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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 05-23-12, 07:58 AM   #1
ccrow
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How to climb hills?

So i'm new to all this and don't have much in the way of hills. I did climb around 200 ft combined on about 3 different hills, but didn't know what the form for climbing is. I'm riding a hybrid and have been staying seated and just down shifting and taking my time. Should I be standing? I'm not setting any records, but that's not the goal either. Thanks for the advice!
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Old 05-23-12, 08:42 AM   #2
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As a general rule your are more efficient seated than standing. That being said standing can be fun when you really want to get up fast, but be prepared to feel it. A situation where I think it makes sense to stand is if you have a short particularly steep hill, that way you don't loose too much speed and don't totally blow up.

As far as getting up hills, don't be afraid to down shift and find a pace that works for you. The hills on this ride really sucked for me, as you can see the second one I average 4.9 mph getting up it, but I got up it. Cadence was in the 50-60 range quite a bit, not exactly where I'd like to be but with my gearing that was what it took.

http://app.strava.com/rides/8811733

The best way to get better at hills is to ride more hills, learn what your body can do and push it further than you think you can (for me the first time I rode big hills I got to the point where I thought I had to stop but I said no I'm going to keep going, and I did).
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Old 05-23-12, 09:00 AM   #3
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For me, I stay seated (unless as noted above, it's a short, steep hill, such as a freeway overpass). I like my cadence to be higher - around 85-95 rpm. My left knee aches every so often, but it doesn't keep my from climbing occasionally. Slower cadence puts too much strain on my knee.

For the most part, on the climb below, I was in my lowest gear (26t front chainring / 34t rear cog):
http://app.strava.com/rides/8318189
I only averaged 5.3mph (3.0mph on the steepest part - 12.7% grade), but that was the pace that worked best for me, and allowed me to make it to the top.
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Old 05-23-12, 09:08 AM   #4
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Not one 'style' works for everybody or every situation. As wfournier has pointed out short 'hills' can be done standing which will work the quads while a longer hill may need a seated spin approach and works the lungs.

Best advice I can give is to get out there, relax and embrace the hills to find what works for you.

As I've told many folks...

Makes no sense to practice what you are good at, practice what you suck at.

youtube could be of some help. Try "bike ride climb hill technique"
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Old 05-23-12, 09:33 AM   #5
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Stay seated, downshift ahead of time and spin. Don't be the n00b that tries cranking up the hill only to come to an almost complete stop before downshifting a bunch and hearing *ka-chunk ka-chunk ka-chunk!* right before the chain falls off.
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Old 05-23-12, 09:43 AM   #6
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Thanks for the advice guys. Sounds like I'm on the right track, staying seating, down shifting and getting up it. I like them when I can find them, we're pretty level around here. You've got to get up them to be able to go down them and scream Wheee!
Thanks again!
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Old 05-23-12, 09:51 AM   #7
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Stay seated, downshift ahead of time and spin. Don't be the n00b that tries cranking up the hill only to come to an almost complete stop before downshifting a bunch and hearing *ka-chunk ka-chunk ka-chunk!* right before the chain falls off.
Yes! yesterday I took the hilly route home to practice my standing climbs, since I rarely get out of the saddle...realized about halfway up a 1/4 mile hill of about 8% grade that I was maybe one cog higher than I would've liked. Since I was in too high of a gear to sit down and finish the climb, I just had to push through it, because there's no way you can downshift at that point...although I often see people try. Makes me cringe!
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Old 05-23-12, 09:54 AM   #8
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Ride more hills and you'll figure out what works for you.

I find that standing, for me, tends to slow me down unless the hill is really steep.
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Old 05-23-12, 10:03 AM   #9
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+1 on higher cadence and early shifting. I learned that the hard way as when I was a total noob, not that long ago, I'd try to hammer up hills and the results were less than impressive. I brought more than one ride to an early conclusion by frying my legs this way. Now I get in the middle ring early and downshift to try to keep my cadence above 80 for as long as possible.
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Old 05-23-12, 10:11 AM   #10
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I only stand and hammer if it's a hill I want/need to get over quickly, or if the hill is long enough that I feel the need for a change.

With some experience you'll be able to tell what the most efficient method is for you. On any given hill it could be different. Be open to that possibility.
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Old 05-23-12, 10:57 AM   #11
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WUAH! Walk Up All Hills.

Well, maybe not all of them, but works for me. I'm not out to be super competitive, or accomplishment oriented. I like the change of pace.

The mechanical advantages of a bike are great on the downhill side, but they work against you on the uphill side. Walking is a more sophisticated way of going up a hill. (as I see it)

It gets a bit of variety into your exercise, and I find it pleasant.
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Old 05-23-12, 11:07 AM   #12
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WUAH! Walk Up All Hills.
Walking is the Devil's work. If God had meant us to walk, he would not have inspired us to invent the bicycle.

OP, how you climb depends on the steepness and length of the hill. Staying seated is generally more energy-efficient, as others have noted, but on really long steep hills it makes sense to stand from time to time to give your quads a break, engage other muscles for a while, and so on. When you do stand, shift UP a gear before you do. Otherwise your cadence will increase and you'll wear yourself out. Stand up as straight as you can, don't put too much weight over the front wheel, and keep a steady rhythm, much as if you were using a stepping machine at the gym. Don't try to spin when standing, you'll end up like a demented and very tired hamster.

