target special Magna "mountain bike" isn't going to cut it. (Not for the least reason: I can't mount a universal bike rack to it).

These are the elevations I have to climb back and forth in any direction:



Any recommendations on a relatively inexpensive, dependable ride that can also climb hills well?

No preference on new or used - but needing a 49 or 50cm frame means I've got fairly slim pickings on the used bikes section of CL.

Blackadder

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Re: Bike recommendations - loads of hills
« Reply #1 on: May 18, 2014, 07:10:28 AM »
Don't have any bike suggestions, but my work route had a similar height profile initially. But I suggest that maybe you can take another look and spend an hour or so to try find a better route. I used a combination of google earth and maps and some local bike trail planner and ended up with a slightly longer but much less hilly route which hadn't been suggested by any navigation tool because of two unofficial/tiny paths I could use. The hills cost much more time than the extra distance, so I end up being faster. :-)

Thegoblinchief

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Re: Bike recommendations - loads of hills
« Reply #2 on: May 18, 2014, 07:36:48 AM »
+1 to looking at alternate routes. My direct route home requires two hill climbs all the way in my lowest gear. I can do it in 45 minutes, but I much prefer the 4 mile longer route that takes an hour.

That said, I've run into zero hills I can't do in the granny gears of my Trek FX. (The exception being when I am burdened with my 200+ lb "minivan" trailer of kids. If you need exact gear ratios, I can see, but generally a three-cog front sprocket is what you will need for lots of hill climbs.

The more you bike, the easier it will get. Initially your cardio will fail, but it will catch up quickly. Just make sure to gear low enough that you can keep your pedaling cadence fast, otherwise you strain your legs and drivetrain too much. If you're comfortable standing and pedaling, that helps develop extra power for climbs.

Thegoblinchief

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Re: Bike recommendations - loads of hills
« Reply #3 on: May 18, 2014, 07:37:43 AM »
And if the hills we unavoidable or just really bad (for you), there is always the e-bike option.

frompa

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Re: Bike recommendations - loads of hills
« Reply #4 on: May 18, 2014, 08:17:40 AM »
As long as you have a decently made bike that fits you, you will be fine.  Definitely buy used.  You are probably far better off with a road bike, or something like that -- preferably NOT a mountain bike with its tires and frame unsuitably wide and heavy for road riding.  (And I'd recommend against shocks.)  Good brands in my book are Cannondale, Trek, Specialized.  There are certainly others.  Ask at your local real bike store.  Also, you might ask there if you can post a request for buying a used bike.  Most bike shop workers themselves have many bikes and would be happy to unload one for some cash.  Or post on CL what you are looking for.  In our area, we have a bike advocacy group that can help with all aspects of sizing and helping you buy used -- anything like that in your area?   We're in a very hilly area, too -- after you get in shape, the hills are no big deal.  I wouldn't necessarily recommend finding another route, as long as your route is otherwise good for biking.  (Though some might think it's sick of me, I actually enjoy a hearty climb.)  The level of your fitness is by far the biggest factor in how ably you handle hills, (more so than the caliber of your bike) and you can work on that now even with your crappy bike, while you look for something more suitable.  Good luck. 

Cressida

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Re: Bike recommendations - loads of hills
« Reply #5 on: May 18, 2014, 01:09:36 PM »
And if the hills we unavoidable or just really bad (for you), there is always the e-bike option.

I have one of these. I inherited it from my husband, who found it too heavy and clunky once he built up his strength enough that he could take the hills without the assist. I can't imagine ever being strong enough (Seattle = very hilly), but who knows. However, it's far from the cheapest option, unfortunately.

nushagak

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Re: Bike recommendations - loads of hills
« Reply #6 on: May 19, 2014, 05:17:55 AM »
Thanks for the replies, everyone.

