Author Topic: Cycling in a small town with lots of hills  (Read 1729 times)

blueberrygirl

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Cycling in a small town with lots of hills
« on: March 29, 2017, 05:06:08 PM »
I'd love to be able to run errands on my bike. Right now, I have a 4-year-old son and my husband is adamantly opposed to him riding with me anywhere outside of our neighborhood (not that I can make it up the hills with him in the baby seat anyway) but he'll be starting preschool in the fall. I'm hoping to do errands, shopping and whatnot while he's in preschool. A couple of problems -- we live about 5 miles outside of the "city" limits (if you can call a town of 3000 a city), so errands would easily be 7-10 miles one way. The biggest issue is the hills. We live in the mountains, so there are lots of hills. My bike is an old, cheap Schwinn from K-Mart that I bought when we lived near the coast. I love it and I'd like to make it work. It has 7 gears, I think. Do I just need to be in better shape to handle the hills or is my bike not up to it? Is a 20 mile hilly commute in 3-1/2 hours even possible? Also, our town is not at all bike friendly. It's very rare to see someone riding one. There's one bike lane on one road. Any tips? Thanks!

Dave1442397

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Re: Cycling in a small town with lots of hills
« Reply #1 on: March 29, 2017, 05:17:05 PM »
Well, fitness is part of it, but I bet that's a heavy bike you have, and that's not helping.

Also, the fact that you have seven gears doesn't mean you have gear ratios that are suitable for steep hills.

For comparison purposes, my bike weighs about 15lbs, and my lowest gear ratio comes with a 34-tooth front chainring and a 28-tooth sprocket in the back. I've climbed almost 10,000 feet on a single ride with that combo.

If you're in good shape, you should be able to maintain a cadence (# of pedal strokes per minute) of about 80rpm when climbing in a low gear. For me, that's the balance point between using too much muscle power (and getting tired) or spinning too fast (and getting out of breath). That can vary depending on your weight, and even just your cycling style. There are plenty of online tips, of course - https://totalwomenscycling.com/road-cycling/technique/use-gears-efficiently-cycling-uphill


AlanStache

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Re: Cycling in a small town with lots of hills
« Reply #2 on: March 29, 2017, 08:08:54 PM »
For general info on riding a bike around cars poke around some established threads or youtube (to search here I use google directly rather than the "search" function here that never works.  site:forum.mrmoneymustache.com bike commute )

As far as hills go replacing some the gears on a bike is not that expensive; it is DIY-able after some learning but probably best to see what a bike shop says.  I would not expect the labor to be much.

Have you tried riding up the hills?

blueberrygirl

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Re: Cycling in a small town with lots of hills
« Reply #3 on: March 29, 2017, 08:33:55 PM »
Thank you, both! I'll check both links. I haven't tried riding the hills alone, mostly because my son is insanely attached to me and we do literally everything together. If I tried to go for a bike ride and leave him home, he'd have a fit. Now that I think about it, he does go off with my husband occasionally, so I'll give it a try next time they're both gone.  I have tried riding them with him in his baby seat (front mounted Yepp Mini) and it was impossible. I could ride down the hills, of course, but ended up pushing the bike back up them.

I'll do some more reading about the gears. I don't know that much about bikes in general (obviously), and on flat land that's never really been an issue.

MayDay

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Re: Cycling in a small town with lots of hills
« Reply #4 on: March 30, 2017, 06:37:31 AM »
We are in a similar situation but just regular hills, not mountains.

I hate riding up and down big hills. It makes biking unpleasant for me.

My goal is to own an electric bike at some point.

AlanStache

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Re: Cycling in a small town with lots of hills
« Reply #5 on: March 30, 2017, 06:45:32 AM »
I should have added that changing the gears will require changing the chain length, this is not hard but requires special tools. 

blueberrygirl

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Re: Cycling in a small town with lots of hills
« Reply #6 on: March 30, 2017, 10:18:23 AM »
Thanks, AlanStache! I've been watching some YouTube tutorials.

MayDay, I've thought about that. I've even drooled over the one at Public Bikes for a while but I'm not sure I can justify the investment.  Right now, riding's a totally new thing. If I start riding enough, I may go that way. Maybe I'll start an electric bike fund and put a quarter in a jar for every mile I ride. Part of me thinks if I ride enough, I'll get good at the hills. The other part of me realizes I live in the south where the heat and humidity are horrible in the summer and an electric bike would make commuting a much more reasonable option.

Malum Prohibitum

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Re: Cycling in a small town with lots of hills
« Reply #7 on: March 30, 2017, 02:24:18 PM »
I live 5 miles from town and with hills (not mountains) and I am completely drenched with sweat at the end of 5 miles no matter what the weather.

Hills are tough.

You need to find out how you can handle them.  You probably need to build up to it, not do your first run for the complete distance to run an errand.

Go ride 5 miles and see whether you need to build up to it.  See if your lowest gear is capable of handling it with your leg strength.  Try it out and let us know how it goes!

hoping2retire35

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Re: Cycling in a small town with lots of hills
« Reply #8 on: March 30, 2017, 02:30:15 PM »
if you are used to towing your kid around then going solo, with just some groceries should easy. If you want to do 10 miles one way you want to get a much higher quality bike. Craigslist ~$100 for a trek. really nice used bikes for $500

bmiles62

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Re: Cycling in a small town with lots of hills
« Reply #9 on: March 31, 2017, 10:57:23 AM »
An ebike would fit you perfectly. I bought this one from RadPower bikes and it has turned my 33 mile round trip commute into something fun and doable. It also is a great grocery getter and kid hauler. In fact my wife rides on the back of the bike when we go to there grocery store. Keep saving those quarters it just may be your best bet. https://www.radpowerbikes.com/