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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 05-26-11, 03:31 PM   #1
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Standing on the pedals

I'm putting this in this section because I weight 223 lbs., and I suspect my weight has something to do with my problem.

I'm 63, a little under 6 feet, and in pretty good shape. In the group rides I do, I can usually keep up with the riders half my age.

However, long climbs are a ***** for me.

Generally, I just spin my way to the top. But I've been watching the Giro and the TOC and marveling how Contador stands on his pedals and motors his way to the top of the steepest grades.

My problem is that whenever I stand, my heart rate shoots up to 90-95% of max, and I have a hard time maintaining it for more than a minute or so. If I'm sitting, I can maintain 90% of max for 6 to 8 minutes, but not standing. Also, it doesn't seem like I gain that much speed.

But then again, maybe I'm just doing it all wrong.

Any pointers would be much appreciated.
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Old 05-26-11, 03:47 PM   #2
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I have never been a good climber, and I am one of those uh whats the name.? anyway I have never been good on hills other than something short and sweet. a Gent I rode and worked with told me once just do whatever it takes to make the top with the group. well that advice got me nowhere.

as for Contador, he is paid to do nothing but train and race and is 1/3 your age and half mine so forget him!

if the hills are long try and combination of both. attack it standing until you poopout a bit, then shift into a an easier gear and sit until you get your wind back. shift to a harder gear and stand again. repeat
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Old 05-26-11, 04:02 PM   #3
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So... do you start standing first then sit? Or Start sitting, go until you slow, stand and crunch, then sit again?

I love/hate hills...
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Old 05-26-11, 04:08 PM   #4
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So... do you start standing first then sit? Or Start sitting, go until you slow, stand and crunch, then sit again?

I love/hate hills...
If it's a short hill, and if I do stand, I'll generally do the entire thing standing. If it's a longer one, I might stand at the very top, but not at any point in the middle, because it just wears me out.

I think part of the problem is I don't have my gearing right. I seem to be either in too low a gear, and the minute I stand my cadence is just too high, or too high a gear, and I'm barely able to push the pedals down.

Maybe I just need to practice more!

I know there's at least one Tour racer who never stands on the pedals. Not that I'm comparing myself to him, LOL, but perhaps some people just aren't built for standing on the pedals?
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Old 05-26-11, 04:38 PM   #5
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I wouldn't worry about it too much. I think it has to do with your size, the way you are fit to your bike, and other factors. I climb seated 90% or so of the time. I do stand a little more than I used to, think it's just practice.

I stand to power up a short hill, or to stretch things out during a long climb. Other than that, I stay seated.

If you are not shifting when standing, that might be part of your problem. I generally go to 1-2 cogs smaller when switching from sitting to standing.
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Old 05-26-11, 04:41 PM   #6
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I'm putting this in this section because I weight 223 lbs., and I suspect my weight has something to do with my problem.
Almost entirely.

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Generally, I just spin my way to the top. But I've been watching the Giro and the TOC and marveling how Contador stands on his pedals and motors his way to the top of the steepest grades.
Good climbers tend to weigh about 2 pounds per inch of height with the associated ectomorphic shape and absence of fat providing an excellent power to weight ratio for motoring up mountains.

That describes Contador at 5'9.5" and 140 pounds.

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My problem is that whenever I stand, my heart rate shoots up to 90-95% of max, and I have a hard time maintaining it for more than a minute or so. If I'm sitting, I can maintain 90% of max for 6 to 8 minutes, but not standing.
That's normal when you exceed your lactate threshold and corresponding lactate heart rate (LTHR).

Endurance when you're exercising past your lactate threshold/threshold power/critical power drops rapidly. Although you might be good for an hour time trial at 100% of that power, you may last only 10 minutes at 105%, 5 minutes at 110%, and 10 seconds at 150%.

Pace yourself more appropriately and get lower gears if you get too much muscle fatigue from the cadence which goes with a sustainable heart rate.

