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Old 05-01-09, 05:16 PM   #1
Belgian Cobbles
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Is there anyway to train for hills w/o doing hills?

Right now I live in DC and I can't find any hills to simulate the hill climb I will be doing this summer as part of an important stage race on my calendar. That hill (in Washington State) is about 8 miles long at approx. 4% (max 10%). Is there any way to train for this here where it is really pretty flat?

I am posting a separate thread in the DC area forum to see if there are any climbs like that near here. I don't have a car and everywhere I have ridden in the last 6 months seems to be pretty flat. So let's assume for a moment that there really are no hills. What then?

Thanks!
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Old 05-01-09, 05:20 PM   #2
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I do all my hill work indoors.
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Old 05-01-09, 05:45 PM   #3
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Good climbers just have high power-to-weight ratios, work on that.
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Old 05-01-09, 06:04 PM   #4
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I live in Florida, and have this stupid proclivity to take on climbing challenges.

My take on climbing for Flatlanders. http://everestchallengex2.blogspot.c...1_archive.html

And living in DC, you can find some nice climbs with a 2 hour drive to the eastern panhandle of WV.
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Old 05-01-09, 06:25 PM   #5
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Big gear intervals. Get used to producing power at a cadence lower than you'd normally ride at back home.

There's nothing magical about climbing, at least below 4-5,000ft. It boils down to w/kg, and how you manage your energy expenditures before and during the climb(s).

After that, it's a matter of altitude acclimatization, which has nothing to do with the actual act of climbing. Plenty of flat lands at high altitude without a mountain in sight (Tibetan Plateau, etc.).
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Old 05-01-09, 11:08 PM   #6
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My take on climbing for Flatlanders. http://everestchallengex2.blogspot.c...1_archive.html

Thanks for the good read. I found it very useful. I just recently got a heart rate monitor and found out my lactic threshold so I can actually do this. There are climbs of around 1% near here that I can probably get up to LT over 6 or 7 miles. That is only 1 mile shy of the hill climb. So that seems like it might work to increase power (I have already lost a good deal of weight over last year).
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Old 05-02-09, 12:25 AM   #7
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I live in Florida, and have this stupid proclivity to take on climbing challenges.

My take on climbing for Flatlanders. http://everestchallengex2.blogspot.c...1_archive.html

And living in DC, you can find some nice climbs with a 2 hour drive to the eastern panhandle of WV.
You missed the part about him not having a car.

There aren't any serious hills in Atlanta either other than Kennesaw Mtn. Lots of rollers < 75-100 meters. I would probably just work hard on FTP with 20x2 intervals, ride flats out of the saddle in your largest gear for long stretches and watch the weight.
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Old 05-02-09, 04:52 AM   #8
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One option to consider would be to ride to the end of the W&OD in Purcellville. From there you have many options, perhaps the simplest of which would be to make your way to 601 (mount weather). Though it's not a sustained climb it may as well be as there's no time to recover if you ride it properly. If you ride it from the rt.7 side it's around 8 miles to route 50... at which point you can turn around and do it in reverse. The return leg climbs a bit more gradually but is no less challenging. That first mile or so from the rt. 7 side is like a swift kick between the legs.

Riding from DC, your total mileage for the day would be over 120. It'd be an *epic* day of riding but since 90 miles would be on flat MUPs with easy access to food/drink/places to rest, it's very doable and actually a pretty nice ride.

And yes, I've done this ride and that's why I'm recommending it.
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Old 05-02-09, 07:07 AM   #9
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you could also ride about 40 miles out to sugar loaf and do the 6-8 minute climb there.
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Old 05-02-09, 11:44 AM   #10
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you could also ride about 40 miles out to sugar loaf and do the 6-8 minute climb there.
+1
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Old 05-02-09, 12:35 PM   #11
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Big gear intervals. Get used to producing power at a cadence lower than you'd normally ride at back home.
There's nothing magical about climbing, at least below 4-5,000ft. It boils down to w/kg, and how you manage your energy expenditures before and during the climb(s).

After that, it's a matter of altitude acclimatization, which has nothing to do with the actual act of climbing. Plenty of flat lands at high altitude without a mountain in sight (Tibetan Plateau, etc.).
+1

unless you are extremely strong and light, or have a very small gearing, you are going to be grinding it out on the 10% grades. if you aren't prepared to crunch out watts in low cadence, it will not be pretty. riding at 60-75 rpm is nothing like 90-105 rpm for me.

