What’s it like to ride somewhere flat?
I grew up in hilly central Pa then moved to hilly Pgh. Sometimes I wonder what the scene is like in places where there isn’t a gigantic hill standing in between you and your destination?
Sometimes when I ride on a flat street I think how effortless it is to pedal up to 20mph. Then I hit a hill and it’s back down to 10-15. Every trip is a challenge and a workout. Does your mindset change when you commute in a place with no hills? Are you even tired when you get home? What’s it like to not have to dread a mile long climb in every little trip? I love pgh, but cycling here seems by definition hard. Do people still think of it as dauntingly physically difficult in more welcoming terrain? Are they more put off by the other things like exposure to elements, helmet head, rolling up your pant leg?
Having cycled for years in the uber flat midwest, two words come to mind. Easy. Boring. I guess the two sort of go hand in hand. As a counterpoint, however, I would have to remind you that where it is flat, it also tends to be WINDY. Riding into a headwind can be as challenging as a riding up a hill, and there’s no visible end point. It might last for minutes, it might last all day. It is clearly NOT as daunting as riding in a more varied terrain, as evidenced by the large numbers of year round cycle commuters in places like Chicago, Madison and Minneapolis, all very flat communities. They are also very cold, snowy communities, so yes, flatlanders suffer the same exposure to helmet head, dressing for the elements, etc.
seattle and san francisco are really hilly. one thing about here and san francisco (never been to seattle) is that every route is the scenic route.
in flat cities you barely ever get grand vistas.
I lived in south Georgia for 10 years.. It is very flat, maybe not Iowa flat, but their idea of a hill is < 1% grade.
I generally like hills better. In So Ga, everything is woods, so you really can see very far. I like cresting a hill and being able to see everything spread out in front of me.
One thing about So Ga tho, its hot like most people in Pittsburgh don’t understand. Its generally 95+degreesF from May until October accompanied with >95% humidity most days. Most days from June till September it thunderstorms for 30 minutes each and every afternoons between 3 and 5pm which just makes the rest of the day a complete sauna. There is no winter as the lows generally never get below freezing.
On the plus, roads are generally big and wide, but drivers have no concept of sharing and will buzz you at 65+mph on an old country road.
Anyway,.. thats my flat place experience.
I went to school in a super flat area of California. I knew people who visited parking ramps at 5am for “hill training”. It was flat as flat could be. I really loved it from a commute standpoint. Even if I was feeling under the weather, I could still bike where I needed to go. It may take twice as long, but at least I don’t have to haul my heavy bike up a giant hill. Spin a few times, coast a while.. you’d get there eventually.
Here I find myself with some sort of mental aversion to hills. I am not much of a morning person to begin with, and knowing I have to bike up a huge hill doesn’t really jazz me up for hopping on my bike. It is usually fine once I get on and get into it, but there seems to be more of a mental activation barrier with the hills. I’m sure I’ll get over it eventually
San Francisco hills aren’t too horrible.. Much of the city is still flat, so there are usually ways around them, rather than right over the top.
Once in Cleveland, I was horridly lost because the directions said “Turn right at the top of the hill” and I kept waiting for the hill.
Dwillen: there seems to be more of a mental activation barrier with the hills. I’m sure I’ll get over it eventually
I’ve been biking almost 50 years now. I’ll let you know when that “mental activation barrier” goes away.
On the flip side, you actually get to paceline where it’s flat. Plus, you can make flat every bit as hard as you want to by doing 27mph.
it sucks. when i moved back to western ny right along the lake shore i had to ride at least 25-30 miles to find ANY hills at all. it was an hour and a half drive to the Finger Lakes and anything approaching nice winding climbs.
Ride in a straight line into the wind for 10 miles, make a 90º turn and repeat. Lame.
“Once in Cleveland, I was horridly lost because the directions said “Turn right at the top of the hill” and I kept waiting for the hill.”
that happened to me in Boston several times. We couldn’t find any of the “hills”, ever.
As a runner, I avoided hills for about 6 months when I moved here. Then I decided that was too limiting, and came to the decision to just go from point A to point B regardless of what elevation changes lay in between.
Truthfully, I fully accept and barely notice most of the hills here now- and even ride up Negley from Fifth sometimes just because I can.
I will take that over a relentless never ending headwind any day!
The views here are probably the best part. I like going past the top of the golf course on my way from Sq. Hill to Oakland in the mornings. you can see a lot of the city skyline.
Last time I went back to Columbus with my bike (I’m from Columbus originally), I could probably bike twice as far as I could bike here in Pgh b/c it’s so flat. There aren’t many hills in C-bus, and it makes commuting easier from farther out. Of course, Columbus is also lower-density than Pgh for the flatness reason (among others).
I grew up in the Buffalo NY area. Most of the city and nearby suburbs are fairly flat to lightly rolling. But south and SE of town are some serious hills separated by straight valleys. Growing up, I could bike for miles without encountering any big hills, but make a turn anywhere and I was looking at an 8% to 12% grade for upwards of a half mile. The big culture change for me was coming here, where you can’t turn around without looking at an are-you-kidding-me? monster (to quote a recent thread) seemingly at *random*.
I am from Milwaukee. It is flat & boring to ride in; there can be healthy headwinds though. I sure enjoy the views & variation here.
the grass is always greener…………at the top of a giant hill
i, too, am from the buffalo area, and yeah, what everyone else has said. flat is essentially boring. when i go back now, i feel like i’m riding at the oval any time i bike around my parents’ place.
i liked what erok said. the spectacular views around here that just suddenly show up around the corner from the top of the hill you just nearly killed yourself going up are…spectacular. the lack of varied terrain in flatter areas just doesn’t excite me.
also: sure, you can make any terrain as difficult as you want it to be (provided you have the gearing), but you just don’t get the sense of accomplishment after, say, an interval, that you do from climbing up, say, barry-holt-eleanor.
Central PA Represent!
Yeah… The roads around my house growing up were unridable. Uphill no matter which way you went, blind corners, 55 mph speed limits, and frequented by logging trucks. (Think of them as being as scary as a bus only they’re flying down the hill all wobbly and throwing off little pieces of bark and splinter as they blow by you.)
When I was little we kept our bikes at my grandmother’s house almost an hour away because she was in the middle of a town. Otherwise you were better off getting your parents to drive you to somewhere with a big parking lot.
Pittsburgh may be hilly, but it’s a thousand times more ridable than anything in my old neighborhood.
I must confess however that I greatly enjoyed going for a nice flat ride out in Omaha visiting my g/f. Riding forever with zero effort was quite relaxing, although not being from around there it wasn’t boring because it was all new to me and there was a ton of wildlife.
in the flatlands you won’t see as many nice legs as you do here
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