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Old 09-23-11, 09:15 AM   #1
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Attacking Hills: What's Your Modus Operandi?

There are a lot of hills where I live. I'm a masher so I don't enjoy sittin' & spinnin' up a steep hill for hundreds of yards. If I'm piddle-fartin' around that's one thing, but sometimes I want to go a little harder.

I'm not a trained cyclist. I've never had an expert teach me about proper form or any of that. I just do what feels natural. With most sizeable hills I just build up speed, usually stand up as I begin to incline, grab the drops and keep hammering. This is followed by heavy breathing, a sweaty forehead and the need for water once I'm on top (yep, still talking about bikes).

So, how do you attack a hill? If someone pointed to a bike in your collection and you said, "Oh, that's my hill climbin' bike", what would that bike look like? Anything special? I know a lot of you have or still do race in some capacity and I'd like to tap the pool of experience.

Note: My question is not related to touring bikes, MTBs or nouveau porteurs. i.e. "Get a lower granny gear" or "How about a power assist?" are wrong answers in this context.
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Old 09-23-11, 09:25 AM   #2
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I power up hills and use the downhills for recovery. Once you crest, drop a gear or two and do a semi-soft pedal into the crank and let gravity help you down. The active recovery of keeping the legs moving slightly is better at moving lactic acid out than is just coasting without using the muscles. Your average speed powering up and recovering down will increase over spin easy up and power down IMHO.
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Old 09-23-11, 09:26 AM   #3
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Depends. Sometimes out of the saddle, hands on the hoods. Other times, in the saddle, slide back a bit, hands on the tops, pulling back a bit for leverage. Watch a few minutes of race footage.
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Old 09-23-11, 09:29 AM   #4
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First thing: our definitions of "a sizeable hill" differ. For me that would be one measured in miles, not yards. Ain't no way somebody my size (6'3", 185lb) can stand all the way up one of those.

But for the short steep stuff, when I'm on a "fast" ride, I'll stand and power up it. If it's a long ride (as in 100+ mi), I'll sit and spin on every hill.

"Hill climbin' bike"? I climb hills on all of 'em. But climbing's fastest and funnest on my 20lb steel road bike (and I expect it'll be even faster and funner on my soon-to-be-acquired, significantly lighter cf road bike).

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Old 09-23-11, 09:39 AM   #5
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I love to climb hills. All kinds of hills. The approach is different depending on the type of hill.

Short steep hills-one that I can see the top of or know where the top is-I approach in the lowest gear I think I will need. I too am a masher and don't particularly like to spin. That in mind, I select a gear that I can run a good 80-90 cadence on the approach and initial run. As I slow I stand up and hammer. Hit the top click up two gears and accelerate.

Long hills. The bottom approach is similar, though maybe not as high a gear. I'll down shift as needed. Keep it a gear high occasionally so I need to stand up-it allows stretching. And again, two clicks up on the top and away we go.

If it's downhill on the other side, gears are selected as appropriate. Generally, I'd rather pedal down to keep the juices flowing. If I go straight to coasting, I tend to cramp.
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Old 09-23-11, 09:45 AM   #6
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Gear down,be patient,leave your ego at the bottom.

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Old 09-23-11, 09:48 AM   #7
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Get a single speed, then you'll learn climbing technique.
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Originally Posted by bragi "However, it's never a good idea to overgeneralize."
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Old 09-23-11, 09:53 AM   #8
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This whole video is really cool but the very end of it has some hill climbing tips from Bill Strickland that I have always tried to remember.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GgNIznMX-NE&t=78m
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Old 09-23-11, 09:53 AM   #9
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With rolling hills I try to build up as much momentum as possible on the way down and I normally end up in a 53/11 or 53/12 combo. On the way up the next hill I'll work my way up the cassette (9 speed) until I'm out of that range of usefulness (not sure what cog that is, but it's before being cross chained too much), then go to the 39 ring and shift down twice on the cassette, then work my way back up the cassette again. I'll stand before things get to hard to keep up the momentum. On long climbs, I'll end up alternating between spinning and standing.
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Old 09-23-11, 09:59 AM   #10
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Ain't no way somebody my size (6'3", 185lb) can stand all the way up one of those.
Indurain?
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Old 09-23-11, 10:01 AM   #11
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I have a single speed so my MO is to gather any momentum I can find before the climb, stay in the saddle as long as I can (I move back on the saddle), and then finally stand on the pedals to crest the hill. I run about 78 inch gear as a compromise and find that if I let my rpms drop below a certain point it's a whole lot harder going slowly up the hill as opposed to mashing.

