making the grade

The Fat Cyclist posted a great piece on grades and climbing yesterday that’s well worth the read. The article does a very nice job of not only explaining what grade percentages mean, but also how they actually feel, which I’m sure is a much more accurate gauge for most of us to go by.

After reading his piece, I spent some time on Map My Ride, which provides an elevation chart for each map created, to get a sense of what sorts of climbs we have around here.

More often than not, most of us ride the stretch of Wilmoth between Sutton and Laberdee from north to south. Going that direction, you have a quarter-mile section at 3%. The climb is actually more difficult if you go in the reverse direction, where you’ll hit a 4% grade.

Hawkins Highway, between Slee and Laird, has quarter-mile sections that hit 3% and 6%.

Meanwhile, the beast hill I climbed on Sugar Island while on the MUP tour has a quarter-mile section that hits 7%.

All things considered, I really don’t know how accurate this information is. What are your thoughts? I’m also interested in hearing what you have to say generally about climbs in our area. Are there others you’ve done that would provide good points of comparison (or that you think we should try on the next club ride)?

Speaking of club rides, we had a great turn out last night. Thanks to everyone who came. There is talk of a Labor Day outing to Original Gravity Brewing Company in Milan, 30 miles each way with lunch in between. Chime in if your interested, and help spread the word.


5 responses to “making the grade

  1. …and how fast were you traveling down the 7% grade? 56mph?!

  2. More or less (depending on who you ask). Ha ha ha.

  3. Not in our area per say but in Michigan non the less. Michigan mountain mayhem. These routes will test anyone with over 50, yes over 50 climbs that hit at least 10% and many that reach 15% – 20%, and even an optional Super Hill that hits 29%!.

    The metric century:This route is only 68 miles but it has the section with the longest climbs. Ten of the climbs are between 1 and 3 miles long with the granddaddy of them all “THE WALL” –> a 3 mile climb that starts slow and gradually gets steeper. The final stretch starts at 12% and shoots straight to 18%, what a way to end a 3 mile climb. This is the hardest climb of the day and comes near the end.

    The century: This is when you will have a chance to tackle the optional “SUPER HILL” a 1/2 mile climb up the backside of Schuss Mountain. This climb is like no other and most that attempt it will fail. The Super Hill starts out at 10% then quickly jumps to 15%-20% and just when you can’t take it any longer you get a long stretch of 25%-29% before the final 10% finish.

  4. That sounds wicked, brother. By the same token, though, this is the sort of info that makes me doubt the accuracy of what I pulled up via Map My Ride. I mean, for example, the Sugar Island climb was really freakin’ steep, but they’re calling it 7%. I have difficulty imagining something three times as steep, just in terms of the grade. Of course, I realize climbs are much more difficult the longer they are, but my understanding is that grades are determined by a set formula and should therefore be comparable and consistent, right?

  5. I just grabbed the following from “Ask Nick” on VeloNews:

    Question: “I’ve seen the climbs categorized in the grand tours and at times I pay attention to the percentage of grade. But the other day it occurred to me that there could be a difference between the slope of a 9-percent grade in meters/kilometers versus feet/mile. What is it?”

    Answer: “No difference. Grade is grade. When expressed as a percentage the formula is 100 times the rise divided by the run. Grade can also be described in an angle (a 10-percent grade is approximately a 5.7-degree angle from horizontal) or a ratio (a road that climbs [rises] 10 meters for every 100 meters traveled [run] has a slope ratio of one in 10). Phil Liggett, the famous cycling commentator, will often speak in ratios as it’s common in the U.K. to use ratios instead of percentages, though that’s changing.”