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Old 08-02-10, 02:01 PM   #1
Bander
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How much climbing is too much?

Work is sending me to the island of Crete in September, and I am planning on taking advantage of the opportunity to take some time off and tour around the western part of the island for about 10 days. Mileage will not be huge, ~30-40 miles/day max but I am concerned about climbing around some of the mountainous areas. I have been commuting 30 miles RT on a regular basis for over two years so I have some cycling fitness, but I live in a flat area, am 39 years old, and am no athlete. How much climbing can I realistically expect to do without shredding myself and ruining my vacation?

Sorry for the noob question, this will be my first tour and I am really looking forward to the adventure. I am planning on going fairly light, eat at tavernas a solid lunch each day and just carry enough food for dinner and breakfast that I don't need cook. Thanks for your insights.
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Old 08-02-10, 02:31 PM   #2
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Mountain bike like range of ratios will give a pretty low gear to get up the hills
even if you have a skinny tire wheels

something like an 17" gear or 19" I used a 24t crankset cog and a 32 or 34 on the wheel.
served me well over the years.

still nothing wrong with getting off and walking the bike.. keeps the heart-rate from getting too high for comfort.

Have a pretty low ratio on my folding bike now, too.
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Old 08-02-10, 02:38 PM   #3
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Work is sending me to the island of Crete in September, and I am planning on taking advantage of the opportunity to take some time off and tour around the western part of the island for about 10 days. Mileage will not be huge, ~30-40 miles/day max but I am concerned about climbing around some of the mountainous areas. I have been commuting 30 miles RT on a regular basis for over two years so I have some cycling fitness, but I live in a flat area, am 39 years old, and am no athlete. How much climbing can I realistically expect to do without shredding myself and ruining my vacation?

Sorry for the noob question, this will be my first tour and I am really looking forward to the adventure. I am planning on going fairly light, eat at tavernas a solid lunch each day and just carry enough food for dinner and breakfast that I don't need cook. Thanks for your insights.
It's almost an impossible question to answer as it's a function of your fitness, the gradients and the total amount of climbing. Try to find some hills to ride close to home and use Google maps to check out the gradients in Crete.

A few years ago I rode through Vermont and my hardest day was 60 miles with 5000' of climbing and I was beat at the end. For some people that would be a doddle. Bottomline is that you'll never know until you try and either fail or succeed. Plan your days so that you have the option to stop somewhere if you get really tired and take a cellphone.
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Old 08-02-10, 03:09 PM   #4
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I'm like you. New to the sport of touring, and not confident that I have the engine for much climbing.
I just returned from my first solo tour. A 400 kilometer round trip on Vancouver Island, Canada.
The original plan was to go "up" Vancouver Island and cross over to the mainland and cycle "down" the Sunshine coast. After 200 kms on Vancouver Island I made the decision to return the way I came. I didn't think I had the legs for the hills on the Sunshine Coast. It will still be there when I'm better prepared physically. And I can look forward to doing it then.

My experience of Europe is that there is a village every 5 to 10 kilometers. You can custom fit your daily schedule in Crete to your level of fitness.
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Old 08-02-10, 03:12 PM   #5
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In beautiful terrain, you need to get off and push one in a while so you can look around anyway. Riding there is a rare opportunity, don't skip it because you're scared to climb. The hard part about climbing is hurrying. If you don't hurry, you can climb about anything.
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Old 08-02-10, 03:24 PM   #6
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In beautiful terrain, you need to get off and push one in a while so you can look around anyway. Riding there is a rare opportunity, don't skip it because you're scared to climb. The hard part about climbing is hurrying. If you don't hurry, you can climb about anything.
Great advice and will make all hills doable.

Though I've not been to Crete, I go to Greece every year. (I'll be a few hundred Km's north of you in Kaphalonia and Kerkyia in September) Greece is the most beautiful place in the world and you'll enjoy it. The hills will be steep and narrow, so watch out for the traffic. The best part about being in the mountains will be around 10:00 A.M. when everyone in the village will be bringing their freshly baked bread home from the local baker. Whenever possible, buy a loaf and it will keep you in food for the rest of the day. The bread, olive oil, some salt and kalamatas and you're good to go.

Ah! μάλιστα!

John

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Old 08-02-10, 09:21 PM   #7
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In beautiful terrain, you need to get off and push one in a while so you can look around anyway. Riding there is a rare opportunity, don't skip it because you're scared to climb. The hard part about climbing is hurrying. If you don't hurry, you can climb about anything.
Good advice. If you get tired just stop and enjoy the scenery until you feel like riding again. Patience is a good thing to have when climbing and don't feel that you have to hurry to the top. If you do you'll exhaust yourself. Use your gears and try to keep your cadence constant, there's often a temptation to spin quicker as you go down in gear. Don't do this, remember you're trying to keep your effort constant, not your speed. On long climbs it's nice to get out of the saddle for a while. Also I find that music helps me to climb. It's a combination of the rhythm and that it takes my mind off the effort.

