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Clydesdales/Athenas (200+ lb / 91+ kg) Looking to lose that spare tire? Ideal weight 200+? Frustrated being a large cyclist in a sport geared for the ultra-light? Learn about the bikes and parts that can take the abuse of a heavier cyclist, how to keep your body going while losing the weight, and get support from others who've been successful.

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Old 11-02-09, 07:09 PM   #1
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Training for hills when you have none

I need a few sugestions on hill training. I want to compete in another triathlon next year in a very hilly part of Illinois, but I live in flat praire land. The only hills I have are overpasses and small climbs. WhereI will ride are hills you actually need to run lower gears on a car to get up. How can I prepare for these with nothing to match it locally. I cannot drive 3 to 4 hours away every weekend to got to this place. Am I good just doing a ton of miles in my big ring and higher gears?


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Old 11-03-09, 08:06 AM   #2
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A lot of competitive riders do rather well with a combination of stiffer gears, HARD intervals, and riding hard in general. I personally think that it is harder for clydes, though. The more you weigh, the harder it is to climb hills.

I would probably do lots of intervals with stiffer gears, concentrating more on getting used to longer periods of time with your heart rate at 90% maximum or more, and combine that with leg weights (no more than twice your body-weight, doing dozens of reps, and as close to the motion you use on the bicycle as possible).

I would also suggest spin classes, if your gym offers them. You can add a lot more resistance to spin bikes than you can to regular exercise bikes. If you don't have access to spin classes, a more boring option is to get an indoor trainer that allows you to add a significant amount of extra resistance beyond the regular flywheel/magnet/fluid resistance. You can make it less boring by using regular exercise bikes and/or an indoor trainers to do heavy-load power intervals for an hour or two at-a-time.

I prefer spin classes, though. The music, moves, instructor, and the other people in the class make sitting in one place and doing the same damn thing for 1-2 hours a lot less boring for me.

Last edited by Pinyon; 11-03-09 at 08:10 AM.
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Old 11-03-09, 01:37 PM   #3
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Headwinds are your friend. Do intervals into the wind, turn around, recover, turn back into the wind. Use a bigger than normal gear and don't try and get aero (sit up in a climbing position). Indoor trainer with a raised front wheel is also good.
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Old 11-03-09, 01:58 PM   #4
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Hauling a lot of stuff would also help, if you have a rack and panniers or a trailer. Grocery shopping is a great workout. (Well, the return trip is.)
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Old 11-03-09, 02:51 PM   #5
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Rural freeway overpasses and wind.
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Old 11-03-09, 03:05 PM   #6
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I am somewhat in the same type of terrain as you, but a little closer to hills. I agree with riding into a headwind doing intervals. When I train like this I attach my Polar HRM and try to obtain 90% of max HR for as long as I can then ride easy downwind then repeat. Most of the time I can find some slight incline with a headwind which helps. It has made me stronger.
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Old 11-03-09, 05:38 PM   #7
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You could always look for a parking garage, but personally I would just ride more and try to lose some weight. You can get stronger riding on flat land, and that's what is important.
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Old 11-03-09, 07:34 PM   #8
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Stiffer gears, pushing yourself harder, and loading down you/the bike with some weight. Training to be able to push the pedals quick (high cadence) while pushing yourself hard will help too.
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Old 11-03-09, 07:41 PM   #9
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Take up running. It will help you deal with the heart rate jump when you hit the hills. Running has helped me a ton and has given me more strength.
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Old 11-03-09, 07:44 PM   #10
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+1 for headwinds. Learned to respect them in my prior cycling life whilst in college at the U of Illinois... nothing like going out feeling like a hero cruising at over 20 mph only to turnaround and struggle to go 10.

Put a 53/42 crankset on in combo with an 11-21 (takes away any temptation to go easy) and you should have the right combo to turn a decent headwind into pure pain.
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Old 11-03-09, 07:45 PM   #11
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There are lots of things you can do to increase leg strength and endurance. In my experience though, the only way to train for riding hills is to ride hills. Headwinds don't even come close! There's a certain pacing and rhythm to hill climbing that can only be learned by climbing real hills on a real bicycle. And there's a certain mental toughness needed, as well.

Even if you can't ride hills every weekend, I would encourage you to spend at least some amount of time training on real hills. If you can train on the course you'll actually ride, that's even better! For me, being familiar with the route makes hill climbing much easier.
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Old 11-03-09, 08:37 PM   #12
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+2 on riding into headwinds.

As a guy who lives in a place where just about anywhere I ride is 98% uphill, I would have to say that headwinds are much more difficult. (The town is also known for it's wind.) I have gotten to the point where I can climb all day, for hours at without dismounting the bike. Sometimes I have to tack for a while, but I rarely need a rest. In the wind, however, I can't seem to faster than 20mph for more than ten minutes at a time without dropping several gears. Even then, I can hardly keep my cadence up. I think it's because one cannot anticipate the fluctuation in the wind. Also, wind resistance increases with speed. It a different animal entirely.

Edit: On the other hand, hills can be quite difficult mentally, because you can see what's ahead of you in terms of: more hills.

Last edited by rat fink; 11-03-09 at 08:41 PM.
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Old 11-03-09, 08:45 PM   #13
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Going out and riding big gears into a headwind....a) isn't really necessary and b) is a great way to cause knee problems. Climbing is more about cadence and fitness than it is about turning big gears.

I'll second Hammon's suggestion - ride more, get lighter. Intervals will aid fitness and strength...and periodically, you're gonna have to make the trip to find some hills. Practice makes perfect and you need a taste of what you'll see in your tri.
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Old 11-04-09, 06:48 AM   #14
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Old 11-04-09, 02:59 PM   #15
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Ditto on spin class really helping you with this. Lots and lots of "climbing" both in and out of the saddle. Lights, music, friendly female voice telling you to hang in there. Good times.

IMO, hill training in spin class somehow manages to be harder than actually riding a hill. Must be something about the flywheel or being out of the saddle for 15 minutes straight. After a few spin classes, most hills I encounter around here are a breeze.
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