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  1. #1
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    Newb seeking advice for moving from light city cycling to more fitness cycling

    Hi everyone,

    I've been doing light city cycling for 2 years now on my Brodie Section 7 http://www.brodiebikes.com/2010/bikes/section_7.php. I live car-free so I take public transit when I need to get between cities, and ride my bike for running errands/meeting friends within this city.

    I've been pretty content with the maintenance-free nature of the bike and it suits my needs perfectly for a really light weekly biking average of 14 km per week.

    I've been trying to undertake some recreational cycling on weekends with a friend in some parks in North Vancouver (Canada) which consist of either light trails or paved roads, but hills destroy me. I can't really practice on hills during weekdays because my city is completely flat, or I'll have to travel to a different city after the work day and practice at night.

    I'm seeking advice on how to transition to using cycling for fitness:
    (1) How often does one need to cycle to see any visible improvements in fitness?
    (2) I know I need to practice first before I can deal with more varied terrain, but is my bike also a factor? I'm 110 pounds, 5'4 and female, which I guess makes my bike of 27 pounds + rack + fenders a bit of a tank. Should I look into a second bike?
    (3) Got any other general tips for making the transition?

    It's hard to say what my fitness level is. Due to living car-free, I walk a lot on a daily basis, and I hike probably 15 km a week for day trips. I think that covers everything. Thanks, your feedback is appreciated!

  2. #2
    Galveston County Texas 10 Wheels's Avatar
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    You need a bike with gears. Like this one and your good to go...


    http://www.brodiebikes.com/2010/bikes/quantum.php
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  3. #3
    Senior Member BlazingPedals's Avatar
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    Riding hard on flat ground is the same as riding hard on a hill. You just go faster on flat ground. Loafing on flat ground is NOT like loafing up a hill, because you can't loaf going up a hill. There's a lesson buried in there somewhere.

    I'd say your bike is one of the problems. It's a short-haul commuter. The 7-speed hub probably doesn't have enough range to do serious hills, it's less efficient than a standard derailleur drivetrain, the bike is heavy, and the upright riding position won't be good for speed or climbing.

  4. #4
    Que CERA, CERA jefferee's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by 10 Wheels View Post
    You need a bike with gears. Like this one and your good to go...


    http://www.brodiebikes.com/2010/bikes/quantum.php
    The OP's bike *has* gears--7 speed IGH.

    And now, responding to the OP:

    I don't think the bike is the primary problem here, assuming you are comfortable with the gearing. You're not going to reduce total mass (bike plus rider) by more than a few per cent--probably not worth a new bike unless you're racing to the top of the hill.

    Over a couple of months, you should definitely see some progress on those hills.

    As far as easing the transition--sounds to me like you've got a lot of endurance training (moderate intensity over long periods) and less training at high intensity. Try working some high-intensity intervals into your daily riding--where safe, push up the pace for a minute or two, then resume normal cruising speed.
    Quote Originally Posted by MajorMantra View Post
    Cycling (taken to the typical roadie extreme) causes you to cough up your own soul as every fibre of your worthless being sings in choral agony. Once you embrace the pain everything is dandy.

  5. #5
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    Thanks for the replies, everyone.

    Quote Originally Posted by jefferee View Post
    As far as easing the transition--sounds to me like you've got a lot of endurance training (moderate intensity over long periods) and less training at high intensity. Try working some high-intensity intervals into your daily riding--where safe, push up the pace for a minute or two, then resume normal cruising speed.
    Will high intensity training over flat ground help with hills? I'm just wondering if I need to intentionally look around for hills during weekdays because I am living in the middle of 130 square km of completely flat land surrounded by water. If I wanted to deal with hills on weekdays, I'll be needing to take the bike on light rail transit to get to a different city, and will be doing cycling at night.

    I am willing to entertain the idea of purchasing a second bike if it would allow me to pursue more fitness/recreational cycling. In the areas where I've tried to cycle recreationally over the weekends, I seem to be the only one with a commuter. Most people have mountain bikes, as the area has a lot of mountain biking trails. That being said, I'm not looking to do mountain biking right now, I just want to deal with North Vancouver hills on paved roads.

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    The key is the "really light 14km/week". The first thing is to get more miles in. Can you take a longer ride round to wherever you usually go? Altho' there is a certain amount of technique to efficient hill-climbing, the most important factor is aerobic fitness, so my own view is that you should ride more often and further at weekends.

