# Touring - Let's do the math, how steep can a touring cyclist climb?

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Barrettscv
02-16-12, 03:51 PM
The good news is that most roads are engineered to a 3% grade.

Climbing steeper hills is always a possibility, even in places like Ohio and Wisconsin.

However, human beings, even exceptional ones, are limited in power output. Most cyclists produce 100 to 150 watts while cycling.

Let’s look at a hypothetical cyclist who weights 175 pounds, rides a 28 pound touring bike, and carries 22 pounds of gear and can produce 200 watts of continuous power. These calculations ignore the aerodynamic drag of panniers.

How fast can this cyclist travel while producing 200 watts?

Flat & windless = 20 mph
3% climb & windless = 10.5 mph
6% climb & windless = 6.5 mph
9% climb & windless = 4.5 mph
12% climb & windless = 3.5 mph
15% climb & windless = 2.75 mph

Thulsadoom
02-16-12, 04:47 PM
Hey, as long as he/she gets over the mountain. Then they get to coast down the other side while singing "Clap for the wolfman".

mtnbud
02-16-12, 04:59 PM
I once bottomed out at 0.5mph (according to my bicycle computer) while climbing a 6% grade and hitting a killer headwind on a hairpin curve. Luckily, the turn continued around enough to get me out of the direct force of it's blast.

Thanks for the calculations Barrettscv. I feel better about my slow speed when climbing loaded. I might even be over that theoretical ave speed on many of my climbs.

Booger1
02-16-12, 05:34 PM
I must be on a 3% climb at all times....:)

Erick L
02-16-12, 06:06 PM
http://www.borealphoto.com/Velo/Charlevoix-LacSt-Jean/DSC1527a/844270243_FPJWy-M.jpg

Barrettscv
02-16-12, 06:42 PM
http://www.borealphoto.com/Velo/Charlevoix-LacSt-Jean/DSC1527a/844270243_FPJWy-M.jpg

That would provide about 40 mph ;-)

fietsbob
02-16-12, 06:45 PM
Made it up a steep hill on the south side if Loch Ness, it was a get off and push hill ,
so that is what I did.

Did not calculate more than feeling my heart-rate top out,
hold the brake , wait, push some more, was on a multi month cyclo-camping trip.

operators of concession trailer at the top, gave me a nice Cuppa.
and a tenting spot that night.
nice View from up there.

Tourist in MSN
02-16-12, 07:04 PM
You got me beat, the steepest I have seen a sign is 14 percent. Part way up this hill, I decided that I did not see any cars so I created some of my own switchbacks back and forth using the full width of the road to get a breather for a short segment.

237639

I calculated 3.0 mph at 15 percent and assumed no aerodynamic drag and no friction, all effort went into elevation gain. (I had already set up a spreadsheet to estimate how long it will take to climb a specific hill that has hour restrictions this summer when I cross the continental divide, thus I only had to plug in the numbers.) Where did you get a formula for aerodynamic drag?

Barrettscv
02-16-12, 07:25 PM
Where did you get a formula for aerodynamic drag?

There isn't much aero drag at these speeds, anyway.

raybo
02-16-12, 10:42 PM
How does this one factor in?

https://lh3.googleusercontent.com/-cve3-OzwLZI/TiDguqzo2RI/AAAAAAAAGR4/VNdiEcxP50A/s800/DSCN2977.JPG

Doug64
02-16-12, 11:51 PM
Barrettscv,

Good job crunching the numbers. How hard would it be to run it with 150 watt output? It would give some of us another point of reference. I think that is more my output, because I'm about .5 to 1 m ph slower on the easier climbs.

The steepest sustained climb that I've knowingly rode up is 12%. Much steeper than that and my "watt meter" blows a fuse.

Not knowing what 200 watts meant to me as a cyclist, I found this article while looking for information. While still finding it hard to figure out my output, I can relate it to the ability I had when I was a Cat 4 rider, and what I hope is a "fit guy" today. Also this is the peak power for 2 hours. Some of the longer climbs on a tour could be quite a bit longer than 2 hours. From our home to the first major pass into the Cascade Mountains is 35 miles, climbing about 4000 feet. A portion of the distance averages 6%. It takes us about 4 hours to cover that distance on loaded bikes.

Category 4 Rider, 182-209 watts, peak power for 2 hours. Fit guy is only 147-170 watts for 2 hours. From:http://www.saris.com/aboutus/PTS/HowDoYouStackUpWithWorkout.pdf

sstorkel
02-17-12, 12:28 AM
Most cyclists produce 100 to 150 watts while cycling.

