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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 08-10-10, 07:16 PM   #1
Mindseye
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I wish I could climb

Oh I wish I could climb, everything rolls around here and I can barely make it up the meekest of hills. When I'm in my lowest gear it still feels like I'm gear mashing to make it up the hill.

When I talked to the LBS they were pretty tackfull but it was clear. "No sir they don't really make a smaller chainring." ... "Thats geared pretty low." It also embarrassed the heck out of me.

I know I'm not going to be doing any of the rides I really want to do for awhile. I don't know I'm just a bit frustrated at the moment I'll feel better in the morning. I just wanted to pity party for a minute.
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Old 08-10-10, 07:43 PM   #2
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Climbing is all in the head. You find a hill (1 mile long) and just do it. 5 mph, 4, 3, 2, just get up. If you have to walk a short section, then do it. If you throw up on the side of the road, you'll feel better after.

Once you conquer a hill, it's yours, never again wil you fail. It's all practice and knowing you did it after you did it.

You'll be surprise how much you will improve after you just get to doing it!

Biggest problem with Clydes is that believe they can't cause that's what they are told.
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Old 08-10-10, 07:58 PM   #3
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a couple of tips:

1. when you're climbing, don't look at the top of the hill. that will discourage you. either look straight ahead or down at the pavement.

2. don't look at other cyclists or pedestrians. yes, some people may walk their bikes up the hill faster than you can pedal. but ignore them. you will improve with time/practice

3. focus on time in the saddle, not # of miles covered. someone gave me this tip a month ago and it has made all the difference!

4. don't be ashamed to get off and rest. I climbed Mont Royal in Montreal this morning, which is pretty much straight up 7% for a couple of miles. I was on a 40# rented bike but was able to make it b/c I stopped to rest at intersections.
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Old 08-10-10, 08:03 PM   #4
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+1000 on what Mr. Beanz said. It just takes practice and some stubbornness. Tell yourself you are going to do it, and dont quit trying till you do. Once you get to the top of the hill, stop and enjoy it for a few minutes. The accomplishment that you will feel will take away any of the pain and misery that you felt getting up it.

There are some days that I cannot climb Riley Mountain (its really a hill but thats its name). I have made it to the top several times, and somedays I get about half ways up it and my body says no more so sometimes I walk the rest and sometimes I just ride back down it. The beginning grade is 7% and then half ways up it, it turns into a 12-13% grade. I always go up as far as I can on it, where alot of riders will get to the base and turn around and go back home.

Always try climbing the hill, even if you do not make it up, you tried and that counts for something. Keep on trying and you will get to the top.
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Old 08-10-10, 08:22 PM   #5
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They look at us and say 'man, I wish I could descend that fast'. Well, in straight lines, anyway.
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Old 08-10-10, 08:45 PM   #6
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Oh I wish I could climb, everything rolls around here and I can barely make it up the meekest of hills. When I'm in my lowest gear it still feels like I'm gear mashing to make it up the hill.

When I talked to the LBS they were pretty tackfull but it was clear. "No sir they don't really make a smaller chainring." ... "Thats geared pretty low." It also embarrassed the heck out of me.

I know I'm not going to be doing any of the rides I really want to do for awhile. I don't know I'm just a bit frustrated at the moment I'll feel better in the morning. I just wanted to pity party for a minute.
Similar to what Beanz said, but different.

Find a hill where you need to walk up the last 100m/300', every day you ride, you make sure that hill is somewhere along your route, you will end up walking the first few times, all of a sudden in your lowest gear, you will make it, it could be after a week, it could be after a month, but you will make it. You keep at it though, then one day you find your not even using your lowest range of gears, now you go find a bigger hill, you can't quite get up, and you put that one on your daily ride, until you get it to the same condition, eventually you get to the point, where you can't find a big enough hill.... This is called hill training, it's not just clydes that need to do it, all riders do...
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Old 08-10-10, 09:27 PM   #7
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I agree with a lot Beanz says, you have to be head strong when climbing and try to stay positive..

Most riders get into trouble on climbs by forcing the pace at the bottom of the climb and then burning out before hitting the top..

