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Old 06-23-08, 05:22 AM   #1
The Weak Link
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Ethical dilemma

We have in southwest Louisville/Metro/Jefferson County the Jefferson Memorial Forest. It's lovely there: underdeveloped, with abundant wildlife, trees, and hills. Lots of hills. The hills are the steepest to be found in our immediate area.

There are three in particular that I'm interested: Mitchell Hill -- 0.61 mi 258 ft 8.0% which I can do; Barrelton Hill -- 0.51 mi 246 ft 9.2% which I can't. I make it up two thirds the way and my legs are in so much pain and in such severe oxygen debt that I have to take a breather; and Pendleton Hill -- 0.71 mi 368 ft 9.9% which I've yet to try. It's my own personal Hautacam, my goal to ascend to the summit without stroking out.

I rode out there yesterday and clocked the mileage just to get to the starting point: 23 miles! Prior to our energy awareness I never paid that much attention to the distance. Now I note that it cost me $8 in gas for the round trip.

I suppose we cyclists pride ourselves in being more environmentally conscious than the average American. No doubt most of us take pride in getting near infinite miles to the gallon of gas on our bikes, having tiny little carbon footprints, etc.

So it seemed wrong to burn two gallons of gas just so I could practice hill-climbing and enjoy pretty scenery.

What about hills closer to my house? There's Wibble Hill, a perfectly acceptable practice hill about 6 miles from my house: 0.31 mi 143 ft 8.8%. Sure, I could cycle to the top, turn around, coast to the bottom, and do it all over again.

But the difference for me is extended pain. I need to practice an extended climb with extended pain so I can get use to it and become stronger. And going up and down Wibble Hill over and over again would probably suck the sense of adventure and joy? out of the whole endevor (spell?).

Like most ethical issues, this can become very complex. Suffering up hills allows me to do penance for my BF snark and insensitivity, cleanses my soul, and generate good karma. But it wastes gas. I already have a foreign-built car, thus sending valuable jobs overseas. I could purchase a Toyota Pious, but that would only weaken the dollar and aggrevate the trade deficit. And I can't afford one right now anyway. They're way too expensive.

Just get on my bike and ride out to Jefferson Forest? I cannot do that kind of mileage. Mount my bike on the back of a Vespa? And then head down the Gene Snyder Freeway where most traffic is pulling 70? I owe it to my family to be more responsible than that.

The majority of posters here are independent, anti-authoritarian, and progressive (cf --Red vs Blue polll a few weeks ago). I'm none of those things, so I really need someone here to make up my mind and tell me what to do.

Please help.
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Old 06-23-08, 05:38 AM   #2
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Go there with a bicycling friend(s) - 2 or 3 to a car?

I know I have cut way back on my "driving to places to ride" and am, instead, using our close-in trails or riding to the "ride."

This would make for an interesting poll:

"Have you changed your bicycling riding as a result of higher gas prices?" or something like that.

Anyone want to write one?

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Old 06-23-08, 05:45 AM   #3
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Donna and I were just discussing the same thing the other day. We aren't as serious about our cycling as you, but we would like to obtain a certain amt of fitness, but don't want to spend time and money driving to where we want to ride. Luckily(?), between house, the too large of a yard, and the horses, we haven't really had that much time where we could have driven to Otter Creek, or one of the other nicer trail or road riding areas. Guess you're still doing those rides on Weds, so would be hard to carpool. I'd say go for it anyway, I know how involved you've become in cycling and I thinks it's great! So, if you need to challenge those hills, go for it, it's not like you're driving a big, dual wheeled, gas-guzzling oversized truck with one person and a bike!
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Old 06-23-08, 06:29 AM   #4
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If the reason you ride up the longer hills is for increased cycling performance then you have several options. First option is to decrease the car ride out to the original hills by 50%, then use the 10 to 12 mile ride out as a warmup, ride the hill, then return back to the car. I can't tell from your original post if you want to do the hills as repeats or is is your challenge to make it up the hill and still live to remember it. A second option (as you suggested) is to use the hill closer to you home and do repeats on it. That will make you stronger for taking on the longer hills with the same grade. A third option is to ride the local hill and at the top put the bike in a tall gear, concentrate on "pedaling in circles" and keep cranking for another .25 to .50 mile at the same effort needed to keep moving up the hill. The third option will seem to be harder since you can always bail out and keep riding at a slower pace. If you can overcome the mental aspect of the "sprinting over the top" you will get stronger and be prepared for Pendelton Hill.
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Old 06-23-08, 06:46 AM   #5
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For every gallon of gas you may avoid using, there are 50 Chinese or Indians who wont think twice
about using it. You should be thinking of your own personal economics- is it worth it TO YOU to use
that gas?

