There are cyclists from all over the country in Hanover, and most agree that the road biking here is top-notch. Amidst the surrounding hills there are enough rides to keep even the most avid biker happy, and most of the rides encounter fewer than five stoplights. The riding is limited only by the weather — it gets nippy towards the middle of October, downright frigid by November, it doesn’t warm up until the middle of April. Dress appropriately — it’s amazing how cold you can get coming down a long hill. During the winter, the road crews liberally distribute salt and gravel, so that when spring thaw rolls around, the grit and grime can wreak havoc on your components. Be sure to give your bike a good rinsing after a long, dirty ride. Each winter creates a fresh set of frost heaves, so keep an eye out in the Spring. Think of it as a little extra excitement.
The riding around Hanover ranges from gently rolling hills in the Valleys to steep climbs that go straight up the topography — there aren’t too many roads with switchbacks up this way. It’s amazing how far away Hanover feels after an hour of riding, and how far away we are from the sterile suburban sprawl that dominates lower New England. So keep that in mind when you are grunting up a 12% hill and the pavement suddenly ends. Happy riding!
Road biking is a tremendous form of exercise. There are few things that match the feeling of riding on a nice day. Conversely, there are few things that are more heinous than being hit by a car, so use common sense and caution and follow these simple guidelines to ensure smooth, safe riding.
Riding in Traffic
The rules for riding in traffic are pretty understandable. Once you mount your bike, you lose your pedestrian status, and all rules of the road must be obeyed. That is, you must obey signs and regulations as if you were in a car. Here are some other rules to keep in mind:
- If there’s a wide, clean shoulder, use it. True, rolling resistance may be greater on the shoulder, but the added safety is well worth it.
- When going out in groups never ride more than two abreast. Single file is best.
- Obey all traffic rules. This means traffic lights, stop signs, etc. Motorists expect you to stop at red lights, yield the right of way when required, etc. — so do it!
- Always ride on the right side of the road.
- Stay alert at all times; never ride while listening to a walkman.
- Always wear an ansi or snell approved helmet!
Riding in the Hills
Generally, the riding around here is not especially flat. If you stay near the river, the roads stay horizontal for the most part, but venture inland into Vermont or New Hampshire and things get steep pretty quickly.
When climbing hills, the key thing to pay attention to is your cadence — the number of times per minute that you make a full revolution with your pedals. While riding in the flats, the best cadence is between 90 and 100 rpms. In the hills, the tendency is to allow your cadence to drop to below 60 rpms. This makes it feel like you are working hard. And you are! When you cadences drops, you use your legs to compensate for the gradient of the hill. Why not let the drivetrain do the work for you? Instead of slowing your cadence when a climb comes along, shift up a cog and pedal faster, increasing your cadence to 110 or 115 rpm; the hill will soon reduce your cadence to a normal level. When this happens, shift again to a larger rear cog and so on. With practice you should be able to deal with hills in a way that keeps your legs fresh.
Another tip: if you have a choice, I highly advise having a 39-tooth small chain ring. Most bikes are equipped with a 42-tooth small chain ring, but if you’re in the market for a new one or have a couple of spare dollars, a 39-tooth chain ring will ease climbing.
To stand, or not to stand? There are many different opinions as to whether standing during climbing is a good thing. Some hills are so steep that the only way to get over them is by standing up. As long as you can keep the pedals going at a good cadence, it’s usually best to stay in the saddle. The best climbing position is with your hands on the flat part of the bars and butt firmly on the seat.
If you do stand up: When making the transition from seated to standing climbing, shift to a smaller rear cog for a few strokes to achieve more power with each pedal stroke. Hold the bars by the brake hoods and sway the bike left to right with each pedal stroke. This will transmit upper body power to your climbing as well as leg power. Keep your chest open to facilitate breathing; oxygen consumption is important when you are working this hard. If at all possible, try to sit back down after thirty to forty pedal strokes to give your quads a little rest — they’ll thank you later when you hit the Chieftan hill on the way home.
The descriptions here range from mellow spins to epic day-long outings. Whether you want to stay out for five hours or just thirty minutes, you should be able to find something. Many of these rides are simply combinations and variations of one another. Try linking up one ride with another, finding short-cuts, climbing new hills, whatever you like — discovering a route that no one else has thought to do will increase your enjoyment greatly.