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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 04-02-12, 08:44 PM   #1
Big Pete 1982
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Embarrassing hill climb.....

Well i'm a pretty big dude at 6'6 and 275lbs (down from around 330). The hills are getting easier, either from losing weight or gaining strength. Maybe both. That being said, there are still a few spots that kick my a$$ every time! I hate having to walk up a hill, but if they are more than about 8% for any amount of distance, i run out of gas in a hurry. Anyways, I try to avoid particularly steep hills, but there is one short hill on an otherwise great ride that I've yet to make it up without walking. It's the only hill i've had to walk up, and I always think anyone who see's me is laughing like a madman at how stupid I look pushing my bike up a hill. Anyways, today I was just getting done swallowing my pride (in other words I finished walking up the hill) and was just about to hop back in the saddle when some skinny little dude on a bike with about 100 lbs of saddle bags strapped to it goes riding by. He's not even breathing hard. And here I was starting to think I was getting better at this hill climbing thing.
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Old 04-02-12, 09:04 PM   #2
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Big Pete, what hills you riding down there in chehalisville?
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Old 04-02-12, 09:22 PM   #3
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And here I was starting to think I was getting better at this hill climbing thing.
It sounds like you are getting better at climbing the hills so I wouldn't be too disappointed.

Have you considered changing your gearing (rear cassette) to help make the climbs easier?
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Old 04-02-12, 09:45 PM   #4
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Big, steep, soul-crushing hills like the one you describe have one incredibly useful feature: they're great for measuring progress.

Every time you climb the hill, note exactly where you get off and start walking. The next time, try to make it a little further. Eventually, you'll ride all the way to the top. You'll be tired & out of breath, but you'll feel like a million bucks.
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Old 04-02-12, 09:49 PM   #5
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do you know what your gearing is in the front and back?
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Old 04-02-12, 10:28 PM   #6
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My simple advice to you: do not avoid the hills. Embrace them. You'll get better at going up them, don't worry.

Some day you'll pass some skinny dude on a super decked out Colnago or Cervelo or something going up a hill and it will be such an emotional shock to the guy he may give up cycling.
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Old 04-02-12, 11:39 PM   #7
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I ride a 50/34 chain ring with a 11-28 rear cassette. I don't think Ultegra rear derailers are compatible with larger cassettes so if I want a lower gear I'd have to put some mountain bike stuff on there. I think I will just suck it up and keep at it on what I've got.
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Old 04-03-12, 12:04 AM   #8
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+1 to what the others said.

I put mtb gearing on all bikes used for climbing, and it is a godsend! Yes, I did have to replace the stock rear derailleur with a Shimano Deore long-cage mtb derailleur, but it was well worth it. In fact, I even had to use my lowest gear on part of yesterday's climb up Cold Springs Road, due to the shock of climbing grades in the high teens with very little warm-up. My lowest gear is a 24-34.

As far as the guy passing you without breathing hard, well it might just be a cyclist practicing one of the "Univeral Truths of Cycling". Scroll down to #9.
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Old 04-03-12, 02:38 AM   #9
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Big Pete, i'm right there with you when it comes to hill climbing... they kick my a$$ every single time, but things are steadily (slowly though) getting better.

My advice (also given to me and has IMMENSELY HELPED) is to keep a steady pace and your Cadence* as high as possible (preferably around 75 rpm, but I manage a little less than that).
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Old 04-03-12, 09:12 AM   #10
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Hills ... they are one reason why I am a fan of riding in bike shoes with recessed cleats. Easier to walk in them.

My climbing isn't very good but I decided to stick with my current gearing (53/39, 12-27) rather than swap out my $$ dura-ace groupset. It means that I will have to walk a few short steep hills above 15% but most of my routes top out at 13% and I can muscle them up with 45 seconds in the red zone.

I spend more time spun out in the 53/12 wishing I had an 11T than I spend missing gearing easier than 39/27. I'm trying out a 11-28T on another bike (shimano 105 cheap groupset) to see if I want to upgrade the good bike or if I hate the gaps. Probably still won't be able to do a 18% grade but I'm OK with that.

Steady pace and exertion level helps me. It's tempting to slack off or coast when hitting a flat spot or cresting, but you will benefit more by building a little more momentum. You can coast when you're going downhill spun out in your 50/11.

Breathing - develop a regular breathing pattern focusing on a deep exhale. The inhale will take care of itself. Shallow breathing doesn't get enough oxygen into you. Relax everything that isn't helping you propel yourself - tense arms shoulders hands feet waste energy.