Keep on climbing.
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Old 06-23-08, 06:47 AM   #6
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Gas is not an issue for me because I work for a car rental company and never have to fill up (go ahead and be envious) but due to time constraints and a three year old I still find myself riding out of the garage on the bike instead of loading up the car. I live right next to a state park that is rather nice ride with rolling hills and no traffic, but even though the scenery is great the same ride can get a bit old. I always find myself thinking about heading out to a different spot, but I usually give in to the easier choice and just head out to the park. I guess it's just something about loading all the gear or maybe the sweaty ride in the car back to the house. I still do a few group rides each week, but sometimes I think that I'm becoming a little lazy.
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Old 06-23-08, 06:57 AM   #7
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Only 23 miles? Ride your bike there.
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Old 06-23-08, 06:59 AM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Allegheny Jet View Post
I can't tell from your original post if you want to do the hills as repeats or is is your challenge to make it up the hill and still live to remember it.
In my case we're talking simple survival.

I very much appreciate your comments. My biggest limitation is/are the hills. Some of it is psychological.

Although the stats on Mitchell Hill and Barrelton Hill are similar, I find Barralton much tougher. Mitchell Hill is a switchback route, so I ride from switchback to switchback until there are no more switchbacks. Barralton Hill is straight up. Anyone else have this problem?
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Old 06-23-08, 07:52 AM   #9
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That same issue (driving to ride) is what led me to the mountain bike because there are plenty of new and interesting places right out my back door. I think you need to move, so the hills you want to conquer are close enough.

Either that or do what suits you (drive and ride where you like is my serious response). And yes, I also have problems with certain hills, which I expect to be severely aggravated by my most recent purchase.
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Old 06-23-08, 08:25 AM   #10
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Only 23 miles? Ride your bike there.
Exactly what I was thinking- especially if there's a good, safe route to follow, why not? That would make a good warm-up and then recovery ride. OP, hill repeats are your friend- I agree that it's nice to train on a more extended hill, but doing Wibble Hill 'till you just can't anymore once a week will definitely improve your stamina so that you can better handle longer hills. Plus, there are lots of things you can do on shorter hills, like spin intervals, hammering, practicing your form, etc., etc. I know it probably sounds boring, but I think hill repeats are incredibly helpful- just once a week will do it.
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Old 06-23-08, 08:40 AM   #11
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46 miles on a bike to hike up giant hills until you're exhausted is a BIG day.

23 miles, I've learned is situational. In Kansas, it's the distance to the nearest grocery store, or anything. I do it at the drop of a hat. In the Twin Cities, it's a LONG journey that one avoids if you can. It all depends on if there are closer options. If the closer hill doesn't cut it, and the cost of a deli sandwich is worth it, then go for it. If you're worried about the ecology, then simply make up the 23 miles by riding your bike more places at home to make up the mileage.
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Old 06-23-08, 08:59 AM   #12
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I say just go for it. You want to save all your energy for the hero hills, so why not drive? Two gallons of fuel burned is not going to change the world. If you want to make up for the 46 miles of driving, just use your bike for shopping and commuting for a while and let the car sit.

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Old 06-23-08, 09:11 AM   #13
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In my case we're talking simple survival.

I very much appreciate your comments. My biggest limitation is/are the hills. Some of it is psychological.


