slow hill climber needs advice

Discussion in 'Cycling Training' started by ga73, Nov 11, 2010.

  1. ga73

    ga73 New Member

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    Hi all,

    I commute about 550 feet uphill 3-5 days per week with my Fuji Cross Comp (2.5 miles). I have done a couple of century charity rides. I regularly ride hills outside the commute and don't hesitate hitting hills on my rides. On the charity rides, I would be pretty fast on the flats, but people would easily pass me on the hills.

    I'm not expecting to be fast, but I'm surprised given my level of fitness how slow I am on the hills. On my commute up, I'm invariably passed by folks with heavy hybrids with full panniers. I was even passed a few weeks ago by someone who said that it was her first time riding. I just don't get it. I'm not expecting to be Alberto Contador, but given the amount of riding I do, I find it very frustrating that folks with really heavy bikes with granny gears seem to be passing me by. I'm a 6'3" male and weigh 188 lbs. If anyone has any advice on what I might do to speed up my climbing, it would be much appreciated.

    Thanks so much!!
     
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  2. fergie

    fergie Member

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    What cadence are you using while climbing?

    How are you pacing yourself up the climbs?

    Is losing weight an option?

    Does your bike have sufficient gears for the local climbs?

    Is your nutrition optimal for your rides, this can include too much water or food pre ride as much as too little?

    What have you tried to improve the situation?
     
  3. dhk2

    dhk2 Active Member

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    In addition to fergie's questions, how about your breathing, and HR during the climbs? How often do you start the climb and have to slow down due to aching legs or "running out of breath"? IE, are you going hard, or just twiddling up the hill when you are getting passed?

    Other obvious factors would be your age and general physical condition/overall health. If you're an old guy like me, getting passed by young hotshots is just something you'll have to get used to:)
     
  4. Yojimbo_

    Yojimbo_ Well-Known Member

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    Climbing is all about your power to weight ratio. Drag isn't that important because you aren't really climbing especially fast.

    So you either lose weight or gain power - even better, do both.
     
  5. ga73

    ga73 New Member

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    I try to have a high cadenice, but ends up in the upper 60s or low 70s

    The hill starts steep, levels off, goes up, levels off, then a big hill at the end.

    I've lost about 15 pounds over the two years since taken up biking. I imagine that I'll probably shed another 5 pounds or so. It's very cold in upstate NY where I live, so aside from my commute, a lot of outdoor exercise is curtailed.

    The thing about the gears is that I see people passing me in granny gears almost effortlessly. Old guys, young women, doesn't matter.

    Nutrition could be an issue as it's tricky finding the right amount to eat/not eat in the morning.

    I've tried to improve the situation by doing hill repeats and sometimes I try to 30 seconds at a higher cadence to build up my power. There are days when I feel good riding, but it's still slow.

    In response to dhk2: sometimes I twiddle up the hill and I get passed and try to increase my power to keep up or catch up. I've also gotten passed plenty when I'm hoofing it up the hill. I'm never really out of breath and my legs are burning but I don't think I slow down that much. I'm 37 years old but old guys are passing me on heavy, old hybrids. One woman passed me up a couple months ago in a mountain bike!

    I don't mind being slow, it's just that I don't get why I'm so slow seeing as I feel like I'm in pretty good shape-- best shape in my life and I've shed a lot of weight.

     
  6. ga73

    ga73 New Member

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    Yojimbo_: do you have any suggestions on how I can increase my power? Should I go up in a harder gear?
     
  7. davereo

    davereo Well-Known Member

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    When climbing the same hills every day you should be able to develop an approach to them that works best for you. When starting out in the hill select a landscape point and try to reach that point while maybe standing. When you reach it drop down on your saddle and maybe drop one gear as you continue on to your next selected transition point. Try different things until you find out where your climbing strenght lies and use it. Do not attempt to climb in a gear that is too high you will waste your energy going nowhere. You have plenty of gears to use so dont be afraid to use them.
     
  8. Yojimbo_

    Yojimbo_ Well-Known Member

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    Well, first you need to know your limits and then you need to ride (or train indoors) in such a way as to increase those limits.

