# Mount Washington (NH) hillclimb vs. Alpe du Zwift

Strange question of the day:

Has anyone here ever done the Mount Washington Auto Road Bicycle Hillclimb?

I am doing it for the first time this year (Aug17th).

Last week, I was playing around with segment data on Veloviewer when I discovered the ‘Compare’ feature. Long story short, it allowed me to stack plots of AdZ and Mount Washington w/ their starting elevations ‘equalized’, like this:

Mount Washington is quite a bit steeper (obviously. no surprises here!) - but the distances are similar and - seeing them compared this way - it made me wonder if there’s any way to extrapolate one’s Mt. Washington time (theoretically) from the time it takes to climb Alpe du Zwift?

I mean, the weather & especially the wind on Mt. Washington are huge wildcards on any given day - so I’m not looking for anything scientific here.

Just curious if anyone’s climbed ‘The Rockpile’ and, if so, how did your time compare to the AdZ segment? (e.g. maybe MWARBH takes 1.5x longer? 2x longer? etc).

This sort of comparison is really hard to make, due to the grade difference. an average 12% grade that maxes at a 25% is a nightmare of a climb compared to an 8% average, 13% max. If your legs are able to make that climb, I could see this being done in 1.5x the AdZ time, but I personally wouldn’t even be able to make the climb, so it would be calculated as ∞x longer. And that’s assuming we are looking at both scenarios as virtual existences where weather isn’t an option. Fun thought experiment though!

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It’s a surprise to me. I’ve never heard of it.

Also the windest place in the US, maybe World, can’t remember for sure on that last one, but the weather there is SUPER interesting, if you happen to be a weather geek of any form. There is an observatory on it that has to be de-iced hourly from how cold the wind makes it.

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I would assume that w/kg will be a good measure to use to compare your effort to someone that did it before.

I would find riders on strava that did the climb look at their average w/kg and time, then take your average w/kg on the Alpe and calculate from that.

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Agreed! That’s why I’ve recently done this to my road bike!

~1.5x my AdZ segment PR would be ~6 minutes faster than the time I’ve set for myself as a goal, so I’d be happy with that!

That wind though?

The official ‘practice ride’ was on Sunday. I didn’t go, but… visibility varied from 0 - 20 feet (fog), winds were steady between 35-40 mph above the treeline, and gusts up to 70 mph. lol

I’m keeping my fingers crossed for an unusually calm, sunny day next month!

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That is disgusting!

I rode the Fred Whitton in the Lake District. That includes Hardknott Pass at 30% or more. And I still didn’t do anything so perverse!

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That look like a bit of an overkill… LOL

I have a friend in his 50 that did it last year winning his age group. He want me to do it but \$\$\$\$.

Good luck it sound like a lot of fun.

It is also only open for bikes twice a year, so no other time to ride it, that make it even more special.

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It’s only temporary!

I did lots of number-crunching and waffling re: gearing and ultimately decided that it’s better to have gears I don’t use than to need gears I don’t have! Except for the very beginning, the hill is relentless. (rarely dipping below 10%, extended sections at 18%, etc). 18% into a raging headwind? I’m content to be able to sit and keep my cadence up vs. use ‘hero’ gearing and struggle to keep 60 rpm for 90 minutes!

[edit: also - my first AdZ effort with the gearing pictured was at an avg cadence of 97 RPM (w/o using the largest cog) and was 1:46 faster than the same bike with 50/34 double (@ an average of 77 RPM). It may look goofy, but that’s fine as long as it’s faster up the mountain! ]

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That’s a good idea, but Strava doesn’t publish a rider’s weight (afaik) - so all I can see are avg power numbers.

[edit: n/m! I can see w/kg on their power curves]

Full disclosure: I walked up the steepest parts of Hardknott.

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I would not use your times on Zwift’s Alpe because the Zwift algorithm is very generous with speed (there was an article on Cycling News where the authors compared his Zwift Alpe time and his real Alpe times and they were significantly different). It would be valid to use your W/kg numbers though. There are some calculators that take W/kg and grade an give you a speed. Maybe take the average gradient with a power level you can sustain and see what you get. This looks like a real phalange and would be a great accomplishment. Good luck

Thanks David. I get that, but I figured if someone’s done both (the real Mt. Washington climb and the virtual AdZ) - then it might still give a sense of how much time it takes to do one vs. the other.

I’ve played with several of the online calculators etc., limited as they are, and I think my goal time of >/= 90 min is achievable… theoretically, based on the avg gradient, my weight, bike weight, FTP, etc. and by comparing w/kg vs. finishing times for the real event per @Gerrie_Delport’s suggestion.

As long as the weather cooperates!

I’m sure there are many great climbs in Colorado, let alone the entire US that most Euros haven’t heard of. There are more than a handful of roads above the 12,000ft tree line that will make your head spin.

Absolutely, of course. I’m familiar with the common climbs used in the Grand Tours, and some of those used in things like Tour of California, Tour Down Under and the like. Beyond that, almost certainly haven’t heard of any of them unless I’ve watched Phil Gaimon ride one in a Worst Retirement Ever episode. =)

Turns out, he has done that one. I’d just forgotten (or hadn’t watched it).

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Phil’s great. He took a really awful spill at my local velodrome last month! Hopefully, he’s recovering well.

I have done it a few times, and the most important aspects is having the correct gearing - ideally a 1:1 if not a negative gear setup, being able to pace yourself very well the first half of the climb, and having a realistic wattage target (taking the elevation into consideration). The hardest part is actually the bottom 1/3in terms of steepness, and then the gradient “lightens” up a bit for the middle. The top can be really difficult depending on how windy it is, and how well packed the dirt sections of the climb are.

If you’re local to that area, I’d suggest checking out Mt Greylock, Mt Kearsarge (careful of the descent!), or Mt Equinox for a close IRL comparison and to dial in the gearing. I use to practice on Kearsarge a lot, from the gate to the trailhead is a good steep climb.

If you’re interested, and looking to get really technical, a friend of mine who has done it a few times and is a mechanical engineer designed this spreadsheet to predict your time with good accuracy - https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1KuobBDNfMyWCrMUNuQ_9qAx46P7HfmN8GYcVtyr0OHo/edit?usp=sharing

Let me know if I can help out any further, cheers!

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Assuming that you don’t run out of gears (which you look to have covered), then the number of metres you climb per hour remains consistent. This is true.

From seeing some reviews of Zwift vs real life Aple D’Huez rides, real life seems to come out 10-15% slower.
So take your climb rate from Zwift, +15% and use that to calculate the Mt Washington climb.

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Hi Shayne,

Thanks for the info and the spreadsheet link! That’s very cool, and the bit about the bottom third is great to know.

Re: local? - I am not. I’m in Pennsylvania, so the closest thing to a ‘practice hill’ for me is just over 1000’ elevation gain spread over 2 miles (9.6% avg, 25% max) with a gravel section at the top. That’s about an hour from home. Not quite as severe as Mt. Washington, but it’ll have to do!

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That’ll do! You can also use Zwift to mimic the demands of the climb by figuring out the wattage you’ll want to aim for (ideally using your power duration curve) based on your predicted finish time. Then, create a workout based on those parameters.

You can also use a GPX to Zwift workout here - https://whatsonzwift.com/gpx-to-zwift-workout/

Or Best Bike Split.

Good luck!

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