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Old 09-02-06, 06:17 PM   #1
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Need to improve Hill Climbing, Any help?

I need to improve my hill climbing ability. I am currently road riding with a very experienced, A group rider. He's providing some coaching to help me improve. He has only one comment, I need to improve my hill climbing ability. Both he and a freind who watched me mountain bike have commented that my form, (posture in the saddle, when riding and hill climbing) is very good. They see no problems, so I don't need to make changes there.
The problem I have is I'm running out of breath. Muscle weakness/pain is not much of an issue. When I road ride I'm out of breath but rarely (almost never) have tired leg muscles. When I'm moutain biking my legs get tired long after the lungs give out. I've paid particular attention to this issue. I'm currently riding 15 to 23 mile road rides with average speed between 14.3 to 15.5 MPH. My goal is to maintain 15 MPH as I extend mileage. On MTB rides, its difficult to discuss because so much is based on the type of trail and technical difficulty, but here I'm taking longer, more difficult (advanced) rides as well.
I've been taking vitamin E to expand my blood oxygen capacity, in addition to a multi-vitamin.
So can anyone in the Fifty Plus forum provide me with advice how they improved their hill climbing? Are there any exercises or specific actions you have used to address this?
Thanks,
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Old 09-02-06, 06:41 PM   #2
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Not to sound like a wise a** but the best two words for improving your hill climbing is "climb hills", nothing better for getting better on hills than to climb and climb some more. The othe radvice I'd have is when climbing a hill with varying grades throughout the climb is to work at keep the same cadence and pressure on the pedals. If the grade gets a bit easier, shift gears to keep at the same cadence and pace, try and keep your energey output as even as possible. This seems to work well for me.
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Old 09-02-06, 07:09 PM   #3
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What he said. Climb hills. Climb every hill you can find. Look for more hills. Climb them.
As for technique, google "bicycle climb hills" or some such and you'll find many articles and tips. If you are running out of breath as you climb, you may be going too hard at the bottom of the hill, not leaving anything for the middle or top. You'll lose much more time when you are toasted at the top than you can gain by charging hard at the bottom. If you get into a section of the climb that requires a very low gear, don't try to avoid going into that gear as long as possible. Go into the low gear while it can help you. Spin away and maintain the steady pace. When it gets easy enough that you can spin a higher gear, shift up. But as soon as you start losing pedal speed, shift down and get it back. When it gets really hard, stand long enough to build up some speed, then sit and spin. You'll make up ground the farther you keep spinning after you would have died.
The more you do it, the better you'll get at it.
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Old 09-02-06, 07:10 PM   #4
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Vary the attacks on the grades you encounter on a regular basis. Tall gear out of the saddle one time, short gear spinning like mad in the saddle the next.

This doesn't help at all, but it's less boring...
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Old 09-02-06, 08:20 PM   #5
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Originally Posted by roccobike
The problem I have is I'm running out of breath. Muscle weakness/pain is not much of an issue. When I road ride I'm out of breath but rarely (almost never) have tired leg muscles.Thanks,
If you want to improve your performance, you need to exercises at a higher level than you are accustomed to. If you almost never have tired legs, you're almost always not working hard enough to condition your muscles for the extra effort of hill climbing. Practicing climbing at a higher than normal intensity, intervals, and squats can all help.

My epiphany came when I met up with a rather lovely young lady bicyclist who rode along and chatted with me for a couple of miles before we came to what I had considered was a very nasty hill. At the bottom of the hill, she started to drop me, but then slowed, and encouraged me all the way to the top at a speed much faster than I had ever managed before. It took about five days to recover from that ride, but I repeated it about once a week for the next several months, each time bettering my time from the previous ride. After about four months, the hill was no longer nasty, but a welcome challenge. That's when I started looking for bigger and longer hills, and actually enjoying them

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Old 09-02-06, 09:02 PM   #6
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It took about five days to recover from that ride, but I repeated it about once a week for the next several months, each time bettering my time from the previous ride. After about four months, the hill was no longer nasty, but a welcome challenge. That's when I started looking for bigger and longer hills, and actually enjoying them

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Old 09-02-06, 09:18 PM   #7
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Don't know how long you've been cycling? That might add some info to the discussion. Myself, I have been back into cycling for 1 year. Agree that the only way to get better on the hills is to do more hills. Don't loose faith, last year at this time I could not climb c**p. Today I'm at the middle of the group pack and have not punked a hill this season. My goal is to catch the best climber on our group rides and I have a long way to go to do that.