Sounds like they need to do some more training! I can average 170-180 watts over a 4-5 hour ride and that average includes time spent coasting. My functional threshold power is 240-250 watts and I can easily generate another 100-150 watts just by standing to pedal...

Barrettscv
02-17-12, 07:53 AM
Barrettscv,

Good job crunching the numbers. How hard would it be to run it with 150 watt output? It would give some of us another point of reference. I think that is more my output, because I'm about .5 to 1 m ph slower on the easier climbs.

The steepest sustained climb that I've knowingly rode up is 12%. Much steeper than that and my "watt meter" blows a fuse.

Not knowing what 200 watts meant to me as a cyclist, I found this article while looking for information. While still finding it hard to figure out my output, I can relate it to the ability I had when I was a Cat 4 rider, and what I hope is a "fit guy" today. Also this is the peak power for 2 hours. Some of the longer climbs on a tour could be quite a bit longer than 2 hours. From our home to the first major pass into the Cascade Mountains is 35 miles, climbing about 4000 feet. A portion of the distance averages 6%. It takes us about 4 hours to cover that distance on loaded bikes.

Sounds like they need to do some more training! I can average 170-180 watts over a 4-5 hour ride and that average includes time spent coasting. My functional threshold power is 240-250 watts and I can easily generate another 100-150 watts just by standing to pedal...

Deciding on a practical power level is not easy. Not only does power output vary on an individual basis, the rider’s weight is also a key factor. Climbing ability comes down to power to weight ratio. Secondly, the duration of the power output needs to match the duration of the climb.

My personal numbers, based on supervised Computrainer data after a one hour sustained 180 watt effort is as follows: 600 watts for 2 minutes and 225 watts for 20 minutes. I can also average 200 watts for one hour after a 15 minute warm-up. The issue for me is that at 200 pounds, I'm never going to be a great climber.

Here is the data for a 150 watt power output (rounded to the nearest 0.5 mph);

Flat & windless = 17 mph
3% climb & windless = 8.5 mph
6% climb & windless = 5.0 mph
9% climb & windless = 3.5 mph
12% climb & windless = 2.5 mph
15% climb & windless = 2.0 mph

pdlamb
02-17-12, 10:22 AM
If you leave the flat heartlands, you'll find many mountainous roads are now being engineered with a target grade of 6% or less. Older roads, from the Appalchians and Ozarks to the Sierras (the ones that developed from a game trail, to an Indian path, to a frontier road, to a paved road), often exceed that, often by a wide margin.

I usually found it easier to walk when the grade exceeded 15%. Don't know how slow I was going, as my speedometer decided I'd stopped. :(

DogBoy
02-17-12, 11:04 AM
I have hit 20% grade a/t my garmin, but only with a small bag. Gearing was 26/32 and I was going 3.5 mph. I also weigh in at 230 and have a 30 lb bike.

contango
02-17-12, 11:11 AM
How fast can this cyclist travel while producing 200 watts?

Flat & windless = 20 mph
3% climb & windless = 10.5 mph
6% climb & windless = 6.5 mph
9% climb & windless = 4.5 mph
12% climb & windless = 3.5 mph
15% climb & windless = 2.75 mph

Just out of curiosity, a while back I was on a section of road that I measured as being somewhere between 18-23% incline (it was a tiny little back road so didn't have a handy sign to tell me). I made it to the top although my speed dropped to somewhere between 4-5mph through the steepest parts.

I weigh about 240, riding a bike that I guess is about 25 (specialized tricross sport). Just out of curiosity, what sort of power output would that equate to? I know we're talking a climb that was pretty short, I'm just curious.

jeffpoulin
02-17-12, 12:12 PM
I live in the Alps, and there is a pass nearby which is 18km long and averages over 8% (i.e. elevation gain is about 1500m or 5000 ft over 11 miles). On this climb, there are several sections which average 11% over 1 km. That's about as much as I can do on a loaded touring bike in my lowest gear. There are lots of 20% or steeper climbs around here, but as most are under 1km long, I can do them without getting completely exhausted. The long climbs can be grueling, though.

Dan The Man
02-17-12, 12:19 PM
Assuming that you can balance at 0 mph (track stand), then the only limit would be the slipping angle of the rubber/pavement interface which is about 100% grade or 45 degrees. Actually at that angle, the limiting factor would be your centre of gravity tipping the bicycle over backwards.

fietsbob
02-17-12, 12:46 PM
Run/Rise, like stairs,
You can make your own switch-backs, using the whole road width,
more run for the same rise.