Work on building your pace up a climb, starting a little slower at the bottom and building your pace towards the top...
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Old 08-10-10, 09:35 PM   #8
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why don't we try to get some real technical answers as well as just feel good answers. what kind of bike are you riding, how many teeth on your cranks and what are the ranges on your casettes? I'm so tired of getting told I can't have a 32 tooth cog on the back with a granny gear triple up front, finally i just did it myself. i'm willing to be with the right modifications of equipment you could get som ehelp in climbing.
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Old 08-10-10, 09:58 PM   #9
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why don't we try to get some real technical answers as well as just feel good answers. what kind of bike are you riding, how many teeth on your cranks and what are the ranges on your casettes? I'm so tired of getting told I can't have a 32 tooth cog on the back with a granny gear triple up front, finally i just did it myself. i'm willing to be with the right modifications of equipment you could get som ehelp in climbing.
Seems pretty clear that the OP is not good at climbing. He needs to train on the hills, not hide the fact he's a weak climber behind gearing. Train on a hill seems to be good advice and not feel good advice, depending on lower gears is avoiding the fact that he can't climb and will keep the OP from ever being a decent climber. Sounds as if his goal is to be able to climb with common gear and not have to go with something that will keep him dependent.

If he wanted to do a 20% climb, that would be one thing if the goal is to simply make it up. But it sounds more like he wants to improve at climbing, not hide his lack of ability.
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Old 08-10-10, 10:23 PM   #10
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Since he didn't say what his gearing is, I don't know if he's trying to hide behind gearing, or not. There are lots of steep hills in Monroe County. Nothing by your standards, but plenty of mile long 10% grades, if you go look for them. If he's got a 40 tooth chain ring, and a 24 rear cog, he'd be well served to get better gearing. (There are very few bike shops I trust to say "No, you can't do that" and have it really be the case that it can't be done, and not just require work for them. So his shop might be wrong, lazy, or just mean "you'd need a new crank".) Heck, if he's got a modern road triple he's likely to be well served by better gearing.
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Old 08-10-10, 10:25 PM   #11
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Since he didn't say what his gearing is, I don't know if he's trying to hide behind gearing, or not. There are lots of steep hills in Monroe County. Nothing by your standards, but plenty of mile long 10% grades, if you go look for them. If he's got a 40 tooth chain ring, and a 24 rear cog, he'd be well served to get better gearing. (There are very few bike shops I trust to say "No, you can't do that" and have it really be the case that it can't be done, and not just require work for them. So his shop might be wrong, lazy, or just mean "you'd need a new crank".) Heck, if he's got a modern road triple he's likely to be well served by better gearing.
Meekest of hills does not sound like 1 mile 10% grades.
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Old 08-10-10, 10:32 PM   #12
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Climbing sucks. It will always suck. I was never very good at it. I just go out and try to suck a little less.
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Old 08-10-10, 10:49 PM   #13
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To the OP - Mr. Beanz is right - climbing is 50% physical and 90% mental (with all due apologies to Yogi Berra). You need to be in pretty good condition to climb lots of hills, but after you get there it really is all mental.

I was a flatlander - I grew up in NJ, on the shore. Highest point for miles around was Mt. Mitchell, 236 feet above sea level. There were some steep climbs around, but very few of them were even a half mile long.

Then I moved to California - what a shock! Just outside my door is Mt. Diablo - a 10.5 mile long climb that goes up 3,200 feet. I was so intimidated that I didn't even try it for 5 years. Finally, I went up with some friends. The first time, I made it to the junction, roughly halfway up. Next time I made it to the wall - those last 300 yards are close to 20%. But then I had to walk. Finally I made it up (with a little "help" from some yahoos in a pickup, who were gunning the engine and honking right behind me as I climbed the wall, which is a single lane road without even enough room for a car to safely pass a cyclist). And no matter how bad a day I'm having, I haven't walked up any part of that mountain since. After I'd climbed it, I realized that most of it isn't even steep. The average grade is about 6.5% - it's the length and the fact that you're climbing for 90 minutes or more that makes it hard.

Hang in there, keep trying. A great exercise is whatever hill is your current nemesis, try to go just a little further each time you ride it. Sooner than you think, you'll climb it. THen it will just be a hill you do sometimes when you ride!

JB

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Old 08-11-10, 05:14 AM   #14
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Oh I wish I could climb, everything rolls around here and I can barely make it up the meekest of hills. When I'm in my lowest gear it still feels like I'm gear mashing to make it up the hill.

When I talked to the LBS they were pretty tackfull but it was clear. "No sir they don't really make a smaller chainring." ... "Thats geared pretty low." It also embarrassed the heck out of me.

