Question about climbing, RPMs, and pedal force



JCNeumann

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Oct 22, 2012
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14% at 1.1 is still a brutal climb. I break out into a sweat just thinking about running it, never mind biking!

I am about your same weight (230), and hills are a bear. What seems to have made a difference for me over the last year, has been:

  • Hard intervals either running or on an elliptical (<2 minutes and you should not be able to talk) to get my heart rate up - this seems to have kept me from blowing up.
  • Lots of stretching and core exercises like planks, squats, deadlifts to strengthen the back and hips - let's you stand up a little better
  • Explosive power from box jumps and plyometrics
  • If you have access to a gym with a real Stairmaster (looks like an escalator) crank the speed up, take two steps at a time and hang on to the bars - it gives you a little simulation of being on the bars

The nice part of this is it is good general fitness, and doesn't take a long time. No, it isn't bike-specific and I'd stress my experience is anecdotal. I live in SW Connecticut and we have some decent rolling hills, but nothing like what you are talking about.

A couple of posters have also mentioned rollers, and those are awesome. Make the room for them, as they will force you to have a smooth, even, consistent cadence. Plus you ride whenever you want, regardless of weather conditions.

There's also a very cool site by a guy who likes to climb Mt. Washinton (New Hampshire) - http://www.northeastcycling.com/hillclimb_handbook.htm

It has a lot of very good information, plus some good laughs.
 

An old Guy

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Feb 12, 2011
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Originally Posted by jpwkeeper .

14% at 1.1 miles
3mph at your weight requires about 200w for 20 minutes. 4mph; 260w for 15 minutes.

Using a 39/30 3mph is 30rpm; 4mph is 40rpm.

Not knowing what sort of power you can put out or what gearing you have:

You are going to have problems in finding a comfortable cadence and a comfortable power output. But you will get used to the cadence you can maintain.
 

maydog

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Feb 5, 2010
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Where are all these ridiculous 14% grade roads? The reality, for most normal folk, is that sustained grades of more than a few percent are challenging. Grades approaching 10% separate the men from the boys. I am pretty sure most of our riding form turns to **** at 4mph.

For a more likely scenario perhaps we should use something like a 5% grade as an example that Joe rider may actually encounter.
 

dsb137

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Sep 13, 2006
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Originally Posted by maydog .

Where are all these ridiculous 14% grade roads? The reality, for most normal folk, is that sustained grades of more than a few percent are challenging. Grades approaching 10% separate the men from the boys. I am pretty sure most of our riding form turns to **** at 4mph.

For a more likely scenario perhaps we should use something like a 5% grade as an example that Joe rider may actually encounter.
Come on down to GA...

http://mybloodybikeblog.com/brasstown-bald/
http://mybloodybikeblog.com/hog-pen-gap/
http://mybloodybikeblog.com/wolf-pen-gap/
http://mybloodybikeblog.com/six-gap-century/

We have a few to choose from... /img/vbsmilies/smilies/biggrin.gif
 

Felt_Rider

Active Member
Oct 24, 2004
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Originally Posted by dsb137 .


Come on down to GA...

http://mybloodybikeblog.com/brasstown-bald/
http://mybloodybikeblog.com/hog-pen-gap/
http://mybloodybikeblog.com/wolf-pen-gap/
http://mybloodybikeblog.com/six-gap-century/

We have a few to choose from... /img/vbsmilies/smilies/biggrin.gif
It's been a couple years since I ventured to your side of town and did the gaps. I have never attempted Brasstown Bald. Just riding up to the road is intimidating enough when you look at the wall. I've done Burkhalter Gap (20% toward the top) a number of times near Chattanooga and never had to come off the bike, but got real close.

Hog Pen no doubt is a relentless beast. With a 34/28 my hand starts to hit the shifter as if my legs are just hoping for one more cog.
 

jpwkeeper

Member
Jul 25, 2004
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Originally Posted by maydog .

Where are all these ridiculous 14% grade roads? The reality, for most normal folk, is that sustained grades of more than a few percent are challenging. Grades approaching 10% separate the men from the boys. I am pretty sure most of our riding form turns to **** at 4mph.

For a more likely scenario perhaps we should use something like a 5% grade as an example that Joe rider may actually encounter.
In this case it was halfway through a ride I was planning to do as a challenge to myself in June up in the mountains of Western Maryland. Sadly, life intervened. My big goal was to NOT have to walk my bike up that hill.
 

An old Guy

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Feb 12, 2011
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Originally Posted by maydog .

Where are all these ridiculous 14% grade roads? The reality, for most normal folk, is that sustained grades of more than a few percent are challenging. Grades approaching 10% separate the men from the boys. I am pretty sure most of our riding form turns to **** at 4mph.

