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  1. #1
    nun
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    How do "big guys" climb

    I'm about 210lbs and 5'10" so not TdF material. I ride a hundred miles a week, but it's those hills
    that just kill me. I did a century last year with 2500' and it kicked my butt. It was a big reality check for me as most folks consider that to be a flat century. I imagine the only way to get better is to ride more hills and loose some weight, but some stories of "big guys" who started out hating hills, but got to love them, would be encouraging.

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    The Site Administrator: Currently at home recovering from a couple of strokes,please contact my assistnt admins for forum issues Tom Stormcrowe's Avatar
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    Well, it never gets any easier, but you do go up them faster as tie goes on
    on light duty due to illness; please contact my assistants for forum issues. They are Siu Blue Wind, or CbadRider or the other 3 star folk. I am currently at home recovering from a couple of strokes. I am making good progress, happily.


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  3. #3
    NYC Maggie Backstedt fan
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    I'm 6'4" and 210.

    Ride as many hills as you can bear.

    Just as important, find your best sustainable cadence/gearing for the hills.

    Since it's the thing to do these days, I tried for a long time to "Lance Armstrong" my way up the longer hills, trying to keep my cadence between 90 and 100. This was okay for short climbs, but longer climbs were still killing me.

    It wasn't working because, in the end, what us big guys have going for us is strength. I lowered my "climbing cadence" to 80, and suddenly I was able to maintain this on those 2-mile climbs, and still have something left in the tank for when the grade kicked up into the "brutal" range (which I consider anything above 12 or 15%). This may never make me the fastest guy over the hills, but it gets me there.

    Never, ever think about how slow you're going or how far it is to the top.
    "I can't believe we still have to protest this crap." - courtesy, Johnny Monkey

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  4. #4
    On the big ring deanp's Avatar
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    In my area most climbs start with a descent, so I try and carry as much speed from the descent into the climb for as long as possible. Then it is sit and spin time for me. As the top of the climb approaches I might be able to get out of the saddle and pick up the pace a little. If there is no descent I spin most of the way up, if possible I save a little for the last push over the top. Spinning for me is 85-95 rpm range.

  5. #5
    nun
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    Quote Originally Posted by alanfleisig View Post
    I'm 6'4" and 210.

    Ride as many hills as you can bear.

    Just as important, find your best sustainable cadence/gearing for the hills.

    Since it's the thing to do these days, I tried for a long time to "Lance Armstrong" my way up the longer hills, trying to keep my cadence between 90 and 100. This was okay for short climbs, but longer climbs were still killing me.

    It wasn't working because, in the end, what us big guys have going for us is strength. I lowered my "climbing cadence" to 80, and suddenly I was able to maintain this on those 2-mile climbs, and still have something left in the tank for when the grade kicked up into the "brutal" range (which I consider anything above 12 or 15%). This may never make me the fastest guy over the hills, but it gets me there.

    Never, ever think about how slow you're going or how far it is to the top.
    6'4" 210lbs is way better of a physique for cycling than my rotundness... I do try to spin up hills and to that end I have a 26x34 lowest gear so I'll spin at 80 rpm and be doing 5mph. For me my cadence goes down to zero, ie I'm walking, at anything approaching 10%. I have lost some weight since last season and I'm doing all the hills I can stand, I do circuits of a 1.2mile 6% hill close to my house and that's getting a bit easier.

  6. #6
    Senior Member piper_chuck's Avatar
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    Proper gearing for the conditions can make a world of difference. I live in a fairly hilly area so I have my bike geared so I can maintain a cadence of 80 down to a pretty low speed.
    Can vegetarians eat animal crackers?

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    Perma-n00b Askel's Avatar
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    I dropped about 20 lbs over the winter (now down to 200ish). Once I started climbing hills again, it felt like I was floating up them.

    Lately though, I've come to the conclusion that even if I do manage to drop a few more pounds, I'll forever remain the big guy in a bunch of little guy sports, so I've been trying to adapt my technique to suit my weight and strength advantage.

    One thing that's never worked for me- high cadence. It might work better if I could get my cardio system to keep up with my legs, but it just doesn't work for me right now.

    These days, I pick a gear one or two above what I might spin with and just mash the ever living hell out of those pedals.

    I try and make a point of letting gravity do the work on the downstroke rather than pushing as much.

    During my cross country ski season I learned a lot about throwing my upper body weight around to get more glide out of my skis. I'm trying to apply that to my mashing technique so I don't waste too much energy when really mashing away.

