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  1. #1
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    What makes for a "hilly" tandem ride?

    When I read various tandem threads here on bikeforums, people are often comparing things like average speed, climbing speed, captain/stoker effort over various routes, etc. Given that bikeforums posters live all over the world and ride over very different geographies, I find that after I read many of these discussions, I'm not certain what people mean by simple expressions such as "a hilly ride".

    For example, I guess I would call this a local "hilly ride" -- it's something I might do with friends when we want to do some climbin':

    Three Bears - route desciption
    Three Bears - map and profile

    (It's described as something like 4,400 feet over 35 miles or so.)

    Is this a "hilly ride" to other folks? Is this "crazy climbing"? Is it a "modest workout"? How does it compare to where you ride?

    Meanwhile, folks talk about rollers -- I found one local spot that has some ups & downs on a gradual incline, with each little hill maybe 10-20 feet high, give or take... but for all of the climbing available here, most routes feature either a couple of miles of up-up-up (or down-down-down, in the other direction. )... with nothing really "rolling" that I know about.

    So... what's a "hill"?

    -Greg

  2. #2
    Banned. galen_52657's Avatar
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    4,400 feet of climbing in 35 miles I would consider mountainous.

    But, it's not just how many feet of elevation change that counts, its also percent of grade.

  3. #3
    Time for a change. stapfam's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by gregm
    For example, I guess I would call this a local "hilly ride" -- it's something I might do with friends when we want to do some climbin':

    Three Bears - route desciption
    Three Bears - map and profile

    (It's described as something like 4,400 feet over 35 miles or so.)

    Is this a "hilly ride" to other folks? Is this "crazy climbing"? Is it a "modest workout"? How does it compare to where you ride?

    So... what's a "hill"?

    -Greg

    Once again depends on the maximum height climbed on a hill and the gradient. Where I live, there are no Hills over 250 metres above sea level, but how about a climb from sea level to that maximum in less than a mile--Offroad. Or 200 metre climb in 3/4 mile which is our worst one.. Then imagine doing 4 such hills in a 30 mile ride. That is 3,000ft in 30 miles, but we do not regard this as hard, just a normal ride to clear the cobwebs after a week at work. Now put that 3000ft at the end of a 100mile offroad ride that takes in 10,000ft of climbing. Then it gets a bit more difficult.

    As far as I am concerned any rise in elevation that makes me go into granny gear for more than 500 metres is a hill, when that hill keeps getting repeated for 12 hours over 100 miles it is torture.

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    When we want to do a hilly ride we try to include Tollhouse Grade in our (70 to 80 mile ride): Distance: 8 miles; Average grade: 7%; Worst 1/2 mile grade: 13%; steepest grade: 19%; elevation gain: 2700'; Our best time in the tandem: 1:02.

  5. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by cornucopia72
    Distance: 8 miles; Average grade: 7%; Worst 1/2 mile grade: 13%; steepest grade: 19%; elevation gain: 2700'

    Woo! Sounds like a nice ride. Yes, I would indeed call that quite a hill.

    See, sometimes I see posts that say things like "we took the tandem out for a hilly ride, and averaged over 20mph, still not as fast as on my single"... That does indeed sound like quite a nice clip and a good average speed, but I'm not quite sure how to interpret the figure without having a sense of the ride.

    cornucopia72, your ~8mph average one-way over the describe route sounds *great* to me... even though it could be summarized as "we did an 8 mile hilly ride at an average of 8mph".

    -Greg

  6. #6
    hors category TandemGeek's Avatar
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    Frankly, it's all pretty subjective. My take is fairly pragmatic and variable...

    -- A roller is something you can ride in your big chain ring without losing momentum
    -- A small hill is something you can ride (aka. hammer) in your big chain ring and largest rear sprocket without blowing out your knees, e.g., staying above 65 rpm
    -- A big hill is something that forces you use your middle ring (you know you're climbing)
    -- A mountainous climb will put you in your middle ring and largest rear sprocket from time to time.
    -- A crazy steep climb will put you in your alpine/granny ring or have you out of the saddle in your middle or doubles and cursing under your breath.

    As you can imagine, what one team might call a small hill another could easily characterize as a mountainous or crazy steep climb using my grading system. This is by design since the subjective aspect of defining how "hard" a given climb might be would obviously depend on your team's fitness, how many miles into the ride you are (and how many there are to go), the altitude, the air temperature, and the purpose of your ride or level of effort being put forth. Moreover, as a team's fitness level improves a crazy steep climb could eventually become nothing more than a small climb.