Cadence of 75 would have me blowing up and overheating very quickly especially on a hill. I am a masher averaging 60rpm on most rides and 50-60 on hills. When I get below 50rpm I will alternate standing and sitting to give one set of muscles some rest while working others, but standing blows me up fast too. I sit back on the saddle, drop my heels to keep stress off the kneecaps, and use the glute muscles. I'm not getting dramatically faster on the short steep hills but have improved a lot on the long moderate hills. It's kind of fun to start out-climbing people who can do a short steep spinning little gears but don't have the aerobic fitness to maintain high cadence climbing a few miles.

As you gain experience with a particular hill, they get easier to ride just because you can home in on the most effective gearing and where to shift, where to stand, which line to follow, how to pace yourself. You'll figure out what cadence works best for you, how much torque you should be applying going into the hill.

I also had a pro fit done. The fitter moved the saddle up and back about an inch both directions. It has helped me use some natural strength and smoothed out my pedal stroke a bit.
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Old 04-03-12, 10:28 AM   #11
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Another favorite tip of mine when the going gets so tough you can't POSSIBLY pedal another stroke... instead of trying to spin up the hill at 80 rpm, go as slow as you possibly can. It's not as hard as you think and it's positively refreshing when you're about to keel over.
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Old 04-03-12, 12:18 PM   #12
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+1 to what the others said.
.
.
.
As far as the guy passing you without breathing hard, well it might just be a cyclist practicing one of the "Univeral Truths of Cycling". Scroll down to #9.
All those are truths.

#5 - I have given away countless allen sets and the inexpensive multi-tools to neighbors.
As for #9... how come I am always "that someone up ahead"? Stupid CAT 3 climbs!
Heck, on the climb today I even drafted a woman walking her dog!
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Old 04-03-12, 12:41 PM   #13
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I ride a 50/34 chain ring with a 11-28 rear cassette. I don't think Ultegra rear derailers are compatible with larger cassettes so if I want a lower gear I'd have to put some mountain bike stuff on there. I think I will just suck it up and keep at it on what I've got.
According to Shimano this is correct - but in application, not true. I'm able to run an 11-32 on my Ultegra 6700 equipt Colnago with room to spare. I believe the ability to run larger cassettes resides in the derailleur hanger rather than the rear derailleur.
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Old 04-03-12, 01:21 PM   #14
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According to Shimano this is correct - but in application, not true. I'm able to run an 11-32 on my Ultegra 6700 equipt Colnago with room to spare. I believe the ability to run larger cassettes resides in the derailleur hanger rather than the rear derailleur.
So did you change your derailer hanger or did the cog swap just work as is?
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Old 04-03-12, 01:41 PM   #15
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I feel your pain. The biggest hills in Florida are in Clermont and every fall they hold the "Horrible Hundred". Year before last me and my equally overweight buddy were walking up one of the steeper hills (about 15% grade) and he said "there's no shame in walking up a hill like this" and the fellow walking next to us said "yeah, there is, but it ain't lonely" I'm trying to lose weight to see if it's easier to get 225lbs up the hill than 275lb Like you I'm learning, and I'm getting stronger but I still can't keep up with the skinny little guys on the hills.
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Old 04-03-12, 02:13 PM   #16
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Couple of things:

First, and I say this with the deepest thoughts of motivation in mind..."quit being a baby and ride your bike up the dang hill!

I'm 250+, 6'1 and if I can do it, you aren't any more at a disadvantage than I am at 5 inches taller and only 25 lbs difference, you can do it. Don't rush the hill, concentrate on breathing and pace yourself. Once you make it, you can never not make it.

The other thing is don't worrry about the skinny dudes, they get their pride shattered just like we do. I have a buddy that will shatter the hearts of 99% of the skinnies, they all get shelled too! Aint no thang!

Also remember, if you pratice the hills, clydes can kick skinny arse on the climbs. We might get dropped after 1/4 mile, might not be the first up the 1 mile climb, 5 mile climb, 20 mile climb but I've passed lots of freakin' skinny arse after 40-80 miles of climbing. There is a point where speed is no longer a factor. A point where stamina, strength and determination takes over. Keep hitting them hills, you'll see what I mean.
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Old 04-03-12, 02:14 PM   #17
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As for #9... how come I am always "that someone up ahead"? Stupid CAT 3 climbs!
Heck, on the climb today I even drafted a woman walking her dog!
I'll confess to being the chaser hiding my effort on the very few times I've passed another cyclist on a climb. I'm even guilty of doing that while passing hikers and other mountain bikers who've yielded to me on singletrack trails. Proof of that is at 2:52 in the video I posted in this thread last month.