Last edited by chasm54; 05-23-12 at 12:21 PM. Reason: Stepping, not steeping.
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Old 05-23-12, 11:49 AM   #13
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Practice more and more and more. This has been something I am working on now. Get a HRM if you can and monitor your heart rate when you climb.

Find your tempo and breath!
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Old 05-23-12, 11:54 AM   #14
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WUAH! Walk Up All Hills.

Well, maybe not all of them, but works for me. I'm not out to be super competitive, or accomplishment oriented. I like the change of pace.

The mechanical advantages of a bike are great on the downhill side, but they work against you on the uphill side. Walking is a more sophisticated way of going up a hill. (as I see it)

It gets a bit of variety into your exercise, and I find it pleasant.
Nothing wrong with walking, but if I have to stop my personal rule is I don't walk. I feel it gives me more motivation, I'm going to have to ride up it anyway so why not get it over with lol.
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Old 05-23-12, 11:57 AM   #15
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Nothing wrong with walking, but if I have to stop my personal rule is I don't walk. I feel it gives me more motivation, I'm going to have to ride up it anyway so why not get it over with lol.
We dont walk, we just fall over!
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Old 05-23-12, 12:19 PM   #16
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Yes! yesterday I took the hilly route home to practice my standing climbs, since I rarely get out of the saddle...realized about halfway up a 1/4 mile hill of about 8% grade that I was maybe one cog higher than I would've liked. Since I was in too high of a gear to sit down and finish the climb, I just had to push through it, because there's no way you can downshift at that point...although I often see people try. Makes me cringe!
Why not? I try to avoid having to shift under tension, but it works fine when I need to. (I thought I was in 39x25 one day, but was really in 39x23. I figured it out near the top of an 18 % grade, and had no trouble shifting while I was standing on the pedals, then finished the climb.)
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Old 05-23-12, 12:26 PM   #17
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If you make a habit of shifting under load, you'll be going through cogs and chains more quickly than if you de-loaded when you shifted. As they get worn, the chain skips more when you shift. Even if they're not worn badly, you can still drop a chain if you don't de-load. Just ask Andy Schleck.
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Old 05-23-12, 12:32 PM   #18
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It's better (for all sorts of reasons) to be in the right gear in advance. But Matt was saying it couldn't be done ... which I don't understand.
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Old 05-23-12, 12:49 PM   #19
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It's better (for all sorts of reasons) to be in the right gear in advance. But Matt was saying it couldn't be done ... which I don't understand.
You're right, it can be done, it's just not advisable...what I meant to say was "there's no way I was going to try and downshift at that point"
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Old 05-23-12, 12:56 PM   #20
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I dunno. I think it's better to be in the gear you need. Obviously it's better to do it before you need to ... but if you have to, better to shift than to struggle. Plus it works as a reminder for the next several times.
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Old 05-23-12, 01:38 PM   #21
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He definitely could've shifted at that point. Whether he would've stayed upright is another story.
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Old 05-23-12, 03:03 PM   #22
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As stated practise is key. I do have a few thoughts. Almost any ride I do over 50miles has over 3000' of climbing with grades as high as 21%. Seated is more efficient but standing to regain leg speed is also a good idea. I have no qualms with shifting while climbing and if you practise it should not be an issue, in fact you should learn how to! I can climb most of our hills in my 53-23 but on longer hills over 8% I will use my 39 and whatever. I usually start of seated on a long climb in a gear that I can feel the pull of the hill, once leg speed starts dropping I'll go one gear harder and stand till leg speed gets to what I need, then sit back down and go back one or two gears easier. It can be done just takes practise. I do find for bigger stronger rider I will try and attack almost every hill and use my momentum to get me over it, I'm not a huge watcher of cadance I use what gear I need.
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Old 05-23-12, 10:26 PM   #23
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You can easily let up briefly and accomplish a 1 cog shift. I wouldn't recommend trying to get through 4 cogs but 1 - no sweat.
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Old 05-24-12, 12:33 AM   #24
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+1 on letting up just briefly. The key is to stay smooth whether standing or sitting. A trick is to ankle and use all muscles so none are over taxed. When honking, I actually swing the bike side to side a little (not too much) and use the upper body and put the bike into a taller gear. It does get me up the mountain faster and works the front quads more for a while. That might work for 1/2 or 3/4 mile and then I'll want to sit and spin for a little. In that case, I honk a bit harder for a couple of strokes to pick up speed, then just let off and shift. I can easily shift a couple of cogs over. But I find that might not be enough, so I spin faster momentarily, and then ease back and make another shift if I still have bigger rear cogs. But I never shift with much load on the back and it's never been much of a problem to down-shift except with bar-end shifters or downtube shifters doing a super steep technical climb. But thumb shifters, grip shifters and brifters have now made that history.
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Old 05-24-12, 12:59 AM   #25
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Its probably not the best technique but I start off the hill in a middle to high gear, standing. I pump slowly but equally until I start to feel my thighs burn, then I sit down and downshift about 2 gears. I continue downshifting as my legs tire but usually they recover fairly quickly so I stand back up, up shift to where it feels right....repeat until im at the top.
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