All About Hills

Photo of Mt Everest.

Not a part of this ride.

Here's more info on hills than any sane person should want to read. Welcome!

By far, the question I am asked most frequently is, “Are there any hills on this ride?”



Uh... maybe. Who wants to know?

See, we’ve learned over the years that one person’s “gentle rise in the road” is another person’s “monster nightmare hill”.

So how to explain how hilly any route is as honestly as possible?  

Here’s some info that we hope will help.

(And don’t forget our Bicycle Shows U.S. Guarantee: “For every uphill there is a downhill.  But maybe not in your lifetime....”)

(Continued below)

A quick lesson first on reading elevation charts, which can be a bit misleading.  Consider this monster of a hill:

It’s a Category 4 -- harder than anything on our ride.  This one hill has a Gain of 230 feet (that’s how much climbing you’ll do -- 230 feet).

This particular hill is located on 8th Avenue in Manhattan, between W. 52nd Street and Columbus Circle.  If you’ve pedaled in NYC (and even if you haven’t), you’ve done a hill this hard and survived quite well, thank you.


Here’s a graph of our 20-mile route:

20-Mile Route - Bike the River Valley

BEFORE you panic, please note that the highest peak on this ride is 282 feet -- it’s not Kilimanjaro!  Here are a few modest hills on this route, but nothing that you would write home about -- any beginner cyclist CAN conquer these hills.

And here’s our 35-mile route:

35-Mile Route - Bike the River Valley

To make it easier to understand, compare the chart above to this very popular ride -- the wonderful BIKE NEW YORK -- The Five Boro Bike Tour:

BIKE NEW YORK -- The Five Boro Bike Tour

Note that the Five Boro Bike Tour has a gain of 692 feet -- about 30 percent more than our 35-mile route.  That’s not a criticism -- the Five Boro is an amazing ride (which we do not run) that I highly recommend.  We’re showing it here simply so you can compare hills from one ride to another.  

If you’re STILL concerned please read our Hill Climbing Tips at the bottom of this page.

The 70-Mile Ride

70-Mile Route - Bike the River Valley

Yup, more hills on the 70 than on the 35-mile route.  That’s due mostly to the fact that you cross the Kingston-Rhinecliff bridge TWICE. (And it’s WORTH crossing twice!) Here’s a photo of the bridge -- imagine the incredible view you’re going to get from the top:

Here’s our final elevation chart:

The 100-Mile Route

100-Mile Route - Bike the River Valley

The 100-mile route is fine for the experienced cyclist, but it DOES have a few hills, and is NOT for beginners.

NOW... about the hills...

Let me put it this way:

Have you ever pedaled up a hill that you still talk about years later?

I have.

Just ONCE.

I pedaled my bicycle alone up a 12-MILE HILL in Indonesia with fully loaded panniers, a tent, and a sleeping bag. Any time that I exceeded 3 mph I considered it cause for celebration throughout the land. I remember thinking at the time that if there was a religion that could get me out of there immediately, I was ready to join.

I love Indonesia, but driving on the proper side of the road is just a suggestion there. Giant buses were careening down this mountain at top speed on both sides of the road as I slogged up, and I would hear the drivers blasting their air horns to warn whatever was around the blind curve (ME)!

I would ring my little bicycle bell -- ting-a-ling-a-ling -- in reply in the unlikely hope that they could hear me before the big crunch. As the buses whipped around the turns, they leaned over so far on their long-exhausted shock absorbers that I was sure they would tip over.

On me.

That was on August 16, 1999 in Sumatra, Indonesia, and I celebrate that date every year as my own personal holiday from hell. Feel free to send me a box of candy or a nice card each August 16th.

There are no hills as big as that one on this ride.

So relax!


SO... if you are a beginner cyclist, can you handle the hills on this ride?



Here’s how:

The secret to hill climbing is being in the right gear. We often see someone walking up a hill (as is their right) with their bike shifted into a VERY difficult gear -- no wonder they’re walking!  NO ONE could climb that hill in that gear.  Remember when you bought the bike and the salesperson boasted about how many speeds your bike has?  

First, get in your easiest gear.

Not sure which gear is your easiest?

No problem-o!

While you are pedaling, shift one gear lever. Did that make it easier or harder to pedal? Harder? Not to worry! Shift it back the other direction to make it easier. Keep moving the shift lever in that easier direction until you run out of gears. Do that with BOTH of your shift levers. Better, yes? Yes!

Take it slow. There’s no hurry. Pedal as slow as you can without wobbling.  Don’t just spin the pedals as fast as you can -- you’ll get too tired too soon.

Don’t look at the top of the hill in the distance -- it’ll only make you cry. Look JUST far enough ahead of you (five feet?) so you don’t run into a tree.

If anyone passes you going up the hill, remind yourself that there are probably a dozen things that you can do better than them.

If you pass anyone else going up the hill, stay humble; there are probably a dozen things that they can do better than you.

(Evil rotten trick from our Evil Rotten Trick Department: when you see someone in front of you climbing up a hill,  crank as fast as you can for just a few seconds and then stop pedaling, so that when you pass them it appears that you are COASTING uphill!  Evil, juvenile, pointless... what more could you ask for!)