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Road Terrain; Hills vs. Flats

Old 01-19-19, 01:03 PM
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Road Terrain; Hills vs. Flats

I now live in a region that is very flat where as most of my life I lived in the hills, if not mountains. Something I've noticed is, on the flats, if one stops pedaling, you're going no where. You will come to a quick stop. In the rolling hills your legs get a break every so often when coasting down hill. And then of course you have to work to get up on top of the next "peak."

I'm just saying, outside my door it's very flat. When I ride 10 miles, I have pedaled 10 miles. Back in Maine, if I rode 10 miles I might have pedaled just 6 or 7 miles.

Any thoughts on this on this. I find this to be an interesting contrast.
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Old 01-19-19, 01:14 PM
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Originally Posted by BirdsBikeBinocs View Post
I now live in a region that is very flat where as most of my life I lived in the hills, if not mountains. Something I've noticed is, on the flats, if one stops pedaling, you're going no where. You will come to a quick stop. In the rolling hills your legs get a break every so often when coasting down hill. And then of course you have to work to get up on top of the next "peak."

I'm just saying, outside my door it's very flat. When I ride 10 miles, I have pedaled 10 miles. Back in Maine, if I rode 10 miles I might have pedaled just 6 or 7 miles.

Any thoughts on this on this. I find this to be an interesting contrast.
Welcome to flat country. Just wait until you get some strong wind on your ride and you don't have hills and/or mountains to block it. Those 10 miles will feel like 20 and the "work" to move forward never ends.
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Old 01-19-19, 01:25 PM
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In flat land it's all about the wind my friend. Plus, you don't have to worry about ever getting up over 35mph.
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Old 01-19-19, 01:27 PM
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where e-Bikes make sense

Yes, incessant Horrendous headwinds off the North Sea made up for being quite flat, on a few days, touring Holland..

Imagine, commuting into the 20 knot headwind after working all day , repeatedly..




....

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Old 01-19-19, 01:55 PM
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My opinion, it's not as big a contrast as that. My commute is mostly flat, a pathway alongside a creek, but almost every route outside of that is all hills. I seldom coasted regardless, except for the steeper hills, which I realized the first few rides on my fixed gear. I literally didn't notice not coasting.So I think there is not much to the distinction, to having a break by coasting every now and again.
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Old 01-19-19, 02:32 PM
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My area, north central Texas, is mostly roller coasters. Not many long flat stretches and no serious continuous climbs. Often the downhills are too short to amount to much of a rest so most rides involve continuous pedaling, with maybe a few opportunities to coast for a few seconds.

To get a good workout involving continuous pedaling effort I have to wait for windy days and deliberately ride into headwinds. It's the only way to approximate the experience of continuous climbing.

On the flip side, the tailwind helps level out the roller coasters to approximate the effect of a long, flat stretch in neutral wind.
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Old 01-19-19, 03:00 PM
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I live in the coastal area of Delaware, close to Bethany Beach DE and Ocean City MD. Obviously, it is a huge tourist area. We are about as flat and close to sea level as you can get. We also have winds almost constantly. The only hill I have to climb within 100 miles, or so, is the Indian River bridge. We get a large number of people from hill/mountain country. I have a lot of riders comment on the flatness and not having to do any climbing. I get at least just as many that comment on having to pedal all the time because of the flatness, and even more that comment on the wind, "does it ever stop blowing"?. I guess it is all up to what you are used to. I wish we did have some climbs to do in this area, or closer to us anyway. When I travel to hilly, mountain areas and ride I really feel the effort in my legs. I also know I can see the top and when I get there I can just cruise downhill.
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Old 01-19-19, 05:40 PM
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Did you forget how hard the up hill part of those 6-7 mile were?
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Old 01-19-19, 06:12 PM
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I hear ya. I commute flat, and do a lot of flat rides. Living in N Central Florida there are some small hills, but nothing too massive. We have some firmed by sinkholes as well around here. Today did nearly 50 miles, some hills and 25 miles of a 20mph headwind. Trust me, it was a workout. You take what you can get.
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Old 01-19-19, 07:21 PM
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Originally Posted by Bmach View Post
Did you forget how hard the up hill part of those 6-7 mile were?
I don't think anybody is going to forget how hard a 6-7 mile, or longer, climb is. I also think riding into a stiff wind for those 6-7 miles, or longer, is a hard work out. Pretty hard to actually compare the two. The really hard 6-7 miles is both uphill and against the wind. Now that is a leg killing, mentally breaking work out.
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Old 01-19-19, 07:40 PM
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Half of every hill is down. If you start and end your ride in the same place, for every climb there has to be a corresponding coast.
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Old 01-19-19, 07:56 PM
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I climb a measly 400,000ft per year, and I'm here to tell you that wind is worse than any hill. I'll take slogging up a hill over going into a headwind any day of the week-- because a hill has a top, and as others have pointed out, you get to coast back down. Wind is merciless.

