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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 10-07-10, 12:13 PM   #1
groovestew
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Hilly Commutes

I noticed in the Commuting Survey thread (BTW, great idea, undisputed83...I feel like I know this ragtag community a little better now!) that among those who expressed a preference between the ride in vs. ride home and gave a reason why they had that preference, a number of you mentioned that a hill was what made one direction less favourable than the other.

I actually don't mind the hills on my commute. Edmonton is quite a flat city, but we have a nice deep valley that bisects it, plus a bunch of ravines that radiate from the valley. I don't have to go through the valley, but I choose to. I work really hard on those climbs out of the valley, and I strongly believe that those climbs have made me a much stronger and faster cyclist overall.

Maybe my climbs are smaller than yours, and maybe some of you don't put as much emphasis on the fitness/training aspect of commuting as I do, and that's totally fine. But since I'm myopic and can't imagine anyone having different ideas than me, what is it about hills that you don't like, seeing as they provide such a good opportunity to strengthen your cycling muscles? Anyone else here like hills and/or deliberately choose a hilly commute?
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Old 10-07-10, 01:46 PM   #2
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I'm right in the middle of hilly Surrey, so I don't get much of a choice. Both directions have hills of some sort- I hit the bottom around halfway on my route. Going home is more uphill than down, and gets tiring as I'm reaching home, but it does mean I get exposed to fast downhill runs and uphill slogs every day. I don't mind some hills, and feel it gives a bit of a challenge to the commute, with regard to getting faster.
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Old 10-07-10, 03:59 PM   #3
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Like you Groovestew, I love riding up hills. The only things I don't like about some hills are exhaust fumes from carcissists and road designs that add passing lanes by taking out the shoulders. I think I developed an affinity for hills by spending twenty years in Davis, CA where I had to ride nearly a century to get any hill work in. With nothing but flat land all around anything with some elevation change became something special and cherished.
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Old 10-07-10, 04:08 PM   #4
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Well, I have two routes to choose from - one involves only longer climbs (100 to 350 meters elevation gain) with 6% grades and down hills, there is almost no flat riding the entire way, the other way has some flat stretches and some rollers between three 100 meter climbs. I actually prefer the mixed route. It is not that I don't like climbing but rather that I like some riding on the flats as well. If the entire ride is either 6% climbing or fast downhills it gets a little old. I wouldn't like a completely flat route either.
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Old 10-07-10, 04:25 PM   #5
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i would like to be able to ride up and down hills, but alas, i live in chicago, one of the flattest places on the planet.
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Old 10-07-10, 04:59 PM   #6
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I don't mind the hills now that I'm used to them but grades over 6%, which is common in an area with max grades of 18%-20%, tend to discourage lots of riders. I don't arrive at work or at home without sweating somewhat no matter how slow I go. It's not an easy neighborhood to bike to/from. The highest point in Seattle is just two blocks from my house, 520 above sea level from whence I ride home and there's a couple steep climbs that must be done.

However, I don't prefer the ride in because it's downhill. I prefer it because traffic is less insane.
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Old 10-07-10, 06:24 PM   #7
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My city is built on rolling hills, so we get used to it or walk. I don't mind till situations like when I've been at a friend's house for hours, it's midnight, cold outside, I'm a little stoned, and my stomach is full. Then the big hill to climb in order to reach home seems way too extreme and I might accept a ride home if asked. Generally I don't mind a very challenging ride at all when I have a partner to ride with me.
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Old 10-07-10, 09:03 PM   #8
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There aren't any major hills on my commute, yet it seems that pretty much every single stop sign or light on my route is at the top of a hill. Yeah, they aren't major, but they do make the legs burn a little. And then you have to stop, so you can't spin on the way down and flush that lactic acid, etc. It bites.
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Old 10-07-10, 09:21 PM   #9
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I have about 8 miles of 2-3% grade on the ride to work that gets a bit tiring at 6:00 in the morning. I much prefer the downhill in the afternoon.
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Old 10-07-10, 11:06 PM   #10
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There aren't any major hills on my commute, yet it seems that pretty much every single stop sign or light on my route is at the top of a hill. Yeah, they aren't major, but they do make the legs burn a little. And then you have to stop, so you can't spin on the way down and flush that lactic acid, etc. It bites.
Funny, I'll take a stop at the top over a stop at the bottom every time.

There are no real hills on my commute, but I don't like crossing a freeway onramp while climbing an overpass at 9 or 10mph when the cars are doing 50mph or more. I don't mind the extra work of the overpass, but I worry about someone eating breakfast and checking email on the way to work.
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Old 10-08-10, 12:02 AM   #11
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I actually like having it.
14 mile ride to train station with 4 miles of straight down at 6-8% keeps me being able to get to work in time while not breaking sweat.
14 mile ride to home with that same slope is perfect for good workout.
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Old 10-08-10, 06:56 AM   #12
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My hills are made a little unpleasant by the city planners putting stop lights at the bottom of each incline. So I am always taking the hills from a stop. I also only get one downhill spin, but it is after the steepest incline so I dont mind it much.
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Old 10-08-10, 07:46 AM   #13
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I actually like having it.
14 mile ride to train station with 4 miles of straight down at 6-8% keeps me being able to get to work in time while not breaking sweat.
14 mile ride to home with that same slope is perfect for good workout.
Where do you live? On top of a mountain?
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Old 10-08-10, 07:55 AM   #14
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I'm a new member, but I'd like to give my opinion here. On the ride in to work, I prefer a flatter route (even though it's a bit longer) because I like to arrive not too tired, or sweaty, for work. On the ride home, I push myself a bit and take a shorter, but hillier route because I know a nice warm shower is waiting for me.
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Old 10-08-10, 08:00 AM   #15
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Living at the base of the Rockies at 6,100+ ft, hills are part of the territory. It's not so much the hills, it's the strange weather patterns that come with it. WIND, namely. Watching the weather forecast is a waste of time in this nape of the woods, neck of the wape, and you can count on a headwind when you least need it. The wind is always in your face while climbing either the steepest hill, the longest hill, when you are most tired, or all three.