I have condluded that climbing is like an endurance sport where you just have to build your combined endurance & strength over time.
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Old 09-02-06, 09:35 PM   #8
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I'm overweight (a little) and I do lots of climbing rides. I love the mountains on the road or trail and can't imagine riding without hills. That being said, I do suffer more than the people I ride with but I do pretty well considering my 210 pounds and 52 years. What works for me is staying within myself, I can't keep up with 135 pound climbers, so I have to let them go and find my own pace. I use low gears and just try to finish the climb without blowing up. Having said all that, the best things you can do to improve your climbing is to climb lots, and, of course, lose weight.
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Old 09-02-06, 09:48 PM   #9
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I'd recommend you cut down to one pack a day!



















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Old 09-02-06, 09:52 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by stercomm
Not to sound like a wise a** but the best two words for improving your hill climbing is "climb hills", nothing better for getting better on hills than to climb and climb some more.
I've been trying to get some hill practice over the summer. Seems like you need to know how to tackle a hill, ie, when to shift to that lower gear, when to catch your breath, when to hammer to the top. One problem for me is that I am tackling the same hills. They soon get to be easy, then I try a different route... new set of hills... and everything is sooo difficult again.... Seems like you have to get experience with different styles of hills so that you can instantly recognize what you have to do to get over the top.
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Old 09-02-06, 10:14 PM   #11
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Thanks for all the comments. I had read Sheldon Brown on the subject some time ago. I'm currently using the cadence method he recommends when climbing, staying in the saddle and downshifting. It's great for keeping the leg muscles from tiring, but doesn't seem to help much in developing stamina or lung capacity.
I think Big Paulie might have a good suggestion. Perhaps I will try standing when at the end of a climb and see if that helps.
Also, as Big John stated, I too could lose some weight. I've been somewhat successful, losing 15 lbs, but that's not enough. I think I'll combine these suggestions and continue a concerted effort to attack this issue.
Thanks again for the comments.
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Old 09-02-06, 10:47 PM   #12
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Originally Posted by roccobike
I think Big Paulie might have a good suggestion.
This is hilarious...me giving valid advice on climbing!!!

Youse guys and gals should see me when the road turns up...most people can walk faster than I can climb!!!!
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Old 09-02-06, 11:09 PM   #13
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The zen of climbing for me is to stay good humored, not let my confidence "blow up", make little self-deprecating jokes ("damn, I need to grow a third lung") to fellow riders, focus only on the next 30-40 yards, fall into some kind of chant (stay on top o' the gear, stay on top o' the gear,.....), find a gear that isn't a knee popper nor an anaerobic high rpm but going nowhere slowly sort of thing, and, if possible and no matter how poorly or far behind I was, somehow surge a bit at the crest so I can feel good about the climb.

I find that on a long grind I have very little to stand up with towards the end....so that little stand-up that's supposed to refresh the legs only makes mine feel worse. Also, "knowing" a hill and all its little undulations and flatter parts really makes a difference in perceived difficulty of a climb.

