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Commuting Bicycle commuting is easier than you think, before you know it, you'll be hooked. Learn the tips, hints, equipment, safety requirements for safely riding your bike to work.

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Old 06-18-06, 12:24 PM   #1
bbuddha
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Killer Hill

I’ve been commuting by bike for about two months now. It’s a rather short commute--about six miles one way-- but it has one really nasty hill. It’s a 3/4 mile ten percent grade with the uphill portion on my way home.

Lately, this hill has become mentally and physically punishing. I think it has actually gotten harder than when I first started commuting and wasn’t in very good shape. By the time I reach the top I have sweat pouring down my face, legs are burning, and I’m breathing pretty hard. And this is when the weather has been unseasonably cool. I think heat stroke would be a very real possibility if the temps get into the 90’s or 100’s as they usually do this time of year.

I don’t mind a challenge, but this hill is starting to suck all the joy out of my ride. I’m considering splitting my commute into a biking portion on the relatively flat area and then just driving for the killer hill.

Anyone else have a comparable hill and what do you do in the hot summer months?
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Old 06-18-06, 12:49 PM   #2
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-Lengthen your commute and find a longer but shallower climb to your destination.
-put a mtn bike cassette on your rear wheel. (you dont mention what type of bike your using)
-minimilize your bike, become a weight weenie, so your powering less weight up the hill.
-with enough time you'll have the power to clmib it with easier work

And lastly, at only 3/4 of a mile its not really a hill
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Old 06-18-06, 01:22 PM   #3
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Just keep working at it. You WILL get better at climbing that hill. Psyche yourself up a bit. Instead of looking at the hill and thinking that it's going to kick your ass, look at the hill and think, "I'm going to kick YOUR ass!" True, the hill will probaly still kick your ass for a while, but eventually you will conquer it. Have faith in yourself!
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Old 06-18-06, 01:32 PM   #4
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Use clipless or clips & straps and pull back and up on the stroke to help make the hill easier to climb. And you're probably getting faster up the hill and hitting it harder than you did when you first started just so you can get up it quicker and get it out of the way.
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Old 06-18-06, 01:48 PM   #5
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If I'm not attacking a hill, then I don't even think of them as hills, I think of them as extra distance. gear down to a nice easy spin, accept whatever speed that gives and think nice thoughts until you reach the top.
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Old 06-18-06, 01:55 PM   #6
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Ride more slowly.
Use a lower gear and spin more.
Learn to savor the feeling of accomplishment from your daily conquest of The Hill.

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Old 06-18-06, 02:04 PM   #7
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How 'bout food and water?
Are you eating enough fuel during the day and staying hydrated on the ride home?
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Old 06-18-06, 02:14 PM   #8
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I think a lot of the challenge in hills is mental, I have a 20 mile round-trip commute every day and ended up changing my route to incorporate a 1 mile 15% grade climb just for the challenge of it. It usually leaves my legs burning a bit, but its worth it. Try breaking the hill down into smaller pieces, go as far as you can then walk it up. After a while you'll barely notice it any more.
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Old 06-18-06, 04:00 PM   #9
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I have a couple of miles of climbing near the end of my commute, although not 10% grade. Change your gearing if needed to be able to spin in a low gear. Might be slow but it gets you there.
Maybe fill your bottle with ice water just before the hill and stop for a drink and snack half way up if you need a brake during the climb.
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Old 06-18-06, 04:09 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by bbuddha
Anyone else have a comparable hill and what do you do in the hot summer months?
Bbuddha,

I know exactly what you mean. I live at the top of about the same kind of hill, literally you crest the top and hang left into my somewhat steep driveway. It's a good barometer for how I feel on any given day. There are days I dread it, and some when I'm 3/4 of the way up and realize I'm in a taller gear than normal, and pop right over it.
I find the days that I dread it, the only thing on my mind is how much my hill sux. And the days I'm up and over it without notice my head was elsewhere during the climb. You know you can climb it, so I guess my best advice is to find a comfortable gear, and play the mental game. Get you thoughts on something else, grit your teeth, and spin.

