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  1. #1
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    Isn't riding always easier than walking?

    Admittedly, I do walk my bike (aka hike-a-bike) on super steep, maybe technical sections that I cannot handle. Or that's obviously NOT a trail, like with unknown ground cover, shrubs, streams, etc.

    But I notice when some riders can't make it up a gradual hill, they walk it.

    Why?

    Doesn't it take more energy to walk than to ride on any given terrain or grade, notwithstanding the above-mentioned "obstacles?" And even more energy pushing alongside a bike?

    In other words, if you can balance it, why not stay on the bike?

    [When I'm exhausted, I've been known to ride my bike uphill SLOWER than people walking]

  2. #2
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    Because, often, they need to get their heart rate down and walking enables them to do that.
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    Isn't riding always easier than walking?

    Quote Originally Posted by wmac View Post
    Because, often, they need to get their heart rate down and walking enables them to do that.
    Yup, have seen a 30bpm lower heart rate walking than riding on the same grade moving at the same speed. Also uses slightly different muscles.
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    ^ X2 on the different muscles. If i've been riding a few hr I might choose to walk up a steep hill rather than bike just to get some other muscles involved and give me a rest. I agree with you though, it's faster and easier to bike up em the majority of the time.

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    They ran out of gears because they read about how awesome 1x10 was on MTBR and have way too big a chainring.

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    If I choose to walk instead of ride up a section it is because I have determined that I am tired and walking is easier than riding.

  7. #7
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    If you have the energy to walk, you have the energy to ride.

    BUT

    You can stop walking without falling or having to expend the energy on an uphill track stand. Also slow speed riding over a technical section can be very challenging.

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by AndrwSwitch View Post
    They ran out of gears because they read about how awesome 1x10 was on MTBR and have way too big a chainring.


    LOL exactly!. Rep worthy.

  9. #9
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    Interesting replies! The entire topic can also be asked:

    1. How slow can you ride your bike?

    2. How steep a grade can you still maintain an easy slow pace?

    I think both are worthy skills.

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    I just did a ride on my Flat bar road bike on a route where, when I first got my FBRB, I had to walk a certain hill after riding half-way in the bike's lowest gear, 34x25. After training and riding the hill for six months on my FBRB, I am able to do the hill in 50x21 in a third of the time it took to walk or spin up the hill.

    There's no shame in walking. Keep riding and push bigger gears and next time you might not need to walk.

    It's like doing pushups. For many adults, maybe they can do 15 or 20 pushups before going to their knees and can do another 15 or 20 before they burn out. Do that for a couple weeks and you can knock out 30 before burning out. Do that for a while and you can knock out 100.
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  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by manbat View Post
    You should try buying a couple of cassettes for the rear...
    or better yet,

    buy a couple of extra wheels for the rear...

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  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by wmac View Post
    There's no shame in walking...
    That's what racers do.

    In a race, sometimes it's FASTER to get off that stupid two-wheeled thing and HIKE up that friggin dirt hill dragging the stupid two-wheeled thang.

    Who cares when it's only about clocking a good time.

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    Sometimes, when you're several hours into a race and the option is to either spin in granny and keep your heart rate at 190, puke and quit, or walk up, let your heart rate come down a bit, get back on at the top, and go.

    I did an XTerra yesterday and, in the trail run portion, I chose to march up the hills instead of run up them. This allowed me to keep my Heart Rate in check.
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  14. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by wmac View Post
    I did an XTerra yesterday and...
    This is why all beginners (to mountain biking) should do an XTerra.

    Perfect forum to expound on it. ;-)

  15. #15
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    I had to hike a bike a few times today on the 5mile xc loop. Lost traction on the accents in some awesome soft Cali trail sand. And sometimes the leg muscles just give out
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  16. #16
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    Quote Originally Posted by solidass View Post
    This is why all beginners (to mountain biking) should do an XTerra.

    Perfect forum to expound on it. ;-)
    And troll #4 gets a bite. The point is, as a racer, you need to make decisions as to when it is best to use energy that will increase your heart rate and when to conserve it. Walking your bike allows one to conserve it. Just as marching up a hill instead of running could be viewed by some as whimping out. When you are spent, you are spent. It's a lot faster to recover from 185 than 195.

    When I read your first post, I contemplated replying because it looked like an obvious troll. But, then I thought it could be a legit question from someone sincerely wanting advice as to when it would actually be a good time to walk.

    I see your little winkey face and now realize it is the former. Good day sir.
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    What is considered steep, long, and steep and long?

    Last week I did a paved road 4 times on 4 days. It was 0.8 miles at 6%. I rode each time. Each time I got faster by a few seconds and at the very end, where it leveled a bit, I was able to accelerate. However, I am sure that if there had been another 100 yards of climbing, I would not have made it.

    Since we are on the topic of walking steep sections, what is the consensus on steep, long, and steep and long?

    Don't say it is subjective or an individual thing. I'm seeking a general consensus.

  18. #18
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    Quote Originally Posted by wmac View Post
    And troll #4 gets a bite... Good day sir.
    Hmmm. Troll. A large fictitious creature that lives under a bridge?

    An answer (or question) that you vehemently disagree with?

    An off topic non sequitur comment about racing?

    Don't chew off more than you can swallow.

    The actual point is, regardless of whether you're a racer or a beginner reading this beginner forum, the leg muscles that power a bicycle could be or should be or would be stronger than the muscles that power your hiking while pushing a 30 pound bike.

    Yeah sometimes I wish I could proudly lie down on the dirt and just ROLL my body forward uphhill to maintain progression, to hell with the bike.

    But then no troll would bite me -- none that would cry from poor reading comprehension anyway. Have a good day!

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  20. #20
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    Quote Originally Posted by solidass View Post
    Doesn't it take more energy to walk than to ride on any given terrain or grade, notwithstanding the above-mentioned "obstacles?" And even more energy pushing alongside a bike?

