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1000 feet of elevation gain equals X miles

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1000 feet of elevation gain equals X miles

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Old 12-13-14, 12:48 PM
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henge
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1000 feet of elevation gain equals X miles

I'm a flatlander planning a 2+ week bicycling trip to Shikoku, Japan next spring. We're in good physical shape and ride recreationally but have not toured before. We will travel light, as we'll be staying at inns.

Shikoku is fairly mountainous and the route we will follow has 5 mountains where we will gain 2000 feet of elevation and 15 sections where we will gain 1000 feet of elevation. The grades vary but can be steep by my standards; based on the large scale maps I've seen several slopes have grades well over 10% extending for up to a few miles at a stretch. Some climbs are shorter and sharper.

I understand this will vary for individuals and depend on the particular slopes, but for planning purposes, is there any general rule of thumb correlating mileage and climb? For example, is it harder/will it take longer to go 60 miles on flat land or 50 miles with one 1000 foot climb or 40 miles with a 2000 foot climb?
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Old 12-13-14, 12:58 PM
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It takes what it takes... As soon as you start to try and keep a set speed and distance the fun of riding/touring goes out the window. Enjoy the scenery and the ride, don't worry about time versus distance. JMO Any answers you get here would be only applicable to that person anyways, trying to meet someone elses time/distance numbers sounds like a race to me...
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Old 12-13-14, 01:47 PM
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Originally Posted by 350htrr View Post
It takes what it takes... As soon as you start to try and keep a set speed and distance the fun of riding/touring goes out the window. Enjoy the scenery and the ride, don't worry about time versus distance.
True, but having an idea of how long it is likely to take may be necessary in at least some cases. The rider may have a need to know at least approximately how long the whole tour will take. Also when towns are widely spaced it can be important to know roughly how many hours of riding they are apart.

I do agree that schedules and deadlines can suck a lot of the joy out of a trip and they should be avoided when possible but sometimes they aren't.

On the original question...
Trail runners and hikers sometime figure that 1000' of elevation gained is equivalent to another mile in figuring out the time needed. Not sure if that calculation works for bicycling or not.

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Old 12-13-14, 01:59 PM
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Thanks. I'm not trying to over-schedule or compete, just get a sense of how long things will take. We do have the normal time constraints (i.e., a plane to catch) and the route follows an ancient Buddhist pilgrimage trail with 88 temples which we plan to visit. I don't want to have to rush thru the last portion or miss any temples.
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Old 12-13-14, 02:11 PM
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[Paper?] Topographic Maps will give you slope rate of change, as indicated by how closely together the lines of height are..

G'foo .. Here is a source online for seeing maps of Japan , in Texas. (Universities have Map Libraries , Geography Department resources )

http://www.lib.utexas.edu/maps/ams/japan/

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Old 12-13-14, 02:23 PM
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Originally Posted by henge View Post
For example, is it harder/will it take longer to go 60 miles on flat land or 50 miles with one 1000 foot climb or 40 miles with a 2000 foot climb?
Hmmm... it would depend on the ride, and riders. Body weight also is a factor, so a 150 lb man may have a much easier time on the hill than a 250 lb man. Proportional for women too.

I find that a hill climb is both slow, but also takes a lot out of my physically. The heavier the panniers, the worse. How is your gearing for the hills?

The hill will probably cut your speed in half (or more) for the uphill segment. So, a 10 mile hill would take as long as 20 or 30 miles on the flat, but you'll be more tired. You'll make some of it up with the downhill segment, but not necessarily recovering from all the general fatigue and all the time loss.

Days that I've done over a vertical mile (about 5280 feet), have been long, hard days.
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Old 12-13-14, 02:33 PM
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Of course a lot depends on your fitness, gearing and load, but once a gradient gets up to 10% and above it's tough. I do a training route where I climb 2000 feet in 18 miles, that average gradient is nothing, like 2%, but its the fact that there are one mile sections with 8, 9, 10, and finally 12% gradients that makes it "fun", and of course there is as much up as down because it's a circuit.
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Old 12-13-14, 02:37 PM
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Gearing 21-114 gear inches, I think. Panniers will be light. The 2-3 to 1 sounds about right based on my limited experience.
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Old 12-13-14, 02:43 PM
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Andy and Betty are riding from Lincoln to Madison.
There are two possible routes - both 20 miles long.
One route is flat; the other route is uphill for 10 miles, then downhill for 10 miles.
Betty takes the flat route - averaging 10 mph.
Andy takes the hill route - averaging 5 mph uphill and 15 mph downhill.
Who gets there first?
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Old 12-13-14, 02:47 PM
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IMO there's no correlation in terms of effort because the baseline comparison for flat riding varies with speed. However, you can estimate a time correlation based on an estimate of your climbing speed for various grades vs. your normal flat cruising speed.

