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  1. #1
    Retired dabbler hobkirk's Avatar
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    Weight advantage descending, disadvantage climbing

    Is the overwhelming penalty of excess weight paid climbing? I suspect the answer to my question is "yes" and may be obvious to a lot of you, but it just occurred to me on my ride today.

    I carry an extra 45# of fat - 6'2", 240, age 64. I jumped into getting fit 2 months ago, joining a gym and working out every other day. With a little time on cardio bikes under my belt, I started riding my 35 year-old bike 16 days ago. 30 miles in week 1. 60 miles in week 2. Then two group rides this weekend, 38 miles (2:50) yesterday and 23 (1:50) today. Compared to the pack, I seem to do OK keeping up on flats, I coast faster, and I am very, very slow climbing.

    The gears on my old bike are very, very clunky compared to the 105's and Ultegra's I've ridden, but they work OK. I wish I could blame the bike! But the when the other riders pass me on the uphills they seem to be just pedaling away easily while I am struggling.

    PS - 38 miles yesterday wiped me out! Today's ride was supposed to be a slow 15 mile group ride, but they apparently canceled, leaving only a 14-15 mph group doing a longer ride.

  2. #2
    Senior Member mtalinm's Avatar
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    yes. it's called gravity. cf Pinewood Derby tactics...
    Trek Domane 4.5 (commute/distance), Specialized Roubaix (climber), Xootr Swift (winter/travel), Trek Soho (around town)

  3. #3
    SuperGimp TrojanHorse's Avatar
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    I think the quality of your hubs will determine your coasting advantage... weight doesn't hurt either of course. Aero position helps too.

    As for climbing, count me into the "struggles up hills" category. I blew it when I selected my new drive train.... I would really benefit from a taller gear but I'm huffing and puffing up hills in my 39/26 at about 50 rpm if the hill is steep enough. I think my aeorobic conditioning (or lack) keeps me from doing better on the hills and the only remedy for that is more riding & more hills. 2 months is pretty short - I got my rebuilt bike put back together 2 months ago so we're probably in about the same boat (I'm 6'2, 235).

    It'll get easier, keep the faith.

  4. #4
    Senior Member
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    The two relevant terms are potential energy and resistance. At the top of a hill I have more potential energy than anyone else in my riding group because I have more mass. Mass times the fraction of gravitational acceleration corresponding to the grade gives me force. While all of us may have similar rolling, mechanical and air resistance to overcome when we head downhill, my greater force allows me to laugh at the resistance and smoke my buddies.

  5. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by TrojanHorse View Post
    I think the quality of your hubs will determine your coasting advantage... weight doesn't hurt either of course. Aero position helps too.
    Mechanical and air resistance are important, I coast down a particular hill at 35mph on my Dura Ace hubs compared to 30 on my old bike, it's the weight that gives us Clydes an inherent advantage.

  6. #6
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    sure. At speed aerodynamics are by far the biggest resistance to a bicyclist. Weight is a much less important factor on the flats than most people like to think. On hills, gravity becomes a bigger factor than air resitance (particularly when speeds drop below ~12 mph), and hauling your extra weight (and maybe some extra weight on the bike) uphill takes work.

    What kind of bike do you ride? There are some fairly easy and relatively cheap things that can be done to improve your ability to climb (a six or seven speed freewheel with a lower gear would be easy, probably, for instance). Practice climbing will also improve your ability to climb.

  7. #7
    Retired dabbler hobkirk's Avatar
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    I ride a Lotus steel bike w/ Shimano 600 brakes and SunTour triple w/ 7 (I think) speed cassette. The lowest gear seems to have me spinning my legs to go very, very slowly. I've replaced the saddle, tires, and handlebars to make it work better but that's all I am going to do - my replacement (eBay) will be shipped from TX next week - CF w/ Ultegra 10-speed.

