how do you climb hills?

Discussion in 'Touring and recreational cycling' started by lugger, Nov 27, 2005.

  1. lugger

    lugger New Member

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    How do you folks climb hills, not for racing, but for touring all day with a full load of gear?

    How do you choose when to downshift and when to stand up?

    How do you work the pedals (pushing, pulling, resting)?

    Do you regulate your breathing?

    How much momentum do you try to maintain?

    What else do you do?

    Do you have or know of a technique? I don’t really have a technique. Downshifting, standing, breathing, how I push and pull on the pedals… is all random.

    The toughest hill I climb, without any load, is 11% grade for .07 mi or .1km. Short and steep. How do you climb hills like that and other kinds of hills when training and when touring?

    My front chainrings are 52,42,30, but I try not to use the 30 because I don't want to bail out without a load on my bike. My nine speed cassette is 12-32.
     
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  2. nun

    nun New Member

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    I'd love to know this too. Gears are a big part of it. My lowest is 26-28 and the most hill I've managed with that is a 10% grade for about 1km. I'm getting a new bike with a 24-34 lowest gear and I should be able to crawl up steeper/longer hills. Conditioning is also obviously important, I'm 44 and 200lbs so loosing some weight will improve things for me. I've seen young guys climb that 10% 1km hill of fixed gear bikes.

    My strategy for hill climbing is to shift whenever I feel my cadence going down and i try to keep it at about 80 rpm. I get out of the saddle if I feel the cadence dropping and to stretch the legs a bit.
     
  3. xilios

    xilios New Member

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    On my first ever long tour from Holland to Greece http://www.geocities.com/xilios/index.html
    I did a bit of training first to get in shape for crossing the Alps,
    (Splugen pass) as I never done any real climbing before.
    I'm 45 and 95kg and the training helped quite a bit. I also have a 42-32-22 front and 32-11 rear (8 speed) sprockets, I realy needed them with +/-35kgs on the bike.
    As for the climbing I paced my breathing with paddling (like every other stroke of a paddle) and stoped often, before I was totaly spent, and just for a minute or two, no more. Looking down on the road and not up at the top of the hill also helps.
    Most of your questions should answer themselve's, with more training on a loaded bike.
    Cheers :)
     
  4. captn willard

    captn willard New Member

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    Depends on the length and grade of the hill but I always in the saddle and use my smallest gears to maintain the same cadence as I use on flats. Downshift before your legs tell you you have to. Hairpin turns I take wide as possible and I avoid stopping until I crest the hill, a rise in the hill or hit a flat section. This is just a mental trick. Starting up again on a climb is seems to demotivate.
     
  5. lugger

    lugger New Member

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    Thanks for all these replies. I think I will combine them by downshifting sooner, riding with a faster cadence and breathing more rhythmically. And get in better shape.
     
  6. geoffs

    geoffs New Member

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    Getting in shape is the biggest help. We use hrm's to make sure that we keep an even pace and don't blow up. The logest continous hill we did in France was thew Col Turini which was 26kms of up to 9%. With the tandem fully loaded we were using a low gear of 26-34 which we found just right for us.
    This worked out to be 8.5kmh at a cadence of 90rpm.
    Most days seemed to start with a hill between 7 and 10kms long. Either the campsite was at the top of a hill and there was a quick run down to the first climb of the day or we would reach the first hill within a the first few kms.
    Its a great way to lose the kilos though. I went from 97 down to 87 in 6 weeks!
    Now that we are back in Sydney my wife never complains about any of the hills here.

    Cheers

    Geoff
     
  7. philso

    philso New Member

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    at first i thought you meant "pedaling", but with 35kg's, i see that you brought the kayak along too. wow! :cool:





     
  8. geoffs

    geoffs New Member

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    It's amazing what people think they need when they are touring.

    They first tour that I did was around Europe for 6 months and I did about 11,000kms. The day before I started I had 2 friends (who had cycled from London to Sydney) go through my panniers and remove all the things that they were sure that I wouldn't need. Saved me from carrying about 5kg.When you are fit that doesn't matter as much but when you are starting out every bit counts

    Cheers

    Geoff
     
  9. xilios

    xilios New Member

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    LOL, no Kayak, but thanks for the correction.
    Even with all the research I done, I still managed to pack 35kg's, including food and water, (but dont forget it was my first tour).
    I have learned quite a bit on that ride, and my next one in May 2006, from Holland to Spain, (with my wife this time), will be different, (and a bit lighter).

    cheers :D
     
  10. mgagnonlv

    mgagnonlv New Member

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    My technique? Keep the pace, pure and simple! On flat terrain, I spin the pedals at 75-85 rpm, so on hills, I try to maintain 70 rpm, except on steeper hills where I maintain at least a 60 rpm cadence.

