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Epic Hill...Epic Fail in Vermont

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Epic Hill...Epic Fail in Vermont

Old 08-19-12, 01:56 PM
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Epic Hill...Epic Fail in Vermont

So I am on vacation with my family in Stowe, Vermont...and although it's a family vaca, I took my bike with me.

I consider myself a good climber for where I live in Pennsylvania. Our local hills are typically less than a mile long, and generally in the 6-8% range. The two tougher hills near me are about 1 mile at about 12% and there is a long one that's about 3 miles but an easy 6% or so.

I have ridden tougher climbs in the poconos with no real problem.

Anyway, I have standard gearing, 39/53 and 12-23. It's fine for my usual riding as described above.

Today, in Stowe, I decided to try the local hillclimb, which is Smugglers Notch. I came from the south. The approach was several miles of moderate climbing, maybe 5%. Easy.

Then I hit the part of the road which is closed in winter. It got steeper, but I was fine, spinning away happily in my 39-23. It got steeper, and then the switchbacks started. I stood up and motored over these which I am estimating were about 15%.

Then, the switchbacks got suddenly very steep. I was clearly undergeared. I was standing and pulling with all my might, but slowed down so much I felt I was in danger of flopping over. It felt like 20%...holy crap! My survival instincts took over, I unclipped, and stopped.

Very humbled and humiliated, I turned around and rode back. Since the ride back was mostly downhill, it was a piece of cake.

Next time I try something like this, I think I will need a compact.
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Old 08-19-12, 02:08 PM
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Yeah Vermont is something else. Back when my wife and I used to ride there we always had a 32 on the back just in case.They don't call it the green mountain for nuttin.
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Old 08-19-12, 03:15 PM
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Next time I try something like this, I think I will need a compact.
Or an 11-28 perhaps. That's a bigger change than a compact crankset, and cheaper and easier to swap in/out.

Sounds like a challenging climb for sure. How much further does it go from the point where you bailed?
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Old 08-19-12, 03:46 PM
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You don't know what you can't do till you fail.
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Old 08-19-12, 04:07 PM
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Vermont is scenic and gorgeous, but man those hills hurt. The downhill parts are terrific and usually very few cars on the road which make the descent a E Ticket ride!
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Old 08-19-12, 04:21 PM
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Originally Posted by datlas View Post
So I am on vacation with my family in Stowe, Vermont...and although it's a family vaca, I took my bike with me.

I consider myself a good climber for where I live in Pennsylvania. Our local hills are typically less than a mile long, and generally in the 6-8% range. The two tougher hills near me are about 1 mile at about 12% and there is a long one that's about 3 miles but an easy 6% or so.

I have ridden tougher climbs in the poconos with no real problem.

Anyway, I have standard gearing, 39/53 and 12-23. It's fine for my usual riding as described above.

Today, in Stowe, I decided to try the local hillclimb, which is Smugglers Notch. I came from the south. The approach was several miles of moderate climbing, maybe 5%. Easy.

Then I hit the part of the road which is closed in winter. It got steeper, but I was fine, spinning away happily in my 39-23. It got steeper, and then the switchbacks started. I stood up and motored over these which I am estimating were about 15%.

Then, the switchbacks got suddenly very steep. I was clearly undergeared. I was standing and pulling with all my might, but slowed down so much I felt I was in danger of flopping over. It felt like 20%...holy crap! My survival instincts took over, I unclipped, and stopped.

Very humbled and humiliated, I turned around and rode back. Since the ride back was mostly downhill, it was a piece of cake.

Next time I try something like this, I think I will need a compact.
You need to lose 10 lbs and get a 25 or 27 in the back.
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Old 08-19-12, 04:21 PM
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How long was this steep climb anyway? I did a couple of climbs in Greece like that, they were like 6 mile climbs, but the middle part of those climbs were 3-4 miles of 12-20% switchbacks, very nasty. Did that in a 39 x 25, but I needed a lighter gear.
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Old 08-19-12, 04:26 PM
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Originally Posted by datlas View Post
My survival instincts took over, I unclipped, and stopped.
???
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Old 08-19-12, 05:38 PM
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Live and learn. You might be happier with a 39/25 on these hills. Getting humbled is one of the triggers that makes you a better cyclist, in my experience.

