Distance or altitude?

Discussion in 'Touring and Adventure Cycling' started by Andy in Germany, 6 Aug 2019.

  1. I'm currently working on a cycling route for myself and the Elder Son the next visit to Japan to visit in-laws. The first attempt involved about 1800m of climbing and 165km, which I've now managed to exchange for 900m climbing in about 200km:

    Notice the great leap northwards to find a slightly lower pass through the hills. Essentially everything that is green on that image is lumpy.

    Taking the need to acclimatise into account, and that Elder Son is a keen cyclist but more interested in seeing stuff than powering out the miles, I'd expect to achieve about 60-80k a day, so this would take 3-4 days.

    As an introvert I'd be happy with this as it means the time spent surrounded by Beautiful Wife's lovely, but very large and extroverted family is reduced a bit...

    Anyway, I was wondering, to what ahem, lengths to you go to to avoid hills? or do you just power up them and enjoy the view and descent?
  2. I like Skol

    I like Skol Hold my beer and watch this....

    Bit of both really. A youngster might romp along all day but some climbing is likely to finish them off for days to come. I would go for the easier flat successive days if i were you.
    Andy in Germany likes this.
  3. HobbesOnTour

    HobbesOnTour Über Member

    The Netherlands
    Personally, I never pay attention to altitude. I just follow whatever route appeals the most. Depending on my source for the route I may know there's a hill of some sort coming up, but height and gradient are not researched. I figure out I'll get up one way or another. I may need to change that approach.

    I'm not necessarily advising that policy, though ^_^
    I've had days that were quite demanding, the worst when the climbing is at the end! I do recall as night was falling on a hill in Spain and I was grinding very slowly uphill coming across an inspirational message painted on the road that my lodgings for the night (and a beer!) were 1 km away. What seemed like hours later I crawled around another switchback to another painted sign - I was sure it was a "Welcome" sign, but no, another 500 meters. I nearly gave up!^_^
    I've had the good fortune to sample many of the finest beers of Belgium, Germany & Holland but nothing has exceeded the taste of my beer that night!

    Your son's an adult, right? Is he involved in the route choice? At least that way if he whinges that it's too long or too high you can point out that it was his call:tongue:
  4. Crackle

    Crackle ..

    I think the length of the day in time is more important and of course that factors in the slower pace of climbing. Flexibility is key too. Planning a shorter day or a shortcut or indeed, using public transport if needed. The key to any tour is flexibility and interest, it shouldn't be a chore. Of course you don't necessarily need to mention those contingency plans but keep them up your sleeve for when you need them. Apart from that, hard to say, you know your own family best.
    Andy in Germany likes this.
  5. Slick

    Slick Veteran

    Up until my recent mini tour of the Netherlands, I would have been an advocate for the miles over ascending but I reckon that wee trip left me yearning for a bit of variety more like home. I suppose it depends on your exact plans, but it doesn't sound like you are in a rush.

    Either way, looks good so enjoy. :thumbsup:
    Edwardoka and Andy in Germany like this.
  6. Brains

    Brains Guru

    In my option flat/distance beats height/hills every time
    Even if time is shorter on hills
    Andy in Germany likes this.
  7. YukonBoy

    YukonBoy The Monch

    Inside my skull
    Depends what I get for the climbing. If it means a brilliant climb through the mountains then I might keep that route but cut the day in half if I think the distance and climbing is too much in one go. If the climbing is just lots of up and down and choppy with nothing to recommend it over the flatter route then
    I might take the latter option.
  8. PaulSB

    PaulSB Legendary Member

    Personally I don't take much notice of altitude other than to check it for how long I might be in the saddle. It's the time out on the bike I'm interested in. Generally this would be 9.00am to +/- 5.00pm.

    It looks to me as though you are adding 35km to lose 900 metres. I work in miles so that's 20+ miles to lose 3000 feet.

    IF the variation is all in one section, that is you lose it all over 35km, it will make some difference. If the difference is spread over the entire route I'd guess your ride times will be the same.

