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

Does wind = hills?

Old 04-26-09, 09:46 PM
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Does wind = hills?

This is something I've wondered about ever since I started riding, and I answered it myself this weekend. See, I live in western Oklahoma. It's hilly here, but nothing too severe. Just lots of rollers and such. Not flat like Kansas, but definitely not mountainous. So, Saturday, I drove to Muskogee (in far eastern Oklahoma) for the Flower Power ride. It's a lot hillier there, as they are in the Ozark foothills. I was told at the start that, since I was not used to the hills, there would be several that I would end up walking up. And, I'll admit, there were several hills the likes of which I have never climbed. Not only steeper, but much longer than anything around here. Lots of folks walked, and some even had to sit and recharge on the way up, but I never got off the bike (except at a couple of the rest stops) for the 65 mile route.

Now I've never once done hill intervals. But I put in at least 100 miles a week, and sometimes 200 and over. So, while riding 65 miles would have been no big feat for me, defeating those hills was a major accomplishment in my mind.

So, what I'm thinking is that, even though western Oklahoma doesn't have the steep hills, it's the seemingly constant headwind here that made me strong enough to climb like that.

Anyone have similar experiences?
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Old 04-26-09, 09:52 PM
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More resistance =! a hill.
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Old 04-26-09, 09:55 PM
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IMO it's just your fitness level that allows you to do hills + maybe you just know how to pace yourself well. I seriously doubt that the people who were walking up those hills ride 100-200+ miles a month.

I find that pacing if one of the most important things for doing long, hilly rides because if you blow up early, it's going to be a long ride home, especially if you are riding with a group.
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Old 04-26-09, 09:59 PM
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From my experience on both flat ground + wind, and in hills ....

Riding on flat ground into a fairly strong headwind is roughly equal to a very gradual grade of hill, like perhaps 2-3%. With both you've got to shift into an easier gear and resign yourself to the fact that you're going to be there a while. Plus there's a similar push that goes on.
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Old 04-26-09, 10:02 PM
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does not =
Both represent additional effort over a windless flat.
Wind is unpredictable and invisible.
Unless the wind is dangerously high, you can maintain a decent speed into a headwind.
There are hills which can be extremely challenging, and ultimately some that will defeat you.
You will crawl up them at walking speeds. Wind will typically not present a situation where you have to stop or fall off your bike.

Also, wind's kryptonite would be aerodynamics, and hills would be weight. Too oversimplify.

People in the plains overemphasize wind due to their feelings of inferiority that hills and mountain are all the lore in cycling. I will definitely say that headwinds suck, big crosswinds do to. I will also say that I love tailwinds, and the "wind is tough" people don't like to address that point.

I like to at least understand the efforts I'm putting in, and hills are much more obvious.

Oh, and hills also have wind.
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Old 04-26-09, 10:12 PM
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Originally Posted by Machka View Post
From my experience on both flat ground + wind, and in hills ....

Riding on flat ground into a fairly strong headwind is roughly equal to a very gradual grade of hill, like perhaps 2-3%. With both you've got to shift into an easier gear and resign yourself to the fact that you're going to be there a while. Plus there's a similar push that goes on.
I agree Machka. However, out here, we hardly ever have a "fairly stong" headwind. It's usually (seemingly) hurricane force, and with no trees or anything to slow it down. A couple of weeks ago we had an unusually windy day......wind clocked at 74 mph. Not a cloud in the sky. Of course it's not that bad all the time, but it's almost always windy. So, early on on, I came to the realization that sometimes, going certain directions, you just have to mentally make up a new set of rules for what a "good" speed is when you look at the speedometer.

I should also mention that this was the first organized ride I've ever participated in, and it was a BLAST. Makes me wish I lived somewhere where there was trees and hills and other people who rode bikes......
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Old 04-26-09, 10:44 PM
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They can both be difficult but they are not the same.
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Old 04-26-09, 10:49 PM
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No, not even! Reason being is that when a rider may encounter wind while climbing. I did this 20 mile climb on Friday. Winds were blowing pretty good. Enough that I had to stop on the descent a couple of times to check for a flat as the bike was being blown all over the road. I started late, about 2 pm and the winds kick up in the afternoon.

A while back we were doing the same climb when a 30 mph gust (according to the weather report) blew over a rider forcing him to take an unwilling nap of 3 or 4 mintues!

Plenty of people try to compare climbs to the wind. If the wind blows on the climb, then whatcha gonna do?



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Old 04-26-09, 11:36 PM
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I rode this ride too on Saturday! This was a new route for the flower power this year and I can easily say this is the toughest ride in Oklahoma I have done to date. The hills were tough with a couple easily having small sections in the 10-13% grade area. Think stage 16 of the Tour de France. Although not sustained for 75 miles they will put you in your place if your not fit. Some fast down hills with gravel at the bottom for drainage/construction to pucker your butt up a little too.

