I’m always fascinated at seeing the different riding styles of people, especially when climbing. Combing from mountain bikes where the granny gear was tall enough to go up a vertical wall I never considered myself a climber and when I first got back on the road seriously I hated the climbing. Now I welcome a good climb and thrive in the sense of accomplishment when I make it to the top or set a new personal record.
My style has evolved over time and I try to keep a constant pace up a hill. I may not be the fastest as the start but usually I’ll catch up to the people who attack at the bottom and then taper when they burn out near the top and usually I’ll still have some left in the tank to meander on by them. Then there are the people who shift too late and start grinding early in the climb or they are afraid of shifting too late and thus shift too early and have no momentum to carry onto the hill. I used to be both of these people and I would try different things on my solo rides until I figured out when the optimal time for me to shift would be – basically when I start feeling my momentum slow it’s time to drop to the smaller chain ring. There is one exception and that would be a small roller where I just need to dig a little to get over the hump w/o expending too much energy. Once I’m in the smaller chain ring I try and keep what momentum I have left while spinning a high cadence which for me would be 80-90rpm as I am most comfortable in that range. If it’s a long and/or steep climb I’ll go through the cassette trying to keep me in that range until I hit the big cog. From then on it’s just a matter of grinding it out. If I’ve played my cards right I’ll have enough left in the tank to actually accelerate over the top of the hill while everyone else is looking to recover.
When I ride solo I’m more apt to push the envelope a bit because if I burn out no one else will be waiting on me. But on the club ride I’ll pick a pace and go at it. This past weekend ride was interesting because we had a rider that would attack the hills early and stand on the pedals and pass the group before sitting down. Now we aren’t racing but I always like a challenge so I would then pull out of line and follow. He would of course be ahead of me but I would slowly reel him in as we reached the top, sometimes just tucking in behind or other times pulling up along side. It was comical as we did this over and over again throughout the day. I don’t think he ever caught on but I’d always be right there when he turned around.
This past Sunday marked a milestone for me, I completed my first 50 mile ride and also did the most climbing I had ever done with ~3600′ which included the longest continuous climb I have ever done. We weren’t even a half mile into the ride before the first and biggest climb of the day. It’s a little over 3 miles up the side of a small ski slope which Strava categorizes as a Cat 3 climb. Whew! That got us warmed up quick. But it didn’t stop there as we had another couple of shorter climbs to contend with before we caught a break with a nice downhill and then some rollers before we made our first rest stop at around mile 18. From there we traveled on some backroads with minor hills to our lunch stop which came around mile 30.
Now, I don’t mind stopping for a brief snack – an energy/protein bar, rice cake, fruit, fluids, etc… but I don’t know how people can have large sandwiches and meals before they head back out on the bike. If I tried that I’d be tossing my lunch up a mile down the road.
Long stops also tend to tighten me up as I’m sitting down. This wreaked havoc on my legs on the last 20 miles and caused a bit of knee pain. With 2 climbs right out of the gate I just ended up slowly spinning at the back until I got loosened up again and could go at my normal pace.
In any event, while it was a challenging ride, it was also a great ride with a great group of riders. It certainly was an accomplishment for me.
Next on the bucket list is a metric century!
And climbing we did.
We had great weather for Saturdays group ride. It was low 60’s all day with very little wind. I was dressed in shorts, cycling shirt, arm warmers and a wind vest to start. Total distance was just shy of 34 miles with lots of climbing! Ride with GPS (which the group uses for mapping/cue sheets) said ~2100ft of climbing, but all the Garmins in the group showed about 3200ft by the end of the ride. Of course Strava can’t agree with either can comes up with 1800ft. I’m inclined to agree with the Garmins because it was just one hill after another, after another and even the ride leader was surprised with the amount of climbing. It was a good workout though and we all had fun.
I’m still riding on the semi-slick 32c CX tires and since there wasn’t much dirt on this ride I probably should have switched out to the more road friendly, and more importantly lighter, 25c slick tires. The 32s roll fast but they are definitely heavier which you can feel on the hills. Nevertheless I hung on with the group but did have to work a little more at times. This tire switching nonsense just highlights why I need that Roubaix Expert even more. 😉
At our coffee stop midway we met these two pups just looking for some free muffin handouts. Unfortunately for them no one in the group succumbed to their soulful eyes.
Jet & Maggie at the coffee shop.