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Any time that we ride or plot out a new route there is a ratio of miles traveled to feet of vertical gained that we always pay attention to and would like to share with you.  A ride that exceeds 1000ft of elevation gain per 10 miles traveled qualifies as “climby”. Any ride that falls into this category will have very few flat sections, if you’re not going uphill, you are probably going back down again. Right now none of our rides fall into the “climby” category since our rides put together for riding pleasure and are not meant to brutalize you with massive amounts of vertical gain. We have to give some credit to the well engineered roads here in Western Colorado too. Even the big mountain passes are cut into the mountains in a way that keeps the grade percentage in the single digits. It is actually difficult to put together a route that falls into the “climby” realm without venturing into full on mountain bike terrain. While my ride from Steamboat Springs to Trappers Lake recently dished out and impressive 9000ft of vertical gain in 74 miles, that was mainly due to the fact my final destination was 3000ft higher than my starting point. As far as mountain bike rides go, around here I almost always am in the “climby” category putting in 4000-5000ft in the course of less than 30 miles. I once did a mountain bike race in Utah that had 6000ft of climbing in course of 24 miles which is not out of the ordinary when you are racing on a ski area.

While we are not going to post the climbing index on our rides page (you have to do the math yourself) we have been posting a low gear warning on some of our rides that have extended steep grades. By way of reference my gravel bike has a 1:1 gear ratio on the low end (34×34) and any climb that makes me grovel for more than 2-3 minutes would earn a low gear warning. Sometimes a low gear isn’t enough, with a narrow rear tire you can often run out of traction on the steeper grades even with a low gear. I had a triple chainring setup on my dirty road bike before and found that the little chainring was almost useless since once it was steep enough for that gearing it was difficult to keep the rear wheel from spinning in the loose stuff.

The climbing index is a great metric to apply to professional road racing courses too. For those of you who follow the European peloton some mountain stages of the Tour de France and Vuelta de Espana have shocking amounts of vertical packed into a relatively short distance and may give you a whole new respect for the world’s best cyclist. Stage 9 of the 2019 Vuelta de Espana packed in an impressive 11,154 feet of vertical gain into a 58.4 mile stage which may qualilfy as “brutal”. To apply our climbing index to the European peleton you will first you will have to convert kilometers into miles and meters into feet in order to determine whether it is “rolling”,”climby” or perhaps “brutal”.

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