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    Hypoxic Member head_wind's Avatar
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    (Muscle) Memory Loss

    This weekend I did some climbing and really struggled. I have been working on my stroke and when not under duress I thought that I was at least OK. Well, I discovered that when really struggling my stroke was pathetic.

    I'm looking for suggestions. I do some one-legged practice, perhaps 2 minutes per leg, occasionally, on modest inclines. Any ideas??

    thanx,,,

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    Geezer Member Grampy™'s Avatar
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    Spinning class this winter would help. Maybe a fixie?
    Carpe who?

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    I wouldnt worry about pedal stroke...within reason of course, as long as your knees arent flapping in and out or something unusual like that. Climbing is simply a matter of developing the power capability needed to get up that mountain. Make sure you are geared low enough that you can spin a reasonable cadence, probably at least 60rpm or so on the steep parts. And then: "practice, man, practice". There's no secret.
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    Hypoxic Member head_wind's Avatar
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    Well, in my lowest gear (34f, 29r but on 'cross tires with a larger radius than road tires) I was 'spinning' in the low 50s. There was a lot of accelerate-decelerate with each stroke. I also need to learn to stand, but that is a different problem.

    motto: start slow, then ease off

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    Dharma Dog lhbernhardt's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Stevie47
    There's no secret.
    Yes there is. And there are at least two.

    1. Sit and spin. Even back when I was a young "elite" racer, I was not a climber. My best time up an 11-kilometer climb of 6-8% was around 54 minutes, but in those days I used 53/42 chainrings and a low of 21 teeth on the back. A few years ago, I went up the same climb, but with 53/38 in front and a low of 25. I did the climb in under 50 minutes.

    2. When you are standing, make sure your knee is straight before your pedal gets to 3 o'clock. This is something I read in Chris Carmichael's program, and it does make climbing a little easier.

    - L.

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    Senior Member NOS88's Avatar
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    Head wind: Your gearing is similar to mine (34x27) and I've also it found it difficult to "spin" up really steep grades. There are four things I've been working on that have helped me make improvements during the last three months. 1. My positioning on the bike. I found that I needed to keep my entire body more relaxed, slide back on the saddle, and hold my bars in the middle flat section to keep my body more upright and let my lungs work easier. 2. Practice. I looked for and found a short climb 1/10th of a mile that was at the steepest grade I ride (around 13%). Two days per week I make sure I make this climb, turn around and do it again... a total of at least three times. 3. I bought a cycle computer with a cadence function and never allow my cadence (on the flats) to drop below 90 rpm. This has allowed me to really focus on good pedal stroke. 4. I've worked on my out of saddle climbing too. One of the things I realized was that there was a negative mental thing going on with really long climbs. I'd get discouraged, which made it harder to concentrate on good technique and pushing through. Now I know that I can get out of the saddle when I need to and back down for spinning with ease. This helps with my mindset a great deal. I know I'll make it up the climb... one way or another. I suspect there are many different, and perhaps better, ways to train for this, but these work for me. Finally, I think the one that's had the most benefit is number 2.
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    Hypoxic Member head_wind's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by lhbernhardt
    2. When you are standing, make sure your knee is straight before your pedal gets to 3 o'clock. This is something I read in Chris Carmichael's program, and it does make climbing a little easier.

    - L.
    Thanks, I'll try that.

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    Hypoxic Member head_wind's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by NOS88
    Head wind: Your gearing is similar to mine (34x27) and I've also it found it difficult to "spin" up really steep grades. There are four things I've been working on that have helped me make improvements during the last three months. 1. My positioning on the bike. I found that I needed to keep my entire body more relaxed, slide back on the saddle, and hold my bars in the middle flat section to keep my body more upright and let my lungs work easier. 2. Practice. I looked for and found a short climb 1/10th of a mile that was at the steepest grade I ride (around 13%). Two days per week I make sure I make this climb, turn around and do it again... a total of at least three times. 3. I bought a cycle computer with a cadence function and never allow my cadence (on the flats) to drop below 90 rpm. This has allowed me to really focus on good pedal stroke. 4. I've worked on my out of saddle climbing too. One of the things I realized was that there was a negative mental thing going on with really long climbs. I'd get discouraged, which made it harder to concentrate on good technique and pushing through. Now I know that I can get out of the saddle when I need to and back down for spinning with ease. This helps with my mindset a great deal. I know I'll make it up the climb... one way or another. I suspect there are many different, and perhaps better, ways to train for this, but these work for me. Finally, I think the one that's had the most benefit is number 2.
    Lets see... 1. I've found that relaxing my face muscles & tongue will give me a few RPM. Yup, and I think Ive got the breathin OK. 2. I seldom ride during the week: commuter 'r us. 3. I try to keep 90 RPM as my lower threshhold too. 4. I'm trying to get there.

    thanks!!