    In other words, if you can balance it, why not stay on the bike?
    I use to think the same until I started doing longer races and getting cramps. Earlier this year I was in a race next to a guy and there was a really steep section coming up. He was in front of me and said, I'm going to walk this so I don't cramp up, you can ride past. I foolishly rode it and got cramp right at the top. He walked up it, jumped on his bike and raced on when I was stuck nursing a camp.

    Last weekend I had a similar section in a race. On the first lap I cleared it. Second lap after 6.5k of climbing, 4+ hours in the saddle and really hot weather I just walked it to avoid cramping. Also I'm a stronger runner than rider, so its actually easier for me and I like the break. Everyone is different.

  21. #21
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    Quote Originally Posted by mbco1975 View Post
    I use to think the same until I started doing longer races and getting cramps. Earlier this year I was in a race next to a guy and there was a really steep section coming up. He was in front of me and said, I'm going to walk this so I don't cramp up, you can ride past. I foolishly rode it and got cramp right at the top. He walked up it, jumped on his bike and raced on when I was stuck nursing a camp.

    ...

    Everyone is different.
    This is probably the best reply so far. And it's a good point -- cramp avoidance.

    Although I'm merely a weekend warrior, I often push it 'til almost cramping. I make little adjustments here and there, also in diet, and I get better and better. But always at the limit, when I absolutely have to get off the bike, I don't.

    I just stop.

    Because when I get off and use my walking muscles AND my upper body muscles to drag along the bike, I'm expending even more energy than ever. I've done that before, and it's worse than suffering cramps.

    So after a pause, a rest, a motionless standstill just taking in air, I magically find the burst to start again from speed zero.

    This, of course, is notwithstanding the "obstacles" originally mentioned (such as too steep to climb regardless).

    Yeah everybody is different. I didn't know so many racers enjoy this beginners' forum.

  22. #22
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    We enjoy helping people with answers to questions they haven't already answered in their heads. You obviously posted to make a point - or to validate your actions - not to learn from people with more experience than yourself.
    No, YOU don't understand. You're making an ass of yourself for all of eternity.

  23. #23
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    Quote Originally Posted by solidass View Post
    Admittedly, I do walk my bike (aka hike-a-bike) on super steep, maybe technical sections that I cannot handle. Or that's obviously NOT a trail, like with unknown ground cover, shrubs, streams, etc.

    But I notice when some riders can't make it up a gradual hill, they walk it.

    Why?

    Doesn't it take more energy to walk than to ride on any given terrain or grade, notwithstanding the above-mentioned "obstacles?" And even more energy pushing alongside a bike?

    In other words, if you can balance it, why not stay on the bike?

    [When I'm exhausted, I've been known to ride my bike uphill SLOWER than people walking]
    Because, for whatever reason works for them, they choose to.

    We're all riders, but we don't all have the same fitness, tolerance of risk, skill level, skillset, or determination. It's not always about what is more efficient, and not everybody feels like they have to always do what is more efficient for themselves, let alone others observing them. Maybe they are struggling that day, for any number of reasons, and it's easier for them to take frequent breaks when walking than it is to dismount/stop, and then get going again. They might possibly have their own particular physical limitations that make it easier for them to walk, or riding would aggravate their condition so much that it would prevent them from riding at all if they insisted on riding up that hill. Incredibly, many riders don't give a frog's fat arse about racing, personal records, etc.

    Unless they ask , I assume that they just want to do what they want to do, and do it in the manner they want to do it, and not have someone tell them they are doing it wrong.

  24. #24
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    This thread has maybe gone a bit sideways? I can't even tell. :-P

    When someone is rolling along on a bike on flat ground, the efficiency is awesome. Turn the pedals a couple times and my bike will go several yards while I sit on my ass.

    As the grade increases, I start having to use a certain amount of force to stop my bike from rolling backwards. But I can still stand in one place if I get off it.

    So, I think there's a turning point.

    Where it is is subjective and seems to be the topic of much chest thumping.
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    Quote Originally Posted by wmac View Post
    We enjoy helping people with answers to questions they haven't already answered in their heads. You obviously posted to make a point - or to validate your actions - not to learn from people with more experience than yourself.
    We? Who's "we?"

    You're now speaking on behalf of everybody?

    And anybody who offers a reply is automatically more knowledgeable than the person asking the question?

    It's certainly your prerogative to assume that you're here to give answers to help people. Most know-it-alls with "more experience than yourself" certainly have the urge.

    Last time I checked, this was still a discussion forum, and the "question" as you make of it can be read as a survey or an open topic FOR DISCUSSION. Or just asking aloud for opinions.

    Sorry, bud.

    Buy some humor on your next opportunity, won't ya?

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    Quote Originally Posted by AndrwSwitch View Post
    This thread has maybe gone a bit sideways? I can't even tell. :-P

    When someone is rolling along on a bike on flat ground, the efficiency is awesome. Turn the pedals a couple times and my bike will go several yards while I sit on my ass.

    As the grade increases, I start having to use a certain amount of force to stop my bike from rolling backwards. But I can still stand in one place if I get off it.

    So, I think there's a turning point.

    Where it is is subjective and seems to be the topic of much chest thumping.
    Another good reply and perspective! Well stated.

    For me, it's not chest thumping — I've always thought that this two-wheeled invention was quite clever if only for the efficient use of the human leg muscles. So on flat ground, it's a no-brainer. For a slight uphill, I would say it's still a no-brainer.

    For steeper, I would say -- you have really got to try riding a bicycle to experience the efficiency!

    For super steep, especially combined with rocky or loose or otherwise technical terrain, it suddenly becomes the opposite -- sometimes it's not possible to ride up at all. Heck, sometimes it's not even possible to hike up! We're not mountain goats.