Also try to know what you'll be climbing so you can gauge your progress. Is the climb a mile or 5 miles long. When you start look at your computer so you know how far you're from the top.

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Old 08-03-10, 08:25 AM   #8
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This is very individual. I love climbing. 2000m in average per day would be fine - but didn't find a place so far (but still searching)

For an trained person which isn't afraid of cycling uphill (some people have psychological problems with that) 500 to 1000 m are manageable without getting tired.
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Old 08-03-10, 09:18 AM   #9
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too much is when you are not allowing yourself enough reserves to enjoy the experience and recovery for the rest of the day or next day. If you don't know how to go slow spinning up a hill, now is the time to learn. Keep your energy expenditure low enough on the flat stretches that you can breath out of your nose. For the first hour of riding go at a 60% effort. You're the only one who knows how much is too much but a sure way to find out is to push it. No one is setting the pace except you. You go hard and you discover you're stronger than you realized or you grind it up every hill and discover new ligament/muscle pain in your knees that makes you worry the next day or cuts the next few days short.
No one but you controls the effort. The hills do not make you go harder than your fitness level. If you find yourself going hard at the bottom of the hill then slowing down because the effort is unsustainable then you are going too hard. Down shift LONG before you think you need too. Imagine the bottom the hill is the top of the hill where you ease up as you crest the top, so instead of jamming it harder as the incline starts ease back and down shift early pretending that you're going to coast to the top at an easy effort. Sure it'll be more effort than riding on the flats but the difference between overuse injury/fatigue and simply finishing the day pleasantly tired could be the difference between riding up many hills at 85% effort instead of 60% effort.

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Old 08-03-10, 07:21 PM   #10
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Thanks all for the replies and encouragement. Sounds like taking it easy on the hills and having a plan B is the ticket. I'm looking forward to this very much!
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Old 08-03-10, 10:01 PM   #11
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Climbing is mostly a state of mind. It takes some strength and some knowledge of good technique, but mostly it's a matter of believing in yourself. And that's harder than it sounds. It took me three years of living in the mountains before I figured out how to go up a hill. Here's my technique.

When you see the hill, tell yourself you're going to enjoy the ride going up. Notice the trees and the grasses. Enjoy the sights and the smells and the sounds.

Start in a low gear, but not your lowest gear. That way, if you need to drop down, you can. If you start in your lowest gear and it gets tough, you can't go any lower.

On the way up, pedal slowly and take your time. This isn't a race. It's just you and the mountain.

If you're on a long climb, several kilometres or more, it's perfectly acceptable to stop when you want and take a break for water or nutrition. Try to stop at a flat spot. Starting up on an incline isn't as easy as starting on a short flat spot and then climbing.

If you have a GPS or an altimeter, it can help to watch your elevation gaining on the climb. Counting backward to your goal can be a boost. An elevation gain of 1,300 metres is a lot, but when you've got 300 metres left to climb, it's not so bad. If you know the length of the pass, count down the distance until the summit. And when you get into the single digits, it helps to compare those distances to distances you've ridden before. If you're as far from the summit as you would be from your home to the grocery store, you've now got a concrete way to minimize the distance for yourself.

And if you're in the mountains facing a long pass, there is no disgrace whatsoever in walking your bike. Whatever gets you to the top safely is good.
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Old 08-03-10, 10:11 PM   #12
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Consider stopping when you begin to roll backwards.

With low gears, I prefer taking a break rather than walk. Climbing is a good occasion to think about what gear you should leave home next time.
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Old 08-03-10, 10:21 PM   #13
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Climbing is mostly a state of mind. It takes some strength and some knowledge of good technique, but mostly it's a matter of believing in yourself. And that's harder than it sounds. It took me three years of living in the mountains before I figured out how to go up a hill. Here's my technique.

When you see the hill, tell yourself you're going to enjoy the ride going up. Notice the trees and the grasses. Enjoy the sights and the smells and the sounds.

Start in a low gear, but not your lowest gear. That way, if you need to drop down, you can. If you start in your lowest gear and it gets tough, you can't go any lower.

On the way up, pedal slowly and take your time. This isn't a race. It's just you and the mountain.

If you're on a long climb, several kilometres or more, it's perfectly acceptable to stop when you want and take a break for water or nutrition. Try to stop at a flat spot. Starting up on an incline isn't as easy as starting on a short flat spot and then climbing.

If you have a GPS or an altimeter, it can help to watch your elevation gaining on the climb. Counting backward to your goal can be a boost. An elevation gain of 1,300 metres is a lot, but when you've got 300 metres left to climb, it's not so bad. If you know the length of the pass, count down the distance until the summit. And when you get into the single digits, it helps to compare those distances to distances you've ridden before. If you're as far from the summit as you would be from your home to the grocery store, you've now got a concrete way to minimize the distance for yourself.

