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The Physics Of The Hilly Hundred

As anyone who has ever completed the Hilly Hundred can attest, Southern Indiana’s two-day bike ride (October 26–27) can be brutal. We broke down the numbers behind the state’s most scenic—and grueling—route.

20 Percent Incline of the Steepest Climb

At Mount Tabor, the grade gets pretty nasty for about a quarter-mile. By comparison, Mont Ventoux, an iconic Tour de France climb, has an average grade of 7.5 percent, with the steepest section topping out around 12 percent. (To be fair, the Ventoux section of that race alone calls for 6,200 feet of elevation gain.) Over the course of two days, the Hilly Hundred amounts to 5,472 feet of climbing.

10 Percent Effort Saved by Losing Just 10 Pounds

“Which really adds up over the course of a day,” says Jake Rytlewski, who coaches at FasCat Coaching. The effect is particularly pronounced on hills. “A rider who is 10 pounds lighter typically gets to the top of a three-minute climb as much as 30 seconds before his heavier friend,” says Rytlewski.

3,500 Calories Burned by an Average Rider

That may not sound like much for an entire weekend of exercise, but it means a rider could eat between 14 and 18 pieces of fried chicken those days and, theoretically, not gain a pound. Of course, greasy chicken isn’t the food of choice for most Hilly athletes. They tend to eat pre-packaged energy gels and granola bars, which range from 100 to 200 calories apiece.

40 Highest Speed (MPH) on the Descents

At that rate, you’re traveling nearly 59 feet per second, which means your reaction time to an obstacle within 20 feet is less than a third of a second. On top of that, according to Rytlewski, the Hilly’s descents are dangerous for another reason. “On this ride, some hazards can be harder to see because of the tree-lined roads that create patches of sunlight and shadows,” says Rytlewski, a former pro cyclist. “It’s really important to look ahead, take your time, and give yourself space.”

20 Average Speed (MPH) of Last Year’s Fastest Rider

The Hilly prides itself on being a fun ride, not a race, but that doesn’t stop some people from treating it like a time trial. The quickest rider completed the first day of the 2018 route in just over 2:30, averaging more than 20 miles per hour. By contrast, the slowest cyclist took more than eight hours. A typical rider should be able to complete each day’s ride in four or five hours, going at a moderate 15 miles-per-hour pace.

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