I know I'm not going to be doing any of the rides I really want to do for awhile. I don't know I'm just a bit frustrated at the moment I'll feel better in the morning. I just wanted to pity party for a minute.
It's all a matter of practice. I used to be the same, hills would absolutely kill me in short order. Things that helped - a lot of riding, no matter hilly, flat, whatever, as long as you ride it's good. Another was the weekend rides. I'd choose a hilly route for the weekend, and crank out anywhere from 30 to 50 miles, with at least 2000 feet of climbing involved. I found out that those longer rides are what made it easier for me to ride in general; I could ride faster on flat ground, I could climb easier and faster then before. So just keep at it, and don't give up, and it will get better.

Off course, proper hidration is very very important, as well as having enough food intake - on a 3 to 4h and 35 mile ride, it is not uncommon for me to drink over a gallon of water. Also, I eat at least 4 to 5 various power bars or something similar. And remember, when going to climb a hill, spin and don't let yourself get too obssesed with going up at a speed that is greater then you can handle. If all you can do is spin in 1st gear going 3mph, then do so, and with time you will become faster and stronger, enabling you to go on stronger hills. Also remember to pace yourself, don't charge on the hill all out from the beginning, start with an easy pace and warm up steadily. Once you are in the right zone of effort and sweating, adjust accordingly, going slower or faster as needed. That will enable you to finish the climb. If you need to stop, do it and rest for a short time, but no more then 5 min, or you will cool down too much and it will be much harder to get warmed up again when you get going.
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Old 08-11-10, 05:38 AM   #15
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Could be a problem with form -- I was terrible at climbing until one of my buddies pointed out that I was dropping my heels. I stopped that, and was enormously faster.

A few basics -
  • Sit back in the saddle
  • Sit up more than you would on the flats -- grasp the hoods rather than the drops
  • Try to pick the right gear at the bottom of the hill -- each gear change on the hill will slow you down
  • Learn to pull up as well as pushing down
  • Don't drop your heels
Also, it may be a problem of basic strength, in which case getting out and riding hills will help, as will some time in the gym.
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Old 08-11-10, 08:43 AM   #16
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I appreciate all of the advice that I have been given. As was mentioned Monroe County does have some decent climbs available and as I live on the west side of the Highway most of what I have available to me is hills. However meekest of hills means I get winded making some pretty mild climbs I don't have actual values for incline or distance.

I'm have been told that I can get a better gear ratio for climbing but it could get a bit expensive.

My cranks are 34/50, and a 11/26 9 speed cassette. So a 34/26 should be fair climbing gearing anyway. And as Mr. Beanz correctly guessed I would like to try and improve my current abilities.
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Old 08-11-10, 08:47 AM   #17
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First and foremost; I HATE HILLS! I try not to ride them. Thankfully I live in a place that has no hills, excluding that "long" climb of 25 feet up the levee.

Not that I don't know how to climb, I do.

Most of the OP are right, as Nike says, Just Do It. You will improve every time you do. Keep on grinding up, before you know it you will look back and think. (I couldn't get up that).
After you master that one, go find a bigger, steeper one. A hill that you can "just" make it to the top. Ride that hill ALOT! Before you know it, the same thing will happen. WOW thats easy!

Also, your fitness will improve, quickly, Therefore your climbing will improve.

I found it was easier to "spin with strength". If I just try to increase my tempo at the bottom, I burn out before I'm to the top. Going to your lowest gear to quickly has never worked for me.

All in all; Hills SUCK! They are no fun for big guys, and we don't ride them fast! They need not be doom and gloom either. Just keep riding. I promise you that if you do, you will get better.
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Old 08-11-10, 09:09 AM   #18
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When I talked to the LBS they were pretty tackfull but it was clear. "No sir they don't really make a smaller chainring." ... "Thats geared pretty low." It also embarrassed the heck out of me.
Sounds like a bunch of ******. What do you have on the bike now? If you have a road triple (130/74 BCD) you can go to a 24 tooth chainring, a compact double is limited to 33 tooth but you can get a "triple-lizer" that'll let you add 74 BCD rings and make it a triple.

I have a triple 26/39/52 with an 11-34 cassette on a 26" wheel...that's a low of 20.6 gear inches and I'm not ashamed. If that's not enough do what Mr. Beanz says and get stubborn.
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Old 08-11-10, 10:02 AM   #19
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a compact double is limited to 33 tooth
Velo Orange just started selling a 46/30 compact double with swappable rings: http://www.velo-orange.com/grcru50cr.html

However, I'm not sure about the mechanical implications for a particular bike (will the FD work, is it compatible with the drive train, etc.).
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Old 08-11-10, 10:04 AM   #20
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There's nothing wrong with getting off and pushing (you're still working some leg muscles!). Just keep working on improving how far you can make it up the hill before you get off the bike. Also, enjoy the view at the top and the ride down!
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Old 08-11-10, 10:16 AM   #21
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Velo Orange just started selling a 46/30 compact double with swappable rings: http://www.velo-orange.com/grcru50cr.html