    But in between steep and "obstacle steep" surely there's a smooth section where you can still roll it peddling slowly. But, alas, BEGINNERS often get off their bike!

    So this is why I'm polling or offering the topic as discussion (as if I have to explain why I'm posting). It's like the skill to ride slowly. It's like the skill to ride over a 6" log. It's like the skill to make tight turns on single tracks with switchbacks. I certainly don't dare to advocate these skills, but it's quite hilarious to say everybody has their own personal preference and shouldn't be told unless they ask.

    So much for forum discussions. Everything is subjective.

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    Is there a point to this? A short one? When you ask a question and dismiss the replies it is not a "discussion". So, whats the point other than a weak troll?

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    Quote Originally Posted by Dirty $anchez View Post
    Is there a point to this? A short one? When you ask a question and dismiss the replies it is not a "discussion". So, whats the point other than a weak troll?
    If you can't find the point, but instead read only the negative, and further offer nothing constructive, then YOU are the true "troll" whatever that means.

  30. #30
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    Quote Originally Posted by shiggy View Post
    Yup, have seen a 30bpm lower heart rate walking than riding on the same grade moving at the same speed. Also uses slightly different muscles.
    Because this is sooooooo subjective. You had your response within 15 minutes.
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  31. #31
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bruce in SoCal View Post
    If you have the energy to walk, you have the energy to ride.
    Not true

    There isn't much I get off the bike to walk aside from techie climbs I can't do.
    However, there are times that walking is easier even on flat climbs.
    Just stick it in granny and start grinding.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Bruce in SoCal View Post
    If you have the energy to walk, you have the energy to ride.

    BUT

    You can stop walking without falling or having to expend the energy on an uphill track stand. Also slow speed riding over a technical section can be very challenging.
    I actually agree.

    I think the opposite is is not true — that "if you have the energy to ride, you have the energy to walk WHILE TOWING ALONGSIDE A 30 POUND bike."

    I think it's also a good point about the ability to stop walking without falling, but the different muscles used for walking either hurts you (if you're a good rider) or helps you (if you're a strong hiker).

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    Quote Originally Posted by solidass View Post
    I actually agree.

    I think the opposite is is not true — that "if you have the energy to ride, you have the energy to walk WHILE TOWING ALONGSIDE A 30 POUND bike."

    I think it's also a good point about the ability to stop walking without falling, but the different muscles used for walking either hurts you (if you're a good rider) or helps you (if you're a strong hiker).
    I know of a steep technical climb on a trail I ride that I would be willing to bet would change your perspective. Especially if you are a beginer (obviously depending on white kind of shape your in). When you are huffing and puffing your ass on a climb sometimes it can sometimes be easier to walk your bike. A thirty pound bike really isn't that heavy for you, is it? I guess it's all relative. To answer your question though, no, it's not ALWAYS easier. Too many variables.

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    It is one thing to think through a technical section of trail. Most riders can do that. Most riders can struggle their way up a very steep section of trail. But, when you are struggling on a steep section, you may not have the mental resources to also think through the technical issues. That is when things go wrong. It is called "task loading." The basic salvation is to reduce the tasks.

    In scuba diving, the basic rule is: Stop, Breath, Think, Act. In riding, if you stop on a steep technical section of trail, you will likely fall over.

  35. #35
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bruce in SoCal View Post
    It is one thing to think through a technical section of trail. Most riders can do that. Most riders can struggle their way up a very steep section of trail. But, when you are struggling on a steep section, you may not have the mental resources to also think through the technical issues. That is when things go wrong. It is called "task loading." The basic salvation is to reduce the tasks.

    In scuba diving, the basic rule is: Stop, Breath, Think, Act. In riding, if you stop on a steep technical section of trail, you will likely fall over.
    Sure, but again, that would be beyond the topic or question.

    Again, the supposition is NOT about riding any steep technical sections. I'm disappointed so many readers miss it -- the exclusions and eliminated variables are stated right there in the beginning unedited. The topic is NOT about climbing obstacles when you can't climb obstacles. Nor about getting tired and can't climb obstacles.

    I've already re-stated and re-clarified it a couple of times.

    Oh, and it's not about racing, either. ;-)

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    Quote Originally Posted by solidass View Post
    Interesting replies! The entire topic can also be asked:

    1. How slow can you ride your bike?

    2. How steep a grade can you still maintain an easy slow pace?

    I think both are worthy skills.
    My first thought is that it comes down to pedal skills as much as fitness or comfort.

    I've pooped out on some steep climbs. Well, what to me are steep. The same goes for the people walking on "less steep" climbs. For them, it's still steep. When I'm spent, I have poor pedal control and my traction control is pretty much disabled and my position and posture are junk as well. I'm sure this happens to less experienced riders in less demanding scenarios. At that point it's no longer fun, they're ready for a break, and maybe they're pondering how to conquer the hill next time.

    I also ride with a guy who purposely does "slow climbs". He always has a fresh rear tire and granny rings it up so as to save energy for later in the ride. He has traction and good balance so he can go really slow.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Fleas View Post
    My first thought is that it comes down to pedal skills as much as fitness or comfort.

    I've pooped out on some steep climbs. Well, what to me are steep. The same goes for the people walking on "less steep" climbs. For them, it's still steep. When I'm spent, I have poor pedal control and my traction control is pretty much disabled and my position and posture are junk as well. I'm sure this happens to less experienced riders in less demanding scenarios. At that point it's no longer fun, they're ready for a break, and maybe they're pondering how to conquer the hill next time.

    I also ride with a guy who purposely does "slow climbs". He always has a fresh rear tire and granny rings it up so as to save energy for later in the ride. He has traction and good balance so he can go really slow.

