Cracked on the big hill

Went up the biggest hill I could find in London, all one kilometre of it at about 10% gradient. Well I work on the principle that it is the biggest as it’s the biggest one I’ve ridden up. Some may put in claims for Crystal Palace or Muswell Hill from the Alexandra Palace side but I’m going to stick with Highgate Hill West.

Sadly I must report that I have yet to beat it. Again I found myself blowing up and having to stop just before the final bend. Admittedly, I had my rucksack on, with my heavy lock and dead weight of clothes, but that shouldn’t excuse my lack of ability to climb something which is pretty basic compared with what I am going to face in July. I guess I need to go out and keep on attacking it until I master it. That’s the proven way to master climbing – keep on trying until you gain some level of proficiency.

What caused me to stop was that I had dropped down as many gears as I could to see if I could spin my way up the hill without coming out of the saddle. At some point habit kicked in and I sprung out of the saddle to give myself a quick jolt and to keep the momentum going. I must have been way down the sprocket as, as soon as I kicked down on the pedal, the bike shot foward and the pedal felt light under my foot.

It threw me totally off my cadence, which had been good and even up to that point, and I just couldn’t settle back into the saddle as the bike lost its initial thrust and slowed under me. Perhaps hills in town aren’t the best place to be learning these skills and that sort of trial and error should be reserved for somewhere a little less busy with traffic.

Which brings me to the next issue in my preparation – cadence. It’s the rate at which you turn the pedals and is key to efficient cycling. The old wisdom was about 60 revolutions per minute but more modern opinion say that, post-Lance Armstrong era, the optimum rate is somewhere around 90. I actually find that an awkward rate and feel more comfortable at a lower cadence. But I have been trying to get used to the technique to give me a point of reference and so that I can start finding my own ideal compromise.

Day off this evening in part as I had a ride yesterday, as detailed, and in part due to the face that it is flesh-stripping cold out there.

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