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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 07-16-12, 01:48 PM   #1
marq96
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My first bike race

Hi all,

I introduced myself in another thread and haven't really posted since, although I try to do as much reading on here as possible.

I just wanted to share a little. I did one 50 mile charity ride last month, and a couple days ago I competed in my first race. It was a 50K race. By my count there were 79 entries to the race and I finished #79 haha. My goal was to complete the race, although I had hoped not to be last... but I did suffer a minor hamstring pull about half way through the race. I'm still riding my Trek 3500 although I did change to slick tires. Everyone else was riding road bikes and there was also a couple riding two tandem bikes, Dad/kid and a Mom/kid.

Here's the map of the race: http://www.mapmyride.com/workout/151787227

I live in the midwest, so we don't have the hills or mountains that some of you climb when you ride, but some of those hills were pretty tough on me. Any advice on hill climbing? Is there an approach that works the best? I tried to stay out of the easiest gear because it takes too long to get anywhere and wears me out too quick, although the gearing is such that I could climb "all day" if I had to. I'm just curious how people handle 100-200 foot elevation changes, particularly when you're riding for time/speed.


Thanks,

Mark
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Old 07-16-12, 02:24 PM   #2
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Hi Mark -

Congrats on your first race! I just did my first one a couple of weeks back. You completed my first goal, too (finishing!). As to climbing, it's tough. I live in upstate NY and I have to say, when you said, 100-200 foot elevation changes, I chuckled a bit. Some friends of mine are going to go climbing today and I'm taking a pass. I'm hauling at least 100 lb more "meat" up those hills than these guys and girls are and I'm left in the dust right now. What I have found is that it's not all about speed/time... it's about the exercise and cadence. I may be doing 8 mph but the cadence is 80+ RPM...

Come out east sometime... I'd love to have a climbing partner!

ps - here's a subset of the climbs tonight: http://www.mapmyride.com/routes/view/114033363
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Old 07-16-12, 02:52 PM   #3
marq96
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Thanks Jim! Yeah I know, my hills aren't what others would consider a challenge. My ride had 623ft of elevation compared to the 1200ft in the map you shared. I know it's about the exercise and cadence, but if I can get tips on how to be more efficient on hills I certainly wouldn't discount that advice. I'm riding to get in shape. I know things like speed and power will increase along with my fitness level. So far so good.
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Old 07-16-12, 03:22 PM   #4
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Congratulations! Hope you continue racing! You'll find it allows the rest of your cycling to get better and easier leading to more enjoyment.

I'm a clyde too and race crits & train in road races here in SoCal in the Masters categories. In just about every race I'm in, there's a couple former or current world-, national-, or olympic-champions and several former professionals. I've had to learn the hard way just to keep up with them (average speeds for a 1-hour race often exceed 27-28mph).

A couple things I learned regarding climbing that you can try:
  • As you approach the climb, make sure you're carrying a full head of steam. You'll have ascended more of the climb before you begin working hard to climb it.
  • As you approach the climb, try to be as near to the front of the pack as you can. This is a tried & true technique where you can slowly drift backwards as the others are passing you. Hopefully, by the top, you will still be in contact with the group.
  • Make sure you know where the climbs are so you can stop working hard before-hand. You should be as rested as possible as you start climbing so you have more energy to devote to the climb.
  • In your training, make sure you work on putting out the power, even on flat roads. You want to put out alot of power while maintaining speed. If you train for climbing by climbing slowly, you'll find that in races you still... climb slowly. Keep your speed abilities.

This last one may be the most important and so I go off at length on it:
  • If it's a short climb, stay in your big ring!
First, my experience: every Saturday I do a local hammerfest training ride (The Montrose Ride). There's one hill: 1/4-mile long at about 6% the whole way. The first time I did it, I dutifully dropped to my small ring and spun up the hill. I got dropped straight away even though I was breathing very hard, my HR was max'd out, and I had a good 90+ cadence. I repeated this for the next couple weeks and just could not stay with the group. I then began watching some other riders do the hill: these puny guys were all in their big rings Well, I thought if these little guys can do it, so can I. I have bigger legs than them (used to power-lift for college football) so I should be able to muscle my way over. The next week, I tried it, and was successful at staying with the group. Yay! Been doing it ever since. I've since found out, in racing, on shorter hills like this, nobody uses their small rings. They call them "sprinter hills".

Use your leg muscles to power over the hill. Stand up and try to maintain a 60+ rpm cadence or more. Keep your momentum. This takes practice & training to build up the muscles so start with shorter hills and train yourself on longer & longer ones. (Make sure you have enough base mileage so your knees don't hurt when doing this.)

I'm at the point now where, when rested enough, I'll stay in my big ring for 2-mile climbs. I do it #1) to stay with the other riders as long as I can (sometimes works), and #2) to build my leg muscle strength. In the beginning of doing this, I would explode power at the bottom only to watch it slow to a drizzle at the top. I now try to maintain my power output evenly.

Hope these tips help.
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Old 07-16-12, 04:11 PM   #5
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Use your leg muscles to power over the hill. Stand up and try to maintain a 60+ rpm cadence or more. Keep your momentum. This takes practice & training to build up the muscles so start with shorter hills and train yourself on longer & longer ones. (Make sure you have enough base mileage so your knees don't hurt when doing this.)
I thought that by standing up you wasted 10-20% of the energy that you are putting, and that you should be seated for as much of the ride as possible?

I don't doubt your advice, I'm a cycling noob and from your post you sound a pretty good climber, I'm intrigued as to if I am doing something wrong by trying to stay seated as much as possible.