    -F
    That's a good point -- potential loss of pedal control.

    I've also been around riders who purposely do "slow climbs." I'm always impressed by their slow-riding skills. It makes it seem like a much more comprehensive game, where you allocate your total energy for the total adventure.

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    I think there should be a math/physics answer, but I'm not qualified to get there. From <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bicycle_performance">Wikipedia</a>,
    On firm, flat ground, a 70 kg (150 lb) person requires about 30 watts to walk at 5 km/h (3.1 mph). That same person on a bicycle, on the same ground, with the same power output, can average 15 km/h (9.3 mph), so energy expenditure in terms of kcal/(kg·km) is roughly one-third as much.
    But that's on firm, flat ground. I'd be very interested to see what comparable wattage numbers are for grades of 5%, 10%, 15%, 20%. Others have cited need to lower heart rate, seems to me that has to translate into lower wattage output, so it must be easier to walk.

    Maybe this is a helpful way to think about it? Going horizontal, biking is efficient because you get to keep all your forward momentum instead of braking with every forward step and pushing off with every behind foot. With biking you just need to replenish the momentum lost to wind and friction.

    But what about going purely vertical? Is it easier to spin gears on a 20-30lb mechanism to raise yourself and the weight of the mechanism? Or is it easier to climb a ladder?

    Yes, this seems like it must be a factor. On flat ground bicycles are more efficient because you get to keep more of your momentum. But pure vertical you don't get to keep any momentum, gravity steals it all away.

  39. #39
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    No. Riding is not always easier than walking.

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    Quote Originally Posted by RubeRad View Post
    But pure vertical you don't get to keep any momentum, gravity steals it all away.
    And then some, to the tune of an extra 9.8m/s/s

    The thing about walking is, when you stop, you don't start rolling backwards. So there's a friction coefficient to be taken into consideration. Or something like that.

  41. #41
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    Walking is less efficient than riding. The losses are from lifting and swinging your leg every step which uses substantial energy that does not translate to forward motion. And when you walk, you also lose some energy from your shoe impact with the ground, and from your forward leg muscles decelerating your body.

    But what about going purely vertical? Is it easier to spin gears on a 20-30lb mechanism to raise yourself and the weight of the mechanism? Or is it easier to climb a ladder?
    This is an interesting question. Climbing a ladder vertically, it seems there is very little energy used that is not serving to lift your mass upward, so maybe in that case a pedaling contraption that would pull up vertically (up a cable for example) might be less efficient, if for no other reason than the extra weight.


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    No. Riding is not always easier than walking.
    True! Can't we just leave it at that? I think that at the point that I have to bail off my bike, my heart rate goes down as someone earlier stated so well, but that is not because the walking is more efficient, it is because I am also moving slower.

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    Quote Originally Posted by solidass View Post
    I actually agree.

    I think the opposite is is not true — that "if you have the energy to ride, you have the energy to walk WHILE TOWING ALONGSIDE A 30 POUND bike."

    I think it's also a good point about the ability to stop walking without falling, but the different muscles used for walking either hurts you (if you're a good rider) or helps you (if you're a strong hiker).
    I think it is important to remember that whether you are riding your bike or pushing it, you still need the same amount of energy to move it the same distance at the same speed.

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    I walk most hills because I have had asthma for about 15 years and it has damaged my lungs. I can't climb much over 10,000 feet on skis and even a short hill on the bike can be impossible to climb when the air is bad. Note that I'm not out especially of shape or weak, I can cover the distance and climb the hills, just not fast.

    My problem is with oxygenation. I can't respirate fast enough to climb well on the bike. Note that one gains elevation faster riding, even in a granny like I use, than when walking so pedaling means using energy faster. When walking uphill, I'm supporting my body with muscles so it probably takes more energy total than it would to ride, but the RATE of energy expenditure (and oxyen consumption) is greater riding.

    One side benefit is that pushing the bike uphill tenses the band of muscles across my stomach. This has strengthened that band very much. That is the same band of muscles that the physical therapist had me strengthen when I last hurt my back. Mountain biking has greatly improved my back giving me about 10 years without much lower back pain!

    Out of problems, benefit emerges.

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    Quote Originally Posted by shiggy View Post
    Yup, have seen a 30bpm lower heart rate walking than riding on the same grade moving at the same speed. Also uses slightly different muscles.
    From a pure physics point of view, that's hard to explain, although I totally believe it, and subjectively, I experience the same.

    I think the answer lies with physiology, more than physics. Pedaling up a steep hill, you eventually reach your anaerobic threshold, and build up lactic acid. Muscle glycogen is depleted, respiration goes up, fatigue sets in, etc.

    Its the switching muscles that is key I think. Your rested muscles will work more efficiently, lowering heart rate, while your fatigued muscles have a break to clear lactate and replenish glycogen.

    Anaerobic threshhold is different than V02 max, and 2 people can have th same V02 max but one of them has a lower anaerobic threshold.

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    Quote Originally Posted by slapheadmofo View Post
    And then some, to the tune of an extra 9.8m/s/s

    The thing about walking is, when you stop, you don't start rolling backwards. So there's a friction coefficient to be taken into consideration. Or something like that.
    Ah, I think this is an important consideration!

    When riding on flat ground, biking conserves momentum, walking throws a lot away. Being 'still' (expending no energy) causes the walker to stop, and the biker to keep rolling forward.

    When on an include, walking conserves elevation, and biking tends to lose it. Being 'still' causes the walker to stop (and not lose any elevation), but the biker decelerates, and has to expend energy to be stationary. If facing downhill, that energy would be applied by the hand through brake levers etc. If facing uphill, that energy would be applied by the legs through the pedals etc.

    Yet another way to look at it:

    When walking, there is some effort expended, when the grade increases/decreases, the effort increases/decreases, but slowly. To make up numbers, 10 effort to walk flat, 12 effort to walk up 5%, 8 effort to walk down 5%.

