Hills and Cycling; If you want to find your fitness is, find some hills… or some wind
I’ll start with an awesome pro tip that I can’t recall ever seeing in writing about climbing short hills, especially rollers. Hammer the downhill before you start up a short hill. Your momentum will allow you to climb about 33% faster. Only the racers in your group will know what you’re doing (or they’re already doing it). It’s why they climb so much faster than everyone else. Try it, you’ll like it. I did.
There is nothing that improves my ability to push harder on bicycle pedals than climbing hills. The faster I can climb a hill, the faster I am on flat ground, it’s as simple as that, so I like to climb whenever possible. I’d tell you I do hill repeats all the time, but I’d be lying. Hill repeats seems too much like riding on a trainer. Go up the hill. Go down the hill. Go up the hill. Go down the hill… God help me, no. Once I see a piece of road, I’m continuing on, I don’t have to stick around to see it six more times. On the other hand, if I can find some hilly roads, I’ll hit every hill I can.
Therein lies the rub in my neck of the woods; finding hilly roads.
We don’t have many in southeastern Michigan. There are a few, but it’s not much better than climbing overpasses in Florida. Up in the north of the State, well that’s a different story – there are plenty of hills up there. That’s a three-hour drive though, and we’re far too busy to make the trip but a few times a year.
That’s where the wind comes in. A friend of mine likes to say that the wind is Michigan’s mountains, and he’s got a strange, but true, point. How fast can you ride up a 10% grade? Maybe 12-14-mph? 10-mph? How fast can you ride into a 20-mph headwind? About the same, maybe a couple of miles an hour faster, but not much. Same principle, though, as gravity makes riding harder, riding into a wall of wind does, too.
Hills will do wonders for one’s cycling fitness. In the absence of hills, go into the wind. If you really want to be a bad ass, do like Eddy Merckx did… Save the headwind for the second half of the ride.
Oh, and don’t curse at me in the comments section… I know full well that wind sucks… or blows… err something. In the absence of hills, though, it’ll do in a pinch.