    You mentioned this is a 3/4 day trip. So that's 50/60 km day plus a lot of sightseeing. I can't see altitude having a big impact on your day, possibly an extra hour riding at the very most.
    Andy in Germany likes this.
  9. PaulSB

    PaulSB Legendary Member

    @Andy in Germany you also mention the need to acclimatize. I don't know your local terrain but here in Lancashire we have a wide variety from flat as a pancake to very challenging.

    Your highest point looks to be +/- 380 metres? Today I'll be at 350 metres on an ordinary cafe run of 100km. Are you sure acclimatisation is a factor?
    Blue Hills and Andy in Germany like this.
  10. Japans scenery seems to be either horizontal or at 45°: the coastal regions are generally flat as a pancake, unless the mountains reach the coast. The inner areas are extremely hilly jungle.

    The difference in altitude is therefore usually concentrated in a very short stretch of extremely steep road, so we have a choice of going around and having an extra easy day, or two to three extremely gruelling hours climbing. (To give you an idea, look at the contortions made by this highway in the mountains- and that tunnels through the worst: We'd have to climb on the old road to the pass)

    Ah, poor communication on my part. I mean to Japan's climate. We'd aim to go at a cooler time of the year but it is sub-tropical, warm and extremely humid. We'd have to get used to that.

    We would also be eight hours Jet lagged. I find a bike tour is the perfect cure for Jet lag: it gets my body in tune with the local time within 24h, but that may be a minority view.

    I also want Elder Son to remain enthusiastic about riding, and come on day rides with me while in the country: if his first impression of Japan is murderous hills then he may lost his enthusiasm fairly quickly.
    There's another factor too: away from major 'a' type roads, Japan doesn't bother with direction signs, and one village looks like another.

    This is another problem: Japan is huge, and most of that is barely populated mountains: The urban bits we see in the media with a bazillion people crossing massive roads represent about 30% of the country. The mountains are extensive and remote: there's no plan 'B' and public transport, at least public transport that carries bikes, is non-existent. By taking the flatter routes we at least will be travelling through villages where we can get something to drink and rest under a roof if need be.

    Overall, an easier if much less interesting idea is probably to fly to Nagoya airport instead, catch the ferry to Tsu, then ride the 40 very flat km to Ise:


    Not as much of an adventure though, nor does it allow as much conflict free Introvert time.

    If we did this we could then go on shorter tours, maybe with overnight stops, which would enable us to explore into the hills a bit...
    Last edited: 7 Aug 2019
    Gravity Aided, Slick and PaulSB like this.
  11. Vantage

    Vantage The dogs chew toy

    I go where the scenery is. Anything to avoid the concrete jungle.
  12. Is that a general rule or one you apply specifically in Japan? It certainly fits: the cities are so awful that Osaka was used as the set for "Blade Runner"...
  13. I've been thinking again. We could to this:

    Instead of heading north-east into the Osaka conurbation, and dragging ourselves up and over the range of hills between Osaka and Nara, then climbing into the mountains, we could follow the coast and hook up over the end of the hills, helped by a tunnel which has a handy shared use footpath alongside the road.

    The city to the south, Wakayama is building a very nice traffic free cycleway along the river valley. This would take us to the edge of the mountains where there are several minor roads up into the hills, with lots of nice and views and little traffic.

    The main road looks fairly little used and the tunnel over the watershed also has a decent width foot/cycle path, or if we're feeling fit, there's an almost unused road up over the pass. The river, pass and mountain have the same name as Beautiful Wife's family, which is a big draw.

    After the tunnel there's at least 40k of steep then gentle descent on the "main" road then as we re-enter populated areas on parallel roads, ant then the plain where Ise is, Beautiful Wife's home town.

    This may make our cunning plan more clear, with rough camping locations, based on ca. 60km/day. It can be slightly zoomed for details, (link here if you want a non-graffitied version):

  14. HobbesOnTour

    HobbesOnTour Über Member

    The Netherlands
    @Andy in Germany have you nosed around on RideWithGPS for other people's routes in the area(s)? Sometimes it'a a handy thing to do. Don't know if Strave have a similar option?
    Andy in Germany likes this.
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