One more: find somebody's reasonably paced wheel to hang onto-- not for the draft (like at 8mph LOL) but for the mindlessness of just thinking about that wheel you're tied to. If you're in front, you get an I-Better-Do-Well-Don't-Let-Them-Down ego boost. Alone is harder.
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Old 09-02-06, 11:18 PM   #14
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Old 09-03-06, 12:20 AM   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by roccobike
I need to improve my hill climbing ability. I am currently road riding with a very experienced, A group rider. He's providing some coaching to help me improve. He has only one comment, I need to improve my hill climbing ability. ...
The problem I have is I'm running out of breath. Muscle weakness/pain is not much of an issue. When I road ride I'm out of breath but rarely (almost never) have tired leg muscles. When I'm moutain biking my legs get tired long after the lungs give out. I've paid particular attention to this issue...
So can anyone in the Fifty Plus forum provide me with advice how they improved their hill climbing? Are there any exercises or specific actions you have used to address this?
Thanks,
Short of hitting the wall/bonking on long rides with some solid climbing, most of the time aerobic capacity will be the limiting factor on climbs.
Raising your aerobic capacity would be job one in improving your climbing. Climbing, of course, will help that. But aerobic workouts on the flat will also do this as well as anything.
Tied directly to that is 'power to weight'. Assuming that power will vary and prolly increase under the loads of riding and training, then weight is the mostly highly adjustable variable. Get down to the most optimum weight for what you could be.
As you improve, you will still hit an aerobic ceiling, if you really push yourself on a climb. And you'll still feel "out of breath' at some point. The only difference is that you'll be riding a much high pace/speed than you did before.
Cadence, riding style, gearing will be determined a lot by the riding tendencies you currently have. Changing any of that will depend on how much you want your climbing to be a focus.

Get a little science involved. If you don;t have one, get a HRM. Find your AT. Institute any of the common conditioning programs. Friel's book - Cycling over 50 - is a good place to start.

barring you not do anything above, then like the rest have said. Ride hills, lots of them. If its about getting faster on a climb, then ride even more of them

my own efforts over the past year and half have been to optimize riding weight and increase aerobic fitness, same as what you need. That has entailed 2 climbing days a week - one of 3,000 ft and another 4,000+ ft. Within that and depending on how I feel, one day interspersed between the climbing days with longer intervals done at and just above AT, hard but not to exhaustion. Timing on these is important since both the intervals day and the 4K ft day require at least one very easy day in between, and often 2 days is not enough recovery. So that all will vary and slide as the body determines.
The intervals day has also been replaced often by group training rides or races. Hard race-intense group rids dictate their own 'intervals', so thats as good as an interval day. Neither group rides or racing dictate the climbing days, those are inviolate. Sometimes the group rides finds me cooked from a previous climbin day, but thats no matter and I give it my best anyway. At the moment, and for another 5 or 6 months, the longterm planning and execution of conditioning is most important. Performance will improve to whatever level it will again become. That's all I'm looking for.
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Old 09-03-06, 01:49 AM   #16
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Hills are dependent on how tall they are, how long they are and whether you want to do them. I do not like hills but where I live-there are plenty of them.
I have gone out with friends that tear up the hills and I do not even attempt to stay with them. However- I find that by the 3rd hill- that gazelle has dropped back to me to give me company- by the 4th he is experiencing some gearchange problems and will catch me up and by the 5th- I may have to drop back to shelter him up the hill.
Take hills at your pace and if you are always being dropped- find a new riding partner.
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Old 09-03-06, 05:02 AM   #17
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Im not over fond of hills either but there are plenty around here too, i take them at my own pace & I find if i know there is a big hill comeing up I start doing some deep breathing ,forcing the breath out of my lungs & breathing deep on the in breath, almost hyperventilating a hundred yards or so befor the climb starts. This seems to help for me anyway!
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Old 09-03-06, 05:34 AM   #18
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another thing you might do is find a hill around 1/3 to 1/2 mile long. Go up it in your LOWEST gear. Get to the top and come back down and repeat it in your 2nd lowest gear. Get to the top and return to the bottom and go in your third lowest gear and so on until you can't make it. This will make each hill tougher, and before you know it you can cruise up the hill.

I incorporated a hill into my daily commute...it is roughly 1/3 of a mile and reaches grades of 12%. It used to be tough. I do it daily, so it has gotten a lot easier . My commute these days is on a fixie--that takes a different approach than a geared bike-- momentum is yur friend, so a little acceleration at the bottom goes a long way up the hill. My latest challenge has been to do the hill seated on the fixie...and I have done it. It isn't pretty, but it has sure improved my hill climbing.

Like has been said, the only way to get better at climbing hills is to climb hills.

