Riding the Foothills

Except for a few trails I’ve found thus far, it seems like a consistent foothill feature that you really have to work for your fun.  This is likely readily apparent to anyone with the observational power of a gnat when they look out toward the riding arena towering over Boise, but it really took me off guard as to how much work must really goes into any sizeable ride.

Coming from Bend, OR, I’m no stranger to a pervasive incline, but even those are spiked with the kind of downhills that either get your adrenaline peaking again or at least give you a slight chance to recover.  Here in Boise, however, it seems to be a consistent theme that unless you’re on a short (less than 5 mile) loop, you’re going to be climbing for a while, and any downhilling or flatland wending you get to do will not provide much relief except to those that have the recovery capacity of a cheetah.  Well, it may not be that bad, but if you’re not prepared for it you could be in for a spanking.

So here are some things I’ve learned that may help to keep in mind

  1. Conservation of momentum is extremely important.  If you can increase your cadance without dropping a gear, take advantage of it because the more momentum you can carry into the next steep the better.
  2. Never assume you’re nearing the top.  Many a hill can be hidden around a single corner.
  3. Don’t lose focus.  There are a lot of short hills where you’ll find your front wheel popping off the ground and your rear wheel wanting to spin free.  These are the times when you need to grit your teeth, balance your body over your wheels and start spinning.  It’s real easy to get tuckered 3/4s of the way up a steep hill, lose momentum (1), lose your balance, and lose the hill.  Here are some thoughts:
    1. If the hill is steep and technical try going into it in a slightly harder gear (or two) than you would if it weren’t technical.  This will increase the power requirement, but it will also allow you to stand off the saddle when you need to, and may keep your speed up so balancing side to side is easier.
    2. Good hill climbing, to my mind, comes down to three things: Technique, Power, and Endurance.  Make sure you can pick good lines and follow them.  Make sure you know how to position your weight so you can keep your front wheel on the ground while maintaining traction with the rear.  Work on keeping your weight off your handlebars, or, when you do have to pull on your bars to get some extra push to the pedals, make sure you pull evenly with both arms so you don’t get thrown off your line.  When technique starts to fail, power becomes all the more important.  A lot of poor technique can be hidden by simply being able to mash on those pedals through the rough, or by kicking up the speed a bit.  And lastly, no matter how long, steep, and technical the hill, if you haven’t got the endurance to spin to the top you won’t make it.
  4. Get into your gear before you need it.  Trying to shift under load will either not work (unless your running XX components–Awesome), or it’ll mess up your chain, maybe even break it.
  5. Get your cadence up before you get into the hill and try to keep it up throughout.  The last thing you want is to end up standing on your pedals with them not budging.

Beyond the hills, something else I’ve come to notice is the diversity of trail users.  On any given ride you can encounter other bikers (recreational or pro), walkers, hikers, leashless dogs, horses, cows, sheep, and ATVers.  And the ethic seems that you’re pretty much required to yield to all of them.  The dogs are the worst.  There’s a lot to be said for a good trail dog, but speaking as someone who’s been bitten by a not so good trail dog, they can sure be a nuisance.

In the end, so far I’m please with the kind of riding opportunities we’ve got.  I miss my big trees and wooded trails, but it appears that if you’re willing to ride up hill long enough, you can find those too.

More to come.  The ole helmet cam didn’t work out, so I took it back to REI.  It looks like I’ll be getting still photos as documentation, but it’ll still be fun.  Stay tuned…

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~ by cardwelc on June 29, 2010.

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