All About Hills

Photo of Mt Everest.

Not a part of this ride.

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




Who wants to know?

Here’s the dirt:

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 three mph I considered it cause for celebration throughout the land. I remember thinking that if there was a religion that could get me out of there immediately, I was ready to join.

I love Indonesia, but in many parts of the country driving on the proper side of the road is just a suggestion. 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 hopes 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.

Our riders come from all over the U.S., but for our friends from New York City: Have you ever pedaled around Central Park, including the giant hill at the north end?

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

Awhile back I was doing the week-long ride across Iowa (RAGBRAI) and a lot of the old-timers were panicking about a big hill scheduled for one particular day: “Holy Moly, we’re routed to go up the big hill!”

“Not the big hill! Oh no! The big hill!” It was all they could talk about.

This made me VERY nervous. I got up EXTRA early that day so that I could plan my ride accordingly -- five hours to get up the big hill, and five hours for the rest of the ride.

When I got to the big hill, it turned out to be nothing special. I wouldn’t say that it was fun, but I’m a geezer and I made it up in about 10 minutes. (This was IOWA!  How high could it be? I had seriously pictured snow-capped peaks with mountain goats running around.)

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

Having said all of that, there are a FEW hills on the Farm Ride. Just ONE is particularly nasty, and it is ONLY on the 100-mile route. It is also less than one block long, and it includes a beautiful bridge. You’ll be FINE.

Here is my solemn promise:

I have done my best to eliminate as many hills as possible.

There are no hills just randomly inserted in the route as “character builders” or other nonsense.

For every uphill, there is a downhill. (But maybe not in your lifetime!)

There is not a single hill on the ride that you will be bragging about to your friends when you get home.

When there is a hill on the route, it is there because there was absolutely no other way to get you to where you needed to get to.

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


Here’s how:

Get in your easiest gear. Not sure which gear is your easiest? While you are pedaling, shift one gear lever. Did that make it easier or harder to pedal? Harder? No problem! 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 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 in to 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.