    Do you have a bike trainer for riding indoors over the winter? It's pretty boring but if you get a decent one (i.e., one that gives you some feedback on power) you'd be well placed to get stronger over the winter. Check out the beginning of the "It's Kiling Me" thread over in the power forum - it's a very long thread but if you can read the first bits you'll learn a little more.
     
  9. alfeng

    alfeng Well-Known Member

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    FWIW. Despite the recurring myth that crank arm length doesn't matter, you may as well take advantage of your height and buy-and-use a set of 180mm cranks ...

    You could probably use longer cranks, but cranks longer than 180mm are usually "custom" ...

    Just remember to adjust your saddle height relative to the crank-and-BB ... and possibly, the fore-aft position, too.
     
  10. davereo

    davereo Well-Known Member

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    +1 for added leverage longer cranks will help more than they will hurt.
     
  11. Bigbananabike

    Bigbananabike Member

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    [SIZE= medium]All good suggestions above – also; [/SIZE]
    [SIZE= medium]Riding with others up hills really makes one push ourselves – so good for heart/lungs/legs.[/SIZE]
    [SIZE= medium]You probably have tried this but try to stay with the people who pass you. [/SIZE]
    [SIZE= medium]Tyre pressure – near max. for your tyres? Faster tyres?[/SIZE]

    [SIZE= medium]I know there is much debater about this but what about some ‘weight’ training for your legs. [/SIZE]
    [SIZE= medium]I’ve used dumbbell squats and they help me. [/SIZE]
    [SIZE= medium]I built a box (relatively high for the job) to do step ups on – building up to doing them with dumbbells. They really challenge my legs / lungs in a short time and are a lot safer / easier on the back etc than traditional barbell squats. [/SIZE]
    [SIZE= medium]Youtube has some good videos about it. [/SIZE]

    [SIZE= medium]BBB[/SIZE]
     
  12. jsirabella

    jsirabella New Member

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    ga73-My problem is actually the exact opposite. It seems on hills that I can usually catch people and pass them pretty well. My problem has always been right at the point of going over the hill, I loose breath and my cadence. I actually slow down and than they catch up with me on the other side. I have tried very hard to correct this with controlling my pace and breathing but my mind instantly goes into this mode of pedal harder as I hit the hill and loose some of my pacing.

    I can not figure out why I find it hardest right when I first hit the downhill side...my legs turn to jelly.

    -js
     
  13. CalicoCat

    CalicoCat Member

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    The fact that you aren't out of breath but your legs are burning tells me that you might do better in an easier (smaller) gear. This will let you get your leg speed up, increase your heart rate, but slow leg fatigue. Also, you say that the people passing you are spinning the granny gear, so maybe you should follow their lead, so to speak, and try gearing down. That is what gears are for - bigger is not always better :)
     
  14. CalicoCat

    CalicoCat Member

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    I'm the same way. Everyone says what I great climber I am, but really, I HATE hills and my mind just makes my body get them over with as fast as possible, but then I blow up at the top. Doing a lot of road races with hills has helped me with pacing. So often, people attack at the top of a hill, so I have learned to settle in and pace myself going uphill so that I can respond to post-hill attacks with fresh legs. What I try to do is just drop down a gear or two on the hills and just spin easy, focusing on keeping my heart-rate down and trying to make the hill "disappear" even if I am on it longer than if I had attacked it hard. Then I can get to the top of the hill not really feeling like I just climbed anything, and then GO when other folks are toast from the climb (I need to admit here that I am light with good W/Kg and long legs, so, by definition, a good climber . . . ).
     
  15. sitzmark

    sitzmark Member

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    Combining ga-73's original post with jsirabella's reinforces what first came to my mind .... what does it matter? Or more specifically, how does being passed on climbs affect your overall cycling objectives?

    If your objective is to never be passed, then I guess it matters. However, if your overall ride objectives are to cover a specific distance over a specific period of time, then what happens in the middle is only of consequence if you are falling short of your bigger objective. Maybe some of those passing you are not pacing themselves for the length of ride you're doing, or maybe they are freshly starting out. You said you move along the flats at a good clip, so do you overtake them at some point after cresting the hill? Maybe all of your energy is going into the flats and you don't have enough in reserve to tackle the climbs. If you and your "passers" all started together for a ride of the same distance, would they be with you at the finish?