I agree to a point about riding flats vs. repeated climb/descents... especially if you throw in stoplights. Going up a hill is usually steady power for a specific amount of time, followed by a relatively long period of coasting or low-power output. Riding on flat, urban/suburban streets is constant fluctuations in power, including frequent and repeated bursts to 1.5 - 2X FTP, in my experience. I was watching my power output yesterday, and every acceleration from a stoplight was ~440W for 5-7 seconds. Repeat that 30 or 40 times, and climbing the hills at a steady output starts to feel easier. "Traffic intervals" really start to grind me down after say mile 50. I quietly pray for green lights.

Oh, and a "climb" is at least 30 minutes, uninterrupted. Or more. A few minutes up a bump, that's just riding. That's what kinda makes me jealous of people who live where there's rolling terrain-- they can climb 3,000 - 4,000ft in a day and never climb more than 100ft in one go. If I pull out of the driveway and head east, I climb 800ft in the first 5 miles. If I keep going, it's 4,800ft in 20 miles.
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Old 01-19-19, 08:04 PM
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Get a fixed gear and you will pedal the whole way, up or down.
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Old 01-19-19, 08:04 PM
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Originally Posted by Convivial Panda View Post
You would think differently if you lived where there are extended climbs.
How long must a climb be, to be an extended one?

Oh, and I might want some lower gears for longer climbs but I doubt very much that I'd think differently about the "resting" advantage of coasting.
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Old 01-19-19, 08:10 PM
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Originally Posted by wphamilton View Post
How long must a climb be, to be an extended one?
Extended? Over an hour, over 4%.
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Old 01-19-19, 08:29 PM
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Originally Posted by DrIsotope View Post
Extended? Over an hour, over 4%.
OK, I guess I don't see the relevance of coasting in that scenario after all.
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Old 01-19-19, 08:49 PM
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For example: a continuous climb up HWY38 to Valley of the Falls Drive, ascending 4,000ft in 15 miles, and taking about 2 hours. My last effort was very moderated, and averaged just north of 200W for the climb. The descent took 27 minutes and averaged 70W. Was there coasting on the way up? Well, if you stop pedaling, you stop moving, so no. Coasting on the way down? Yeah. Quite a bit. That coasting isn't recovery so much as it is what I earned. I paid for that coasting.
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Old 01-19-19, 08:57 PM
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OK and how does that relate to "In the rolling hills your legs get a break every so often when coasting down hill. And then of course you have to work to get up on top of the next "peak.""?

I don't think it makes as much difference as OP speculates, because with fixed gear I've found that it makes no difference. He supposes that flats are harder, because you don't get to coast as much, but I don't think it is because I found that I seldom coasted regardless - with fixed gear you can't, and I've never noticed much difference. I guess I don't see how coasting down a hill for 27 minutes relates to that, nor why my opinion would change if I ever coasted down a hill for 27 minutes.
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Old 01-19-19, 09:06 PM
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Originally Posted by wphamilton View Post
OK and how does that relate to "In the rolling hills your legs get a break every so often when coasting down hill. And then of course you have to work to get up on top of the next "peak.""?

I don't think it makes as much difference as OP speculates, because with fixed gear I've found that it makes no difference. He supposes that flats are harder, because you don't get to coast as much, but I don't think it is because I found that I seldom coasted regardless - with fixed gear you can't, and I've never noticed much difference. I guess I don't see how coasting down a hill for 27 minutes relates to that, nor why my opinion would change if I ever coasted down a hill for 27 minutes.
I think it's fairly obvious. Climbing 4,000 vertical feet in one constant grade is significantly more difficult than climbing forty 100-foot ripples. Because at the end of one, you're 4,000ft higher than when you started, and in the other you could well be standing at the same level as when you started. Even on a fixed gear, you're not making the same wattage going down the hill as you did going up... unless you're actively trying to do so.

And that translates to flat land as well. Flat land is a steady power output for an extended period of time. I produce very similar power on flat sections as I do on climbs, I just get to go a lot faster. I guess as simply as possible, in terms of energy expenditure, Hills > Flats > Rollers.

