Home
Climbing hurts... laboured breathing, high heartrate, lactate build-up, so why do cyclists like hills so much?

Clip in, start the Garmin, off towards the bypass.  Easy spinning along the wide roads, I know what's coming, it's 5 miles away, those 5 miles pass too quickly.  Turn off towards the hill, the gilet gets unzipped and sunglasses get put up into the helmet vents, I don't want the hassle of wiping my sweat out of them when I put them back on for the descent.

Out of the big ring and a few clicks up the cassette, take a swig from my bidon and look up at the hill.  The woodland is hiding the switchbacks, it doesn't look so bad from here... maybe it'll be easier this time.  Riding past the Logie Kirk and I click up the cassette again, I try again, there's no more gears left, this is me from here on.  I look down at my heart rate and it's already nudging 160bpm, the steep bits are yet to come. 

Scottish Mur

Into the woods, trying to stay sat as long as possible, it lasts about 25 seconds.  Out of the saddle and the rear wheel slips with the first pedal revolution, the combination of damp asphalt covered in blossom leaves me desperately searching for traction.  Up to the hair pin, the hill flattens off for a few metres, the 25% gradient is over.  Why did it look so easy for the pro's riding a similar gradient in Fleche Wallone?  There's another steep section to come, I'm out of the saddle again, my legs are on fire, my chest is making a terrible wheezing sound. 

Hunched low over the bars, keeping the front wheel down and the Garmin beeps, it's auto-paused... 0.0mph.  The combination of my body and the trees above have blocked the satellite signal.  I sit down again, I don't want any of this data vanishing, every last calorie and pedal revolution belongs to me.  The trees disappear and I'm climbing up to the bottom of Dumyat, I feel like crap.  I get to the junction at the top, still wheezing, legs burning, sweat in my eyes, there's two options: right goes up, left goes down. 

I go left 

I could be sat in the office in 15 minutes, drinking a cuppa.  Riding for 30 metres is enough to make the guilt kick in, I do a u-turn in the road and head back upwards.  The legs immediately start feeling the ascent again, I'll regret it if I turn back though.  Finally the gradient relents and the Garmin is once again showing double figures, my legs still hurt. 

Holy cow!

Round a corner and there's a Highland cow staring at me, stood stock-still in the middle of the road, looking slightly panicked (if cows can look panicked), I coo at it and tell it I'm not going to hurt it.  Christ, its horns are massive!  The pain of the hill suddenly disappears with thoughts of getting a massive horn through my ribs.  Cow safely navigated and I try to get my cadence up again, it's not coming easy today.  Someone's wild camping in a field, it's stunning up here.

Finally to the Sheriffmuir inn, I think of Hercules the Human Bear, I don't know anything about him, I really should watch the programme before it disappears from Demand 5.  Bizarre and fleeting thoughts.

Glasses back on, gilet zipped back up, 53 tooth chainring once again engaged.  Back to speeds that make me feel like I'm achieving something - I once again think of the cuppa I'm going to have when I get to work.  Drop down into Dunblane, dodge the traffic through Bridge of Allan and a warm-down as I ride into Stirling.

Love/hate

I really hate Logie Kirk, I'm not riding it as well as I have done in the past, I need to lose some weight, maybe I need to get a cassette with a 27 tooth cog on it again, I sit at my desk and tap out this blog, my heartrate still feels higher than it should be, maybe I just need to ride it a couple of times a week like I used to... it's got to do me some good, I couldn't hold the wheels of the scratch group at chaingang last Tuesday night, the hills were my downfall... more Logie Kirk for me.

Yeah, I hate it... I also love it.

47 comments

Avatar
lookmanohands [119 posts] 2 years ago
0 likes

 41

Avatar
Dunks517 [44 posts] 2 years ago
0 likes

I've not ridden Logie Kirk but ran up it, it made my eyes bleed. It is on my hit list the next time I'm at Witches Craig err caravan site.

Avatar
OldRidgeback [2616 posts] 2 years ago
0 likes

Endorphins basically.

Avatar
andyp [1448 posts] 2 years ago
0 likes

endorphins and just the sheer bloody challenge of things. Anyone can go down a hill, whereas there's considerably more effort involved in getting a 100kg rider with a crippling fear of heights up the Ventoux three times in a day...