as far as the techincal aspects of riding, you should really be okay so long as you can ride a bike to begin with. the lower speed doesn't take that much adjustment. the only technical thing that i would consider preparing for is the sound. i remember getting freaked out when i was on my first group ride, and the sound changed from wind to other riders breathing hard. it made me think that i was working harder than i was. maybe that was just me, though. good luck.
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Old 05-02-09, 02:19 PM   #12
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+1

unless you are extremely strong and light, or have a very small gearing, you are going to be grinding it out on the 10% grades.
This is a good point. I had not thought of that. There are some pretty long gravel paths around here. Perhaps, on my commuter bike with big tires it seems like this would create some extra resistance and I could really get the HR up for a sustained period while turning a pretty big gear. The C&O canal trail for instance is packed gravel forever at a nearly uniform grade (0% to be precise, excepting the occasional lock) Would that be useful?
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Old 05-02-09, 02:27 PM   #13
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This is a good point. I had not thought of that. There are some pretty long gravel paths around here. Perhaps, on my commuter bike with big tires it seems like this would create some extra resistance and I could really get the HR up for a sustained period while turning a pretty big gear. The C&O canal trail for instance is packed gravel forever at a nearly uniform grade (0% to be precise, excepting the occasional lock) Would that be useful?
no.

find a relentlessly long stretch of road, hopefully one where the prevailing winds usually involve a headwind.

shift into your 53x15/16 and churn the gear, into it.

that's what i did to prepare for the pordoi/giau/gavia/stelvio/mortirollo/etc.
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Old 05-02-09, 03:05 PM   #14
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find a relentlessly long stretch of road, hopefully one where the prevailing winds usually involve a headwind.

shift into your 53x15/16 and churn the gear, into it.


I might be missing something. This is exactly what I was planning on doing but on the C&O trail where there would be no stop lights or traffic and the grade is super even. The packed gravel would just be adding resistance much like a headwind (only more reliable). The speed might not be quite as high, but the same wattage would be achievable, no?

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Old 05-02-09, 03:32 PM   #15
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I think it would be fine as long as the fit is the same on both bikes.
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Old 05-02-09, 08:01 PM   #16
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Low cadence/headwind work will help, but there is only one good way to train for climbing without actually climbing imo:

Get a climbing block (to prop your front wheel up high) for your trainer.

The thing that is different about climbing is that it recruits different muscles in different proportions than does riding on flat land.
This has to do with the angle that your body and legs make with the gravity vector (straight down).


Get a trainer and a climbing block
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Old 05-02-09, 08:43 PM   #17
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I'm another FL flatlander and I just got back from a couple of weeks in Spain. I did a bunch of climbing including several long (10-15km) Cat 1 rated mountain passes. The low cadence hurts, and my lower back hurts after a day of climbing. Otherwise, it's just a long FTP-style effort, not much different than getting on the TT bike and doing a hard hour.
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Old 05-02-09, 09:57 PM   #18
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The thing that is different about climbing is that it recruits different muscles in different proportions than does riding on flat land.
This has to do with the angle that your body and legs make with the gravity vector (straight down).


Get a trainer and a climbing block
I have heard several smart people (present company included I am sure ) say this bit about the angle of gravity but something about it challenges me. After all 5% is less than 3 degrees. The distance between the contact patches of my tires is approximately 40 inches. That means that in order to train for a 5% average climb, I need to raise my front wheel a whopping 2 inches. I am skeptical that my muscle recruitment will be significantly different due to such a subtle change in angle. I am open to the idea (in fact that is the whole point of this post) but does anyone have some concrete experience with this angle business? Successes? Failures?
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Old 05-03-09, 06:42 AM   #19
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The main thing you need to emulate is the resistance at lower speeds so you can train in the same gearing at which you will climb. The angle of the bike is not nearly as important.

The effect of gearing is something most people don't recognize as a contributing factor, but it is the only significant difference between 400 watts at 10mph in a 39-23 up a 10% grade and 400 watts in a 53-14 at 30mph. Smarter bears amongst us will point out that with the preceding gearing and speeds the cadence is different and they get a gold star... So why do you tend to hammer in a pace line at 100rpm and climb sustained long climbs at 70-80rpm?: Inertial crank load (peak resistance to swinging through the stroke) due to gearing.

No matter how smooth you think your pedal stroke is, you have a system of contracting muscles and articulating joints connected to those cranks and the reality is that your power delivery is pulsating through the stroke. Think about how that works with high effective gearing vs low effective gearing, and how it "feels" to your legs. Very few well trained cyclists would choose to ride up a sustained climb in a 39-29 at 100rpm, or to ride on flats in a 53-11 at 70rpm and this is not due to some arbitrary peloton protocol, or due to position on the bike in either case.

Training into a headwind or just doing intervals to improve your general fitness will be better than no preparation for climbing events, but to truely train for the demands of climbing, you need to train in the same gears that you will be climbing with. Nowadays that means you can use a computrainer to ride at threshold wattage at slow speeds (assuming you aren't a big power rider) and even simulate the grade with lifting the front of your bike; or you can get caveman with it and drag heavy itesm like old tires around on the road with your bike; the Russians used to train that way, seriously
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Old 05-03-09, 04:43 PM   #20
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Old 05-03-09, 09:52 PM   #21
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The main thing you need to emulate is the resistance at lower speeds so you can train in the same gearing at which you will climb. The angle of the bike is not nearly as important.
I understand what you're saying, but not certain that I agree. Yes, people do tend to slow down their cadences on hills, but it is not a universal truth and furthermore not necessarily a positive. I feel is largely a reflection of your muscle composition and aerobic fitness level. When I'm cranking up a hill, I keep my cadence high. It only slows down when I run out of gas. Sometimes that happens, sometimes it doesn't. Having your front tire elevated makes a significant difference on muscle recruitment, though, that I know.
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Old 05-04-09, 12:17 AM   #22
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I understand what you're saying...
Based on your response; you probably don't understand. Many physiologists don't understand, and besides I suck at explaining it so don't take that the wrong way. I am not talking about using a different cadence, I am talking about gearing as a function of climbing requirements and the resultant change in muscular effects/demands.

