Friday, June 01, 2012

On Hills

I want to talk about hills.

It turns out I have been doing them all wrong.

There’s this major hill by my house, and it’s great because the long 4.6% decline on the way to work gets me up to over 25 mph and is super awesome. It’s a great way to start the day and make my way the 13 miles to work.

Perceptive readers already know what’s coming next: Returning home is murderous. I have never been able to get all the way back up the 4.6% incline without getting off and pushing. Even on the walk-and-push section, my pulse approaches 170 and it Ruins My Day.

I love riding my bike on the flats, and on the declines, and even on the slight inclines. But over 4 percent is just too much for me – or so I thought. After extensive research on The bike forum on the Internet, I realized I’m probably in too high a gear. Apparently that’s a common problem for beginners – we think we need to pedal hard to get up a hill. That’s only partially right. What’s more important is pedaling fast – in a lower gear.

Could I make it up the giant hill that had always bested me? It was time to find out. This massive hill comes after a deep valley of sorts, so there’s always a steep downhill portion that precedes it. On the downhill, I pumped as hard as I could in my highest gear, trying to build enough momentum to take me mostly up the other side.

Gravity soon began to slow me, and I turned the left handlebar gear to “1” and began spinning.  My right handlebar gear was on 7… too hard… 6… 5… 4… 3… 2…

Gah! Chain is not staying! Something’s going wrong! Bike is trying to shift but can’t!

Okay, turn it back to 1-3. Chain is secure. I can do this. Spin spin spin.

Ladies and gentlemen, for the first time ever, I actually made it all the way up that hill without getting off to push. My pulse was 160 and I was going less than six miles an hour and it SUCKED, but I was doing it. After riding at speeds averaging around 7 mph for the next tenth of a mile, I made it over the top, and from then on out, things got better. I hit 25 mph on the next 4 percent decline, and it was awesome.

But a half mile later, I still couldn’t ride through my apartment complex parking lot to my building at the back – which is, of course, at the top of another massive hill. I was just too tired.

In conclusion! Three truths:

  1. I can do hills with a 4 percent incline if I shift to the granny gears. I just have to resign myself to going 6 mph.
  2. Just because I can do them doesn’t mean I have to like it. Hills SUCK even if I am in the granny gears. And I’m pretty much done for the day after a hill that’s just a couple blocks long.
  3. The Bionx is looking more and more tempting each day…

Have I foreshadowed enough?

Join us next time.