When will it get easier to cycle? or do i need a better bike?


New Member
Sep 21, 2019
Hi! I am a new cyclist, 25 and female. I started cycling to and from work about a month ago, which is 2x4 kilometers or 2x2.8 miles, 4-5 times a week.
I got my bike secondhand, just before I started cycling and I had no idea what kind of bike I needed. I thought anything would do. I got one which is a bit too high for me, and has only 3 gears. It does the job for the most part, but, and here is my problem:
On the way to work, at the end of the route, there is a 700 meter long hill, which rises 42 meters. I think that means it is 6% steep?
So far I have not been able to ride my bike completely up the hill. I usually get about 1/3 of the way, then I get off and walk 50-100 meters, and I get back on and ride the rest. It is my thighs that give up the job, although my lungs are struggling as well.

All the people I see riding on the same hill, have at least 7 gears. Which makes me think every time I try that I should buy a bike that suits me more, and with more gears. On the other hand, when I imagine myself being able to do it with 3 gears, it makes me feel very accomplished and happy.

What do you think? Is this hill doable with only 3 gears? And how long should it take me to get fit enough to do it? I am 154 cm, or 5 feet and 55 kilo.
According to your post, you ride 32 - 40 km a week. It's great that you're commuting, but this isn't very far and I'll guess that you aren't really stressing your body enough to cause physical adaptations. Especially considering that half the time you're going down that hill so just coasting.

If you want to get up that hill on your 3 speed, you need to ride more. A lot more. And if it turns out you like riding, then you'll want a better bike with modern gearing. My very old commuter hybrid has 21 gears and my road bike has 22 gears.
Thank you for the reply!
By 'riding more' do you mean loger distances or the same distance more often? I could do for example an extra few kilometers a couple times a week on my way home. That would pust it to 50km a week.
It looks like I won't be able to get a better bike. I was wondering because I think this bike's gear hub must be at least 5 years old, and I don't know what level of wear it has, but the new version of the same gear hub could be more efficient. So I looked into new bikes, and I found that frames my size (I need a 26 inch frame, because the standard 28 inch is too high for me) only come with 3 gears in this country. The general population is a lot higher than I am and 26 inch frames are rare. So if I buy a new one, that's going to be the same 3 gears.
Whatever you do, don't buy a bike with only 3 gears. Go to a proper bike shop and see what they have - they will help you. There are frames for all sizes.

When I suggested you ride more, I did say a lot more. Some years ago my bicycle commute was 27 km each way - so in one day I would do more than your entire weekly total.

How much you do depends on how much you enjoy cycling - these days I don't commute any more and I still do 250 to 300 km a week, which is nothing special. If you like riding, ride longer distances and find some people to ride with. You'll figure it out.
Riding longer distances is the key to improving your fitness. When you can, start with 16-20K rides and build from there as you improve. A quality 3-speed hub can last for decades, as long is it's oiled periodically. It should have an oil port on it somewhere and any high-quality oil will work. If you have a bike shop nearby, talk to them about it. However, as you've discovered, a 3-speed limits your ability to ride hills. Most 3-speed bikes are pretty heavy (15-20 kilos) as well, which adds to the difficulty.

You don't state where you live, but I find it difficult to believe that you can only get 3-speed bikes, unless you're in a small village somewhere. There are hundreds of different bike models available in a size that will fit you; you just need to go to a bike shop with a good selection.
I assume that your bike is also quite a heavy one. The number of speeds/gears is not the main thing to consider, but yes - the hill would not look so scary if you would ride a bike with more speeds. The only suggestion I would have for you - try to experiment with the pedaling speed when riding uphill. If you would be willing to buy a different bike, you could also think about a cheaper entry-level ebike, it may seem like a miracle for commuting.
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I did it! I counted it and it took about 48 commutes to get my fitness level up and my bike up that hill. And I did it using that secondhand, 18 kilo bike with 3 gears. I figured if I was pushing myself to the limit at least half the time I was going to work, I must be improving. I didn't do any extra riding.
I did find a better bike eventually, which has 7 integrated gears and only 15 kilos, not 18. I know it sounds really lame, but it's a huge improvement for me, and still cost 450 dollars. I could not use it however, as it came with a faulty part and had to go back to the shop for a few weeks. After that I installed winter tires and I kept using my old bike until the sub zeros set in, which was only a few days ago. Now I use the new one, which brings me up that hill despite the slushy on the sidewalk and the extra traction from the tires.

Apart from this, I wanted to say that I find some cyclists here very condescending. I understand when somebody lives that lanky spandex lifestyle and they ride 300km a week on their 7 kilo carbon-steel steed, it becomes hard to understand the financial, physical and time limitations others face. Some people don't have the opportunity, or don't want to spend 6-10 hours a week riding a bike, even if they enjoy it.
Saying 'Whatever you do, don't buy a bike with only 3 gears' to a woman who just spent a hunk of their savings on a bike with 3 gears is not going to help anyone. Saying 'you aren't really stressing your body enough to cause physical adaptations' is not true and also doesn't help anyone. Assuming that any larger bike shop would carry something suitable for me, and in my price range is also a long shot. I could keep going, but I won't. I have also gotten some nice and useful comments, which I am grateful for.

The answer to my question was, Yes it is possible for me to go up that hill with a 3 gear, 18 kilo bike, but it would take about 3 months of trying.
I'll see myself out now.
Congratulations! Keep riding and have fun!

BTW, Spandex isn't a "lifestyle", it's comfortable and functional clothing that makes riding more enjoyable. Even if you're not "lanky", you would probably find that a pair of padded riding shorts would make riding more comfortable and encourage you to ride more. You don't have to spend a bunch of money on them, either. In winter weather, wear them underneath whatever you're wearing now for warmth.
This is a good opportunity to use my fave quote from Greg Lemond.

