Book Review - The Complete Guide to Climbing (By Bike)
Author John Summerson has written a must read book for climbing aficionados,
race directors and those that aspire to test themselves on the biggest climbs in
The Complete Guide to Climbing (By Bike)
"A guide to cycling climbing and the most difficult hill climbs in the Unites
Author: John Summerson
Publisher: Extreme Press
ISBN: (13) 978-0-9792571-0-0; (10) 0-9792571-0-7
Size: 6x9 paperback, 224 pages, 78 photos
Men can be moved to collect many things; John Summerson is a cyclist who collects
climbs. John caught the climbing bug after watching a rider suffer his way up
Mount Lemmon in July 1992 as a college student in Tucson, Arizona. What followed
was one man's journey of finding and testing his grit against the giant climbs
in the USA, collecting the climbs to his personal palmares. Along the way
Summerson sharpened his training, climbing techniques and researched the climbs
in the USA that were comparable to the legendary climbs of the grand tours of
Europe. In the volume he passes along some of the wisdom learned over 15 years.
Climbing and climbs are as most fans and riders of the sport know often the
decisive point making the selection from the favorites in the Grand Tours and
one day pro races. In fact most of the drama and legend connected to the sport
have been written by the legs of the cycling gods on the passes of the Europe.
The America's have their own climbs that have defined generations of cyclist
here as well; though the real giants of north America, lack the exposure of
being used in a grand tour.
Defining and Categorizing Climbs
The first part of the book discusses how climbs are categorized including a
definitions and why some climbs can be classed differently from year to year in
the Tour and other races. Summerson concludes the chapter with his unique
categorization used in the book that provides a standard quick thumbnail of a
climb and its difficulties including road conditions, and challenges.
Improving Climbing Ability
What follows in the next chapter is a concise primer for training to improve
your climbing. What is impressive here is the wealth of excellent information
compressed in a no nonsense guide covering: basic cycling techniques, building a
base, climbing technique, intervals, weight training, and equipment. He finishes
up with notes on gaining descending skills and tactics to use in races.
Is a salute to performances in north American races in climbing stages and
races. As a history it includes some of the less known exploits of American
climbers in Europe and USA such as the Red Zinger/Coors Classic stage races and
Saturn Classic and other exploits like Andy Hampstens victory in the 1985
Columbian Caracol de la Montana stage race that was billed as that year as the
world championship of climbing. All good reading, and a bit of inspiration that
should move some to take up the challenge to stake out a piece of their own
history to climb one of the monsters described in the book.
The balance of the book is devoted to a guide to 142 of the most challenging
climbs of the U.S.. Each climb is described in detail with the total elevation gained, length, average and
maximum grade, and rated using his system. Climbs are double rated adding the
category used in the grand tours; a comparison that climbs any race fan will be
familiar with. Short descriptions often with photos, let the reader know what to
expect on the climb in the way of road conditions and more. Maps, and directions
to the climbs (including the nearest airport), with accurate start and finishes
points should be helpful in finding the climbs and planning a trip.
The appendix includes a profiles of the climbs, selected hill climb races and
rides, 100 most difficult climbs and classifications of toughest grades, KOM' of
the Grand Tours, records, and other resources.
The Complete Guide to Climbing (By Bike) Delivers
The book is excellent resource for cyclists and contains detailed
statistics and descriptions of America's most difficult climbs. It's a good
read, with solid advice and I enjoyed looking up some of the climbs I had ridden
in training and races in Southern and Northern California; chances are you can
look up climbs in your area. Previous to the book I had no idea how they might
be classed. The book lived up to the billing of its subtitle, and would make a
strong addition to any cycling fans book collection, especially those that love
finding a new gravity challenge for races or training.
The book is a must read for the mountain goats and climbing aficionados, race
directors for future races and as a reference source. It will help any fan gain
a better understanding of climbing and find climbs near them in the US to test
themselves on. The book can be purchased on Amazon or e-mail
firstname.lastname@example.org and mention
it to your local bike shop to stock the book.
Whitney Portal, California
Total elevation - 4,580 ft Length - 11.3 miles
Average Grade - 7.7% (13%) Rating - 3.98 (hors)
Whitney Portal is a great and difficult climb out of the high desert up towards
Mount Whitney, the highest mountain in the lower 48. Like most eastern Sierra
ascents this one starts out tame and ends up tough. The grade increases as you
climb so that the average grade over the last 5.5 miles is over 9%. The hill
lets up just before the finish at Whitney Portal (8,371 ft) and a parking/hiking
area (trailhead to Mt. Whitney). Whitney Portal is very similar to the famed
French climb of the Madeleine, a monster frequently used in major cycling
classics including regular appearances in the Tour de France (closed in winter -
Inyo National Forest - 760 876-6222).