    I've cranked up my training from zero to over 60 miles (at 13 MPH overall average) this weekend in under 3 weeks. All my rides have hills plus I do an one-hour spinning class each week. But I know more experience will help me.

    Without thinking about it I had simply assumed that my excess weight would affect all aspects of riding. A forum like this is useful in changing bad assumptions. Thanks again.

  8. #8
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    yes, hills eat us big guys up something fierce I have a giant rapid 3 with a triple 28/42/52 up front and 11/28 on the back. I just picked up an old Nishiki 10 speed and started putting some work into it and took it for a couple of short rides. it's a double 40/52 with 14-17-20-24-28 on the back. On my rapid the 42/28 is usually more than enough to get me up the hills in central park though if I'm doing several laps or late in a ride I may need to take it down to the granny gear but it's no problem. I figured that the 40/28 would be fine to get me up those same hills, but it's tough. Granted, I got this bike and rode it a day after doing 50 hilly miles and the day before that i banged out 20 miles so my legs were a bit dead but nevertheless that 40/28 felt awfully hard. this old bike weighs 32 lbs my rapid weighs 26. I'm gonna replace the steel wheels with some new auminum wheels and get rid of the heavy gumwall tires and put some higher pressure performance tires along with a 7 speed MEGARANGE on it and it should give me a nice little ride.

    FWIW, the old gumwall tires are very heavy, they weigh in at 525 grams and they aren't even puncture proof like armadillos which weigh a little bit less. The weight of my rapid's 700c aluminum wheel with the heavy 28c armadillo is 3lbs 8 oz the steel front wheel with gumwall tire is 4lbs 12 oz so a full pound and a quarter heavier. I'm gonna go aluminum wheel with panaracer pasela which is about a quarter lb lighter than the armadillo I believe. I think I can get the front and rear wheels down almost 4 lbs total which should make a significant difference.

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by CPFITNESS View Post
    y I think I can get the front and rear wheels down almost 4 lbs total which should make a significant difference.
    If you rode the bike each way blindfolded, you wouldnt' be able to tell the difference.

  10. #10
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    Climbing comes down to one thing - power to weight ratio. A lighter rider will almost always be faster than a heavier rider. Unfortunately, most any of us posting in this section of the forum are never going to be able to challenge those little 120# riders that climb up hills like they are riding flats.

    But, we do have the advantage going down. On our Tuesday night ride, we start with a 2 mile climb. I'm generally about mid-pack. When we get to the top we stop and regroup before a 2 mile downhill. Nobody can keep up with me on the downhill.

    As for lightweight wheels... I've ridden my bike with the stock Shimano RS10 wheels and stock rubber and ridden it with Lightweight wheels which I think are literally half the weight of the Shimanos. I can't tell enough difference in climbing to notice. I can tell you, however, I noticed a big difference when I dropped 10 pounds off of me...

  11. #11
    Travelling hopefully chasm54's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by IAmCosmo View Post
    Climbing comes down to one thing - power to weight ratio. A lighter rider will almost always be faster than a heavier rider. Unfortunately, most any of us posting in this section of the forum are never going to be able to challenge those little 120# riders that climb up hills like they are riding flats.
    That is the whole story. I'm a big guy, but not much overweight at 6'3" and about 92 kilos. And I have a pretty good engine, and I do OK even on the climbs. But the real climbers, all little guys, dance past me as if I were motionless. I could improve - even at 92 kilos I'm about 5k above my optimum weight, and those 5 kilos would make a big difference. But the little guys would still dance past me...

  12. #12
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    I lose minutes on the uphill but gain only seconds on the downhill because the equivalent downhills are done in a much shorter time.

  13. #13
    Senior Member Wogster's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by AndrewP View Post
    I lose minutes on the uphill but gain only seconds on the downhill because the equivalent downhills are done in a much shorter time.
    I keep telling my SO, what goes down (descents) must go up (climbing), not sure how on a ride though, you can spend 7 hours climbing, 7 seconds descending and still end up at the same altitude

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