Sustainable climbing speed is strictly dependent on your strength and load, then your endurance at the effort level. IME the climbing speed will depend on the gear choice if cadence were to be the same, but cadence usually drops on long climbs (at least for me) so I use the change in gearing and assume the cadence is half normal.

For example, if climbing a grade where I'll use a gear 1/3rd of my level cruising gear, I'll assume my climbing speed will be 1/6th my level ground speed. Obviously, that's very rough, and I do recover some of the lost time on the descent (maybe) but it gives me something I can use for planning purposes.

In reality, I divide hills into to categories, bite size, and long grinds. Bite size hills are those which I can top using the afterburner (sprint effort) and maybe some gearing reduction as I crest. I attack these as hard as possible, and often climb them faster than I ride on level ground, but obviously there's a limit, which for me is about 100-200 vertical feet (fresh). Long grind are those grades of length and height where I settle into a gear and grind along until it's over.

On roller coaster terrain consisting of bite size climbs I tend to average speeds as high and often higher than my level cruising speed, so I reserve the .5X gear calculation for time for terrain with long climbs.

BTW- though not directly related, experience has taught me to budget my riding time conservatively. I try to plan each daily leg so I have 3 hours and 30 miles left in the tank at the destination. In other words, I start out early enough that I can expect to arrive at the destination between 3 and 4PM, and enough reserve that I could ride another 30 miles if I have to (and I have in the past). That doesn't mean I go straight to the destination arriving early, it means that if I see something interesting that wasn't planned for, I have those extra hours and can make the unscheduled stop. IMO this is why being able to sustain a decent pace of 15+ MPH i so important. It means that time in the saddle is reduced and there's more time to see whats out there.
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Old 12-13-14, 03:09 PM
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Betty 2 hrs to go 20 miles. Andy 2 hrs to go up hill 10 miles, 10/15 hrs to go down hill 10 miles. Betty.
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Old 12-13-14, 03:30 PM
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Day riding without an extra load:
I think that 200 feet of elevation gain is roughly the equivalent of another mile on the flats. This assumes the rider is riding the flats at a fast but sustainable pace. And that the grades are low enough to stay seated most of the way.

For instance, 3000 feet / 200 = 15 more miles. That sounds about right. If I was riding a fast "all-day" pace on the flats (with small elevation gains included), it would be 16-18 mph. The equivalent effort for me on a climb is a VAM score of maybe 400-500 meters/hour, or roughly 1300-1600 feet per hour. The 3000 feet would take a couple of hours, the flat 15 miles only an hour.

I've seen estimates as low as 100 feet equals a mile. And then the times required would match up better. But that seems too low. But all my rides, even fairly flat ones, have at least 25-30 feet per mile, rides with some climbs are 50 feet per mile, and hilly rides are 100 per mile.

So I just use this rule of thumb for rides with big climbs. "It's 50 miles and includes 1000 foot and a 2000 foot climb, along with the smaller hills. So that's like a "normal" ride of 50 +15 more miles."

Originally Posted by henge View Post
I'm a flatlander planning a 2+ week bicycling trip to Shikoku, Japan next spring. We're in good physical shape and ride recreationally but have not toured before. We will travel light, as we'll be staying at inns.

Shikoku is fairly mountainous and the route we will follow has 5 mountains where we will gain 2000 feet of elevation and 15 sections where we will gain 1000 feet of elevation. The grades vary but can be steep by my standards; based on the large scale maps I've seen several slopes have grades well over 10% extending for up to a few miles at a stretch. Some climbs are shorter and sharper.

I understand this will vary for individuals and depend on the particular slopes, but for planning purposes, is there any general rule of thumb correlating mileage and climb? For example, is it harder/will it take longer to go 60 miles on flat land or 50 miles with one 1000 foot climb or 40 miles with a 2000 foot climb?
Estimating extra time on climbs: If you have a GPS recordings of your rides, sites like strava.com or ridewithgps.com will report VAM scores on longer hills. That's vertical meters per hour, easily converted into feet per hour. Or time a longer climb and look up the starting and ending elevations. Steep hills usually have a higher VAM, since riders have to work hard just to go fast enough that they don't fall over.

