Hill Training: My Epic Semi-Fail

Trek & Moser, Arlington Heights Water Tower
Over the summer, one of our local bicycle clubs runs what's officially known as the (In)famous Wednesday Night Hill Ride: a loop "encompassing the gnarliest hills in the Boston Metro area." Of course the route does not belong to them and lots of local cyclists who want to cram some serious hills into a relatively short ride use it to train on their own time, particularly racers and randonneurs. Back in July Somervillain began riding this route with a small group as practice for the D2R2 and invited me to join. At the time the very notion was laughable. Me, on the Infamous Hill Route? The women's paceline rides were hilly enough for me, and those were described by the same bicycle club as "mostly flat" (ha!).

But definitions of "hills" are subjective. Fast forward a few months, and mine too had changed. Having gone on a handful of rides with some strong local cyclists, I even developed a new fondness for hills and no longer outright hated them. So when Somervillain suggested the two of us try the Hill Route before the snow arrived, it suddenly seemed like a great idea. What can I say? I am human, I got cocky.

Somervillain and His Trek
Things started off innocently enough. My level of excitement was almost festive. Finally, I was going to do "real" hills, like the "real" roadies. I managed to get organised and dragged myself out of the house to meet Somervillain at an ungodly morning hour. The temperature was blessedly mild in the high 30s. The sun arose picturesquely over the local Dunkin Donuts parking lot as we convened in front of it on our trusty steeds: he on his '80s Trek racing bike, I on my Moser. It was going to be a great ride! A nice 30 mile ride with some hills in the middle. As we took off, I had a smile on my face (hint: it did not last).

Let me tell you about the Hill Training Route. The part with the proper hills is a 12 mile loop and the elevation profile looks like this. But no technical description or chart can communicate the subjective experience of this ride. The build-up was uninspiring, as we cycled along some ugly main roads with fast suburban traffic. After about 10 miles of that, we turned onto a narrow residential street and began the first climb up a small mountain. The climb began suddenly, and, being out of sight from the main road, there were no visual cues that allowed me to psychologically prepare for it. We turned the corner, and bang! - the very turn itself was already the beginning of a steep, twisty hill. The narrow road wound around the mountain instead of going directly up it, so there was no way to see what was around the bend. Would it get steeper or let up a bit? And how much longer to the top? Not knowing this drained my self-confidence and increased my anxiety tenfold. In addition, there were potholes the size of craters, and I had to zig-zag gingerly around them as I climbed.

Backlit and Exhausted
My bicycle is geared fairly high (52x39t in the front and 12-26t in the rear), but still I did not expect to max out my gears quite so early on. Click-click-click! Click! And I was done. From that point onward there was no spinning, only pushing, and I still had most of the hill ahead of me. So I pushed on the pedals and heaved myself forward in jolts.

Promptly, my body began to rebel. A pain shot up straight to my right temple, so intense that it clouded my vision. I had a strong urge to throw up. My leg muscles felt as if someone was injecting them with acid. Somervillain was way up ahead of me and around the next bend. I felt intense shame at being so hopelessly terrible at this, even after all the rides I've done to build up to it. I did not see how I could possibly keep going at this rate, and only a stupid, primitive sense of pride kept me pushing. Thoughts such as "Do not stop the bike!" and "Like hell you're going to walk!" were the only things circulating in my otherwise empty mind.

Trying Out the "Epic" Face
At the top I felt nothing. No elation, no sense of accomplishment. Maybe some anger at my naivite ("You needed to do this, did you? Racers describe this ride as "infamous" and you decided this meant it was suitable for you?"), but otherwise nothing. I drank water and looked around blankly for Somervillain. Somehow I'd managed to lose him. Could he have taken a different side street to descend? I cycled around the maze of streets along the side of the mountain, climbing some smaller hills for no reason other than to keep warm. I was now shaking violently. Then it occurred to me that we both had phones. I phoned, he picked up immediately, we realised what had happened to separate us and agreed to meet back at the base of the hill. It was pretty apparent to me that I could not continue the ride, and he could hear it in my voice as well. I cycled down to meet him with my head hung low and my face a deep crimson.

I am not entirely sure how we ended up repeating the climb (yes, you read that correctly). I think it may have started out as a suggestion in jest. But long story short, we climbed the same hill again. Oddly it went easier the second time around, despite my utter sense of depletion. Maybe knowing what to expect made it easier. Once again I maxed out my gears and pushed myself up in jolts the whole way, but with a clearer sense of when to expect an end to the hellish ordeal. In the last stretch, my breaths were coming out in audible heaves: Hee! Haw! Not unlike the sound of a tortured donkey. And then again it was over. At the top we stopped in a parking lot behind a small, shabby water tower. I tried to eat a piece of an energy bar, but nearly threw it up. I did drink more water and kept that down. My hands were trembling. We agreed that we were done for now: descend carefully, then back to Somerville. Two difficult climbs was not so bad given my lack of experience.

Somervillain and His Trek
Cycling home, we transitioned to the Minuteman Trail and enjoyed the glorious sunshine. We chatted casually about this and that and began to contemplate where would be the best place to stop for coffee.

And then I opened my mouth and said: "You know what? I am not tired anymore. This always happens, I begin to feel more energetic at the end of a ride."

And he said: "Oh yeah? Do you feel like going back and doing the last climb of the route then? We have time before I need to be at work."

And I said... Well, what could I say. I couldn't exactly back out of it at that point! So we rode to Arlington Heights for the last climb.

Trek & Moser, Skyline
This climb was very different and I am so glad I did it. It was a big, open road that went straight up instead of winding, and I could see exactly how far it was to the top. It was a steep climb of about a mile and again I maxed out my gears fairly early on, but somehow it was just a more rewarding experience. This road had nice scenery and a more pleasant atmosphere; I just felt better riding there despite the same horrible pain in my legs and the same shortness of breath. Seeing that I had about a mile of this ahead of me, I somehow "settled into" the climb and relaxed. The entire time I was thinking "Oh my God, am I actually... enjoying this?" Somervillain was way ahead of me of course, so I had no illusions about my speed. When he stopped at the top and turned around to check how I was doing, I gave a thumbs up and smiled.

Trek & Moser, Arlington Heights Water Tower
Upon reaching the top, I was delighted by the sight of a beautiful stone water tower surrounded by a small park. I had never been here before, and it's always nice to discover a new scenic spot. Suddenly, everything began to seem okay, even funny. It wasn't so bad. I really should have done the middle two climbs of the route instead of bailing so early on. To make me feel better, Somervillain pointed out that we'd really done more like 3 out of 4 climbs, since we did the first one twice. Plus we'd cycled 30 miles over all. Let's call it a modified route. After taking some pictures, we descended down a monstrous hill with a view of the Boston skyline, climbed another short but steep hill, and then cycled home for real with a quick coffee before parting ways.

