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So what do you consider a "hilly" ride?

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Road Cycling “It is by riding a bicycle that you learn the contours of a country best, since you have to sweat up the hills and coast down them. Thus you remember them as they actually are, while in a motor car only a high hill impresses you, and you have no such accurate remembrance of country you have driven through as you gain by riding a bicycle.” -- Ernest Hemingway

So what do you consider a "hilly" ride?

Old 09-10-15, 07:07 AM
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sakau2007
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So what do you consider a "hilly" ride?

I suppose this varies a lot by where you live and where you cycle... but I've noticed that I tend to get a lot more elevation change according to Strava than riders in other areas, including areas that I thought were pretty hilly.

Obviously, I don't expect people riding around Nebraska to get the same elevation change as people in a ski town, but I just thought I'd ask what your averages were and where you live.

Since I got my bike about 2 weeks ago I've ridden 88.5 miles and am at 9,967 feet of elevation gain. I live near Birmingham, AL.
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Old 09-10-15, 07:14 AM
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I consider a ride hilly when I spend the majority of time going either up or down.
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Old 09-10-15, 07:16 AM
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For me on Long Island, the highest point is only 400 ft. For me, I rode about 400 miles to get over 13,000 ft of climb. I have a route that is about 20 miles that will give me 1300 ft of climb which is about the most I have found local with the most amount of climb. This is with a focus on North shore riding. If I was riding the South shore, it would be extremely flat. Can only blame the glacier that dropped us here.

There are 2 rides in and about the Gold Coast that have about 3000+ ft (claimed) over 66 miles (Nassau Suffolk Bike Challenge) and 5000+ ft over 100 miles( Gold Coast Tour). I think these rides cover our hilliest areas.
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Old 09-10-15, 07:23 AM
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Originally Posted by Fly2High View Post
For me on Long Island, the highest point is only 400 ft.
In the area right near where I live, 400 ft. is about the max I see, too. However, there are enough of those 100-200 ft. climbs that they can add up to a considerable amount of climbing. My commute to my current consulting job is 21 miles round trip and over 1700 ft. of elevation gain.

FWIW, I've always considered hilly ~60+ ft. elevation gain per mile and mountainous at 100+ ft. of gain per mile.
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Old 09-10-15, 07:55 AM
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Someone here introduced me to this formula, and I've found it very helpful to determine whether or not I can do certain rides around here ...


If your ride is 50 km, and you've got 500 metres of climbing ...

500/50,000 * 100 = 1


If your ride is 50 km and you've got 1500 metres of climbing ...

1500/50,000 * 100 = 3


You get the idea.


Now for me ...
... if a ride is less than 0.5 ... it is a flat ride.
... if a ride is less than 1 ... it is a little bit hilly, but doable.
... if a ride is less than 1.5 ... it is a hilly ride and will be a bit of a struggle, but I can manage it. Just.
... if a ride is over 1.5 ... it's too hilly for me right now.
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Old 09-10-15, 08:17 AM
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I think of "hilly" as expressing the terrain to have a multitude of hills. So whereas X'/mi (or any expression of gain/distance) might represent one big climb on an otherwise flat route, I prefer to use hilly to mean multiple climbs of multiple minutes in close succession. I would not consider a route with a big climb, then 10s of miles of flat or rolling between the last climb to be hilly, despite what could be a lot of gain.
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Old 09-10-15, 08:27 AM
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This seemed hilly, about 4000 ft in 46 miles:


Last edited by mvnsnd; 09-25-17 at 11:12 AM.
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Old 09-10-15, 08:30 AM
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I'd say when it starts to get to around 50ft per mile is when I'd start calling it a hilly ride.
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Old 09-10-15, 08:34 AM
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Originally Posted by mvnsnd View Post
This seemed hilly, about 4000 ft in 46 miles:



4000 ft = 1219 metres
46 miles = 74 km

1219/74,000 * 100 = 1.6

Yep, I'd call that fairly hilly. I could probably do it, but probably not within the randonneuring minimum speed of 15 km/h. It would be slow going for me.
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Old 09-10-15, 09:16 AM
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This was Falls Creek Road out of Winthrop. Fantastic ride. Went 15+ miles without seeing a car. Long climb, steep in places, wonderful descent.



For riding around town or out on one of the islands, if I'm gaining about 50 feet per mile I'll usually call it hilly.
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Old 09-10-15, 09:21 AM
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Thanks, Seattle, for the illustration of what I'm talking about. That may be a "hill ride", but would you call that hilly?
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Old 09-10-15, 09:29 AM
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I don't think in terms of hilly per se. I think more along the lines of climbs. They are categorized by a combination of grade and length. It is those factors that affect me in terms of what I can do or want to try. My rating or evaluation changes as I age.

With Strava and elevation it records every single foot that you go up so even if you are riding semi-flats that has short or gentle rolling terrain it counts has elevation gain. (As you know.)

