Red lining so quickly on inclines/mountains

Discussion in 'Cycling Training' started by JamesAA, Aug 10, 2013.

  1. JamesAA

    JamesAA New Member

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    Hi. I'm a 39 y/o, athletic male that has fallen in love with road cycling ever since getting hooked to the Tour de France on TV a couple years ago. I'm 5'7, 157 lbs. I have strong legs but also a strong chest and arms which gives me some dead weight unfortunately and doesn't help when biking uphill. I also am sitting around 14-15% body fat...again, not the most ideal. I don't have twig arms like the pro riders.

    Anyway my problem is I reach 170 bpm heart rate (which is red line for me, i.e. 90% of my HR max) after just 60 seconds going up a hill--not the 1st time up it but by the 3rd or certainly 4th rep. I usually hit 158 bpm after the 1st time up. How in the hell do those guys scale Alp d' Huez????? I am in aw of that. I should note that my road bike is cheap. I paid $300 for it. It has 21 gears and it's 31 lbs. I ride in gear 2 (left handle) and gear 1 (right handle). I try to downshift to gear 1 on the right side but for some reason it won't shift into that gear. Anyway the gear I go up with is pretty low, and I know this because it's so useless on flats. Sorry for my terminology in describing these gears...I don't know how else to describe it. I'm a newbie. :)

    But I exercise regularly, I do high intensity interval training and play lots of tennis, so I'm not a couch potato, yet I cannot go more than 1 minute up a hill. Is that somewhat normal for a non pro like me?

    And for all you bay area riders if anyone is familiar with Deep Cliff Golf Course in Cupertino, there is a road that goes up and makes a 180 left turn then flattens out and eventually T's into Foothill Expy. This is the "hill" I am referring too. It's short and not like crazy steep or anything. I have no clue what the gradient is, however, but I know I've driven up much steeper grades in my car.

    Anyway I want to be able to climb mountains like they do in the tour, but if I can't go 1-2 min up an avg hill gradient, I'm probably in trouble. lol

    I'd appreciate any comments, suggestions, etc.

    Thanks,
    James
     
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  2. smaryka

    smaryka Member

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    How long are the climbs you're talking about? Unless the climb is 2 min, you shouldn't be maxed out in the first 90 secs and if you are, you're pacing it poorly.

    The pros aren't hitting Alpe d'huez at 90% of their max aerobic effort (i.e., max effort being what you can do for 5 min or so -- your Vo2max). No wonder you're blowing up if you're going that hard. Try easing off in the first few minutes of a climb then building into it (for climbs that are 5-15 min). For longer climbs like the Alpe (40 min for pros, ~60 min for decent amateurs) it's a threshold effort for the most part, which means you need to climb at the pace you can maintain for an hour.

    Better yet, borrow a powermeter and do some climbs your usual way and see the average watts you do for them, then do the climbs again where you start at that average watts and don't go over it until near the end. You'll see a massive difference. The first will show a huge first 60 sec watts with an equally huge tail-off, the second will show a much more steady effort. The latter is what you want unless you're racing and needing to hold the wheel in front (but that's a whole different post).

    An analogy would be to go run a mile on the track, except that you run the first 400m as hard as you can then try to hang on for the last 3 laps. Stupid, right? If you run a mile on the track, you try to run fairly steady laps, maybe a bit faster at the end if you can manage it. Same with 5 min climbs.
     
  3. JamesAA

    JamesAA New Member

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    Thank you for the reply. Good info! The climb I'm talking about is VERY SHORT. It takes me about 60-90 seconds (I think??) to climb. I wish I could say I was going up really fast and that that is the reason I'm hitting 90%, but I'm going up fairly slowly actually. In fact about as slow as one could without going backwards. But I might be starting this climb "harder" than I should. What you said about easing into it is probably contrary to what I've been doing. I think that I'm trying to hit it hard, initially, to get some momentum. It sounds like that's the totally wrong approach, however.