Although the stats on Mitchell Hill and Barrelton Hill are similar, I find Barralton much tougher. Mitchell Hill is a switchback route, so I ride from switchback to switchback until there are no more switchbacks. Barralton Hill is straight up. Anyone else have this problem?
Riding up a 8+ % hill is hard no matter how long the hill is. In order to ride up the longer 8 or 9 % grades you need to be able to put out the necessary amount of power for the time it takes to ride up the hill. Doing hill repeats will make you stronger than the "minimum power needed to ride 9%", allows you to sustain the effort longer, and due to the repeated stress to your system make your pedal stroke more effiecient. Once you are able to conquer the hill, in time, you will begin to keep tabs on how long it takes to get up the hill. The "worst hill" that I do hill repeats on is .6 miles at an average grade of 10%. The first time I did 3 repeats on the hill I felt like throwing up and/or messing my pants after each rep! Now when I do that hill workout it's more a challenge to keep the cadence up and to concentrate on form and efficiency. The mental challenge is to ride it "well" in order to derive a benefit from all the pain and suffering. I still "suffer" every time up.
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Old 06-23-08, 09:22 AM   #14
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Doing hill repeats will make you stronger than the "minimum power needed to ride 9%", allows you to sustain the effort longer, and due to the repeated stress to your system make your pedal stroke more effiecient.
That sounds like what I should do.

One technical issue is to keep from honking (ie - grabbing the bars and pulling up with them in order to exert counter pressure on the pedals). I know you're not supposed to do it, but I sure haven't figured out how not to.

It was a real problem yesterday. My Garmin said the max grade yesterday was 20% (I might believe that) and when it's that steep I pull my front wheel off the ground. It makes me feel like a mountain biker.

Any thoughts?

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Old 06-23-08, 09:42 AM   #15
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20% is hard!!! If you lean back the front wheel comes up and if you lean over the bars the rear wheel slips. Keep in mind that the upper body can only cause you to use more energy to climb. Making everything tense will cause blood and O2 to be diverted from the legs and core muscles to muscles you don't need to climb plus you will not be able to "ride the bike" because you've compromised balance. Pulling on the bars can help to an extent but it should be more of an action to support your core muscles. The muscles used in "pulling up on the pedals" are typically not one's that you've trained and will tire quickly. If you can stay seated, concentrate on "pushing the pedals over the top" and "scrape mud on the bottom". Those two movements will give you additional power and save the quads from doing all the work. What is your gearing? Do you have a triple?
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Old 06-23-08, 09:55 AM   #16
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Only 23 miles? Ride your bike there.
That was my first thought.....and after some ponderment, I still agree.
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Old 06-23-08, 09:58 AM   #17
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First work up a picture in your mind... You're backing your F-350 up and hooking up your 35 footer's trailer. Heading to the lake you stop at the local station and pump in 250 gallons of high test 'cause you know those 525's really won't run right on regular, then it's off for a day of fun on the water. Along the way you pass a guy with a bike hooked to the back of his car heading off a few miles to do some hill climbing....

Your environmental ethic is laudable... Do whatever you think is best.

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Old 06-23-08, 10:37 AM   #18
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>What about hills closer to my house? [snip] ...going up and down Wibble Hill over and over again would probably suck the sense of adventure and joy? out of the whole endevor (spell?).
<

Why not ride up these closer hills? You should be doing this to practice for the more challenging hills you like to climb. If they've become boring to you, try using different gears, use a mt. bike or beach cruiser, ride at a different time of day,

And them come visit Los Angeles, where there are plenty of 20%+ hills, not to mention the Fargo St. hill, with a sustained 33% grade over the course of a 1/10 of a mile.

And of course, if you drive out everyday to your fav hills, those will become borning, too, once you earn the ability to surmount them. By sticking with your practice hills and heading for your special hills on more rare occasions, the latter ones will be more satisfying for you.
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Old 06-23-08, 10:39 AM   #19
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This is a very good question. I don't like burning gas just to satisfy my personal desires. I do it occasionally, but not often, and frequently alter my plans just to conserve. Not because I can't afford the gas, but because I like being part of the community of people who do place serious value on conservation.

My first thought was ... someone wants to drive to a place where they can ride up hills??? That's crazy!