On my way home I stopped by the Co-Habitant's office to say hello. He laughed and said I was incoherent, clearly still coming down from a post-cycling high ("and then... and then... there was a TOWER! And I almost gave up, but... tower!")

Sigh. I guess I should be grateful that even in my 30s I can enjoy the little things. I am pretty terrible at this roadcycling stuff, especially hills. But God, I love it anyway. We'll be doing this ride again. And thank you, Somervillain!


  1. Welcome to Arlington, the land of nasty hills! I recognize the Park Circle water tower. I used to pass it every day on my way to work. You probably climbed the hill on Robbins Rd or one of the parallel streets. Those hills are no fun - long and steep.

    If you are ready for another challenge, let me know. I can point out some other ugly hills around. I am starting to hate them. Bad for my knees.

    Can you write more about that Hill Training Route? What streets did you ride?

  2. "But no... chart can communicate the subjective experience of this ride."

    That chart looks plenty scary to me!!

    Congratulations, I don't think I could do that. Definitely not with my current bike.

  3. I thought the chart looked all right when Somervillain sent it to me in advance : )) I mean what, those are like a couple of cm at most?

  4. I had to smile while reading this. You got it right, it gets easier and better once one becomes familiar with what to expect. Ascents are way more fun than descents in my mind :) But I particularly remember on one route, when starting out this competitive cycling thing--which finished at the top of a mountain-- that if you weren't throwing up at the top of the climb you were a wimp! I didn't throw up but felt the rush. Standing up over the front wheel, pushing, breathing, pulling, it's fantastic!

  5. In the warmer weather, I do a weekly hill ride in the Philadelphia suburbs. There is a one mile climb with double digit pitches that is just never any fun, but we do it religiously anyway. Not sure why. It's strange how we intentionally torture ourselves, but there is certainly a rush. But I would prefer not to throw up, thank you very much.

  6. Cycling Peppy (polka dotted racing cat)December 21, 2011 at 6:41 PM

    When some of the weaker cat cyclists throw up, they just blame it on a hairball.

  7. bostonbybike - The ride goes through Arlington, Winchester, Lexington, and Woburn, I think. There are several different versions of the route online and I am not sure which one is accurate and which one we did.

  8. Congrats! And thanks! I did a for real LOL at my desk just now with your 'tortured donkey' sounds! Been there, OMG! But you gotta love what those endorphins do once they kick in! Right? :)

    I seriously recommend getting used to clipless pedals. Nice benefit is that you can alternate between pulling up (using your hamstrings/glutes) each pedal stroke and pushing down (using your quads).

    Sometimes when I get to that freak out what-have-I-gotten-myself-into point, I just focus on counting 20 pedal strokes up, 20 down, all the way up the hill. Calms my mind down and alternates the stress between the two muscle groups.

    Anyway, bravo! Great ride report. I was smiling all the way with you :)

  9. Good for you for tackling yet another new challenge. You should be very proud of yourself!

  10. Agree with the clipless comment. You won't believe the difference!

  11. "I seriously recommend getting used to clipless pedals. Nice benefit is that you can alternate between pulling up (using your hamstrings/glutes) each pedal stroke and pushing down (using your quads)."

    I do have foot retention on the bike; very tight Power Grips.

  12. "Sigh. I guess I should be grateful that even in my 30s I can enjoy the little things"

    I hope you aren't implying that folks in, say, their 50's can't enjoy the little things :-)

  13. By the way, V., YOU DIDN'T FAIL!!! YOU WERE GREAT!!!

    That is all there is to say.

  14. you are a "cylist"


    very good
    mike k

  15. Oy. I can climb Park Ave, but I don't enjoy it (of course, I'm doing it on a 65lb bicycle). When I was about half this old, I would unwind after work (depressed at driving in traffic and not finishing my dissertation) with this climb: http://www.bikely.com/maps/bike-path/Quimby-Road-climb . About a 2000 foot climb, 9% average grade. I know I did it, but it's hard to imagine.

    Definitely, now, some of it is in the head. There was a detour in Arlington once, and I got routed up and over a "new" (to me) hill, and even though it wasn't that large, I pretty much blew up at the top. Could-not-go, had to stop and breathe, a lot.

  16. IMHO, power grips are not the same. not even close.

  17. Ha. You see that avatar "FixiePixie" is using? That's her doing a wee hill climb up Mt Washington. On a single speed.

  18. mike k - Oh no, I don't think I'm a cyclist yet : (

    I need an: expensive. road. bicycle.
    and to lose 20 pounds so that I can be scolded for being too thin!

  19. You're hype sensitive to the various nuances of riding in various geometries, tires, clothing, etc....when you switch to clipless pedals you will be blown away.

  20. I'm hill avoidant, even after 40 years of cycling. I'm not disputing there is a joy in the challenge, but, hills and wind are my least favourite things.

    Years ago I picked up a pamphlet that had a family cycling with young children on the front. I pootled off on a recommended circuit ride for a relaxed, fun weekend activity. I failed to twig that it was called the 'hills ride' and completely overlooked the recommendation for experienced cyclists only. It was when pedalling up a vertical incline, on the LHT with my pant leg stuffed in my sock, that I started being overtaken by lycra-luvvies on carbon-whatnot bikes.

    Hills just make me grumpy and yearn for a bakery!

  21. I am not against clipless, I am just too scared. I've done it on small side streets in the back of the house and I am just not getting the sense that I can safely cycle with them in traffic.

    Those who say Power Grips are not the same: Tell me honestly, have you tried them? Adjusted tightly and all that? My entire foot is basically bound to the pedal, like with very tight toe straps.

    I would prefer to ride clipless. But I also don't want to get myself into a situation where cycling becomes scary and I am so self-conscious about falling over at stops that I can't focus on riding. IMO I've done well by being very conservative so far and being realistic about my limitations.

  22. You don't need a lighter bike. What you really need is lower gearing. Slap a Sugino Alpina on your Moser and you might find that you actually enjoy hill repeats.

  23. Such a great story. So much I want to comment on. Forgive me..Epic eyes.

  24. I appreciate your concerns.....but i think being self-conscious is the problem. As one who is constantly battling to get over my fears, I'm learning what's holding me back. I've never ridden with power grips but have ridden with toe clips and cleats tightly strapped for many years beginning in the 70's. I've also ridden with other variations and with nothing but my boots. If you can pull yourself out of power grips with out thinking, you can do the same with clipless. ... trust me.

  25. I think V is exaggerating what she perceives as shortcomings, and not giving herself due credit: once she overcame that first wall of a climb, she had no trouble keeping up...

    I predict that the next time V does this loop she'll get through just fine and in no time at all she'll be seeking out additional hills just to keep the thrill up!

