Archive for January 7, 2011

How hilly is your ride?

We just got back to Alabama after traveling up to Wisconsin for Christmas and New Year’s. On the way back home, we stopped to visit Kristine’s grandmother in northern Indiana. During the trip, I got to ride in Wisconsin and Indiana. Then yesterday I did a 54 mile ride with over 6000 feet of climbing and today a 47 mile ride with over 5200 feet of climbing. So today I was inspired to share how I keep track of the “hilliness” of a ride. During a ride or ride segment, I keep track of the ratio of distance traveled in miles to total ascent (climbing) in feet divided by 100. If the ratio works out to be 1 to 1, then it is a really hilly ride. 2 to 1 is not very hilly, and 3 to 1 and above is really flat. For Garmin users out there, this is really easy to keep track of during the ride. Simply select distance and total ascent to be displayed on the same screen, ignore the last two digits of the total ascent, and divide! See the chart below for a comparison of the hilliness of rides in Wisconsin, Indiana, and Alabama along with a ride earlier in November in the Smoky Mountains of Tennessee.

State Name Distance Climbing Ratio Assessment
WI Hayward to Shell Lake 60.6 mi 2500 ft 2.42 Gradual hills
IN Indiana Hills to Hwy 30 59.4 mi 2409 ft 2.47 Sorta hilly (<2) then flat
AL Hoover Hills 54.3 mi 6068 ft 0.89 Very hilly
AL Red Mountain Cahaba 46.9 mi 5269 ft 0.89 Very hilly again
TN Clingman’s Dome 57.9 mi 9074 ft 0.64 Big climbs

Here is the chart again with a small thumbnail showing the route and its topography (courtesy of Strava). Click on the thumbnail for larger image.

Thumbnail State Distance Climbing Ratio
Wisconsin 60.6 mi 2500 ft 2.42
Indiana 59.4 mi 2409 ft 2.47
Alabama 54.3 mi 6068 ft 0.89
Alabama 46.9 mi 5269 ft 0.89
Tennessee 57.9 mi 9074 ft 0.64

And one more time with the elevation profiles …

Thumbnail State Distance Climbing Ratio
Wisconsin 60.6 mi 2500 ft 2.42
Indiana 59.4 mi 2409 ft 2.47
Alabama 54.3 mi 6068 ft 0.89
Alabama 46.9 mi 5269 ft 0.89
Tennessee 57.9 mi 9074 ft 0.64

With all the climbing this week, I’m currently in the lead in the Strava weekly climbing competition. Check it out!

Strava Leaderboard – Monday Jan 3 – Sunday Jan 9, 2011

So how do you measure how hilly your ride is? Does anybody else have a different formula or approach?

January 7, 2011 at 4:34 pm Leave a comment


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A few laps at the end to take today up to a 4000m gran fondo commute. S cove dr with Hoover east ballpark lights. What a difference a few hours makes - same pic as this morning.

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Brian Toone

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