For a more likely scenario perhaps we should use something like a 5% grade as an example that Joe rider may actually encounter.
While I agree that sustained climbs of more than 5% are uncommon. 8-9% for 1/2 mile or so are not rare.

It is weight that slows one down on hills. I can climb 6mph (50/27 @ 60rpm) up 8-9% hills at 175-200w. But I don't weigh much - 140pounds. Add 50% to my weight - to 200pounds, and the rpms start to fall while the speed falls and and a 200 pound guy spends 50% longer climbing at a more uncomfortable cadence. If he tries to keep up, it just gets worse.
 

dsb137

New Member
Sep 13, 2006
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Originally Posted by Felt_Rider .

Hog Pen no doubt is a relentless beast. With a 34/28 my hand starts to hit the shifter as if my legs are just hoping for one more cog.
Don't feel bad Felt, there were plenty of pros doing the same thing when the TdG went thru, there were also plenty of pros doing the 'paper boy' up Brasstown, and I'm pretty sure Cipo and a couple other would have had to walk if they hadn't been pushed...

UCI rated Brasstown HC, and Hog Pen a Cat 1 for the TdG for what it's worth...
 

ira41

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Nov 1, 2012
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This is an interesting discussion as I have recently found.

Cadence doesnt matter at all, it takes a particular wattage to get up a hill at a given weight, whether than wattage comes from 60rpm in a given gear or 90rpm in a given gear.

I do think seated climbing is more efficient for most of us who dont have great out of the saddle climbing technique.
 

alienator

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Jun 10, 2004
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ira41 said:
This is an interesting discussion as I have recently found. Cadence doesnt matter at all, it takes a particular wattage to get up a hill at a given weight, whether than wattage comes from 60rpm in a given gear or 90rpm in a given gear. I do think seated climbing is more efficient for most of us who dont have great out of the saddle climbing technique.
Cadence does matter because a given rider will have their optimum power output at a given cadence or in as given cadence range. It's a matter of efficiency. If a rider's power output is most efficient at 90rpm, putting out 300W at 40 or 120rpm will have a greater physical cost.
 

jpwkeeper

Member
Jul 25, 2004
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Originally Posted by ira41 .

This is an interesting discussion as I have recently found.

Cadence doesnt matter at all, it takes a particular wattage to get up a hill at a given weight, whether than wattage comes from 60rpm in a given gear or 90rpm in a given gear.

I do think seated climbing is more efficient for most of us who dont have great out of the saddle climbing technique.
That's true...right up until you hit a hill steep enough that in your lowest gear 90RPMs represents more wattage than you can sustain, then the only thing that you have left to give to get the watts down to where you're not going to die is the cadence. For these elite riders on the forums that might not be possible, but for us fat newbs, not so much.
 

daveryanwyoming

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Oct 3, 2006
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Originally Posted by jpwkeeper .

That's true...right up until you hit a hill steep enough that in your lowest gear 90RPMs represents more wattage than you can sustain, then the only thing that you have left to give to get the watts down to where you're not going to die is the cadence. For these elite riders on the forums that might not be possible, but for us fat newbs, not so much.
I hear what you're saying, but Alienator put it more accurately. There's nothing magical about 90 rpm and most folks don't climb steep hills holding that cadence. But when you fall outside your useful power band, whatever that is, then things can get ugly on a long climb. A given rider might still climb very effectively at 70 or even 60 rpm on steep hills but for others that might bog them down so far they're in deep trouble if they don't have lower gears.

But the gist of what you're saying is right, cadence doesn't matter as long as you don't get too far outside of your useful range.

-Dave
 

edd

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Jul 8, 2003
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Originally Posted by alienator .


Cadence does matter because a given rider will have their optimum power output at a given cadence or in as given cadence range. It's a matter of efficiency. If a rider's power output is most efficient at 90rpm, putting out 300W at 40 or 120rpm will have a greater physical cost.
… and your optimum hill climbing cadence will probably be slower than your optimum flat road cadence as on a hill the power has to be constant, on flat-ish road not so much. There always is the managing the fatigue issue, if you can see the top of the hill, you may choose to extend yourself a little. Slower heavier cadence will/may fatigue the muscles faster than higher cadences. I say may as there are some freaks out there. I once followed a bod up from Bowra Ferry who did the entire climb at a cadence of a bout 40 in the big chain ring, elephant steps.
 

vspa

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Jan 11, 2009
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i think that there's not much you can do about cadence and other parameters when you are not fit, especially when climbing,
 

edd

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Jul 8, 2003
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Originally Posted by vspa .

i think that there's not much you can do about cadence and other parameters when you are not fit, especially when climbing,
Maybe, but you get better at what you do. fitness is extremely activity, action, velocity specific. So you get better at producing power in the cadences you train in. That said, if you are or have to win races then you also need to know what cadence works best for you.