    That feeling of being energized after a hard climb is so true. I always think as I'm going up the first hard climb of a ride, "This is only the FIRST of how many??? I'll never do it". But somehow each one gets easier, you get into a zen-like groove, and you just do it... sometimes even feeling relaxed, as V mentioned regarding the Park Ave climb. The scenery, as V says, also plays a big part.

  26. Hm, I must be skinny again because suddenly I'm getting a lot of comments telling me I am.

    This post is pretty damn funny, but SV's sense of chivalry must be lacking to not have thrown you a tow rope.

    Ok, that profile looks like a bitch with all its short, sharp climbs.

    Carbon clipless stuff is a world changer if you get there.

    Too bad about the gearing. Climbing this stuff is addictive if you have a repeatable route. Gateway to either a compact crank, bigger cassette or some VO thing.

    Having more energy later isn't uncommon but something tells me you were either just getting warmed up or hadn't eaten enough before hand.

    "I had a strong urge to throw up. My leg muscles felt as if someone was injecting them with acid. "
    Awesome. It was lactic acid; lactate threshold met and surpassed. It can be trained to be higher - see how climbing is addictive?

  27. I have never ridden clipless as I, too, am terrified. But when I imagine it with my kinesiology hat on, it does seem that it would be different. The Power Grips apply pressure to the top of the foot, and you "heave" the pedals up. Clips attach to the bottom of the foot, and you "pull" up on them. It seems that these differences would engage different muscles over the long haul as the PowerGrips makes one inclined to raise one's toes inside the shoe which engages the upper thigh and shin. I imagine the clips engaging the hamstring area more. Perhaps someone who has actual experience with both could say if my guess is right.

  28. Note on clipless: it's partly the attachment system that's solid but depending on the shoe the sole is way stiffer than your trainers and you'll feel like more of your energy is going into the stroke and not dissipated at all.

    Harder to walk in, but SV's look like SPDs - those are easy.

  29. I grew up in Massachusetts and now live in San Francisco. Here the hills are long, but the views from the top are fantastic. The 40+ year old biking Dads (I'm in that range too) I ride with typically climb about 2,000 ft. over 30 miles when we go out on the weekends. I really like the 3rd chainring on my Trek and do think that enjoyment of hills is about finding the right gearing :)

  30. I ate breakfast right before the ride (one of those people who can't function without breakfast), so this time I can't be accused of not eating! I should have put V8 in my water though; I think my headache was caused by some sudden electrolyte thing. When I came home and drank half a bottle of V8 it went away almost immediately.

    I definitely plan to replace the gearing on this bike if I end up keeping it, prob both crankset and cassette. I want the components to be light. So it will be fairly expensive and I don't want to make a rash purchase. My plan was to ride it several hundred miles, see how it feels and what kind of gearing I need, and then decide. I've been riding with some very experienced people who've been super good to me, and it feels like I need to learn a tad more about what I hope to even do with the bike (race? brevets?) before buying more stuff. So I've been doing different types of rides to see what feels right.

  31. Gearing is so important. 39 - 26 gearing for those hills had to be tough. I ride a Trek hybrid around this lake, http://www.usatf.org/routes/view.asp?rID=246604 and do most of it in 38 - 32 or higher, but since the hybrid has mountain gearing, I can go down to 28 - 32 if I have to. I'll do this loop 3 or 4 times, giving me 1884 to 2512 feet of climb. But I'm one of those idiots that love hills. I have run around this route also. Love it.

  32. Not saying bfast was the issue per se, but different bfasts and even dinner the night before effect how much power you can put down.

    Some guys can chew on paper and get to the top of a mountain. I need my protein.

  33. I agree with an earlier comment about gearing. I just checked, and V and I have identical low gears on our bikes: 39.5 gear inches. (V has 39x26, I have 42x28). I don't consider my bike a hill climbing bike, but it's my go-to bike for these training rides because it's relatively light, and fast. If V put a compact double on her Moser, it would be just as light and fast, but she'd have the option of a lower low gear and would have a much easier time up those climbs. (Switching to a larger cassette may not be possible with her current derailleur). I'll probably put a smaller ring up front on my Trek, to lower the gearing. The current setup gets me up the hills, but I prefer to spin.

    GRJ: you are right in that I failed as leader on that ride, as I let myself lose sight of V in my own determination not to stop (or was it fear that if I stop there'd be no starting again?!). Either way, bad on me.

  34. svillain - You did everything perfectly. I think Jim was joking. In any case I feel more comfortable embarrassing myself on a ride with you than with people I don't know, so it was great all around : ) Thankfully I did not puke on your shoes.

  35. I've come to enjoy hills, reluctantly. I didn't really have a choice at first because I live in a very hilly neighborhood. But now I find myself seeking out steep hills for the challenge. What I love about climbing the really tough hills is that I feel noticeably stronger after each one. Plus there are the views at the top and the camaraderie of the other cyclists who have also made it up the hill. If I'm going to tackle a tough hill I make a point of riding the bike with the lowest gearing, though.

    As for clips, I use MKS half-clips. I still struggle to shake the memory of getting my foot caught in the old Shimano 105 toe clips I used to have. I fell over onto the curb at a stoplight. Fortunately I had quite the artistic bruising patterns, but no real injuries to me or the bike. Still, I can't shake that feeling of anxiousness. It's not a conscious feeling, but an association that is now paired with the act of pulling up to a stoplight and disengaging my feet. For this reason, I'm not ready for clipless either. I ride in difficult traffic conditions all the time, and I just don't feel I'm ready yet. Someday, but probably not this year.

  36. SV, totally joking. What could you have done anyway? Moral encouragement is good but some people like to discover themselves in their suffering. Makes it more theirs. Plus you look cold.

    My wife hates it when I do hill intervals when riding with her. Up, down, up, down. Says it's humiliating. When I ride her pace I want to talk. She usually just ignores me. Ah, coping strategies.

  37. Dang girl! You show those hills who's boss. :) I really need to learn more about gearing for tough/steep/long hills. I'm going to be building up a "new" (to me) road bike. I've got more time for recreation riding now, but neither of my bikes are built for long distances in the mountains. Right now I get to that point where I've maxed out the gearing and I'm climbing, but so slow that I can barely keep the bike upright! Walking is faster, so that's what I end up doing. It took me 3 hours to go only 20 miles on my last ride! *hangs head in shame* :)

  38. Excellent post. Gravity can be a challenge, but you made it! After doing a few killer hill climbs last summer I noticed improvement in my climbing. Familiarity helps. Next time you'll know what to expect on those hills.
    MT Cyclist

  39. Epic rides often include at least a little "fail". Makes it memorable, and there is value in suffering, I don't know why, there just is.

    You look intense in that self portrait. Ride on.

    Happy Holidays.


    Sorry for yelling.

    But we have some really awesome hills (Council Crest, Mt. Tabor, Rocky Butte) that are intense climbs but offer amazing views!

