Author Topic: Biking and Hills  (Read 6618 times)

mrigney

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Biking and Hills
« on: August 05, 2014, 01:12:45 PM »
So I'd like to bike more. Would love to bike to the store and other errands. You know...facepunch my car and save some gas and wear and tear. Here's my issue....there is a huge hill/mountain between me and most places I run errands. I'm bounded by the highway on the west side of my house and a ridgeline on the east side. Most of the stores (grocery, shopping, etc) are on the other side of the ridge. It's not far (< 2 miles to the grocery store), but to get over the ridge I have to 1) either ride on a 2 lane road w/little or no shoulder or ride on the sidewalk. 2) I'm not sure if I can make it up and over the hill. I consider myself in good to great shape both endurance and strength-wise, but this is a steep hill! 8-11% grade for about a tenth of a mile, and about 5% grade for 0.75 miles. Not exactly a leisurely ride.

How have any of you tackled rides w/large, steep changes in terrain? Do you get off and walk the bike? Do you just avoid those areas?

usmarine1975

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Re: Biking and Hills
« Reply #1 on: August 05, 2014, 01:21:08 PM »
Apparently I had my biggest elevation climb or it's my climb every time I ride to work.  Just started using my phone to track my rides.  It was a 410 ft climb.  When I hit the hills (and I am no expert)  I just cycle through the gears and keep where I feel comfortable and from what others are saying the important part is to keep your cadence up.  I can do so in the lower gears.  Not sure that helps much but it's my experience as a new rider.

nicoli20

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Re: Biking and Hills
« Reply #2 on: August 05, 2014, 01:26:43 PM »
Truthfully, it is all about gearing. What kind of setup do you have on your bike right now? You may want to get a different cassette on your back wheel.

When your gear ratio is set up correctly that hill won't feel quite as bad as it did before.

You can tell what your current ratio is by counting the number of cogs on the rear wheel cassette and your smallest cog in the front.

I bet if you are able to get a larger rear cassette you could conquer this hill more easily.

mrigney

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Re: Biking and Hills
« Reply #3 on: August 05, 2014, 01:27:59 PM »
How did that affect speed? And how did it affect traffic? I'm not at all shy about using the lane, but on a road w/a small shoulder, I'm a little leery of clogging up a lane for 3/4 of a mile while I trek along at 6-8 mph. If it was level and I was going my more normal 15-17 mph, it'd be a little different.

@nicoli20 I'll check...it's a used road bike I picked up recently (and haven't even gotten tuned up yet). Traded in my mountain bike for it since I rarely if ever took it off road. What kind of ratio should I be looking for?

gillstone

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Re: Biking and Hills
« Reply #4 on: August 05, 2014, 01:33:28 PM »
The most direct route between my house and work includes a 0.4 mile at a steady 8% grade.  It's doable, but I find its easier to use a side route that while more a vertical climb between points A and B curves a fair bit and varies between flat, steep and downhill, so even with a max grade of 11% its average is more like 4%. It also has the added benefit of being a less-traveled street so I'm not surrounded by cars while struggling up a hill.

Even with that change, the first time I did it I was a wreck.  Its easy now and it will be for you too.  Learn to love your low gears on steep hills, get a good rhythm and don't look at the top of the hill.

frugaliknowit

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Re: Biking and Hills
« Reply #5 on: August 05, 2014, 01:34:05 PM »
Besides what previous posts say, as you become more experienced, you will learn momentum techniques to go with gearing techniques.  In general, gather momentum approaching the hill, then as you start losing speed, gradually shift lower.  Climb at a comfortable pace; if you start panting, pedal slower and or gear lower as you need a sustainable heart and breathing rate.  It WILL get better.

If you belong to a gym, in my opinion, the Stairmaster is the best trainer for biking uphill.  Training your quads and hamstrings is as well.

mrigney

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Re: Biking and Hills
« Reply #6 on: August 05, 2014, 01:41:18 PM »
I don't think fitness is going to be an issue (I've yet to tackle this hill...just moved into this house w/in the last month). I'm plenty strong, plenty of squats in my normal routine (if you want some sort of reference, I rowed 2k meters, did 200 double unders, and ran 2 miles last night in 30 minutes). Sounds like everyone is basically just saying "you just need to do it." I'll probably try it on a Sunday morning when there's not much traffic.

Any recommendations on how to deal w/traffic when I'm plodding up the hill? I'll feel like a lot more of an impediemnt at 6 mph than at 15 mph.

Janie

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Re: Biking and Hills
« Reply #7 on: August 05, 2014, 01:53:35 PM »
If it's only 2 miles you could always just walk instead

viper155

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Re: Biking and Hills
« Reply #8 on: August 05, 2014, 02:00:00 PM »
Hill climbing is mostly technique. Too exhaustive to cover here. Google it...With some practice you can overcome this obstacle easily.

