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Elevation gain: biking vs hiking

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

Elevation gain: biking vs hiking

Old 06-13-05, 02:50 PM
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Shut up & ride
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Elevation gain: biking vs hiking

This could be a really, really stupid question.

Is there an explainable correlation of effort between hiking vs biking a given elevation gain?

I do hikes w/ 3000' elevation gain w/ no problem (ok, there is some effort involved). For some reason biking a 3000' vertical gain sounds harder. Biking gives you the benefit of gearing. But doesn't hiking have an advantage with respect to friction? I.e. Don't you have to work harder biking because you're working more against gravity as a result of the low friction of the wheels on the ground? After all, if you stop pedaling, you'd go backwards, not like hiking.

Is there a certain % grade and/or gear ratio where biking uphill is the equivalent of striding uphill?

For purpose of this discussion, let's ignore the fact that different muscles are involved and may not be equally developed in any given person. Let's assume that the person is equally fit for hiking or biking.
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Old 06-13-05, 03:02 PM
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Ya gotta lift ~20lbs more up those 3000' if you use a bike.
There is a grade (others will chime in) where walking is faster.
You generally hike 3000' at a more leisurely pace than you would cycle. But 3000' for a fast paced hike is not easy. Maybe you better comparing the relative effort of running up 3000 vs. cycling.

Once you get to the top of the hill the advantages of a bike become much clearer.

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Old 06-13-05, 03:11 PM
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Originally Posted by Shut up & ride
Is there an explainable correlation of effort between hiking vs biking a given elevation gain?

Certainly...

You can hike much slower ...in fact... stop and go as much as you want and never fall over. On a bike there's a minimum amount of momentum necessary to prevent falling over. So, you either sustain continually the entire climb or you have to stop and put a foot down.

Other than that, everything else I think of is more or less apples and oranges.
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Old 06-13-05, 03:37 PM
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I think the results of the Mt. Washington hill climb are interesting, comparing running vs. cycling (and auto) records. Running record is not that far behind cycling for a 5000ft 12% climb - up until the 1980s running was basically the same speed. A little bit steeper and I guess results would be quite close.

http://www.mountwashingtonautoroad.com/autorecrd.html

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Old 06-13-05, 03:41 PM
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Originally Posted by Shut up & ride
Let's assume that the person is equally fit for hiking or biking.
That's just it... You're probably in noticeably better hiking than biking shape, yeah?
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Old 06-13-05, 03:48 PM
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Originally Posted by Shut up & ride
This could be a really, really stupid question.

Is there an explainable correlation of effort between hiking vs biking a given elevation gain?

I do hikes w/ 3000' elevation gain w/ no problem (ok, there is some effort involved). For some reason biking a 3000' vertical gain sounds harder. Biking gives you the benefit of gearing. But doesn't hiking have an advantage with respect to friction? I.e. Don't you have to work harder biking because you're working more against gravity as a result of the low friction of the wheels on the ground? After all, if you stop pedaling, you'd go backwards, not like hiking.

Is there a certain % grade and/or gear ratio where biking uphill is the equivalent of striding uphill?

For purpose of this discussion, let's ignore the fact that different muscles are involved and may not be equally developed in any given person. Let's assume that the person is equally fit for hiking or biking.
Its your method of gign up that hill.

I can do Monadnock easy day hike hour or two.

No Im doing a pretty direct hike. Put with biking its a different method. Alot of biking isnt just straight up its usually off like swerving across the mountain. I think it uses different parts of your body in different ways.
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Old 06-13-05, 04:21 PM
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Originally Posted by hi565
Its your method of gign up that hill.

I can do Monadnock easy day hike hour or two.

No Im doing a pretty direct hike. Put with biking its a different method. Alot of biking isnt just straight up its usually off like swerving across the mountain. I think it uses different parts of your body in different ways.
The hikes you do don't have switchbacks up the mountain?
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Old 06-14-05, 11:26 AM
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Originally Posted by LordOpie
The hikes you do don't have switchbacks up the mountain?

yah they do

I blame it on the time!
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Old 06-14-05, 12:55 PM
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I don't know why, but I've always felt biking up a long hill was more painful than running it. If I get so gassed riding up a steep hill, I have no philosophical problem with walking/jogging it, since I'm convinced there are gears below which it is easier to walk the bike than sustain a balanced spin. My theory is that the 20lbs of bike becomes significantly more of an issue then any gearing advantage you can create.