I have absolutely, absolutely no desire to ride fixed gear. Ever. We have mountains here. It's hard enough.
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Old 01-19-19, 09:53 PM
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Originally Posted by Convivial Panda View Post
Yeah, as noted above, over an hour is a good metric. You simply don't have adequate context due to lack of experience.
With all due respect, you don't know anything about my experience.
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Old 01-19-19, 09:56 PM
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Originally Posted by DrIsotope View Post
I think it's fairly obvious. Climbing 4,000 vertical feet in one constant grade is significantly more difficult than climbing forty 100-foot ripples. Because at the end of one, you're 4,000ft higher than when you started, and in the other you could well be standing at the same level as when you started. Even on a fixed gear, you're not making the same wattage going down the hill as you did going up... unless you're actively trying to do so.
That doesn't actually make sense analytically speaking, but it's beside the point. We're probably not getting there however, so I'll withdraw the question to you.
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Old 01-19-19, 10:44 PM
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Originally Posted by Convivial Panda View Post


Sure I do. I read your posts here and assumed you were being honest.

“How long must a climb be, to be an extended one?” is one indication of your lack of experience.
I intended it to clarify whatever it was that you thought. Dr Isotope has an unusual idea of what it takes for a climb to be an extended one for example, and you might well have a different one - it doesn't matter to me other than to clarify what you're talking about. I'm left wondering whether, like presumably the Dr, you have little experience riding fixed gear?
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Old 01-19-19, 10:54 PM
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Originally Posted by Convivial Panda View Post


Sure I do. I read your posts here and assumed you were being honest.

“How long must a climb be, to be an extended one?” is one indication of your lack of experience.
No, it's an indication that he understands what relative statements are and you don't.

One can do a very hard workout on rolling hills, you just have to do it at much higher speed than sustained climbing, and I don't coast downhill on my multispeed bikes unless the road can't bear the speed or I'm really tired. I have ridden extensively in flatter areas as well as throughout the Bay Area. San Francisco is really interesting, because you get sustained climbs with traffic light and stop sign interruptions.

All this talk of winds, and no one mentions the effects of a tailwind?
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Old 01-19-19, 11:22 PM
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Originally Posted by livedarklions View Post
All this talk of winds, and no one mentions the effects of a tailwind?
Heck, "Tailwind mooch" is my Strava profile tagline. Not even kidding.

I'm completely unashamed about waiting for blustery days to tackle PRs. All of my top tens are heavily tailwind assisted, including Friday's 20-30 mph south wind. Pretty good PR and KOM chasing day, temp was 70 in the afternoon, but the wind was quartering from the S/SW and too gusty. Not quite perfect for the segments I was chasing.

Then another local cyclist (a much stronger, faster fellow I'm always chasing, Strava-wise) put 'em even farther out of reach Saturday with a rare 30-40 mph north wind. Brave fellow. Temp was around 40 and bitterly cold with that wind. I stuck my head outside, said "Nope," and figured nobody else would try that day. But wrong-o. He nailed a few KOMs and nearly bumped me off the top ten on a few segments. Dangit.

I used to feel guilty until I checked the NWS weather archives and discovered almost every regional KOM and top ten was tailwind assisted. The rare exceptions are by pros or seriously strong local amateurs, usually in pacelines. The rarest exceptions are three local women pros whose top tens are solo, often in adverse conditions. Dang tiny females. They're more aero and have incredible power to weight ratios on climbs.

And I know several other MAMILs like me, middle aged and older dudes, who are roughly comparable in middling solidly B-group ability and spar in a friendly fashion for the same bottom of the top ten positions by waiting for favorable winds. I'm probably the weakest of the lot, but I have weekdays off so I can take advantage of weekday conditions, not just weekends.

I keep hoping Strava will incorporate that browser extension a fellow beta-tested here via bike forums a couple of years ago that uses Strava logs and regional weather to give weighted results based on wind conditions. It's very useful for an honest perspective. In most cases my top tens are not only tailwind assisted, but often much more heavily tailwind assisted than other folks.

And one particular local woman pro would rightfully own the KOMs, not just the QOMs, if Strava used a weighted system that factored in wind conditions. Some of her top tens are in adverse wind, stiff quartering wind. In ideal conditions she'd probably have the KOMs.

But that would probably burst too many delicate balloons. Wouldn't bother me, I'm in it for the fast ride and fun. It's just amusing to see my name alongside riders whom I know are far stronger and could drop me like a rock on any ride.
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Old 01-19-19, 11:28 PM
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I bet at least half of my KOMs are tailwind assisted. Sorry, not sorry.
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