    This means, however, that I have much lower gears than you. My touring bike has 44-34-22 and a 12-34 custom cassette. With your cranhset, I would suggest using 48-38-24 chainrings (the smallest that fits), or at the very least a 26 granny.
     
  11. daavq

    daavq New Member

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    I find that hills are more a mental thing for me. Some days you get the hill, some days the hill gets you. I learned a simple mental trick that seems to help. Imagine a rope attached to the top of the hill and your handle bars. As you pedal the rope helps pull you up the hill.
     
  12. rsheard

    rsheard New Member

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    I've always found having a training partner who is fitter than I am and willing to laugh at my pain is an excellent motivator!
     
  13. Timmer

    Timmer New Member

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    How do I climb? Slowly
    ;)
     
  14. sfl99

    sfl99 New Member

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    Standing on a loaded bike is likely to get you into trouble. In my experience I would stand on a VERY short rolling hill when you are just trying to maintain existing speed to blast over it. Even so, don't do anything that might blow your heartrate or your legs, as that could make for a long day. If you are going to stand, I recommend practicing it at slower speeds first, as a loaded bike does not rock back and forth easily
    like a sport bike, and you could crash.

    I agree with the other advice on pedaling. 60-80 cadence in the saddle, pedel smoothly around the circle. Do not pull up really hard on the pedels as lots of folks I know seem to end up with injuries from that. Some folks like to rock forward and back (I call it the chicken head) to get their arms and torso engaged. Breath! Steady deep breathing is vital, as well as maintaining a sustainable heartrate. Also, don't wobble all over the place. That wastes tons of energy. Keeping a nice straight line will help maintain momentum and focus. Seat height is VERY important. Too low and you don't get a good kick at the bottom of each stroke. If your quads are really cramping/burning, sometimes that is a symptom of "seat-to-low". If you are too high, you will rock on your seat (unhappy butt) and potentially injure your knees.

    Shift to maintain your cadence. Occasionally switch to standing for a few strokes just to get off your butt. Before standing, shift up two gears in the rear. Before sitting back down, shift back down again. Your butt will thank you for a few seconds out of the saddle here and there :) You can also stand for a few moments just to get the bike moving a bit, but don't
    spike your heartrate or get into oxygen defecit.

    When it comes down to it, sustained climbing benefits from technique and rythem just as much as fitness. A high pain tolerance helps too :) Get out
    on some longer hills and find your sweet spot. If you climb seated, unloaded climbing skills will tranfer well to loaded climbing. Look to tackle grades averaging 6-8% for starters, at least 2 miles long.

    Your gearing should be sufficient for most terrain. Use your 30 when needed to maintain cadence. That's what it is there for. A compact triple in the front (48/38/26 or something) could help more. Be sure to consult an expert bike mechanic, as not all derailleurs and shifters get along with all gearings, which could cause a lot of chain noise or poor shifting and just plain headache.
     
  15. Chris410

    Chris410 New Member

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    Good advice, make sure and work on your breathing, very very important on climbs and try to stay in the saddle at a consistent pace as much as you can. I see a lot of people who vary their pace which causes double the work. If climbing is your weakness the best way to improve is to climb...climb...and climb even more.

    Also, approach the climb with a positive attitude, I used to run away from people quite a bit simply because they would defeat themselves right away...instead attack the climb! If you're in a race, watch the people around you, if you see them struggling, bobbing their upper bodies or standing a lot...use that opportunity to attack no matter how hard it hurt...trust me it will allow you to get away quickly!

    Good luck!
     
  16. Hive

    Hive New Member

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    I live in a hilly area and just to get back to my home I must ride 1/3 mile or so up 4% grades right to driveway. (There are worse home routes, I know.)