    What percentage are most riders (pros and non pros for that matter) hitting, as they ascend Alp? I assumed they were just able to sustain 90% for an hour. If they can go up those mountains while under 90% then I am beyond impressed.

    Does my 31 lbs bike and some dead body weight (upper body muscles from years of playing football) and some minor belly fat play a large role into my red lining factor? What about my age? I'm 40.

    I should note that my 1st ascent up this hill only brought my HR to 155 bpm, which is roughly 85% of my HR max. It was only creeping up in the 90% range after the 3rd, 4th and 5th intervals (I went up the hill, then raced down, then climbed back up a total of 5 times). My HR was at 135 bpm (or 75%) at the base of the hill, just before going back up.
     
  4. sitzmark

    sitzmark Member

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    Yes, the bike weight and body weight are most likely adding to your woes. What kind of mileage are you putting in weekly? How many days? Any miles before the hill work, or are you just going out and pounding the hill repeatedly without warming up? What kind of conditions (temperature/humidity) are you doing hill repeats in?

    You are doing hill repeats .. you have to expect each successive repeat is going to take a little more out of you. That's the idea. What cadence are you spinning (or grinding)? Gear position doesn't mean much - number of teeth front and rear will tell you your gear ratio.

    We share a very similar red line. 170+ and I know the effort is short-lived - especially in heat. 180 and I back off. I typically don't train (cycling) during the winter, so what it takes to get me to red line early season is different than what it takes to get me there after I have some mileage in. Due to work, I had a low mileage total last year (under 3k miles) and just hit 200+ miles a week this season. Finally I'm starting to get hill legs/lungs back. A "good season" for me is 3,500 -5,000 miles and it makes a definite difference.

    I'm in my 5th season of riding. I started at almost 220lbs - 6'1". Not terribly fit when I started, but active in many sports (tennis, skiing, etc.) and had done quite a bit of lifting prior. By second season I was down slightly under 180 and most of my upper body mass (shoulders, arms, face, neck) had disappeared. Thankfully most all of my middle too - everything but small love handles. They suck :) I lost too much and had no stamina until I bumped back to 185/190. Now sitting at 198lbs, 55 yo, and I have struggled on hills so far this season. Where I previously pulled them, I'm now the guy in the rear. Now that my mileage is finally up, things are starting to change.

    So ... there are many factors involved. If you are not getting a lot of miles in every week, then your HR response to hill repeats is not unexpected. If you've been doing nothing but hill repeats every day for 5 months and not improving, then something's wrong.

    Without a better sense of the hill you're training on and the work you're putting in, there's little relevant comparison. Great info by smaryka as a place to start. If you can dump your ride data into MapMyRide, Strava, or something else, see if there is some comparative data from other riders for that climb.
     
  5. alfeng

    alfeng Well-Known Member

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    For the time being, try going up the hill(s) in a lower gear (one Cog size larger than whatever you are currently using).

    BTW. The INNER STOP on your front derailleur apparently needs to be adjusted OR your shifter is broken ...

    • Check www.parktool.com and/or YouTube.

    BTW2. Is your bike a MTB?

    Regardless, check your moving parts to ensure that nothing is binding AND that your brake pads are not rubbing against the rims.
     
  6. RidingSeed

    RidingSeed New Member

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    A $300 bike is probably not the best option to start going hard on hills, honestly. If you are what you claim to be, you shouldn't be having that much of a problem attacking a 90 second hill, so I'd blame it on the bike. Is it even a MTB? If it's not then...well, you know you're not going to have much success with it.
     
  7. oldbobcat

    oldbobcat Well-Known Member

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    They're younger than you, skinnier than you, stronger than you, and they've been doing it longer than you. Don't sweat it, just set achievable goals for yourself and go after them. And the the heart rate monitor can help you set goals, monitor your progress, and avoid overtraining.

    After a bit of a cardiac scare last fall, my wife got me one of these things for Christmas. It's a good tool.
     
