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It’s a hill. Get over it.

By Zvi Volk

When long distance cyclists get together to swap war stories, one topic almost inevitably comes up: Hills.

Long climbs, steep climbs, tricky climbs. They almost all come to the same conclusion: going down is easier than going up. You may be surprised to know that for some riders this is not the case. They don’t mind climbing but they’re intimidated by long, fast down hills.

Down hills

Consider the following points:

·         Don’t ride your brakes. “Feather” them instead. This means barely touching them intermittently. Bear in mind that on bikes with caliper brakes (not disc brakes) your brake blocks are rubber and the rim of your wheel is metal (carbon and aluminum are both metals). If you ride your brakes you risk heating your rims which can have a serious adverse effect on your tires and tubes. Ask anyone who has blown a tube this way. You only make that mistake once.

·         Use your rear brakes more than your front brakes. If you depend on your front brakes when you’re speeding down a hill, you may end up flying over your handlebars. Your rear brakes should enable you to slow down somewhat without losing your balance.

·         Try not to stop when you’re going relatively fast. Try your best to slow down. At least a little bit. Note that “relatively fast” is an individual assessment. If you aren’t used to long down hills, take it slow and easy – as much as you can.


·         Sit up in your saddle but obviously don’t let go of the handlebars. The idea is to let your body block as much wind as possible. If you’re sitting up you’ll go slower than if you’re holding onto the drop part of your handlebars.

What to avoid.

·         Try NOT to unclip from your pedals. If you try to unclip you risk losing your balance.

·         If you still feel the need to unclip for whatever reason, take one foot out at a time. Depending on how fast you’re going, you probably don’t want to put your foot on the ground. It’s a matter of physics. Your foot may stop but your bike probably won’t.

Seriously, what does that mean?

·         Try to go with the flow. Don’t try to lead the peleton (group). Take your time. Look at what riders before you are doing.

That’s it?

·         Actually not. The best thing you can do to prepare is to ride hills. Find hills in your vicinity. Work up your courage to increase your skill. And your time.


Climbing hills

This is a subjective discussion. I’m basing it on what works for me.

To be honest and in the interest of full disclosure, there are three things you should know about me: I’m not young (I’m 71) and I’m not thin. I live in Jerusalem where there are virtually no flat areas. One more thing: 2018 is my 11th ride.

The purpose of the following is to help get you in the right frame of mind. Five consecutive days of riding is different from five one-day rides. Bear in mind that this is a bike RIDE, not a race. You’re challenging yourself in the same way the children of ALYN face challenges every day.

Here’s a typical scene: It’s the end of a long day of riding. Whether it was difficult or really grueling depends on the individual rider.

If you’re riding on Wheels of Love for the first time and have spoken to veteran riders, it’s most likely that climbing hills will have been discussed. The demon climb is the one up to Nes Harim which leads to the lunch stop on Thursday.

It’s true; this is a long, steep climb. For techies, at some points it gets up to 13%. But not for very long. Most of the climb is “only” 9-10%. But that’s still serious. The overall length of the climb is 9 kms (5.6 miles). Plus another kilometer to the Bar BaHar lunch stop.

If you’re over 50 and this is your first ride, consider getting a heart rate monitor. Good quality ones will give your heart rate as well as a variety of other possibilities (percent of climb, cadence, speed, distance, etc.).

And if you’re training with someone who is more experienced, ask about standing up in your pedals for short distances. Basically this is good to use different muscles when climbing. If you’re not too exhausted you can pretend you’re riding in the Tour de France.

If you aren’t used to climbing serious hills, here are some pointers.

·         Set the distance on your bike computer to kilometers because almost all the roads we’re riding have kilometer markings on the side. In the middle of a long climb when you’re trying to convert miles to kilometers to figure out how much of the climb remains, you’ll remember that I made this suggestion.

·         Check the tables for your maximum heart rate. They should come with your bike computer. If not, you can find them online. These tables are based primarily on age and weight. You should absolutely avoid riding at more than 80% of your maximum heart rate. Why? The last 20% is considered anaerobic exercise. This means you aren’t getting enough oxygen.

·         Give yourself a break. Don’t overdo it. When you actually start to climb, don’t be a hero. Use your lowest gear. What are you saving it for? Your goal is not to keep up with your friends. Your goal is to get to the top.

·         DON’T WALK. You’ll be wearing cleats. If you absolutely must get off your bike, try to find a section of the road that isn’t very steep. On steep parts of a climb it’s difficult to get off your bike. But it’s even more difficult to get back on. Remember there will be lots of other riders around you.

Why shouldn’t I walk?

·         Your lowest gear is virtually the same as walking. If you really feel the need to stop, do so. Rest and then get back on your bike. Walking in cleats is as bad for your feet as it is for the cleats. Protect your Achilles tendons.

But what if I REALLY need to get off my bike?

·         The answer is obvious. Get off. And then consider letting one of the vehicles pick you up.

How to decide if I’ve “hit the wall” (can’t continue)?

·         Check your heart rate. If you’re getting close to the 80% of your maximum either slow down or stop.

Description of the Climb to Nes Harim

This is a 10 kilometer climb. There are markings along the side of the road. At different times, some of the markers may be missing. But if you start at “zero” at the traffic circle at the bottom of the hill, here’s what to expect.

A few words of caution about all climbs: You’ll be riding in a large group. Everyone finds this difficult. Some riders more so than others. Please DO NOT SLALOM up the hill. Ride as straight as you can. And try to PASS ON THE LEFT ONLY. Look at the name of the rider you’re passing and tell them you’re passing “on the left.”

To Kilometer 1. There’s a short, annoying climb just before getting to the end of the first kilometer.

To Kilometer 2. Nice riding. Beware that the actual climb starts with the marker at Kilometer 2.

To Kilometer 3. This is tough. Watch your heart rate and try not to stop.

To Kilometer 4. This is the hard part. It’s long and straight. Try to keep on pedaling even if you slow down. Note: There’s a good place to stop right after Kilometer 4.

To Kilometer 5. After a dip in the road the climb continues. It’s fairly steep but becomes a bit flatter when you see the brown signs for the Stalactite Cave. DON’T GO TO THE CAVE. The road continues to the right.

To Kilometer 6. Rolling hills. Mostly up but certainly easier than what you’ve already done.

To Kilometer 7. A 500 meter climb starts just before Kilometer 7. Then you can enjoy yourself as you fly by . . .

To Kilometer 8. In the middle of two nice (relatively short) descents.

To Kilometer 9. Another short climb that takes you to the entrance to Moshav Nes Harim. DON’T GO IN.

To Kilometer 10. Yet another short climb and then a LEFT turn into Bar BaHar.

You made it! You deserve a rest. But of course we aren’t done yet.


Following are some points to discuss with other riders. If you want to ask a question, send an email to me [link] or to the WOL office.


·         Don’t ride your brakes.

·         Sit up in the saddle to slow down.

·         Try not to stop.

·         Train on hills as much as you can.


·         Watch your heart rate. Don’t exceed 80% of your maximum.

·         Use your low gears to climb.

·         Rest. Don’t walk in cleats.

·         Look for a safe place if you must get off your bike.

·         Train on hills as much as you can.

Remember: It’s a hill. Get over it.