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Utility Cycling Want to haul groceries, beer, maybe even your kids? You don't have to live car free to put your bike to use as a workhorse. Here's the place to share and learn about the bicycle as a utility vehicle.

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Old 05-28-09, 02:36 AM   #1
eggnoggbubble
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carrying loads up hills

Hi,

I'm pretty new to utility cycling (though I have been an on-off commuter for a little while) and am looking at options for a cargo/commuting/utility bike.

I have a question for experienced utilitarian cyclists: how do you cope with hills? I live in a hilly area with some occasional long steep climbs - I've done these on my sirrus (carrying no more than 10kg in panniers) but how on earth do car-free people get a load (and their children) up a steep hill? Do you fit superlow gears, do you get off and push, or do you just grit your teeth and struggle to the top?

Currently I'm considering either an xtracycle conversion (tho' i dont yet have a frame - my sirrus has a fatal crack in the frame and will need to be retired soon), a Radish, a mundo or a workcycles FR8. Electrical assist is probably part of my dream for the future, but it's beyond my budget for the moment so whatever bike i buy I will need to cope somehow for the time being.

How do you experienced hands deal with this issue?

thanks for reading
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Old 05-28-09, 07:35 AM   #2
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Depends how much load and how steep, but in addition to what you mentioned (low gear, dismounting, or tooth gnashing) some popular tricks are to:
-use a (kiddie) trailer
-go around the hill instead of over it (sometimes called a "wiggle")

If all else fails I bet you can walk/push up a steeper hill than you can drive.
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Old 05-28-09, 08:44 AM   #3
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Yes, low gears. I also live in a hilly town and when I got back into cycling, I used an electric bike. After about 6 months I was strong enough that I set up an xtracycle and rarely use the electric. Bikes seem to come geared for some place in flatland so I always lower the gearing.
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Old 05-28-09, 01:58 PM   #4
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Touring cyclists spin their camping loads over high mountain passes using low gears.
MTB chainsets will help with very small rings.
You need some skill to ride very slowly at moderate cadence up a steep hill. I find that it is almost always easier to spin the bike up rather than push it up.
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Old 05-28-09, 03:40 PM   #5
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I never have ridden one, but this idea may suit you;

http://cleverchimp.com/products/stokemonkey/

Only thing with electric is, that you are always carrying around that extra weight with you.

Last edited by Esteban32696; 05-28-09 at 05:30 PM.
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Old 05-28-09, 04:33 PM   #6
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I have a question for experienced utilitarian cyclists: how do you cope with hills?
I grunt a lot, breathe heavily, and occasionally curse the day I was born. That tends to help quite a bit...
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Old 05-28-09, 05:47 PM   #7
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Granny on the current trailer puller is a 30 or 32 tooth chainring and 28 tooth cog. It is not low enough for big loads up hills. So I grit my teeth and struggle. A load I cannot pedal up a hill would be much too heavy for me to walk up the same grade. It would drag me backwards if I tried to walk it up, so that's not an option.
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Old 05-28-09, 09:51 PM   #8
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i use a Big Dummy
my lowest gear is 22t x 34t

avoid holes
that is, if there are curves in the road, often the curves have a camber
that is, the inside of the turn is steepest

you'd be amazed how many small pitches you notice when you start looking
avoid those

you can always do "The Paper Route"
that is, zig zag across the road, or any amount safely possible thereof

when we were kids, delivering the paper, going up hill, from driveway to driveway, of course we zig zagged from one side of the road to the other...

hence, "Paper Route"

now days kids dont deliver the news paper before school.
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Old 05-28-09, 10:05 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by subclavius View Post
I grunt a lot, breathe heavily, and occasionally curse the day I was born. That tends to help quite a bit...
Yup, that's my strategy too. Gear right the hell down, gasp, wheeze, fumble the next gear change, spin wildly for a second, curse, gasp... Pleading with passers-by to kill me and put me out of my misery offers some entertainment, also

(Just got a cargo trailer. I had intended to put its hitch on my 5 speed Raleigh "town bike" but am glad I came to my senses and attached it to my touring bike instead... I need that granny ring!!! )

I snagged a Shimano Megarange 6-sp freewheel with a 34T "bailout" cog at a bike shop closeout sale last year. I think I will put that on the Raleigh, and maybe add a front derailleur and double or triple chainring to that bike as well. Gears are my FRIENDS. (Calgary is awfully damn hilly for a supposedly "prairie" city...).
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Old 05-29-09, 02:45 AM   #10
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ha, thanks for the replies.

Technical question: I've been looking at internal hub gears as low maintenance and reliable, but if they aren't low enough to get me up hills then that will be problematic. I had a bright idea to combine back IHG with a front deraillieur, but it then occured to me there might be chain tension issues (sorry, i know very much about this stuff, so far at least).

Does this mean derailleur gears are the way forward (and, um, the way up)? Do cycling tourists (the ones climbing the mountains) all use derraillier gears?

I'm fairly fit so dont mind the struggle (kind of, I'll do the teeth gnashing birthday cursing thing), but spinning sounds a lot easier than pushing up the hill (there's a short cut near my house that involves pushing the sirrus up a ridiculous incline of a jungle path, recently i prefer the long way round)

thanks for any further thoughts
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Old 05-29-09, 08:35 AM   #11
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With proper gears, you can pedal up a hill with a much larger load than you could push because you have mechanical advantage. Your gearing should allow you to slow down to walking speed until you get stronger. How many teeth is your small in the front and how many on your large in the back? IGHs aren't geared low enough for hilly places for me but there are lots of people (young people who haven't destroyed their knees- yet) who use those insane singlespeeds. Of course, that is what I used as a kid -good old Columbia singlespeed. We used them across the fields to bring in the milk cows but it was mostly flat there. Deraileur systems are reliable and I consider them pretty low maintainence if you have a decent system.
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Old 05-29-09, 01:09 PM   #12
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The only IHG suitable for really steep terrain is the Rohloff 14speed. There is a manufacturers limit on the cog size to limit torque but it is rated for tandem and MTB racing. For the less athletic Im pretty sure you could exceed these specs for lower gearing.
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Old 05-29-09, 05:29 PM   #13
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As far as I know derailleurs are the only way to get the very low gearing you want for going up hills with a load. Since there are a lot of possible crankset/cassette combinations possible, you can customize quite a bit, and change things out later on as you get stronger.