    I used to hate (HATE) hill climbing. I don't hate them nearly as much as I used to. Having good gearing helps, but so does getting stronger!

    I also learned to relax into them. Get a cadence you can keep going and just....keep going. I stop if I need to, to catch my breath, and then I just keep going. I don't fight it. I don't push myself to a rate I can't keep up. (The downside of this technique, I have discovered, is that I am uncomfortable standing on my pedals because I almost never do it, and I'm relatively slow.)

  41. Each night this past week I've bicycled from my house to a particular destination. It's dark, it's quiet, and it's uphill. Only three miles but I pedal out of the saddle the whole way, pushing my limits but maintaining my breathing. It's intensely fun.

  42. April - I would like to visit Portland and Seattle some time, maybe do a tour from one to the other. Some day! Getting a cadence I can sustain comfortably is my biggest problem right now because of the gearing issue, but hopefully I will solve that soon.

    "When I ride her pace I want to talk. She usually just ignores me."

    I've learned something interesting. Apparently for me talking makes difficult stretches easier, not harder. What it takes away from my breathing resources it seems to give back double in ...I don't even know, mental energy? Psych support? Something like that. Maybe it takes my focus away from the difficulty of the task.

  43. As a distance runner I was taught to never run faster than one could be capable of carrying on a conversation. I began running 7 minute miles and ended up running 5 minute miles. Keep at it!

  44. What April said... :)

    Council Crest is becoming one of my favorite routes. I still have to stop to catch my breath, but I can make it in my lowest gear.

  45. I used to be able to go until my eyes bled, no air to be spared for talking. Now I'd rather just ride and look, bleeding intermittently.

    Sounds like the making of a social rider.

  46. Your rear derailleur is listed in technical specs as capable of no more than a 26T sprocket but in practice will have no difficulty with current 13-28 or 14-28 cassettes and has done fine with the older 13-29 cassettes. Campy mid-cage derailleurs rated for 29T will go to 32T and do it all the time in severest conditions on tandems.

    The old minimalist front derailleur would have a very hard time managing the drop from 50 to 34 on the most common compact cranks. For the sixteen tooth drop you would want a new compact derailleur and probably some variant of chain watcher. Or else a 50-36 or a 48-34 with the old derailleur. Front derailleurs are mercifully cheap.

    Definitely time for the lower gears. In theory it's best to pedal uphill at the same 100 rpm used for spinning flats. Few riders do, but we try. Below about 60 rpm there's no rhythm and forcing the pedals is not good. Once the least perturbation steals rhythm and drops the rpm too low you don't get the rhythm back. You just struggle to the top. At 60rpm in current gearing speed is a bit over 7mph. If the strength to maintain that speed is not there yet it's time to gear down.

    There is rarely anything to be gained by starting a climb in too large a gear and attempting to maintain momentum while working down through the gears. All the climbs on your chart begin abruptly. Start the climb in the gear needed to finish the climb and spin.

    This was not a fail. A fail is the guy with big quads who won't leave the big ring for a measly 7% grade, forces the pedals straight into top dead center, and pulls the rear dropout out of the chain stay. There are a lot of goofy ways to fail a hillclimb. You did good.

    You are much closer to nailing those hills than you think. Gearing down 10 or 15% is plenty.

  47. Ground Round Jim: You and your wife need a tandem! Serious, they're the best equalizer for riders of different strengths.

  48. Eh I don't know about the tandem thing. Sure it equalises, but the stoker also gives up some of the joys of cycling, not least of which is independence!

    We rode a tandem once, "back in the day" and I liked it well enough. But I still want my own roadbike!

  49. I remember the day I found out that hard rides went easier with company...

    I used to live at the top of a fairly steep hill, and my only bike was my 3-speed. That hill killed me every day. There were times I took the bus home just to avoid it. I frequently had to stop and catch my breath halfway up.

    On one of my first fun group rides (we went caroling by bicycle!) we went up that exact hill. And I was the least experienced cyclist on the ride, on probably the heaviest bike.

    And I didn't have to stop. I was even able to keep up a (gasping) conversation. It didn't feel nearly as hard!!

    I'm not sure what the psychology of it is, either. But company makes the miles easier.

  50. It's not done with a tow rope. The strong rider grips the cantle of his partner's saddle and pushes. For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. The strong rider shoots backward as the assisted rider shoots forward. The strong rider is thus assured a good workout with an unequal partner. It doesn't take a lot of uphill pushes to equalize a large disparity.

  51. "The strong rider grips the cantle of his partner's saddle and pushes...."

    I would absolutely lose my marbles if anyone attempted to push me whilst I were cycling! Please, anyone here reading this who rides with me, don't do it!!

  52. I hope no one familiar with madison pushes would do it to a neophyte without prior discussion. At a different skill level it's as friendly as a handshake. When it's fast you don't even know who gave you the push. It's a good feeling. Not to be hurried.

  53. Ha, when I push Mrs. GR she has a similar reaction to V. The threat of bumping drills results in screams.

    Cyclotourist - you know what I said about coping strategies? Surest way to divorce court is through a tandem. Believe me, I've heard about this happening through various people. I'm going to call it the Tandem Bifurcation Phenomenon.

  54. Completely inspiring post. I'll remember it tomorrow when I'm suffering on a steep slope.

    Oh, and great self-portrait!

  55. Great ride, V. I love the "intense" GRRRR photo. I know that feeling (though was that taken when you were feeling great, or when you were feeling nauseated?). This is why I mostly don't ride with other people, though. I hate, hate, hate falling behind. Nothing kills my enthusiasm for a ride faster than feeling like someone else is waiting around for me.

    As someone with a severely reduced lung capacity who hikes at the speed of molasses (my ex loved the tell the story of when we were passed by a little person -- yes, I was passed by a woman with legs half as long as my own, and she totally paced me), I should hate riding hills... but I don't. I actually like them. There's something about standing and pumping The Raleigh up a hill... and though the gearing is a bit higher than most people would like, I find that my 3-speed has a natural standing-point that my road bike never quite had. I was always searching for that perfect gear out of the 14 I had, whereas with The Raleigh, I just put it in 1st and crank on up as best I can, without all the gear fussing.

    That said, I also believe in resting when I'm tired. I breathe like a donkey even on small hills, due to my lungs, so if I don't stop, I'll pass out. So to heck with it: I just stop when I want and wait for my lungs to recover. Doing a tough hill one day I'll have to stop three times, and another time not at all. Depends on my previous rides, my mood, my health, the weather... but whatever. The pressure of having to keep up with anyone else kills it for me. I want to stop when I want to stop.

    Those hills look brutal on the chart. I have done one about that big a few times on The Raleigh, and it sucks in a good way. Bet you'll be out there again next week. They're addicting, in a weird way. Next time, do it on the Bella Ciao. Then we'll see what you think is versatile! :)

  56. Hi Velouria

    Lower gearing is definitely the answer, being the wrong side of 50 I like to go down to about 32 inches (34 x 28 on a compact), which gives me the confidence to tackle 99% of hills and usually with a wee bit in reserve.