    I'd say that getting your weekly mileage up to about 60/70k per week should be the first order of priority, followed by, as others have said, building in some more intensive efforts, either going slightly uncomfortably fast in the same gear or changing up to a higher one for short periods (minute or so at first, gradually increasing their number and/or length).

    You'll find that your endurance will build up fairly quickly at first and in a couple of months, even on your existing bike, the hills which seem impossible now will cease to be threatening.

    Welcome to the addiction
    Last edited by atbman; 02-01-11 at 03:24 PM.

  7. #7
    Life is good RonH's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Frida View Post
    I've been pretty content with the maintenance-free nature of the bike and it suits my needs perfectly for a really light weekly biking average of 14 km per week.
    My typical ride is 35 miles (56 km). I do this several times a week.
    14 km per week translates to 2 km per day. Ride more miles each day (at least 10-15 km) to build up your cycling muscles. Once you get your legs and breathing built up it will be easier to tackle small hills. Big hills require a bike with more gears.
    Good luck with the "training".
    My bikes --> 2001 Litespeed Tuscany---2013 Cannondale CAAD 10 2 (5) "Racing Edition"

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  8. #8
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    Riding more each day. Sound advice. Thanks!

  9. #9
    Humvee of bikes =Worksman Nightshade's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by jefferee View Post
    The OP's bike *has* gears--7 speed IGH.

    And now, responding to the OP:

    I don't think the bike is the primary problem here, assuming you are comfortable with the gearing. You're not going to reduce total mass (bike plus rider) by more than a few per cent--probably not worth a new bike unless you're racing to the top of the hill.

    Over a couple of months, you should definitely see some progress on those hills.

    As far as easing the transition--sounds to me like you've got a lot of endurance training (moderate intensity over long periods) and less training at high intensity. Try working some high-intensity intervals into your daily riding--where safe, push up the pace for a minute or two, then resume normal cruising speed.
    Yep, as this post details YOU will get better as YOU GET STRONGER! You don't need another new bike to do that now. YOU just need to develop more muscle mass from working what you have as hard as you can!

    Believe it!!!!!!

    How to build muscle mass in general with a bike......
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  10. #10
    Time for a change. stapfam's Avatar
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    Hills are a problem. They are not there to wear you out- they are there for you to conquer.

    Only one way to hit a hill and that is at your pace. Depends how steep and how long but most people attack hills too hard and too soon. Start the hill at a sensible pace and lower your cadence a bit. Then as things get hard- change down a gear- Harder still and change down again----Harder still and no gears left- SLOW DOWN. Speed up a hill is not that important untill you have the leg and Lung strength. When that comes you can attack them harder and for longer.

    Where I live we have plenty of short sharp hills. Max height gain is 800ft with around 12 to 15% at some point on the rise. Last time I walked one of them was 2 years after I started riding in 1992. It took me that long to get the strength in myself to ride all the way up them. Admittedly that is offroad where things are a bit tougher but Hills need experience. I actually have a road that I try to avoid on the rides. 750ft climb over 2 miles s and is only a gentle slope except for a couple of short bits at 10% I look forward to the 10% bits where I have to work. The rest is just tiring and boring.

    Only way to get used to hills is to keep doing them. Don't know how steep the hills are but gearing does make a difference on the long or steep ones. So summon up the courage- find a hill that is within your capabilities and do it- then do it again and again and again.

    And hills never get easier- they just take less time to ride.

    attachment of the hills I ride and you can see how easy I take them.

    DSC00079.jpg Downsview.JPG
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  11. #11
    Loves to suffer freighttraininguphill's Avatar
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    I live in a pretty flat area too, unfortunately. But I have found a way around that problem, since I like to climb.

    I ride my heavy adult trike up bridges, overpasses, and the few block-long short hills there are in my immediate area. Once a week I ride my hybrid the 30-40 miles round trip to an area with longer, steeper hills. On weekends I put my road bike in the back of my truck and drive the 25 miles to a suitably hilly area and do my real fun climbing rides. Those areas are so hilly I never climb less than 2,000 feet during a ride. Usually it's 3,000 feet of climbing or more. For those who are car-free, our light rail system ends in a hilly area, so that is another option.

    This has kept me from losing fitness in the winter like I used to years ago. Unfortunately I didn't climb for 15 years and as a result gained a ton of weight. I never quit riding. I started climbing again last year and have lost over half of that. I have 40 more pounds to go.

  12. #12
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    Fitness bikes have become a category,, straight bar bikes with a version of Mountain bike controls ,
    but use racy 700c wheels with a perhaps bit wider than 23 tires. like 28~32.