  8. #8
    Senior Member Pinyon's Avatar
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    I agree with finding what works for you. I'm slow on hills, but got a lot better over the last couple of seasons by knowing what strategy works best for me. I'm a steady-endurance type, and try to keep my heart rate around 147-152 bpm the entire time. Significant and sustained changes in my heart rate, up or down, make it very difficult for me to hit my stride again afterward. On climbs that take more than 40 minutes, I tend to move around on the bike a lot so that I don't wear out one muscle group too much. I try to maintain the same heart rate, but alternate between sitting way back on the saddle with my hands in the drops or on the hoods, standing forward on the bike and pulling up HARD on the up-stroke, sitting on the front of the saddle with my hands on the top bar, standing with my butt hovering over the saddle and engaging more hamstrings (more of a standing "spin"). I spend most of my time sitting, with 2-3 minute standing "rests". It works for me.

    Play with hills alone, and figure out what works best for you. You won't know if you are a steady-state, slow acceleration/increased-effort, or big acceleration with rest periods type of rider until you try them all out.

  9. #9
    Banned. Mr. Beanz's Avatar
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    I'm not so sure weight is the main issue here. I started riding mtns at 260. One bud said I could never beat him as he had the marathon body at 145 (5'8). That's one you don't do is tell me I can't!

    I've always been active and athletic so I started riding hills 3 times a week knowing I could get in shape. I ate sensibly, rode hard and before I knew it, I was 220 lbs. I still outweighed him by 80 pounds, but I drilled him to the ground on the next mtn ride we did together. Needless to say, he won't ride with me anymore!

    I started doing 40 mile rides with 5,000 ft of climbing, most in the first 21. I did midweek rides which included 2,000ft within 10 miles. It was all getting used to the climbing, getting comfy and finding a groove. I kept traing then did a timed even. A century with 10,000 ft of climbing. I placed at #123 out of 400. The registration said ,"don't register if you aren't a serious climber/rider", but I did!

    I ended up doing that ride 3 years in a row. I didn't rain much last year but still did a 114 mile ride with 12,000ft of climbing. I used a standard double 39/25. Not as fast but still completed the ride at 235 lbs.

    I don't think it's as much about weight as it is training! (I'm 6'1). The more you train, the better you climb! Plus, I know plenty of skinny riders that can't climb cause they don't train!
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    Last edited by Mr. Beanz; 04-30-08 at 12:53 PM.

  10. #10
    Senior Member JohnKScott's Avatar
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    Keep doing the hills and you will get better. I am about the same height as you and started out riding at 220 lbs (looking at 181 this Saturday for weigh in day). The first ride I took was an out and back with a 3/4 mile hill at 5%. I actually made it up on the out (very slowly and painfully) and ended up walking half of it on the back . Now that hill is easy (not even worthy of shifting to the small chain ring on my triple).

    Here's what I did.

    1. Kept riding. It looks like you are riding quite a lot already. This will continue to build your endurance.

    2. Kept attacking that hill until I could get up both sides. Then I found a bigger hill, and then a bigger one...and started stringing them together on one ride. This helped to build strength.

    3. Started watching what I was eating. This combined with 1&2 above helped me drop close to 40 lbs so far. It's amazing how much easier it is to drag 180 lbs up a hill rather than 220.

    4. After I got a "base" going and the weather turned bad I started to train purposefully on the trainer. I got lucky and won a fairly high tech one so I was able to start training with power (which I will lose as I move outside again this spring). However, you can still structure some interval training. I have one climging TT that I do once each week (usually Monday) where I race my best time. That continues to challenge and increase my threshold power. Then I also do another day of intervals (usually Thursday) where I really try to either tax my aerobic or anaerobic systems and either build power or endurance. I will need to work my way into simulating these workout outside soon.

    5. Make it fun and set some goals. I am enjoying the heck out of this as I keep seeing improvement. The goals help me get up at 5 AM when I would feel more comfy cuddling in under the covers. I have just learned about two rides that might be on my radar next year and the year after that I'm sure would hurt me badly right now. One of those is the Brasstown Bald Century. I'm fairly certain I'd be walking up that one right now. But it gives me something to shoot for two years from now with intermediate "climbing goals" between now and then.

    I'll end this with...I'm still not the greatest climber. But there aren't many hills in my area that I would be afraid of tackling now. I'm starting to have to travel to find some more challenging terrain. But, with the hills I do have to work with, I can keep getting stronger and faster up them and even repeat them over and over to make myself ready for some real climbing down the line.

