Making hill climbing easy!

Using my pedal powered dinghy has revealed to me that I tend to use a rather slow cadence, that is the rate at which I turn the pedals. On my last few rides I’ve been practicing upping that speed of rotation and have learnt a lot. I live in an area of hills which are often very steep. Even in your lowest gear it often means that you can’t spin the pedals at 90 rpm, all you can do is grind the pedals round and make sure the hill doesn’t defeat you. This is probably why I have got into the habit of using a slow cadence, like 60 rpm, which tires the muscles more quickly. I don’t have any information as yet on which method gets you from A to B the quickest but I’m now sure that on a long ride I could keep going well for longer by deliberately keeping the pedal speed up. I wanted to do a big climb today to see if I could work on a higher speed of rotation so chose to ride to Lead Mine’s Valley, up onto the ridge of Redmond’s Edge over to Great Hill. I’d then have the reward of my very favourite downhill through Brinscall Woods and a final flourish over Healey Nab. With something of an Indian Summer going on it was an ideal opportunity to use a classic mountain bike, the 2004 Whyte JW4. 17 years in the development of mountain bikes is the equivalent of several generations of human history but it’s still a great ride.

I could tell that my leg muscles were feeling it less but my breathing rate was certainly up. This is no problem. I should probably have been breathing faster for the last 30 years! I arrived at the steep valley climb still feeling fresh and whilst I couldn’t keep the pedal speed up even in my lowest gear I was definitely fresher after the first really steep section because I’d arrived at the bottom fresher. Climbing up onto the moor is a less steep gravel road and I kept it on a lower gear than I might previously have done, trying to maintain something around 90 rpm. Later the rough grass trail steepens again so I was back to grinding but the cumulative effect of the ride wasn’t so tough as I’d usually expect. I liked the look of the view half way up the gravel so stopped to take some pictures. I couldn’t see anything on the dim screen of my phone so just pointed it and snapped a few photos. When I downloaded them later I was blown away!

Like a Japanese ink wash painting. The less the picture contains, the more you see.
Japan was centuries ahead of Europe in art. The images that were created in the 15th century were only matched by Turner and the impressionists in the 19th century.

My wife, Ali, has a degree in history of art. I meanwhile, watched a documentary last night about Japan and their understanding of the aesthetic. It couldn’t have been shown at a better time. I used a fast moorland single track which cuts out the last part of Great Hill which I found isn’t quite as good a route but I soon rejoined the main trail at the ruins of a farm. From there I took the gravel trail to the woods and rode the best downhill I know. I’d noticed how the 26″ wheels skip around on bumpy surfaces compared to modern, larger wheels. It may prevent me from achieving the same speeds as I would on something contemporary but the thrill is much the same. I continued over the final hill and still felt relatively fresh after a higher number of pedal rotations but applying less turning force. It was a very fulfilling ride.

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