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Old 06-18-06, 06:44 PM   #11
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Stop and get off the bike 3 minutes away from the hill. Stretch and flex your back and shoulders. Drink some water and walk a few yards. Then get back on the bike, you will find all your muscles refreshed and ready for the hill. This wont make your commute any faster, but the hill will not be a pain.
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Old 06-18-06, 06:45 PM   #12
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Use a lower gear. If you don't have one, change a chainring or cassette to get a lower gear.

Carry a water bottle. Stop half way up the hill and have a drink. Wait until you aren't winded anymore to start again. You aren't in a hurry to get up this hill.
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Old 06-18-06, 07:43 PM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by dietrologia
It's not easy, but it's become easier over the months. Just stick with it.
That's the end of the story, really. In about 6 weeks he'll be acing this hill.
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Old 06-18-06, 08:48 PM   #14
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(1) Everything everyone else has said

(2) Make sure your bike is in good working order - chain clean, tires pumped up, wheel axles not too tight, etc. etc.

(3) Make sure you get enough rest between rides.
You need recovery time as well as exercise. I found my rides getting progressively harder through the week, but if I took 2 days off I would return stronger. I now ride hard on the weekends, moderate during the week and take Friday and sometimes 1 other day off during the week.

If everything should be right but isn't, think about whether either the bike or the body needs a checkup.
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Old 06-18-06, 09:28 PM   #15
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My commuter has a 34-34 for low. I need that 1 to 1 ratio to get up the 7%, 1700 foot long hill. It rises about 320 feet. I probably spin that around 80-90 rpm. I suggest geting a heart rate monitor so that you dont blow yourself up when all you have to do is relax, and slow up a bit. I find that going up long hills at night seems easier because, I think, you cant see the top of the hill and so you just find your pace and keep rolling.
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Old 06-19-06, 03:00 AM   #16
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Two months seems about right for your muscles to be in that awkward state - Not sure of the right terms for it but basically the idea is that your old existing muscle mass from when you started is trashed and the new muscle mass you've been building is not fully developed. You are probably weaker now than when started commuting. A little rest for your muscles may be the best thing you can do.

I'll be in a minority here or perhaps even an island - but I say drive the hill for the next couple of weeks then hop back on. You still want to do some excercise but you need to lighten up for a bit for muscle recovery.
If you continue to do the hill, spin in your lowest gear.

FWIW
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Old 06-19-06, 09:21 AM   #17
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bbuddha stick with it. If you're not already, try climbing out of the saddle. Some times standing on the pedals can give you a little bit of a break, when you find yourself slowing, a short burst restoring your momentum can really help.
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Old 06-19-06, 09:49 AM   #18
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Just take it easy. Don't put more effort than riding fast on flats. No one cares if you crawl up that hill. Ditch the speedometer.
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Old 06-19-06, 10:25 AM   #19
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jarery
And lastly, at only 3/4 of a mile its not really a hill
At a 10% grade it is.

while you seem to be getting some good advice here about gearing down, perhaps even setting up your bike differently the thing I think you are facing right now is a psychological issue.

You've psyched yourself into seeing this hill as a negative experience on your commute and that's why even if you climb it faster it is still feeling like a downer. I have a little cottage in the mountains that sits at 2000' elevation and requires a 700' climb in a mile (about a 12% grade) at the end of every bike ride. I can feel myself thinking about the hill as I'm finishing a long ride and turn it into a positive challenge. Try some visualization techniques. Don't dismiss the power of the imagination. Picture yourself climbing some Col in the tour de France. Imagine the strength it's building in your lungs, your heart, your legs, your stamina- and believe me that kind of intense climbing is a strength builder. If you can make it up that at an average of 5-6 mph you are doing real well so be content with your slow speed. Often with physical exercise it is the exercise that challenges us the most that we most benefit from. Stick to it. Ride that thing and take pride in the challenge.
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Old 06-19-06, 12:10 PM   #20
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I think absurd thoughts to clear my head of negativity when I'm learning to conquer new things.

When I had to fight a nasty climb in my first days of commuting, I thought of something I said to my friend. She was extraordinarily proud of her amazingly perky breasts, and I once told her that they were a science-fiction fan's dream -- anti-gravity devices. With that in my mind, I'd call upon the power of her breasts to take me up that darned climb. Laughter helped me get some energy and stop stressing out about it.

