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    How do I conquer those long uphills?
    You will receive a very accurate hill profile in August. Trust it!! Since Cycle Oregon 8, they have been using some very high tech equipment to obtain good elevation profiles. The fellow that converts all those numbers is good at what he does, producing very high quality maps.

Curt Coleman

Getting started on riding hills….

I am not the greatest on hills (but getting better slowly...) Here is the way I have started. Ride lots of little hills (rollers) on bike rides. Practice sitting and spinning (pedaling constantly in a gear your legs, heart, and lungs are happy with). Get so you can shift up or down on hills (especially the back gears). Get so you can judge which front chain ring you will probably do most of the hill in and how the different ranges of gears that go with each chain ring mesh with each other. This is kind of a feeling thing, but if you are having lots of trouble (or are analytically inclined) there is a good book out on gearing that can help you a lot. (Bicycle Gearing by Dick Marr - also handy if you want to think about changing your gearing. I figured out the gearing on all of our bikes and found it quite interesting.)

Your goal is to know when to shift and to be able to shift without loosing lots of momentum and to stay in your "comfort range". BTW, lots of times the steepness changes and you shift up. You do this practice on tiny hills because you will make lots of mistakes at first and this gives you chances to recover and try again with something else.

Get used to going slow. Look at the scenery or think about songs with a good beat that can keep you going. Last CO I did a couple of hills thinking up variations to "This Is the Song That Never Ends" and applying it to hills. It is real easy to try to go too fast and push yourself out of that "comfort zone".

When you feel like you are ready try some longer hills. We ride up to Skyline Blvd. for longer hill practices in this area. Sometimes you will misjudge gears and wipe yourself out or sometimes the hill will be too steep for your fitness level. Just stop and rest and remember to drink and maybe eat a snack. Keep trying. As you get fitter and more experienced it gets easier.

There were some hills last year [CO 11] that I stopped and rested on many times. We tried to leave camp early and give ourselves plenty of time. On the steepest stretch I alternated walking a block and riding 2 or 3 blocks and that helped. They use different leg muscles.

On the side - work on aerobic fitness as much as possible! This doesn't all have to be on your bike and it may be easier and quicker to do a lot of it some other way.

Make sure your bike fits correctly - it can make a huge difference!

Rox Heath

Here's one that will work! (sent to me by a friend...)
To be sung to the tune of "I'm a little Tea Pot"

I'm a little hill slug
slimy and stout
here is my granny (point down)
here is my pout (pout lips)
When you see me climbing
Here me shout
"These big hills just WEAR ME OUT!!!!!"

Susan Otcenas

Be sure and practice stopping and starting on hills. CO is noted for its long, long climbs and you will need to stop and take breaks!

Rox Heath

The best way to develop hill climbing ability is to climb hills. I'm a fairly slow climber. I used to be a really slow climber (plant growth sometimes beat me to the crest). I'm doing 20 minute max gear, max resistance repeats, 50-55 rpm cadence on my trainer twice per week, to get over the slowness.

I also do extended "spins" in progressively harder resistances going from a 95 rpm to a 80 rpm cadence in 20 minute increments. This helps you maintain momentum on the lighter grades.

Its all helping but I've been at this game for going on 4 years and still find myself being passed by a *lot* of people. But now I just don't care so much.

Why? Because I know I'll get to the top on the bike, I'll be in plenty of time for dinner and I'll have had the opportunity to visit with some of the other riders that created a mid hill rest area on the climb.

Many people will give you differing advice, try anything that seems to make sense and learn what works for you. BUT, PERSIST! it does get easier and the hill you are measuring yourself now on is very likely steeper than the extended climbs we will do (though there may be some short sections as steep).

Just work on finding what works for you and expect to come to believe your name is "on your left" :-) Seriously, just relax, don't fight it, and develop the confidence that you can do it. (that last piece is a major part of it)

Don "90% of this game is half mental. Yogi Berra" Bolton

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You betcha!! We got hills!!

According to my altimeter cycle computer, and, since C.O. 8, the actual ride maps themselves, the range of total weekly elevation gain in the last eight Cycle Oregon tours is from 17,000 feet to 29,500 feet. I have seen individual days with as little as under 500 to around 6,000 feet gain. I would expect this year's gain [CO 12] to fall between these extremes. A typical C.O. hill might have a gain of 2,000 feet over a distance of 6-7 miles, with a uniform grade.

