General Question

blakemasnor's avatar

Is Boston hilly for biking?

Asked by blakemasnor (323points) July 16th, 2013

I am an avid bike commuter and moving to Boston in the fall. I currently have a single speed and want to know how hilly Boston is.

The last few years I have spent in Chicago which is mostly flat.

Depending on hilly Boston is, I can keep my single speed as is or fit it with a 3,5, or 8 speed internal hub (Sturmey Archer).

Is Boston hilly and if so how many gears/ what kind of gear ration do I need.

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6 Answers

gailcalled's avatar

Parts are and parts aren’t. It is not flat like the midwestern cities. And there are a lot of areas outside the city with rolling hills. One gear won’t do it.

The guys at can answer all your specific gear/ gear ratio questions. They are a friendly lot and fanatical about biking in the city and environs.

jerv's avatar

You really will want gears and probably more than 3. If nothing else, even many of the flat areas may have surfaces that have more rolling resistance than pavement; there are parts where the streets may be stone or brick. That doesn’t even get into the varying quality of what pavement there is.

Personally, I consider 12 to be an absolute minimum and 21 to be ideal, largely because I actually use all 21 that I have commuting in Seattle, which is fairly comparable as far as hills go.

flutherother's avatar

Personally I don’t feel the need for lots of gears. Many of the ratios are similar and you are constantly changing to find the optimum gear. I get by on five most of the time.

jerv's avatar

@flutherother It depends on how variable your riding conditions are. I use climbing gears and sprinting gears, as well as many in between. I may be the only one here who actually ever exceeds 8 mph on level ground though. (My record is 37 mph with no hills for miles.) If you’re just cruising leisurely, you can get by with fewer gears than if you want some speed. As for the ratios being similar, try shifting your car from 1st straight to 4th sometime. I find having a few widely spaced gears to be jarring, and leads to breaking stuff both on the bike and in my legs.

answerjill's avatar

I’m fairly new to biking in the Boston area and I do most of it in Cambridge/Somerville. Yes, there are some hills. I have a 7-speed bike and so far it seems to be ok. You can get a free Boston bike map (not topographical, though) if you request one at

ETpro's avatar

I was in Boston proper for years but just moved up to the North Short area. Depends on where you settle and where you work. The downtown area and adjoining Cambridge are pretty flat. But as you venture further out of the city, there are some nice rolling hills. There are also a series of mountain ranges with wonderful hiking and biking trails further inland. They’re an easy day trip and have some fabulous sights to see, so if you love nature and want to get into mountain biking shape, then definitely go for a good set of gear ratios.

Welcome to Boston, neighbor.

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