Jack

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Re: Biking and Hills
« Reply #9 on: August 05, 2014, 02:14:24 PM »
@nicoli20 I'll check...it's a used road bike I picked up recently (and haven't even gotten tuned up yet). Traded in my mountain bike for it since I rarely if ever took it off road. What kind of ratio should I be looking for?

Normally a road bike is better, but in this particular case it's almost too bad that you swapped out your mountain bike since they're usually geared lower (better for steep hills).

gillstone

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Re: Biking and Hills
« Reply #10 on: August 05, 2014, 02:47:41 PM »
For dealing with traffic, don't be the a-hole who hogs the middle of the lane while going 7 mph.  Stay as close to side as possible and be visible.

nicoli20

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Re: Biking and Hills
« Reply #11 on: August 05, 2014, 02:52:40 PM »
I ride with a 12-27 when I ride big hills. That's 12 for the smallest ring on the back and 27 for the largest. It will be interesting to see what you have.

I would see how you do the first time you go up. Make sure you are spinning circles and not mashing. (you pedal stroke should be done while applying pressure in a full circle) I think you will surprise yourself and soon that hill will be a piece of cake.


On a side note there is a great app. called strava that you can use to track your rides. This can make it fun to see how fast you go up the hill each time and if you get faster.

Dascmo

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Re: Biking and Hills
« Reply #12 on: August 05, 2014, 05:10:40 PM »
Any bike with a triple crankset (that is, with three chainrings in front attached to the pedals) should give you low enough gears. A small "granny" gear chainring with 22-26 teeth (count 'em!) combined with a big cassette cog in the center of the back wheel of 32-36 teeth will give you very low gears that would allow you to climb steep hills with heavy loads. Ask any bike tourer or bike shop.

These gearing combinations are standard on most mountain bikes, but are also common on touring road bikes. Note that bigger wheels (700c or 29er vs. 26 inch) give you effectively higher gears, but are often worth it because they smooth out bumps on trails and cracks in pavement. 29er wheels are nearly standard on high-end mountain bikes these days.

You are required by law to ride as far to the right as is safe. That may mean riding in the middle of the lane at some times, but it is to be avoided. Wearing very visible clothing (those bright yellow-green cyclist colors) can be annoying, but could save your life. Flashing lights are very important as well, and quite cheap these days.

tanhanivar

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Re: Biking and Hills
« Reply #13 on: August 05, 2014, 05:48:13 PM »
Also, don't underestimate getting off and pushing, especially if the alternative is to start rolling backwards. Good upper-body workout :)

m8547

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Re: Biking and Hills
« Reply #14 on: August 05, 2014, 10:13:22 PM »
On an 8-11% grade I probably want to be in a gear ratio near 1:1. The most used gear on my mountain bike is 32 in the back and 33 (middle) in the front. It's possible to do it in a harder gear (and you will go faster as a result) but it takes time to build up the strength and endurance to push higher gears. If you are starting out, use an easier gear, spin the pedals faster, and move slower. If you are spinning really slow or standing up to pedal you are going to tire yourself out because you are using strength not aerobic endurance for that. Find a route that lets you go slow, and you can climb almost any grade. I regularly do a ride that has a 1/2 mile dirt/gravel section that's a 25% grade most of the way up. It's not that bad in the lowest gear, but I'm barely moving faster than someone walking.

You can probably change the gearing on your bike if you need to (and I would recommend it if you can't make it up the hill easily. Typical road bike gearing is stupid for most people). An easy way would be to change out one or more of the front chainrings. 22-33-44 is standard for mountain bikes, but road bikes have bigger gears. If you made one or more of them smaller everything would still work as long as you don't have a big transition from one to another (don't do a 22-42-52 setup, for example).

You could also change out the back cassette. 11-32 is standard for mountain bikes, but road bikes might have 11-28 or worse 11-22. If you get a cassette with a bigger lowest gear you might need to change some other things. The chain will have to be made longer (replace it with a new chain and set it up to be long enough. New chains are always too long, but they are shortened to fit the bike when they are installed), and you might need a rear derailleur with a longer cage to maintain chain tension over a wider range of gears. The new cassette needs to be the same number of speeds as the old one or your shifters won't work. Usually cassettes are replaced as one piece and you can't change out individual gears like you might do for the front chainrings.

Mountain bike and road bike parts often work interchangeably, but not always, so if you change things you should check with someone to make sure everything will still work. There's not really any inherent difference a lot of times, and you could have a road bike with a full mountain bike drivetrain if you wanted. The only downside to that is your top speed would be limited to less than about 45mph, and you wouldn't have as many gear choices at road cruising speeds.

Shropskr

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Re: Biking and Hills
« Reply #15 on: August 06, 2014, 12:22:32 AM »
Nobody's suggested it yet so I will.  Cheat... Electric assist.  Put a motor on your bike.  No more hill trouble.  I ride in Seattle with two kids on a cargo bike.  Cheating is required and highly recommended.

