How Seattle riders deal with hills

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Last weekend, Joe and I took the train up north for the giant Seattle Bike Expo. We were only there for two short days, most of which I spent either riding or talking about bikes.

The highlight of the weekend by far was getting to meet and talk with dozens of people — Seattle seems to have in the last two or three years fallen head over heels in love with bikes, and the excitement was palpable.

I pedaled through more of Seattle in two short days than I’d previously explored in the past decade, and nearly every inch of it was at an intense grade. My legs were jelly and I was perpetually out of breath, ravenously hungry, and amazed and impressed by the sheer number of riders everywhere we went, going about their daily business up and down these monstrous inclines.

When we got home, I asked on Twitter:

@ellyblue: Dear Seattle, it was amazing to meet/see/bike with you all this weekend! I’m smitten. But your hills kicked my butt. How do you do it???

The flood of responses demonstrated the amount of thought and the variety of approaches that goes into navigating Seattle’s topography. Below is a selection, lightly edited for punctuation:

@kentsbike: For going up hills: chocolate covered espresso beans. For going down hills: KoolStop brakepads.

@sognrider: The hills kick our butts too, just a fact of life. (well, they don’t kick @kentsbike butt, he just pedals like they’re not there)

@ambrown: I’ve never cursed so much in my life, biking over Capitol Hill. Seattle’s a great example of importance of bike/transit links.

@ameliagreenhall: It just takes a few weeks of riding every day to get used to them.

@svrdesign: Our gears go to -11

@patrickbarber: The trick is to shift to the small chainring BEFORE you start climbing

@jenlitowski: Don’t be too proud – shift down. There’s a reason why my city bike is only rated for Crown Hill, not Phinney Ridge.

@familyride: Personally, I go 40 blocks out of the way to scale Phinney Ridge.

@seditiouscanary: 1: Shift early, shift often. 2: Think and Plan. Attacking a hill head on is great as a workout, but not for getting around.

@velobusdriver: #ebike or selective route planning

@seabikeblog: One pedal in front of the other….

@transitdude: Strong ass, legs & lots of sweat

@nein09: They flatten out eventually. Really!

If you’re interested in more thoughtful meditations on hills, you can find plenty of that –here’s a recent example– on the Lovely Bicycle! blog (one of them has been adapted for issue #6 of Taking the Lane zine).

So there you have it. How about you, how do you handle hills?


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