  11. #11
    Genetics have failed me Scummer's Avatar
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    How? Well, i'm 204lbs and 6ft. And last Sunday we had a get together for 50 miles in the Wisconsin hills and it HURT! ALOT! So, to answer your question, big guys ride the hills with tons of pain and HR > 180
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  12. #12
    old and in the way grueling's Avatar
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    Um - a TRIPLE

  13. #13
    Gears? CliftonGK1's Avatar
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    2500' is just a bit more than I do on my daily 30 mile commute. I started off with a commute that was almost dead flat, then we moved to the top of Redmond Ridge; a 2.25 mile long, 650' climb on the easiest route to the top. At first, this was enough of a hill for me to tackle.
    Then I changed my route and threw another little hill in the middle of things. And another a few weeks later... and another...

    Now, almost 5 months later, I've gone from under 800' total climbing to over 2200' of climbing daily. I'm still a big Sasquatch monster at 6'6" and 235-240 pounds, and that's not really changing. My climbing strategy is simple: low gears and high cadence. I have a 34t inner ring on my compact crank, and an 11-32t cassette on back. To teach myself a smooth pedal stroke at 90+ rpm, I do a few cadence drills.
    - I take my fixed gear out on the bike path (dead flat) or the 2 mile (mostly flat) loop in my neighbourhood and do sprints. It's easy to top out the low gear ratio I have on there, but you can't stop pedalling because it's a fixed gear. You're forced to learn how to smooth out your pedal stroke.
    - Find a clear, level, short (1/4 mile or less) straightaway. Pop your bike into the lowest gear you've got. Now: SPRINT! Yep, pedal like a maniac until you're going a whopping 5 mph! Low resistance forces you to smooth out your pedal stroke or you bounce on the seat like it was made of Flubber. Do a few reps of 200 yards at a time.
    The cadence drills have really helped me even out my pedal stroke and quit mashing on the hills.
    "I feel like my world was classier before I found cyclocross."
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  14. #14
    Lanterne Rouge
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    This big guy (6'3", 215) climbs slowly.

    With a triple.
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  15. #15
    Still can't climb
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    Quote Originally Posted by Tom Stormcrowe View Post
    Well, it never gets any easier, but you do go up them faster as tie goes on
    I second that. I thought losing some weight would make it less painful but it is still just as painful. The only difference I noticed was I don't have to get off and walk and I can take on all the hills near me, but oh the pain and suffering!

  16. #16
    Senior Member Pinyon's Avatar
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    I'm 5' 11" and about 220 right now. I like hills, even though I'm slow on them. I like getting into that zone, where I'm paying attention to nothing else but what I'm doing, so that I won't bonk or puke at the top of a 2-3 hour climb. This sounds nuts, but I really like it. I also LOVE going over 50 mph, and averaging over 40 mph all the way down the other side of the mountain pass. Love it. Whooooshhhhh.

  17. #17
    AiM SmAlL mIsS sMaLl UniversalFrost's Avatar
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    do a lot of leg squats and hike a lot of steep hills, then when you get on a bike you will have the power to climb without even getting out of the seat.

    I have bad knees and thank god i did this before injuring my legs so now I can not get out of the seat to stand on the pedals even if I wanted to. just make sure you have the gearing right so that you can climb without getting out of the seat.

    JOE
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  18. #18
    The Time is Now
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    How do "big guys" climb?
    The same way you get to Carnegie Hall practice, practice, practice and then practice some more.

    It sucks at first but nothing beats the feeling when you suddenly discover you're actually accelerating up that hill that was kicking your butt a few months ago.

  19. #19
    RT
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    One suggestion that I use is when climbing, focus on your breathing once you've found the right gear, and don't hunch over! I figured out when I was hunching, I needed to gear down some. Focus on keeping your back straight, expanding your torso so your lungs can draw in more air. This, together with focusing on breathing has helped at least this 6'1" 205 Clyde.

    One more thing - I recall the 4% grade I must climb for 2 miles at the tail end of my commute home. I ride a fairly heavy roadied-out MTB, and this guy on a fancy Prince passed me like I was standing still 3 out of 5 days a week. Remembering the above, I geared up one more than I should and tried to keep pace, failing each time for the first two months. Then one day, it just clicked, and while I wasn't catching this guy, I'd keep pace about 100 yards back. Eventually I caught him, but it took me 6 months.

    He congratulated me when I finally got up there :-)

    Breathing, posture, and ride hills more than you should.

