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  1. #1
    Don from Austin Texas
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    Walkers --making a big mistake in my humble opinion

    I like to conquer steep hills. Not to say I can ride every hill on the planet without stopping or even go up hills particularly fast, but I do seek out steep hills. Sometimes I have fellow riders that I warn about the hills on one of my rides and they say they are game, but they end up walking. I think that once you walk you throw the training of aspect of doing hills down the toilet. When a hill has been too much for me, I will stop and rest and go a little further, stop and rest again if need be, BUT NOT WALK. There is a hill in Austin that gains 400 feet in 4/10 of a mile. A year or two ago, I would have to stop 2-4 times and rest for a minute or two to get up that hill. Now can I make it without stopping. Someday, maybe it will be casual and easy, (or maybe NOT!) I don't think I would have reached the point of being able to make it up that hill non-stop if I had walked it when it got difficult.

    I discussed this with one of my riding partners and she said maybe the rider is a novice in too hard a gear, or just can't get restarted. I understand trying to restart up a super steep hill is difficult and the bike keeps trying to pop a wheelie or you just stall out. So coast downhill a few feet, shift as appropriate, get going, do a u-turn and go back up until you have to catch your breath again. I am not frustrated with "walkers" on my ride because I have to wait for them -- I would happily wait for them to catch their breath and get a little further and even repeat the process as many times as needed. It just bothers me to see them throw away a training opportunity. I believe in the adage "to be able to do hills, you have to do hills." Once you are walking you are not doing the hill any more. When the trainer at my gym tells me to do 100 reps of something, I try to do them non-stop. But if I have to stop, I have to stop. He will let me rest if I have to, but he won't let me just do 30 because I ran out of gas. Only excuse is if I feel pain such that there is a question of injury risk.

    I am not qualified as a trainer or coach by any means and am totally open to different points of view.

    Don in Austin

  2. #2
    Senior Member mtbikerinpa's Avatar
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    It depends on the context. When I do trail races which have super steep hills without much notice, I don't think it is at all a big deal to walk/run up. Sometimes it is more effective than slogging a super low gear, plus it allows the back muscles to alternate.
    In a road touring context or if it involves heavy panniers the benefit of walking is negligible. The benefit of taking a lower gear and speeding up the cadence can be good for the efficiency.
    Aviation Mechanic, Bike racer, Fitness Equipment Restorer

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  3. #3
    Long Distance Cyclist Machka's Avatar
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    Walking is good. It allows you to use different muscles, and gives you a chance to stop and take photos.

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    I was pulling a Burley with my youngest child in it off road with a fixed gear road bike. I had to walk a section. Like one of my friends say it's just another gear.
    No biggie. Sometimes you have to do it just don't make a habit of it. That being said pushing beyond your limits is how one improves IMHO. Then there is something to be said for knowing when you are toast. *shrugs*

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    Sounds like you set yourself a goal of making it up steep hills without walking, and preferably without stopping. That's fine, but your riding partners may have different goals, maybe to enjoy the ride, maybe to make it to the top as fast as possible even if that involves walking. Those are fine too.

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    If the hill is so steep that I have to stop, then there would be no way that I would ever be able to get started again. I would be rolling backwards before I could ever get clipped into the pedals.

  7. #7
    just another gosling Carbonfiberboy's Avatar
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    This thread makes me smile. Yup, I've walked, twice with our tandem. Once it was steep gravel, we lost traction and almost fell. Once we just couldn't turn the cranks anymore on a really steep, short grade. These were on a loaded tour a couple of years ago. Didn't walk on this summer's tandem tour. I've never walked my single, never paperboyed. But that's all really just ego, you know?

    Maybe sometimes it would have been better to walk one of those walls that the organizers love to throw at one late in a brevet, and recover a little. But then I couldn't say I never walked, could I? And I think it does do a body good to figure out how to get up a wall when one is already exhausted. When the going gets tough, and all that BS. Once you let your mind know that there's a way out, it wants to take it.

    OTOH, it's interesting to ride the hills in the finishing kilometers of a 600k brevet backwards, just as the mass of riders are coming in, and look at their faces. Makes one think maybe walking's not so bad.

    This is all about the why.

  8. #8
    Packfodding 3 caloso's Avatar
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    Race SSCX. You'll change your mind about dismounting.
    Cyclists of the world, unite! You have nothing to lube but your chains!

  9. #9
    Senior Member travelerman's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by jim p View Post
    If the hill is so steep that I have to stop, then there would be no way that I would ever be able to get started again. I would be rolling backwards before I could ever get clipped into the pedals.
    The steepest hills I have encountered - and that have made me think about stopping to walk - have not even allowed me to stop at all; I can't seem to coordinate a stop and get unclipped in time without fear of falling over. I guess my inability to unclip on a very steep hill ensures that I will just have to keep on going...

  10. #10
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    Last week I had to walk for a bit. Riding my 24 speed mtb up a 1000m elevation gain with cars on the road and people walking next to road meant I wasn't travelling all that fast to begin with and when the people forced me to stop that was that. I tried to get started again but my speed was 7km/h and I can walk at 6km/h so whats the point? On a 250km ride I'd rather walk a little and recover. If its shorter... then yes all ego and no stopping.

