“[Motorists] do not understand speed the same way we do. They know it only from the seat of a car, so they have no idea of the force and finesse required to propel a person on a bicycle at twenty miles per hour, let alone twenty-five, thirty, thirty-five – or the inhumane forty-plus hit by the great sprinters and trackies. Real people might remember from a physics class that wind speed increases exponentially rather than linearly with speed, but they have never been taught this by having the wind punch them in the face then swirl down their bodies and settle around their legs like concrete. Their loss.”
Bill Strickland, The Quotable Cyclist
Their loss, indeed. I have heard many bicycle riders say that they love to ride their bikes, but that they really don’t enjoy riding on hills. Why not? For many, it’s probably that they find the climb uncomfortable, or just too much work. Sure, it seems like there’s less work involved when riding flat roads or trails. The thing I don’t like about riding flats is that I have to keep pedaling! I never get a break. If I stop pedaling, I fall down…But seriously, there’s never a break. Hills provide the wonderful feeling of coasting freely, and even accelerating, down the road/trail, relying only on gravity to propel you faster and faster towards your destination.
Riding a bicycle also changes your perception – that road that you thought was flat turns out to be undulating, rolling up and down in small, but real cycles of ascent and descent. Unless you ride only on towpaths and rails-to-trails conversions, you will face hills…small though they may be. You know it is so because your legs tell you it is so.
To my mind, the joy of descending more than makes up for the work of ascending. Yes, it can be hard. But it’s worth every moment. Your legs become stronger every time you do it. You heart beats faster to bring oxygen and nutrients to the tiring leg muscles. Your lungs work harder to bring in even more breath. And then the joy of the descent! About as close to flying as one can get.
I miss the hills.