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Old 09-13-13, 07:32 PM   #1
jyl
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42 Years Versus 24% Grade

As you may know, stage 20 of the Vuelta a Espana is tomorrow and Chris Horner of Bend, Oregon is holding a three second lead over Vincenzo Nibali.

Horner made history early in the Vuelta as the oldest man to ever win a Grand Tour stage, and later in the race as the oldest man man to ever lead a Grand Tour. If he can hold on to his lead in the next two stages, he will set a new record as the oldest man to ever win a Grand Tour.

"Old" here is almost 42 y/o. Hey, he's fighting a rival (Nibali) who is only 28 y/o. Let's cut Horner some slack and make him an honorary 50+ member!

Now, the thing is, that stage 20 finishes on an infamous climb, the vicious Angliru, which steepens to 24% at the final leg-crushing ramps.

This got me thinking. What would it be like to ride a 24% grade? I have no idea. Have I ever actually climbed a 24% grade on a road bike? I don't think so.

Maybe climbing out of a parking garage or something, but even then, I'm pretty sure modern building standards won't permit a ramp or roadway that steep. I looked up the steepest climbs I've done on the veloroutes site, and was disappointed to find that none were much over 10%, although I kind of question the accuracy of that site when it comes to measuring short bits of road. Here in Portland there are reportedly some climbs of 23% and an annual ride that tries to hit them all (Ronde de PDX) but I'm kind of scared to go on it, as my lowest gear is 39 x 26 (on the road bikes).

So that is my question. Have you ridden a 24% grade? Do you do it regularly? What gear are you in, how fast are you pedaling, are you moving at running or walking speed? Are you a flyweight, or a Clyde?
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Old 09-13-13, 09:13 PM   #2
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I struggled up a steep short climb that had a 20% pitch at the end. It was the hardest climb I've ever done and when I got to the top and got off my bike I collapsed and was lying on the ground gasping for air. I don't know what my heart rate was but I didn't have another tiny bit of effort available. I can't conceive of the physical shape it takes to actually race up an even steeper hill. I'm sure I was below 4mph on that grade. Coulda walked faster.
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Old 09-13-13, 09:20 PM   #3
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My driveway has a 21% grade on the corner. It's not too bad but then it's not very long and I usually don't have a hundred miles in my legs before I ride it. I'm happy for Horner. He's sort of been the black sheep of US racing over the years. I remember when he couldn't beg a ride on an international team even though he was winning most everything domestically. Given the climate of bike racing, I'd be remiss not to question his performance. I sure hope he's clean. I want to think he is but it's hard these days not to wonder. He is leaner than I ever remember seeing him be so that has to help.
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Old 09-13-13, 09:28 PM   #4
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There is a 1 kilometer climb near here that was used in the Tour of California and part of it is 23%. I have climbed it a few times over the years but I really don't like it. One time I had to stop and restart but the other times I have made it without stopping, although one of those climbs was before the race came through and a friend came out of the crowd and pushed me for a bit.
I am 205 pounds and used a 30x25.

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Old 09-14-13, 06:44 AM   #5
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I've ridden a road with that gradient several times. Uhlerstown Hill Road in Bucks County, PA, leads up the hill from the Delaware River. It is opposite from Frenchtown, NJ. There is a covered bridge at the bottom that attracts the unwary, resulting in calls from locals to permanently close the road. An older article may be found here : http://articles.mcall.com/1995-07-25...er-road-danger

I've ridden with a group of about 15 riders when probably 10 of the group fell over on their side trying to get to the top. The only thing worse than trying to ride up, is riding down. It's like heading down a black diamond ski run on your bike. Climbing a road like that is as much a head problem as a bike problem.
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Old 09-14-13, 07:22 AM   #6
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I've climbed Burke mountain before in VT. It is steep. I rode it using a triple crank. There was a little old lady walking up the mountain in a sundress. It seemed like forever before I finally caught up with her. She was smiling a heck of a lot more than I was as well!