:popcorn

jeffpoulin
02-17-12, 12:59 PM
Run/Rise, like stairs,
You can make your own switch-backs, using the whole road width,
more run for the same rise.

:popcorn

Doesn't work so well if there are cars on the road.

Barrettscv
02-17-12, 01:28 PM
Just out of curiosity, a while back I was on a section of road that I measured as being somewhere between 18-23% incline (it was a tiny little back road so didn't have a handy sign to tell me). I made it to the top although my speed dropped to somewhere between 4-5mph through the steepest parts.

I weigh about 240, riding a bike that I guess is about 25 (specialized tricross sport). Just out of curiosity, what sort of power output would that equate to? I know we're talking a climb that was pretty short, I'm just curious.

513 watts @ 20% & 4.5 mph

contango
02-17-12, 02:35 PM
513 watts @ 20% & 4.5 mph

500+ watts? Wow, I didn't know I could put that kind of power down. If only I could sustain it :)

Bekologist
02-17-12, 02:44 PM
Hey, as long as he/she gets over the mountain. Then they get to coast down the other side while singing "Clap for the wolfman".

Yep, you ride it or you push. There's hills out there.

The pretty roads are often steeper. Has anyone else noticed that?

contango
02-17-12, 03:42 PM
Yep, you ride it or you push. There's hills out there.

The pretty roads are often steeper. Has anyone else noticed that?

I've always found the declines look prettiest to me.

Barrettscv
02-17-12, 05:32 PM
500+ watts? Wow, I didn't know I could put that kind of power down. If only I could sustain it :)

not many can sustain 500 for more than a dozen minutes.

contango
02-17-12, 05:40 PM
not many can sustain 500 for more than a dozen minutes.

Honestly, I'm surprised I could peak at that level at all. One web site I found way back when (I don't even remember what it was now) reckoned it could calculate power over an hour based on weight, speed, distance etc. The best ride I could give it was just under an hour (55 mins or so) and it reckoned I'd averaged 200W for that time.

I've really got no idea whether that's good or bad really... I'm not into racing and probably never will be.

contango
02-17-12, 05:41 PM
It would be interesting to know how fast I'd go if I could put 500W down on the flats with no wind. Again, assuming a 240lb rider and say a 25lb bike.

ETA: Bikecalculator.com reckons 27.28mph riding on the hoods. I'm never quite sure which roads are flat enough to count (i.e. don't have even a gentle gradient) and a zero headwind is hard to judge, but I have got the bike to figures not so far under that. Just not for very long...

Barrettscv
02-17-12, 06:34 PM
It would be interesting to know how fast I'd go if I could put 500W down on the flats with no wind. Again, assuming a 240lb rider and say a 25lb bike.

ETA: Bikecalculator.com reckons 27.28mph riding on the hoods. I'm never quite sure which roads are flat enough to count (i.e. don't have even a gentle gradient) and a zero headwind is hard to judge, but I have got the bike to figures not so far under that. Just not for very long...

a Garmin 500 & Powertap provides this in both real time and in a download file.

JoeyBike
02-17-12, 09:45 PM
I have pedaled over some steep roads in the USA and Canada, but one that stopped me in my tracks was:

Mt. Philo State Park
5425 Mt Philo Rd.
Charlotte, Vermont 05445

Please note: Caution: steep entrance and camp roads - not recommended for trailers.

My first attempt, with a triple in my lowest gear, resulted in my falling over as it felt like my front wheel hit a brick wall. Since I could not get started uphill, and it was too steep to push, I turned downhill to get situated on the bike, swung a U-turn, and picked a slightly different line with more momentum at the steepest part of the road, then "tacked" like a sailboat into a wind. I made it, but it took EVERYTHING I had out of the saddle, pushing down and pulling up on the pedals.

I can not find any data on the grade of that road. Too bad, because that was my limit.

Erick L
02-17-12, 10:01 PM
Please note: Caution: steep entrance and camp roads - not recommended for trailers.

http://www.borealphoto.com/Velo/Saguenay/IMAGE0606/217777238_nBzqw-M.jpg http://www.borealphoto.com/Velo/Saguenay/IMAGE0506/217777149_ZPkTi-M-1.jpg

ljsense
02-17-12, 11:45 PM
How are you calculating your numbers or where are you getting them, Barrettscv? They seem inaccurate to me.

sstorkel
02-18-12, 01:10 AM
How are you calculating your numbers or where are you getting them, Barrettscv? They seem inaccurate to me.

