Vancouver is fortunate to have 2 local mountains popular with road cyclists – Cypress Mountain and Mount Seymour. Each has a 10+ km paved road to the top servicing popular ski and hiking facilities. And, both are long, challenging climbs.
Several weeks ago I climbed Cypress Mountain and was very pleased to have completed it in approximately an hour. Not fast. I understand some climb it in 30 minutes or less. And, last weekend I cycled up Mount Seymour in the same time. Again, not fast but respectable for a “seasoned”, recreational cyclist.
Mount Seymour is the more difficult climb. Had I known how difficult, I may not have attempted it. It is marginally shorter (13.1 km) than the Cypress (15 km) climb but steeper with an average grade of 6.9% – half the climb between 7-10% and the other half 4-7% – and an elevation gain of over 900 meters. According to Strava, this is an HC or “hors catégorie” climb.
“A climb harder than Category 1 is designated as hors catégorie. Hors catégorie translates as “beyond categorisation”, and signifies an extremely tough climb.”
Not bad for a “seasoned” cyclist. Seasoned is a euphemism for older. I don’t like thinking of myself as old but I can’t deny it. I ride as much or more than in my 20’s. I climb more hills faster and with less effort. I may be old but I am not done and still capable of improvement. In any event, I was proud of myself.
I wear a Suunto heart rate monitor and refer to the wristwatch as my “workout wife” telling when and how hard to train. She is a motivator providing encouragement every pedal stroke. I completed the Seymour climb in the saddle only getting out of it to rest the muscles. I climbed most of the mountain with a heart rate in the range of 130-150 bpm. When it exceeded 160 bpm I was definitely working harder but at no time considered stopping for a rest or turning back.
Climbing separates cyclists. Everyone can cycle the flats no matter the age or conditioning. Some will be faster but everyone can do it. Climbing is different. Not everyone has the power for steep inclines or the stamina for long climbs. But hill climbing makes better cyclists of us all. I look for hills to climb. I live atop a mountain and do a 3 km climb most days. Other days, I will do repeat climbs of the UBC Hill – NW Marine Drive from Spanish Banks to UBC to build strength and stamina. The more I do, the more I want to do.
I had never climbed either Cypress or Seymour before this summer. I always thought they were beyond my ability. But a new carbon road bike and a supportive son changed that. I can’t keep up with the 30 year olds but when I make it to the top, I am certain I feel just as exhilarated and satisfied.
Find a hill to climb.