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    Time for a change. stapfam's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by head_wind
    Well, in my lowest gear (34f, 29r but on 'cross tires with a larger radius than road tires) I was 'spinning' in the low 50s. There was a lot of accelerate-decelerate with each stroke. I also need to learn to stand, but that is a different problem.

    motto: start slow, then ease off

    See what you mean. If you were in the lowest gear with that low a cadence, then you were obviously struggling to keep momentum up. Don't know of you have tried it but try pulling up on the pedal instead of the downstroke- Only possibly if clipless or or with toe clips and straps. Don't try it uphill. but try it on the flat and after a couple of minutes you will be tired. Keep practising and eventually you will find yourself pedalling in circles where power goes in on the downstroke and the upstroke.

    Then when you get to this situation- you will find that power will be on all of the pedalling stroke and not just 1/3rd of it.

    Last sunday- I was pushing up a stiff hill at speed. I do not think about pedalling in circles and most of the time I think I do not do it. However- putting in the power and my foot pulled out of the clipless pedal on the upstroke and I have the big bruise on the calve - where the pedal came round and clobbered it.
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    Hypoxic Member head_wind's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by stapfam
    See what you mean. If you were in the lowest gear with that low a cadence, then you were obviously struggling to keep momentum up. Don't know of you have tried it but try pulling up on the pedal instead of the downstroke- Only possibly if clipless or or with toe clips and straps. Don't try it uphill. but try it on the flat and after a couple of minutes you will be tired. Keep practising and eventually you will find yourself pedalling in circles where power goes in on the downstroke and the upstroke.

    Then when you get to this situation- you will find that power will be on all of the pedalling stroke and not just 1/3rd of it.

    Last sunday- I was pushing up a stiff hill at speed. I do not think about pedalling in circles and most of the time I think I do not do it. However- putting in the power and my foot pulled out of the clipless pedal on the upstroke and I have the big bruise on the calve - where the pedal came round and clobbered it.
    When things are easy I'm OK with one leg (or at least I've convinced myself that I am). This just came up under duress during a 'forever climb' while struggling. I guess that I have to do that ride again a few times.

    What kind of pedal/cleat did you have trouble with Sunday?? My Crank Bros. have gotten really easy in and out, but haven't released yet.

  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by head_wind
    This weekend I did some climbing and really struggled. I have been working on my stroke and when not under duress I thought that I was at least OK. Well, I discovered that when really struggling my stroke was pathetic.

    I'm looking for suggestions. I do some one-legged practice, perhaps 2 minutes per leg, occasionally, on modest inclines. Any ideas??

    thanx,,,
    I am relatively strong on hills, I guess it's a power/weight issue (155 lb), a relatively developed aerobic capacity (anaerobic much less so) and lanky build 6' 1" long legs. Of course practice is the key but remember that muscle tissue is developed over prolonged periods (especially at our age) of stress and relaxation. So you should intersperse your hill climbing with days of spinning on flats and stretching. While training on long hills of at least one mile, don't hammer all the way up, get into a rhythm and try to relax your upper body. One-legged practice is good. Short hills of half mile or less are good for developing the sprint (anaerobic capacity). Enjoy climbing and look forward to attaining and maintaining your anaerobic threshold, in other words develop your masochism. I have found that meditation helps cope with the 80% mental part of climbing.