The worst I have experienced was on # 7, where (as best I can recall) there was a single hill of close to 4000 feet gain in a distance of under 9 miles. Much of this road had a grade of 12 to 15%. There were a lot of walkers. And, the downhill run was on beautiful road which had a zillion switch-backs, complete with deep roadside drop-offs, in and out of tree shade, heading west into the afternoon sun. Letting one's self freely coast down that hill was a life-risking decision.

It is safe to say this year will have its share of multi-mile hills at 5%. Expect days 3,4 and 5 to contain some real hill challenges, especially if you ride into Hell's Canyon.

If you have signed up, you will receive a ride brochure (In past years it has arrived in June) which will have reasonably accurate elevation gain figures for each day. The final VERY accurate ride maps with elevation profiles will arrive in August (again, if this is a typical year).

Curt Coleman

I'll tag on a bit to what others had to say about the "hills" (er... mountains!) of NE Oregon [CO 12] and what type of training strategies you may want to consider, especially when you may not have many hills to train on where you live. At age 44, I personally do a lot of different types of crossing-training, including skiing, step aerobics, spinning classes, lighter weights, and dance aerobics, not just miles on the road.

In briefly reviewing, one person suggested doing 1,500 to 2,000 miles, or maybe even 3,000 miles of training. WOW!! I feel that's a lot of miles and a lot of time to commit. If you have the time, then do it, but most people do not.

As a side note, I spoke with one couple (mid-40's) on CO#10 who had trained about 1,500 miles, but no hills. They felt Cycle Oregon was way too hard and said they would never do it again. Unfortunately nobody ever mentioned to them that there were hills, so they didn't train for them (not physically, nor mentally). That was a mistake, at least for them.

Anyway, miles and miles are certainly important. I believe Cycle Oregon typically recommends at least 750 miles. That's reasonable. I also believe you should sign up for several group rides of one or two days, not just for leg training, but to also understand what it's like to ride in a group over long distances; to get the feel of riding for hours and hours and hours in one day. And then do it the next day... and the next if you can. Also, sometime before CO, ride at least one day of 100 miles, even if it is flat. Two or three days of 100 miles, or thereabouts, is better.

More than just the miles, I personally believe that you should train hills. Fortunately I live in Oregon and have several nice hills just a few miles from my house. I also do a couple of rides in the summer which have hills at least 5 miles long, and preferably 20 miles long. They don't have to be excessively steep (5% is good). The experience with these hills is physical, for sure, but the mental is also very important. Can you ride uphill for one hour, two hours, or more without going down much or at all, or without riding on level ground? If (when) you can, you will absolutely enjoy CO, the scenery, and your personal accomplishments!

So, if you don't have hills nearby, I suggest two strategies: (1) go to the hills nearest where you live, and do them. Maybe you have to make a weekend trip of it; maybe more. But there is really no substitute for riding hills, not even riding more miles on the flat. And (2) if you just can't find hills, then go to the gym and take some spinning classes, and/or ride an exercise bicycle that allows you to increase the tension, and pedal against some resistance for 45 minutes to an hour, or more, each time.

There are many other strategies, others may share with you. I know some of you are going to say that if you have the right bike with the right gearing you never have to pedal much against resistance, just gear down and spin up the hill. You are right, but for me I don't want to literally take all day getting up the hills, and roll into camp late. Getting to camp at a reasonable hour and not feeling rushed with tent setup, shower and dinner is important. Otherwise Cycle Oregon will go by so fast because all you'll feel like you're doing is pedaling and eating and sleeping, nothing else. I encourage you to train appropriately to be able to ride well, and also have time to enjoy all the other fun activities Cycle Oregon has to offer.

You absolutely will have the time of your life... CO is amazing... many believe it is one of the top 5 or 10 rides in the U.S. Some of us know better: CO is #1. Get ready to enjoy it for sure!


Don't become intimidated by those HILLS ! There are four things to consider when attacking a hill/mountain.

1. Physical conditioning - - Robert Mueller was right about the mileage. There's nothing to replace good o'l BASE mileage.