And if you're in the mountains facing a long pass, there is no disgrace whatsoever in walking your bike. Whatever gets you to the top safely is good.
Very nicely put.
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Old 08-04-10, 07:54 AM   #14
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A couple months ago, I rode into Como, CO in the early morning, on the way to Breckenridge, via Boreas Pass. Entering Como, I saw a sign that said, "Boreas Pass 12 miles". Como is at about 9,800 feet elevation, Boreas Pass tops out right at 11,500, so I knew I was picking up 1,700 feet in the next 12 miles. I got water, made breakfast, talked to a local and set out. After a bit, I saw a mile marker post that said "3", and I paced myself for a difficult 9 miles.

The grade picked up and I spun and spun, passing mile marker "4". The road narrowed and started switching back and forth, and I watched the trees grow more sparse. After mile "5" I got into the snowy patches and they got bigger at mile marker "6". The grind to mile marker "7" was about the longest mile I ever spent. The country was stunning, but I'd already burnt thru 2 water bottles, I was pretty much out of the trees and snow was everywhere. 4 miles of climbing to go - I took a breath, wished for an additional lung and pressed on. A seemingly endless time later, mile marker "8" hove into my blurring vision. I saw a couple of structures past it and decided to try to find a spigot for water or a creek to filter some for my bottles.

Rolling into the parking area I saw the sign and realized my mistake. Apparently the "Boreas Pass -12 miles" sign far below had no relationship with the mile markers I'd been passing. I was there.


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Old 08-04-10, 11:49 AM   #15
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Rolling into the parking area I saw the sign and realized my mistake. Apparently the "Boreas Pass -12 miles" sign far below had no relationship with the mile markers I'd been passing. I was there.
Awesome! I love the pic.
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Old 08-04-10, 12:08 PM   #16
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Thanks.
Dare I say it was the high point of that tour?
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Old 08-04-10, 12:11 PM   #17
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Your biggest problem could have to do with your knees, rather than your leg muscles or stamina.

You are in a very similar situation as I was when I did my first tour. I was 41, had been bike commuting 30 miles/day for two years, all on flat land. My GF and I decided to do a tour and we pretty much just got a road map and picked a route, not knowing that it contained nearly 12,000 ft. of ascents and 11,000 ft. of descents with lots of 10% grades, in 225 miles. I had a mountain bike so could gear down pretty low, but still... It was complicated by the fact that I did no quad stretching and knew nothing about the wonders of Ibuprofen.

We had originally planned another couple of hundred miles of riding, but after just 5 days and 225 miles I could go no further. I literally limped into our last campground. Sent the bike home the next day, and wasn't able to ride it for 6 months after that. The physical exertion of climbing wasn't the problem. I made it up the hills. It was slow and difficult but I found that by pacing myself it was not only doable, but enjoyable. Tendinitis stopped me though. It started on day 3 and was mild at first, but slowly grew in intensity. It was a sharp pain across the top of each kneecap with each stroke of the pedal. Even after I stopped biking, the pain and limping persisted for 3 more days. After that I felt fine, but if I got on a bike and tried to pedal, the pain was right back again, immediately. Even months later.

A physical therapist eventually told me about stretching out quad muscles, and about the anti-inflammatory aspects of Ibuprofen. Lessons learned. My next tour (not until 13 years later) was 1000 miles with lots of climbing, but by stretching daily and taking Ibuprofen when needed, the knees were fine. Two years after that i did another one, 1800 miles, with lots of really steep climbs, and again, no problems.

My advice is don't push too hard, stretch the quads, keep hydrated, and ask your doctor about Ibuprofen.
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Old 08-04-10, 02:01 PM   #18
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The terrain will determine a lot. I did my first multi-day bike tours in my early 40s, and quickly discovered that climbing a grade of 8% is a completely different experience than a grade of, say, 12%. 15% is something else, and don't get me started on the handful of %$*& 18% grades I have encountered!

Also, climbing a steep hill for 10 minutes is nothing like climbing all day. I manage to get up almost any hill if I will arrive at the top in 10 or 20 minutes, but a 10 or 20 mile climb is a horse of a different colour.

If you are heading into serious mountainous territory, install the teeniest granny gear your bike can accommodate. (Mine is 22-34.) And as others have suggested, don't hesitate to stop, rest, or walk. Drink copiously (water or sports drinks, not yummy Cretan wine!), and eat frequently to keep your energy up. The sun can sap energy, so protect your skin from the sun.

How lucky that your employer is sending you to Crete!
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Old 08-05-10, 11:52 AM   #19
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I am a super newbie to touring as well but one thing I've learned through years of fighting fires and a lot of hiking is "Find your pace". I can hike all day uphill at MY pace. Any faster and I peter out. Once you find your pace don't be intimidated to keep up with others, just keep your pace and roll on, you'll get there. In fact you'll probably pass many others who attempted to go beyond their pace. I have found that although fitness is big factor, personal pace will determine your stamina.
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Old 08-05-10, 12:37 PM   #20
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That's a very good point. Just a little faster than your own pace won't feel right, especially if you're slogging your way up a hill.
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