This Badass Athlete Shares What It's Like to Race Up One of the Toughest Hills In America On Her Bike
The San Francisco Bay Area is home to some serious world-class cycling routes, which is why RedBull decided to host their inaugural Bay Climb in the Potrero Hill neighborhood with its infamously steep roads. The race featured 180 cyclists who went head-to-head in four categories: Men's Open, Women's Open, Men's Fixed (gear), and Women's Fixed (gear).
While the course was just three blocks long, the steep inclines, averaging 15 percent and topping out at a 21 percent incline, forced riders to test their strength and determination in a uniquely challenging way. "There aren't a lot of races like this," says Kym Perfetto (@kymnonstop), who won the Women's Fixed (gear) category. "When I first saw the course, it literally looked like a wall, but even though you know it's going to make you suffer, it's not going to take too long, which makes it a little less intimidating, I guess."
Kym, who's a SoulCycle instructor and YouTuber based out of New York, said she did most of her training inside, since hills are hard to come across in the city. "I asked my coach how I was going to get ready for the Climb since I didn't have anything to practice on," she explains, "and he advised that I do 4- to 5-minute all-out efforts on a stationary bike with maximum resistance. So that's what I did." (Related: 14 Reasons Why Bike Riding Is Seriously Badass)
Come race day, Kym made it up to the top in a minute and 40 seconds flat, flying past other women who had more experience with California's treacherous terrain. "I'm pretty sure most of the women I was competing against were like 'Oh we don't have to worry about her because she's from New York,'" says Kym. "But even though the race was short, there's a lot of strategy around it. So I just tried to save my energy till the very end and then gave it my all." (Related: Let Kym train you in this 5-minute at-home workout for strong, sexy arms.)
Climbing hills is something Kym has always been good at, so she was excited for the opportunity to finally be able to have something to show for it. "It was freakin' awesome," she says about the Bay Climb experience. "I had it in my mind that I could actually win this, so it was incredible to be able to do it. I do hope they have a race like this again because I'd love for a chance to defend the title." (Related: Here's What Happened When I Biked to Work for a Week)
Simply put, biking uphill is challenging. But it's an excellent workout. Not only do you burn more calories, your body works a lot harder when you're pedaling against gravity. "Climbing hills is very much a weight-to-power ratio," says Kym. "It's a combination of being powerful and strong as well as being light because obviously, you have to carry your bodyweight." (A strong butt helps Kym get ready for the uphill battle. Steal her 10 best butt exercises for a toned booty.)
Unfortunately, some people are under the impression that biking uphill (or loading on heavy weight from resistance of any kinds) could cause them to develop Hulk-like quads, but Kym says the opposite is more likely to happen. "It's kind of ironic because a lot of people don't want to turn their resistance up when they're cycling because they're afraid to get bulky," Kym says. "That's not the case. In fact, you might actually lose weight and gain lean muscle by adding uphill biking to your workout routine. Just look at the people who win Tour de France; the ones who're powering through those hills are the leanest of them all." We'll turn our gear up for that.