    You have made tremendous strides forward in your cycling, keep it going - but at whatever pace you are comfortable with.

  57. I would absolutely lose my marbles if anyone attempted to push me whilst I were cycling! Please, anyone here reading this who rides with me, don't do it!!

    When I lived in the Czech Republic 20 years ago, I spent a lot of time with a cousin in a small village in a hilly section of Southern Bohemia, not too far from Austria. He was a racer and also did long-distance touring, and he and his two daughters (7 and 9 at the time) would go on weekend bike trips all over the hilly countryside. I was amazed to watch this guy ride up a hill, with each daughter riding alongside him, one on each side. He would have EACH hand pushing the saddle of their bikes, himself riding essentially no-hands, creating a chain of three bikes side by side with his arms. Incredible. I, on the other hand, was fat and huffing and puffing the whole time, struggling to keep up. Eh, I blamed it at the time on being on a too-small-for-me Czech Favorit which was his wife's, but in reality I was just out of shape.

  58. You felt like someone injected acid into your legs, that is exactly what happens, the burn is the buildup of lactic acid in the muscle cells. It is telling you that you have gone anaerobic. You are in the phase of excercise that builds strength as opposed to endurance. This is good, you need both strength and endurance. Embrace the burn!

  59. "I...heaved myself forward in jolts." You need technique just as much as lower gears. Technique will certainly come. Gravity is a constant, it has no hesitation. While you pause between jolts gravity pulls you backwards.

    You didn't know these hills at all and they all start suddenly. Next time shift gears before the hill starts. Before the shock of the hill gets you reach for a high spin just like you were going downhill on fixed. And hold smooth pedal action as long as you can.

    The profile chart shows 5-8% grades that only last a few minutes. Some of your other exploits have required just as much power as this should. Progressing by jolts requires infinite torque and massive power. Pedaling up the hill is a lot easier than jolting up the hill.

    You still want lower gears because there are much bigger hills to conquer. And because climbing at 80 rpm will always be better than climbing at 70 rpm. But just a little more practice and your 39x26 will not feel so huge. You can continue to ride these hills without immediate big expenditure on more kit. Even at Tour de France level the coureurs reconnoiter and practice the routes so the extra ramps and pitches do not surprise them.

  60. SPD/Eggbeater vs toeclips vs power grips -- tried all three, prefer them in that order. Did the nasty hill climb with toeclips, on a bike with a 45-28 (I think) low gear (coming from Gulf Coast to Silly Valley for a summer internship, grad student finances, make do).

    I'm not a fast hill climber; on other hills that more people rode, I would regularly get passed. It just happened that I was lucky (?) enough to rent a room 2 blocks from the bottom of the steep climb.

    Suggestions for getting comfortable being pushed -- learn to ride rollers, practice riding no-hands.

    I'm not as comfortable as I used to be with the descents. Big guy, on a big bike, I hit 34.6 mph (measured) coasting down Belmont Hill, and that was too darn fast. Had a cousin die in a not-his-fault motorcycle accident, and running it through the "how did this happen / how could it have been avoided", it was pretty clear that all he could have done was travel at a bicycle's not-downhill speed.

  61. I cannot help but giggle a bit while reading this - not at you, but just in identifying with it. It's also nice to know of someone who is thin and struggles up hills as well. While I know that extra weight certainly doesn't help the cause, after training for months and still struggling while others are flying by - well, let's just say I appreciated reading this story (the sound effects, and after story to the co-habitant, particularly). It doesn't read to me as a failure at all either, but rather a tale of how you conquered something tremendous.

  62. Its great to see you are getting an appetite to climb ,after taking a look at the elevation profile "?????" a lot of huffing and puffing over baby hills. this winter search out the tough mountain climbs that are near to you and get out of your comfort zone, study the art of grinding up climbs, listen to some tunes in your solitude of suffering for hours.Their is a rhythm in that pedal stroke that makes a full circle,not a line straight down. Velouria you've been a woos long enough Power Grips are for are for kids that can't tie their shoes mom buys velcro tennis enough said. Great reads the Dolomites and Stelvio are waitng for you!!!!! Have a Merry Christmas! Glenn in the Northwest

  63. When I read the part about 50/39 by 12/26 I was going to comment on gear ratios and pedal cadence for maximum power. But after reading the entire post I think the needed comment is:

    “After all the other engines tried and failed to pull the heavy train over the high hill, the smallest engine in the yard said “I will try.”

    “You?” the others cried in disbelief, “You will try after we all failed? We are all much bigger and stronger than you; if we can’t pull that load over the high hill you certainly can’t. It is impossible.”
    “Never the less“ the little blue engine said “I will try.”
    So to the derisive laughter of all the others the little blue engine backed up to the front of the great heavy train and hooked up. He pulled hard to get the great weight rolling and started out of the yard toward the high hill. All along the level, as it rolled 
toward the ascent, it kept repeating to itself:
 "I ---think ---I can. I ---think ---I--- can. I ---think--- I ---can."

    Then it reached the grade, but its voice could 
still be heard: "I think I can. I----- think-----I-----can. 
I -----think----- I----- can." 
Higher and higher it climbed, and its voice
grew fainter and its words came slower: 
"I -------think --------I-------can."

    It was almost to the top.

    “I ---------think"
It was at the top.
"I ---------can."

    It passed over the top of the hill and began 
crawling down the opposite slope.
'I ------think------- I------ can------I----- thought------I-------could I----- thought----- 
could. I thought I could. I thought I could.
 I thought I could…"
The little blue engine said at it chugged down the far side.”


  64. Hi, Paul here from the UK, just found your site and have to say it's amazing, the bikes are all simply stunning. I'm a real fan of steel bikes so the photo's throughout your blog really hit the mark. One of my bikes is a US built Gunnar Cross Hairs which I purchased and imported to the UK early this year. She's far too muddy to show pictures and whilst a very nice bike, not a patch on some of the beuties you own / ride.

  65. Am I allowed to get cranky at the people who are insisting you should ride clipless? For the love of whatever, do these people realize how obnoxious they are? Are they totally new to this blog? Have they not read the comments? Gaaah!

    Glenn in particular: I dunno how Velouria feels about your comment, but as someone who doesn't ride clipless (I use toe cages) it was pretty goddamn insulting.

  66. Your bicycle adventures are especially encouraging to me, because of your honesty when things go awry—how it felt, what was going through your mind. And even better, you adjust, you push on. You give it another go. Your century ride was my first encounter and this post is another. Stories like these remind me to push myself, and be honest with myself. Thank you.