I won't walk a hill. I will fall over before I walk a hill. I will have a heart attack before I walk a hill. Luckily, I haven't ever had to test that. Phew!
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Old 08-19-12, 06:15 PM
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I looked at a map and it seems I was very close to the top. The climb was maybe 7 miles total but only about 1 mile is super steep.

I may try again later this week. Also, it looks as if the pass is less steep coming from the other side, so I may try to loop around and come back the opposite way of today's attempt.

If I was to live in this area I would change my gearing, but only visiting for a week so I have to make do with what I have.
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Old 08-19-12, 06:19 PM
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Originally Posted by patentcad View Post
You need to lose 10 lbs and get a 25 or 27 in the back.
Yes to 25 or 27.

No to lose weight. I am 6 feet tall and weigh 136. If I lose more weight I will just be skin and bones. My sister thinks I have an eating disorder...if I lose more, she will think I have AIDS or cancer...
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Last edited by datlas; 08-19-12 at 06:41 PM.
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Old 08-19-12, 06:36 PM
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Originally Posted by datlas View Post
So I am on vacation with my family in Stowe, Vermont...and although it's a family vaca, I took my bike with me.

I consider myself a good climber for where I live in Pennsylvania. Our local hills are typically less than a mile long, and generally in the 6-8% range. The two tougher hills near me are about 1 mile at about 12% and there is a long one that's about 3 miles but an easy 6% or so.

I have ridden tougher climbs in the poconos with no real problem.

Anyway, I have standard gearing, 39/53 and 12-23. It's fine for my usual riding as described above.

Today, in Stowe, I decided to try the local hillclimb, which is Smugglers Notch. I came from the south. The approach was several miles of moderate climbing, maybe 5%. Easy.

Then I hit the part of the road which is closed in winter. It got steeper, but I was fine, spinning away happily in my 39-23. It got steeper, and then the switchbacks started. I stood up and motored over these which I am estimating were about 15%.

Then, the switchbacks got suddenly very steep. I was clearly undergeared. I was standing and pulling with all my might, but slowed down so much I felt I was in danger of flopping over. It felt like 20%...holy crap! My survival instincts took over, I unclipped, and stopped.

Very humbled and humiliated, I turned around and rode back. Since the ride back was mostly downhill, it was a piece of cake.

Next time I try something like this, I think I will need a compact.
Last time I did that was in college. I wonder what it would be like now at 59.
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Old 08-19-12, 06:38 PM
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Originally Posted by patentcad View Post
You need to lose 10 lbs and get a 25 or 27 in the back.
Thus saith the Lord.
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Old 08-19-12, 06:40 PM
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Originally Posted by datlas View Post
Yes to 25 or 27.

No to lose weight. I am 6 feet tall and weigh 136. If I lose more weight I will just be skin and bones. My sister thinks I have an eating disorder...of I lose more, she will think I have AIDS or cancer...
Of course you have an eating disorder, you're a cyclist.
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Old 08-19-12, 07:00 PM
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oh boo hoo. I weigh #275 and climbed Mt. Washington yesterday
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Old 08-19-12, 07:22 PM
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Originally Posted by Essex View Post
Vermont is scenic and gorgeous, but man those hills hurt. The downhill parts are terrific and usually very few cars on the road which make the descent a E Ticket ride!
The past two years when vacationing in VT I have done a ride that goes to Jay Peak. Profile looks like the profile of the Golden Gate Bridge-up/down/up/down. Total length of 42 miles. The climbs really weren't any worse than what I am used to at home, but the descents were bone jarring, due the the poor condition of the roads.
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Old 08-20-12, 10:35 AM
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One of my favorite climbs ever, very scenic especially in early spring when there is less canopy and you can see the shear cliffs above you. You were very nearly at the top, once you hit the steep switchbacks, you can nearly see the top, though you don't know you were that close. The other side is indeed less steep and I'm sure you could make that judging by your post.

I've climbed it a handful of times. The first few were huffing and puffing and doing my own switchbacks across the road but I can go straight up it now. I ride a a compact 50/34 with 11-25. Def out of the saddle and pounding the pedals to make the last bit of the climb.