No, unfortunately there are no alternate routes. If any of you are familiar with the SW corner of MA and NW corner of CT - it's very hilly. But, an illustration of the two alternate routes to the first one I posted:





As long as you have a decently made bike that fits you, you will be fine.  Definitely buy used.  You are probably far better off with a road bike, or something like that -- preferably NOT a mountain bike with its tires and frame unsuitably wide and heavy for road riding.  (And I'd recommend against shocks.)  Good brands in my book are Cannondale, Trek, Specialized.  There are certainly others.  Ask at your local real bike store.  Also, you might ask there if you can post a request for buying a used bike.  Most bike shop workers themselves have many bikes and would be happy to unload one for some cash.  Or post on CL what you are looking for.  In our area, we have a bike advocacy group that can help with all aspects of sizing and helping you buy used -- anything like that in your area?   We're in a very hilly area, too -- after you get in shape, the hills are no big deal.  I wouldn't necessarily recommend finding another route, as long as your route is otherwise good for biking.  (Though some might think it's sick of me, I actually enjoy a hearty climb.)  The level of your fitness is by far the biggest factor in how ably you handle hills, (more so than the caliber of your bike) and you can work on that now even with your crappy bike, while you look for something more suitable.  Good luck. 

All good info. You're right - I'm just not conditioned well enough yet to be able to tackle these hills. (MMM lifestyle = no need for gym membership, ever?)

There are no bike advocacy groups up here that I'm aware of (I used to live in Philly and SF so am at least familiar with their existence in those cities) but if I commit to driving to a college town, neighboring CL boards offer a pretty healthy selection. I'll look there first, then head down to a bike shop if nothing looks good.

Old Motobacane, Nishikis okay? This is what I see available under $200. Nothing at all under $100 yet unless it's single speed (which sounds murderous around here).

nushagak

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Re: Bike recommendations - loads of hills
« Reply #7 on: May 19, 2014, 05:19:31 AM »
The more you bike, the easier it will get. Initially your cardio will fail, but it will catch up quickly. Just make sure to gear low enough that you can keep your pedaling cadence fast, otherwise you strain your legs and drivetrain too much. If you're comfortable standing and pedaling, that helps develop extra power for climbs.

Forgot to say this was awesome advice - will keep this in mind for trips around town. Many thanks.

skunkfunk

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Re: Bike recommendations - loads of hills
« Reply #8 on: May 19, 2014, 07:47:34 AM »
Oklahoma City is hilly and windy. I bought a cheap aluminum hybrid and when I'm chugging up those hills into a 20 mph headwind, I wish that I had bought a lightweight road bike that would let me put my head down. YMMV

nushagak

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Re: Bike recommendations - loads of hills
« Reply #9 on: May 19, 2014, 08:15:06 AM »
Oklahoma City is hilly and windy. I bought a cheap aluminum hybrid and when I'm chugging up those hills into a 20 mph headwind, I wish that I had bought a lightweight road bike that would let me put my head down. YMMV

Good heads up. Will keep this in mind while looking around. (Also I had no idea that Oklahoma was hilly. Why did I just assume it was a flat state?)

skunkfunk

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Re: Bike recommendations - loads of hills
« Reply #10 on: May 19, 2014, 08:40:44 AM »
Oklahoma City is hilly and windy. I bought a cheap aluminum hybrid and when I'm chugging up those hills into a 20 mph headwind, I wish that I had bought a lightweight road bike that would let me put my head down. YMMV

Good heads up. Will keep this in mind while looking around. (Also I had no idea that Oklahoma was hilly. Why did I just assume it was a flat state?)

That's a common stereotype about the place. Indeed, long distance travel is relatively flat around here - it is mostly gentle inclines with relatively few completely flat stretches. The entire state has about a 1600 foot rise east to west. There are many parts of the city that are flat. However, the way they have designed the roads is such that you are constantly going up and down over and under trains and highways. Additionally the northeast side of the city where I live is more hilly than the rest of the city. The terrain here is bad enough that it is relatively undeveloped compared to the rest of the city and metro area. I'm 5 miles from downtown and the lots in Forest Park here average I believe over an acre - the population density is 486 people per square mile (there are no businesses taking up space), whereas the nearby bedroom community Moore is 2660.