But even when you can sustain a decent pace, I feel the pain greater on a bike than when I ran regularly. And I've run the heartbreak hills during the Boston marathon several times.
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Old 06-14-05, 12:58 PM
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Originally Posted by hi565
yah they do

I blame it on the time!
so you cut switchbacks cuz you're in a hurry? Gotcha.
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Old 06-14-05, 01:03 PM
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Originally Posted by LordOpie
That's just it... You're probably in noticeably better hiking than biking shape, yeah?
Well, I asked the question generically so it might be of interest to others.

As for me, I don't know. I had a bad knee surgery last year that put me on my back for weeks. Significant atrophy. Started rehab on lifecycle w/ no resistance, then increased resistance and eventually added elliptical. But the muscle mass lost will take some time for this 42 year old to gain back. Net... I may be in marginally better hiking shape, but call it a wash.

Again, I wanted to ask the question generically, but ultimately I'm trying to figure out how to gauge my cycle climbing limits in advance by relating it to hiking. Of course I'll find out when I hit that first real climb on my bike.
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Old 06-14-05, 01:10 PM
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Originally Posted by Shut up & ride
...but ultimately I'm trying to figure out how to gauge my cycle climbing limits in advance by relating it to hiking.
I really don't think you can.

Originally Posted by Shut up & ride
Of course I'll find out when I hit that first real climb on my bike.
no you won't climbing isn't just physical... it's mental, emotional, technique. After you've done dozens of climbing rides, you'll look back at your first and realize you only did what was necessary to struggle up the hill. Ok, maybe not you. But for me, I've learned a lot in the past year about what's right for me.

Hiking was the same for me. When I started, I was just walking and then later, i realized I was now hiking.
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Old 06-14-05, 01:12 PM
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Originally Posted by LordOpie
so you cut switchbacks cuz you're in a hurry? Gotcha.
well I meant the time of day
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Old 06-14-05, 01:27 PM
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I think the bike is a more efficient way to climb, despite the added weight of the bicycle itself, because though it might not feel like it, you do get some rolling momentum even uphill. On the other hand, you typically hike at a much slower pace, so the effort is spread over a longer time and doesn't feel as intense. Climbing a hill on a bike is probably closer in effort to running stairs than to hiking.
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Old 06-14-05, 02:59 PM
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A few months ago, I rode up a 14% hill and was able to maintain 7 mph. I then tried the same grade running on a treadmill, and the best speed I could maintain was only 5 mph.
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Old 06-14-05, 03:00 PM
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Originally Posted by dbg
My theory is that the 20lbs of bike becomes significantly more of an issue then any gearing advantage you can create.
Yeah, trying running up same hill with a 20lbs loaded backpack. Not fun.

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Old 06-14-05, 03:12 PM
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When I'm hiking I carry other kinds of weight: Full waterproof hiking boots, more clothing, wallet, keys, camera, napsack with lunch for me and the misses and sometimes extra water for my dogs. Maybe not 20 pounds, but a bunch of stuff that offsets at least part of that weight difference people noted.
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Old 06-14-05, 03:38 PM
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Originally Posted by Shut up & ride
When I'm hiking I carry other kinds of weight: Full waterproof hiking boots, more clothing, wallet, keys, camera, napsack with lunch for me and the misses and sometimes extra water for my dogs. Maybe not 20 pounds, but a bunch of stuff that offsets at least part of that weight difference people noted.
Kind of, I think that biking is 20lbs more - assuming you are gone for approximately the same time you need the same addtional supplies - water, food, emergency jacket, wallet, keys - you may not need sturdy boots for biking, but you still need biking shoes, helmet, tools, tire repair kit, etc. - so overall I'd say the bike is 20lbs extra and the supplys/clothing/tools end up being a wash.

Camera and dogs are extra

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Old 06-14-05, 08:06 PM
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i know i certainly couldnt maintain running at 9-10mph or so that i can carry up a climb on my bike, at least if i was taking the same route. now get the grade steep enough and hiking most likely has the advantage. i dont think it would take 15 minutes to do 1000' feet of stairs, whereas thats pretty typical for climbing on a bike.
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