Monday, February 22, 2010

First climb of the year

In the European bike racing lingo, there are 4 types of riders that I know of. The Rouler is a rider who can keep fast pace over distance and excels at time trials. The sprinter can sprint and contest the win from a large group. The puncher has explosive acceleration and can break away from groups. The grimpeur is the climber who can climb hills fast. If I had to choose which type I am, I would say that I'm a grimpeur. Sweetpea Bicycles had an interesting blog post last week about climbing too. I didn't know that she was a climber too. When I say that I'm a climber, I don't mean that I can ride away from everyone on the hill, but that it's one area of cycling that I might be better than average. When you go up a hill, the thing called strength to weight ratio comes into play. I guess when you go against the pull of gravity, the heavier you are the more power you need to use to move forward, so if you are relatively lightweight you have an advantage when going uphill. I guess it's one of the things that attracted me to cycling initially. I used to be super skinny as a teenager and there aren't many sports that favor that build. There was cross country running which I did a bit, but I ended up having a knee problem. I didn't have any competitive goals in mind when I got into cycling, but I found that you didn't need to be big and muscular to go fast. After I got into college, I joined the collegiate team and started doing some collegiate and USCF (predecessor of USA Cycling) races. In racing and training with people, I found that I was more of a climber than anything else.

Rocky Butte
(top of Rocky Butte)

Anyway, so even now, I think of myself a bit that way. I am not as skinny and I don't have a training schedule to keep, but I like to think that with some regular riding, I can get myself into a decent climbing shape. With that in mind, I went for a ride this past Saturday. Not a super long ride, but one with a decent climb at the end. This was really the first substantial climb since before Winter. Through Winter, I mostly rode in close vicinity and with Portland being fairly flat (there are lots of false flats though), so I hadn't really been using my climbing legs for quite some time. I decided to ride to Rocky Butte in North East Portland. It's almost all straight from where I live and there is a steady climb to the top of the butte at the end.

View Larger Map

As is often the case when I ride there, there was constant headwind, so just getting to the bottom of the butte was quite a work out. As I started to climb the hill though, I can immediately tell that it wasn't going well. I put it into a very low gear and tried to just spin, but even that was not working too well. I can think of 2 reasons why this was. One is that my position on the bike is not quite right. The other is that I'm simply out of shape. I'm sure I was out of shape, but I think with a low gear, I could have spinned with much more ease. The weird thing is that before I had this road bike, I'd done the same climb on my mountain bike with relatively little training and had been able to ride with more ease. I think if I just keep riding regularly, I will be able to climb better like I was doing last Summer, but I'm wondering if it would be better to change the position. I think I will try moving the saddle back, but to do that I will need a shorter stem. I feel I'm already a bit stretched out, so moving the seat will make it even more without adjusting the handlebar position.

At the top of Rocky Butte, there is a sort of a for like structure of a park. And from there, there is a nice view of Mt. Hood in the distance.

Mt. Hood from Rocky Butte

Mt. Hood

It's a nice place to sit and rest after the climb although I hardly ever see fellow cyclists resting there. I guess most people riding there don't carry U-locks like I do to park their bikes. Most people there are families that drive up with cars with big cups of soft drinks in their hands. The ride back was so much easier with the tail wind.

The next day on Sunday, I rode past downtown and climbed a bit of Burnside. I wanted to climb a bit to see how I should adjust my position, but I didn't want to ride too far. The grade of Burnside is pretty steep and my muscles were hurting after the effort of the day before, so I turned back quickly, but I felt my body was already starting to adjust to climbing in the position. So, I think if I just keep riding I will just get used to it, but I think maybe it's a good time to adjust things before the body builds up to fit the position.

I might be sounding like I'm seriously thinking about training, but not really. I don't plan on doing any competitions or even century rides. I just like to ride and enjoy the experience. I think it's all relative anyway. Whether you are racing in the Alps in the Tour de France or just riding by yourself up a local hill, there is a will to pedal and the experience of your effort is all yours.

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