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Old 05-14-07, 10:02 AM   #1
Cyclist99
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Need Hill Climbing Advice

Does anyone have suggestions on how to build endurance for long hill climbing? It seems I can travel distances on relatively flat land Ok and short steep hills wind me but are do-able. It's hard to train for these when you don't have any in close proximity. Last year I thought I was in great shape until I did the Hilly Hundred. I survived the first day but on the second, I was unable to do the last 2 big climbs. Sometimes I think I might be fighting the effects of age or damage from smoking. But I would like to improve my performance on those long steep climbs if possible.
Last year on the Hilly I felt like my legs turned to stone (end of season). This last weekend it was more like I was out of breath (HR=172) (early season). A friend of mine suggested doing squats.

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56 y/o
5'7", 155 lbs
2K miles last year
Been riding off and on as adult since '78
Ex-smoker, since '88


Thanks!
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Old 05-14-07, 10:08 AM   #2
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There is nothing like climbing to improve your climbing ability. If you really don't have any climbs around, the next best thing might be building hard sprints while in your highest gear into your routine. I live in a relatively flat area and have difficultly finding sustained climbs on which to train. I did however find one quarter mile stretch with a 9% grade. So, I ride this, turn around go back down and ride again.... repeat as often as I can stand it or do it when I'm on my hill training days.
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Old 05-14-07, 10:10 AM   #3
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Squats are an excellent exercise for building muscles need for climbing. Stair climbing is another. Here's an article with other suggestions on tackling the hills.
http://www.seattlebiketours.org/memb...ing_hills.html
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Old 05-14-07, 10:12 AM   #4
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Have you considered adjusting your brakes way too tight before leaving for your next ride?
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Old 05-14-07, 10:30 AM   #5
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My advice for a beginner is to put your bike into your easiest hill climb gear, pedal as slowly as you can without falling over, and not worry about how long it takes. That'll get you to the top.

Once folks get a little bit of experience, they want to get up the hill a little faster. They use a harder gear and/or they pedal faster. That's fine so long as you guess right on your gear and cadence. But, if you pick too hard a gear, your legs will get tired. If your cadence is too high, you'll run out of breath. It's all about making the right guess at the base of the hill because, if you poop out in the middle of the hill, it's too hard to recover.

Last edited by Retro Grouch; 05-14-07 at 11:17 AM.
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Old 05-14-07, 10:41 AM   #6
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There is only one answer to this age old question. Get out and climb more hills. Build your endurance and it will get easier but perhaps as with many of us never all that easy. 2 years ago I would have to stop in the middle of a big hill, and this was with a triple! Punked out on many a hill. Today I can get up most hills in W.PA and we have plenty of steep but not too long hills to ride. Just find some smaller ones and make it your goal to get to the top.
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Old 05-14-07, 10:48 AM   #7
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Find a big hill. Go cranking up it. Arrive at summit. Puke your guts out. Coast back down. Eat some pie.

Repeat as often as able.
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Old 05-14-07, 11:05 AM   #8
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Hi Cyclist99. As you may have guessed from my screen name, I live in the hills. So I really do hill training everytime I ride and the others are right. Just keep doing them. Last year when I started there was this one hill, not sure the grade or length, but do know it's steep and short (maybe 200 yds) that I used to creep up in the granny. Saturday I did it in the middle ring at 14mph all the way up.
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Old 05-14-07, 11:09 AM   #9
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Thanks, all, for the quick replies!

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Old 05-14-07, 11:17 AM   #10
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Doing sprints or weights will help on short steep hills. But on longer hills, such strength work will only make you run out of gas. Doing stairclimbing or relatively high resistance spin bikes out of the saddle would probably help. Another thing about hills is pacing. Many people ride up to fast and then die and have to stop and get off. Ride within yourself on long hills and do not go anaerobic. If you have to, get a rear cluster with some bigger cogs (lower gears). Another thing is just to get into better condition.
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Old 05-14-07, 11:54 AM   #11
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I am a big advocate of squats but want to suggest that you make sure
that your form is OK to avoid injury. You didn't mention cadence. I know
that there are mashers out there who do just fine but my experience is
that spinning really helps.
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Old 05-14-07, 11:59 AM   #12
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On Tuesday nights, I do a hill climbing clinic. The instructor finds the steepest gnarliest hills she can and we go ride. I hate hills and most of these are very tough (for instance 1 mile - 10 - 14% grade). Average ride generally 18 miles and between 1700 - 1900' of climbing.