Looks to me like the numbers are based on the Kreuzotter Equations (http://www.kreuzotter.de/english/espeed.htm) or something similar.

contango
02-18-12, 02:54 AM
a Garmin 500 & Powertap provides this in both real time and in a download file.

Interesting... I don't really want to be buying another Garmin but if the powertap is cheap and works with a Montana I might be tempted, just out of curiosity.

Tourist in MSN
02-18-12, 06:03 AM
Sounds like they need to do some more training! I can average 170-180 watts over a 4-5 hour ride and that average includes time spent coasting. My functional threshold power is 240-250 watts and I can easily generate another 100-150 watts just by standing to pedal...

I find 110 to 120 watts (as measured by the stationary bike or the stairmaster at the health club) to be a steady pace I can stay at for hours, over 140 watts is not sustainable very long. But I am retired, not a young racer. A friend of mine has a powertap and he says the health club equipment is not very accurate.

... ... I can not find any data on the grade of that road. Too bad, because that was my limit.

If you can see it on a topo map, you can find two points where the road crosses contour lines to give you elevation change between those two points and measure the distance between them.

contango
02-18-12, 06:40 AM
I can not find any data on the grade of that road. Too bad, because that was my limit.

You might be able to get some useful information from www.bikeroutetoaster.com - create a route between two points a very short distance apart and look at the elevation gain on the profile.

JoeyBike
02-18-12, 11:12 AM
Thanks for the great ideas!
I went to veloroutes.org

here is the exact address to my map: http://veloroutes.org/bikemaps/?route=77006

Here is a screen capture with the grade listed:

http://www.joeybike.com/photos/mt_philo_vt_profile.jpg
I tried at least ten times, and every time I came up with 30%! I wish some of you would double check me, as I don't believe it. Like I said in earlier, I could not push the bike up this road, and no surprise, I always figured if my granny gear could not get the job done I would not be going there. This is why I made the second attempt on the bike, not walking. BTW: 30% is the highest grade the program measures as I also got 30+ as a result several times.

sstorkel
02-18-12, 11:17 AM
Interesting... I don't really want to be buying another Garmin but if the powertap is cheap and works with a Montana I might be tempted, just out of curiosity.

Does the Montana support communication with accessories using the ANT+ wireless protocol?

Probably doesn't matter because PowerTaps aren't cheap. Current MSRP for their entry-level hub is \$899. Lowest price I've ever seen for a complete wheel was \$660, but that was an end-of-year close-out with the previous generation hub so it won't likely be repeated. You might be able to find the previous generation hubs (Comp, Elite+, Pro+, SL+, SLC+) on eBay. The wired "Comp" models are sometimes affordable, but you're stuck using Saris' display unit.

contango
02-18-12, 02:41 PM
Does the Montana support communication with accessories using the ANT+ wireless protocol?

Probably doesn't matter because PowerTaps aren't cheap. Current MSRP for their entry-level hub is \$899. Lowest price I've ever seen for a complete wheel was \$660, but that was an end-of-year close-out with the previous generation hub so it won't likely be repeated. You might be able to find the previous generation hubs (Comp, Elite+, Pro+, SL+, SLC+) on eBay. The wired "Comp" models are sometimes affordable, but you're stuck using Saris' display unit.

It supports ANT+ as far as I can tell, although the only fitness options I've found so far are heart-rate monitors and cadence sensors. Not sure if it would support other devices, it's not something I've ever really looked into.

Truth be told \$900 is far more than I'd be willing to spend to satisfy what is really little more than idle curiosity. Perhaps if the right six numbers roll out of the lottery machine one weekend I'll splurge.

simplygib
02-18-12, 03:19 PM
I tried at least ten times, and every time I came up with 30%! I wish some of you would double check me, as I don't believe it. Like I said in earlier, I could not push the bike up this road, and no surprise, I always figured if my granny gear could not get the job done I would not be going there. This is why I made the second attempt on the bike, not walking. BTW: 30% is the highest grade the program measures as I also got 30+ as a result several times.

I plugged that route into Ridewithgps.com and it said the steepest point along the route was over 39% . Whether it's accurate or not, who knows. It has said some of the stuff I've ridden in Central America was around 36% max, and I never knew whether to believe it or not. There was no question that it was the steepest stuff I'd ever ridden, but 36% didn't really sound possible. Who knows.

