Help for climbing hills



FrankBattle

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(Not talking to the racers here)

But be happy with your body. Lose weight if you have/want to, but work on being comfortable with your body as is rather than obsessing about climbing. You know, not everyone who drives a sports car wants to race. So, by a somewhat longish shot extension, not everyone who rides a bike should want to race/climb like big mig enduran/armstrong/mayo/basso/ullrich etc

People sometimes forget to 1. ride for fun 2. tailor their expectations to match their body styles.

Even the pros we all want to emulate do this. Take Magnus Backstedt, a fellow Clydesdale at 6' 3" ~200 lbs. He accepts the kind of rider he is. He is good at the one day classics where the routes are long, hard, rough at times but with not as much climbing as say, your average stage race.

He DNF'd at last year's Tour (and I think this year's also, no?). He gets droppe don hills, not because he is a terrible rider, but you cannot compete up hills with someone 50 lbs lighter than you with the same power output (not ratio).

So, in short, temper your expectations. I have and I feel better. I no longer stress about getting dropped when I do. Instead, I work with what I have. Sometimes I pass, sometimes I get passed, but I always hurt so good and smile ear-to-ear for every ride I get to go on.

(not saying anyone else should feel this way, but it works for me). That said, sure I would love to lose another 15 - 20 lbs, a weight I haven't seen since a very skinny form 5 (11th grade in the U.S.) of high school. And I could if I stayed committed, but, like many people, love to eat. Thank goodness I ride for fun AND fitness or I'd be in bad shape.

(I was 275 just 2.5 years ago and thought I was in decent shape!)

Sorry for the ramble. But the spirit moved me.
 

tomgaul

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Sep 10, 2003
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The weight is a given and seeing I was 217 Jan 2004 and am 190 Sep 2005 I'm moving in that direction, my military career dictates my weight be a max 0f 179lbs or body fat index of 26% or lower which at 190 and 24.5% right now works. I would like to get back into the 170's for riding fitness any way. I presumed I was do hills enough and my climbing ability has gotten better but seeing the other guys pass me still going up is kind of frustrating. I will be working harder this off season so come spring I'll be that much closer. And maybe the weight will be closer too.
 

Rocket^

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Jul 30, 2005
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All of the above advice with the addition of looking at your gearing. I recently moved to West Virginia. There are no flat routes where I live and there are numerous hills that exceed 20% grade. I'm just getting back into riding after a five year layoff. I tend to be stubborn and thought I should be able to stick with my 23, after all I spent three years riding the hills in Germany using that gearing. I finally got smart and put on a 12-27 cassette and the difference is amazing. It allows me to spin at a higher cadence and significantly decreases my times on the long climbs. In the past my problem with climbing was attitude. I felt that the climbs should make you feel like you were tearing your legs off. If you use a gear that makes you feel this way, you are more than likely going to blow before getting to the top of a long climb. Don't get me wrong, the climbs still hurt, but the difference is, my legs don't fall off me body halfway up the climb and I'm no longer delirious when I get to the top. :D
 

RapDaddyo

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May 17, 2005
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Rocket^ said:
All of the above advice with the addition of looking at your gearing. I recently moved to West Virginia. There are no flat routes where I live and there are numerous hills that exceed 20% grade. I'm just getting back into riding after a five year layoff. I tend to be stubborn and thought I should be able to stick with my 23, after all I spent three years riding the hills in Germany using that gearing. I finally got smart and put on a 12-27 cassette and the difference is amazing. It allows me to spin at a higher cadence and significantly decreases my times on the long climbs. In the past my problem with climbing was attitude. I felt that the climbs should make you feel like you were tearing your legs off. If you use a gear that makes you feel this way, you are more than likely going to blow before getting to the top of a long climb. Don't get me wrong, the climbs still hurt, but the difference is, my legs don't fall off me body halfway up the climb and I'm no longer delirious when I get to the top. :D
I think you've put your finger on a huge and underappreciated aspect of climbing -- cadence. Like you, I climb better at a higher cadence. I have been training for a 17.5 mile hillclimb TT and after a couple of practice rides I have changed both my cogset and cranks to achieve a 30% increase in my cadence in the steepest sections. I plan to do some testing to see if my maximum sustainable power for a given duration is actually higher at the higher cadences but I already know that I am a lot happier spinning a smaller gear.
 