It sounds like your putting in good miles (100-200 a week). Wind can match power output of simple hills (e.g. 300 watts into the wind vs 300 watts climbing). For these kind of hills there isn't much you can do to get better at them except climb them on a regular basis (or move to Spain and climb the Pyrenees like the pros at altitude).

If you didn't have a problem doing the flower power then the other big rides like Tulsa Tough, Tour de Tulsa, etc, won't be a problem.
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Old 04-27-09, 12:23 AM
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OP - Unless and until you do a long climb at 7%, you won't know how to compare them. To me, strong headwinds are annoying and disheartening, while climbs are invigorating. Perhaps because it's a constant factor, the more familiar a route becomes with frequent climbing efforts, the more satisfying it is to guage your progress, or lack thereof. Few things can compare in terms of reaching way down deep to accomplish a challenging physical feat over a relatively brief period of time.

If I had to choose between strong winds or a climb, I'd choose a climb every time. That said, riding is still riding, and I wouldn't stop riding if I lived where a strong headwind was frequent. The return trip with a tailwind would make it that much more fun
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Old 04-27-09, 04:51 AM
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Both winds and hill climbs require increased power output. That is their similarity. Strong winds can thus somewhat simulate hills for people who live in flat areas. However, the position on the bike and mental aspect are completely different (winds ARE discouraging and unpredictable).
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Old 04-27-09, 06:16 AM
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Originally Posted by jay0k View Post
I rode this ride too on Saturday! This was a new route for the flower power this year and I can easily say this is the toughest ride in Oklahoma I have done to date. The hills were tough with a couple easily having small sections in the 10-13% grade area. Think stage 16 of the Tour de France. Although not sustained for 75 miles they will put you in your place if your not fit. Some fast down hills with gravel at the bottom for drainage/construction to pucker your butt up a little too.

It sounds like your putting in good miles (100-200 a week). Wind can match power output of simple hills (e.g. 300 watts into the wind vs 300 watts climbing). For these kind of hills there isn't much you can do to get better at them except climb them on a regular basis (or move to Spain and climb the Pyrenees like the pros at altitude).

If you didn't have a problem doing the flower power then the other big rides like Tulsa Tough, Tour de Tulsa, etc, won't be a problem.
I'm glad to hear that, as I really didn't know how this ride would stack up against some of the other rides out east. I really enjoyed the ride, and the scenery was awesome. Only felt the wind a few times because of all the trees and such. I don't think it was much of a factor in speed during the ride. I'm planning on doing Okfreewheel in June, and figured this may be a good warm-up ride. I met lots of cool people and had a great time.
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Old 04-27-09, 06:34 AM
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You use different muscles when tackinling a head-wind rather than climbing hills. At least I feel slightly different muscles at work in those two situations.
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Old 04-27-09, 06:54 AM
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Oklahoma wind is just awful. This Saturday, I rode up a ton of hills into that insane south wind we've been having. So I guess hills + wind = double awesome?
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Old 04-27-09, 06:58 AM
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Your legs don't care why the resistance is increasing. All they know is that it's harder to pedal. The only caveat to that is that your position is slightly different when climbing, so the muscle groups used are different.

At the end of the day, though, watts are watts.
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Old 04-27-09, 06:58 AM
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Wind = increased air resistance. At least when you're headed into it! If this resistance was the same as hills, then you could simulate hills just by trying go faster on a flat in windless conditions.

Both hills and wind represent increased resistance to you going faster, but they are different. I would say, though, that some wind training would certainly carry over into climbing ability. But as others have observed, they're not exactly equal.
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Old 04-27-09, 07:00 AM
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They are not equal. Climbing is linear in resistance since the opposing force is gravity. If you want to go twice as fast (ignoring the air resistance) pedal twice as hard. You also engage different muscles.

Air resistance is a cubic. If you want to go twice as fast, you have to pedal 3 times as hard. But because of that cubing, air resistance give less tactile feedback.

But, if you are strong in the wind, you can be strong on hills, you just might be a bit sore the next day.
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Old 04-27-09, 07:02 AM
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Originally Posted by tntyz View Post
Wind = increased air resistance. At least when you're headed into it! If this resistance was the same as hills, then you could simulate hills just by trying go faster on a flat in windless conditions.