  67. I think if V is comfortable with powergrips, then she should continue to use them. Given V's understandable reluctance to switch to clipless, I would suggest she keep the powergrips as she learns to tackle hills, and if she wants to experiment more with clipless, that she do it on flat leisurely rides-- and *outside* of an urban environment. Just my $0.02.

  68. As Don McMahan pointed to, a lot of the physical sensations you describe come from going deeply into the anaerobic range. From many of your earlier posts, it sounds like you have a strong natural aerobic capacity. Combined with the type of steady, moderate distance riding you do, I suspect you rarely go outside your aerobic range very often. It really can be quite different and strength in one does not guarantee strength in the other.

    Interval training is a good way to build your abilities in this area. But nothing beats climbing hills. If you do a little of this with even moderate regularity, I bet you'll find your flat road ability to get a sudden burst of speed/power to keep up with a paceline will improve as well. Always staying in the "safe" aerobic range will limit your overall abilities.

    The good news is most people's strength builds quickly. You may find that you are already a bit stronger on the 2nd run. I think this kind of strength builds (and is lost) faster than aerobic capacity for better or worse.

    I'll second some of the comments about clipless really being different than power grips or clips. I think that any clip that holds tightly enough to mimic clipless would uncomfortably crush your feet, especially pulling back. But that said, so what? The point is to be enjoyable. If clipless stresses you out, no reason to feel compelled. People are always looking for ways to make it "easier". Not sure exactly why that is the goal.

    Well done, sounds like it was a Semi-Win to me!

  69. One alternative to clipless not much discussed here is clips and straps with old style cleats on ordinary rattrap pedals. Most cleats are/were all of maybe 1/8" deep. Can 1/8" be scary? And you can ride all but the sprints with the straps loose. You can even cut off or cut down the back half of the cleat slot, it's the front that does all the work.

    Riders rode bikes up hills and got a lot of performance out of the simplicity of clips and straps and cleats. Clipless was a purely commercial innovation of one M. Bernard Tapie and his ace salesman Bernard Hinault. Those who defied the sponsor and the times never lost a race for not having clipless. Sean Kelly won lots of races when all his opponents were clipless.

    The other nice part of clips and straps is that the old shoes are beautiful. This place is called Lovely Bicycle. In the 45 years I've needed one little thing or another adjusted at the shoemaker at least half the time my cobbler flat will not take money. The privilege of working on a beautiful shoe is enough. I had my first taste of homemade Neapolitan lemon brandy at the cobbler. My first fully candied Sicilian orange. And it's one more place you go and talk bikes because the cobbler has a relative in the old country who races or who raced. And possibly a lovely old Umberto Dei out back.

    Even with PowerGrips a proper bike shoe will outperform injection molded robotically glued urethane.

  70. Anon 4:24 - I feel far less safe with (properly tightened) toe straps than I do with clipless! Clipless I can at least ride on quiet streets.

    Agreed about the beauty of old shoes. Wish the NOS ones came in women's sizes. That said, there is this new gorgeous clipless shoe all the cool people are wearing that looks just like a vintage one. Keep forgetting the name!

  71. That venerable Italian shoemaker Quoc Pham of course.

  72. What!
    Yes just looked it up and they are the ones : ) One of the ladies on the 50 mile "recovery ride" I've just returned from wears them and loves them.

  73. They copied the look of my old Detto Pietros well: https://www.google.com/search?gcx=c&q=detto+pietro&um=1&ie=UTF-8&hl=en&tbm=isch&source=og&sa=N&tab=wi&ei=M6XzTu2zHOKRiALs-IiYDg&biw=948&bih=453&sei=OaXzTuiODMOyiQK14f22Dg

  74. don't worry, it will be easier next time you do it

  75. V

    The always available NOS shoe is Detto Pietro. Right now you will find multiple Ebay vendors at under $50. That's "store" type vendors with size ranges and exchanges if the shoe doesn't fit. Size range stops at 39 or 40 on the high side. They mold to your feet, women's specific is less important than you might think.

    What's properly tightened mean? Ask me are my straps tight I won't normally know without looking. It seriously matters on the track, otherwise the little lip of the cleat keeps you in place and keeps the power flow going. When new new new the hard smooth sole slides off the pedal without cleats, that's very temporary.

    If you experiment and it's a bust you can still use them with Power Grips. I used to have a pair of Hector Martin's I used as dancing shoes. Best 50 you'll ever spend. And in the little sizes you can shop for even cheaper.

    Did I mention they last forever?

  76. Jeez.

    Detto 411: they suck. There is no insole. Cleat nails came through the sole. i.e. MY FOOT WAS ON THE NAILS. This is a problem every second, but really a problem when it's hot.

    The last is too narrow, there's no room in the toe box. Cleats & city streets are stupid. Disengagement either fecklessly easy or dangerously impossible.

    Hey what? A modern, comfy shoe w/a recessed cleat to obviate a potentially fatal slip into the abyss of a porta john? That makes too much sense.

    Hanging onto the totems of old at the expense of common sense is foolish.

  77. Anon 5:27 - I am a men's 4.5UK or a women's 37 EU. Any idea of what that would be in their sizing system?

  78. 37 is 37 men's or women's. You want them to fit like gloves. They will adapt to your foot. If you get a size bigger than that, that's your winter shoe. Thick socks.

    GRJ - Maybe the nails were too long. Yes the last is narrow. If you're a mens E width or wider you're out of luck. Why do you want room in the toe box? You should be able to see the trim on your toenails. Worn them w/o socks enough to have a real good idea how soft that glove leather is. Deep cleats is crazy and unnecessary. If you really have a problem walking on cleats then you nail on a heel and substitute a leather pedal patch for a cleat. The engagement/disengagement is only so impossible that the entire sport used them from 1890 to 1983.

    My current cobbler is a gruff motorcycle guy. His opinion of a pair of #74s was roughly he could buy a shoe that good for 4 to 500 but not often. That I was lucky to get that quality for under 1000. I like them totems.

  79. Since I still have a trace of exercise-induced asthma which is exacerbated by cold dry air, the pictures and story were almost enough to have me gasping for air! It's too bad that my old nightly "ride for fun and exercise" route which had a great hill climb (and descent!) on it has since been rendered almost unusable due to construction and development.

    Personally I like clipless and took to them immediately but not everyone does. With clips and straps my feet always seemed to be slipping out of them when it was imperative that stay in (when doing a jump or hopping a log for example) and NOT coming out of them when it was imperative that they do. I run Shimano double sided pedals on my errand running bike so I can use either SPD shoes or normal shoes if I want to.

    I really should try PowerGrips someday too. They might be ideal.

  80. I've been reading the content of your website for the past several weeks, all the way back to the beginning. Remarkable writing and photos! A remarkable community also.

    Somervillian keeps popping up in the narratives,comments, and occasionally in the pictures. In addition to having a great "internet name", he sounds like a wise and capable cyclist.

    I think you have a good friend in Somervillian.