    If I go for a cruise up highway, that is 5 miles of 3 to 4%. I never stand as I seem to gotop heavy and balance is problem. I breath steady and long and maintain a particular cadence, gradually getting to gear as I go - I know hill and when to shift, whcih is as individual thing as there is on a climb. There is a page on the web about breathing that I found to be very informative, but I forgot the URL, but try "The Bicycle Man," or http://www.sheldonbrown.com/nexus.html

    I got tired of the knee strain and am putting a putter on the back, so I can breath easy once more.
     
  17. lugger

    lugger New Member

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    After reading these posts, I have been thinking about and observing my cadence and gearing dynamics. First, though, as several people have said, the huge over-riding issue is getting in shape. Period. As Xilios says, looking down at the road, not up the hill, helps too.

    After thinking about what others said, I now realize I do have a cadence range for hills. I let my momentum drop at the beginning of the hill and then shift gears to keep that slower pace. After a bit, my cadence drops again and I shift to try to maintain that new cadence. Then, again, I slow the pace more and shift to try to hold that, etc, etc. It’s like a gradual fade toward first (gear). One thing I realize now is that I might try shifting sooner and pedaling a bit faster.

    I stand whenever I want to change where and how my muscles have that burning feeling and to keep my current cadence before slowing again.

    Breathing is something I have to pay attention to more, as folks say. I hope I don’t hold my breath or breath shallow until I am gasping! Better check that.

    On hills, I do not pull up on the pedals much, or at all. Rather, I use the up stroke to rest.

    I try not to rock the bike much. With lots of gear, as SFL99 suggests, rocking can easily tip the bike and the gear itself helps hold the bike steady. Sometimes I move around the bike and keep the bike straight ahead and straight up, even with no gear.

    Thanks for the posts. They really helped me observe what I do and think of alternatives.
     
  18. Chris410

    Chris410 New Member

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    Good to see the post was productive, also remember that your legs will feel the hill right away, do not let this discourage you...attack the hill with a positive attitude!!! I've lost count of how many times I've looked around and seen people getting discouraged...which made my job of taking off that much easier.

    Hills are 60% mental and 40% physical...don't defeat yourself!!!
     
  19. geoffs

    geoffs New Member

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    After reading these posts, I have been thinking about and observing my cadence and gearing dynamics. First, though, as several people have said, the huge over-riding issue is getting in shape. Period. As Xilios says, looking down at the road, not up the hill, helps too.

    After thinking about what others said, I now realize I do have a cadence range for hills. I let my momentum drop at the beginning of the hill and then shift gears to keep that slower pace. After a bit, my cadence drops again and I shift to try to maintain that new cadence. Then, again, I slow the pace more and shift to try to hold that, etc, etc. It’s like a gradual fade toward first (gear). One thing I realize now is that I might try shifting sooner and pedaling a bit faster.


    Your pace will slow but you should be maintaining the same cadence unless the hill is so steep that you are unable to maintain your cadence in the lowest gear. This is what is referred to when "grinding" up the hill. When you are able to maintain your cadence in a gear it's called "staying on top of the gear".

    I stand whenever I want to change where and how my muscles have that burning feeling and to keep my current cadence before slowing again.

    Try to change before they burn :eek:)


    On hills, I do not pull up on the pedals much, or at all. Rather, I use the up stroke to rest.

    Climbing is where the benefit of clipless pedals is at its greatest. A motion that involves pretending to scrape the mud off your feet and pulling up so that your feet are pedalling in circles will give you 15-30% more power. A smooth pedalling style will use much less energy and be much kinder on the knees.
    Riding a fixed wheel bike is the perfect way to develop a smooth efficient style. This is why most pro's now spend the fist part of the season training on fixed wheels to smooth their skills so they can "dance" on the pedals.
    You learn more about how to pedal properly on a fixie than you will in a year of trying to on a bike that lets you freewheel.


    Good luck

    Geoff
     
  20. Canadiense

    Canadiense New Member

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    Excellent advice one and all. The only thing I will add is that I start deep breathing and quicken my breathing pace before my body demands it. Delivery of oxygen to the muscles is what it is about so I get a head start on that. It seems to work for me.

    When my wife started riding with me (two years ago) she was struggling with hills. Once she employed this technique, hills became almost pleasurable for her (she now prefers up to down). Yesterday we were out for a training ride for an upcoming mini tour. Given the option she always chose more hills to climb.

    There is no substitute for physical/mental conditioning, cadence management, hydration, nourishment, topping off electrolytes and practice. Its all very simple really.
     
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