Here is a website that lists eastern mountains with the grade. Burke has a 1/4 mile stretch with a 20-25% grade. I've found the eastern mtn roads to be steeper than the paved ones out west. Maybe it's my imagination or maybe they just grade those big long climbs out west better than the older roads in the east:

http://www.northeastcycling.com/Mtn_Climbs.html
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Old 09-14-13, 07:46 AM   #7
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My last commute had a steep hill that peaked at about 20% at the top. In a year and a half of riding it, it never got easy. In the winter there was a strip of ice at the top that would force me to get off the bike.

After reaching the peak, I usually needed to stop and take a short break before continuing.

Riding down the hill was exciting too. It was a suburban street so there were lots of driveways for cars to pop out of, and at the bottom there was a T intersection, with heavy traffic crossing, that street had a stop sign but the cross street didn't, so you had to stop. An night, there was almost no lighting, so it was a challenging hill day and night, up and down.
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Old 09-14-13, 08:11 AM   #8
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I've climbed Burke mountain before in VT. It is steep. I rode it using a triple crank. There was a little old lady walking up the mountain in a sundress. It seemed like forever before I finally caught up with her. She was smiling a heck of a lot more than I was as well!

Here is a website that lists eastern mountains with the grade. Burke has a 1/4 mile stretch with a 20-25% grade. I've found the eastern mtn roads to be steeper than the paved ones out west. Maybe it's my imagination or maybe they just grade those big long climbs out west better than the older roads in the east:

http://www.northeastcycling.com/Mtn_Climbs.html
Living in NJ and NM, I agree with your assessment of roads in the two areas. Climbs out west are rarely greater than 6% - but they can be miles long and start at over a mile in altitude. Here is a link for climbs in NJ and NY compiled by the amazing Ken Roberts. On of the best resources on the internet for cycling. http://www.roberts-1.com/b/u/nj/hill..._for_the_hills
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Old 09-14-13, 08:19 AM   #9
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While working in Ohio last year, I rode a 15 to 20% climb on a regular basis. It not only required more power than I can reliably produce, I also needed a smooth pedal stroke to keep from lifting the front wheel while seated. Climbing that slope was a mental game. A slow and steady 3 mph pace made it possible. A 26t chainring helped, too.

The tour participants have the power to weight ratio to finish these climbs quickly. However, everyone suffers just the same.
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Old 09-14-13, 08:21 AM   #10
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Decker Road (Hwy 23) from Westlake to Mullholland has a stretch that is 22%. I lived at the bottom of that hill and half of my rides started by climbing it. Back then I rode a 42 X 25 as my lowest gear and would have to grunt up it. After probably 100 times up it you knew what to expect and simply got it done.
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Old 09-14-13, 08:47 AM   #11
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“Give me a place to stand and with a lever I will move the whole world.” Archimedes

Corollary: Give me the gearing and I'll climb any grade.

Almost. The lowest gear on mtb is barely fast enough to not fall over.

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Old 09-14-13, 10:07 AM   #12
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Most climbs in this area are comparatively short with nothing longer than a mile. There is one hill in a nearby town that looks extraordinarily steep if not too long, maybe 1/4 mile or so. I have ridden up several times and down once. On the down ride, I checked the brakes at the bottom and the rim was hot. Out of curiosity, I made a protractor device that measures % slope and is used with a pocket carpenters level. I would have guessed the slope to be 18% but it measured a mere 11% to 12%. I can't imagine the power needed to race up 20% or more. Those guys in the pro tours are animals.
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Old 09-14-13, 10:45 AM   #13
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In San Francisco and around the bay one can find plenty of 20% or more streets and roads.

I do go up for a half mile on a street that is well over 20% and it is tough particularly when it is the very beginning of a mountain bike ride using a 22/36!

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Old 09-14-13, 12:36 PM   #14
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Decker Road (Hwy 23) from Westlake to Mullholland has a stretch that is 22%. I lived at the bottom of that hill and half of my rides started by climbing it. Back then I rode a 42 X 25 as my lowest gear and would have to grunt up it. After probably 100 times up it you knew what to expect and simply got it done.
Been there ... done that (or suffered through it, anyway).
Normally Los Angeles tries to restrict public roads to a 16% maximum grade -- my friends had to get a variance for the 19% section of their driveway.
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Old 09-14-13, 12:39 PM   #15
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“Give me a place to stand and with a lever I will move the whole world.” Archimedes

Corollary: Give me the gearing and I'll climb any grade.

