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Old 06-05-08, 11:37 AM   #1
Ken Roberts
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Hillier Than Hillier - NJ

I rode a set of steep hills -- the hilliest and steepest loop I've ever done -- and it was in New Jersey. Good variety of climbing, including very steep -- and some gentler pretty riding to get between the hills thru some of the nicest farmland out in western NJ [ see Map ].

These hills are in the same area as the "Hillier Than Thou" organized ride which has been held in September for lots of years. I've ridden HTT once (the first year) and I've seen a lot of the painted route markings, and it hit me that in order to offer a good event for lots of riders, its route cannot be as hilly + steep as New Jersey can offer.

So I tried riding a sequence of hills that was much hillier and steeper than HTT -- in terms of vertical (and steep vertical) per horizontal mile -- with no climbs repeated. My main "Hillier Than Hillier" sequence is around 10000 vertical feet in 62 miles -- (I have another version with 13400 vertical ft in 91 miles). I put the details up in
this report

I felt real strong in the beginning, but toward the end I did walk up one section of Fiddlers Elbow (which sometimes I can ride up all the way), and I did do some "tacking" (weaving) on the steep section of the Wester - Decker climb.

I also measured my time climbing up each hill, and afterward added up all the times -- my total time for the 15 hills was just over 2:40 -- that's a pure "climbing" Time Trial - (my total elapsed time of all my riding including the transitions between hills was much more longer than that).

In some ways I like this sequence better than some of the much longer climbs like I've done in the Alps in Europe, more variety of climbing, steeper challenge, quicker changes of scenery. Right now I'm feeling sort of like I would ride it again sometime (but I wouldn't predict how soon until my muscle stiffness fades). Not like some accomplishments I'm glad I performed once but never again.

Ken

P.S. Now I'm wondering if it's possible to find within 250 miles of New York City another loop of 10000 vertical feet of climbing in only 62 miles on paved roads (without repeating any of the climbs).

Last edited by Ken Roberts; 06-05-08 at 11:42 AM. Reason: fix a couple of words
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Old 06-05-08, 08:30 PM   #2
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Western Jersey Wheelmen ride in that area. The Lebanon 64 (available on mapmyride) has 6400' climbing in 64 mi, I believe) is on the schedule for this month.

From your map and listing (much appreciated) it doesn't look like you've got Bellis/Adamic/Shire in the Riegelsville area. All three are approx. 400 vert. ft. with 15%+ sections.

And then, if you venture across the river into PA from Frenchtown, you can find Uhlerstown Hill Road. It's a narrow, 20% gradient hill that is closed off from motor vehicle traffic during the winter. It's so step and narrow that it's really unsafe to climb when there are any cars on it with you. Last time there, I rode around two other people that fell over on their bikes in front of me, before tipping over into the uphill side of the road when I tried to go around the third.

BTW, your Google map doesn't seem to have the full route showing when I connect to that site.

Again, great stuff. Thanks!
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Old 06-06-08, 05:06 AM   #3
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Some Central Bucks Bike Club rides also overlap that general area. On the club's web site, you can access cue sheets, by entering two of the three criteria (terrain:hilly and distancever 45), you get this list of rides: http://www.cbbikeclub.org/?body=cue_...t=&action=send. If you find a suitable cue sheet, use it in conjunction with the relevant pages from www.njbikemap.com, which indicates elevation changes with a circle/flag/number system.

Terex, my hat is off to you for climbing Ulherstown Hill Road. The one time I tried it, I had to stop two-three times to rest even walking.

