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Hills and Cycling; If you want to find your fitness is, find some hills… or some wind

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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.

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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.

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11 Comments

  1. tammi1438 says:

    They tell me that about running too. It’s my least favorite run.. but it works. And we are in great supply of hills here in West by God Virginia! 😅

  2. Dorothea says:

    +1 tammi. Hills are a great workout all around.

  3. theandyclark says:

    I think of hills as way funner than wind. There really is no wind equivalent of hammering the downhill to get a push on the climb! I’ve also never really gone sideways up a hill and a cross wind can create it’s own challenges, particularly along an even moderately busy road.

    • bgddyjim says:

      I agree, to an extent. First, hills are WAY more fun. For the descent part, I went out a few weeks ago… 20-mph wind out of the west. I wanted a KOM of my own on Strava. I fought that wind for a couple of miles, turned around and hammered the segment averaging 29.5-mph for the nine-tenths of a mile. Most of that was spent north of 32-1/2-mph. I almost puked, but I picked up that KOM by 14 seconds. A good tailwind can be awfully fun, brother.

  4. At least with a decent hill climb there’s usually a view or cafe at the top. The wind just punches you in the face relentlessly until you turn around or stop! Hehehe!

  5. Where I live there is normally some sort of view to enjoy once up a hill, not with wind though… unless you maybe enjoy the view of a bug splat over your glasses

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