2. Gearing - - Deep Low Gearing always makes the day enjoyable. I have a 24 tooth on the front chain ring "granny gear" and a 32 tooth cog on the rear. You' will be ready for most anything that Mother Nature will throw at you with this combo.

3. Your Head - - Have the right attitude and you'll conquer! Take the time to smell the roses, take in the view, take a break, socialize, loose yourself in the moment, YOU'RE ON VACATION !

4. Enjoy - - The downhill (Right, Igor)

Capt. Dink ~

Ride, ride, ride. Even if it is in the flat land, you need to get the miles in at a steady pace. The hills will come and if you're in the Portland area they are hard to avoid. They will insidiously creep into your rides. Oh, at first you'll try to avoid them. Try with all of your might but they just keep getting in your way intimidating and mocking you, saying things about your mother, but all the while you're getting stronger and stronger until one day you say to yourself, " Damn the torpedoes, FULL SPEED AHEAD !!!" and you crank up the first hill and find at the top that you are in terrific pain and you find it hard to catch your breath but your not dead and it really didn't hurt as much as that time back in June and, " Oh my God, I was only in my second to the lowest gear!" That's when you start looking for the hills that used to pick on you, laughing with their winding roads and tall trees, and proceed to open up a can of whup ass on them. So, uh, what was I writing about ? Oh yeah, so when you get to Cycle Oregon you can bring a rope and pull me up those freakin' hills.


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> But I hate hills!

Dave --- lots of people probably don't like hills all that much, but to "hate" them is not a good sign. There will be lots of them on Cycle Oregon: some steep, some not so steep, some long, some short.... every kind imaginable. This year's [CO 12] route is generally in a mountainous area of NE Oregon. There will be some valleys and some flat land, too, of course!

The ride you talked about from Tualatin out to Newberg and McMinnville will likely compare to the easiest day, (or maybe easier than the easiest day) on CO12.

{uh... well, actually the easiest day would be not riding at all, which you get as options on 2 days on this year's ride.} But back to your training ride, yes, there is the Rex Hill climb on Hwy 99 when you come back from Newberg to Sherwood, but it's not too steep and not too long.

Certainly riding is about PHYSICAL comfort (or lack thereof), but it's also really a lot about ATTITUDE. If you think hills are no fun, then they will be no fun. You will be right about that. With that kind of attitude, though, you may not give yourself a chance to truly enjoy Cycle Oregon. Yet the beauty of all of this is that you have the power to change your mind. Look at it from a different perspective. Think of the uphills as a time to slow down, to really enjoy the scenery, to exercise a little more energetically, to conquer a challenging hill, to prepare for a thrilling downhill.

With hills you'll be amazed at what scenery unfolds before you...


There will be long hills, but there won't be long VERY steep hills. Keep putting in those miles and add a few more hills. You are getting stronger every ride and you've got months left to train. You need to challenge yourself, but not kill yourself.

My best advice is to get a heart rate monitor. They may seem pricey, but they are the best investment in your health and cycling that you can make. The literature that comes with it will explain how to use it for establishing and setting your maximum heart rate. When you reached it, an alarm will sound. Stop, wait, preferably in the shade. Hydrate while you watch it go down. Do not walk your bike. When you start again you will wonder why it seemed so hard.

You may need to stop again up the road as the cumulative effort sends your heart rate back up. The key is to not exceed your maximum. The physical effects of doing so will greatly dampen your enthusiasm for cycling. Soon 2 stop hills will become 1 stop, and no stop hills. It's quantifiable. It's reassuring. It's inspiring.

Dana C. Ham

I'm afraid we seasoned vets may have put a wrong slant on our constant references to the hills. Its not meant to make you doubt your abilities but to make you aware (and hopefully set you to building your self confidence).

My first year (CO IX) I had over 3,000 miles under my belt prior to the tour. All in the Willamette valley, I thought the climb out of Butteville was a hill. Boy, did I learn different!

I made the whole trip plus most of the optional miles, but I really wished I'd done focused hill training prior.

