One of the excuses for not riding a bike I hear quite often is: I’d get a bike, but I HATE going uphill!
Now I try NOT to roll my eyes when they say it. They would never understand that I think hills are the best part!
I know, I know, some people out there are thinking “DUDE are you nuts?” Hills suck!
And honestly, there are times I will not disagree. I have cussed my share of hills in my time.
This climb is within the first 5 miles of the Flying Wheels Summer Century. It is short, but steep, and comes along before the legs are warmed up. PLUS, and I have no idea why, it smells like a sewer. I HATE this hill!
Soon after this photo, I flat had to stop. Crater Lake rim, 95+ degrees, and I was spent. It was the first time ever pondered quitting a ride… I kept going…
Rainier climbs are long, relentless, steep and will etch themselves into your brain. I sometimes stop for photos just as an excuse to stop pedaling for a second. So yes, I have cussed my fair share of hills. I know hills can suck.
I recently read an essay from a cyclist about hills. In it, he said (though I paraphrase here) that going uphill is a bike’s way of getting even. On level ground, the slightest turn of a pedal is magnified into much greater speed. Hell, throw in a tail wind and you feel like you are flying. Going downhill, your speed magically increases, and you smile widens, without a single turn of the crank! I will climb for hours just to turn around and bomb down a hill for 20 minutes and 15 miles!
Ahhh, but the uphill is a different story. Going uphill, your bike laughs at you. If you listen closely you can hear it say. “OK sucker, now YOU have to work!” In low gear, I will pedal relentlessly, and slowly climb, sometimes lucky to hit 5 mph. (Climbing the 11 mile Cayuse pass part of the Ramrod took me 2 hours to complete! and yes I cussed!) In essence, on an uphill, the bike is almost riding you.
So, if it is that hard, why do I do it?
Well part of the answer is honestly, I am not that smart. It would be much easier to sit on my ass, eat too much and complain about being fat on Facebook, but I choose not to.
Another part is I am good at it. Some riders go for speed, some ride in groups, others, like me, look for bigger climbs. For 10 years I tried to climb mountains.
I soon learned that I could climb anything under 1200o feet. Carrying a 40 lb pack I could hike for miles without rest. Above 1200o I was useless. Under, I am a climbing machine!
So when I started riding, I learned these skills with going up hill came with me for 2 wheels. I gear down, keep my rear down, and crank my way to the top. I have passed pelatons, high speed racers, and one lady who melted down when I said on your left (“497 times I have heard on your left today! STOP SAYING ON YOUR LEFT!!”) while climbing a hill.
I’ve completed the Chilly Hilly many times, The High Pass challenge
Crater Lake Century
And the mother bear of them all, RAMROD
Not just because I am a great climber, but because I looked for, and found new and harder challenges. I have yet to find the road I can’t reach the top of. And, as long I am willing to keep trying, then I am still young!
When I think of hills I think of this, the second plan looks like SO much more fun!
I have more than one pretty damn flat bike trail near me, and I use the quite often. But seriously, how boring would life be if I only rode these paths and didn’t challenge myself. I will keep seeking out new hills and new challenges. I will test myself against whatever gravity can throw at me, and, most importantly, I will enjoy 2 things.
The first is the sights I will see as I climb
And the rebel yell I let loose with when I reach the top and “let her buck!” when I send it down the other side, sometimes hitting 40 mph. Honestly, there are few better feelings than a 10 or 15 mile downhill.
So, I challenge all my flatland riding readers. Find a hill close by. Start working till you can ride to the top. Then find a bigger one. The swelling of your heart you will feel when you get to the top of each one, and the thrill you will get going back down will make sure you will NEVER forget it. PLUS, it will make you that much healthier.
Like the wind folks! And enjoy the climb!