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Old 06-06-08, 10:58 AM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Terex View Post
And then, if you venture across the river into PA from Frenchtown, you can find Uhlerstown Hill Road. It's a narrow, 20% gradient hill that is closed off from motor vehicle traffic during the winter. It's so step and narrow that it's really unsafe to climb when there are any cars on it with you. Last time there, I rode around two other people that fell over on their bikes in front of me, before tipping over into the uphill side of the road when I tried to go around the third.
My nickname for that hill is "The Widow Maker". Well, at least that's the nickname I can post on the forums without a lot of asterisks appearing! That hill has made me consider taking up golf. I have managed to ride all of the way up it, but not recently. Last time I tried, I had to stop when a car decided to pass me on one of the steeper sections. I was weaving and wobbling so much that I didn't feel too comfortable with that scenario. Getting started again at that spot was not an option, so I turned around and went back down hill. In reality, I don't know if I would have made it to the top even without the car.
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Old 06-06-08, 03:03 PM   #5
Ken Roberts
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Terex View Post
it doesn't look like you've got Bellis/Adamic/Shire in the Riegelsville area. All three are approx. 400 vert. ft. with 15%+ sections.
Thanks, I always like getting new ideas for interesting hills. I've done Bellis once (hoping it was an "easier" way up onto the ridge), but not the other two.

Quote:
your Google map doesn't seem to have the full route showing
Good point. That's because I don't think of what I was doing as a "route". Rather it's a sequence of hill-climbs. How I go between them isn't important. My report often describes multiple possible transitions from one climb to the next. The distance I give on my report page is just from using the selections of transitions that seem most favorable to me this week. In my personal "time trial" measurements I don't record my time on the transitions between climbs, so the exact route doesn't matter for me.

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Western Jersey Wheelmen ride in that area. The Lebanon 64 (available on mapmyride) has 6400' climbing in 64 mi, I believe) is on the schedule for this month.
OK, my calculation is that the way I rode and reported my "Hillier Than Hillier" sequence, it's more than 50% hillier per mile than the Lebanon 64 route. Which is what I'd expect from an organized club ride. I don't think it would be a good idea for a club to try to do this "Hillier Than Hillier" sequence.

And that "50% hillier" just considering simple vertical of any steepness. If looking at climbing sections averaging 12% of more, I wouldn't be surprised if "Hillier Than Hillier" has five times more steep climbing per mile than Lebanon 64 -- but that's because I have odd tastes in riding sometimes.

Ken
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Old 06-06-08, 06:46 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ken Roberts View Post
Good point. That's because I don't think of what I was doing as a "route". Rather it's a sequence of hill-climbs. How I go between them isn't important. My report often describes multiple possible transitions from one climb to the next. The distance I give on my report page is just from using the selections of transitions that seem most favorable to me this week. In my personal "time trial" measurements I don't record my time on the transitions between climbs, so the exact route doesn't matter for me.

Ken
Gotcha, it's more a "choose your own adventure" map. Thanks Ken
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Old 06-12-08, 02:08 PM   #7
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Grade?

Ken,

What data do you use to calculate the grades of your climbs? I've tried a few different sources including MapMyRide, Bikely, and USGS dems and they all give different results. I'm working on a list of hills in Bucks County. Just curious.
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Old 06-12-08, 10:01 PM   #8
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I'm working on a list of hills in Bucks County.
That'll be good -- let us know here when you've got something started. Speaking of Bucks . . .

Uhlertown: Thanks to Terex and HigherGround, I took a shot at Uhlertown Rd, and actually made it to the top, then went down and climbed it again. I think it's as steep as the steepest part of Fiddlers Elbow, but it didn't seem as hard. I think the main reason is that the pavement surface on Uhlertown is much smoother. Fiddlers (especially the steepest section) has pretty coarse stone: not eroded, just bigger "chunks" in the blend. So there's more rolling resistance than Uhlertown. Also the steepest on Fiddlers is preceded by like more than 250 vertical feet of the merely "very steep". (And I have a suspicion that my gear ratio of 39 / 26 is lower than lots of other people's road bikes).

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Originally Posted by Terex View Post
Bellis/Adamic/Shire in the Riegelsville area.
Thanks I got to try those too -- three interesting climbs, and I added them to my
updated list of NJ climbs
Also added Pincher Point Rd by the Delaware River a bit to the north of Riegelsville. Like Fiddlers, its coarse stone makes it harder work than its calculated steepness grade numbers.
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What data do you use to calculate the grades of your climbs?
Mostly I use an old version of DeLorme TopoUSA software -- adjusted based on what I see while riding it.

