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Switchbacks (for climbing hills)

Old 07-14-10, 12:47 PM
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Seattle Forrest
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Switchbacks (for climbing hills)

When I'm climbing a long steep grade (I mean something that feels like a 30 to 40 degree angle and goes on for blocks), if there are no cars around, I'll "make" switchbacks. Anybody who's been hiking knows about these, and has been tempted to cut them. I don't see this very often from cyclists, though, and figured I should share the tip.

First, caveat emptor. Only do this when you have excellent visibility, both on the street you're climbing, and on all the cross streets. This trick is best used in quiet residential neighborhoods and sleepy parks, or at night when you can see a car's lights before you can see the car itself.

That said, before you get tired enough to think about getting off the bike, turn left, and ride across the street, to the far edge. This should be almost flat, and very easy; you get a five second rest. Now, turn 180 degrees to the right. You just climbed a bit, but now you're taking a mostly flat route back to the right side of the street. When you get there, repeat the process. If you make a map, it should look like an S, joined to another one above it.

You'll get there faster if your turns aren't quite 180 degrees, which has you cutting diagonally across the street, at a slight incline ( you control how much ). You'll also take fewer switch backs.

How many of you already do this?
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Old 07-14-10, 12:51 PM
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The term I use to describe that is paperboy'ing. I use it if a hill has long sections of 13% or greater grades and the traffic/conditions make it a safe option. If I can't do it, I just crank along at 3 mph until I can't go anymore.
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Old 07-14-10, 12:54 PM
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It's common practice on hills that are unmanageably steep. What constitutes unmanageability, of course, depends on the individual LOL. I've never seen it done in town, though, only in the mountains.
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Old 07-14-10, 01:07 PM
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Nope! I don't find any satisfaction incompleting a climb in that fashion. If I can't ride straight up, I consider it as something that I can't do.

This is the route from I take from home to get 10 miles. If I can't ride straight up, then I'd find an easier course like many locals do!

This is actually an ez midweek ride compared some other stuff I 've done. But still, I can't get myself to "switchback". If I felt that I had to do it, I'd go home and try another day.






This was a harder ride, climbs on the first 25 miles on the way out.



Gearing, standard double (53/39-12/25), no "switchbacking"

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Old 07-14-10, 01:13 PM
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I had thought of doing this on some steep climbs but I decided against it since I could not see over the crest and a car may come barrelling over the crest right into me. So its not something that I will practice.
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Old 07-14-10, 01:31 PM
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The second gradient profile is the only one I would even consider paperboy'ing, although it is short enough that if my knee wasn't *****y that day, I could do it straight (albeit at 3 mph in the steeper bits).
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Old 07-14-10, 01:38 PM
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I've always called it tacking (like how sailing ships sail into the wind), but its not something I would recommend since it has you weaving across the lane.
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Old 07-14-10, 01:41 PM
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On shorter rides I try to avoid doing it, but on some of the longer brevets with nasty hills there hasn't been much of a choice for me. The hill to the finish line of the Baker Lake 400k is almost 1/3 mile at ~10%. After already riding for 252 miles there was no going straight up that sucker.
But I did manage to tackle Norway Hts. Hill (18%) without switchbacking at the end of the locally infamous quad buster, The Summits of Bothell which is 3750' in 40 miles.
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Old 07-14-10, 01:47 PM
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Originally Posted by deep_sky View Post
The second gradient profile is the only one I would even consider paperboy'ing, although it is short enough that if my knee wasn't *****y that day, I could do it straight (albeit at 3 mph in the steeper bits).
Yup, fairly short but plenty do avoid it. I think mainly cause you have to do some climbing to get there and most avoid climbing entirely, so even the lower section before you hit the mid graph takes some out of the rider.

It is short but if you break kdown that mid grapoh into two sections, you see the grades steep. Not as steep in the middle graph cause it's averaged ot. So breakdown allows you to see even closer, but VERY short thank goodness!

I'b getting the graphs from "Mapmyride". Funny, I never used it before but it's cool!

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Old 07-14-10, 01:51 PM
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Originally Posted by Mr. Beanz View Post
Gearing, standard double (53/39-12/25), no "switchbacking"
I think you just found your new profile pic, Beanz.
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Old 07-14-10, 01:56 PM
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Originally Posted by Mr. Beanz View Post
Yup, fairly short but plenty do avoid it. I think mainly cause you have to do some climbing to get there and most avoid climbing entirely, so even the lower section before you hit the mid graph takes some out of the rider.