  12. #12
    OM boy cyclezen's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by head_wind
    Lets see... 2. I seldom ride during the week: commuter 'r us. 3. I try to keep 90 RPM as my lower threshhold too.
    okay, not being negative, but... you can;t really expect improvements to anything but small and evident only over a long period when you can only ride one or 2 days a week. Just a fact of repeated 'training' to see improvement that is more rapid. Even more mileage on those few days, unless done towards aerobic strength, will have limited effect on improvements - too much time in between
    If you are limited in the time and days that you can ride, then you're better off approaching that improvement in a more methodical way. Climbing is a combination of aerobic 'strength'(capacity) and muscular strength.
    Since you don't mention anyhting about you state of 'conditioning', what should we assume? Are you well conditioned and trim? That all has a huge affect on what might work best for you.
    But given only 2 days of riding what I would suggest is working on aerobic conditioning while on the bike. Doing this will also have the added benefit of making your pedaling more efficient, over time.
    By that I mean, stay out of big gears that keep you below 80 rpm on flat and rolling. Try to stay in smaller gears that will work your aerobic system - gears that keep you 90 to 100 rpm. Invariably you may find you'll actually ride 'slower' for an extended period (maybe months) and tax you heart and lungs more.
    This will, over time, improve your mechanical pedaling efficiency and your aerobic capacity. This is exactly what racers do in early season preparation for a coming season. Low gear 'tempo' riding.
    Cadence while actually climbing is a very 'personal' thing and will vary for each rider. Good to test how high you can go and still be comfortable and efficient; but then identifiying the current cadence that works best for you is good. Sometimes a rider might be better, more efficient and have better endurance from a certain cadence level if they were to gear a bit higher than try to raise cadence. It's always good to 'test' for that and aim to improving cadence to a point, but then 'riding within yourself' is alwys the advise experts give when it come to extended climbing effort.
    If you are limited to a day or 2 of weekend riding then take 2 of weekdays, maybe Tue and Thurs, get intoa gym and work on muscle strength. Start out with at least 20 min of building warmup and hard spinning on a stationary bike, again high rpm, keeping it at 100 rpm. Then do circuit workouts aimed to strenghtening the entier body, with strong focus on torso core and legs. 2 complete circuits of different machines or free weight exercises, preferrably 15 reps done to muscle exhaustion each time, rather than working one msucle group over and over again. This allows some recovery before a 2nd hard set is put to a muscle group.
    Between the 'tempo' riding and weekday weight workout, you should see the most improvement over time for all your riding. Subbing a weekday ride of 20+ miles for one of the gym workouts is also okay.
    Either way, you really need at least 3 and preferrably 4 days of focused effort to see some strong changes in your riding.
    EDIT - btw, if you don;t have one, I would recommend highly the use of a HRM. Aside from knowing what to do for a workout, the feedback of a HRM goes a long way to helping you evaluate the proccess and progress. Especially when it comes to deciding how hard you need to go to get some benefit. I'm totally stoked on the info my HRM has given me about myself, since re-acquiring one this Jan. Do a search on BF for all the info you could possibly want on how to use and apply HRM data you get for yourself...
    Last edited by cyclezen; 09-21-06 at 11:52 PM.

  13. #13
    Time for a change. stapfam's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by head_wind
    When things are easy I'm OK with one leg (or at least I've convinced myself that I am). This just came up under duress during a 'forever climb' while struggling. I guess that I have to do that ride again a few times.

    What kind of pedal/cleat did you have trouble with Sunday?? My Crank Bros. have gotten really easy in and out, but haven't released yet.
    This was on the road bike- which is fairly new and up till now have had the cleats a little loose on the shimano pedals. Time to tighten them up a bit. I did not realise that I was pulling up on the pedals. That is why I was surprised to pull out on the upstroke. These cleats are not loose at all, and are probably to a par with the MTB's. Just shows that the pedalling in circles does come naturally after a while, and that I am putting in the effort on the road.
    How long was I in the army? Five foot seven.


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    Hypoxic Member head_wind's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by cyclezen
    okay,...
    Thanks for your answer. A lot of questions that you shouldn’t have had to ask! I do real workouts in the gym 2 nights a week. That includes typically a ˝ hour cardio session with 2 to 6 heavy-duty intervals. Mean HR of ~130, and 6 – 8 minutes >140. My attempts at measuring max HR have been confusing at best. Then about an hour of mostly free weights, hitting upper, lower, and core. I think that I’ve been well trained in this stuff.

    When not under duress I maintain >=90 RPM. I also feel naked without my HRM.

    I guess I never tried a _l_o_n_g_ slog like the one that got me Sunday. It felt like when I was learning to ski: when it gets steeper than your comfort level you regress in your technique.

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