I was kind of glad this sign in Panama didn't include actual numbers.

http://i188.photobucket.com/albums/z310/simplygib/Steep.jpg

arctos
02-18-12, 04:33 PM
Silver Canyon East of Bishop, California (4140 ft.) up to the Ancient Bristlecone Pine Reserve(10000 ft) is listed at 33% grade. Something I wish i had known before deciding to take that short cut to the reserve. The route approach was flooded from Spring snow melt runoff which was problematic. The gravel switchbacks rose seemingly vertically above me. My 20/34 granny gear worked for only the first three switchbacks and then this thing really became steep. I could not push my loaded bike up the loose gravel so I had to retreat and take the long way around to the reserve.

While riding in the reserve on the way to White Mtn. (14246 Ft) turnoff one gravel section among the melting snow was listed at 11% for 1/2 mile and I could barely ride it at about 11320K feet elevation. Not enough time at altitude is my only excuse. It sure was fun coming down Silver Canyon on the way out of the reserve days later. Once back in Bishop at a bike shop I learned that the route had been used for early mountain bike races and called the Kamikaze Route. Nice to know a little earlier.

saddlesores
02-20-12, 10:09 AM
narrow jungle road in laos, the sign said 16%.
then it got steep, and then the pavement ended.
no traction, gotta push.

Cyclebum
02-20-12, 10:30 AM
In the real world of run-of-the-mill tourist, the one where I fit, 10% is about the limit for sustainable on a loaded bike. I can manage 16% with frequent rest stops. Easier since I switched to a bent. For a conditioned cyclist, the capacity to move oxygen is often the limiting factor.

Thankfully, encounters with such steep grades of significant length are very infrequent.

Charles Ramsey
02-21-12, 07:33 PM
I have a 22 front and a 39 rear it is good for 4 to 6 kph. I can climb anything with a total load of 300 pounds. There are plenty of 12 percent grades in Tenn. near here http://share.ovi.com/media/currentresident.boring/currentresident.10207 There is a 25 percent grade near Yosemite I think 120 near 395 6 percent grades are good for 42 mph on my rig I tend to ride the brakes on steeper roads.

simplygib
02-21-12, 08:04 PM
There is a 25 percent grade near Yosemite I think 120 near 395 6 percent grades are good for 42 mph on my rig I tend to ride the brakes on steeper roads.

You're probably thinking of Sonora Pass, Hwy 108.

http://i188.photobucket.com/albums/z310/simplygib/SonoraPass1.jpg

napoleoninrags
02-21-12, 10:29 PM
I was kind of glad this sign in Panama didn't include actual numbers.

http://i188.photobucket.com/albums/z310/simplygib/Steep.jpg

Haha.. is that between Changuinola and Almirante or crossing over the Continental Divide on to David from Chiriqui Grande? I am guessing the latter.

irishbill76
02-22-12, 04:03 PM
Not to sound like a dick or anything, but I couldn't care less about what I can or can't climb or power output or anything else really. All I care about is enjoying the ride and watching the scenery :)

djb
02-25-12, 10:00 PM
recently I began playing with a smartphone and MyTracks, which can show gradient etc with a gps ride capture, very neat to be able to see the gradients on a regular ride I go on (15-20% max)
Have been going up it with about 30lbs of stuff on my bike, mtn gearing, and its all very doable.

Burton
02-25-12, 10:53 PM
Not to sound like a dick or anything, but I couldn't care less about what I can or can't climb or power output or anything else really. All I care about is enjoying the ride and watching the scenery :)

I'm of the opinion that some sort of GPS gizmo that displayed the locations of all the Ben and Jerry ice-cream parlors in the area would be kinda handy! :)

djb
02-25-12, 11:44 PM
I'm of the opinion that some sort of GPS gizmo that displayed the locations of all the Ben and Jerry ice-cream parlors in the area would be kinda handy! :)

one over here on Monkland...

contango
02-26-12, 03:51 AM
Not to sound like a dick or anything, but I couldn't care less about what I can or can't climb or power output or anything else really. All I care about is enjoying the ride and watching the scenery :)

Not sounding like a dick at all... some are into detailed analysis of every ride, others are more interested in "just how steep was that hill I couldn't climb?" and others don't care about either.

I like seeing a good view when cycling, although unfortunately a lot of the time the best views are from the highest vantage points.