Why is that we seem to enjoy climbing hills on our fully loaded bikes so much? While slowly pedalling uphill I have had time to think about this and ponder if my aching legs are really worth any or all of; the beautiful view, the long downhill, a stop for snacks at the top. Thinking about this while climbing the answer is usually “no, its definitely not”, free wheeling downhill with sun (or rain) in your face and bugs splattering you left and right the answer is always certain to be “yes, for sure”.
Before we set out on our current cycling trip, my main experience of “big hills” was a few steep bits of our Lands End to John O’Groats trip and cycling up the hill to Luton Airport when commuting to work. Within our first week away we were cycling through snow covered passes at 1600m and I was swearing I would never climb another hill again. However ten weeks on we have climbed through countless passes and I no longer look with dread at approaching steep (or double steep) ascents shown on our maps. In many cases we actively plot our route to lead us through mountainous or hilly terrain as it seems we have somehow unknowingly become addicted to climbing hills.
Besides the scenic benefits of cycling through hilly terrain there are also other more practical advantages that attract us to hills:
- Often we plan our cycling routes to take in national park areas which include hills and/or mountains
- Roads that twist and turn their way up steep hills tend to have a lot less car and particularly lorry (or truck) traffic, than the straight busy main roads
- The opportunities for free camping are usually much better in hilly areas where the terrain and tree cover provide far more shelter than flat countryside which tends to have a lot more agriculture and people
- Towns in the hills tend to be smaller (a good and a bad thing) so finding shops is easier and approaching people for assistance is easier. However often the term “one horse town” is true and hill top villages don’t tend to hold our attention for very long
I think its safe to admit that I have become a bit of a bit hill-aholic as even if I sometimes complain and even suggest turning back from time to time. At the final pass or hill top all the discomfort and hardship is forgotten as you pause to drink in the view and then begin a well earned free wheeling descent, hopefully with the sun shining.