I went for a seventeen mile ride with my wife last night before heading out to a meeting. Normally, when riding in Fenton I bring my 5200 because I simply can’t stand putting my Venge through the abuse of riding on their roads. Downtown isn’t so bad but once you get to the outskirts of town, they’re dilapidated… and property tax is through the roof in those areas – triple what I pay. Anyway, one thing they do have in Fenton is hills. Lots of ’em, all over. I wanted to compare the two bikes over our normal hill climbing course, just to see if my thinking, that the Trek is a better climbing bike, is right.
We rolled out, dodging potholes for the first two miles and climbing a dinger of a hill before finally hitting decent asphalt. A mile south and we were back in a wonderful neighborhood with lots of fantastic hills. My wife had already been out for 50 minutes with my buddy, Mike earlier in the day so she sent me off on my own for the first nice hill… I held an easy 16 mph pace at the base of the hill and downshifted as the hill pitched up, just once. I was out of the saddle and pushing that same gear till the halfway point in the hill where it really ramps up. I downshifted just once and kept a decent 13 mph pace to the top of the hill. It wasn’t easy, but the climb was a nice little interval. I turned around at the cul de sac and headed back down hitting 30 mph coasting, before a sharp left turn, a short rise and another 30+ mph descent. We turned around at the bottom and climbed our way back up. Once we got to that first hill, we made the right turn together and hit it again. This time my wife went up with me, though she lagged behind as I charged up the hill the same way.
We worked our way out to the entrance of the subdivision, turned around and did the sub again. My wife sent me ahead and I charged up that first climb again, about 13-14 mph, before rolling down and meeting her at the base again. We rolled down the descent, then turned around and went right back up the hill. It was on the way up that longer but less steep hill that I noticed a difference. I shifted down to my granny gear to spin up the incline with my wife. About two-thirds of the way up and my pedaling slowed with the effort. My legs started burning a little and turning the crank over became… labored. This blew my mind a little bit as it should have been an easy little climb. Then we went up the hill on the court the same way, slow and in the granny gear. Same result. Climbing the hill was harder, three miles an hour slower.
Momentum can be a pain in the ass sometimes – on a bike and in life in general. Don’t take my word for it either, find a decent local incline and charge up it. Then turn around after a short break and try it again, just grinding up it in the granny gear with a slow cadence. There are downsides to each method, but heading up the hill with a little momentum is vastly easier, rather than to plod up the hill.
The trick is getting the momentum up before the base of the hill, before I need it. Charging into something that I know will be work isn’t always easy, call it rising to a challenge.
It’s far more common to slow down right before the challenge. Cycling, in this case, mimics life. Every once in a while, you run into a challenge that’s tough, you can start out with plenty of momentum but the climb is too steep and long…
Sometimes that’s just the way life is. I just have to grind it out. As long as I don’t lose focus and keep pedaling, I’ll get there. I love to remember not to quit five minutes before the miracle happens…
The goal is to get there. And sometimes it’s ugly lookin’ just before the fist bump.