    It might be that others passing you on the climbs identifies a key area of improvement for you. But, just make sure it isn't explained by something else before making it a primary performance measure.

    Personally I add a little extra power in anticipation of a hill, which allows me to carry more momentum into the hill and slightly increases my cadence. I ride that energy, trying to stay one step ahead of gravity by shifting lower before bogging down in cadence. Once behind the curve it is a big "energy suck" to correct or to just plod along. I also see many riders downshift too early going into a hill and they lose all momentum. Then they spin themselves into fatigue before tackling even half of the hill.

    Good luck - hope you get it sorted out!
     
  16. swampy1970

    swampy1970 Well-Known Member

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    I have a similar problem on hills which large variences in cadence - I suspect it's RPE and a big change in torque.

    My solution thus far is to jam it in a bigger gear to replicate the higher torque efforts on the steep sections. Seems to work pretty well. Maybe when I get a bit lighter and much fitter things will change... maybe I've had this issue for years but only really noticed that the power dropped alot when the gradient eased... I've only had a power meter the past few years.

    I'd try just jamming it in a big gear and over the course of a minute or so let the revs increase for a given power output. You may need a smaller spocket for your top gear though...
     
  17. jsirabella

    jsirabella New Member

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    swampy and ga73 - I have to believe it is fitness issue as most things are. I should be able to just coast over the top and maintain the same power and cadence without my legs turning to jelly and loosing my breath. I came to the conclusion a coach once told me, "everyone goes slows up the hills" therefore get faster on the flats and downhills. I believe if I just would be able to stay with them on the flats and downhills better I would not need to make up so much on the hills...in the end it is the exact opposite of optimizing your energy where you are using it all up in the hills...

    -js
     
  18. Bigbananabike

    Bigbananabike Member

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    [SIZE= medium]Ok so everyone goes slower on the hills but if you’re worried about people passing you then you need to be one of the faster members of those going slower![/SIZE]

    [SIZE= medium]Even in my club racing and the longer ‘fun’ races here most of the breakaways and decisive moves come on the hills, which is why I mostly train on hills and keep my weight down. [/SIZE]

    BBB
     
  19. quenya

    quenya New Member

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    Yes hills slow you down, or make you work REALLY hard to keep the same speed. I spent last season training for a 155 mile ride with 14,000 feet of climbing in the first half, the guys I trained with were much faster on descents and/or on the flats but I could climb much faster than them. On the really technical descents, like dropping down into Big Creek from Shaver they would put less than a minute on me. Because they literally didn't touch their brakes and chose great lines I tried to follow their lies but would jab my brakes here and there. On the climb out of Big Creek towards Huntington Lake I would beat them by 5-35 minutes. On the less technical descents, like HWY 168 from Tamarack ridge to Shaver my training partners would separate by a few hundred yards and we all flew down at pretty much the same speed, except when we challenged one another, where my 53x11 would get me a little faster than their 50x12s.

    Yes a selection can be made on a descent or on the flat, but if you want to be faster than someone you can't ignore gravity. There is no way my buddy Steve can build the kind of gap by descending marginally faster than me than I can build by climbing significantly faster than him.

    And on the flats, sure those guys used to be faster than me but, it wasn't that difficult to sit in their paceline and hold on taking pulls that kept the speed up but didn't leave me gassed. And now after a summer of L4 work I am the fastest of us on flats too.
     
  20. jsirabella

    jsirabella New Member

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    quenya - When I did more group rides I was the same way, my reasons cause I did not want to piss people off I tried to hang on to the back and than when I did hang on I was always hitting the brakes and not picking lines correctly. Hanging on to the back always lead to falling off sooner or later. Than with the brakes forget it. But on the hills I would make up the difference when I did hang on.

    But I wonder if this indicates the type of rider you are...meaning if you are better on hills are you more fast twitch, grinder type while the opposite is true...just throwing it out there. Sounds like Quenya you are well prepared and ready to have a great season.

    -js
     
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