Derailleurs aren't high maintenance once you learn how to adjust them. I like friction shifting (really old school ) because it's easier for a home mechanic to tinker with. (Indexing can get a bit tricky, but don't let it scare you off). A lot of touring bikes use friction shift even now, and every touring bike I've seen has had front and rear derailleurs for the maximum spread of possible gears.

Look for a 1990ish hardtail mountain bike for your Xtracycle conversion. You'll get a strong frame and gearing that's quite low right off the bat... I always think of these as the Jeeps of the bike world
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Old 05-29-09, 07:32 PM   #14
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yeah, thinking about it I've been riding deraillier gears for 5 years and never had any problems other than a bit of maladjustment of the indexing (soon fixed with a general service at my LBS). Also there's lots of room for customizing so if i am struggling I can always get some lower gears.

A steel MTB would be great but I can't find one - I live in Okinawa and all the new bikes are aluminium (which cracks, grrrr) and all the old ones are too small for me (only 6' but that's the tall end of the scale for okinawa)

I am now thinking about x'ing a japanese mama-chari (similar to a dutch shopping bike) using the derailier gears from my sirrus - could have real novelty value (and be a cheap way to get what i want) tho' not exactly street cred.
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Old 05-29-09, 07:44 PM   #15
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I haven't found steel frames to be more durable than aluminum ones. They can be repaired while alu frames cannot, but unless it's a very nice frame, it maybe be cheaper to replace than repair.
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Old 05-30-09, 11:00 AM   #16
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IGH can certainly be geared as low or lower than common derailleur setups, and you don't need a Rohloff unless you insist also in retaining quite high gears. Take for instance the Shimano Nexus 8/Alfine hub. Its gear range is comparable to an 11-34 cassette. With a 22-tooth cog and a 36-tooth chainwheel, and a 26" wheel, you have very low gears indeed. To boot, you have a stronger wheel (dishless, high flanges) than you can get with wide-range derailleur setups of similar build quality, and you can shift while stationary.

Derailleur gearing is relatively cheap and lightweight, and efficient if kept clean. Other than that, it's got nothing on IGH for utility applications.
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Old 05-30-09, 11:36 PM   #17
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That IGH setup is fine if you only go up hills all day. When I drop off a load and am somewhat empty, I can cruise with a standard deraileur setup. With my folder with the IGH, I am forced to compromise into something that isn't quite as low as I want and on the other end something not quite high enough. Since I don't find a deraileur a problem, I would only consider one on a folder unless I could afford a Rolhoff.
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Old 05-31-09, 12:42 AM   #18
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Route planning can be your friend, too. Often I find a slightly longer, but more gradual, climb that makes a trip do-able instead of a nightmare. Check this site out: http://veloroutes.org/
You can map out a route and see the elevation profile-just like in my sig. line.
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Old 05-31-09, 10:56 PM   #19
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"A steel MTB would be great but I can't find one - I live in Okinawa and all the new bikes are aluminium (which cracks, grrrr) and all the old ones are too small for me (only 6' but that's the tall end of the scale for okinawa)"

No Giant dealer over there ?.. They have a Sedona St, a steel framed mountain bike which sells for less then 300 new...I just finished turning one into an Xtracycle and love it...; I have seen 3 aluminum frames crack under normal use over the years and they scare me..
The Sedona comes with a 28front and a 34 back for low gear.. When I first got the bike I thought this combo was way to low... After the conversion and when carrying a passenger etc I have really learned to appreciate that combo.. Might even go lower...
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Old 06-01-09, 05:39 AM   #20
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Don't be afraid Tourister. When a frame cracks, nothing terrible happens. Generally I ride for some time before realizing it's cracked, although I do notice something's not right, it feels funny. All of the frames that I've broken were steel. I broke two steel Rockhoppers. Also broke steel bikes from Novarro and BCA. These last two were in the $300 range. More expensive steel frames are probably better built and more durable.

Since then, I've been on aluminum, none of which have cracked. 3 Cannondales, a Kona and a Marin. $800-$1100 range, so better quality, but all high mileage, full time delivery bikes except for the "Crack'n'fail" Delta V which was primarily used for chairlift assisted mountain biking. The Kona and Marin are still active freight haulers. I use whichever one is in the least need of repair.

Oh yeah, my Ritchey Ultra was steel and cracked during a World Cup XC at Hunter Mountain, but it was damaged by the previous owner in a collision.

I wrote Crack'n'fail because it's funny, in quotes because I don't agree that Cannondales are easy to break.
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Old 06-01-09, 07:39 AM   #21
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This site may help quantify how difficult it is to cycle up hills,

http://bikecalculator.com/veloMetricNum.html
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Old 06-01-09, 08:03 AM   #22
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What I am afraid of is putting a lot of money into an aluminum frame etc and then have it crack.. I hace never had a steel frame crack or even seen one although I am sure it can be done... I figuree worst case I can get it welded...
I talked to Xtracycle and Yuba before buying a bike and they both recomended a steel frame for better strength..
I do have an aluminum Cypress and it is a great bike.. However I am heavy, well over 200 pounds and in the back of my mind I always wonder about that fatigure fracture...
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