There's a definite "judgment factor" in calculating steepness grades. I don't use the software to actually calculate the grade of a section of road for me, only supply data points. So judgment enters in exactly which section of the slope is "representative" of the climb, and which data points not to believe. Related factors are whether you think the road is more or less curvy than shown on the topo map, and whether you think the steepness is more variable or more even. (That's why actually riding it is important).

I've been calculating steepness of hills for a long long time (first for backcountry skiing). Looking back on my local bicycling calculations, I think I've tended to believe that the steepness grade number was lower than it really was. My reasons for not believing in higher steepness numbers for local hills were:
(a) I'm not a racer, and I succeeded in riding all the way to the top, therefore it couldn't be that steep.
(b) Maybe some little-used town road could have a 13% section, but surely a numbered county road with significant traffic surely would be better designed to eliminate sections that steep.
(c) If the grade% were that steep, then this local New Jersey road would be steeper than most of the famous mountain roads in the European Alps.

But I've come to disbelieve those reasons for lots of climbs. And I've been tending more to believe the obvious steepness calculations I'm making from the topo software -- and revising my steepness grade numbers to higher.

Ken

Last edited by Ken Roberts; 06-12-08 at 10:05 PM. Reason: fix a couple words
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Old 06-20-08, 07:40 AM   #9
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NJ versus Etape du Tour

I looked at a blog in the sports section of nytimes.com called "the Climb" by a NYC bicyclist who's training for this Etape du Tour event in July. The idea is to ride a mountain stage of the Tour de France sort of in race conditions.

Funny thing is that when I look at the course the total climbing is around 10000 vertical feet and the distance a little more than 100 miles -- kinda similar to the Hillier Than Thou event in New Jersey.

And when I rode the "more hills" version of the Hillier Than Hillier sequence, I did much more vertical than that in a day of riding in New Jersey.
And most of that vertical much steeper than this Etape du Tour. And much it of more interesting climbing - (on the international climbbybike.com website, the two climbs in that event get only 3 stars out of 5 -- the actual climbing on Tourmalet is a bit boring)
But the climbs in the Etape du Tour are much much longer than anything in New Jersey, so it is a serious undertaking to ride to the top of them.

Ken

Last edited by Ken Roberts; 06-20-08 at 07:41 AM. Reason: fix a couple words
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Old 06-17-13, 01:17 PM   #10
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Ah yes, I've been up on Uhlerstown Hill Road. Biked all the way from NYC and crossed that pretty covered bridge, blazed passed the warning sign partially obscured by leaves at the bottom of the hill, and then... I got stuck. Got off the bike and lifted the back wheel to spin the cranks into the lowest gear and give it another shot. Tried again and managed another 50 feet but had trouble keeping my front wheel from lifting off the road. Maybe another day with fresher legs, I said, and walked up to the top panting.

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And then, if you venture across the river into PA from Frenchtown, you can find Uhlerstown Hill Road. It's a narrow, 20% gradient hill that is closed off from motor vehicle traffic during the winter. It's so step and narrow that it's really unsafe to climb when there are any cars on it with you. Last time there, I rode around two other people that fell over on their bikes in front of me, before tipping over into the uphill side of the road when I tried to go around the third.

Again, great stuff. Thanks!
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Old 09-04-14, 04:22 PM   #11
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I just saw this road from the safety of an automobile on a covered bridge tour of bucks county.

I would not ride alone on this road, I'd have someone wait at the bottom, then that person come up, this way motorists have a clue that there may be cyclists ahead. I'd also have a geofence set up to send notification once you're up top.

- Andy
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Old 09-06-14, 08:38 AM   #12
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Great Zombie thread... Some mean hills in Jersey; the Gran Fondo goes through the area the OP indicates...
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