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  1. #1
    Senior Member mrodgers's Avatar
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    What is a lot of climbing?

    I was wondering what you folks consider a lot of climbing during a ride. I live in nothing but hills and I will be riding on the road with this new bike as opposed to riding the flat bike trail along the river on the old junk bike. So far, I've done 2 rides on the 2 nice days we've had this month out on the road and love it. It is so much easier riding up the hills compared to the heavy old worn out Walmart bike. Along with that, I can actually shift it in preparation for getting into the next hill. The old bike was really slow to shift and I would have to stop 90% of the time to lift up the back tire and spin the cranks around to get it to shift down as I lost momentum too fast.

    I think that riding on the roads around me is pretty extreme for climbing. I read all the time people posting climbing numbers and average speed on rides and I wonder about what the climbing actually is. It seems to me that it would be far easier to climb 500 feet over the long run if it was a more consistant low grade climb rather than constant up and down.

    My example is behind my house. I want to ride about an hour or so daily. I have done this on the old bike, but haven't tried it yet on the new bike. I marked out 5 miles on this road on RidewithGPS.com and it tells me for 5 miles, it is 414 feet of climbing. The elevation difference between home and the turnaround point is only 64 feet with home being the higher. If I look at this correctly, it tells me I am going uphill 414 feet and downhill 478 feet. At that point I turn around so I climb up on the way back 478 feet and am going downhill 414 feet. Total climbing is 892 feet climbing for a 10 mile ride, but because it is almost a constant up and down, that is more 892 feet of climbing in half of the ride or 5 miles.

    Is this what you would consider a lot of climbing? Last year on the flat bike trail, I averaged 14-15 mph over 12 miles. When I rode on the roads, I averaged 5 to 6 mph, less than half. One of the problems I have with riding on the road is there really is no break or recovery from the previous climbing because I am back down that same elevation change on the downhill in mere seconds then trudging up the next hill. It was pretty normal for the downhill to be coasting on the brakes at 28 mph at times. The next hill would almost immediately stop the momentum from the 24-28 mph coasting and I would only get about 1/8th or less of the way up the hill before having to pedal again, so the coasting didn't help on the uphills nor did I want it to because there's no exercise gained in just coasting. I certainly couldn't pedal anywhere near 24+ mph on that old bike to get anything out of going down the hills. I could on the new bike, but I don't want to be going that fast anyways, as I said, that was coasting while on the brakes to slow me down. It also would make a lot more gear changes to get to being able to pedal up the hill if I tried to pedal on the downhills.

    I can't figure out with a map what the average grade of my hills are, but it appears to be a lot of 5-6% worth of grades. The constant hills would be approximately up about a quarter mile and back down a quarter mile, so like I said, the decents take just a few seconds and then it takes me 10 or 15 minutes to climb back up the next one.

    I understand that climbing gets easier and better the more you do, but dagnabbit, I sure would like even an 1/8th mile of flat to ride on every now and then rather than constant coasting and climbing. It is real nice to just take off from the garage rather than leave the kids alone (the youngest won't come for a bike ride with me) and travel to the bike trail but the constant up and down I think will just wear me out.

    Sorry, I'm long winded. What do you consider a lot of climbing and would you consider my example a lot of climbing?
    Ride no faster than your Guardian Angel can fly!

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    My normal 28-mile training route has ~900 feet of elevation gain. I consider that pretty flat. The favorite "benchmark" climb in my area gains 1300 feet in elevation over 3.2 miles. When I'm in shape during the season, I'll often do rides that include 2000-3000 feet of elevation gain. I think my longest day was 5200 feet of elevation gain; that was a lot of climbing! The longest climb I've done was around 13 miles at a steady 2-3% grade. A complete lack of shade and record-breaking temps near 100-degrees made that one of the most difficult, too!