dhk

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Sep 1, 2003
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Rocket^ said:
All of the above advice with the addition of looking at your gearing. I recently moved to West Virginia. There are no flat routes where I live and there are numerous hills that exceed 20% grade. I'm just getting back into riding after a five year layoff. I tend to be stubborn and thought I should be able to stick with my 23, after all I spent three years riding the hills in Germany using that gearing. I finally got smart and put on a 12-27 cassette and the difference is amazing. It allows me to spin at a higher cadence and significantly decreases my times on the long climbs. In the past my problem with climbing was attitude. I felt that the climbs should make you feel like you were tearing your legs off. If you use a gear that makes you feel this way, you are more than likely going to blow before getting to the top of a long climb. Don't get me wrong, the climbs still hurt, but the difference is, my legs don't fall off me body halfway up the climb and I'm no longer delirious when I get to the top. :D
Agree the right gearing makes us faster on long climbs. But, considering Lance used a 27 in the big climbing stage of the Tour de Georgia in April, I'd think you may still be overgeared. Also read that Team Navigator used triples that day. Whatever you need to climb the fastest is certainly the way I want to go.
 

RapDaddyo

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May 17, 2005
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dhk said:
Agree the right gearing makes us faster on long climbs. But, considering Lance used a 27 in the big climbing stage of the Tour de Georgia in April, I'd think you may still be overgeared. Also read that Team Navigator used triples that day. Whatever you need to climb the fastest is certainly the way I want to go.
I completely agree with you. Unfortunately, the whole notion of small gears has been denigrated with the common term, "Granny Gears." I think some people associate steep grades with low cadences and hard grinding. They feel as though they need to grind it out "like a real man." I totally disagree with this way of thinking. I simply want to get to the top of the climb as quickly as possible using as little energy as possible for that speed. I could care less what term people use to characterize my gearing, especially if I get to the top a minute ahead of them. I may not say it, but I'm thinking, "Well, looks like Granny kicked your a**."
 

squidwranglr

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Jul 25, 2004
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RapDaddyo said:
I think you've put your finger on a huge and underappreciated aspect of climbing -- cadence. Like you, I climb better at a higher cadence. I have been training for a 17.5 mile hillclimb TT and after a couple of practice rides I have changed both my cogset and cranks to achieve a 30% increase in my cadence in the steepest sections. I plan to do some testing to see if my maximum sustainable power for a given duration is actually higher at the higher cadences but I already know that I am a lot happier spinning a smaller gear.
This is so true and I'm this ->| |<- close to changing my gearing for this very benefit. Mind you, I already have a triple and my smallest gear is a 30/25 and I never shy away from getting into my "granny" when I'm doing >8% grade climbs, but that still means that at ~6.5 mph (what I can hold as an average for a 15 minute climb at 9% grade with ~220 W), my cadence is around 70 RPM. Guess what, put me on flat to rolling terrain, my natural average cadence for a one hour ride close to TT pace is ~115 RPM. That's a huge difference for me and my legs feel like ****. Way worse than how they feel putting out a similar amount of power on flats or slight grades at much faster speeds, allowing my natural cadence.

I think if I could raise my climbing cadence to around 90, I'd get more effective training toward becoming a better climber. And, as I improve my climbing and my sustained power levels, I can go back to more "normal" gearings that won't make people fall of their proverbial chairs when they hear the ratios.

Rap - I'd be very curious to hear how the new gearing works for you.