    Costa Mesa, CA

  81. Obviously, the nails were too long. Yes, the last is narrow - why wouldn't I want bound feet? Hm. I'll have to think about that.
    Thanks for the lecture about the history I lived regarding cleats. You see the sport, and its equipment, have moved on. Things like metatarsal buttons, shims, float, advanced biomechanics, being rigid while comfortable, lighter, breathable materials, no laces. You know, little things like that that make cycling more enjoyable and knee problems minimized. You wouldn't know these things, of course.

    Engagement - yeah, I imagine forgetting to loosen a strap after a set of hard intervals while entering the city didn't make generations of cyclists pucker. Now? You just pop it out.

    Welcome to 2011.

  82. "37 is 37 men's or women's"

    Hmm. I was pretty sure that's not the case, but I guess I can look into it using the popular search engine.

  83. I am looking forward to this. Should be good.

  84. Is confusing. From what I gather the sizes are not the same, but sometimes they overlap due to manufacturer variability. My memory of it (from having lived in Europe and bought both W&M shoes) is that they are not the same but close enough to be super confusing. Just gotta try them on.

  85. V

    There are country to country variations in the Euro sizing system. I'm only familiar with Italian. Italian for athletic shoes (at least) doesn't do separate men's & women's. There used to be German shoe stores in Chicago, I got all confused. They were too wide anyway. German and French made Adidas, when those existed, were the same as Italian.

  86. The sun arose picturesquely over the local Dunkin Donuts parking lot...

    Ah, I miss New England. I think I saw my share of sunrises (and sets) at Ye Old Dunkin's "Back in the Day." Unfortunately, not with bikes.

    Do they still have that "No, we're not a Dunkin' Donuts" Dunkin' Donuts in Harvard Square?

  87. GRJ-

    All those things you point to as features of contemporary shoes have always been available. Touting breathable materials as something new? Leather is breathable. Leather always was breathable. Float? Get a file and do some shaping on your cleat. Most of the rest of what you're talking about was taken care of by craft and skill, quality materials . Biomechanics is what a cobbler does, he just doesn't spin it.

    I had a pair of Carnac shoes from the early 80s, kangaroo leather with ostrich lining, that was lighter than anything now marketed.

    I have been stuck in my pedals exactly once. D-A 7401 pedal got some kind of local sand/grit in the mech. With a single strap and light cleats darned if I know how you could get stuck.

    We used to have a running skirmish with the zebras over the rule said you had to wear white socks. The rule, when enforced, got dodged all kinds of ways. My fave was cutting off an inch of sock cuff and gluing it to my ankle with tire latex. It never occurred to us that our shoes were not so comfortable and so perfectly shaped to our feet that we would need a sock. Insoles?!! Dead weight. If you need an insole you're only covering up for a badly made shoe.

  88. Anon again, who am I talking to anyway? Same anon or dif?

    Ok, I'll play. Leather absorbs sweat and stretches. It does not breathe as well. My modern cleats have adjustable float, at whatever angle my peg leg likes.

    Biomechanics a cobbler adjusts isn't exactly cutting edge. He can't see how your hip, knee and ankle line up with laser precision, can he? What does a pie have to do with it anyway?

    Look, I applaud you for being able to use the old stuff, that's great. But for most people the new stuff works better. I'm anxious to see V try these with real cleats, actually.

    I could be really funny.

  89. MHO is you done good,my friend! You thought you couldn't,was feeling like giving in,and went on ahead,good show!

    Where we lived before here couldn't even really be considered "rural",it was just flat out in the sticks,LOL,and my regular road loop (well,"out n back'er",about 30 miles total) was upill half the time both ways...you rode up to the halfway point,down to the end,then turned around and came back. the mid-point hill was heinous,and I hated it,but felt a little pride each time I made it without stopping :)

    Disabled Cyclist

  90. I've done clipless and I eventually switched back to Power Grips, mostly for the convenience of being able to hop on my bike and ride around the neighborhood with my daughter or the old Campy fanatic down the block. Clipless are a little better than Power Grips but not that much. On club rides (C+, B on occasion), I'm generally the only one out there without clipless pedals and I usually ride toward the front of the pack. MTB style shoes with stiff soles help maximize power transfer with regular pedals. I agree with the other posters who said gearing is more important than pedal choice.

    I ride in the Delaware Valley in NJ and PA. I have a 48/34 crankset and a 14-25 rear cassette that gets me up almost everything except Federal Twist in Kingswood (that's a BEAST). I'm now in process of swapping out the 18T cog in the middle of my cassette to stick a 28T cog on the back, which should in theory help get me up Federal Twist. I bet if you went with a compact crankset and a wider cassette, it'd help you too... probablty a lot more than clipless pedals.

  91. Oh yeah, forgot to mention that's a really great picture of you, even though you look a little ticked...

  92. You should get Jan's new Rene Herse crank with 44-28 chainrings. I have a 44 big ring and never really get spun out at 44-12 (I just don't pedal above 35mph). And a 28 small ring will give you very low gearing for short steep climbs, even if you keep the same cassette in the back. It's light and compatible with modern 9 and 10 speed drivetrains.

    I have a 44-28 Nervar crank on my rando bike and it works great for me, especially climbing steep hills near the end of long brevets.

  93. GJ on those hills I say. Your body is not used to handling them and your bike isn't optimally set up for them either. I suck on hills because I don't care to do the necessary training for them. I am sure you know how you could set up the bike with better gearing and clippless if you wanted.
    The reason it felt so awful was as others have said because you went over your lactic acid threshold for too long.
    In highschool I threw up after 400m runs where I didn't warm up properly and didn't keep jogging afterwards. Several others had similar experiences and I am pretty sure what you felt was pretty much the same thing. If you want to do those hills faster you could do intervals or more climbing. Raising your lactic acid threshold level can be rather unpleasant however and some people who focus their training on it sort of burn out and take quite some time to recover (those people train ALOT though). Another thing you could do, and this will be easier with lower gearing, is trying to learn the feeling of when you go over your threshold and stay below it. While this will mean slowing down somewhat on hills, your average pace will be higher because you can't keep a decent pace for long with lactic acid buildup; not due to psyche issues but due to how your cells work.

  94. GRJ-

    I'll go one more round if V has the patience for this.

    The old shoes had two big problems.
    First was they didn't fit everyone. Schwinn warehouse had Detto, Raleigh warehouse had Detto, anything else was only marginally available at all. You could visit Oscar or Spence or Tommy or Mel in person or you could go to Italy if the Detto last did not make you happy. Of course there were bike shop clowns ready to call you a Fred if your feet did not line up.

