When we did our city tour two weekends ago, one of the highlights was Mt. Bonnell. I’d never climbed it before, and I was looking forward to it, for some reason. I guess I had an unrealistic idea of my climbing ability.
Going through neighborhoods on the way there, we came upon a short, steep hill on a residential street. I downhifted to a low gear, but was up out of the saddle, standing on the pedals, struggling to mash the pedals down and keep the wheels turning. I could have gone down two more gears, but because the bike was straining already, I figured I’d lose all my momentum if I tried a downshift, so I kept grinding away. The bottom bracket made a creaky noise I’d never heard before. As long as I could make the bike protest, I thought, I had enough left in me to get up the hill.
And I did. Man, that was a tough one, and with car traffic coming from behind, I had no choice but to go straight up the road — no chance to zig-zag up the hill.
On Mt. Bonnell itself, we had a challenging grade to a right-hand bend, and then the grade steepened. I pulled into a driveway, did a loop, then shot back onto the street with some forward momentum. That momentum carried me, oh, maybe 10 yards or so. This time, I shifted down all the way into the granny gear. I was still tired from the earlier hill, but there was no traffic this time, and I used the width of the street to zig-zag my way up. It seemed like it would take forever, but I finally made it to the top.
An experienced biker riding with us guessed the grade was between 16-20 percent. I decided I wouldn’t be in a hurry to tackle it again (you might recall that I made a wrong turn, and we wound up climbing Bonnell again from the other side — but we walked our bikes this time, too pooped).
My conclusion is that I don’t do enough challenging hills as part of my regular rides. I’ve got some routes that include hills, but nothing like Bonnell. So I suppose I was just undertrained for it.
But if I have to mash pedals in the granny gear time after time, I’m not sure I want to get much better at hills.
What do you suggest for a noob to become at least a little more adept at climbing?