There's a really foul construction site which I have to battle each day I go to and from work, either that or fight inattentive traffic. I visualize it as if Steve Irwin were leading me through a sort of construction safari.

Breaking the monotony helps me conquer the crap. My two cents.
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Old 06-19-06, 12:56 PM   #21
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The important thing to remember when climbing hills is that speed has nothing to do with it... effort is what is important. By that I mean you want to maintain an even amount of power and stress in your legs and on the pedals. As you approach the hill shift down once automatically whether you think you need to or not. As you are on the hill you need to make sure you are putting the same amount of force and effort to the pedals that you would if you were on the flats. As soon as it feels like you are going over the amount of effort it would take to maintain a constant cruising speed on level ground or if your legs/lungs/body begin to burn in any way shift down immediately and keep going until those unpleasant symptoms return or it feels as if it is taking more effort or pedal force to maintain climbing the hill, at which point shift down again. Continue putting out the same amount of effort and shifting down until you reach the top of the hill where you may rest or continue riding, as you feel necessary. It is very important that you listen to your body, it will tell you if you are putting out too much power by burning muscles/lungs, racing heartbeat, feelings of fatigue, or a complete dropping off of your energy level. The second you begin to feel the slightest hint of any of these symptoms is when you shift down, not before and not after.

Also try not to rise up and stand on the pedals, remain seated on the saddle of the bike for as long as you can. Standing on the pedals allows for greater short burst acceleration at the cost of killing your endurance. The reason for this is simple, when seated the legs only have to worry about applying force to the pedals, when standing however they also must contend with supporting the weight of the body and doing so obviously takes more out of your legs than if you were to allow the saddle and your ass to take care of that end of things.

Trust me on this, using these techniques have allowed me to climb mild hills continuously for a mile at a time when I am under strict orders from my doctors to avoid hills and inclines of any kind and by all reason should not be able to even ride a bicycle under any circumstances (let alone with the growing proficiency that I do).

If you want to know more about my situation read my intro topic. Until then good luck and keep it shiny side up.

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Old 06-19-06, 12:57 PM   #22
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On climbs I just realize how much I appreciate the opportunity to get the exercise as most people (including myself) are so consumed with the stresses of everyday life (work, family, bills etc...) that we neglect our health with lack of exercise. My commute to work is mostly downhill with one climb. On my return it is mostly uphill the whole way. I use the hills as a stress reliever not a stress inducer by thinking about the benefit that the hill is giving me. I cant begin to tell you how riding has made me look and feel. When it gets really tough I imagine myself on some climb in one of the races I saw on the last OLN Cyclism Sunday. To tell the truth, if you are lucky enough to get in a good climb everyday, its the best exercise, going and the ride down the otherside is the payoff.
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Old 06-19-06, 01:00 PM   #23
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Quote:
Originally Posted by SingingSabre
I think absurd thoughts to clear my head of negativity when I'm learning to conquer new things.

When I had to fight a nasty climb in my first days of commuting, I thought of something I said to my friend. She was extraordinarily proud of her amazingly perky breasts, and I once told her that they were a science-fiction fan's dream -- anti-gravity devices. With that in my mind, I'd call upon the power of her breasts to take me up that darned climb. Laughter helped me get some energy and stop stressing out about it.

There's a really foul construction site which I have to battle each day I go to and from work, either that or fight inattentive traffic. I visualize it as if Steve Irwin were leading me through a sort of construction safari.

Breaking the monotony helps me conquer the crap. My two cents.
Yeah, breast do have certain magical properties.
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Old 06-19-06, 01:10 PM   #24
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1+ to those who look forward to "their" hills. I'm not exactly sure how long or steep "my" hill is, but when I first started commuting it seemed both long and steep. Gradually it got easier and easier. Now, I look forward to riding it every day. Some days, I take an easy climb, but most days I look forward to trying to fly up it.

Take your time. Feel good and congratulate yourself every time you get to the top. It will get easier, but it is not easy. That's why it's there.
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Old 06-19-06, 01:26 PM   #25
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If it's harder than it used to be, then it's almost certain you're attacking it and going up it faster than you used to. Gear down and spin up it.
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