While you are up there, I suggest riding up to the Trapp Family Lodge which is right around the corner from Stowe. The climb is steeper for longer than the part of the Notch that gets closed in Winter, but the maximum steepness is not as steep as the Notch and there is a decent view up top. I think you would find it challenging but doable. Enjoy!
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Old 08-20-12, 11:28 AM
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Originally Posted by mechBgon View Post
Next time I try something like this, I think I will need a compact.
Or an 11-28 perhaps. That's a bigger change than a compact crankset, and cheaper and easier to swap in/out.
Losing 5T off the front ring gives you significantly more than adding 5T to the rear. Also, a ring should cost less than a cassette so long as you know how to install it.
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Old 08-20-12, 12:32 PM
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^^THought that you would need to change the crankset and not just a chainring?
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Old 08-20-12, 01:08 PM
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Originally Posted by patentcad View Post
How long was this steep climb anyway? I did a couple of climbs in Greece like that, they were like 2 mile climbs, but the middle part of those climbs were half miles of 6-8% switchbacks, very nasty. Did that in a 39 x 25, but I needed a lighter gear.
FIFY.

Because of Greece's financial woes, everything has been downgraded there to a more realistic value.
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Old 08-20-12, 01:14 PM
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Originally Posted by Rowan View Post
FIFY.

Because of Greece's financial woes, everything has been downgraded there to a more realistic value.
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Old 08-20-12, 01:19 PM
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I did experience something similar last year. I got back to "That" local hill and dominated it saturday morning. It's about 2.5kms at 20% AVERAGE. It took everything to get to the top with my compact crankset and 12-27 cassette (Especially the 30+% part).

Lose weight, train hard, change your gearing and go back to that hill and kick the crap out of it. you can do it!

Last edited by generalkdi; 08-20-12 at 01:22 PM.
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Old 08-20-12, 01:43 PM
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Smuggler's Notch was near the beginning of a road race many years ago. I think I only had a 42 x 21 at the time. I made it over somehow ... I doubt I would use that now.
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Old 08-20-12, 02:07 PM
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Smugglers Notch on ridewithgps. You can drag to select just the steep part on the ride elevation chart.
http://ridewithgps.com/routes/168591

selecting the steep part, the Metrics show .4 miles, 280 feet, 12.8% average, nothing under 11%. That's a long, steep climb!

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Here's Smugglers Notch on Strava. You need a free account to see the climb.
http://app.strava.com/segments/3037

The grades on the segment page are crazy near the top: 13%, 24%, 9%, 7%, 18%, 39%, 43%, 7%.
I think Strava gets the grades from the first rider's gps recording, and it can be off quite a bit.

1.0 mile, 10.1% average, 525 feet.
The fastest rider had a 9.3 mph average speed, no slower than 6.8 near the top--I guess he didn't need any extra low gears!
His elevation recording is a lot more believable. I don't know why Strava doesn't update their segments based on all the different rider's data. (I have a local bridge climb that Strava say starts 100 feet below the river's surface!)

He shows at the .75 mile mark, grades increasing from 15% up to 19% at the .82 mile mark, then mostly 14-16%.

The slowest rider averaged 2.7 mph---they had a 10 minute stop near the top--but Strava averages that into the climb speed.

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Old 08-20-12, 02:35 PM
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Ok, here is an update. Less fail.

I decided to do a longer loop and hit the climb from the other side. I did a 44 mile loop through Morrisville and Jeffersonville, then up over the notch.

BTW the pavement on route 100 from Stowe to Morrisville is pretty rough in places and had me wishing for 25 or even 28mm tires! OTOH Route 15 from Morrisville on was smooth as silk and an absolute joy.

I purposefully took it easy so I would have plenty in the tank for the climb.

After all that, it was a little anticlimactic. I had zero problems. Hardly even had to stand. It seems the approach from the North is much kinder.

I did see the site if yesterday's bailout, and it was indeed only about 500 feet from the top.

Tomorrow we have a daytrip to Montreal, but later in the week I may tackle that demon...I only wish I had a 25t in back...
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