If you can't grasp how swinging through the power pulse phase of the crank stroke is different with lower gearing vs. higher gearing, no biggie... just ride what feels right. But don't look at shorter power climbs which have totally different demands in an attempt to understand what I am saying... we are talking about sustained threshold vs sustained threshold. Long sustained climb vs. flat TT pace. If you feel it doesn't apply just go with what feels right. But what I wrote isn't really debatable (you can debate contribution)... it is basic applied mechanics taking into account the physiological system it is connected to.

You will be much better prepared for long brutal climbs by dragging a concrete block around at 10mph than you will be riding threshold intervals into the wind at the same wattage in bigger gearing that you won't be using when you are ascending that mountain... assuming you can bring yourself to train that way
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Old 05-04-09, 08:07 AM   #23
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Based on your response; you probably don't understand.
Based on your response, you're not trying to explain.

I'm an engineer. I understand gearing. I understand that the power portions of our pedal strokes provide impulse loads that drive the bike forward. I understand that these power pulses accelerate the bike and due to the V^2 quality of kinetic energy, the bike will accelerate (in terms of change in speed) more in a low gear than in a high gear. Accepting this, there will be a difference in rotational acceleration of the cranks in a low gear vs. a higher gear while you apply force to the pedals. In low gears, people tend to 'mash' a bit more because the bike has more of a change in speed (proportionally) than in higher gears. If you're saying this is the case, then to some extent, I'll agree.

How, specifically, does that difference in pedal stroke change price of poker? I am interested in what you have to say, but to this point, you really haven't even attempted to explain. You've just made an unsupported claim and used a couple scientific sounding terms with nothing to back it up. Take some time and explain it or don't mention it in the first place.
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Old 05-04-09, 09:00 AM   #24
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The main thing you need to emulate is the resistance at lower speeds so you can train in the same gearing at which you will climb. The angle of the bike is not nearly as important.

The effect of gearing is something most people don't recognize as a contributing factor, but it is the only significant difference between 400 watts at 10mph in a 39-23 up a 10% grade and 400 watts in a 53-14 at 30mph. Smarter bears amongst us will point out that with the preceding gearing and speeds the cadence is different and they get a gold star... So why do you tend to hammer in a pace line at 100rpm and climb sustained long climbs at 70-80rpm?: Inertial crank load (peak resistance to swinging through the stroke) due to gearing.

No matter how smooth you think your pedal stroke is, you have a system of contracting muscles and articulating joints connected to those cranks and the reality is that your power delivery is pulsating through the stroke. Think about how that works with high effective gearing vs low effective gearing, and how it "feels" to your legs. Very few well trained cyclists would choose to ride up a sustained climb in a 39-29 at 100rpm, or to ride on flats in a 53-11 at 70rpm and this is not due to some arbitrary peloton protocol, or due to position on the bike in either case.

Training into a headwind or just doing intervals to improve your general fitness will be better than no preparation for climbing events, but to truely train for the demands of climbing, you need to train in the same gears that you will be climbing with. Nowadays that means you can use a computrainer to ride at threshold wattage at slow speeds (assuming you aren't a big power rider) and even simulate the grade with lifting the front of your bike; or you can get caveman with it and drag heavy itesm like old tires around on the road with your bike; the Russians used to train that way, seriously
The problem with your entire argument is the assumption that you can't do the flat steady state work, and the climbing at the same rpm, which is incorrect.

Take an average size rider, capable of 300 watts FTP. The steady state intervals are going to produce 26mph on the flat. This can very easily be done at 80rpms, with conventional gearing.

Same rider on an 8% grade can will do about 9mph, which can be done at 80 rpms with a 39/27.

If you want to train to climb hills in a big gear at 40rpm, perhaps it would make sense to drag cinderblocks. However, if you climb with a reasonably high cadence, then steady states on the flats work quite nicely.
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Old 05-04-09, 09:18 AM   #25
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the length to which people go to overcomplicate things never ceases to amaze me

the best way to train for climbing is to climb

that doesnt sound like an option for you so go out and train as though you normally would for racing, but focus on the interval length that you think it will take you to complete an uphill 8 mi. TT (probably 40 minutes +/-)

you're in DC area, you could race 2x every weekend between now and september, in the absence of racing, you could do the 7 a.m., 8:30 a.m., or 10:00 a.m. group rides out of rock creek park that will give you lots of training intensity

surely you can find a ride out to WVa (raw talent ranch aka jay's lost river barn) or out to the shenandoah/skyline or frederick/thurmont/hagerstown, MD to get in some actual climbing on things that are significantly steeper than your uphill TT
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