I’ve gotten some good hill work in over the past couple of days. Yesterday, I took a quick tour through the Glen Artney area of Patapsco State Park. This area is accessible by taking a right turn near the Grist Mill trailhead, and following the road under the railroad tracks. The road forks, and if you take the left fork, it winds up some serious hills, past some shelters, and then loops back down. At the very top, there’s a fire road that appears (on the map) to lead to Foxhall Farm Rd. Next time I come through here, I’ll take it and see where it goes.
Today, I got a late start, but decided to ride out to Rockburn/Ilchester anyhow. Typically when I go this way, I’ll go through the park and out via the South St entrance, then ride through Relay to UMBC. Today, I rode up Gun Rd instead to save some time. Gun Rd is a quick way to get from the park to UMBC, but it goes straight up the river bank, so it’s very steep.
It had been awhile since I had ridden any really steep hills like this. I was on my mountain bike both days, and its gearing is low enough that I was able to make it up both hills in the middle sprocket. With these kinds of climbs, it’s important to keep weight on the front wheel, because it will want to pop off the ground. This is particularly true when carrying a load on the back of the bike. I do this by standing on the pedals and shifting my weight forward. When riding like this, the big challenge is keeping a smooth pedal stroke. On steep hills, my pedaling motion tends to get jerky, as I throw my weight into the down-stroke on alternating sides. This is tiring, and harder on the knees and hips. I find that if I make a concentrated effort to pedal in smooth circles, I’m not as winded when I get to the top of the hill. The important thing is to keep the bike moving forward, and if all else fails, there’s no shame in getting off and walking.
Anyhow, now that I’m on a hill climbing kick, maybe I’ll try tackling Ilchester Rd again sometime soon.