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Also, it doesn't seem like I gain that much speed.
You might get a little better muscle recruitment standing, but a little isn't good for much speed.

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Any pointers would be much appreciated.
Anything to improve your lactate threshold will help. Threshold intervals (ex 3x10) will lessen the gap between threshold power and VO2 max. VO2 max intervals (ex 3x3) will raise both. Sweet spot riding helps some.

If you're running out of gears big-gear intervals will help.
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Old 05-26-11, 04:55 PM   #7
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Thanks for those good tips, Drew. I've done interval training on an elliptical machine, but never on my bike. It seems like that might be the next step for me.

I don't have a power meter, but I do have a Garmin 500 with a heart rate monitor. I don't have the means to measure my VO2 max, but I'm assuming that 3 intervals of 3 minutes at 95% of my max HR would do the trick. As for threshold intervals, I don't know -- I have no way of measuring this, and I'm not sure what heart rate would be the equivalent.
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Old 05-26-11, 05:03 PM   #8
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Originally Posted by Chaco View Post
I'm putting this in this section because I weight 223 lbs., and I suspect my weight has something to do with my problem.

I'm 63, a little under 6 feet, and in pretty good shape. In the group rides I do, I can usually keep up with the riders half my age.

However, long climbs are a ***** for me.

Generally, I just spin my way to the top. But I've been watching the Giro and the TOC and marveling how Contador stands on his pedals and motors his way to the top of the steepest grades.

My problem is that whenever I stand, my heart rate shoots up to 90-95% of max, and I have a hard time maintaining it for more than a minute or so. If I'm sitting, I can maintain 90% of max for 6 to 8 minutes, but not standing. Also, it doesn't seem like I gain that much speed.

But then again, maybe I'm just doing it all wrong.

Any pointers would be much appreciated.
Personally if I know a hill and know it's fairly short I may decide to just charge it, get to the top through brute force anaerobically and deal with the lactic acid on the way back down. If it's a long hill that's not going to work so I drop as many gears as it takes to keep the pedals turning.

Personally I don't feel steady on the bike if I stand on the pedals, although sometimes I will lift my weight enough so I can gain a little extra power through dropping my weight onto the pedals.

One thing I have found is that I need to either put down power, or spin the pedals. Once in a while I find myself trying to put down a lot of power in a low gear, which means my muscles are working hard for minimal gain. If I do that then sometimes I figure that my legs are tiring because I'm in too high a gear and change down, which only makes it worse. If I can turn the pedals at a comfortable rate without feeling like I'm bouncing them then I can probably get up the hill. If I find I'm bouncing the pedals I usually need to go up a gear, or turn them more slowly.
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Old 05-26-11, 05:10 PM   #9
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Thanks for those good tips, Drew. I've done interval training on an elliptical machine, but never on my bike. It seems like that might be the next step for me.

I don't have a power meter, but I do have a Garmin 500 with a heart rate monitor. I don't have the means to measure my VO2 max, but I'm assuming that 3 intervals of 3 minutes at 95% of my max HR would do the trick. As for threshold intervals, I don't know -- I have no way of measuring this, and I'm not sure what heart rate would be the equivalent.
If you ride as hard as you can for 30 minutes your LTHR should be close to the average over the last 20 minutes.

Carmichael has a different set of training zones based off the average heart-rate or power from his field test which comes from a pair of all-out 8 minute segments separated by 10 minutes of recovery. That's easier psychologically and logistically for a road ride.

http://nencycling.org/wiki/cts_train...est_calculator

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Old 05-26-11, 06:01 PM   #10
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My problem is that whenever I stand, my heart rate shoots up to 90-95% of max, and I have a hard time maintaining it for more than a minute or so.
You should be using different gears for standing versus sitting. Are you?