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    Quote Originally Posted by mrodgers View Post
    Sorry, I'm long winded. What do you consider a lot of climbing and would you consider my example a lot of climbing?
    I'd say your ride was a lot of climbing for the distance involved. Maybe not a lot total since you went just the 10 miles. I guess I'd consider > 50 feet ascent per mile "moderate", > 75 feet ascent "a lot", when looking at total ride and including any flattish miles getting to and from the hills and between hills. This past Sunday I did 71 miles with 6k+ feet of climbing according to ridewithgps (but strava reports in 5k range, who to believe?). That felt like "a lot", at least for me.

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    Look at the hills as your Friend, they will only make you stronger if done properly. If you can ride them twice a week, with 2 /3 days rest between your ride dates, as hard as you can as many times as you can without a heart attack you will get stronger. Unless you want to drive your car to an area that has more of a challenge I wouldn't sweat it. I would just try to get better where I'm at. Your rest days are just as important as your training days.

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  5. #5
    Senior Member IBOHUNT's Avatar
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    Definition of rides...

    Watch your dog run away for a week flat = < 35'/mile
    Flat = 36 - 50'/mi
    Moundy = 51 - 75'/mi
    Bumpy = 76 - 100'/mi
    Hilly = 101' - 125'/mi
    Climby = 126' - 150'/mi
    Really? >151'/mi

    Last summer when I was allowed to ride my bike (long story) 6 laps around my neighborhood - according to Garmin 500

    Distance: 30.41 mi
    Time: 2:22:43
    Avg Speed: 12.8 mph
    Elevation Gain: 4,764 ft
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  6. #6
    SuperGimp TrojanHorse's Avatar
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    For starters, ridewithgps tends to over state the amount of climbing you do. Second, I disagree - rollers are easier than long, uninterrupted hills because you can hammer up them and relax on the downhill part. If you get on a 9 mile hill, there's no relax in sight. Rollers are like built in intervals, embrace the pain. I also personally feel pretty comfortable on hills up to 6%. 8% is hard and > 10% gets painful.

    You are probably evaluating your 5 mile route correctly and generally speaking, I'd call any route that averages 100 feet of climbing per mile "hilly". Over 50 is a good workout too. When I ride around the block with my son, it's about 8 miles and 800 feet of climbing, although 6 miles of it is pretty moderate, there are 2 good miles of "hill".

    as for average speed, there are SO many different ways to measure that it's almost silly. My preferred way is to use whatever my garmin tells me my average was, which subtracts out all the stop time at lights, stop signs etc. If you are using total distance divided by total time, you'll get a different, lower number. Obviously hills are going to crank that average speed way down - last Saturday a bunch of us road up a real live mountain near here (54 miles, 7800 total feet of climbing... my personal max) and I averaged 9.1 mph or so, and that included stopping every 100 feet (that's what it felt like at least) on the last stretch, which was dang near 15%. Ow. Then Wednesday I did a route with more rolling terrain and only one good hill and averaged 16.1 over 15 miles/800 feet of elevation change. My average speed tops out at about 18.5 on pan flat bike paths with no stop lights or interruptions (and no wind). If I ride on the local trail that's also pan flat but has tons of stop signs and interruptions, my average drops 3+ full mph to about 15. If I'm not feeling good, or I'm tired, or haven't been riding much, speeds drop. I don't obsess about it, and relative to the cycling enthusiast population, I'm fairly slow. Weight is a terrible handicap on hills too... climbing is all about watts per kilogram.

    So here's the good news for you - hills FORCE you to work hard. Lots of cyclists in flat terrain are happy just tooting along and may never really learn how to work hard on a bike. You can't avoid it. Real cycling = hills, so count your lucky stars and enjoy!

  7. #7
    Senior Member IBOHUNT's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by TrojanHorse View Post
    Weight is a terrible handicap on hills too... climbing is all about watts per kilogram.

    So here's the good news for you - hills FORCE you to work hard. Lots of cyclists in flat terrain are happy just tooting along and may never really learn how to work hard on a bike. You can't avoid it. Real cycling = hills, so count your lucky stars and enjoy!
    ^ Summed up perfectly

  8. #8
    Senior Member DoubleTap's Avatar
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    Others have said it. My team classifies anything over 100' per mile a climbing ride. Do lots of them and you'll get faster sooner.

