Monday, January 19, 2009

In Search of the Perfect Hill

I'm a big fan of hill repeats - while they can be painful, there are very few workouts that better prepare the racer for the rigors of racing. There really is nothing like a stiff set of hills to get the engine going! Here in Seattle, we have no shortage of hills; there are hills everywhere around here. For those of us living in Seattle proper, however, there is a shortage of longer hills. I've found the 4-8 minute range as the most effective for hard hill repeats, but unfortunately most hills around here top out at the low end of this range.

The website Bicycle Climbs is a great resource for Seattle area climbs, allowing riders to find great hills close to home and also further away for use in designing longer marquee hill rides. I am in search of a 5-6 min climb within the Seattle city limits, but I'm doubtful one exists. Every climb I've done in Seattle has come out at four minutes or less, so if you are aware of a five-minute climb here in Seattle, send it my way! My former favorite hill, Golden Gardens Dr. NW in Ballard is currently closed due to landslides from a winter storm a year ago. If I started at the very bottom of the hill under the train tracks, I could get a full five minutes out of the hill, although some sections weren't very steep. Unfortunately that hill is closed so I am searching for a new hill that replicates its distance and average grade.

Golden Gardens Dr. NW
Length: 1.0 mi
Grade: 6.7%

Here are some other hills I really like:

Madrona - THE original hill. I think just about every rider in Seattle has done repeats up this bad boy.
Length: 0.9 mi
Grade: 4.7%
This climb is located just north of Leschi off of Lake Washington boulevard. It has a flat section in the middle which is a little annoying, but it is still possible to get in solid four-minute plus repeats up this hill.

3rd Ave Queen Anne
Length: 0.75 mi
Grade: 8%

This climb up 3rd Ave on the North side of Queen Anne just might be my new favorite climb in Seattle. While it is a tad on the short side, it has a relatively constant gradient over the whole hill, making it possible to put out an even effort over the duration of the hill. If only it were just slightly longer!

Lakemont (Issaquah)
Length: 1.0 mi
Grade: 7.7%
The Lakemont climb on the East Side is one of the best climbs in the area, long enough for a 5-minute interval and also a steady gradient. It's a somewhat busy street so I wouldn't recommend riding it during the week but it can be done. This is the sort of climb I'm looking for in Seattle, one mile long and around a steady 8% gradient.

What is your favorite climb? Send it to us here at CycleU by submitting a comment below. And if you find a 5+ minute climb in Seattle, mythical creatures that they are, let me know!