When I climb, I usually only stand if I next some extra power to get past a particularly steep section of the climb. If the incline doesn't change, I'll need to shift into a more difficult gear before I stand. In either case, it's important to focus on staying calm and continuing to pedal at a steady pace. I've noticed that many people have a tendency to sprint when they stand and, as you've discovered, that can't last for very long! I find that I have the best results if I consciously try to slow my cadence while standing...
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Old 05-26-11, 07:12 PM   #11
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I think people of pretty much any body type can learn to stand, and do it effectively, including C/As. You just have to develop a sense of the proper gearing and cadence and then focus on technique. Too low a gear/too high a cadence and you'll exhaust yourself before you would have if you'd remained seated. Too high a gear/too low a cadence and you can find yourself grinding to a halt. Play around a bit. Once you get a better feel for the right gear for the hill, explore the other aspects of standing, like pulling up on the bars as you push down on the pedal, or consciously pulling up on the opposite pedal's upstroke (if your feet are connected to the pedals). When it works right, you can sometimes (not always) get to the top with less effort than you would sitting and spinning. And on those climbs where it takes more effort, at least you'll get to the top in less time.
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Old 05-26-11, 08:09 PM   #12
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You should be using different gears for standing versus sitting. Are you?

When I climb, I usually only stand if I next some extra power to get past a particularly steep section of the climb. If the incline doesn't change, I'll need to shift into a more difficult gear before I stand. In either case, it's important to focus on staying calm and continuing to pedal at a steady pace. I've noticed that many people have a tendency to sprint when they stand and, as you've discovered, that can't last for very long! I find that I have the best results if I consciously try to slow my cadence while standing...
I do shift up a couple of gears. I think part of the problem may be that I just need to slow down the cadence a bit.
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Old 05-26-11, 08:19 PM   #13
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Just do whatever works best. I've found that as I lost weight, it's a lot easier and more natural to stand on the pedals, so your weight and fitness play a major part in how well it works.
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Old 05-26-11, 09:49 PM   #14
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CraigB's post is spot on. Unfortunately for me I had to learn those lessons the hard way.
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Old 05-27-11, 02:28 AM   #15
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There are several good discussions right now in the 50+ forum on this type of thing. CraigB, however, has summed up the key elements. Standing to climb is a cultivated technique. Riding a fixed gear helped my stand-to-climb skills considerably.
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Old 05-27-11, 02:48 AM   #16
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Further question: When standing, are you also able to pull up on the cleats on the back/up stroke?
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Old 05-27-11, 03:34 AM   #17
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I hesitate, because there's always a flamefest brewing when it comes to discussing ankling and pulling up pedals.

Yes, I find it helpful to pull up on the cleats on the upstroke sitting or standing. Sitting, it's called ankling. The way it was put to me was like scraping mud from the sole of your shoe at the bottom of the stroke on platform pedals.

It's a matter of keeping the same sort of stroke when standing as well, although obviously there are differences because of the different leg extension.

Those who think they know everything dismiss ankling as having no benefit because studies have said so. But I know that practise sometimes eclipses studies, and for me, ankling has a positive effect. Again, fixed gear riding helped me in this area.

But short answer... yes.
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Old 05-27-11, 08:32 AM   #18
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Further question: When standing, are you also able to pull up on the cleats on the back/up stroke?
A tiny bit, but I confess I get so flustered with my cadence and how quickly I wear out that I often forget to do it.
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Old 05-27-11, 09:12 AM   #19
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When standing, don't try to hit the same cadence you use sitting.

I've been experimenting with something that's about halfway between sitting and standing. I shift to the rear of my saddle, to give me a little extra leg extension, and climb that way. I get a bit of extra power - or at least, I start engaging muscles more than I do when I'm spinning. I really start to feel it in my inner quad muscle. I've been working on my climbing for the past three weeks, and I can tell you that my knee pain has gone down overall due to that inner quad getting stronger.
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Old 05-27-11, 09:20 AM   #20
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Further question: When standing, are you also able to pull up on the cleats on the back/up stroke?
Yes - that's what I was referring to when I mentioned pulling up on the opposite pedal's upstroke. It used to be a little more scary in the old days of toe clips and old-fashioned cleats, as you ran a little danger of pulling your foot out if your straps weren't cinched good and tight. Clipless pedals and cleats make it much more secure.

