Six Gaps

The Six Gaps Bicycle Hill Climb Vermont

Whether you’re up to the challenge of your life or are just looking for a smaller one, you’ll find it all here in Vermont’s Green Mountains.

The Vermont Six Gaps is a ride that you can accomplish in one day or you can decide to do different parts of it instead. Most of it is paved and it has become extremely popular for bike enthusiasts from around the nation.

The air is fresh and crisp in this part of the country with spectacular mountain views and breathtaking scenery at every turn. Here is a brief description of the six various gaps.

You can check out various magazines and brochures about the area and the climb (though some are so complicated that you must really be good at understanding English grammar), but to truly appreciate them, you don’t need magazines, you’ll need to travel here yourself and ride these roads.


This is the big one. This is the gap that separates the highly skilled cyclists from the beginners. This is among the most challenging climbing trails in America and includes a 16% grade section that’s lasting for over a mile.

It is more than 4 miles long with an elevation spanning up to 1,800 feet with a sustained grade of 24% rearing its head at one point along the route.

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Whiteface Mountain Biking

Whiteface Mountain, NY. Whiteface Mountain is located just outside of Lake Placid. Whiteface is second only to Mt Washington in vertical gain. The view from the top is quite spectacular.

Prior to 2012, the course started at the four-corners in Wilmington and climbed monotonically 3500ft in 8mi. Now the race starts at the Whiteface Mtn ski area and adds three miles, mostly downhill before the actual climb starts.

The climb does not deviate much from the 8% grade. This doesn’t mean it is easier than the 12% climbs reviewed here, it means you just go faster. Most riders will not need radical gearing to conquer Whiteface, but a compact crank with an up-sized cassette will still be needed for most.

The climb kicks off with about 9% grade for the first three miles. It flattens some around the toll booth area, then resumes 9% grade for the next three miles before tapering off again. Whiteface provides an exhilarating descent, but the road surface continues to deteriorate. The long straight-aways between turns draw you into adrenaline-pumping speed.

You must watch out for huge frost heaves though. You can no longer hit those at speed without consequences. Serious injuries have occurred. With state budgets the way they are, it could be some time before the summit road is repaired. Also use extreme care when overtaking slower riders, who may unexpectedly swerve to dodge frost heaves.

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Practice Climbing and Pacing Strategy

Practice Climbing

You don’t necessarily have to train on big mountains to gain climbing fitness, but it does help to practice riding big climbs. There are several reasons. First, you can’t coast going up a steep hill. Not even a few seconds.

This may not seem like a big deal, but if you are accustomed to coasting for a moment while you reach down for that water bottle, surprise – you’ll fall over if you try this on Mount Washington. This British Global Cycling Network video explains a lot:

It may not be as easy as you think. Throw in fatigue and 50mph wind, and you have a real challenge on your hands. Since you can’t coast, you can’t rest either.

You’ll be slurping that sports drink into your lungs if you don’t practice drinking when your heart is pounding out of your throat. Another reason to practice long, steep climbs is to learn what cadence you climb most efficiently at. This may be slower than your optimal or preferred cadence on flat terrain.

There are various reasons for this. One being that because you are going so slow, you have very little momentum. The force of gravity actually slows you down between pedal downstrokes. Thus your speed accelerates appreciably with each pedal stroke. This is quite different from cruising at 25 mph where your speed is very nearly constant over each pedal stroke.

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