Berend
 

RapDaddyo

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squidwranglr said:
put me on flat to rolling terrain, my natural average cadence for a one hour ride close to TT pace is ~115 RPM. That's a huge difference for me and my legs feel like ****. Way worse than how they feel putting out a similar amount of power on flats or slight grades at much faster speeds, allowing my natural cadence.
Same here. That's what prompted me to consider gear ratios that I have never ridden before. The only problem was that I had to change both my cassette and my cranks to get the cadences I wanted.

squidwranglr said:
I think if I could raise my climbing cadence to around 90, I'd get more effective training toward becoming a better climber. And, as I improve my climbing and my sustained power levels, I can go back to more "normal" gearings that won't make people fall of their proverbial chairs when they hear the ratios.
I agree. Personally, I could care less what people think of my gear ratios. We can discuss it at the top of the hill.

squidwranglr said:
Rap - I'd be very curious to hear how the new gearing works for you.
I'll include a discussion of that in my post-race wrap-up posting.
 

whoawhoa

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Oct 28, 2004
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frenchyge said:
You're right about all that, it's just that everyone's beating the weight drum pretty hard and I felt the need to dissent. :eek: I laugh when people talk about how a skinny guy on a ride must be a 'climber' or a big guy must be a 'non-climber'. It's funny because at the recreational level, fitness level and good technique make much bigger differences than size/weight. I'm 175 and am always one of the 3 best, if not *the best* climber on all my local rides.

I know we cyclists get weight pounded into our heads until it is ingrained, and it does make a big difference *when fitness levels are nearly equal.* However, dropping 20 lbs will only help on the hills, whereas interval work to raise fitness will help on the flats as well, and improve recovery times to boot. Dropping weight isn't the end-all for climbing - you have to be fit too (and what better way to shed those pounds than some tough interval work?).
I feel the same way. I'm 5' 8, just under 140 pounds, which sounds really light, but I'm fifteen and compete against some kids who weigh much less than that. There is a rider in my area who is often on local group rides and who I often race against. He is 120 pounds, my height. At a 20k tt this year, he was only 7 seconds behind me. I consider time trialing a physiological strength of mine, however, it was my first one in two years, and I had abysmal pacing strategy. Even with a better one, though, I think I would have been no more than 30 seconds ahead of him.

So what happens when we hit the hills? I don't know, other than he goes backwards. I drop him anytime the road tilts up, despite the fact that his absolute power should be near mine and therefore his power-to-weight should be higher. I don't know if it's technique, cadence, what. Strange. Of course, I'm not complaining.
 

Squint

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Jul 27, 2003
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whoawhoa said:
I feel the same way. I'm 5' 8, just under 140 pounds, which sounds really light, but I'm fifteen and compete against some kids who weigh much less than that. There is a rider in my area who is often on local group rides and who I often race against. He is 120 pounds, my height. At a 20k tt this year, he was only 7 seconds behind me. I consider time trialing a physiological strength of mine, however, it was my first one in two years, and I had abysmal pacing strategy. Even with a better one, though, I think I would have been no more than 30 seconds ahead of him.

So what happens when we hit the hills? I don't know, other than he goes backwards. I drop him anytime the road tilts up, despite the fact that his absolute power should be near mine and therefore his power-to-weight should be higher. I don't know if it's technique, cadence, what. Strange. Of course, I'm not complaining.


Maybe he has good aerodynamics and you have poor aerodynamics? And you have higher absolute and relative power? Height is only one part of aerodynamics.
 

whoawhoa

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Squint said:
Maybe he has good aerodynamics and you have poor aerodynamics? And you have higher absolute and relative power? Height is only one part of aerodynamics.
Maybe. That's certainly one answer. In tt's we both ride similar equipment, and I think I have a fairly aerodynamic position. Although I've been a bit too high, I'm moving my position towards being completely flat-backed.
 

Carrera

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Feb 2, 2004
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A short time ago, I overtook a rider who probably weighed 150 pounds while I myself am up around 195. This was on a medium steep hill. My weight doesn't seem to hinder me on explosive uphill effort but maybe it would be a factor over far greater distances.