Almost. The lowest gear on mtb is barely fast enough to not fall over.
Check out some of the assaults on Fargo Street in Los Angeles (33% grade).
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Jer7KsZQApo
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zHBdItqLA5E
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Old 09-14-13, 01:40 PM   #16
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Unbelievably epic last mountain stage on the Angliru today. No spoilers. Go watch.
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Old 09-14-13, 02:01 PM   #17
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^^^
Yeah, this was the best grand tour of the year, hands down.
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Old 09-14-13, 09:46 PM   #18
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Check out some of the assaults on Fargo Street in Los Angeles (33% grade).
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Jer7KsZQApo
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zHBdItqLA5E
I'm thinking my lungs would burst attempting that these days... I remember as a youth having to make switchbacks going up Ticonderoga, no granny gearing on the UO8! That one, Bachman and the private road behind work are around 20% in spots, the inside road up Torrey Pines is a good lung buster as well, none of them 33% though!
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Old 09-15-13, 12:13 AM   #19
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I was climbing a hill on a new route home that steepened at the end to what I'd guess was about 25% for the last 50 yards. Couldn't get the pedals to turn over, got my left foot out, but fell over to the right. Broke my hip and had it replaced the next day. I had replaced the left hip as planned the previous spring, and the right hip was going, so this was just a scheduling problem! But next time, I'm walking before the hill gets that steep.
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Old 09-15-13, 09:30 AM   #20
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My kind of road:

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Old 09-15-13, 03:51 PM   #21
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I have a ride with three 8% grades. Does this count?
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Old 09-15-13, 04:02 PM   #22
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Our local LBS owner got Horner to come and do a talk in our area several years ago.

I've done 21% but no 24%. 8% feels like 16% after days of riding.
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Old 09-15-13, 04:18 PM   #23
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Lincoln gap here in VT is the toughest mile in America. Sections of 30%. Did it last year, over & back, at age 41, in the rain, with a 39x23 on a steel bike. F'n brutal. Did it though. Did eldred in highland park CA a couple years ago on a couple different bikes with the same gearing. It's short but, 33%(this is the steepest road in LA, Fargo is longer, not quite as steep). Out of a group of about 10 of us, 3 made it to the top.
We lived near eldred & had a couple other hills by the house that topped 20%. You need to go at things like this with conservation in mind. I was, still am, really into climbing. I'm not in great shape now but we have a 1200', 3.5 mile drop from our doorstep. So, I don't have a choice either way! Ha! But, I tried to climb just about anything I could find in the Los Angeles area, when we were there. Some great, tough, climbs around those parts!

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Old 09-15-13, 04:41 PM   #24
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Lincoln gap here in VT is the toughest mile in America. Sections of 30%. Did it last year, over & back, at age 41, in the rain, with a 39x23 on a steel bike. F'n brutal. Did it though. Did eldred in highland park CA a couple years ago on a couple different bikes with the same gearing. It's short but, 33%(this is the steepest road in LA, Fargo is longer, not quite as steep). Out of a group of about 10 of us, 3 made it to the top.
We lived near eldred & had a couple other hills by the house that topped 20%. You need to go at things like this with conservation in mind. I was, still am, really into climbing. I'm not in great shape now but we have a 1200', 3.5 mile drop from our doorstep. So, I don't have a choice either way! Ha! But, I tried to climb just about anything I could find in the Los Angeles area, when we were there. Some great, tough, climbs around those parts!

Don't care if you did it on a tricycle made out of Osmium. You were only 41.

You are now 42. We expect kids who are only 42 to win the Vuelta a Espana. Did you win the Vuelta today?

Come back when you are either a) 50 yrs. old, or, b) have just won the Vuelta. Preferably both. And take your profanity with you. Preferably to Spain.
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Old 09-15-13, 04:52 PM   #25
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Don't care if you did it on a tricycle made out of Osmium. You were only 41.

You are now 42. We expect kids who are only 42 to win the Vuelta a Espana. Did you win the Vuelta today?

Come back when you are either a) 50 yrs. old, or, b) have just won the Vuelta. Preferably both. And take your profanity with you. Preferably to Spain.
Tail between legs... Will Get to work, straight away !
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