  20. #20
    I Design Stuff rickyaustin's Avatar
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    I'm 6'5" 280lbs - and hills suck.

    The more you do them, the less they suck - but they still suck.

    A few things I've learned that make a TON of difference:
    Clipless pedals & shoes: You can pedal 360 degrees. Push down on the down, pull up on the up. When your quads die, your hamstrings can rescue you.
    Proper pedal technique: Part of the above (360 degree pedaling) plus a proper cadence. Spinning up the hills is the way to go. 90 rpm might not happen on a hill, but keep it as high as you can. If you can get your lungs to go before your legs do, you'll help yourself and your conditioning.
    Practice: It's been said a hundred times, because it's true. The more you do hills, the better you will get at them. Seek them out. Destroy them.

  21. #21
    Senior Member
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    How do "big guys" climb?
    Poorly

  22. #22
    Night Rider Aquajag's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by UniversalFrost View Post
    do a lot of leg squats and hike a lot of steep hills, then when you get on a bike you will have the power to climb without even getting out of the seat.

    I have bad knees and thank god i did this before injuring my legs so now I can not get out of the seat to stand on the pedals even if I wanted to. just make sure you have the gearing right so that you can climb without getting out of the seat.

    JOE
    Pretty much I do my climb on my homeward commute this way. While I haven't taken the time to look up the elevation gains, it's fairly steep and is all uphill for about 1.5 miles. No knee problems for me yet (was in baseball, track, swimming, and water polo as a kid), but I figure maybe eventually from abusing them as a kid. But after all my competitive sports plus the thousands of miles of backpacking I did with the Boy Scouts, my legs are pretty big. I find that now that I'm back into shape for cycling, I don't need to even think about standing on the pedals going uphill. Not mashing the pedals, just find my legs can do the work with me sitting and taking a steady pace up the hill. Makes me feel like I'm floating through the light hills for the last mile after that.

  23. #23
    nun
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    Quote Originally Posted by Pinyon View Post
    I'm 5' 11" and about 220 right now. I like hills, even though I'm slow on them. I like getting into that zone, where I'm paying attention to nothing else but what I'm doing, so that I won't bonk or puke at the top of a 2-3 hour climb. This sounds nuts, but I really like it. I also LOVE going over 50 mph, and averaging over 40 mph all the way down the other side of the mountain pass. Love it. Whooooshhhhh.
    I think my agony on the century with 2500' of climbing was brought about by speed. I did the ride in 7h10m, which is fast for me. There were a couple of short 10% climbs and a 1 mile 6% grade right at the end and that just did me in. With my granny gear, 26x34, I can crank up stuff at 4mph when I'm fresh, but to get faster I think it's just general conditioning and stronger legs that I need.

    I did my 1.2 mile 6% hill 3 times last night (about 1100' of climbing) and I concentrated of some of the advice posted. My comfort zone is still at 4mph doing 60 to 70 rpm. I can do the climb without much lactic acid accumulation and not too much heavy breathing, but if I spun much faster or cranked a bigger gear I know I'd max out quite quickly.

  24. #24
    Gears? CliftonGK1's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by cooleric1234 View Post
    Poorly
    Wrong.

    I may not climb quickly like some of my lighter friends on CF racing rigs, but I climb well. I'll ride hills all day long and keep a high cadence while doing it.

    7 Hills of Kirkland century is coming up on Memorial Day: 100+ miles, 7000+ elevation gain.
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    - Mandi M.

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    well, I'm 5'10 or so and 270. hills are a love hate thing for me. The biggest challenge is mental. for example, the last two months I have been fighting pneumonia, and it's finally going away, so I got a few chances for rides. On the way back from a flat stretch, I had two options - a slow steady hill, or a fairly steep one. I thought about circumventing the route home, finding a flatter way, since my lungs were burning, but opted for the slow hill. And I kept picturing where I was going to have to stop and all. But I never did stop. Maybe it's because I've been going to the gym this year, and the legs are built up a bit, but the hils was no problem. The next time, I opted for the steep hill. Again, I kept waiting to get really winded, and have to walk, but that never happened. Even with junk lungs, the hill was no problem.

    As far as strategies, I use a few. I pick shift points, that is, keep in one gear until I get to say, a mailbox, and then drop a gear. I count in fours while pedaling, over and over. I pedal like I am scraping my shoes off on a doorstep. All these seem to help me. The more I distract the mind from thinking I can't do it, the more I realize I can do it. Thus hills become more fun than flats, because it's a challenge, a test. I may hate taking the test, but I feel better after, if that makes any sense.

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