Directions - From highway 395 in Lone Pine, CA take Whitney Portal Rd west for
6/10ths mile to begin the climb where the road crosses the Los Angeles aqueduct.
Facilities - Bishop, CA Airport - Reno, NV
More samples here.
Photos courtesy of John Summerson
Selected Text from the Book and Back Cover:
Europe is generally considered to be the epicenter of climbing by bike and
that reputation is well-deserved. Full of very steep roads often laid down
before regular auto traffic was used on them, Europe does contain many difficult
hill climbs along with having the distinction of being home to most of the major
Because of this many climbs there are well known; not only to
professional riders but also to the legions of amateur cyclists on the
continent. As there are few major stage races in the United States, many of the
best climbs are relatively unknown. However, the U.S. has a wide variety of
climbs comparable to the most difficult used in the major European Tours.
Whiteface Mountain in New York for example is almost identical in length and
grade (steepness) to the famous French climb of L’Alpe d’Huez, one that is often
a stage finish in the Tour de France and considered among the toughest used in
Others such as Whitney Portal in California and Mount Equinox in
Vermont are even more difficult. Owens Valley in California may have more beyond
category (the most difficult classification) climbs within its walls than any
location on earth.
Nearby Death Valley has multiple category 1 (the second most
difficult classification) climbs by itself. There are many climbs with over
5,000 feet of vertical elevation gain, and others that top out in the rarified
air above 10,000 feet, including the highest paved road outside of the Andes and
Himalayan Mountains. The U.S. also has a select group of climbs that are among
the most difficult in the world including Onion Valley Road in California,
several Hawaiian giants, unique in that they gain up to and beyond 10,000
vertical feet of continuous climbing, and the incomparable Mount Washington in
New Hampshire, which may be the toughest of them all...
Road bike cycling is one of the most popular sports in the world and the biggest
challenge within the sport, and its most intriguing aspect, is hill climbing.
Major professional cycling tours such as the Tour de France are usually won and
lost in the mountains. Cycling greats such as Eddy Merckx, Bernard Hinault and
Lance Armstrong, while very complete all-around riders, became legends in the
sport in large part from their climbing exploits. The mountains add an almost
mythic quality to races as the riders are seen overcoming obstacles that extend
beyond the actual asphalt, rock and dirt upon which they climb. Even average
cyclists feel the allure of attempting difficult climbs and achieve tremendous
satisfaction from a successful summit....
About This Guidebook
The performances of great early climbers such as Alfredo Binda, Fausto Coppi and
Charley Gaul continued to increase the popularity of the major tours. These
events made climbs such as the Tourmalet and L’Alpe d’Huez in France and Stelvio
in Italy as well known to cycling fans as the Daytona Speedway or Yankee Stadium
are to U.S. racing and baseball fans respectively.
The mountains allowed bike races to become truly great as the event rose
beyond the personal concerns of the cyclists to reflect life as a whole. Today
hill climbing is more popular than ever and within multi-stage races those with
hilltop finishes are usually the most anticipated and best attended stages of
the race. Racing fans know that hills offer the best opportunity to view the
drama within the peloton as it struggles through the most difficult and
important element in any race. Climbing adds the mythic quality of overcoming
obstacles that continues to be associated with the major cycling tours and which
has produced many memorable moments. Ascending difficult hills is about struggle
and perseverance and it is these aspects that have made conquering the mountains
the heart and soul of cycling.
Avid cyclists know that hill climbing is the crux of the sport. Getting up
cycling’s brutal slopes is often what separates average from elite riders.
However, accurate information on this cycling sub-specialty has been lacking,
particularly the location and profiling of the great American climbs, which
rival the major European professional tours’ best. This situation has now been
rectified as this guidebook provides cycling peak-baggers with everything they
need to know; from how best to prepare to get to the top of the mountain to the
most difficult climbs in the U.S. From the incredibly steep roadways of New
England, to the scenic Blue Ridge Mountains of the Southeast and the high
altitude assaults of the mountain west, the most difficult climbs are all
included in these pages.
Information within the guide includes:
• Climbing training tips
• Accounts of memorable climbing performances
• Easy to read directions with maps
• Descriptions and accurate climb information including total elevation, length
and average/maximum grade
• Appendices with climb rankings and other information
• Climb profiles
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