I confess I only resort to that when the going gets particularly tough, as it can be a little distracting from your other efforts, until you get used to it.

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Old 05-27-11, 05:44 PM   #21
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Yes - that's what I was referring to when I mentioned pulling up on the opposite pedal's upstroke. It used to be a little more scary in the old days of toe clips and old-fashioned cleats, as you ran a little danger of pulling your foot out if your straps weren't cinched good and tight. Clipless pedals and cleats make it much more secure.

I confess I only resort to that when the going gets particularly tough, as it can be a little distracting from your other efforts, until you get used to it.
This is true. Like a lot of things to do with technique on a bicycle, improving climbing by standing and "ankling" requires a large degree of concentration on what you are doing at any particular moment and on every ride. There does come a time when what you that style or technique becomes natural, and you don't have to think about it. It's very exhilarating to suddenly find yourself doing something automatically...

Constant practice also means that when you tire, you still have at least some semblence of good technique. Too often, people let their technique slide as they tire; the most obvious manifestations on climbing while standing are rocking the bike sideways, and jerky circles in pedalling. The arms also can start of collapse a bit.
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Old 05-27-11, 07:54 PM   #22
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It's funny, I don't really think of pulling up as "ankling" per se. To me, ankling is the process of consciously altering the angle of your foot throughout the pedal stroke, specifically dropping your heel at the top of the stroke, and raising it at the bottom (and by "raising" I don't mean lifting your foot - more like making an effort to have your toes point down and your heel point up). I think you can apply power all the way around the stroke without doing that. At least I know I can.
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Old 05-27-11, 09:52 PM   #23
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It's funny, I don't really think of pulling up as "ankling" per se. To me, ankling is the process of consciously altering the angle of your foot throughout the pedal stroke, specifically dropping your heel at the top of the stroke, and raising it at the bottom (and by "raising" I don't mean lifting your foot - more like making an effort to have your toes point down and your heel point up). I think you can apply power all the way around the stroke without doing that. At least I know I can.
+1 I thought the same thing.
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Old 05-28-11, 12:00 AM   #24
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I do shift up a couple of gears. I think part of the problem may be that I just need to slow down the cadence a bit.
This is what I discovered. Until a month or so ago, I was just a grinder going up hills. There is a Cat 3 climb on my little loop. The hill is just over two miles long at an average of a 4% grade. I started "experimenting" with standing and discovered that I need to downshift two or three sprockets so I wouldn't wear myself out. And, drop the cadence about 10-15 rpm. When I sit back down, I have to downshift right away or else I'll lose any momentum I have going.
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Old 05-28-11, 01:59 AM   #25
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It's funny, I don't really think of pulling up as "ankling" per se. To me, ankling is the process of consciously altering the angle of your foot throughout the pedal stroke, specifically dropping your heel at the top of the stroke, and raising it at the bottom (and by "raising" I don't mean lifting your foot - more like making an effort to have your toes point down and your heel point up). I think you can apply power all the way around the stroke without doing that. At least I know I can.
If you are pulling up with your foot either sitting or standing, you are always going to be altering the angle of your foot. Ankling to me does not mean pointed toes. It really is like trying to scrape mud off the sole of your shoe. The concept of pointing the toes probably came from riding platforms.

The concept, as far as I am concerned is that you are recruiting your calf muscles in the pedalling process. If you look carefully at the Tour riders when the camera is side-on to them and when they not sprinting, you will see that irrespective of their cadence, they are "ankling" -- not pointy toed, but bringing their calf muscles into the process.
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