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I'm in San Francisco and hills are crazy (think ~40° slope) and I would like to avoid taking many such hills (both when going down and up).

Are there Google Maps-like apps that can take this into account? I don't mind biking for 30% more distance if it means avoiding crazy slopes.

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3 Answers 3

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Google maps tries to do this in biking mode to begin with: http://googleblog.blogspot.com/2010/03/biking-directions-added-to-google-maps.html

Mapquest is also hill aware to some extent: http://blog.mapquest.com/2011/04/21/cycle-route-planner-aerial-languages/ (I have tried this, but I don't think its particularly great. But I haven't tried it in SF).

Specific to SF, but http://amarpai.com/bikemap/ exists. http://bikesy.com/ is another SF specific one.

http://veloroutes.org/bikemaps/ isn't directions, but gives you topographical information.

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Great answer, thank you very much –  Jérôme Le Chatelier Jan 12 at 2:26
    
Google maps on my Android phone also has bike mode; it seems to work ok. While the year old link given says that the bike mode is available only in the US, it is now available in Australia, and I suppose many other places. –  andy256 Jan 12 at 3:00

http://ridewithgps.com is the tool my local bike club uses. It doesn't plan routes for you, but had several overlays including Google's bike routes and topo maps. As you plot your route the graph at the bottom shows the altitude and grade.

I live in Seattle and find that Ride With GPS works great for finding reasonable routes through the hills.

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Yes. On Google maps you can plan a route. The Google earth picture will also give you almost a 3-dimensional view. If you use the Ctrl+C button and copy the link from Google maps of your profile (it looks like a chain in the box that appears to the left of the map). Then do a google search and type in 'GPS Visualizer'. It is (currently) a free program that will allow to paste in the profile under 'Draw a profile', and after pressing Ctrl+V, which copies the link details, and pressing 'draw the profile' hey presto, up comes your elevation profile of the route! This will allow you to see how hilly your route is, and compare other potential suitable routes and distances.

Your other option is to tackle those hills head-on, utilising a good hill climb technique, the right clothing, cleated shoes with pedals (without toe straps, known as clipless pedals), and gearing suited yo your needs, you can build your fitness over time and suddenly those hills ain't so large. The fun part/reward is going down, but that also requires the correct technique to be as safe as is possible.

However some steep and long hills will always be a mental and physical challenge, (especially if there are many of them in your route) no matter how fit you are. A cautious approach and tackling smaller hills is a good place to start, especially if your fitness is not high at present, or after a gruelling day at work, or at the end of a long ride when your energy reserves are about out. But over time you do improve.

Cycling shops should be able to advise or sell you a magazine or book on training tips.

After a 19 year layoff from cycling, 18 months ago I saw a Doctor for a general check up first, as I hadn't exercised in that time, but after quietly building up, and at first avoiding the bigger hills, Im now challenging those bigger, steeper and longer hills, even 30km long mountain climbs, and now going up them at a respectable rate. Although not as fast when I was 22 and racing competitively, as Im now 48, one has to be realistic in terms of time, priorities, money and energy availability. I guess from your comment about going a longer distance to avoid a hill, you have some basic fitness already. So I encourage you to build your overall fitness over time, and then give it a go!

I hope this answer helps, and isn't too long-winded. Regards and best wishes.

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