Last night my riding (and life) partner and I went out to ride a few hills. Here in north central Indiana you have to seek out hills, and it’s rather easy to avoid them. But in the spirit of preparing for RAGBRAI, I thought I’d better give the ol’ bod some idea of routes to come.

We took off through the Indiana countryside, made a few turns, and headed down a lovely, curvy wooded road that slopes down toward the river. Got to the bottom and rode along til we got to the practice hill, 500 W. It’s a very steep hill that goes straight up; spouse’s GPS reported that the hill was 140 feet high, fourteen storeys. Spouse zipped right up, but I downshifted to my smallest chainring early in, and used my lowest gear, which I usually try to reserve for emergencies. It was a slog…but doable. The worst part of it was how buggy the air was combined with my breathing through my mouth.* Oh, and the fact that 500 W hill doesn’t stop where you think it will–you get to the perceived top and there’s another 50 yards that continue sloping up at a gentler angle.

We rode home via Newman Road, which offers a couple more hills, including one that has a curve so you are never quite sure what’s going to happen. Then we rode to campus and up Hilltop Drive through university apartment buildings. A speed bump at the top added a little insult to injury. And this hill drill included a “mystery hill” that I won’t yet name in case any cycling club members read this (you’ll have to do the ride to find out where it is!). All I will say is, spouse was right that it was a hill I had never climbed, or even *considered* climbing, by bike. I made it about a third of the way up, and he nailed it. I’ll definitely try it again!

First RAGBRAI, hills filled me with dread…but I watched and learned from other cyclists passing me, and as days passed became a much better hill climber.

Second RAGBRAI, I looked at hills dispassionately. I wasn’t scared of them, and felt confident that I could conquer just about any hill on the route, as long as I took my time.

This time around, I haven’t ridden many hills this year, so I was kind of languishing in the fear/avoidance realm, but after last night’s ride I’m starting to feel confident again.

As Chloe always says, “I’ve never met a hill I couldn’t walk!”

* Note to self: Wear lots of lip balm so bugs and cottonwood fuzzies get stuck to your lips instead of flying down your throat!


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