When climbing and you get passed by a guy on a mountain bike towing a trailer with a 40 lb dog in it you just kinda wonder if maybe you missed something in the brochure somewhere. I mean tandems, OK, but a guy with a weighted trailer?:-)

I apologize if some of my references fostered any self doubts. If you want to do this ride, you can, and you will!

It will be easier however, if you do some focused efforts on extended hills prior to the tour. Which is why we keep bringing them up. I really don't think the official info does a good job in recommending this.

Don "if your still upright and moving, your winning" Bolton

About those eastern Oregon hills... As I recall, many of the climbs are fairly steep switchbacks. It can be demoralizing on a very hot afternoon! You can see what appears to be the end of the climb, and it looks like there can't possibly be any more "up," but as you go around that last curve, what lies ahead? Another set of switchbacks! Or more long winding road reaching for the sky!

The key for me has always been to take the climbs at a comfortable pace and not try to push. And to drink more water than I think can possibly hold. I usually arrive at the top in good shape, much better off than other riders who are probably faster and stronger. Someone mentioned that endurance is very important, and that's exactly right. There's a strong psychological endurance factor too.

Susan Christie

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If you are not accustomed to hills, plan on having a massage the first few evenings and, if not every day, at least schedule a massage for those hilly days. :<)

Derek Howard

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I agree with Derek. Massages kept me feeling fresh every day. When in your life can you bike through beautiful country every day AND treat yourself to (i.e., justify) a massage every day? CO XII, that's when! You can charge them on your credit card, so that pain comes later.

Also, I recommend enlisting help from a qualified personal trainer, who can tailor a workout to your body (strengths and weaknesses) and your goals, makes your time more effective. They show you how to work out without hurting yourself.

Then go at it yourself.

Amy Ream

I'm from a state with no hills either.

My theory last year proved successful. I started riding in March last year and I rode my bike 4 times per week averaging probably 30-50 miles per outing. I rode a lot and then some.

I heard from many riders last year that said they only rode 500-1000 miles before the CO. But I saw a lot of those same people complaining about how tired or sore they were.

I would recommend the alternative approach and ride a lot. Yes, the hills are expected to be long. I doubt that they will be any steeper than last year though. If you are accustomed to sitting on your bike seat and spinning your legs for hours, you'll do just fine.

If you have an indoor trainer, elevate the front of the trainer a couple inches. Ride it once a week for 30 minutes or so and you'll work some hill climbing muscles. But to keep you sanity, don't ride it too much.

Find people to ride with in your neighborhood. It will make your training a whole lot better.

Be prepared, why take the chance of ruining your vacation.

Bob Mueller

Get yourself a heart rate monitor, and use it. The biggest challenge to long climbs is usually not the pitch, it's the stress of having your heart rate at a high level for a long time. You can train for it by using a monitor to gradually elevate the intensity of your training rides, and by doing interval sprints during those rides. The manuals that accompany your monitor will help you understand the concept, and there are several good books on the subject. I know that it sounds a little hard core, but these things aren't any harder to use than most microwaves, or VCR's, and they quickly become an invaluable cycling tool.

There is no substitute for mileage. Lots of training mile will get your body strong and accustomed to being on your bike for long periods. That's what is most important. Heart rate training will be your best substitute for long hills.

Dana C. Ham

I just had to jump in here with info from the "great plains" area. I'm originally from the state of Oklahoma where the wind is generally ruthless to biker's. However because of this "naturely" training device, one is able to build-up the same muscle groups that are required in hill training. The difference that I notice is the inconsistent gusting makes it hard to spin in one gear for any period of time. Add some hills plus the wind and you have a well trained hill rider with endurance. One can feel like a tough piece of beef jerky after a couple of weeks in the saddle pushing the Gulf Winds. I've observed that flatlanders have little trouble with our hills here in Oregon IF they have the base mileage that is recommended "750-1000". The Texans that I've talked with in past four Cycle Oregons have really enjoyed the ride and not once did they say the hills gave them any trouble. Sooo Again - - confidence and attitude is the main factor in attacking THE HILL. There is nothing wrong with stopping, smelling the roses and taking in the scenery on the way-up.

Okie "FLATLANDER" from Portland

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  Page Last Updated: Jan. 20, 2003  
    CyclingSite > CO Collected Wisdom > Touring Info > Cycling Concerns > Uphills  

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