  9. #9
    got the climbing bug jsigone's Avatar
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    @IBOHUNT 's chart is pretty accurate for road riding around here, but can be easily skewed when I do long rides that have climbing front end loaded. Or even more so when I'm on my MTB. Those dirt rides are usually 8-10 miles w/ 13-2000ft of vertical funness.

  10. #10
    Senior Member Black wallnut's Avatar
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    I go with IBOHUNT's description as well. In that most of my rides are not hilly. I ride some hills, climb some mountains, and spend lots of time on false flats of less than 2.5% some of which take a toll. When I want a good hill workout I go climb a mountain which is just about any direction since I live in a valley. Climbing never has gotten easier but I have been getting faster. Yesterday I had a PR on a local climb and bettered my time by nearly 3 minutes, 760 feet in 2.5 miles some of which was >13%. Needless to say today my legs ache.

    I've done some rides with rollers, yeah that is hard as well.


    Mark

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    Quote Originally Posted by mrodgers View Post
    I was wondering what you folks consider a lot of climbing during a ride.
    3500' + (I lived in Boulder, Colorado for 15 years)

    Examples with lots of climbing:

    Short: the Mike Horgan Memorial Hill Climb Magnolia Road route in Boulder, CO. 18 miles, at least 3800 vertical feet including Magnolia Road which goes up 2170 feet over 4.5 miles (9.1% average grade, 17% peak).

    Long: Grand Mesa pass starting from Grand Junction, CO. It only averages 3.2%, but it's up-hill for about 50 miles for a 5700' total gain including a long stretch at 4-6%.

    Example without lots of climbing:

    Flagstaff Mountain in Boulder, CO covering 2142 feet in about 5 miles.
    Last edited by Drew Eckhardt; 03-28-14 at 06:04 PM.

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    The annual La Marmotte ride in the French Alps is a lot of climbing, either riding the valley or up a wall.

    Steepness and elevation has to factor heavily into the determination of whether a ride is "hilly". Lots of little ups and downs doesn't take much out of you but the total elevation gain can look impressive.

    I prefer to take my climbing in one painful dose rather than death by a thousand cuts.

  13. #13
    Senior Member IBOHUNT's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Weatherby View Post
    The annual La Marmotte ride in the French Alps is a lot of climbing, either riding the valley or up a wall.

    Steepness and elevation has to factor heavily into the determination of whether a ride is "hilly". Lots of little ups and downs doesn't take much out of you but the total elevation gain can look impressive.

    I prefer to take my climbing in one painful dose rather than death by a thousand cuts.
    Mountains of Misery Century is for you then. Only 2 climbs
    A Cat 2 60 miles in and then a Cat 1 at the end.

    Mountains of Misery

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    Quote Originally Posted by IBOHUNT View Post
    Mountains of Misery Century is for you then. Only 2 climbs
    A Cat 2 60 miles in and then a Cat 1 at the end.

    Mountains of Misery
    Hillier than Thou is probably a touch more evil.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Weatherby View Post
    Hillier than Thou is probably a touch more evil.
    Glad to see someone is still running that event, not that I have ever done it. Some beautiful riding in central NJ.

    Even eviler is D2R2:

    D2R2

    The 180K route has 15,900', most of which is not paved. I did the 100K a few years ago. 7,900'. It was a trial on my heavy LHT, but it was the only bike I had that was appropriate. If you like a challenge, it's a great event. Beautiful routes that use a lot of old MA and VT unpaved carriage roads. There is a huge feast at the end, complete with a free pint of beer, and you get to keep the glass. For a small fee you can camp at the start the night before and the night after the ride. I went to high school at Deerfield Academy, so it was sort of a homecoming for me.
    "I've wanted you to succeed, but watching you find excuse after excuse after excuse and then laugh it off as the loveable, quirky, chubby guy is getting old."--Ill.Clyde

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    Quote Originally Posted by Black wallnut View Post
    I go with IBOHUNT's description as well. In that most of my rides are not hilly. I ride some hills, climb some mountains, and spend lots of time on false flats of less than 2.5% some of which take a toll. When I want a good hill workout I go climb a mountain which is just about any direction since I live in a valley. Climbing never has gotten easier but I have been getting faster. Yesterday I had a PR on a local climb and bettered my time by nearly 3 minutes, 760 feet in 2.5 miles some of which was >13%. Needless to say today my legs ache.