You can pretty much ignore the time saved in downhills. The time lost going up is way higher than the downhill time saved.

Long, very steep climbs:
I've done some rides with long, steep climbs, with extended portions at or above 10%. I get lower back pain from those, and I've seen other riders get bad leg cramps. (A low enough gear, and the ability to balance at very low speeds would prevent this.)

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Old 12-13-14, 03:32 PM
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IME, there is little to be had in trying to anticipate how difficult a particular tour may be. i will say this though, i've never finished one and thought to myself, "that wasn't much of a challenge". although i did one long tour and at the end decided i hadn't had enough so i just got back on my bike, figuratively, and did a much longer one.
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Old 12-13-14, 03:55 PM
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Originally Posted by rm -rf View Post
Day riding without an extra load:
I think that 200 feet of elevation gain is roughly the equivalent of another mile on the flats. This assumes the rider is riding the flats at a fast but sustainable pace. And that the grades are low enough to stay seated most of the way.

For instance, 3000 feet / 200 = 15 more miles. That sounds about right. If I was riding a fast "all-day" pace on the flats (with small elevation gains included), it would be 16-18 mph. The equivalent effort for me on a climb is a VAM score of maybe 400-500 meters/hour, or roughly 1300-1600 feet per hour. The 3000 feet would take a couple of hours, the flat 15 miles only an hour.

I've seen estimates as low as 100 feet equals a mile. And then the times required would match up better. But that seems too low. But all my rides, even fairly flat ones, have at least 25-30 feet per mile, rides with some climbs are 50 feet per mile, and hilly rides are 100 per mile.

So I just use this rule of thumb for rides with big climbs. "It's 50 miles and includes 1000 foot and a 2000 foot climb, along with the smaller hills. So that's like a "normal" ride of 50 +15 more miles."
Thanks. It sounds like you have some experience and have given this some thought. I appreciate your input.
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Old 12-13-14, 04:19 PM
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henge, I can't come up with a decent formula for your question. The only comparison I can make is that it once took about 33% longer to ride a route with several steep, but short climbs than a flat route of a similar distance.

I have no idea how many feet were climbed nor over how many miles (probably 50ish) and someone more accustomed to climbing would've done far better than me. The bike I rode also had a "granny" of ~48 GI, which didn't help.

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Old 12-13-14, 04:39 PM
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Originally Posted by jamawani View Post
Andy and Betty are riding from Lincoln to Madison.
There are two possible routes - both 20 miles long.
One route is flat; the other route is uphill for 10 miles, then downhill for 10 miles.
Betty takes the flat route - averaging 10 mph.
Andy takes the hill route - averaging 5 mph uphill and 15 mph downhill.
Who gets there first?
Betty rides the distance in less time....but there's not enough information to work out who gets to the finish first because we don't know the times that they started.
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Old 12-13-14, 04:41 PM
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Originally Posted by henge View Post
Thanks. It sounds like you have some experience and have given this some thought. I appreciate your input.
I probably use this 200 feet rule to make a ride with big climbs seem "doable", instead of "extreme". My local hills can be steep, but none are over 400 feet high. So the first time I went to do a ride with a 1200 foot climb, I did a lot of training on my small hills. But the big climb turned out to be pretty easy. I would much rather do a 3000 foot climb than 10 of the 300 foot ones. I just use a sustainable pace and keep going. And the the scenery on big climbs is usually great.
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Old 12-13-14, 04:45 PM
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Okay, okay. They both leave at 11:00 a.m. on Friday, April 17th.
The temperature is 62 degrees with an expected high of 77. (Fahrenheit).
Winds are light and variable with no appreciable difference between elevations.
Both cyclists are in their mid-twenties, healthy, and experienced.
The beer pub in Madison doesn't open until 1:30p.m.
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Old 12-13-14, 05:25 PM
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Originally Posted by jamawani View Post
Andy and Betty are riding from Lincoln to Madison.
There are two possible routes - both 20 miles long.
One route is flat; the other route is uphill for 10 miles, then downhill for 10 miles.
Betty takes the flat route - averaging 10 mph.
Andy takes the hill route - averaging 5 mph uphill and 15 mph downhill.
Who gets there first?
Ok...
So, if Betty does the 20 mile ride at 10 MPH, it takes her 2 hours to complete the ride.
Andy does 10 miles uphill at 5 MPH, and crests the hill at 2 hrs, just as Betty is finishing the race.

