Can't climb in the flatlands

Discussion in 'Cycling Training' started by GuyNoir, Oct 2, 2006.

  1. GuyNoir

    GuyNoir New Member

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    Here is the deal: I finished my first Century ride yesterday (modest 6:05 to complete) in S. Michigan / N. Indiana. And the thing I found out was that I cannot climb to save my life (even on the releatively mild rolling hills of MI/IN), and that there is no place here in Chicago that I can go to change that. Short of getting a MTN Bike and start stair climbing :eek:

    That being said, what can I do to learn how to climb? I caught the Measuring Power on the Cheap (http://www.cyclingforums.com/t367268.html) thread and thought that may be a way. But Having never really had to climb, I cannot say that I even have a clue on how to properly address climbing. Short of pedal like hell, keep the RPM up and gear down if the cadence drops below 80rpm. When to sit, when to stand, and hand position are pretty much lost on me, right now.

    Any advice?
    -GN
     
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  2. frenchyge

    frenchyge New Member

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    Someone else in Chicago a while back posted that they like to ride up the prevalent 12-story parking garages for training.
     
  3. kopride

    kopride Member

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    First thing, your gearing probably sucks for climbing since the LBS in your area are probably specing their bikes with straight block gearing and you might only have a 39/21 as your granny. Great for lakeshore drive, but a newbie doing a hilly century needs either a Triple, compact crankset, or at least a 25 granny if a conventional 53/42 crankset. Even if you are riding a 23 as your biggest ring in the back (unless it is a compact crankset), you are going to be hurting on this type of ride unless you're an animal, or are really acclimated to hills. If over age 40, switch clusters on your next hilly century to a 27 granny, and you will spin right up those hills.

    As far as training. I ride in SE PA, in a pretty hilly area, but I do train sometimes in South Jersey (super flat). When they visit our turf, The guys in South Jersey still can climb (provided their bike is set up right) even though they train in the flats. Back when six speed straight blocks sometimes had no ring larger than a 17 (circa 1988), it was funny watching them climb the infamous Manayunk Wall. I still see guys doing similar hills on fixed gear set ups. When I am down in the pine barrens for a week or so, I do miss real hills, so eventually you can learn to master climbs. So here is what I do. You can simulate climbing with a spin bike by cranking the tension up- I do seated "climbs" and standing "climbs". I have even tried to simulate it by pushing too big gears on a flat road while trying to keep the speed up. Spinnervals has an uphill grind tape that tries to simulate hills on a trainer. It is pretty good. If I am riding hard in Jersey for a few weeks, I can hit the hills back home without missing a beat. Finally, hook up with a Chicago area riding club. I am sure that they have routes over what little hills your area has, and you will start to get the hang of it. Finally, power to weight is key. Get lighter or get stronger. If you can do both, the battle is won.
     
  4. Lucy_Aspenwind

    Lucy_Aspenwind New Member

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    There are definitely some approaches and techniques for climbing better. As was mentioned, a triple is useful and helps keep you out of those very low cadence situations that bring on lots of fatigue. Also standing while climbing, unless you have excellent technique, is going to also contribute to you tiring very fast.

    Still, once you've covered those bases I have to think the bottom line is power-to-weight ratio. When you improve that the climbing will get better. Get that trainer and see what happens - I bet you'd get faster uphill.

    Here in NM, during the Gila stage race, you see riders even from florida, doing well on the climbs. They have good p-w numbers and do their business like everyone else. The caveat for this group? More crashes on the downhills because descending is obviously a skill, and one that is hard to practice in a genuinely flat area or on a trainer. :rolleyes:
     
  5. tigermilk

    tigermilk New Member

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    I live in Houston where we have 1 foot of elevation rise per 1 mile, give or take a few inches. The only hills are manmade and even those are few and far between. I think my biggest climb on my usual route is 10 feet. The only hills I get are a few races a year, and those are rollers.

    I'm currently in Japan for work and brought my bike. Fortunately for me there are some smaller mountains about 10 miles from the hotel. Average grades of the 2-5 mile climbs are 6-7% with some sections well over 10%. Despite not having any hills around me at home I'm climbing these ones with no problem. Why? It doesn't matter whether it's flat, hilly, or windy. Power is power. I can generate the same power for the same duration regardless of road condition and at different cadences. There's no magic. Just relax and climb.
     
  6. jhuskey

    jhuskey Moderator

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    The average here is 100 feet per mile on the flatter areas and can go above 600 feet per mile. That's why I don't cycle to work. Too much traffic and the road climbs over 1500 feet in the last 2.5 miles.
    Short of moving I would suggest using a trainer to help build strength.
    Vary the resistance in interval cycles. I do this in the colder weather and it seems to help keep most of my form through the winter.
     
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