    When riding flat, there is less effort expended, say 3. When the grade goes negative, the effort quickly drops to 0 (coasting). When the grade increases, the effort increases, and relatively faster than for walking, like maybe effort to ride up 5% might be 8 already? As the incline increases, it doesn't get much harder to walk, but it does get much harder to bike, and eventually those curves have to cross. (Although where they cross is probably different for every rider/bike/hill situation)

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    Quote Originally Posted by RubeRad View Post
    When the grade increases, the effort increases, and relatively faster than for walking
    I don't think you've provided an explanation as to why the effort would increase more rapidly with grade while biking vs walking.

    Biking or walking, you have the same momentum, and you have the same forces opposing momentum. On a bike going up, you stop pedaling and you will roll to a stop when gravity takes away your forward motion (the steeper the hill, the faster this happens). Walking is the same. You still have momentum when you stop walking unless you use your legs to oppose your momentum (this happens going downhill very obviously, but barely if at all, going uphill).

    If the trail is not smooth however, the rocks and ruts will defnitely rob your momentum (more than for walking), and I think that is why most people feel the walking to be easier, since we are mountain bikers and not usually riding on smooth roads.

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    I'll clear this whole thread up quickly. SolidASS started this thread to mock people who walk up hills because he has become such a badass in the five months he's been back in the sport that when he rides hills, he refuses to walk until he reaches failure. Then he stops and thinks his way is better. This makes him so much more of a badass than people who choose to walk a hill before they reach failure.

    I, for one, am incredibly impressed with him. I want to be like him. Next time I'm five hours into a ride, spent and facing a big hill with a heart rate of 195, I'm going to think about him and how awesome he is and just crank away until I puke. Because hiking is for puszies.
    No, YOU don't understand. You're making an ass of yourself for all of eternity.

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    Answer--heck no!

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    Quote Originally Posted by smilinsteve View Post
    I don't think you've provided an explanation as to why the effort would increase more rapidly with grade while biking vs walking.

    Biking or walking, you have the same momentum, and you have the same forces opposing momentum. On a bike going up, you stop pedaling and you will roll to a stop when gravity takes away your forward motion (the steeper the hill, the faster this happens). Walking is the same. You still have momentum when you stop walking unless you use your legs to oppose your momentum (this happens going downhill very obviously, but barely if at all, going uphill).
    You are missing the 'friction' aspect. Stand on a hill, you don't move. "Friction" keeps you motionless. Now add wheels, for all intents and purposes removing all friction from the equation, and you slide on down hill. The battle with gravity is greater on the bike.

    Also, effortwise, the slower you're going, the more energy you expend to simply balance.

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    Quote Originally Posted by smilinsteve View Post

    I think the answer lies with physiology, more than physics. Pedaling up a steep hill, you eventually reach your anaerobic threshold, and build up lactic acid. Muscle glycogen is depleted, respiration goes up, fatigue sets in, etc.

    Its the switching muscles that is key I think. Your rested muscles will work more efficiently, lowering heart rate, while your fatigued muscles have a break to clear lactate and replenish glycogen.

    Anaerobic threshhold is different than V02 max, and 2 people can have th same V02 max but one of them has a lower anaerobic threshold.





    Well done on the explanation. Spinning up a hill taxes the aerobic system more than walking.

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    Quote Originally Posted by slapheadmofo View Post
    You are missing the 'friction' aspect. Stand on a hill, you don't move. "Friction" keeps you motionless. Now add wheels, for all intents and purposes removing all friction from the equation, and you slide on down hill. The battle with gravity is greater on the bike.
    I don't think so.
    First you do have friction on the bike (between tire and ground). Picture that same hill covered in smooth clear ice. Now you have no friction and you can't climb it either walking or biking. That's no friction.

    Now, ignoring balance for a moment, you could stand on the pedals and remain motionless with the same amount of energy as standing on the ground motionless.


    Also, effortwise, the slower you're going, the more energy you expend to simply balance.
    I agree this is a factor. You get to the point where you are going so slow you are wobbling and shifting your body around and wasting much more energy than when cruising on a flat grade.

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    Quote Originally Posted by smilinsteve View Post
    If the trail is not smooth however, the rocks and ruts will defnitely rob your momentum (more than for walking), and I think that is why most people feel the walking to be easier, since we are mountain bikers and not usually riding on smooth roads.
    Hmm, I'm a fatass poor climber though, and I often have to stop and rest from a climb because I can no longer sustain 3-4mph, where I could walk up at 3-4 mph with effort, but not unmanageable breathing. Or maybe I'm just confused, I would walk with the bike more like 1-2mph, and if I could keep my balance that slow on the bike it would be easier than walking; and/or if I could keep my balance at whatever speed I get from the same energy I would use walking, it would be faster than walking.

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    To summarize: Walking on smooth flat ground is less efficient than biking, but on hills, here is why walking can be easier:

    1. You are going slower when you walk, or
    2. The trail is rough which requires more energy to roll over the obstacles, or
    3. Walking switches the muscles you are using to rested muscles which can work more efficiently or,
    4. Super slow riding is less efficient becuase more energy is wasted moving the body around, shifting weight, and balancing, or
    5. You can stop walking without falling over (per Bruce in socal). When you are working at above your anaerobic threshold, a burst of motion followed by a short rest, could be easier than constant velocity, by clearing lactic acid and allowing muscle fuel to replenish between bursts, or
    6. Any combination of the above.

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    Quote Originally Posted by smilinsteve View Post
    ...quoted...
    I guess 'friction" is probably less apt then "rolling resistance". A foot's has got to be about 100%, a wheel's considerably less. You can stop while walking, for however short a time, even momentarily between steps like when hiking with some weight, and not expend much energy, while the same wouldn't be true on a bike. It's easier for gravity to pull you back the way you came when you're on wheels. The steeper the grade, the more pronounced the effect.

    Analogywise- my son and I mess around with RC cars a bit. We've got this rock crawler truck, made for going slow on techy terrain. It's got crazy articulation so you can really pick and choose where you placing contact points for best traction, and the wheels lock when you're not on the gas, kinda like being on foot. You can go up a little, let off the throttle, you're planted, resting. Engine's not working at all. Back to riding, without the virtual 'wheel lock' that the rollling resistance ye olde riding shoe provides, you need to constantly apply power to overcome gravity trying to pull you backwards. Your ability to choose the placement of your point of contact also comes into play, feet articulate better than wheels. And ya can't ignore balance, it takes effort, particularly for beginners.

    Or something along those lines. Interesting to think about. Definitely tougher to climb on a bike than on foot though IMO, for whatever reason. Whole different story on the way down.

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    Quote Originally Posted by slapheadmofo View Post
    I guess 'friction" is probably less apt then "rolling resistance". A foot's has got to be about 100%, a wheel's considerably less. You can stop while walking, for however short a time, even momentarily between steps like when hiking with some weight, and not expend much energy, while the same wouldn't be true on a bike. It's easier for gravity to pull you back the way you came when you're on wheels. The steeper the grade, the more pronounced the effect.

    Analogywise- my son and I mess around with RC cars a bit. We've got this rock crawler truck, made for going slow on techy terrain. It's got crazy articulation so you can really pick and choose where you placing contact points for best traction, and the wheels lock when you're not on the gas, kinda like being on foot. You can go up a little, let off the throttle, you're planted, resting. Engine's not working at all. Back to riding, without the virtual 'wheel lock' that the rollling resistance ye olde riding shoe provides, you need to constantly apply power to overcome gravity trying to pull you backwards. Your ability to choose the placement of your point of contact also comes into play, feet articulate better than wheels. And ya can't ignore balance, it takes effort, particularly for beginners.

    Or something along those lines. Interesting to think about. Definitely tougher to climb on a bike than on foot though IMO, for whatever reason. Whole different story on the way down.
    You are right that it is easier to stop when you are walking. When you stop, you are doing no work and expending no energy other than the chemical energy in your muscles that keep you standing and balanced. See numbers 1 and 5 on my list of 5 five reasons walking is easier above.
    You are also correct that there is a frictional force between your feet and the ground when you are standing on the hill. You are motionless, so the forces are in balance. In other words, the frictional force is equal and opposite to the force of gravity pulling on you.
    But as I said, the same is true on the bike when you stand on the pedals motionless. The friction between tire and ground keeps you from rolling back, while you are expending no energy (other than to balance, which is also true while standing, but to a lesser extent).

    When you are moving up hill however, none of this matters. The force required to move you up the hill is a function of your mass, gravity's acceleration, and the steepness of the hill.

    F= Mgsin(theta)

    The equation is the same for the biker and for the walker.

    In your example of the truck with locking wheels, you can see that the locking wheels play no part while the truck is driving forward. It is only when it is stationary that the lock comes into play and prevents rolling backwards.

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    Quote Originally Posted by telemike View Post
    ...
    One side benefit is that pushing the bike uphill tenses the band of muscles across my stomach. This has strengthened that band very much. That is the same band of muscles that the physical therapist had me strengthen when I last hurt my back. Mountain biking has greatly improved my back giving me about 10 years without much lower back pain!

    Out of problems, benefit emerges.
    Aside from the many good comments of late, this point is always the x factor. The "band of muscles across the stomach" is certainly not part of biking strength -- nor of walking strength either!

    Another way to look at this, however, is to imagine a hiker becoming totally spent in the middle of a smooth uphill climb. Upon having to stop for whatever reason, would he/she, if he/she was also a mtn biker, take the option to continue climbing on a mtn bike if a mtn bike was magically presented for the taking? Assuming, of course, that the uphill trail continues as the same uphill trail. Also assuming, if you will, that he/she is in good shape for either activity.

    This becomes the critical point.

    I'm glad that this discussion has come back "on course" despite the trolls (and now we know who and what "trolls" are ).

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    Quote Originally Posted by solidass View Post
    Aside from the many good comments of late, this point is always the x factor. The "band of muscles across the stomach" is certainly not part of biking strength -- nor of walking strength either!

    Another way to look at this, however, is to imagine a hiker becoming totally spent in the middle of a smooth uphill climb. Upon having to stop for whatever reason, would he/she, if he/she was also a mtn biker, take the option to continue climbing on a mtn bike if a mtn bike was magically presented for the taking? Assuming, of course, that the uphill trail continues as the same uphill trail. Also assuming, if you will, that he/she is in good shape for either activity.

    This becomes the critical point.

    I'm glad that this discussion has come back "on course" despite the trolls (and now we know who and what "trolls" are ).

    I've thought about that also. I think the answer can be yes under some circumstances, that is, that the exhausted hiker could benefit from jumping on the bike, by switching to fresh muscles.

    I was thinking about an analogy with weight training. There is some light weight you can bench or curl for an indefinite time because you are metabolizing aerobically; it's very efficient and comes with no lactate production. As you increase weight, your body switches to anaerobic metabolism with is very inefficient, creates lactate, but allows you to generate a much larger amount of energy for a short period of time. The higher the resistance, the less reps you can do.

    I see riding and walking as 2 different exercises, just like leg extensions and leg curls at the gym are different. The muscles they use can have different lactate thresholds, and the work needed to reach failure for each of these exercises can be different.

    So you can work to failure on leg extensions, and still be able to do some leg curls because those muscles are fresh. that doesn't mean the leg curls are easier or more efficient.

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    Quote Originally Posted by smilinsteve View Post
    The friction between tire and ground keeps you from rolling back,
    Actually, it doesn't. Because of the low rolling resistance of a wheel, that friction really only comes into play if you turn the bike perpendicular to the slope. In that case, there would be enough friction to hold the bike in place. One you get the wheels in line with the slope, it becomes negligable.

    Picture if you will a bike on any rideable incline, magically balancing itself. Or any freewheeling vehicle for that matter. Left to itself, it will quickly roll down the slope, pulled by gravity. You have to overcome this tendency in one of either two ways - locking the wheels or applying power to the pedals. Since we're taking about climbing here, rather than trials-hopping all the way up, it's the latter. One top of the force you need to apply simply to maintain stasis, you then have to exert additional force to actually move forward/up.

    Now picture a workboot on the same incline. It's not going anywhere. The completely different mechanics of walking and make the whole process far less subject to the forces of gravity.

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    Climbing on a bike is more work than walking because I'm going faster then if I were walking. If I were jogging up a hill it would be harder then walking too. It seems like common sense that there would come a point when the steepness of a grade would overcome any mechanical advantage of a bike.

    If I have to go to walking speed for any more then a few seconds or so I'm off the bike.

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    Quote Originally Posted by slapheadmofo View Post
    Actually, it doesn't. Because of the low rolling resistance of a wheel, that friction really only comes into play if you turn the bike perpendicular to the slope. In that case, there would be enough friction to hold the bike in place. One you get the wheels in line with the slope, it becomes negligable.
    The friction is there, and I should have said, it keeps you from sliding backwards, not rolling. Imagine again the ice covered incline. In that case there is no friction and you slide to the bottom. Applying force to the pedals doesn't help you.
    But thats a bit of a side track.


    Picture if you will a bike on any rideable incline, magically balancing itself. Or any freewheeling vehicle for that matter. Left to itself, it will quickly roll down the slope, pulled by gravity. You have to overcome this tendency in one of either two ways - locking the wheels or applying power to the pedals. Since we're taking about climbing here, rather than trials-hopping all the way up, it's the latter.
    This all true, but it doesn't matter in the case of pedaling. Technically, you apply a force to the pedal, not power.

    One top of the force you need to apply simply to maintain stasis, you then have to exert additional force to actually move forward/up.
    From basic physics this is incorrect. Here is an illustration to show the flaw in your logic:

    Imagine you are on top of a building, and you have two ropes, attached to 2 bricks. Both bricks are 3 feet from the ground. Brick number 1 is sitting on a 3 foot tall table, so your brick is at rest and your rope has no tension in it. Brick number 2 is hanging 3 feet from the ground, so the weight of the brick is creating a tension in the rope.
    (The tension in the rope is analagous to your example of having to push on the pedals to keep from rolling backwards.)
    Now, you have to pull each brick up to the top of the building. Obviously, the work required will be the same. The initial tension on the rope of brick number 2 is irrelavent once you start pulling the bricks upward. at that point the tension on both ropes is the same.

    Likewise, once you start pedaling the bike, the force you needed to stay still does not matter. The force to move upward depends only on your mass, gravity, and the angle of the slope. there are no other forces pulling you down the hill. this is true for the hiker and the biker. The forces are the same.

    Now picture a workboot on the same incline. It's not going anywhere. The completely different mechanics of walking and make the whole process far less subject to the forces of gravity.
    I think intuitively you know that you can not magically become "less subject to the forces of gravity". To move a mass from elevation A to elevation B, takes a specific amount of energy. The difference between riding and walking is only in the inefficiencies of these two modes (leg lifting, bearing friction etc). Disregarding the inefficiencies, the energy required is the same.

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    I get what you are saying.

    I guess the reason it seems less tiring to walk might be that you get more chances to rest, due to not having to compensate for lack of rolling resistance, or to carry along with your brick analogy, say you turned a crank to take up the rope. One crank ratchets, one doesn't. With the one that doesn't, you have to apply constant pressure to either move the brick, or to have it remain motionless. With the ratcheting crank, you can rest without the brick losing any elevation, then take up once your rested. This would end up feeling like an 'easier' way to elevate something, particularly if it was quite heavy. Walking would seem to me more in line with a 'ratcheting' sort of action, while riding doesn't allow the rest periods. Though the energy overall might be the same, one method allows rest, making it feel easier.

    I dunno, makes me wish hadn't killed off the brain cells that held my H.S. physics.
    There's gotta be an equation for this...


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    Quote Originally Posted by solidass View Post
    Aside from the many good comments of late, this point is always the x factor. The "band of muscles across the stomach" is certainly not part of biking strength -- nor of walking strength either!

    Another way to look at this, however, is to imagine a hiker becoming totally spent in the middle of a smooth uphill climb. Upon having to stop for whatever reason, would he/she, if he/she was also a mtn biker, take the option to continue climbing on a mtn bike if a mtn bike was magically presented for the taking? Assuming, of course, that the uphill trail continues as the same uphill trail. Also assuming, if you will, that he/she is in good shape for either activity.

    This becomes the critical point.

    I'm glad that this discussion has come back "on course" despite the trolls (and now we know who and what "trolls" are ).


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    Quote Originally Posted by slapheadmofo View Post
    to carry along with your brick analogy, say you turned a crank to take up the rope. One crank ratchets, one doesn't. With the one that doesn't, you have to apply constant pressure to either move the brick, or to have it remain motionless. With the ratcheting crank, you can rest without the brick losing any elevation, then take up once your rested. This would end up feeling like an 'easier' way to elevate something, particularly if it was quite heavy. Walking would seem to me more in line with a 'ratcheting' sort of action, while riding doesn't allow the rest periods.
    I dunno, makes me wish hadn't killed off the brain cells that held my H.S. physics.
    There's gotta be an equation for this...

    Funny, after I posted, I thought of the same analogy of using a crank that turns freely in both directions, vs one that only allows forward motion. And you are right. Both cranks take the same energy to lift the brick, but with the ratcheting type, you can take a break and relax the tension in your arm without dropping the brick.

    Your comments about friction threw me off, but I think we are basically on the same page. And there are equations for all this, but haven't we overcomplicated it enough already?

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    Quote Originally Posted by solidass View Post
    Admittedly, I do walk my bike (aka hike-a-bike) on super steep, maybe technical sections that I cannot handle. Or that's obviously NOT a trail, like with unknown ground cover, shrubs, streams, etc.

    But I notice when some riders can't make it up a gradual hill, they walk it.

    Why?

    Doesn't it take more energy to walk than to ride on any given terrain or grade, notwithstanding the above-mentioned "obstacles?" And even more energy pushing alongside a bike?

    In other words, if you can balance it, why not stay on the bike?

    [When I'm exhausted, I've been known to ride my bike uphill SLOWER than people walking]
    no. 2 words why:

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    Quote Originally Posted by solidass View Post
    Admittedly, I do walk my bike (aka hike-a-bike) on super steep, maybe technical sections that I cannot handle. Or that's obviously NOT a trail, like with unknown ground cover, shrubs, streams, etc.

    But I notice when some riders can't make it up a gradual hill, they walk it.

    Why?

    Doesn't it take more energy to walk than to ride on any given terrain or grade, notwithstanding the above-mentioned "obstacles?" And even more energy pushing alongside a bike?

    In other words, if you can balance it, why not stay on the bike?

    [When I'm exhausted, I've been known to ride my bike uphill SLOWER than people walking]
    The answer is really pretty simple...it of course depends on the terrain, the slope and the rider.

    First most people will ride up the hill till they can't go any farther...they either dab or fall off becasue of lack of bike skills, or they run out of legs or lungs.

    Up till that point it was easier to ride than walk....after that point they either get back on after the obstacle or have no legs or lungs and have to rest or push the bike up very slowly.

    In the end they almost always end up doing what ever is easier for their given situation.

    Another example if you have a low granny, a steep smooth asphalt hill, and can ride slow enough that you don't run out of legs or lungs...then riding is gonna be the easy way to go.

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    Isn't riding always easier than walking?

    Based on the question in the subject line:

    "Isn't riding always easier than walking?"

    The answer is simple and obvious...

    No.

    End of discussion.
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    Quote Originally Posted by smilinsteve View Post
    ... but haven't we overcomplicated it enough already?
    As the old fella pointed out, yes. Yes we have.
    Beats the hell outta working tho...

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    I appreciate all the seasoned experts in these discussions- roughly 30% of this thread is a waste of everyones' time- I get a kick out of reading all about muscle science, watts and heart rates - It's the thing that makes me realize, this really isn't so much about biking as it is about fitness and treating the body with a methodical approach.
    For me- when I have to stop and htink, I can't do it, gotta walk it- Isn't it about time to just point her downhill???? .... that was my first thought-LOL!

    Great discussion by the experts! So now, when I'm walking it, I know I'm not alone! That does make me feel a lot better!

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    One of the first mtb adages I remember hearing is 'Every bike comes equipped with a hiker'. There are times when walking is the best and/or only way to get where you're going; nothing wrong with taking your bike for a walk in the woods sometimes. It's just part of the game.

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    youre right, solidass, riding is much easier than walking. you will need to step it up and start walking some hills like these noobs are doing. right now you are weaker than a normal noob. youre like a pre-noob.

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    Would think everyone would agree when a wheel is involved, and a certain amount of speed needed to balance that walking is easier.
    Will anyone argue the opposite and say riding down takes more energy?
    Round and round we go

  72. #72
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    Quote Originally Posted by shiggy View Post
    Based on the question in the subject line:

    "Isn't riding always easier than walking?"

    The answer is simple and obvious...

    No.

    End of discussion.
    Please note the discussion has not yet ended.

  73. #73
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    This was never a discussion.
    No, YOU don't understand. You're making an ass of yourself for all of eternity.

  74. #74
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    My first impression of the thread was that this was a dumb question, but it really turned out interesting to me, to break down exactly why a more efficient mode of transportation, (biking), can become less desirable on steep hills.

  75. #75
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    Quote Originally Posted by wmac View Post
    This was never a discussion.
    No? Funny, seemed like one to me.

    Meat - I'm thinking on the way down, gravity is doing the brunt of the work. I can't think of a single place I could ride up but not down. No shortage of places the opposite is true tho.

  76. #76
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    Quote Originally Posted by solidass View Post
    Admittedly, I do walk my bike (aka hike-a-bike) on super steep, maybe technical sections that I cannot handle. Or that's obviously NOT a trail, like with unknown ground cover, shrubs, streams, etc.

    But I notice when some riders can't make it up a gradual hill, they walk it.

    Why?

    Doesn't it take more energy to walk than to ride on any given terrain or grade, notwithstanding the above-mentioned "obstacles?" And even more energy pushing alongside a bike?

    In other words, if you can balance it, why not stay on the bike?

    [When I'm exhausted, I've been known to ride my bike uphill SLOWER than people walking]
    As a newbie rider I can say that they might either not have developed the muscles enough in which case your regular walking is much easier especially after awhile of using the "bike" muscles. I was tempted today to get off my bike on a gradual slope after my legs were screaming at me to give them a break. I ran a lot last year so walking a bike up a hill was easier than riding anymore, whereas maybe for a veteran bicyclist maybe its the opposite.

  77. #77
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    Isn't riding always easier than walking?

    Quote Originally Posted by jeffscott View Post
    Please note the discussion has not yet ended.
    It has now.
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