No matter how fast he flies down the hill, he'll never catch back up to Betty.
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Old 12-13-14, 05:49 PM
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IMO it's impossible to figure this out without experience and even then various factors can influence things on the day of the ride. Like how you feel, the wind, ...

I cope by regrouping. Last spring I went on a waterfall tour in the mountains. I had mapped out about 15 waterfalls I wanted to visit that week. After two days on the road I saw it was much harder than I expected. I spent a night in a motel and replanned my remaining time. I maximized my fun by being flexible.

If you have a hard and fast end to your trip like a plane you need to catch then don't plan to follow a straight line. Put a day or two of "nice to have" deviations in the plan so you can make compromises if time gets tight.
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Old 12-13-14, 06:05 PM
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Originally Posted by CliffordK View Post
Ok...
So, if Betty does the 20 mile ride at 10 MPH, it takes her 2 hours to complete the ride.
Andy does 10 miles uphill at 5 MPH, and crests the hill at 2 hrs, just as Betty is finishing the race.

No matter how fast he flies down the hill, he'll never catch back up to Betty.
Which is somewhat of a metaphorical response to the OP.

My experience is that light hills may take off 10%,
Moderate hills 20%, big hills 30%, and killer climbs up to 50%
of my usual daily mileage.

And like Andy, if I'm in my granny gear much of the day -
It doesn't matter how fast I zoom down the other side.
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Old 12-13-14, 06:35 PM
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If I was trying to compare flats and hills with comparable exertion, I am guessing that on the flats I would probably be going 5 times faster than I would be going up a hill at 7 to 8 percent grade with a load of camping gear. But ... and this is a big but ... on the flats I typically run lower level of exertion and lower heart rate than on the hills, thus it is not a very good comparison. On steep hills I will have a heart rate in the 130s to 150s, but on the flats I rarely let it get higher than low 130s.

In mountains you can have very changeable weather. You can be at 70 degrees F at lower elevations and up higher suddenly be riding though snow. So, pack appropriately. If I am getting near any mountains, in addition to the normal kind of clothing that most people would bring, I would carry a thin stocking cap to put under my helmet and a rain cover to put over the helmet along with long finger gloves. If you do not have rain covers for your helmets, some motels hand out shower caps that might work.

Elevation can be another factor. The highest I have biked with a full camping gear load is crossing Logan Pass, I think that is about 6,600 feet of elevation. At that elevation there still is a lot of air to breath, but if you get much higher than that, you might start running out of breath.
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Old 12-13-14, 07:06 PM
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Originally Posted by jamawani View Post
Andy and Betty are riding from Lincoln to Madison.
There are two possible routes - both 20 miles long.
One route is flat; the other route is uphill for 10 miles, then downhill for 10 miles.
Betty takes the flat route - averaging 10 mph.
Andy takes the hill route - averaging 5 mph uphill and 15 mph downhill.
Who gets there first?
You didn't factor in the headwind. Going slowly up hill, the wind has less impact. On the flat, or even down hill if you're pedaling, a stiff headwind will make you tired like you've been pedaling uphill.
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Old 12-13-14, 07:35 PM
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Originally Posted by Tourist in MSN View Post
If I was trying to compare flats and hills with comparable exertion, I am guessing that on the flats I would probably be going 5 times faster than I would be going up a hill at 7 to 8 percent grade with a load of camping gear.
Really? I would go about 7 mph up that I'm guessing. I can't go 35 on the flats! I don't have my speed at all grades memorized. I do know I recently did a long climb at 14% grade and did at 3.5 mph. But I would not try to maintain 17 mph (x 5) touring on the flat. So hitting your numbers would require a little more than 14% for me.
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Old 12-13-14, 08:05 PM
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For me ... I can clip along nicely at about 16-18 km/h on flat ground with a loaded touring bicycle.

Put me on a hill, and I'm down under 9 km/h ... the steeper the hill, the slower I go. I've discovered I can remain on the bicycle and upright as slow as 4.5 km/h. Lower than that and things get wobbly.
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