    I've done some rides with rollers, yeah that is hard as well.
    I've adopted the IBOHUNT model, myself. I find that overall, in a month, I do about 55'/mile of climbing. I don't consider that extreme, but I'm in the foothills of the Rockies.

    I found the flattest ride I could this weekend, and it was 700' or so in 35 miles. Was kinda nice, except the headwind nicely simulated a hill on the way out!!

    If I go east, the numbers add up faster. With the descent, however, it still runs around the same. I can see a bit over 3,000 in a 40 mile ride fairly easily, but most of it is pretty shallow 3-5% grades.

    Once I get about 8-10%, things start to go pear-shaped in one hell of a hurry. I need to practice that more; there's a 'nice' climb that's about 1,000' in 2.5 miles near me that is an absolute killer for me. It's a relatively easy Cat 4 climb to get to the base of it, and then the pain starts.

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    Quote Originally Posted by indyfabz View Post
    Glad to see someone is still running that event, not that I have ever done it. Some beautiful riding in central NJ.

    Even eviler is D2R2:

    D2R2

    The 180K route has 15,900', most of which is not paved. I did the 100K a few years ago. 7,900'. It was a trial on my heavy LHT, but it was the only bike I had that was appropriate. If you like a challenge, it's a great event. Beautiful routes that use a lot of old MA and VT unpaved carriage roads. There is a huge feast at the end, complete with a free pint of beer, and you get to keep the glass. For a small fee you can camp at the start the night before and the night after the ride. I went to high school at Deerfield Academy, so it was sort of a homecoming for me.
    Very impressive.

  18. #18
    Senior Member nkfrench's Avatar
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    Having a mix of climbing (long steady inclines -vs- rollers) both contribute to your fitness.
    The long steady inclines develop your ability to pace, breathe rhythmically, teach smooth pedaling technique and optimal cadence, and build a different type of endurance both in muscles and in cardiovascular system.
    The rollers are interval training. As you become more fit, you will recover faster between the climbs. You will also learn how to carry your speed off the descents and be more comfortable at higher speeds. There is also benefit to riding longer gradual rollers as well as shorter steeper rollers.

    I have been on the bike for almost 6 years and the hills get flatter each year, especially the more I pound them. It is very satisfying to ride a hill and remember how it used to physically crush me, but now is easily crested by just standing on the pedals or shifting down a gear or two. The more you ride a given hill, the smarter you get on that hill as you learn where to shift and how to pace. It's good to vary your route so you have unfamiliar hills to build your ability to handle the unknown.

    * * *
    Anything I can't ride faster than 10mph is hilly. That includes modest grades with crappy pavement and high rolling resistance.
    Also anything I coast down 28mph is hilly, but in a good way.
    Last edited by nkfrench; 03-30-14 at 12:37 PM.

  19. #19
    Senior Member dbikingman's Avatar
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    [QUOTE=IBOHUNT;16620123]Definition of rides...

    Watch your dog run away for a week flat = < 35'/mile
    Flat = 36 - 50'/mi
    Moundy = 51 - 75'/mi
    Bumpy = 76 - 100'/mi
    Hilly = 101' - 125'/mi
    Climby = 126' - 150'/mi
    Really? >151'/mi

    QUOTE]

    What am I missing here? 151'/1mi = 151/5280 feet = 1.6 degree, this can't be considered hilly. I figure 500' rise per mile is 9.4% (5.4 degrees) grade which is getting hilly.

    OP,

    I live in a bottom of a funnel. I have three directions I can go from my house and they are uphill, there isn't a downhill or flat route. I can choose less hilly, but not non-hilly unless I drive somewhere. A couple of years ago I lived in area that had flat terrain and I noticed the hills were more difficult even tough I rode regularly.