  11. #11
    Don from Austin Texas
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    Quote Originally Posted by mtbikerinpa View Post
    It depends on the context. When I do trail races which have super steep hills without much notice, I don't think it is at all a big deal to walk/run up. Sometimes it is more effective than slogging a super low gear, plus it allows the back muscles to alternate.
    In a road touring context or if it involves heavy panniers the benefit of walking is negligible. The benefit of taking a lower gear and speeding up the cadence can be good for the efficiency.
    I did not make it clear, but I was talking strictly paved.

    Don in Austin

  12. #12
    Senior Member rdtompki's Avatar
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    400 feet in .4 mile would be approximately a 20% grade. Granted, it's only .4 mile, but that sort of grade requires either low gears or a strong cyclist. There are a whole lot of cyclists who would have the will, but not the physical strength to get up a pitch that steep.

    Last year my wife and I were on a 70 mile organized ride and early in the ride encountered a short pitch of 16% or so (on the tandem). I stopped at the bottom and suggested we walk, but DW doesn't like to walk. We made it to the top and the effort caused me to have to fight off cramps for 50 miles. We now have a 36t in the back and can get up 15-16%, but its still a huge amount of work.

    Everyone has limits. They will increase with training, but at some point on a given day you can run out of cardio, run out of leg strength or both. We should applaud those who press on by walking if they have to in order to get to the top.

    And regarding restarting - can be extremely difficult on something as steep as the OP references. The notion of heading downhill on a 15-20% grade and doing a u-turn on a narrow country road doesn't make sense. Best to walk until you find a grade on which you can safely restart. Our tandem is a daVinci so my wife can start pedaling full speed immediately. Still, it's very hard to start as the grade gets around 15%; being in such a low gear causes the weighted pedal to descend so fast I can't even get into the saddle.
    Last edited by rdtompki; 10-21-12 at 10:45 AM.
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  13. #13
    Don from Austin Texas
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    Quote Originally Posted by rdtompki View Post
    400 feet in .4 mile would be approximately a 20% grade. Granted, it's only .4 mile, but that sort of grade requires either low gears or a strong cyclist. There are a whole lot of cyclists who would have the will, but not the physical strength to get up a pitch that steep.

    Last year my wife and I were on a 70 mile organized ride and early in the ride encountered a short pitch of 16% or so (on the tandem). I stopped at the bottom and suggested we walk, but DW doesn't like to walk. We made it to the top and the effort caused me to have to fight off cramps for 50 miles. We now have a 36t in the back and can get up 15-16%, but its still a huge amount of work.

    Everyone has limits. They will increase with training, but at some point on a given day you can run out of cardio, run out of leg strength or both. We should applaud those who press on by walking if they have to in order to get to the top.

    And regarding restarting - can be extremely difficult on something as steep as the OP references. The notion of heading downhill on a 15-20% grade and doing a u-turn on a narrow country road doesn't make sense. Best to walk until you find a grade on which you can safely restart. Our tandem is a daVinci so my wife can start pedaling full speed immediately. Still, it's very hard to start as the grade gets around 15%; being in such a low gear causes the weighted pedal to descend so fast I can't even get into the saddle.
    As I stated, I AM open to other viewpoints -- thank you! I have no tandem experience so that is a matter about which I know nothing. I agree there are places where you can't easily or safely go down hill to get restarted, but where I have had "walkers" that did not apply. Obviously, if it is steep rocky single track in the woods and you stall out there is no choice but to walk. Re' the 400 feet in .4 mile hill, or similar, I think some will walk when they could have rested and gone further. I am talking about a situation where the rider made it a significant ways, ran out of steam and decided to walk. This is where I would advocate rest and ride some more. I warn my fellow riders about hills so they shouldn't be looking for a "relaxed ride to church on Sunday" scenario.

    Today we went on a ride with 6 big steep hills and two riders not accustomed to such. I am happy to say they did not walk. I was probably obnoxious in my cheerleading, while I did totally accommodate them stopping to rest as needed.

    Don in Austin

  14. #14
    Don from Austin Texas
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    Quote Originally Posted by krobinson103 View Post
    Last week I had to walk for a bit. Riding my 24 speed mtb up a 1000m elevation gain with cars on the road and people walking next to road meant I wasn't travelling all that fast to begin with and when the people forced me to stop that was that. I tried to get started again but my speed was 7km/h and I can walk at 6km/h so whats the point? On a 250km ride I'd rather walk a little and recover. If its shorter... then yes all ego and no stopping.
    Fair enough!

    Don in Austin

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    I don't think there is much training benefit in riding up hills where you have to stop. That just means your gearing is incorrect. Either ride easier hills or get lower gearing. It's somewhat analogous to going to the gym and trying to lift something heavier than 1RM.

    If you want to improve on hills it's preferable to find a hill you can ride up 4-6 times than one you where you have to stop and rest numerous times. Restarting an ascent on cold legs doesn't seem like a great idea. Walking for a while would probably be better for your legs.