Avatar
jstreetley [63 posts] 2 years ago
0 likes

Great writing, and oh-so-familar feelings, just not on Logie Kirk.

Avatar
tomturcan [66 posts] 2 years ago
0 likes

Nicely written, captures the feeling well!

I do worry sometimes that we cyclists are becoming gradient obsessed. It's also a thrill to ride fast on the flat, especially in a group, and very satisfying to spin up a long sub-10% slope. Compact road bikes aren't really mean't to go above 20%, IMO. A MTB is better for very high gradients, and generally more fun, and ultimately walking boots or rock slippers are more fit for purpose. That said, there's no doubting the appeal of Zoncolan or Angliru to the amateur spectator. I just hope it doesn't end up making the sport one dimensional, in favour of lightweight climbers.

BTW Sam I came across this Scottish segment on Strava. (You'll definitely need to turn off the autopause of your Garmin!)

http://app.strava.com/segments/1138558

Avatar
BikeBud [204 posts] 2 years ago
0 likes

We love a challenge, whether it is pushing for that extra MPH on the flat, or riding a hill. If we didn't - well, we'd be at home in front of the TV wouldn't we!

I'm heavier than I'd like, and have nowhere near enough power. I still "like" riding hills! Hills are interesting both to ride, and to look at. They're the foundation for great stories, bragging to clubmates and measuring your fitness.

Avatar
notfastenough [3674 posts] 2 years ago
0 likes

Nicely written. People slate Strava, but it's a good feeling to know that your times on your regular hills indicate that your fitness is better than ever.

(I don't currently get that feeling. At all.)

Avatar
farrell [1950 posts] 2 years ago
0 likes

Is it not a case of just looking at something, seeing the challenge and thinking "I'm going up there" then feeling proud of yourself when you reach the summit.

As kids it was climbing frames, slides, trees etc, going up hills and mountains on bikes or on foot is just a natural progression.

There's probably some clever link with our past as primates.

Avatar
munro [4 posts] 2 years ago
0 likes

I love that climb do it loads never easy but the pain is worth it

Avatar
waveydavey [7 posts] 2 years ago
0 likes

It's a cracker of a climb, and a nice write up about it, good job sir.
I sometimes combine it with the Ballengeich Road by the side of Stirling Castle.
Makes a nice 1hr hilly blast.

Avatar
Doper [69 posts] 2 years ago
0 likes

Poor grammar.  31

Avatar
Daveyraveygravey [411 posts] 2 years ago
0 likes

"Because it's there"...I enjoy climbing too, although down here on the south coast there isn't much that sounds as tough as the hill the author climbed. Managed three times up Ditchling the other week and am planning a ride over the weekend to get 4 more of the 100 in the SE region. I ride with guys who aren't as in to it as me, and nearly always they take routes that swerve the hills; I'm going to tell them about how much climbing benefits the rest of your riding.
I also like running up hills and going up the off road trails on my mtb. MTB is generally harder, the hills are steeper and the devastating effect of losing traction at 1 mph whilst clipped in add another dimension!

Avatar
md6 [181 posts] 2 years ago
0 likes

Because it hurts. And deep down, i think cyclists are slightly (or less slightly in some cases) masochists  21

Avatar
S.Rackers [8 posts] 2 years ago
0 likes

Love a good hill, your description makes me think of Porlock and Dunkery Beacon!

Avatar
jova54 [651 posts] 2 years ago
0 likes

I hate hills. I'd rather spend my time spinning along nice flat sections.
I try to avoid them wherever possible, so when I do encounter one and find at the top I've still got a least one cog left on the cassette; that's a result, and the knowledge that I did it without stopping gives me a warm feeling.
I know it will have done me some good, despite the thumping in my chest and the pain in my legs.
But I still hate hills.

Avatar
Gromski [44 posts] 2 years ago
0 likes
tomturcan wrote:

BTW Sam I came across this Scottish segment on Strava. (You'll definitely need to turn off the autopause of your Garmin!)

http://app.strava.com/segments/1138558

Bloody hell. 7kms and the fastest time is a shade over 2 hrs.