Both hills and wind represent increased resistance to you going faster, but they are different
. I would say, though, that some wind training would certainly carry over into climbing ability. But as others have observed, they're not exactly equal.
when you don't have a hills, or mountains to train on, it's the only alternative.
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Old 04-27-09, 07:03 AM
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Originally Posted by andr0id View Post
They are not equal. Climbing is linear in resistance since the opposing force is gravity. If you want to go twice as fast (ignoring the air resistance) pedal twice as hard.
That makes no sense. There is no difference between putting out 300 watts of power on a flat vs. 300 watts on a climb. Of course you don't go the same speed, but I don't think the OP was asking about climbing at 27mph. And, if you go fast enough on a climb, you can't ignore wind resistance anyway.
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Old 04-27-09, 07:36 AM
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Originally Posted by DrPete View Post
Your legs don't care why the resistance is increasing. All they know is that it's harder to pedal. The only caveat to that is that your position is slightly different when climbing, so the muscle groups used are different.

At the end of the day, though, watts are watts.
Beat me to it, I was going to say virtually the same thing.
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Old 04-27-09, 07:38 AM
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Originally Posted by merlinextraligh View Post
Beat me to it, I was going to say virtually the same thing.
Great minds think alike... and so do we.
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Old 04-27-09, 07:39 AM
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Originally Posted by DrPete View Post
That makes no sense. There is no difference between putting out 300 watts of power on a flat vs. 300 watts on a climb. Of course you don't go the same speed, but I don't think the OP was asking about climbing at 27mph. And, if you go fast enough on a climb, you can't ignore wind resistance anyway.
By definition, a W is a W, but to my legs/body there is a difference in the input (rhythm or cadence) necessary to generate the output (a W) on a climb vs. wind vs. flattish/rolling terrain. Example, this past weekend I rode in the mountains, but had lots of valley riding as well. Much more natural feeling and sustainable for me to generate 300W (arbitrary) for extended periods (5 to 10 minutes) while turning over a 53x15/17 with good rhythm vs. going up hamburg road or coxey brown or harp hill where gradients are >15% in stretches while muscling a 39x23/25. Wattages were often very similar, but the sustainableness or feel of them was not. I dont know why this is but know that it is.
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Old 04-27-09, 07:40 AM
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Originally Posted by DrPete View Post
That makes no sense. There is no difference between putting out 300 watts of power on a flat vs. 300 watts on a climb. Of course you don't go the same speed, but I don't think the OP was asking about climbing at 27mph. And, if you go fast enough on a climb, you can't ignore wind resistance anyway.
Let's take your 300 watts there. I'm not going to plug into formulas, just making guestimates from riding with a PowerTap. 300 watts up a moderate hill is 10-12mph. "Drop the hammer" and "Crank it up" to 600 watts and your going roughly twice as fast. ROUGHLY. Don't get all pedantic on me. It's a bit less that double because air is starting to come into the equation more at 20mph.

Now ride along a nice level bit of ground on a road bike on the hoods and a mostly windless day at 300 watts and you're maybe doing 22mph. Double your watts to 600 and you will not being going 44mph. You'll be high twenties, maybe make it to 30mph. If you want to go 40mph, you'll need to put out 900-1000 watts or so. 3x the 300 watts you needed to go 20mph. Hmmm, 1000 watts is just about what lead out guys do to get their sprinters into the high 30's right before the sprinters jam on 1500+ watts to sprint to the line at a bit over 40mph.

So the math is pretty consistent with empirical data.

This depends somewhat on your size. If you're heavy, the 300 watts going up hill isn't going to stretch as far as a light guy.
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Old 04-27-09, 07:41 AM
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Originally Posted by tntyz View Post
If this resistance was the same as hills, then you could simulate hills just by trying go faster on a flat in windless conditions.
In large measure you can. If you want to climb mountains, and you live where its flat, you need to do lots of steady state intervals, busting it on the flats.

Climbing at its essence is power to weight ratio. You do not need hills to be able to raise your power to weight ratio.

FWIW, a flat landers take on climbing. http://everestchallengex2.blogspot.c...1_archive.html
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Old 04-27-09, 07:42 AM
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Originally Posted by MDcatV View Post
By definition, a W is a W, but to my legs/body there is a difference in the input (rhythm or cadence) necessary to generate the output (a W) on a climb vs. wind vs. flattish/rolling terrain. Example, this past weekend I rode in the mountains, but had lots of valley riding as well. Much more natural feeling and sustainable for me to generate 300W (arbitrary) for extended periods (5 to 10 minutes) while turning over a 53x15/17 with good rhythm vs. going up hamburg road or coxey brown or harp hill where gradients are >15% in stretches while muscling a 39x23/25. Wattages were often very similar, but the sustainableness or feel of them was not. I dont know why this is but know that it is.
I'm guessing it's a cadence thing, i.e. when climbing a big hill, cadence is lower with more power per pedal stroke. On the flats cadence goes higher but you're not pushing as hard.
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