    As many cyclists have noted, some of the climbs in the Tour de France don't seem all that "hard" based on the length and gradiant but, then again, there's a huge difference between "climbing a 5% grade" at 8-10 mph vs racing up one at 18-20 mph. Our local rides from our home are devoid of any truly "flat" sections of rural roads and you can easily rack up 2,500 ft in 25 miles, 3,500 ft in 35 miles, etc... and we call this "hilly". The only "mountainous climb" around here is Kennesaw Mountain which takes you from 890 ft to about 1,000 ft in 1.8 miles. 3 Gap in the North Georgia Mountains gets you 5,300 ft in 50 miles and includes two major climbs. One is Neels Gap which comes in two sections: the first is three miles long with an average gradient of three percent, althought the last mile is closer to six percent. After this section there is a little break as the road drops down about one percent for almost a mile then you encounter the second segment: 3 miles has an average gradient of 5.8 percent with several 8% sections and switchback turns at 10% to 13%. However, it's Wolfpen Gap -- a mere 850 ft -- that you climb in 2.5 miles with an average gradiant of 8% and a few 18% - 23% switchbacks thrown at you that tends to hurt a bit on a tandem. You can see these climbs on the Tour de Georgia Stage 4 elevation map: http://www.tourdegeorgia.com/2005/th...ge4Profile.pdf

    As for crazy steep, those would include Hogpen & Brasstown Bald -- neither of which are tandem-friendly -- shown here again on the Tour de Georgia elevation maps (Stage 5): http://www.tourdegeorgia.com/2005/th...rofile_000.pdf

    Other ways of categorizing climbs...

    Tour de France Categories (general)

    4th Category - the lowest category, climbs of 200-500 feet
    3rd Category - climbs of 500-1600 feet
    2nd Category - climbs of 1600-2700 feet
    1st Category - climbs of 2700-5000 feet
    Hors Category - the hardest, climbs of 5000 feet+

    Michelin Road Atlas Chevrons (subject to various interpretations)

    > = greater than 4% or 5%
    >> = greater than 8% or 9%
    >>> = greater than 12% or 13%
    Last edited by TandemGeek; 08-19-05 at 06:30 AM.

  7. #7
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    Depends on the reader more than the terrain. I went to a race some time ago in the PAc NW; a friend was the race director. I called him and asked how the terrain was and which of my bikes should I bring. He descibes the course as flat. I get there, the course goes up and down the side of Mt Rainer! Flat for him; I live at the beach: moutainous for me. Never count on a description; be prepared for the worst and be glad if it doesn't happen. I can't tell you how many tiems I've had this sort of thing happen.

  8. #8
    hors category TandemGeek's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ElRey
    Never count on a description; be prepared for the worst and be glad if it doesn't happen.
    Asking a cyclist with whom you haven't ridden to describe the difficulty of a route will rarely result in an objective assessment. Like a medical diagnosis, it's usually wise to get several opinions and do some homework and I would strongly endorse your lowest common denominator recommendation: assume the worst and plan accordingly.

  9. #9
    Time for a change. stapfam's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by TandemGeek
    Asking a cyclist with whom you haven't ridden to describe the difficulty of a route will rarely result in an objective assessment. Like a medical diagnosis, it's usually wise to get several opinions and do some homework and I would strongly endorse your lowest common denominator recommendation: assume the worst and plan accordingly.
    How about when you try to introduce a new rider to cycling? On our rides, no matter how easy we try to make it, you will have one hill at least to climb to get to the Good stuff. We have had many new cyclists and accomplished riders, but new to our area, come on one ride with us, never to be seen again. Then our best experience, the wife of one of our occasional riders- very slim, very attractive, about100lbs soaking wet on a very old bike, that was just about geared right for the hills. I took her up the first part of a hill to ensure she was comfortable, and not going to expend too much energy in what is a very tiring hill. About 1/3 up the hill, the rest of the group were waiting, so I told her, if she felt good to keep going and we would catch her.1 mile later, the fit riders caught her. She went up that hill with such ease that she must have been riding for years. She hadn't, but she was a dance teacher and had the fitness that worked for her. We did manage to beat her to the Cafe though as the one thing she did not like was going downhill, so we made certain that we put in a good fast hill, just so we were not too shamed by a Novice rider. This was one rider though that carried on riding with us till she eventually moved away about a year later. Pity.

    PS. forgot the important bit as we still meet up with her husband and her, and they came out on one ride with us. I acted as pilot with her as stoker, and she may be slim, she may look frail, but she is a natural stoker, and she can still climb hills, but the screams going down the hills did slow me up a bit.

  10. #10
    Banned. galen_52657's Avatar
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    Local terrain often is the undooing of a newcomer.

    I have to laugh when we get a new cyclist to the area from California or Colorado. We all know they can take the high altitude and grind out the climbs, but in my experience when these westerners find themselves on the east coast, they are done in by the short, steep and repeditive climbing. It takes a while for a cyclist who is used to climbing for 45 minutes to an hour steadily to aclimate to the thrashing of standing and grunting up one 'bump' after another.

  11. #11
    Veni, Vidi, Vomiti SteveE's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by galen_52657
    Local terrain often is the undooing of a newcomer.

