Saturday, June 27, 2009

Why climb a mountain?

I've been pondering this question lately. Why is it that I pretty much only want to ride up mountain passes and canyons? I mean, why not instead find a flat road and just enjoy a nice and easy spin?

I mean especially since riding up a mountain can be a grueling and painful experience. Many times I've started a climb and thought to myself, "self, why are we doing this today?.....this hurts way too bad.....why don't we just turn around and go home?"

So, despite the hurt a good climb provides, I still much prefer riding uphill than on the flats and these are my top 5 reasons why:

1. There is a defined goal/destination. I find this to be a very powerful motivating factor. I know the distance, I know the elevation gain and I know how long it will take to reach the summit. Sure, you can establish a predefined route on a flat road when you ride a loop or out-n-back, but it's just not very motivating to ride say 20 miles to point "A," turn around and then ride back. Along with this comes the sense of accomplishment from reaching a given summit or multiple summits in a single ride. Nothing like finishing a ride where you climbed 5,000+ vertical feet.

2. Can't beat the scenery and natural beauty. The mountain passes and canyon climbs here in Utah along the Wasatch Front (e.g. Alpine Loop, Nebo Loop, Suncrest, Big and Little Cottonwood Canyons, Butterfield Canyon, Squaw Peak, etc.) are simply breathtaking. Flowers, lush aspen groves, wildlife, rivers, granite cliffs and views of the valleys below definitely add to the experience of climbing and help to distract the mind from the pain of the climb.

3. Generally fewer cars. I'll admit it......I HATE cars when I'm cycling. Even though most people are considerate and give you plenty of room when passing, it seems about 1 out of 10 drivers, often the white trash types in their big diesel-polluting-jacked-up trucks buzz you without slowing down or even making an attempt to move to the left. Even worse is when the same is pulling a giant trailer with their dirt bikes, ATVs or construction equipment. I've found that especially in the early morning the traffic is noticeably lighter up the canyons and mountain passes. Fewer cars means a much more enjoyable, less stressful ride.

4. The descent. When I first started riding, I hated riding faster than 25 mph. I was timid, riding the brakes the whole time, and stiff as a board. As my confidence and skills have improved, I now really enjoy the rush from a fast descent.

5. Training benefits. The nice thing about a challenging climb from a fitness perspective is you typically push your heart rate to the highest level that you can manage without "blowing up." So, the intensity is pretty high and you get a good workout in a short amount of time compared to a flat ride where you have to push a very fast pace in order to keep your heart rate at an equivalent level. The result is you become a stronger and faster climber and sooner or later you're dropping other riders on climbs. I also really enjoy keeping track of my fitness gains through doing time trials to the top of my favorite climbs. Nothing like pushing it hard to the top of the mountain and beating your personal best time.

No comments: