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Percent Grade Question(21 posts)

Percent Grade QuestionPatM
Aug 6, 2001 5:46 AM
Trying to get an idea of how my local area compares in terms of being flat or hilly. We have some 2 and 3 percent climbs, nothing of any great length - maybe a half mile.
What is considered steep ? over 6 percent ?
It's all relative...biknben
Aug 6, 2001 6:20 AM
I would say over 5% and your climbing. You have to consider the length also. A 15 mile long 4% climb will hurt just as much as something shorter and steeper. 9% or more for any legnth of time... you've found yourself a mountain.

It depends on where you are and what you're used to. Someone who lives in the rockies would say that 2 or 3 % is nothing. But for someone in the plains that grade may be more noticable.

I'm in Jersey. The highest peaks I can find top out around 1,500 ft. I'm able to find steep, challenging climbs but they aren't that long compared to what we read about the pros doing. Maybe 2-3 miles at the most.

On a recent ride, I was able to string a few climbs together (TDF inspired me). I ended up doing 50 miles that included 4,500 ft. of climbing overall. Two major climbs (for me) that were 800 ft. each at about 8-9% grade. Now I'm sure some guys on the west coast consider this a warm up, but for me it was a day of climbing.
Highway departments try to stay below 8% ...Humma Hah
Aug 6, 2001 6:38 AM
... there seems to be a goal in highway construction to stay below 8%. Most of the highways even in mountain regions like the Rockies are no steeper than 8%.

Which is not to say you won't find steeper roads in some places. One rider here has a road he routinely climbs which is something like 21% for half a mile -- if you walked up such a hill, you'd have to do it on your toes and leaning into it.

I can climb for a mile or two at 7-8% on a cruiser (I've done elevation gains on a single climb on such a grade of about 1000 ft, non-stop), then I've had ENOUGH! That's plenty steep for me. At 21% I'm good for maybe 20-ft of elevation gain.
I like the guy who claimed to ride a 30% grade...jtolleson
Aug 6, 2001 6:45 AM
I think our nastiest option that I've ridden locally here in Colo has a burst of about 16% for 1/2 mile that kicks my butt. But people do love to exaggerate road steepness (even though as is pointed out above, anything over 7% or so can be a great workout)! About two weeks ago a guy claimed to have a riding route on a 30% grade... I don't even think paved roads are constructed on such a grade. Maybe hiking trails...
It's possible...mr_spin
Aug 6, 2001 7:45 AM
...but only on a poorly constructed switchback. And only for part of the turn, on the inside edge. So it maxed out at 30% for a couple of feet, maybe. Ride it and you can now claim you rode a 30% grade! I rode a steep switchbacked climb this weekend (Jamison Creek in the Santa Cruz Mountains) that must have hit 25% on one of the turns. It was undoable unless you went over to the shallow side.

We've got lots of steep climbs like that around here. A lot of old lumber and mining roads are built this way because the builders didn't care about anything except getting to the loot. Then someone years later paved them, and there you go.

Off road, trail builders generally don't go over 15%, because of erosion problems.
check Fingerlake areacyclopathic
Aug 6, 2001 8:24 AM
those roads were constracted way before they started grading highways, deff in 20s in some places
Quadzilla picks quite a few of them

THe point of biggest disagreement (besides that fact that it looks a whole lot steeper when you climb it) is avarage grade oppose to maximum grade. 8% avg grade climb with rollers can easily go to 12-15%
you're confusing percent grade, and angle: 30 % very do-ableclub
Aug 6, 2001 9:29 AM
there are plenty of paved roads in PA with 30-plus percent grades, and I've ridden plenty of them when I lived there, when my lowest gear was a 42/18. I'm a decade older now, so I'd probably need a 39 chainring. I think you're picturing a 30-degree angle, which is not the same as a 30-degree slope. For that matter, parts of the slickrock trail in Moab are a 30-degree angle, as in, one-third of the way to being straight up. A good, strong rider can clean them, thanks to the perfect traction and good bike skills. But maybe not in a 42/18.
30% = 17deg, 30deg = 58%cyclopathic
Aug 6, 2001 9:51 AM
42:18 at 30%!!!Humma Hah
Aug 6, 2001 10:42 AM
... you must have legs like tree-trunks! I've ridden 36:18 up about 25% and it is all I can do to maintain forward motion for a 20-ft climb with a running start!

But we can check this readily enough. Tell me exactly where these roads are in PA, and I'll run them thru Topo USA and we'll SEE what they really are. PA certainly has mountains with that sort of grade available, but I've not personally seen any paved roads there that would qualify. About half that, yes, but not 30%.
Where in PA?JL
Aug 6, 2001 11:03 AM
I live in PA and I'm not sure about any 30% grade roads. In the Pocono's area maybe? The worst we have around me is 10-17%, and they're not usually too long. The most notable is "The Wall" in Manayunk used in the First Union Pro. Championships (17% I think). I'd be interested to see what roads your describing.

I lived near Scranton for a while and though it's hilly I don't remember any real nasties.

Happy riding.

Where in PA?look271
Aug 6, 2001 1:27 PM
Down near Columbia, going down to the Susquehanna, there is a hill that is 11% There are many more in central PA that are at least that steep. Most of these, thankfully, are not very long. There is one that is near my home, on one of my routes, that the last 0.6 mile is more than 10-11%. Straight up, no turns. It's a blast going down it, though. (50+ mph).
you're confusing percent grade, and angle: 30 % very do-ableJohnnyA
Aug 6, 2001 12:22 PM
Please let me know where those 30 % roads are in PA. A 30 foot change in elevation for 100 feet is extremely rare. Like some other posters said, you may see it on a short switch back, but not sustained.

Always a fun topic.. That Sonora Pass climb looks like a real cookie burner
As a fellow Colorado resident...Vlad the Impaler
Aug 7, 2001 8:30 PM
I was curious about what hill you're refering to ? I live in Boulder and enjoy punishing myself on the local hills. Old Stage, Lee Hill, Left Hand Canyon to Ward. I have no idea of the grade of any of the stuff around here.
re: Percent Grade QuestionRusty McNasty
Aug 6, 2001 7:31 AM
Interstate highways are SUPPOSED to be no more than 6% grade, but there are occasional exceptions in mountainous areas. At that grade, heavily laden trucks are usually straining up in the lowest gear in high range.
Occasionally, you will see a grade over 15%, and THAT is really steep. There are a few VERY steep roads in and around the Seattle area which are briefely 20-24%, which are probably the steepest confirmed paved roads which I have ever seen.
I would consider your area relatively mild if you don't have anything over 3%. Those are bunny-hills.
Sorry. 2-3% ain't steep!mr_spin
Aug 6, 2001 7:37 AM
For me, steep generally starts at 8%. About 8% is when I begin to feel my legs pushing back. But I'm a climber by nature. So when I talk about steep, I think more in terms of 10%. Less than that is just "hard!"

That doesn't mean I don't notice a 2% rise. If anything, riding a bike has put me a lot more in tune with the undulations of the road. When the legs aren't working, or there is a vicious headwind, 2% is as steep as they come.
Sorry. 2-3% ain't steep!mr_spin
Aug 6, 2001 7:45 AM
For me, steep generally starts at 8%. About 8% is when I begin to feel my legs pushing back. But I'm a climber by nature. So when I talk about steep, I think more in terms of 10%. Less than that is just "hard!"

That doesn't mean I don't notice a 2% rise. If anything, riding a bike has put me a lot more in tune with the undulations of the road. When the legs aren't working, or there is a vicious headwind, 2% is as steep as they come.
re: Percent Grade QuestionCliff Oates
Aug 6, 2001 8:34 AM
Here's a web page dedicated to steep: You can find other ride descriptions at that site also. 2-3% is not a climb, it just means the world is not the same as a billiard table. The definition of steep is pretty much up to the individual rider.
re: Percent Grade Questionpessot
Aug 6, 2001 12:20 PM
Does anytone make a cyclocomputer with built in altimeter? It would seem to be a natural. With this you could see elevation gain over an entire ride/season and it should be able to compute average grade over the entire ride, maximum grade and maybe a form of instantaneous grade ( grade over the last 20 to 50 ft elevation gain ).

I used to own an Avocet watch used for skiing or hiking. At the end of the day, it told you how many runs you skied and your total vertical for the day and season. It was no bigger than the average bike computer. Seems like it wouldn't be that hard to integrate.
Yes, but mine's not quite that fancy.Humma Hah
Aug 6, 2001 2:57 PM
... I have a Cat's Eye AT-100, which does NOT have the grade feature you described, but I wish it did. It is pretty good at altitude (although it got confused recently as the original battery was dying), and does record total climbing during a ride to reasonable accuracy. It reads to about 5 ft resolution, so might read grade OK in 50 ft of climbing, although 100 would be better. It only reads out miles to 0.1, but internally does read distance to the nearest revolution (about 210 cm).

Some of the newer models are supposed to have such a feature.
Specialized Elite Pro Model (nm)JL
Aug 8, 2001 6:02 AM
re: Percent Grade QuestionDutchy
Aug 7, 2001 6:59 PM
The road out my front door is about 6% ave, but the first 1.6kms/1mile is 12%. It climbs 200 metres in the first 1.6kms, and the first part is about 15% then gradually levels off after 1 mile. So even though the hill is rated at 6% it's very hard to get up in an 39x23. There are a number of hills marked 7 to 11% near me that are 2/5kms long. You know your fit when you can get over these.