Probably more info than you ever wanted about the OKC area.

kendallf

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Re: Bike recommendations - loads of hills
« Reply #11 on: May 19, 2014, 08:50:04 AM »
A couple of specific gearing suggestions -- if you want inexpensive and also hill climbing capable, look for an old midrange touring frame from the 70s-80s with a triple crankset, and make sure and put a wide range freewheel/cassette on the back.  If you have a 30T or so front chainring plus a 32T rear cog, you can climb about anything if you take your time.

The kicker will be finding a very small frame -- the smallest of these bikes offered were typically in the 50-52 cm range.  If you want more standover height, you might consider a mixte frame ("ladies" frame with the sloping twin top tubes). 

I recently picked up a Raleigh mixte bike for my wife for $30 on CL, put it together with used parts (including a 7 speed internally geared hub somebody gave me), and she now has a "townie" bike that I spent about $100 on including tires.  We left it ugly so it's less likely to get stolen at bars.  :-)


frompa

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Re: Bike recommendations - loads of hills
« Reply #12 on: May 19, 2014, 10:06:39 AM »
I second the notion of a touring bike.  My old touring bike (20+ yo??) is my go-to for around town and commuting travel.  It handles weight quite well, whether I use panniers or my BOB trailer.  If I had to replace it, I'd consider going far higher than the numbers you are talking about, Nushagak.  After all, this is transportation you are talking about, and a decent new bike can easily go upwards of several thousand.  Maybe you'll have more options if you loosen the purse strings to the tune of $3-400.  I don't often suggest spending more, but you want a bike that's worth keeping going for a good 30 years.  BTW, I know your area, have biked through on a number of long distance outings, and yes, you are similarly hilly, but also fabulously lovely.  Enjoy your riding!!

Greg

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Re: Bike recommendations - loads of hills
« Reply #13 on: May 19, 2014, 03:02:42 PM »
Climbing hills takes gearing, and using the gears.  I have a fairly cheap bike with 21 gears.  And some hills around, in an 8 mile ride I can use all the gears at least twice.  The lowest gear is crazy, you pedal a lot and move very little, but you can do the steep hills easily.

Glenstache

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Re: Bike recommendations - loads of hills
« Reply #14 on: May 19, 2014, 03:15:30 PM »
You may also look at cyclocross bikes. These will be a bit newer design and often have lugs to mount racks. They are kind of road bikes for offroad travel, so have gearing that is a bit more friendly than most road bikes and ride well. Note that a 50cm cross bike can often be a bit bigger than a 50cm road bike due to how the size is measured.

80s and 90s touring frames can make great commuters provided the mechanical bits are in good working order... especially the brakes taking a look at the hills in those profiles. If cost were no object (and we all know it is), a bike with disc brakes may be a good idea if you will be commuting in the rain because they will offer better and more predictable braking performance when things get wet.

zinnie

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Re: Bike recommendations - loads of hills
« Reply #15 on: May 19, 2014, 03:52:57 PM »
Haha. That looks a lot like where I live. There are actually talks of "bike bridges" in the bicycle master plan to get people to ride from one neighborhood to the next.

The things that have helped me are getting a light bike, getting in good shape [and therefore reducing exertion/sweating], and riding early mornings and early evenings. And if it's a huge hill and the middle of the day, sometime walking is better!

 

GuitarStv

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Re: Bike recommendations - loads of hills
« Reply #16 on: May 19, 2014, 04:00:14 PM »
You will get stronger and everything gets easier with time . . . but to be comfortable the gearing on the bike is something you really want to pay attention to.  You want a wide range of gears to choose from.  Get a front triple . . . look for something that goes from 50 - 30 and a rear cassette with an 11-32 range and you'll always be able to select a good gear for your speed.  Very easy gear = comfy climbing by maintaining your rate of pedalling.  Very hard gear = easier to gain a lot of speed/momentum going down the hill which gives you a head start on the next climb.

In my experience mountain bikes are typically geared easiest, touring bikes are a little less easy, cyclocross bikes are harder, and road bikes tend to be hardest geared.