F1_Fan said:
I didn't say he should reach the weights in that chart... it's just presented for information. At 190 lbs he is on the heavy side for someone who is 5'10" (I know, I've been there) unless he's a big build. Suggesting weight loss is actually the easy way to improve his climbing.

A moderately aggressive weight loss routine can see a loss of 2 lbs/week. In 10 weeks he'd be 170 lbs and climbing much better with less effort than 10 weeks of hill work. However, combine the weight loss with hill work and he'll be flying!!
 

Squint

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Carrera said:
A short time ago, I overtook a rider who probably weighed 150 pounds while I myself am up around 195. This was on a medium steep hill. My weight doesn't seem to hinder me on explosive uphill effort but maybe it would be a factor over far greater distances.

Well, you don't necessarily know how hard he was going. The only real tell is if they're breathing like a locomotive when you pass them.

I weigh about 150 and all kinds of people pass me when I'm on a climb and riding <150W. However, when I start my 2x20 workout, I usually blaze past them and am out of sight in no time.
 

F1_Fan

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Carrera said:
A short time ago, I overtook a rider who probably weighed 150 pounds while I myself am up around 195. This was on a medium steep hill. My weight doesn't seem to hinder me on explosive uphill effort but maybe it would be a factor over far greater distances.

OK, let me rephrase my post... take two riders, one heavier and one lighter. You can't predict climbing performance for those riders based on their weights. However, for a single rider that is looking to improve climbing perfomance *and* could lose a few pounds, weight loss is the quickest way to improve climbing performance.

Climbing is all about power to weight. Increase power, decrease weight or both... it's your choice. Personally after starting at 190 lbs, I'm now 160 and weight isn't hindering me any more... I'm still slower than my peers... my winter is all about power workouts now :)
 

Squint

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F1_Fan said:
Climbing is all about power to weight. Increase power, decrease weight or both... it's your choice. Personally after starting at 190 lbs, I'm now 160 and weight isn't hindering me any more... I'm still slower than my peers... my winter is all about power workouts now :)

Aren't all cycling workouts intended to increase power output and/or reduce body mass?
 

F1_Fan

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Squint said:
Aren't all cycling workouts intended to increase power output and/or reduce body mass?

No.

An easy 3 hour ride (Carmichael's Foundation Miles or what most people call LSD) is going to burn calories but develop little power. High-intensity intervals are going to build power but result in very little weight loss.
 

Carrera

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In a book I'm reading on Ovett and Seb Coe, I found a highly amusing quotation. Don't get me wrong. I agree with the whole power to weight ration creed but every once in a while you get someone who seems to defy logic.
One was an endurance runner called Elliot and I quote:

"Elliot was the most unlikey-looking cross country runner I'd ever seen. He was built - in popular parlance - like a brick shithouse and was correspondingly indefatigable."


F1_Fan said:
OK, let me rephrase my post... take two riders, one heavier and one lighter. You can't predict climbing performance for those riders based on their weights. However, for a single rider that is looking to improve climbing perfomance *and* could lose a few pounds, weight loss is the quickest way to improve climbing performance.

Climbing is all about power to weight. Increase power, decrease weight or both... it's your choice. Personally after starting at 190 lbs, I'm now 160 and weight isn't hindering me any more... I'm still slower than my peers... my winter is all about power workouts now :)
 

Roach11

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Jul 24, 2005
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Just wanted to add a few points:

A) I am 5'10" and 30yrs old, 2 years ago I weighed 205lbs and couldn't climb worth a damn. Today I am 165lbs and am easily the bext climber in my group. I not only attribute this to weight loss but more on "learning how to suffer". On days when you so not want to climb a hill climb it! And when you are done climbing it turn around and repeat the same climb 5-10 times until you are satisfied.

B) Breathing and heart rate control, control your breathing, quick inhales and long exhales. Do not go at your maximum when climbing, I usually try to stay at 80% of my max when climbing, that way you have some gas left in the tank when you are done. Use your HR monitor for this.

Just my 2 cents.