"It doesn't get easier, you just get faster"

Keep at it. You might not win the Tour de France but you will definitely get better and stronger.
I assume your comments are directed towards me. If you don't ĺike the advice, you don't have to take it.

Otherwise, bite me.
I wouldn't buy a new bike yet, I would wait till you are doing a 75 and more mile ride on a weekend and been doing that consistently, as well as been riding for at least a 2 years before moving on toward a nicer bike...unless you want to move on faster, but any physical activity has to be measured by time and consistency because a lot of people buy expensive bikes, or home gym equipment, or gym membership, etc, and about 78% of all people who start a new physical activity quit after 3 to 6 months, then they have that stuff they bought setting in a garage for next 20 years collecting dust. I'm not saying your that type of person, just saying what the odds are. Anyway I always tell new cyclists not to spend a lot of money on a bike till they've been on the saddle consistently for at least a couple of years, and the pro of waiting for at least a couple of years is that you can be saving up money for your new bike slowly and not have to put the purchase on a credit car, plus you could be saving enough money to get a really nice bike and won't have to buy another bike afterwards for a long period of time.

Make your cycling endeavors fun, don't get sucked into all the science, all the technology, all the expensive gear either, you can buy tires, clothing, accessories for the bike, etc at budget prices if you do your research and buy closeout sales etc. You don't need a $70 tire either, there are a lot of really nice tires that will cost you less than $40 each, I never spend more than $30 for a tire, I get them on sale at around 50% off and get fantastic tires. Cycling related stuff has seen astronomical prices on stuff that isn't even worth half the price they're charging, so you have to very wise in your purchases so as not to get ripped off. Leave all the science etc for the wannabe racers, don't get stressed by proper whatever's, ride and have fun, go places on your bike, ride to some neighboring towns and sight see, put the bike in car and drive 50 or more miles out of town and ride and see other sights, just have fun, don't make it work.

I've been riding for over 40 years, I did have about a 10 year stint trying to race and got mostly burned out from it, now I just cycle for fun and the fitness comes naturally with that. But I'm always changing my routes so I can see something new, I have no problem riding to some town getting off the bike and walking around with my bike in tow, and finding someplace to eat and relax. I also do short term touring trips with a different bike and I use that same principle, have fun and sight see. I don't plug music into my ears either, for one I believe it be unsafe, but I also find it more relaxing to hear the music of nature while riding.

By the way I don't do the spandex thing either, I do wear shorts with padding but I put on MTB shorts over the top of that, and wear slightly looser jerseys instead of tight fitting jobs, yeah I know supposedly it's more aerodynamic with a tighter fitting jersey, but I'm not racing so I could care less about aerodynamics! So dress anyway you want as long as your comfortable. I could care less about having the lightest bike in the world either!! And I don't care about looking like a pro racer while riding and wearing some stupid pro racing looking kit when I'm not a pro racer or even racing, I just wear plain colored stuff with no logos, I'm not into being a drugstore racer! When the weather improves I spend about 8 to 10 hours a week riding, not saying you should spend that much time, if you feel comfortable doing a 1/2 an hour a day during the week maybe skipping a day in the middle of the week, and an hour or two on a Saturday or Sunday then do that, that's still FAR better than 90% of the population does in physical activity!

To summarize...relax and make it fun so you don't get burned out, while holding down costs so expenses don't fry your checking account.

I hope that helps you.

By the way if you decide to get more serious about cycling, and want of join a group of fast riders then we can help you prepare for that too. Also it's fun for a lot of people to join a group of riders, most cities have slow groups all the way up to racing speed groups, join a slow group and have fun with them too.
I see the OP says she bought a bike that is too high for her. If the bike is too big, then it's not a proper fit which means it does not ride comfy like a good fitting bike.

I also see where she would not want a bike with 3 gears. Not much of a choice when climbing her 6% hill.

I know it is too late but I would agree if possible, look into a better bike. Honestly, a used bike with 2 up front (maybe 3) and even at 7 in the back is going to much more comfortable riding local roads, hill selections etc.

Not being a snob but a proper fitting bike with a decent gear selection is a much much better ride. I did buy my wife a much less expensive bike when she started but it had more than 3 gears and was not crazy expensive.

Which actually, when you talk about expensive and inexpensive bikes, it's all relative to what the OP can afford.

If anything, I say find a bike that fits you. It makes a world of difference in comfort and performance.
The answer to my question was, Yes it is possible for me to go up that hill with a 3 gear, 18 kilo bike, but it would take about 3 months of trying.
I'll see myself out now.

I often do 60 to 70 mile long rides with 6,000 ft of climbing with my 20+ kilo gravel bike on the weekends. I only weigh 52.7 kilos so my bike is well over 1/3 of my body weight!!

The vast majority of the time, I only use the 3 highest gears on my bike. It's absolutely doable on your bike. I can only do short, 15 minute rides during weekdays due to work. I get most of the training during weekend.

So congrats for making it up that hill on that bike! 3 speed bikes are not that bad. I assume it had Internal Gear Hub (IGH). IGH requires almost no maintenance and absolutely weather-proof! They're awesome!!

If your new 7 speed bike is still using IGH, that would be awesome! But if it's now using cassette, the kind where you can see the gear teeth sticking out, they will require periodic cleaning and re-lubing and after each time you got caught in rain! Ouch! I have cassette gears on my bike but fortunately, it doesn't really get wet in the rain. I have full fenders on my gravel bike and 'lay over' pannier bags that are permanently attached to the racks so the whole cassette and drivetrain is sheltered from the rain especially if I slow down when riding in the rain.

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