My second echoed an earlier suggestion ... try to find someplace in the middle where you can park. I can understand one's reluctance to ride 46 miles in addition to doing some tough hill reps. To me 46 miles is a long ride. To others, it is not much out of the normal. But if there was a place that was 10 miles from your hills, then that's much more doable and would save nearly half of your gas consumption. Wrapping 20 miles of rides around your hill climbing seems much less onerous than 46.

Two of my favorite starting points are trailheads 6 & 8 miles from my house. I do drive to those points on occasion, but in a car that gets 30+ mpg. I do feel a little guilt about it, but even if I made those trips a dozen times, I'm using less gas than what most SUV's use in 70-80 miles.
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Old 06-23-08, 10:43 AM   #20
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20% is hard!!! If you lean back the front wheel comes up and if you lean over the bars the rear wheel slips. Keep in mind that the upper body can only cause you to use more energy to climb. Making everything tense will cause blood and O2 to be diverted from the legs and core muscles to muscles you don't need to climb plus you will not be able to "ride the bike" because you've compromised balance. Pulling on the bars can help to an extent but it should be more of an action to support your core muscles. The muscles used in "pulling up on the pedals" are typically not one's that you've trained and will tire quickly. If you can stay seated, concentrate on "pushing the pedals over the top" and "scrape mud on the bottom". Those two movements will give you additional power and save the quads from doing all the work. What is your gearing? Do you have a triple?
Great advice that. I'd add "RELAX!" Tensing up on a climb is absolutely the worst thing you can do- you divert a lot of energy to places (your neck, shoulders, upper arms) that do little to assist your climb. A number of climbing websites offer this advice, and I've been using it as I try to work on my climbing technique. I can tell you from personal experience that it really works- it takes a lot of practice, but very, very worthwhile. Of course, the other stuff (Jet's post and maintaining generally good form) is critical as well.

Edit- I'd also add:
1. Don't look up- you'll psych yourself out for sure.
2. Breath rhythmically, paced to some ratio with your pedal cadence.
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Old 06-23-08, 11:29 AM   #21
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I really need someone here to make up my mind and tell me what to do.
That's the one thing that I won't do for you.

Wrestle it around in your mind then do whichever you think is best. Realize that, if you make the wrong decision, God will honor the honest struggle and forgive you.
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Old 06-23-08, 12:10 PM   #22
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Realize that, if you make the wrong decision, God will honor the honest struggle and forgive you.
Either that or strike you down with a bolt of lightning as you crest the summit of Pendleton Hill.
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Old 06-23-08, 12:37 PM   #23
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I'll flip a coin for you.

Oh heck, it came up heads!
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Old 06-23-08, 01:28 PM   #24
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In my case we're talking simple survival.

I very much appreciate your comments. My biggest limitation is/are the hills. Some of it is psychological.

Although the stats on Mitchell Hill and Barrelton Hill are similar, I find Barralton much tougher. Mitchell Hill is a switchback route, so I ride from switchback to switchback until there are no more switchbacks. Barralton Hill is straight up. Anyone else have this problem?
I have a similar problem on one long hill. About 2 miles long and only about 5% with a couple of short 10% bits on it. That long dead straight drag gets through to me. I normally warm up for that one with an 8% 1 miler that has 5 switchbacks. And you are right- It is 5 short climbs and I have forgotten the last one.

But the real joy is not walking up the 16% . Only do that one when I feel in top condition.

I live 6 miles from the hills. I find that the ideal warmup distance for me. So drive out 17 miles and do a 6 mile warm up before the hills.
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Old 06-23-08, 01:35 PM   #25
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The way I look at it, the more you ride, the more you'll be able to ride, and the less you'll need to drive. If driving to those hills motivates you to ride more than just going up and down the ones closer to home, then I'd say go for it. Look at the gas you burn as an investment in the day when you'll be able to leave the car home and ride those 23 miles to the hills and beyond.

Besides, maybe the guilt will encourage you to keep at it. "Sure, I'm tired, but I can't give up now, after driving all the way out here!"
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