I use Strava a lot and have found for me and my goals and equipment it is a valuable tool. The terrain where I live is pickem! You ride flat, mix, just climbs or whatever. It can be a hot canyon or the cool along near beach ride.
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Old 09-10-15, 09:44 AM
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If it has hills.
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Old 09-10-15, 09:46 AM
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Originally Posted by chaadster View Post
Thanks, Seattle, for the illustration of what I'm talking about. That may be a "hill ride", but would you call that hilly?
Honestly I'd say the first and last 10 miles were just "the approach" to the climb. "Hilly" means constant ups and downs. I'll see if I can find an example to post.
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Old 09-10-15, 09:53 AM
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In my opinion you can have a hilly ride with only one hill. Even if the technical term for hilly is "having many hills".
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Old 09-10-15, 11:02 AM
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I live in a very hilly area. It is rare for a ride to have less than 60' of climbing/mile--you have to get on a rail trail to make that happen. Most rides are 80-110' per mile. They start to get really tiring beyond that, but I have a 5 mile route in my neighborhood that I can do laps of with about 700' of climbing per lap. This is the triathlon that I have next weekend. I have ridden the course twice now, and with 7000' of climbing in 56 miles, I expect pain. So much pain.
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Old 09-10-15, 11:23 AM
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+100' / 1 mile i'd recon is hilly....
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Old 09-10-15, 12:11 PM
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Originally Posted by RPK79 View Post
In my opinion you can have a hilly ride with only one hill. Even if the technical term for hilly is "having many hills".
But what does it serve having that opinion? It's such an easy, simple distinction to make, and doing so lets you understand different impacts on rider performance. I mean, the "one hill" ride is a climber's ride; a hilly ride can favor a power rider if the hills are not too long. Descending is not really an issue on hilly rides, but takes on whole new dimensions on the "one hill" ride.

I don't mean to imply it's a big deal; it's not as though we need to communicate everything about a ride by calling it hilly, flat, a climb, rolling, or whatever, so this is just semantics playtime. Yet, it does seem that there's a significant distinction between the one hill "hilly" ride and the actually hilly ride, at least in terms of how I'd expect the ride to tax me and my equipment.
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Old 09-10-15, 12:12 PM
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Originally Posted by Ridelots24 View Post
+100' / 1 mile i'd recon is hilly....
Yeah, that's a rule of thumb I often use, also.

You can have 60 miles of flat and 10 miles of brutally-steep climbing for an average of only 50'/mile and come away knowing you've finished a "hilly" ride. (Probably not in Birmingham.)
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Old 09-10-15, 12:18 PM
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Camano Island. This was recommended to me as one of the best rides in the Puget Sound region. It was nice but didn't live up to its billing. But I'm a mountains person, not an ocean person.



That's elevation over time, if it's not obvious. About 2,200 feet over 30 miles. Islands are hilly!

For some reason Garmin Connect is showing down to -400 feet so I cropped the bottom of the graph. I don't know why they do that.
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Old 09-10-15, 12:40 PM
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Originally Posted by chaadster View Post
But what does it serve having that opinion? It's such an easy, simple distinction to make, and doing so lets you understand different impacts on rider performance. I mean, the "one hill" ride is a climber's ride; a hilly ride can favor a power rider if the hills are not too long. Descending is not really an issue on hilly rides, but takes on whole new dimensions on the "one hill" ride.

I don't mean to imply it's a big deal; it's not as though we need to communicate everything about a ride by calling it hilly, flat, a climb, rolling, or whatever, so this is just semantics playtime. Yet, it does seem that there's a significant distinction between the one hill "hilly" ride and the actually hilly ride, at least in terms of how I'd expect the ride to tax me and my equipment.
I'm going to take a regional stance with this. Up here in Minnesota we don't have extended climbs, so, if a ride falls under my definition of 50ft/mile = "hilly" that ride will be hilly regardless of it being a 30 mile ride with 1500+ feet from multiple hills or a 5 mile ride with one 300 ft hill.
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Old 09-10-15, 12:49 PM
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Originally Posted by Machka View Post
Someone here introduced me to this formula, and I've found it very helpful to determine whether or not I can do certain rides around here ...


If your ride is 50 km, and you've got 500 metres of climbing ...

500/50,000 * 100 = 1


If your ride is 50 km and you've got 1500 metres of climbing ...

1500/50,000 * 100 = 3


You get the idea.


Now for me ...
... if a ride is less than 0.5 ... it is a flat ride.
... if a ride is less than 1 ... it is a little bit hilly, but doable.
... if a ride is less than 1.5 ... it is a hilly ride and will be a bit of a struggle, but I can manage it. Just.
... if a ride is over 1.5 ... it's too hilly for me right now.
Interesting...I just did some quick calculations for a random sampling of rides. A couple of mountain bike rides thrown in there too.

I got:

1.73
1.30
1.13
2.23
.88

The 2.23 and the 1.73 are regular mountain bike rides I do...they certainly feel hilly.
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Old 09-10-15, 01:18 PM
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While Machka's formula is indicative of elevation ratio's, I'm not sure I would define it as characterizing hilly. Going up a constant slope could qualify. For me, to be hilly means that one crests some (more than one) hills. You have some descent as well as some climbs. A single climb would not qualify for me. That would just be a hill ride, like Seattle Forrest's first hill. His second graph, I would call hilly.
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Old 09-10-15, 01:23 PM
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Originally Posted by sakau2007 View Post
I suppose this varies a lot by where you live and where you cycle... but I've noticed that I tend to get a lot more elevation change according to Strava than riders in other areas, including areas that I thought were pretty hilly.

Obviously, I don't expect people riding around Nebraska to get the same elevation change as people in a ski town, but I just thought I'd ask what your averages were and where you live.

Since I got my bike about 2 weeks ago I've ridden 88.5 miles and am at 9,967 feet of elevation gain. I live near Birmingham, AL.
Are you riding in a mountainous area for the 88.5 miles you mentioned? That is a significant amount of elevation gain for that distance.

For example, I rode 20 miles yesterday for an elevation gain of about 2000 feet. That involved two climbs through mountainous terrain with grades ranging between 3-7% for 10 miles (the return trip was of course downhill - yay!). If you were riding in similar terrain, 9,967 feet seems correct. If you were just on rolling hills and flats, you might want to check whatever device you are using for errors. Look at what terrain you were on and elevation changes on a topographic map, and compare.
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Old 09-10-15, 01:25 PM
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My Thursday group ride is "hilly" to me. I wouldn't think this graph is too accurate considering the last climb is the first descent.

That being said, it's Thursday.
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