Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Any Bicycling Hypermilers Out There?

Here's the random thought from last night's commute. There are automobile drivers who identify themselves as hypermilers, who drive in such a way as to minimize their fuel use. Now I know there are many speed-focused cyclists and stop-and-smell-the-roses types but does anybody know of a hypermiling cyclist out there? I picture somebody who uses a Power Tap hub not to maximize their power output and workout, but rather to minimize their energy expenditure. Someone who brags not that they rode from here to there at some fast speed but rather at some low caloric burn rate.

While this isn't the kind of thing I'd obsess over, I can picture it being the thing somebody would obsess over. So I'll ask, are there any hypermiler cyclists out there?

21 comments:

Jack and Raquel said...

Cool idea. I've never been so formal about it, but, while touring, it makes sense to go father on fewer calories. Calories (food) are (is) heavy.

Thanks, Jack

verloren said...

I'm certainly not a hypermiler, but I've never met a hill I couldn't coast down :)

Undersharing said...

I naturally am, and am having to teach myself to push since I decided to sign up for a triathlon. What was I thinking? I'm going to have to go fast!

I've found that I can go all day and then some at my normal 'cruising' pace, gear down and spin up the hills, and not really get out of the saddle except for donuts. The donuts can be few and far between in the backwaters of New England, so it's best not to put donut-shaped holes in your stomach until you're absolutely certain that the next town you come to doesn't roll back the sidewalks at 2 PM.

I know you're a limited-gears fan, and I would like to be one, but I do find a lot of utility in being able to dial in a cadence that I feel like I can go all day at. Last year we swapped out the tandem (our family car) drivetrain for a 10 speed and it really made a difference in our happiness. With two people on board, the coincident margin of 'happy pedaling' can be thin at times when we're really tired.

I will say that while I've always been a slow but steady endurance-oriented rider, my tandem partner had been a city fixed-gear masher who quickly learned that it doesn't work on a tandem ;) His endurance has gotten a lot better from learning to ride the tandem with slow starts, coasting on the descents, and gradual speed changes.

James Scott said...

I am, on recovery days. The power meter isn't just good for making sure you're going hard enough during training, it also keeps your recovery honest. Keep the watts down, let the group pedal away from you, and flush out the legs a bit.

Wayne said...

Great question, Kent. I look forward to the responses.

rob hawks said...

Kent,

I once rode a 400km brevet on a very windy day and encountered a rider who was experimenting with riding at a constant output of watts (200 I think was his goal). He wanted to see the effects on his body by trying to maintain an even effort.

He, another cyclist, and I all found ourselves on a long northbound leg going into a 25-30 mph southbound wind. Our 'constant' companion could never take the draft off anyone's wheel because his output would drop with the easier conditions. However, we had a tough time staying behind him because we'd find many times we just couldn't feel comfortable going that slow. The end result of his constant output though is that it ruined any 'hypermiling' advantages that everyone else might get when contributing to a pace line.

rob hawks

Lee Williams said...

This reminded me of this story, the story of a gentleman who has done several rides of significant distance by reading the weather reports and simply following a strong tailwind.

Sean said...

Not a hypermiler so much but I ave been known to add an extra mile to a two mile grocery run to avoid a really not so bad hill on the way home...

Vincent Muoneke said...

Sure way to hypermile any vehicle,
get rid of excess weight.

Vinny

Bob M said...

You have interesting random thoughts. I hope we get to be roommates at the nursing home in 35 years or so.

I don't hyper-anything and I will be surprised if you find any dedicated hyper-milers among the bicycle crowd. I observe that hyper-anything has a lot to do with bragging rights. Hypermilers love to tell people how many MPG they get. Fastpackers love to tell people how much trail they covered today. "I burned 700 fewer calories on my ride today" just will not cut it.

BTW, if a hypermiler in a car meets a hypermiler on a bike at an intersection there WILL be an accident since neither will use brakes.

Bob

geoffrey said...

Don't we all do this to some extent on long rides? On my short 5 to 10 km weekday commutes I'll sprint from lights trying to catch motorists napping but on that weekend 120 km ride to dear ol' mom's I'll dial back the cadence to 90 - 100 and keep the pressure through my feet down. The idea with the latter is to sustain speeds and an even spin while with the former it is more a matter of dancing with abandon and deny the cagers the opportunity to drop me.

dashap said...

Here's my take:
http://327words.blogspot.com/2008/05/just-slow-enough.html

Anonymous said...

I never thought of it this way, but I guess I'm a hypermiler. I ride in a way that takes the least amount of effort. Every ride is unique. Winds, hills, load, and temperature all make for different conditions each time.

I recently rode 100 miles in one day just to see if I could. I did no special training. Left my commuter bike just as it is (fenders, rack, lights and all the other "heavy" stuff). It also has 26x2.1 tires. I took my time and hypermiled the whole way. I didn't feel any different when I got there. I simply took a shower and had dinner. The following day I felt fine and the next day I rode another 30 miles.

I was passed by a cyclist on a road bike who expressed concern that I had no helmet, no cycle clothes, and no computer to really know how far I would go or how fast. I guess it never occurred to me that I needed all that preparation and gear just to ride a bike.

Anonymous said...

Does consistently running stop signs (when safe to do so) count?

brad said...

I hypermile all the time but never figured out that the term could be coined until now. I typically hypermile when I'm riding in a tuxedo to a gig or in a suit going to church. The whole point is to bike at just under the sweat exertion point. Go beyond that, and you need time to dry off.

Bruce said...

Nope. I ride for fun and transport. When I go out for fun, the last thing I think about is energy expenditure v. distance traveled. When I am utilizing one of my rides for transport it's all about getting there as soon as I can...kinda like an ITT. Especially if I'm on the morning ride to work.

Anonymous said...

I've actually thought about this. When I switched from commuting on a 'bent to commuting on a proper 3 speed, I noticed that my speed went down - not because the old thing couldn't be pushed to 15-16 mph - it certainly could, but because that just seemed so wrong. Instead, I loafed along at 8-10, and really enjoyed the ride.
I noticed something else. It was more like a super-efficient stroll than anything else. Yes, my calorie burn went way down too, but so did perspiration.
Bless them, Frank Bowdon and Messrs Sturmey and Archer really did invent the seven league boots.

Anonymous said...

1:13 PM

Running stop signs should not be considered hypermiling. It simply is the way you ride a bike. Anybody who pulls up to a stop sign on a bike and puts a foot down, even when there is no traffic has a screw loose.

Andy said...

"There is more to life than increasing its speed." Mahatma Gahndi

Roy said...

On a group ride, the serious hypermiler will be the free-rider always riding at the back of the pack. It doesn't seem very sociable. On the other hand, I'm kinda fascinated by the energy minimization challenge. Maybe now I can finally justify a powertap?

steve said...

Since being ill and breaking a toe I've become quite a hypermiler. I rode down to Mahone Bay (105km) and back last week, I did most of it in the big ring up front, small ring on the rear, but with fairly low cadence and surprisingly little effort. All I really had to do was turn the cranks. I've since blown out the tendon on the other foot from overcompensating/overuse and the only way I can get around is either on a bike, or by hobbling with a cane, amusingly enough.