Avatar
davecochrane [140 posts] 2 years ago
0 likes

Half of those are likely Marines from Fleet Protection Group at Faslane.

Avatar
notfastenough [3674 posts] 2 years ago
0 likes

That looks horrific.

Avatar
Martin Thomas [380 posts] 2 years ago
0 likes

Marvellous. Well done.

Avatar
Quince [382 posts] 2 years ago
0 likes

It's kind of like you've swallowed the earth with your legs. You're at the bottom, there's a period of mad focus, pain and panting -- and then somehow, miraculously, it's over. It's done. It's been swallowed up my the might of one's efforts. And the views are there to prove it.

Knowing you've earned yourself a bag-full of potential energy is also a pleasantly reassuring thing to carry with you.

Avatar
madonepro [36 posts] 2 years ago
0 likes
Quince wrote:

It's kind of like you've swallowed the earth with your legs. You're at the bottom, there's a period of mad focus, pain and panting -- and then somehow, miraculously, it's over. It's done. It's been swallowed up my the might of one's efforts. And the views are there to prove it.

And then you roll back down knowing that was the first of 5 repeats...  24

Avatar
movingtarget [144 posts] 2 years ago
0 likes

Sam, you've eloquently captured the passionate love-to-hate relationship of cyclists and their steeply graded windmills. Cheers.  41

tomturcan wrote:

BTW Sam I came across this Scottish segment on Strava. (You'll definitely need to turn off the autopause of your Garmin!)

http://app.strava.com/segments/1138558

Personally I'm rooting for Satanic Winter Nipples to break the 2h mark  4

Avatar
SamShaw [265 posts] 2 years ago
0 likes

If anyone wants to enter, my club will (I think) be running another hill climb up there again this year:

http://logiekirk.stirlingbikeclub.org.uk/

Also, for you Strava hunters...

http://app.strava.com/segments/914182

Although the fastest results are much quicker...

https://www.britishcycling.org.uk/events/details/79829/Up-The-Kirk-Hill-...

I was a full minute and a quarter behind the winner!

Avatar
Kadenz [84 posts] 2 years ago
0 likes

I used to love running up hills and now I cycle I love cycling up them. I've always prefer that to downhills. Who knows why? I don't.

Avatar
Alex14 [6 posts] 2 years ago
0 likes
tomturcan wrote:

BTW Sam I came across this Scottish segment on Strava. (You'll definitely need to turn off the autopause of your Garmin!)

http://app.strava.com/segments/1138558

Suitable for Road Bikes?

Avatar
edster99 [336 posts] 2 years ago
0 likes
Kadenz wrote:

I used to love running up hills and now I cycle I love cycling up them. I've always prefer that to downhills. Who knows why? I don't.

I love them on the basis that there is a long +/ steep descent to come as a result and I love descending very fast. So if it means 80kph+ is coming, I call that a result  1

Avatar
userfriendly [553 posts] 2 years ago
0 likes
Kadenz wrote:

I used to love running up hills and now I cycle I love cycling up them. I've always prefer that to downhills. Who knows why? I don't.

I'm the same, but I know perfectly well why. My power to weight ratio is better than that of any of my mates (by which I mean to say that I'm a skinny git and they're ... well, they're ... large), so I climb reasonably well. And I'm too chickenshit to go down fast on the other side. They love coasting down the hill while I thrive on going up.

Avatar
MarkV UK [2 posts] 2 years ago
0 likes

I love this climb too - did it again this morning before work. I know what Sam means about the hate bit though - esp as you pass the Kirk and head up to the hairpin. Definitely gets the heart, legs and lungs going and feels fantastic when you get it all balanced just right so you get to the top knowing you've done the best you could that day. The views from the top are great too - esp if you go over to Blackford on a clear day. Nice writing Sam  1

Avatar
tomturcan [66 posts] 2 years ago
0 likes

Alex14: "Suitable for Road Bikes?"

Don't know. My Dad -who lives fairly close- thinks it may be tarmac'd. However the point in my original about gradients was that above 20% is not really compact road bike territory. Maybe on a triple. Perhaps someone local can do a recce? Sam?

Pages