    I have to laugh when we get a new cyclist to the area from California or Colorado. We all know they can take the high altitude and grind out the climbs, but in my experience when these westerners find themselves on the east coast, they are done in by the short, steep and repeditive climbing. It takes a while for a cyclist who is used to climbing for 45 minutes to an hour steadily to aclimate to the thrashing of standing and grunting up one 'bump' after another.
    It works the other way around, too. I had no problem riding the short, steep hills in Fauquier County in Virginia, Montgomery and Frederick counties in Maryland, as well as rides up NW of Baltimore. It was a big learning experience to do the longer climbs in the Bay Area.
    "Life's journey is not to arrive at the grave safely in a well preserved body, but rather to skid in sideways, totally worn out, shouting ...'holy *****...what a ride!'"

  12. #12
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    This whole thread makes my battered old knees ache.

    Doc
    Say Ya to da Yoop, eh!

  13. #13
    Mad Town Biker Murrays's Avatar
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    How would you guys rate this climb?



    This is about 10 minutes in our lowest gear

    -murray
    "I feel more now like I did than when I first got here"

  14. #14
    Time for a change. stapfam's Avatar
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    That is a hill, but about as severe as our local offroad trails. Mind you, we have lower gearing than the road tandems and just sit in and grind. I would also not like to have too many of your hills on a ride. At least not with your gearing.
    You could have your graffic better though by putting the Rain clouds at the bottom, the brilliant sun on the steep part and the howling winds on the top-Into the face obviously- as this would give a truer picture of how the hill is ridden.

  15. #15
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    We will rate it short and sweet. One mile at 8% grade. Where is this beauty?

  16. #16
    Cycle for life... woodcycl's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by cornucopia72
    We will rate it short and sweet. One mile at 8% grade. Where is this beauty?
    Where I live ... a HILL is hardly ever more than 3/4 mile ... with most being 1/4 to 1/2 mile in length. However, the grades often reach 8 to 15%. So, when "I" mention hills or a hill ... I'm generally referring to terrain that is less than a mile ... but with a steeper grade.

    Then again ... if I'm referring to rides more than 40 miles ... I would also call it "hilly" if there were several hills even as short as a few hundred feet ... due to the distance and number of hills.

    The graph you show ... would be a REAL HILL compared to what folks in my area are used to. And, for the Midwest, we are in a moderately hilly area due to the Glaciers that stopped and then receeded during the ice age ... it is called Floyds Knobs, IN.
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  17. #17
    Mad Town Biker Murrays's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by cornucopia72
    We will rate it short and sweet. One mile at 8% grade. Where is this beauty?
    It's about 30 miles west of Madison, WI http://snipurl.com/h3vo

    It's on the later part of our 31 mile Wednesday Night Bike Ride http://www.wnbr.org/brigham-ride.htm. This hill is preceded by 3 challenging hills and has another 2 mile climb following.

    -murray
    "I feel more now like I did than when I first got here"

  18. #18
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    Went round one of the regular local circuits yesterday. 17 miles and ~1000ft (300 m) of climbing. The main hill climbs 800 ft (250 m) in 3 miles with a few corners up to 15%. Completed the route at an average of 14 mph - quite pleased.
    Riding 7-10% in the Pyrenees for long distances was much harder and certainly counts as hilly !

  19. #19
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    Quote Originally Posted by Murrays
    It's about 30 miles west of Madison, WI http://snipurl.com/h3vo

    It's on the later part of our 31 mile Wednesday Night Bike Ride http://www.wnbr.org/brigham-ride.htm. This hill is preceded by 3 challenging hills and has another 2 mile climb following.

    -murray
    All that and only 31 miles and you can do it in the middle of the week!! You are so lucky!

  20. #20
    Mad Town Biker Murrays's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by cornucopia72
    All that and only 31 miles and you can do it in the middle of the week!! You are so lucky!
    Luck wasn't involved with our moving to Madison

    OTOH, you could have my property tax bill

    -murray
    "I feel more now like I did than when I first got here"

  21. #21
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    Quote Originally Posted by Murrays

    This is about 10 minutes in our lowest gear

    -murray
    That's like 21 mph? WOW!

  22. #22
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ironfist
    That's like 21 mph? WOW!
    I think is closer to 6 mph, isn't it?

  23. #23
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    3.5 miles in 10 minutes is 21 mph in my book

    but I see what you mean, he was just giving the time for the steeper bit of the hill.

  24. #24
    hors category TandemGeek's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by cornucopia72
    I think is closer to 6 mph, isn't it?
    6.48 mph using the old math.

  25. #25
    Mad Town Biker Murrays's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ironfist
    3.5 miles in 10 minutes is 21 mph in my book
    I hope I can get out of my lowest gear for part of that 3.5 miles


    Quote Originally Posted by Ironfist
    I see what you mean, he was just giving the time for the steeper bit of the hill.
    Exactly.

    -murray
    "I feel more now like I did than when I first got here"

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