Friday, September 17, 2010

Calculating Gradients without a GPS

As you've probably figured out by now, us old cyclists have a trick or two to teach newcomers (those under the age of 50) about cycling. All the new kids—at least the ones with jobs—have cool bikes and amazing electronics to get them where they want to go and determine the precise salinity of their sweat.

But what happens when something breaks down? God forbid you forget to charge your GPS between rides, but what if that happened? Not only would you get lost on the way out of your driveway, but you would not know just how steep that hill you're climbing really is. Is that a 9% grade or an 11% grade? If it's over 14% you'll definitely want to brag about it over smoothies at the coffee shop (or maybe over coffee at the smoothie shop).

I can't teach you how to replace all the amazing functionality of your GPS in one short blog posting, but I've got the gradient calculator part covered. Just print this blog and cut out the table below. Tape it to your handlebars just in case your GPS goes on the fritz. If you haven't properly warmed up, subtract 2 from the positive gradients shown for the actual figure.

You've decided to ride a century for giggles today instead of the usual 30 miles.
0% (flat road)
You're wondering if (a) you've over-trained, (b) you haven't trained enough, or (c) you really might be a fat load [rather than a cycling hero] after all.
You're convinced your brakes are rubbing but you can't find where.
Cycling is overrated and you want to call your friend or spouse for a ride home. You're thinking of selling your bike and taking up golf.
Somebody poisoned your food and put rocks into your saddle bag.
The time-space continuum has been swallowed by the gravity continuum and you are getting sucked into a black hole.
Those intoxicated construction workers have put a wall where there should be a road.
Cycling is overrated. You most certainly will give your bike to the next person you see after you ride back down this wall disguised as a hill.
Cycling rocks. You are faster than you've ever been before. Nobody can catch you, ever.
<0% (downhill)
We came across this sign on our way to the Alpe de Siusi climb
during the 2009 Giro d'Italia. Fortunately we were going down it rather than up it.

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