    Georgina Terry has dialed in frame designs for women,
    recently sources her frame build contract
    with Waterford in the US so not a cheap purchase ,
    but a long term good investment..

    for smaller sized riders the wheels are down sized. to get the fit right.

  13. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by bentrike View Post
    I started climbing again last year and have lost over half of that.
    Climbing meaning rock climbing? Just curious. Congrats on the weight loss!

    I haven't been able to cycle at all this week due to a knee injury. I slid on some icy ground while on my bike over the weekend and landed on my knees, hard to tell what the speed was but I was going pretty fast (in a paved mountain trail, nobody around). I did the stupid thing too and spread out my arms instinctively to catch myself, fortunately I didn't screw up my wrists or anything.

    Both my knees took the damage and they're both pretty blue at the moment with some nice road rash sprinkled on top. I've been hobbling around for the past couple of days not really knowing which leg is in relatively better shape. I'm just taking it easy for the week and I'll probably be able to cycle and hike again this coming weekend. I just went from standing-up-is-too-painful to can-do-some-walking in the span of 3 days, so it's not too bad.

    After the knees heal up I plan to cycle an extra hour each week until I am cycling 70 km per week. That seems like the logical approach to transitioning from occasional utilitarian cycling to fitness cycling.

    I guess it does seem silly that I could take up North Vancouver trails when I've been only cycling 14 km per week. I guess I was expecting more of myself because when I undertook the same trail like five months ago, it wasn't that hard for me--but then I remember that I did 4.5 hours of boxing and 35 km of cycling (to said boxing class) per week. I stopped boxing due to a whiplash injury (which resulted from getting thrown off the bike, banging my head against the pavement, and failing in sparring all in the span of a few hours). I thought that doing weekend day hikes would keep me at roughly the same fitness level as when I did boxing spread throughout the week, but I guess not because the intensity level is different. But then again, different activities don't translate the same way to cycling fitness.

    I'll be cycling around my flat city on weekday nights. I think what's mostly required for me is a change in attitude towards cycling recreationally at night. I always associate cycling at night with "Need to get groceries" or "Need to go to friend's place", and cycling recreationally as "Happy daylight in the scenic wilderness". I guess cycling around the city at night can be enjoyable (or I'll see if it can be).

    Also I think I just have some weird psychological issues to get over, the whole woman-not-going-to-a-specific-place-at-night paranoia. Logically I can peddle faster than any creep that may possibly pester me, but, you know, paranoia.

    I'll have to figure out which are the best bike routes for me to undertake at night. I live in a city where there's not many cyclists, although there are some bike lanes. Drivers go bonkers on cyclists making left turns from the right bike lane, or cyclists shifting over to the left lane to make a turn, so I generally use the crosswalk for that instead. Also, roads with bike lanes aren't necessarily the best roads to cycle on, because they are also sometimes the busiest roads with six different buses stopping on the bike lane--which can lead to the kind of sandwiching I would not consider to be delicious. Either way, I'll figure something out and learn more about being a cyclist in the city. We'll see.

  14. #14
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    Apart from taking up the various ideas forumers have put forward, you might want to look on http://www.bikeleague.org/programs/e...e_schedule.php to see if there are any LAB traffic cycling courses in your neighbourhood.

    You might also consider that there are other women riders around who would love to get together with like minded cyclists - a short piece in the local press might turn up a surprising(ish) number of people like yourself.

    As for bike handling skills, you might consider finding a traffic free area (out-of-hours carpark? ) and take along a few stones, empty milk cartons, sponges or whatever, lay them out in a line - say, 7 0r 8, 6' apart and practice swerving in and out of them gradually getting faster and/or putting them slightly closer together (5'6", then 5' and so on). When you feel comfortable doing that, offset the obstacles and repeat the exercise until confident (or bored). Vary it by trying it one-handed, with each hand.

    Practice riding along one of the white lines and looking back, trying to keep it pretty straight. If there are any grassy areas with a slight slope somewhere on them, try using the obstacles on the slope so that you can become more proficient riding off-camber.

    Another skill it's useful to have is to get used to moving around on the bike, standing up on the pedals, leaning the bike to the right/left under you, unweighting or lifting the front wheel a little off the ground so as to deal with, say potholes or small branches on the trail - you can try this with a bit of garden hose if you have any, just to get used to the timing.

    There are also some good books on safe traffic riding available on Amazon and, of course, there is Youtube.

    I apologise if some of this is teaching granny to suck eggs

    Oh, and core strength exercises can be pretty useful. Then there's ..... , but don't let reading any of this take you away from saddle time

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