There not that expensive and you can get a simple thumb throttle.  Also gave me more confidence for on road riding.

Cap_Scarlet

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Re: Biking and Hills
« Reply #16 on: August 06, 2014, 03:34:44 AM »
I was going to start a topic about a similar thing this morning but I will throw it in here!

I would love to ride to work more but its just too exhausting!

I live 19km from work but my house is at about 550 metres (1,800 feet) and work is at 100 metres (300 ft) so a 1,500 ft height differential.  I ride to work on a mountainbike but using cross-country tyres so that the Tarmac sections are not too slow.  The ride to work is fine (obviously) but the ride home is tough.  In total its about a two hour roundtrip compared to less than one hour in the car.

Does anyone else have a more arduous cycling commute?

uniFI

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Re: Biking and Hills
« Reply #17 on: August 06, 2014, 07:11:08 AM »
Don't let hills psyche you out.  It's possible to climb for hours in the right gear.  If you can see the goal at the start, it is truly just a hill and not a mountain.  The pain will be temporary!

By the way, as you get more fit, the pain will not go away.  You just go faster! 

Pain is your friend.  It means you're not dead. (<== I think that was a GI Jane quote).

avonlea

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Re: Biking and Hills
« Reply #18 on: August 06, 2014, 07:31:10 AM »
So I'd like to bike more. Would love to bike to the store and other errands. You know...facepunch my car and save some gas and wear and tear. Here's my issue....there is a huge hill/mountain between me and most places I run errands. I'm bounded by the highway on the west side of my house and a ridgeline on the east side. Most of the stores (grocery, shopping, etc) are on the other side of the ridge. It's not far (< 2 miles to the grocery store), but to get over the ridge I have to 1) either ride on a 2 lane road w/little or no shoulder or ride on the sidewalk. 2) I'm not sure if I can make it up and over the hill. I consider myself in good to great shape both endurance and strength-wise, but this is a steep hill! 8-11% grade for about a tenth of a mile, and about 5% grade for 0.75 miles. Not exactly a leisurely ride.

How have any of you tackled rides w/large, steep changes in terrain? Do you get off and walk the bike? Do you just avoid those areas?

I live on top of a steep hill.  On the weekends, I see cyclists come to our area to ride it.  My usual biking travel is for getting to the heart of town or to my child's school.  Since we don't have to go UP the big hill until we are returning home, that works to our advantage.  We need to get to school in time.  How quickly we get home doesn't really matter.  We walked up the hill for a few months when we first started biking.  It took time for my kids and me to build up our leg strength, especially the younger child.  Now we can all ride it.  That said, I have never tried hauling anything with a trailer.  I carry a backpack and will haul whatever fits in it.  That is generally a few groceries or library items.
« Last Edit: August 17, 2014, 07:24:34 AM by avonlea »

Target2018

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Re: Biking and Hills
« Reply #19 on: August 06, 2014, 07:54:01 AM »
Hills are hard at first.  It took me many hundreds of miles to find what worked best for me which was keeping my cadence (pedal RPM) over 90 by switching to lower gears.  Sometimes you hit a hill where you simply get into your lowest gear and grind it out.  It is not easy at first but you will build up strength and endurance.  I am fortunate to have a bike with 3 gear rings on the pedals which allows me a much lower gearing than those who only have two gear rings attached to their pedals.  Keep climbing!

mrigney

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Re: Biking and Hills
« Reply #20 on: August 06, 2014, 08:04:06 AM »
Ok...so I'm going to take a look at the gearing tonight when I get home from work. I happen to know a couple of guys who work in bike shops, so they should be able to help me out/give me some advice on mods once I take a look at it. Appreciate all the advice! And I do like the electric assist cheat;-)

somepissedoffman

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Re: Biking and Hills
« Reply #21 on: August 06, 2014, 10:17:34 AM »
I just picture Dory, from Finding Nemo.  That helps.  Replace "swimming" with "spinning".

Just keep spinning, just keep spinning...

frompa

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Re: Biking and Hills
« Reply #22 on: August 07, 2014, 05:41:56 AM »
Mrigney - Ditto, others' comments on gear ratios.  As others have said, the significance of your hill is primarily psychological.  We regularly do hills of similar or higher grade (live in Pa.) and it's just no big deal.  As for dealing with the traffic: While the difference between 6 and 15 mph is significant to you as a cyclist, in all likelihood that difference means next to nothing to the motorists around you.  All they see is you, a cyclist, an impediment for them to get around.  While you must be aware of the motorists, don't let them cow you.  Take the most reasonable position on the road, no matter how fast or slow you are going, and get over the hill -- they will go around you because they don't want blood on their shiny vehicles.