It is short but if you break kdown that mid grapoh into two sections, you see the grades steep. Not as steep in the middle graph cause it's averaged ot. So breakdown allows you to see even closer, but VERY short thank goodness!

I'b getting the graphs from "Mapmyride". Funny, I never used it before but it's cool!

20% is terrible. It feels like you are trying to climb a wall. I have a 30-32 as my lowest gear, and I'd probably have to stand to get over that.
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Old 07-14-10, 02:04 PM
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Originally Posted by deep_sky View Post
20% is terrible. It feels like you are trying to climb a wall. I have a 30-32 as my lowest gear, and I'd probably have to stand to get over that.
But hey, you'd try it! I'm telling you, most riders turn the other way and RUN!
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Old 07-14-10, 02:16 PM
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Originally Posted by Mr. Beanz View Post
But hey, you'd try it! I'm telling you, most riders turn the other way and RUN!
Around here, hills like that are almost unavoidable. It's like my ride home: I have 5 choices, and all of them climb to the same level ridgetop... A 15%, 11%, 7%, or choice of 2 different 5% climbs. One way or another, I'm climbing. It just depends if I want to do the long drag-out or the short and ugly hill.
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Old 07-14-10, 02:18 PM
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Since my knee is giving me problems right now, I might not try it, but if the knee didn't hurt, I would try it.

Last Saturday I went on a ride that included Morrison Canyon Road, a 2.5 mile climb one way that started at 10% and was at 15% at one point within the first half mile. My lungs were willing, my legs were willing, but my knee was not, so I went back down after bout .75 mi and waited for my clubmates to come back down. I was very disappointed that I couldn't complete the climb as I wanted to prove to myself that I was fit enough to do it, but trashing my knee and being unable to walk much less bike for a week or more isn't worth it.
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Old 07-14-10, 03:02 PM
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Grade %

How would I go about finding the data I need to calculate the grade of some of the hills I climb? Digging through GPX files is messy. The map my route plots are cool, and I have software that will tell me what fraction of my ride comes in at what grade. But how do I figure out the grade from one street corner ( which I can translate easily to lat/lon ) to another?

For example, sometimes I take switchbacks up parts of Orcas Ave and some of the other hills coming up out of Lake Washington. I'd never be able to use this trick to climb the counterbalance, though. I only climb this one when I need some punishment. Saying hi to my brother means climbing Queen Anne Hill, and the most torturous way to do that is maybe 400 feet of climbing over four or five blocks. I'm curious how this compares to what you folks are talking about, so I'd like to find the grade.
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Old 07-14-10, 03:16 PM
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That actually involves more work than simply going up the hill. You're still raising yourself and the bike the same vertical distance, plus you have to do more work against friction moving a greater distance horizontally.
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Old 07-14-10, 03:22 PM
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Originally Posted by Seattle Forrest View Post
How would I go about finding the data I need to calculate the grade of some of the hills I climb? Digging through GPX files is messy. The map my route plots are cool, and I have software that will tell me what fraction of my ride comes in at what grade. But how do I figure out the grade from one street corner ( which I can translate easily to lat/lon ) to another?

For example, sometimes I take switchbacks up parts of Orcas Ave and some of the other hills coming up out of Lake Washington. I'd never be able to use this trick to climb the counterbalance, though. I only climb this one when I need some punishment. Saying hi to my brother means climbing Queen Anne Hill, and the most torturous way to do that is maybe 400 feet of climbing over four or five blocks. I'm curious how this compares to what you folks are talking about, so I'd like to find the grade.
I'm to very goo d with the computer but I use this site. Click "start mapping"

find your area, zoom in on street. I use hybrid caue it lets me see th satellite version with some street names. Easier to see exactly what point you want to chose.

I click once onth road (corner?) then click again at the end of that section. I twil show to th gith the mileage (eg 1.0). Bleow taht is a biox that says, "show elevation". cick on it and it will give you a graph (separate window)with the % included.

If ou click another point, it wil extend the route. SO I click on new route towards the upper rigth for the map screen. then asks if are you sure, click ok.

I cant even type but I cn use this site!

http://www.mapmyride.com/
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Old 07-14-10, 03:39 PM
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Originally Posted by deraltekluge View Post
That actually involves more work than simply going up the hill. You're still raising yourself and the bike the same vertical distance, plus you have to do more work against friction moving a greater distance horizontally.
Right.

