February 24, 2021

In this post we are going to tackle a classic question that the #P3Community always asks: Can you ride uphill with an urban bike?

We agree that going up a hill is an activity that requires a lot of physical effort and consumes a lot of energy, but can an urban cyclist do it with a single-speed?

We will start by defining what an urban bike is.  An urban bike is simple and light in order to move through the city. One of the main characteristics of this type of bicycle is that it does not have gear shifts. Although some see this as a disadvantage, the truth is that for the mechanic simplicity and the little maintenance, we are convinced that there is nothing better than this style of bike to move through the city.

This raises the question then of what happens when we inevitably come across a hill, or what if we want to have a good uphill workout and try new things on our bikes?


What is the bike gear ratio?

Is the pedaling the same force for all single-speed bikes? If two urban cyclists have the same pedaling rate, will they go the same speed?

The answer to these questions has to do with a concept called "bicycle gear ratio". This is the amount of times that our wheels turn with each pedal and is calculated by taking the amount of teeth on the crankset divided by the amount of teeth on the cog.

This way, with a bigger crankset and smaller cog, the pedaling will require more force and will go further with each wheel rotation. On the contrary, with a smaller crankset and a bigger cog, the pedaling will be lighter and you won't go as far with each wheel rotation.

Bicycle Crankset 

Our urban bikes have 44 crankset teeth and 16 on the cog, so the ratio would be 2.75 (44/16=2.75).   This means that for every complete pedal, the wheel will rotate 2.75 times. Why did we choose this ratio? The idea is to reach a balance so that going up steep hills easily will be possible and so that going downhill will be easy on our legs without losing control but still keeping resistance while pedaling. 

Bicycle Cog


We already explained to you what urban bikes are and what the bike gear ratio is. But if we're talking about going uphill, a final, very important concept to have in mind is the incline. 

The incline of a hill is the division between distance that we go up vertically (height) and the distance we go horizontally. What is an easy or difficult incline to cycle? This depends on each cyclist, but to put it in more of a context, we will give you percentages of each uphill slope:

  • 0%: Flat land
  • 1-3%: Slight incline. This is the type of incline that we can face on an urban with effort, but no problems moving us through the city everyday.
  • 4-5%: Now we're talking about uphill. Over 4%, the legs start to burn and our breathing accelerates. The majority of cyclists that are just starting will find this incline complicated, and, if it's not impossible, they will probably find themselves incapable of continuing for a long time without a break.
  • 6-9%: An incline like this requires you to find a rhythm and stop talking in order to reserve all oxygen possible. A cyclist that is just starting could accomplish this incline, but with a lot of suffering.
  • 10-14%: A feat that not just anyone can complete. You should be in very good physical and mental shape to be able to face an incline like this. A person walking would probably walk faster than the majority of cyclists on this type of uphill.
  • 15% or more: Only for those who live to tell the story.

Griffith Park Hill

Well, finally after all this information we go back to where we started.  An urban bike is designed to move comfortably on inclines up to 3%.  For hills, if we take the bike path at Griffith Park in LA for reference, the steepest grade is 8%.


Although not impossible, going up a hill on a single-speed bike is a challenge for those who are just starting or have only used bikes for getting around a flat city. The idea isn't to discourage someone who is ready to try their luck with an urban bike on a hill, so we will leave a list with the best tips for those who are ready to try their luck. After all, it doesn't hurt to try.

  • To go up sitting, support yourself towards the back part of your saddle.
  • Sit up the straightest possible to ease the work of your lungs.
  • Pull the handlebar towards you when you move the pedal forward
  • Although it might sound difficult, try to find a rhythm. If you "push" and accelerate constantly you will finish exhausted.
  • If the uphill is very steep, zigzag to lighten the incline and so that it's easier to climb.
  • Don't accelerate. Maintaining a good speed is important, but you don't always need to go fast to keep a balance on your bike.

We believe it's important to provide you with technical information to help you know more about the bike world and we want to encourage you to explore new routes, but the best way to check to see if you can or can't go up a hill in an urban bike is to try it! We want to know that you're up for the challenge!

And you? Have you already gone uphill or are you up for the challenge? Share your experience in the comments👇 

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