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Old 09-23-11, 10:03 AM   #12
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My response was based on shortish rollers, the kind of terrain I have here. Multi-mile climbs obviously require a different technique
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Old 09-23-11, 10:07 AM   #13
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Indurain?
I thought Indurain mostly won on the TTs
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Old 09-23-11, 10:09 AM   #14
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if it's a short climb, I would power through and mash it.

Anything else, I build speed at the bottom by mashing until I can build speed, then sit down with hands in drops and spin at that same speed.
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Old 09-23-11, 10:15 AM   #15
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I thought Indurain mostly won on the TTs
I just thought if any big guy could do it, it would be him. He did win some mountain stages but you don't see him getting up from the saddle too often.
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Old 09-23-11, 10:19 AM   #16
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I've become a spinner lately, but for shorter, rolling hills, I prefer to stand and mash. But this also tires me out quickly, so I don't find it suitable for long, sustained hills. For those, I gear down and spin. Also, unless it's a really short hill (<1/4 mile), I don't approach it by trying to sprint into it. I don't feel it gains me anything, and it wastes some of the energy that's needed once I'm climbing. Rather, I try to start into the hill relaxed, then as I slow down I begin to mash, only downshifting when needed, and never dropping into the lowest gear sooner than I need it. I also try to make sure I breathe deeply. Sometimes I forget just how important that is, and I have to make a conscious effort to do it.

And gearing does play a role, depending on the nature of the ride. For shorter hill training rides (15-30 miles with 1500-3000 ft of elevation gain) I can make do on a road bike with 42/28 gearing and mash for much of the climbing. But for really long, sustained climbs on all-day rides (like D2R2), well, let's just say there's no way I could have done it without 1:1 gearing (or sub-1:11, as on my Shogun-- even then I had to do a small amount of walking). That said, I saw plenty of racer types who were mashing up 20% grades with 39/28 gearing, and some of them made it look easy.
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Old 09-23-11, 10:20 AM   #17
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I will give you the wrong answer. Get a granny gear. Did PBP with a roadbike with a triple now and the way you can adjust your cadence to the length and grade of the hill with a triple setup is just great. My CX bike has 11-28 and 50-34 but that is not wide enough when hills are both steep and long. And another wrong answer : stop mashing and start spinning, you'll get used to it.
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Old 09-23-11, 10:25 AM   #18
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I haul ass down the hill in front of it, hit with as much speed as I can going in. While still under speed I start gearing down. I get to whatever gear I think I can take the hill in and sit there. If I miss calculated, I spin a lot or I stand up and mash. I've ridden with a guy who had far better suited hill gear (cross bike) and who was content to just spin into hills. I made the mistake of following him into two hills. I didn't make the mistake of doing it again and won't in the future. 52/39 and 12-26 is ok around here. At times I wish I had a slightly smaller gear.
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Old 09-23-11, 10:33 AM   #19
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A lot of people talk about gaining momentum and/or rolling down the previous hill to climb the next hill. There is one particular stop sign near me that I have to stop at, right at the beginning of the hill. So I have to power up to the stop sign, STOP , then start again on the incline. I used to hate that intersection. Now I just do it; it doesn't bother me too much. Practice, practice, practice. Train, train, train. Reps, reps, reps.
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Old 09-23-11, 10:34 AM   #20
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Keep a tempo you can manage. The most important thing is not to worry about the speed of any other rider on the climb. You'll pass some people, some people will pass you. The worst thing you can do is blow up, it just makes the remaider of the climb miserable and slower than if you didn't over exert yourself too early.

What is a tempo you can manage? Only your experience can answer that question. Get to know the profiles of the hill's you do climb and that will help on climbing new hills.
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Old 09-23-11, 10:37 AM   #21
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Old 09-23-11, 10:41 AM   #22
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I stand 90% of the time - I need leverage since my strength and endurance isn't what it was. I probably move around too much while out of the saddle, but again I'm using the leverage to power over the top. Conversely, I try not to ever use my bottom gear. I can't remember where I read it, but the theory was when you were really hurting and about to get dropped, shift up a gear. Sorta a way of telling you "See? It could be worse".

Of course, I'll be able to spin away in the saddle and stay well out in front of guys like Scozim and RogerM because now I have a red bike

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Old 09-23-11, 10:46 AM   #23
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I haul ass down the hill in front of it, hit with as much speed as I can going in. While still under speed I start gearing down. I get to whatever gear I think I can take the hill in and sit there.
Interesting-- polar opposite of what I do. I like to relax down the hills in advance of the ones that follow, it restores my energy.
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Old 09-23-11, 11:04 AM   #24
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Old 09-23-11, 11:10 AM   #25
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None of my bikes have a gears lower than 39x26, so I use EPO, blood doping, amphetamines...whatever it takes!
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