However, I'm not sure about the mechanical implications for a particular bike (will the FD work, is it compatible with the drive train, etc.).
That's a 50.4 BCD (not sure what that is ), your typical compact crank is 110 BCD which goes down to 33 teeth - you can get a TA one from Harris Cyclery.
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Old 08-11-10, 10:36 AM   #22
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I appreciate all of the advice that I have been given. As was mentioned Monroe County does have some decent climbs available and as I live on the west side of the Highway most of what I have available to me is hills. However meekest of hills means I get winded making some pretty mild climbs I don't have actual values for incline or distance.
Something you can do off the bike... work on stuff like squats, pushups, crunches, lunges and other bodyweight type exercises. After all, being a clyde or Athena means your body weighs a lot, so the bodyweight exercises are a good workout. And most bodyweight stuff works a really broad range of muscles, including your core muscles. And it is a lot easier to climb well if you're strong enough to hold your body in a position where you can work well.

Breathing hard tends to happen no matter what when you're going up a hill. It takes a lot of oxygen to fuel your legs for climbing. If your leg muscles aren't burning and screaming at you and the grade permits it, it is perfectly fair to stop and catch your breath. If you can get up the hill that way with no muscle pain, next time try a slightly higher gear... it may be you can't spin up fast enough, but you can mash your way up. And well, if you can mash your way up, you can work on changing that mashy gear into a spinny gear.

Anything you do on hills is pretty automatically going to be some kind of interval training. Interval training feels horrible, but it gets results and it gets them quickly. But it will be exercise quickly, so it might take a couple months to really notice your progress. And as a wonderful side effect... climbing helps sprinting.
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Old 08-11-10, 10:49 AM   #23
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Biggest problem with Clydes is that believe they can't cause that's what they are told.
Sometimes you just need to settle with the fact that you're only going to be doing 5mph for the next 3 hours.

(Some of the Seattle Randos atop the first of three 4000+ climbs for the day.)
The dude in the jeans and camp shirt forgot his bike clothes, and still grunted it out for 300k with 12,000' of climbing. He didn't end up getting a loaner pair of bike shorts until 200k into the ride.
Think about doing a 16 mile, 3000' climb in jeans and the next hill you're riding up won't seem so bad.
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Old 08-11-10, 10:49 AM   #24
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In the off season, try spinning. It helps with both the physical and mental aspects of climbing. The strength rides that focused on lots of seated and standing climbs of 10 minutes or longer really translated to gains on the road when I started riding in the spring. The classes focus on finding a tempo and sticking to it, and not quitting even though you may be tired. That is the mental aspect of hills. As you progress over months of spinning, your legs will get stronger and you make the resistance higher. That is the physical part.
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Old 08-11-10, 11:25 AM   #25
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Could be a problem with form -- I was terrible at climbing until one of my buddies pointed out that I was dropping my heels. I stopped that, and was enormously faster.

A few basics -
  • Sit back in the saddle
  • Sit up more than you would on the flats -- grasp the hoods rather than the drops
  • Try to pick the right gear at the bottom of the hill -- each gear change on the hill will slow you down
  • Learn to pull up as well as pushing down
  • Don't drop your heels
Also, it may be a problem of basic strength, in which case getting out and riding hills will help, as will some time in the gym.
Also very good point paying attention to form!

I myself climb with an upright position but hands on the handlebar tops next to the stem. If you've ever watch TDF riders, they sit pretty upright with this hand position.

Set the saddle hight at a fairly high position to allow for good leg extension. When I rode faltlands, I had my saddle set at what I thought was a good heigth. When I started climbing, I realized a slightly higher position was helpful. Every ridr is different but amybe try a higher postion as an experiment, could make a big diffeence.

Good breathing pattern. I once read that a rider naturally exhales on their dominant side. So alternating side while exhaling can help your output. One exherts more powere on the exhale so trying to exhale on the left side (figuring the right is your dominant) can help the output on our left stroke and help strengthens that side.

Might sound weird or maybe advanced but I use this method and even if it's bull, it helps me concentrate on my pedal tecchnique, tha's what matters.

This is the hand postiton I mention, guy in center and guy on the right. It actually allows you to get leverage too!

Last edited by Mr. Beanz; 08-11-10 at 12:14 PM.
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