    Second problem was marketing. Which amounted to "We are the racing fraternity. These are the shoes. Technically they are for sale. We might take your money." Which ticked off a lot of bike riders but actually made a great deal of sense. There were only so many cobblers sitting at benches. Skilled labor is not fungible. Repeat skilled labor is not fungible. There were Americans volunteering to start at the top and be frame builders, there was a surprising cohort of racers making racing exciting, there were no apprentice cobblers. The old shoe factories operated on generational timeframes, getting product to fickle Americans this season right now was not a priority. We should be happy we got anything.

    Then when availability started to improve a little all at once there's new pedals that need totally new soles that are 99.9% incompatible with what's gone before. And here we are.

    Excuse me if I am not impressed by current marketing. I don't care about the laser. I care about the eye guiding the laser. More than half of consumer satisfaction is how the product is promoted in the first place. There's brilliant marketing now. The product does not measure up. And it doesn't matter to sales how good or bad the product is. Even at "pro" level the shoes on the market now are used Chinese dog food. Even from the old reliable source all I can say is those Romanian shoes should not have Dino's name on them and the Italian-made product is suffering. I've seen very capable workmanship out of Korea, I haven't seen a good design. In the meantime customers are happy because they don't know better and a bike ride with 3rd rate bike shoes is still a bike ride and it's fun. Most customers walk out of the store with a shoe two sizes too big and I won't be the one to retrain them. I need at most two more pair of shoes before checkout time and they've already been made.

    Name's John. Just a Luddite who can't tame Blogger.

  95. One more. It's not that you could be funny GRJ. You are funny. Enjoy your writing immensely.
    Merry Christmas

  96. Speaking as a long-term reader of - oh - at least 4 weeks, it does seem that what started out as merely an appreciation of sedate and civilised machines has morphed slightly into almost a personal odyssey. After all, granted the Moser is lovely, but is it Lovely? I'm a little sad, because as time has gone by (I've read the blog mostly chronologically) the original charming naiivity has inevitably drained away, leaving the need to replace it with new hurdles and unknowns. Never mind the hill-climb, you tossed a throwaway comment about a '50-mile recovery ride' up there! Am I wrong, or would that have been inconceivable when you started? There was probably a time not too long ago when you wouldn't have known a toe-clip from a pipe-wrench.

    Guess this must always be the way, everything must progress, but nevertheless it sort of feels like a condensed version of your child growing up. There's a small pang of sadness mixed with the joy of hope and optimism. I'm loving every post, and I'm sure your growing band of followers worldwide is too.

  97. Steve - Sure. Most of the things I have done on a bicycle over the past 3 years would have been inconceivable before - first and foremost among them riding in traffic. Once I managed that. nothing really seemed impossible.

    The first 50 mile ride I did was 2 months or so after I started cycling. It was in Austria, on a crappy hybrid bike and I blew my knees so that afterward I could not ride for weeks. But it was super fun.

    The impulse to go fast and far was there almost form the start, but my skills had to catch up.

    Oh and the Moser objects to you questioning his loveliness. It is actually an extremely beautiful, handmade Italian lugged steel frame that is only cosmetically shabby. I brought it with me from Austria a year and a half ago (see here).

  98. Hey John, I appreciate the compliment and your perspective. We're on the same page wrt the stupid shoes.
    Merry Christmas to you as well.

  99. Those are some big hills...I live in a fairly flat part of the country and we don't have climbs anywhere near that good. Climbing is a great way to build strength and speed. BTW 39 26 is not a very low gear. I use a 36 25 most days. For hills like those, I would throw on a cassette with a 28.

  100. I'm personally not too keen on clipless pedals because I don't like being restricted to just riding in the cycling shoes with the SPD cleats. With old fashioned clips and straps you can ride in sneakers or old style cycling shoes with nailed on cleats or even modern cycling shoes with cleats that screw on to the mounting holes intended for SPD cleats. The trick to living with them is knowing how tight to have the straps and when, like not tight at all in city traffic.

  101. It's really nice to see photos of that water tower. I used to live half a mile from there, on that very hill. I climbed it twice per day when I rode my bike out to Waltham (Concord Ave has plenty of other hills on the way, too) to work. The stretch up Park Ave from the Minuteman was steep enough that I walked it a few times, but it had nothing on the other side of the hill. Clifton St in Belmont goes straight up the side from Pleasant St, and it may as well have been a sheer rock face.

    I sure do miss Arlington.

  102. Well done Velouria! I have been told that the path through the hills is initially hate towards them, then acceptance, then somehow people learn to love them. I am somewhere around acceptance. I enjoy reading your perspective on it, you inspire me to keep going. It's sort of like, wow if this cool lady can do this then so can I. There are many metaphors about life in riding and hill climbing I tell you.

    There is a route through San Francisco known as the Wiggle, it takes you around the hills (not up them) from downtown into the Western part of the city, where I live. About six months ago, a friend told me that she gave up on the Wiggle and started taking the more direct route up Page St, which has a very steep hill.

    At first I thought she was crazy, then I considered it, then I did it. And I haven't looked back. Taking this hill every day has made me a much stronger rider. Some days I walk it and I feel no shame, I feel that this is a path as much towards self acceptance as anything. It builds confidence, for me anyway.

    It is truly wonderful to read about your experience. I like the cast of characters as well: Somervillian, GRJ, the cat. Maybe one day I'll get to Boston, or you kids could come to SF and we could go for a ride.

  103. As a dweller of a hilly mountainous area, welcome to hill climbing. When I moved here I stopped riding for a few years because of the steep steep roads. I later moved to a less hilly area and began biking again, and riding to the area I used to live that scared me off my bike. Now I can bike those roads! At first I hated them, and still avoid the monsters. I can avoid most hills on my work commute so usually do not encounter the big hills. But, the thing is, your body gets used to it, it becomes easier and then no big deal at all. So, while you felt like barfing at one point, if you do the same ride again, it will be easier.
    Mind you, Bowen Island is a lovely island nearby that I sometimes visit with my bike. It is insanely hilly. Each time I go I try to explore a new area, and in some cases regret going to some areas because the hills are endless and barf inducing. But I never actually throw up, or pass out or collapse.
    Have fun!

  104. What's a big hill? It's all a matter of perspective and experience. A 300 ft gain in a mile? Eh, put three of those in a row (interspersed with what amounts to mile of mostly flat) and you've got what I call my "daily commute."

    Sure it was hell at first, but one adapts fairly quickly.

    And one buys a freewheel with a 34-tooth cog closest to the spokes. Leave work at 5pm and at 5:40, you're home and mixing cocktails.

  105. I'd hardly call that failing. You just made a new climbing route.

    What street did ride up to Park Circle (the concrete water tower)? Park Ave or Eastern/Spring (goes by the park and has views of Boston at the top)? I've done Eastern/Spring 5 times (up/down/repeat) prior to the 2009 D2R2. It made the D2R2 a lot easier. But I had 30/39/50 and 12/27 gearing and used the 30/27 combination on all of the steep pitches on Eastern.


Post a Comment