  16. #16
    Don from Austin Texas
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    Quote Originally Posted by gregf83 View Post
    I don't think there is much training benefit in riding up hills where you have to stop. That just means your gearing is incorrect. Either ride easier hills or get lower gearing. It's somewhat analogous to going to the gym and trying to lift something heavier than 1RM.

    If you want to improve on hills it's preferable to find a hill you can ride up 4-6 times than one you where you have to stop and rest numerous times. Restarting an ascent on cold legs doesn't seem like a great idea. Walking for a while would probably be better for your legs.
    It has worked for me. Perhaps not because of, but in spite of the technique, but I have tackled a hill where I would have to stop and rest and go back and have to rest less and eventually not at all.

    I would says its like going to the gym and your trainer says I want a 100 reps, and you have to take a break at 50. Keep doing it and you make it to 75 next week or two, and then one day to 100 non-stop.

    Don in Austin

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    Senior Member Looigi's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Don in Austin View Post
    ... When a hill has been too much for me, I will stop and rest and go a little further, stop and rest again if need be, BUT NOT WALK.
    Instead of resting, walk for the same amount of time. Resting is for wimps, IMHO.

  18. #18
    Long Distance Cyclist Machka's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by travelerman View Post
    The steepest hills I have encountered - and that have made me think about stopping to walk - have not even allowed me to stop at all; I can't seem to coordinate a stop and get unclipped in time without fear of falling over. I guess my inability to unclip on a very steep hill ensures that I will just have to keep on going...
    And that's why I don't ride steep hills clipped in. I can just step off the pedal any time I want.

  19. #19
    Don from Austin Texas
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    Quote Originally Posted by Looigi View Post
    Instead of resting, walk for the same amount of time. Resting is for wimps, IMHO.
    To me walking and resting are about one and the same. But if you rest just barely long enough to get started again you will have ridden the entire hill. Nonstop would be better, but that comes with practice.

    Don in Austin

  20. #20
    Don from Austin Texas
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    Quote Originally Posted by Machka View Post
    And that's why I don't ride steep hills clipped in. I can just step off the pedal any time I want.
    Platforms rule for me. I would have had more than a few ugly falls clipped in. I am probably missing something with the platform pedals, but I am happy to stay blissfully ignorant. I have twice ridden a century + 15 miles on platform pedals.

    Don in Austin

  21. #21
    Senior Member wolfchild's Avatar
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    There is nothing wrong with walking up very steep hills. I ride singlespeed/fixed and sometimes I just have to get off the bike and walk some hills. Even on flat ground sometimes I'll get off the bike and walk pushing my bike, I love walking , walking is great.

  22. #22
    Don from Austin Texas
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    Quote Originally Posted by wolfchild View Post
    There is nothing wrong with walking up very steep hills. I ride singlespeed/fixed and sometimes I just have to get off the bike and walk some hills. Even on flat ground sometimes I'll get off the bike and walk pushing my bike, I love walking , walking is great.
    If I had a single speed or fixed I would be walking quite a lot too! And up many hills, steep, not just "very steep!" Not on flat, though.

    Don in Austin

  23. #23
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    I've ridden up a 15% grade on my fixed gear while clipped in. If I am on a bike I am clipped in unless I am riding on snow and ice.

  24. #24
    Senior Member rdtompki's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by gregf83 View Post
    I don't think there is much training benefit in riding up hills where you have to stop. That just means your gearing is incorrect. Either ride easier hills or get lower gearing. It's somewhat analogous to going to the gym and trying to lift something heavier than 1RM.

    If you want to improve on hills it's preferable to find a hill you can ride up 4-6 times than one you where you have to stop and rest numerous times. Restarting an ascent on cold legs doesn't seem like a great idea. Walking for a while would probably be better for your legs.
    This makes a great deal of sense from a training standpoint. I think the context of the OP's assertion is a group ride with some tough hills where you're simply climbing what's in front of you. I faced just this situation on a solo ride this weekend. My lowest gear is 34-32 and I'm 65+. The second climb of the day had a 1.5 mile stretch averaging 10.9%. I was able to get to the top without stopping, but at too low a cadence to really get the most out of my cardio, this with 25 miles to go.

    Lots of tough rides have stretches like this. You gut it out if you can, walk if you can't. I would have killed for 100' at 6%, but the lowest grade was just under 10% so I just ground away. This hill came after 3500' of climbing so I wasn't at my freshest.

    This ride emphasized the importance of doing intervals on a local hill where I can go all-out cardio wise. Interestingly enough we have lower gears on our tandem (24-36) and I get my HR at least 10 bpm higher on 10-12% grades. I'm also effectively riding a 75+ lb bicycle.
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  25. #25
    Don from Austin Texas
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    Quote Originally Posted by DataJunkie View Post
    I've ridden up a 15% grade on my fixed gear while clipped in. If I am on a bike I am clipped in unless I am riding on snow and ice.
    That is impressive. How long was the 15% grade?

    Don in Austin

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