    I tell myself that if I had to choose to ride ONLY flat or hilly areas I'd choose hilly, for many of the reasons listed above.
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  20. #20
    Senior Member CommuteCommando's Avatar
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    52.jpg

    This is a pretty extreme example of why MapMyRide and sites like that overstate elevation. They follow a mathematically defined surface that does not often take into account where roads are cut into hillsides to even out the grade.
    As much as you paid for that Beemer [Mercedies, Audi, Escalade], I'm surprised it didn't come equipped with turn signals.

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    Quote Originally Posted by dbikingman View Post
    What am I missing here? 151'/1mi = 151/5280 feet = 1.6 degree, this can't be considered hilly. I figure 500' rise per mile is 9.4% (5.4 degrees) grade which is getting hilly.
    That's what I thought... until I did the math: 30 mile ride * 151 feet/mile = 4,530 feet of elevation gain. For a ride that short, that's quite a bit of climbing!

    For perspective, the Everest Challenge bicycle race is 29,000 feet of climbing spread across 200 miles (and 2 days): 29,000 feet / 200 miles = 145 feet/mile.

  22. #22
    Senior Member dbikingman's Avatar
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    @sstorkel thanks for the perspective.
    WTB SPD pedals style???
    "I've been dropped a lot of times, but it's never been because of my bike." DXchulo

  23. #23
    SuperGimp TrojanHorse's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by dbikingman View Post
    @sstorkel thanks for the perspective.
    a) we talk in %, not degrees (typically)
    b) the ride out usually has a ride back
    c) 100 feet per mile out and back averages out to 200 feet per mile on the way out, which will flat wear you out if it's long enough.

    I did a ride Saturday that included a section that was 3.7 miles or so that averaged out to 10% over the full distance. That really hurt. The ride back down was pretty entertaining though.

  24. #24
    don't try this at home. rm -rf's Avatar
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    [QUOTE=dbikingman;16626712]
    Quote Originally Posted by IBOHUNT View Post
    Definition of rides...

    Watch your dog run away for a week flat = < 35'/mile
    Flat = 36 - 50'/mi
    Moundy = 51 - 75'/mi
    Bumpy = 76 - 100'/mi
    Hilly = 101' - 125'/mi
    Climby = 126' - 150'/mi
    Really? >151'/mi

    QUOTE]

    What am I missing here? 151'/1mi = 151/5280 feet = 1.6 degree, this can't be considered hilly. I figure 500' rise per mile is 9.4% (5.4 degrees) grade which is getting hilly.

    OP,

    I live in a bottom of a funnel. I have three directions I can go from my house and they are uphill, there isn't a downhill or flat route. I can choose less hilly, but not non-hilly unless I drive somewhere. A couple of years ago I lived in area that had flat terrain and I noticed the hills were more difficult even tough I rode regularly.

    I tell myself that if I had to choose to ride ONLY flat or hilly areas I'd choose hilly, for many of the reasons listed above.
    These "x feet per mile" numbers imply riding both up and down the hills, but the downhill part is ignored. So, to do 100 feet per mile, that's like an average 200 feet per mile climb, followed by a descent, with no flats at all. Any included flat sections will mean that the grades are steeper.

    Here's an extreme example: Pilot Mountain State Park, just the climb. The main part of the climb is 960 feet in 2 miles, or 480 feet per mile, average 9.6% grade. Yet the whole recording is 1050 feet in 4.3 miles (round trip), so that's 244 feet per mile for the ride.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Weatherby View Post
    Very impressive.
    Thanks, but not really. It was the slowest ride I ever did--loaded or unloaded. I walked down one of the rockier descents. And both the GF and I fell going up different climbs. It rained before the start so some of the roads were wet in the morning, so the parts with big rocks sticking up were slippery. Not the smartest thing to do while recovering from a fractured collar bone. I gained a great appreciating of people with excellent bike handling skills. People were bombing descents that had deep ruts from runoff, tree roots and rocks larger than railroad ballast on cross and even road bikes. We even saw a tandem flying over such conditions.
    "I've wanted you to succeed, but watching you find excuse after excuse after excuse and then laugh it off as the loveable, quirky, chubby guy is getting old."--Ill.Clyde

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