Last edited by BionicChris; 07-16-12 at 04:12 PM. Reason: Quoting fail
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Old 07-16-12, 07:11 PM   #6
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I thought that by standing up you wasted 10-20% of the energy that you are putting, and that you should be seated for as much of the ride as possible?...

I'm intrigued as to if I am doing something wrong by trying to stay seated as much as possible.
Standing vs. seated utilize different muscle groups of the body (emphasize thighs & hamstrings vs. lower back & thighs, etc...). Should be the goal to be a complete cyclist: train as many body systems as possible. Again, this leads to overall efficiency which leads to greater enjoyment. Or in the OP's case, a faster ride. In his (her?) case also, being able to stand allows him to keep up with the pack/leaders when they accelerate.

Yes, energy is "wasted", or rather more energy is used. However, standing allows you to accelerate faster, turn a bigger gear, and (sometimes more importantly), stretch out your back & legs allowing them to perform longer. Because this is a beneficial skill in cycling, it pays dividends to train your body to perform this function as efficiently as possible.

Doing something wrong? No. But things could be better.

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and from your post you sound a pretty good climber,
Definitely not. I wish. Too heavy at 250+ pounds.
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Old 07-16-12, 07:17 PM   #7
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...you should be seated for as much of the ride as possible...
BTW, sorry if I overemphasized the standing part. It is also possible, and recommended to train this energy system as well, to stay seated while climbing in your big ring. As part of my effort to even out my energy output on these climbs, I start up the climb seated, then about half-way up, stand up and try to explode into the climb, trying to teach my body to put out more effort (watts) at the top than at the bottom of the climb.

In the OP's case, I'd recommend standing at first.

Training for standing I've sometimes seen fellow riders stand up a 2-1/2 mile, 6% climb. 10-12 minutes of effort. They don't kill the power, they're just training their bodies to humbly accept standing as part of the sport.
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Old 07-16-12, 07:27 PM   #8
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There is a weekly ride around here where all they do is climb the same hill for 1.5 hours. They see how many times they can do it in that time. Seems to be a pretty good training routine.

As posted above, there are many types of "hills" when riding. Some you really have to grind up for miles in the lowest possible gear, then others where you can "sprint" up in higher gears (standing and pumping hard for a bit to get over). Then there are those that you have to pull over twice because your heart rate is through roof, you can't breathe, and your quads are on fire Time and practice will help.
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Old 07-16-12, 08:27 PM   #9
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I thought that by standing up you wasted 10-20% of the energy that you are putting, and that you should be seated for as much of the ride as possible?

I don't doubt your advice, I'm a cycling noob and from your post you sound a pretty good climber, I'm intrigued as to if I am doing something wrong by trying to stay seated as much as possible.
Something I'm starting to learn is that just like when you're seated there is technique to picking the right cadence when standing. I'm not going to say that I have it figured out, but I have found that I can blow A TON on energy if I get spinning too fast standing because all my work is going into lifting myself up and down, at a lower cadence I find it can be more manageable. That being said I still run out of gas faster, not entirely sure if this is due to burning more energy or different muscle groups that get less work (probably a bit of both).
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Old 07-16-12, 10:26 PM   #10
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Very interesting read, guys! Keep the pointers coming!
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Old 07-17-12, 06:59 AM   #11
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Thanks for the standing/seated comments - I know that I need to work on my standing climbing technique, I can do it a bit on the mountain bike but my balance and strength on the road bike needs a bit of work!
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Old 07-17-12, 07:19 AM   #12
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I need to give credit to the OP for completing his first bike race, let's not forget that in the midst of this interesting climbing discussion.
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Old 07-17-12, 08:06 AM   #13
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Having the extra weight on the my frame makes standing so much more harder on my system than a seated climb. I very, very, very rarely am ever out of the saddle on a climb. Only time I think I'm ever up is if I need some acceleration.
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Old 07-17-12, 08:41 AM   #14
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Originally Posted by marq96 View Post
I live in the midwest, so we don't have the hills or mountains that some of you climb when you ride, but some of those hills were pretty tough on me. Any advice on hill climbing? Is there an approach that works the best? I tried to stay out of the easiest gear because it takes too long to get anywhere and wears me out too quick, although the gearing is such that I could climb "all day" if I had to. I'm just curious how people handle 100-200 foot elevation changes, particularly when you're riding for time/speed.
Mark, the best advice I can give for someone who's learning how to tackle hills is to be aware of effective shifting. I can't tell you how many times I've seen relatively new riders or those new to hills keep it in a high gear too long, hit the hill and then either run out of gas quickly because they can't maintain a good cadence in that gear or drop a chain because the stress on the drivetrain is too much when they switch.

Personally, I don't do hill repeats because the thought bores me to tears, but I do try to regularly do hilly courses and measure my performance over time. That should help both your confidence and performance.

As far as seating/standing, you're generally more efficient when you sit because you're transferring more of your power to the actual climb. But I would do whatever works for you because as you get better at hills, you'll automatically get more confident and change your shifting behavior in tandem with that.
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Old 07-17-12, 09:05 AM   #15
marq96
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Thanks everyone for the tips and encouragement.. these are the type of things I was hoping to talk about (sitting vs standing, gears to start in, ect), so now I've got some things I can try. Nearly every route I ride has hills to some degree, so I'm always experimenting with different plans of attack. I find it fairly easy to maintain speed and gearing on the little rollers, it's just the steeper stuff I've been struggling with. I think part of that is that I'm not practicing on them, so I think I'll be adding that to my routine. I don't think I'd do an hour of climbing the same hill but I'll probably start doing some laps that incorporate a specific hill 2-3 times in the route.
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