I might start this after having just climbed 250 feet over the course of 5 blocks, the "traditional" way. At this point, my heart will be pounding in the 160+ bmp range. Doing the switchbacks ( I like "tacking" like mwchandler21 suggests ) gives me a short rest, and lets my hear rate fall back down to something reasonable, so I can force it back up. Instead of getting off the bike when there isn't enough energy left to go straight up, another option we (sometimes) have is to take the longer, but easier route, and stay on the bike. I think this is pretty much the same as ducking into a parking lot halfway up the hill, and rolling around for a moment until you're ready to tackle the next half.

Oddly, while I'm also out of breath after a bit of very steep climbing, this doesn't seem to be the limiting factor for me. I can think I won't be able to pull another breath, take it easy just long enough for my heart rate to fall to 120 or 130, and even though my lungs still feel overworked, I'm good for a lot more climbing.
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Old 07-14-10, 03:50 PM
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Originally Posted by Mr. Beanz View Post
I click once onth road (corner?) then click again at the end of that section. I twil show to th gith the mileage (eg 1.0). Bleow taht is a biox that says, "show elevation". cick on it and it will give you a graph (separate window)with the % included.
So apparently I'm a wimp; some of the stuff I think is pretty bad amounts to only 15 %.
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Old 07-14-10, 03:56 PM
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Originally Posted by Seattle Forrest View Post
So apparently I'm a wimp; some of the stuff I think is pretty bad amounts to only 15 %.
Well, you could make it tougher on yourself and swithcback your way up! I've heard that involves more work.
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Old 07-14-10, 05:03 PM
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I'll have to try that tonight! I need to pick up an adjustable stem for a friend who complains about her bike not fitting her; I found a used one for a great price, and the money goes to support charity, so I'm earning some karma points tonight. But I'll have plenty of opportunity for climbing.

Of course, the ride also goes by my favorite burger joint, which charges half price on Wednesdays. So I'll have plenty of opportunity to replace all the calories I'll burn on those hills, too...
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Old 07-15-10, 01:42 AM
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On my new bike I have to be very careful when doing this, especially at very sharp angles. I have much more toe overlap than my old bike, and if I cut it too close my foot wedges against the wheel. I've come close to coming to a dead halt and toppling over a couple of times.

Please don't do this unless you can see a LONG way up the road...
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Old 07-15-10, 09:57 AM
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Originally Posted by Seattle Forrest View Post
So apparently I'm a wimp; some of the stuff I think is pretty bad amounts to only 15 %.
Here's how Tour de France organizers rate climbs:
Category 4 – Typically shorter than two kilometers and with about a five percent grade or as long a five kilometers with a two or three percent grade.
Category 3 — Can be as short as 1.5 kilometers with a steep grade of up to 10 percent. Can also be as long as 10 kilometers with an average grade of less than five percent.
Category 2 — Can be as five kilometers with an eight percent grade or as long as 15 kilometers at four percent.
Category 1 — Can be eight kilometers at eight percent to as long as 20 kilometers at five percent.


http://www.examiner.com/x-1155-Cycli...-categorize-it
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Old 07-15-10, 10:15 AM
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Originally Posted by Mr. Beanz View Post
Well, you could make it tougher on yourself and swithcback your way up! I've heard that involves more work.
If you and your bike weigh 330 lbs, and you're trying to climb a 100-foot high hill, that's a minimum of 33,000 ft-lbs of work (plus any frictional losses), regardless of what gear you use or what switchback strategy you try...doing that in a minute would require 1 horsepower. Gears and switchbacks allow you to climb more slowly (hence at lower power levels) and use less force at the pedals, but they don't reduce the climbing work. If you spend 10 minutes, it's still 33,000 ft-lbs, but you need only 0.1 horsepower.
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Old 07-15-10, 10:22 AM
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Originally Posted by deraltekluge View Post
If you and your bike weigh 330 lbs, and you're trying to climb a 100-foot high hill, that's a minimum of 33,000 ft-lbs of work (plus any frictional losses), regardless of what gear you use or what switchback strategy you try...doing that in a minute would require 1 horsepower. Gears and switchbacks allow you to climb more slowly (hence at lower power levels) and use less force at the pedals, but they don't reduce the climbing work. If you spend 10 minutes, it's still 33,000 ft-lbs, but you need only 0.1 horsepower.
+1 - it's really no different than shifting to a lower gear and it costs less than a new cassette or crankset.
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