I ride the hilliest route almost every time (sounds like we think alike), and the shortest route only if I am cutting it close on time.
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Old 10-08-10, 08:37 AM   #16
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Mine is short but hilly in both directions. Since my ride is short, like you I push it as hard as I can on the hills and I've got a nice down hill on the way in right at the end in that's nice to cool down. I've taken to taking a longer route on the way home so I can push the big hill over the river off for a couple of miles so i can get warmed up. It's actually about a 2 miles longer, the hill is longer and steeper and the route more uphill over all but I find it better on my knees if I can get warm first. Pushing a decent climb at less than 1/4 mile in is a killer for me.
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Old 10-08-10, 09:48 AM   #17
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There are no real hills on my commute, but I don't like crossing a freeway onramp while climbing an overpass at 9 or 10mph when the cars are doing 50mph or more. I don't mind the extra work of the overpass, but I worry about someone eating breakfast and checking email on the way to work.
This is my same problem. At first I disliked like hills because of their difficulty, but they have gradually gotten easier since I started commuting. However, there are two in the morning in a row that are killer and I dislike the fact I'm moving so slowly up them while traffic is zooming past me at 55mph and up. I'm much more unsettled on the ride-in while doing the hills and for about 10+ minutes after making it up them. No downhill slope to these climbs in the morning, but going down on them in the afternoon is awesome, my return commute is 10 minutes shorter.
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Old 10-08-10, 10:02 AM   #18
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My Town is a Hill Peninsula, because of the high ground on either side of the river,
It's the largest river in the US without a Delta.
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Old 10-08-10, 10:43 AM   #19
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My commute here on Whidbey Island is about 14 miles and not much of it flat. The only hill I don't care much for is Parker Rd. as you leave Coupeville going South. It is near the end of my ride home after a long day and by then I'm not really looking for a workout. The rest of the ride is amazing and I actually enjoy riding home in the dark. While riding Madrona Ln. the other night it was very quiet and dark and I got to witness a huge, very bright meteor shoot across Penn Cove lighting up the whole sky and reflecting off the water..
What a zen moment.
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Old 10-08-10, 10:54 AM   #20
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I usually enjoy hill climbing. I can't leave my house without going up or down a hill. Also, my commute to school is everything but flat. The only hill that I don't care for too much is the one up to my house. It's the longest and steepest one out of all the ones I climb. It's about 355 ft of climbing. It wouldn't be so bad if it wasn't at the very end of my commute. After about 18 miles and carrying about 15-20 lbs of books, that hill becomes a nice challenge. It always feels great once I'm at the top and I know I have about a mile till I get home. It's definitely fun going down that hill on the way to school.
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Old 10-08-10, 10:55 AM   #21
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Maybe my climbs are smaller than yours, and maybe some of you don't put as much emphasis on the fitness/training aspect of commuting as I do, and that's totally fine. But since I'm myopic and can't imagine anyone having different ideas than me, what is it about hills that you don't like, seeing as they provide such a good opportunity to strengthen your cycling muscles? Anyone else here like hills and/or deliberately choose a hilly commute?
I hate the hills on my morning commute in to work. In the evenings and on weekends, I do hill repeats for fitness and training. I climb hills until I can climb no more, then I head home and take a shower. But I don't have access to a shower at work, and I don't like showing up sweaty. Also, since I can't take my bike inside the building, I use my cross bike to commute, which is a lot heavier than my road bike, which I do the repeats on.

There are up and down hills both ways. I live in a city and could take thousands of different routes, but none of them are close to flat, so I just take the most direct route possible.
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Old 10-08-10, 11:14 AM   #22
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My commute looks like this:



So... uphill, both ways.

I work on the left, live on the right. That low spot in the middle is the Trinity River. I work on one side of it and live on the other, so there's no missing it. That ridge on the right end of the chart (at about 14 miles) runs across southwest Fort Worth, a little east of the river, so it's hard to miss that as well. Depending on the route I take, it is either a long, gradual climb through Overton Park, or a steaper climb up Hooters Hill or the Oakmonster (Oakmont Blvd.) I think the steeper hills are about 10-15% grade at the worst.

I used to work at about the 10 mile mark. Back in those days, the ride in was easy, the ride home was always a bear. Now it has a climb both ways (which was a tough adjustment for me), but I slog through.
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Originally Posted by bragi "However, it's never a good idea to overgeneralize."

Last edited by Doohickie; 10-08-10 at 11:18 AM.
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Old 10-08-10, 11:22 AM   #23
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I don't climb hills for fitness, I climb them out of necessity. I live in the Alps and there isn't much flat area around here. If I want to ride at all, I have to climb. My RT commute has 900 meters (~ 3000 feet) of total climbing and that's considered flat. My weekend rides often top 3000 meters (10,000 ft) of climbing. I don't mind the climbs, though. They break the monotony and afford spectacular views.
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Old 10-08-10, 11:32 AM   #24
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My measly 700 ft. of climbing pales in comparison.
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Originally Posted by bragi "However, it's never a good idea to overgeneralize."
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Old 10-08-10, 11:46 AM   #25
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Wow, commuting in the alps? That sounds like some crazy climbing

I've got a little bit of climbing, out of necessity. My route is uphill both ways

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