And yes, just like in #9, I ended up gasping for breath up the rest of the climb, only to look up near the top of the hill and see two other mountain bikers sitting on a picnic bench looking at me.
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Old 04-03-12, 03:45 PM   #18
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Big Pete, what hills you riding down there in chehalisville?
This is a pretty hilly area. Nothing particularly long, but a few steep ones. I ride the locally famous "Napavine Hill" that many know from the STP route. It's not particularly steep, but it's about 1 mile long and maybe 5 or 6% grade. There are lots of roads like that around here. Surprisingly the hill I was talking about in the original post is on highway 603. I always figure most highways don't have hills like that. It's just a short little corkscrew of about 1/2 a mile but it's dang steep!
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Old 04-03-12, 04:17 PM   #19
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Just keep on trying. I have a couple hills around the corner from my house that have some spots that are 20% grade, with an average grade of 10%+. The steeper one is only a mile, but the first 1/4 mile climbs over 200'. The other one climbs to 1100' over about 2.5 miles. It took me several attempts (and a large rear sprocket), but I finally conquered both.

Don't give up. Get a cassette with a wider range of gears if you have to.
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Old 04-03-12, 09:42 PM   #20
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when some skinny little dude on a bike with about 100 lbs of saddle bags strapped to it goes riding by. He's not even breathing hard. And here I was starting to think I was getting better at this hill climbing thing.
there will always be a faster or stronger or fitter person passing you. Dont let it get to you as no matter how strong a climber you become or how fast a sprinter you get you will randomly get dropped by a old dude on a mountain bike with fully loaded saddle bags. and for all you know he could have once wore a yellow jersey and rides 6 hours a day still.


just last week i was riding into a head wind cursing mother nature in full tuck aero i i could get. then a guy on a comfort bike with a rusty chain in full upright position passes me fast, i kick it up a notch pass him right up and bonk out 5 miles before my finish and the guy just coasts right by me again. wind dies down and he zooms out of my view. it was a tough pill to swallow but when i got back home and check my garmin data my time/cadence/average speed were all better so i count it a win that day.

dude there is a clyde here that did a 100 mile flat ride and averaged 20mph i cant even average than on a 15mile ride. does it bring me down? no! it shows that it is possible to get to that point being a clyde.
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Old 04-03-12, 10:38 PM   #21
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When I was younger and fitter, I used to commute to work (about 16 miles each way). I was riding home one day on my heavy steel bike and I passed a dude on a mountain bike at the base of a moderate hill and I thought - I better bury this guy! He was on a mountain bike, had a backpack on, had his DRY CLEANING dangling from the top loop of his back pack... so I freaking hit the pedals hard.

Got to the top, he rode right by and said "Thanks for the draft"



Later, I used to do a weekly ride with a bunch of guys, and some new guy showed up on a mountain bike and *he* kicked my butt every time we rode too. He could have beaten me on a tricycle. There are just people like that and that's OK.
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Old 04-04-12, 12:02 AM   #22
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Well, just to clarify, I suppose I was more pissed at the hill than the guy that passed me. Although it is embarrassing when I'm getting all light headed and starry eyed and feeling like I want to puke from over exerting myself and then some dude goes whizzing by like that same hill was nothing but a speed bump. If I made it to the top without walking, I wouldn't have even cared about the dude passing me. When I do conquer that stupid hill, I will be celebrating with a post ride beer or two.
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Old 04-04-12, 12:11 AM   #23
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As CjC said there will always be those faster and stronger than you .

Just remember you can only measure your self against yourself. There is a few hill i have personal grudges against, and each time i knock one of the list it feels great.

One thing you will notice when learn to conquer one hill , you can't help but look to the next one and grin slightly.
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Old 04-04-12, 12:13 AM   #24
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I remembered this thread and Rule #9 when I was doing a 2000 ft climb today.. about 1000 feet from the top I saw a group of teenage hikers and made sure to say hello, reply to the one guy who said something nice and act like I wasn't winded or tired at all.

I'm a skinny guy but I was really unfit when I started cycling and remember the first time I rode with my brother going up a decent hill and dying.. like ready to pass out, when some bigger, older gentleman cruised right past me like it was nothing. But with time and practice and googling climbing techniques and using those it has helped a lot.
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Old 04-04-12, 12:33 AM   #25
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when some bigger, older gentleman cruised right past me like it was nothing. But with time and practice and googling climbing techniques and using those it has helped a lot.
Funny, I used to avoid hills as a big guy at 230 (6'1) cause my 165 lb friends said I was too big to climb and I believed it. On an organized ride, 1 mile hill 7% I was passed blown aways and dropped like a bad habit by a gal that was about 5 feet tall and my weight, no exaggerating.

It was then that I thought, if she can do it, I can do it. I started riding hills, no intervals or hardcore training, just riding everything that got in my way. Months later I rode with my buddies and totally blew them away on every climb, long and short. They quit riding with me after that ha ha!

One thing about climbing is once you have it, it is always there. It may fade, may ride slower but with a little attention, it's like riding a bike.
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