Fit Recovery

Home » 2013 » February » 06

Daily Archives: February 6, 2013

If I Had Two Thousand Six Hundred – Thirty Dollars

This is more my speed: The Trek Madone 4.5.

Ultegra Shifters and Derailleurs, 105 11-28 cassette, 50/34 Compact crank. The only thing I’d change would be the white bar tape. If I’m spending more than $2,500 on a bike, you can bet it’s going to be ridden and I’m not going to want to play around with persnickety white bar tape.

That said, when I am ready to buy a new bike, it’ll be between this, a Specialized VengeĀ and the Stradalli. Sadly, I would have to kick my own ass for spending $10,000 on the Cannondale, let alone what the wife would do.

Trek Madone 4.5

Mountain Bike or Road Bike… For Hills?

I love looking at search topics that lead people to my site for inspirational post material. This morning I was presented with this blessing: “Road bike or mountain bike for hills”.

What an excellent question! And let’s face it, who better than me to take a rather mundane two sentence answer, split it into ten facets and turn it into a 600 word essay? That’s how I roll ladies and gentlemen.

First up is climbing

There is no doubt that the mountain bike wins hands down in ease of climbing. I can power up hills I can’t run on a mountain bike – I do so on a fairly regular basis. The gear ratios on a mountain bike are made specifically for that. I rode in the mountains on my road bike last summer and even with a triple there were a few grades that had me walking (25%+). There are several as steep or steeper on my local mountain bike trails – with roots and rocks to navigate around – that I can power up with relative ease. [UPDATE]: However for longer, more reasonable grades – and this cannot be emphasized enough, a lighter road bike is far superior if you actually want to actually get somewhere. In other words, on decent reasonable hills you will feel the weight of your bike and it will make a difference. Additionally, because of the added weight you will be required to do your climbing in an easier gear so you will be slower up a given hill. That’s gravity for you: It’s the law.

On the other hand, if the goal is to build endurance, strength and stamina, the road bike is the tool of choice. My single greatest boost in ability to ride faster on the relatively flat roads of southeastern Michigan was forged in the mountains of North Carolina… In just one week! Granted, I was already in excellent riding shape before the trip but that one week made my summer.

For the descent

Depending on nerves, I would easily give the advantage to the road bike for the descent, though a mountain road – where speeds easily top 45 mph on a road bike – is no place for a nervous person. In short, unless you know what you’re doing or have new brake pads, caution must be urged and road rules followed. Even something as minor as hitting a rock at speed can be utterly catastrophic. That said, I did a fair amount of research and was prepared for most anything – and I am a bit of a speed freak – so to say descending was exhilarating is an understatement of epic proportions. It was awesome. Now, if you do happen to be a nervous person, the wide tires and aerodynamics make a mountain bike the safer tool. Where 45 mph is possible on a road bike, aerodynamics and tire drag would limit speeds to below 35 mph on the same hill. There is another factor that is worth mentioning here though – descending in the drops adds a surprising amount of stability. When I was cruising down my mountain roads the difference between riding on the hoods and in the drops was considerable. So much so that I only tried the hoods for about a half mile before I switched back to the drops. It’s a little harder to keep your head up (and therefore, your eyes on the road), but riding is so much more stable it’s worth the effort. You obviously don’t have the option on a mountain bike even though your grip on the handle bars will be wider.

There are two more things to consider when discussing a descent on a mountain bike… Unless you contort yourself at a rather unnatural angle, you’re going to be riding down that hill in a much more upright position… If you’re nervous about going too fast, this will be good. If you want to go fast, sitting upright will kill your speed, turning you into a giant sail and make you more susceptible to wind. Lastly is a question of gear ratios again. Going down a decent hill on a mountain bike you’ll gear out much sooner than you will on a road bike (gearing out is when you can’t pedal in the top gear fast enough to match your speed).

So to answer the question succinctly, brothers and sisters, the best bike to climb a hill on is the one you feel like riding – right now.