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Minimizing Hills on a Bike Answered

Things are crazy out there, with gas prices spiking, so I've been biking a lot more. Grocery runs, going to work, etc. I don't go out much any more, though, especially with people in a lot of neighborhoods getting "grabby." Forget riding around with a nice-looking laptop bag. In any case, a practical question: what's the best way to find the best route on a bike so that you don't tangle with too many hills? It's often hard to figure out here in San Francisco, especially if I'm riding my fixie or lugging a bunch of stuff in a trailer.


My tip would be: Stay on the level. 1. If the place you are going to is at the same or a higher level than the one you start from then avoid downhills. 2. If it is lower than you started avoid uphills. the reason beeing: Every time you go up you use more energy than on flats. Sometimes it's even wothwhile to take a bit of a detour but go as straight as you can.

I have no idea what a fixee is so skip that. 1) Don't avoid hills. Just go to a larger gear and spin faster. Eventually they will become no problem. 2) Do two things. When planning a route try to plan it so that an uphill right after a downhill won't have stops. The energy going downhill can then be used to get your bike uphill. If you are about to go downhill and there is a light ahead, stop and wait and time it so that by the time you hit the light it is green and you don't waste that downhill energy.

Hm. Good advice on the route planning, guys. I think I can also factor in which leg of the trip I'll have the most cargo on, too. Going up a hill to pick something up isn't so bad if I'm coasting it back down :) Fungus was asking about how I'd use my geek toys to help out the planning. I just realized that you could turn up the elevation on Google Maps so the hills are a lot clearer. In 3D View, you turn up the "Elevation Exaggeration." Check it out. I'll try to write up an Instructable on using this feature along with a Google Maps mashup, soon.

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A) Try out different routes until you get the best combination of level and downhill. Remember, you don't have to take the same route both ways. We drive an electric truck that doesn't really like hills (they cut range drastically), and by taking different routes across a very hilly town, we found a route that is almost level.

B) Upgrade the sissy bike! Put an electric assist on it! You can go the expensive route, like my dad did (he put a hub motor on the front wheel of his already-expensive BikeE recumbent) or the cheap route, like I did, in which I took a $10 friction-drive 12V bike motor from a garage sale and mounted it on the front wheel of an extra bike we had lying around. Oddly enough, they go at exactly the same speed, but his tire will last a lot longer.

Well, first I'd ditch the fixie, but I ride a singlespeed anyway so who am I to talk?

In SF it's pretty easy to read the hills since the SFBC created a map with color-coded street grades. Here ya go.

I'm not very fond of trailers either so I'd go for an Xtracycle if you have a spare bike. One with gears, for sure. When I had a garage to stow mine it was my prime method for getting groceries, carrying propane tanks, or even giving a ride to a friend. Kicked ass at Burning Man, too.

My Xtracycle was even cheaper than that. I got mine for free. But that's a good beginning.

I've seen some cool handmade Xtracycle variations. One dude made his own frame from scratch for extra strength. Then there's the official DIY version: http://www.worldbike.org/

I have that map on my wall, in fact. But I just started poking around in Google Earth and found some tools online. Check this one out:


I want a solution that lets me use my geek toys :)

I love gmap-pedometer and have been using that for ages. Good stuff. Nike's adapted that for its own nikeplus site. So what would allow for use of geek toys?