Climbing is easy, until you do it. It is truly amazing to me the way a steep hill looks completely rideable from the comfort of the passenger’s seat of a car, and then you get on two wheels, and the full weight of gravity comes to bear, and you can’t help but feel that it is fundamentally unfair that mankind should seek to pave an incline such as this one beneath you.
When I’m in good shape, there is no better feeling that dashing up some imposing steepness in my big ring. When I’m in bad shape there is no worse feeling than wheezing against the implacable, rising pavement.
As to the merits of the known and unknown (the subject of this week’s Group Ride), a definitive answer is elusive. Much depends on form. More depends on your individual proclivities. Familiarity, as the saying goes, often breeds contempt, but so few of us are comfortable with change, and vanquishing a new climb demands a pathological willingness to accept change, change of heart rate, change of strategy, change of ego.
Mark encapsulated one side of the equation very succinctly: “The two most frustrating feelings in a ride/race are to have given it your all on a climb thinking you were at the top when it’s only a false flat, and to get to the top knowing you still had more to give and would be in better position had you done so.” Apparently Mark prefers the familiar.
Eric made a good, simple case for the other side: “New climbs are an adventure. Sometimes you get it right and sometimes you don’t but its not about perfection. I can get it all wrong and still enjoy it.”
Whichever you prefer, climbs give some of the hardest challenges our sport offers. It is by sprinting that we come to know speed. It is by climbing that we come to know ourselves.