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Just how much climbing IS that?

This is a revised version of a posting I originally made in 2009. Yes, Ride With Chris is doing reruns now. Deal with it.

Now that we're getting into the thick of training season, we're starting to see some training rides with a lot of climbing in them. But how much is "a lot"? The answer can vary widely depending on what mapping software you use.

If you're like me, you've looked at some rides out of San Francisco and thought, "Good grief, all that climbing! Why do they do so much?" For example, one late-season ride in 2009 was advertised as 7,644 feet of climbing, and a recent ride this year was advertised at about 6,200 feet.

But here's the secret: There are many different pieces of mapping software, and some of them give wildly different numbers whenever substantial climbing comes into play. I mapped these same two rides using Bikely (which is what I use for all of the rides that I lead), and the difference was startling: The first one was 5,002 feet, and the second one was 3,600 feet.

This doesn't diminish the difficulty of the San Francisco rides in any way whatsoever -- some of those hills are very challenging. But what it means is that the training you're getting on the Peninsula and in the South Bay, both on the Distance Training rides and on the Saturday and Sunday Cat-2 rides, is indeed quite comparable to what's on offer in San Francisco.

Photo credit: Marshall Wall fog, by Andrew Hecht