WITH A LOW ENOUGH GEAR YOU CAN RIDE UP ANYTHING…
The most reassuring myth any of us will ever hear is both true and false
According to Rob Kitching of ride analysts cyclingpowerlab.com, in its most literal sense it’s completely untrue. “The physics of riding a bike mean there is a certain minimum speed below which we simply fall off. Even if there wasn’t, at a certain gradient we’d reach a limit of adhesion between our tyres and the road surface.”
In practical terms, he acknowledges that it’s true, albeit subject to individual variables including maximum power output, minimum cadence, minimum gear and weight.
Dr David Swain, Professor of Human Movement Sciences at Virginia’s Old Dominion University elaborates: “The main advantage of cycling over running is that cycling requires little energy to overcome ground forces. At normal speeds on flat ground, it takes about a third as much energy to ride a given distance as to run it.
“Once you go uphill, the energy required to lift one’s mass against gravity is constant, so the cyclist’s advantage is wiped out on very steep hills. In fact, a cyclist has to carry the weight of the bike up the hill, giving the runner a slight advantage. Barring that small weight difference, a person should be able to cycle up any hill that can be walked - provided the gearing allows you to keep turning the pedals. If the gearing is too high, the cyclist will need to perform maximal contractions at very slow rpm, and will fall once the hill becomes too steep. If the gearing is low enough - keep spinning, keep climbing.”
“The ener y required to lift one’s mass against gravity is constant, so the cyclist’s advantage is wiped out on very steep hills”