  8. Nigel Doyle

    Nigel Doyle Member

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    Are you sitting down the whole way up the hill? Standing on the pedals will make your heart rate jump a lot. Better to have a high cadence sitting down than standing up slogging it out in a harder gear

    I often practice hills and set a maximum heart rate that I won't exceed. If I start going over it I'll back off. e.g. my maximum HR is 170 so I'll do the hill just staying on 150. At 150 I can do long hills that take 20 - 30 minutes to climb and not be exhausted at the top. Other times I'll do short hill repeats and go hard and have my HR between 160 - 165. I'll then stand as I near the crest and go as hard as I can for 10 - 20 seconds. Cruise back down and repeat a few times. I'm 52, 6ft and 80kg

    Your bike is mighty heavy. Mine (road bike) is about 17lb. My mountain bike is about 30lbs and is definitely slower up hills.

    A bit off topic but a great motivator for getting quicker on hills is use a GPS like a Garmin or use your smartphone with GPS and upload your rides to Strava. Any decent hill that cyclists ride will usually be a "segment". You'll then be able to compare your times up these segments with others plus compare your times to see how you're progressing.
     
  9. Nigel Doyle

    Nigel Doyle Member

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    Here's the hill I think you're referring to. A 10% gradient on the steep part. That would get the heart rate going!!

    [​IMG]
     
    limerickman likes this.
  10. swampy1970

    swampy1970 Well-Known Member

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    When you try and shift into the smallest chainring, check the tension on the gear cable. There shouldn't be any. If there is the you need to adjust it so there isn't.

    If there is no tension on the cable then you need to adjust the "stops". This is done by simple turning the Phillips head screws on the front mech.

    Some interesting reading for you would be:

    http://bike.shimano.com/publish/content/global_cycle/en/us/index/tech_support/tech_tips.download.-Par50lparsys-0027-downloadFile.html/03)%20Front%20Derailleur%20Installation.pdf

    and

    http://techdocs.shimano.com/media/techdocs/content/cycle/SI/2300/SI_5LZ0A_001/SI-5LZ0A-001-ENG_v1_m56577569830673815.pdf

    The last one is specifically for setting up a front mech with a triple chain ring crank.

    Once you get it set up so you can use the bottom gear, change gear just before you need too and kinda sorta pace yourself up the short steep hill.

    In the mystical land of Pro cyclists, you'll find that the guys that'll smash that short steep hill will be terrible compared to the real mountain lads that climb Alpe d'huez at seemingly implausible speeds. It's a different effort entirely.
     
  11. limerickman

    limerickman Moderator

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    The advice given on this thread has been very good.

    The part of your post where you say you want to climb like the pros is indicative. Those pros that you see doing what they do, have been training and training to a level which few here could hope to emulate.
    Without that level of investment, it is well nigh impossible to do what they do. That is not something which anyone here should be themselves up over either.

    You need to take on the advice posted by others. Work as hard as you can and you will see an improvement.
     
  12. JamesAA

    JamesAA New Member

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    Nigel, that's it, exactly!! Cool find. Thanks! So 10% is a decent gradient? To be honest I have no idea...nothing to compare it to.
     
  13. Nigel Doyle

    Nigel Doyle Member

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    Glad that was it. Anything much over 8% is considered hard / steep although this one is fairly short. The fit guys would just attack it and go hard out the whole way.

    With your hill I would ride it once a week and take it moderately. You'll soon start improving. When I got back into cycling a couple of years ago there's a modest hill that I can recall pushing my bike up. Now I power up it.
     
  14. JamesAA

    JamesAA New Member

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    Quite right. I've been ascending this short grade over and over as a part of a HIIT workout and I can pretty much blast up it now, and it gets easier each time. And I agree with your earlier post about sitting vs. standing. I find it far easier to sit. My HR skyrockets much more when I'm out of the saddle.

    So after reviewing your map it seems bikers actually sprint this super short course and post their times on the web? That was my understanding. Pretty cool!!!
     
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