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Old 09-03-06, 07:00 AM   #19
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Hills

Were I live that's all we have are hills, and more hills. I'm six two and 260 lbs I don't go up them with a blaze of speed but I do get up them. Most of the riders I ride with are all light weights and blow past me going up but that just gives me an incentive to try harder. I agree with most of the responses to get in low gear early and spin away, usually towards the end of summer I get up them quite easily and recover fast once I get to the top, pace thy self and build up your endurance. When I ride alone I make a game of it by trying to attack different hills at times without shifting and pushing myself to get the top. Seems to work for me they get easier all the time,that is until I stop riding for the year and have to start over the next season.
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Old 09-03-06, 08:17 AM   #20
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So can anyone in the Fifty Plus forum provide me with advice how they improved their hill climbing?
Every year, (in the Spring) you might notice how hard it is just to climb "any hill" if you can not ride much in the Winter. Face it, if you ride up a hill onetime, it feels hard. The next time you climb the hill, it seldom get harder, and often it seems easier. Repeatedly climb hills and guess what happens -- they don't get "harder" -- they get "easier"........

You get better at riding hills by being "used to" riding hills. There are no shortcuts. Why do you think all the Pro riders go to the mountains to train?
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Old 09-03-06, 08:38 AM   #21
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When you get to a hill, gear down and spin. If needed, gear down some more. Steady as she goes. Be the tortoise, not the hare. Follow hard days with rest or easy days. That's important, especially for 50+. You need time to recover and build that oxygen-carrying uh, stuff. That's a medical term.
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Old 09-03-06, 08:56 AM   #22
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Rocco-since the issue is the aerobic capacity, like others have suggested maybe doing some things that focuses on the aerobics would be helpful initially. The simplest thing is to do some intervals where you take your HR up into the red zone for a prescribed period and then let it recover. Then repeat for prescribed intervals. This is similar to doing repeated running sprints in the younger years....If you have a nice longer climb on your routes you can repeatedly climb that hill for instance. You'll also notice that climbing while standing generally will tend to elevate your HR higher and faster than while sitting. Thus, if you don't have longer steeper hills you could try using a harder gear and repeatedly sprinting up a hill out of the saddle.

It sounds like you have the legs other basics well in hand-staying the saddle, using a comfortable gear, etc.

And yes, it never hurts to be a little lighter......
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Old 09-03-06, 11:56 AM   #23
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You don't have to ride faster up hills just smarter. carry an ice pick to puncture your tire when you start falling off on the climb.
How many of us have prayed for a flat on a grueling climb so we could rest?
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Old 09-03-06, 02:04 PM   #24
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+1 you need time to recover from hill workout

other ideas that help:

1. keep in middle chainring as long as you can. You have have the same GI on low ring but middle gives you better torque, about 1 mph.

2. watch cadence like a hawk. When it drops below 80 down shift

3. start at sufficient speed

4. when you see grade changes, ie increases, downshift early

5. attack the same hill over and over and track progress. One hill that used to be 6mph hill is now 8 for me. Another one that used to be impossible is now a 6mph hill and my next big climbing challenge.

6. don't focus on the length or steepness of the hill. Live in the moment, is cadence in right range? Is pedaling technique good? Much of it is just "I think I can, I think I can, I know I can".

7. If you can't maintain cadence of at least 80 on hill, redo your gears. You need lower gears.
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Old 09-03-06, 06:21 PM   #25
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Quote:
Originally Posted by HiYoSilver
+1 you need time to recover from hill workout

other ideas that help:

1. keep in middle chainring as long as you can. You have have the same GI on low ring but middle gives you better torque, about 1 mph.

2. watch cadence like a hawk. When it drops below 80 down shift

3. start at sufficient speed

4. when you see grade changes, ie increases, downshift early

5. attack the same hill over and over and track progress. One hill that used to be 6mph hill is now 8 for me. Another one that used to be impossible is now a 6mph hill and my next big climbing challenge.

6. don't focus on the length or steepness of the hill. Live in the moment, is cadence in right range? Is pedaling technique good? Much of it is just "I think I can, I think I can, I know I can".

7. If you can't maintain cadence of at least 80 on hill, redo your gears. You need lower gears.

I agree with Mr Silver and would add on #7 to watch both cadence and Heart Rate. If you run the HR up too much at the beginning of a climb your more than likely toast for the remainder of the climb.......There is not a way to lower the HR going up a climb except to either slow to a crawl or stop completely. I've learned that the hard way......watched many a group ride off and leave me when I attacked too soon on a long climb.....
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