This weekend we did a hilly club ride. OK I was last to the coffee stop but, I was not intimidated by the ride and had a fairly good time. The Tuesday clinincs are starting to help.

So best thing for fear of hills, RIDE HILLS!
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Old 05-14-07, 12:24 PM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Pat
...snip... pacing. Many people ride up to fast and then die and have to stop and get off. Ride within yourself on long hills and do not go anaerobic. If you have to, get a rear cluster with some bigger cogs (lower gears). Another thing is just to get into better condition.
+1 for sure.
I'm finally finding out what pace I need. I use my two lowest gears, make sure my breaths are timed with my strokes and just take it slow and easy. I'm starting to comfortably -for want of a better word- make up inclines now that were just dreams and wishes a few months ago. And a big part of it is that I'll just go out and climb whatever I can find.
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Old 05-14-07, 12:36 PM   #14
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Originally Posted by SaiKaiTai
+1 for sure.
I'm finally finding out what pace I need. I use my two lowest gears, make sure my breaths are timed with my strokes and just take it slow and easy. I'm starting to comfortably -for want of a better word- make up inclines now that were just dreams and wishes a few months ago. And a big part of it is that I'll just go out and climb whatever I can find.
Thats the way to do it. Climb whatever you can. But if you do not have hills in your area there is a problem. Two things are going to get you on hills and that is legs and lungs. I do interval sprints up the short slopes and this helps build both.

Another good way, off the bike, is steps. Go to the foot of your stairs and step up to the first step. Bring both feet onto the same step and then down. Once again bringing the other foot down. Do this until the legs or the lungs give out and repeat 2 days later. If it is the legs that give out first- then speed up a bit to get the lungs working. If it is the lungs that give out- then slow down.

Big problem is if you do not have hills in your area- I bet you live in a bungalow as well.
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Old 05-14-07, 12:50 PM   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Cyclist99
... Last year I thought I was in great shape until I did the Hilly Hundred. I survived the first day but on the second, I was unable to do the last 2 big climbs. Sometimes I think I might be fighting the effects of age or damage from smoking. But I would like to improve my performance on those long steep climbs if possible.
Last year on the Hilly I felt like my legs turned to stone (end of season). This last weekend it was more like I was out of breath (HR=172) (early season)...
Thanks!
like everyone says...

I'll add - pay attention to the little things on a longish ride - nutrition, hydration, electrolytes, more short rest stops on that 2nd day. Get off your feet when you have a lengthy rest stop. Make your long rest stop past the halfway mark. It takes some real effort to get the legs moving again, so keep the long stops to as few as you need.
You don;t mention what gearing you have available. There is no shame associated with riding small gears, get the best range that suits you. DO swap cassettes when there is an advantage to doing so. Its an easy 'maintenance' thing that everyone can learn and do.
Ride in a group as opposed to solo.
A group will help you pass the miles much better than on your own, and you'll cover greater distance in a shorter time. Pick a group that might seem easy at first. Often by the end of the ride, what was at first 'easy' turns into a challenge.
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Old 05-14-07, 01:00 PM   #16
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My secret on hills is Belly Breathing. Use your stomach muscles to help pull down your diaphram to get the maximum amount of air into your lungs. Having enough air is the secret, you'll find that your legs are probably strong enough to get you up any hill, but that you just plain run out of air.

It's well detailed in the book Bicycling Bliss by Portia Masterson. Check it out at the link.
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Old 05-14-07, 01:11 PM   #17
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My secret on hills is Belly Breathing
yep, absolutely
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Old 05-14-07, 01:20 PM   #18
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Artkansas
My secret on hills is Belly Breathing. .
Perhaps this is why so many of us on this forum like hills. Big hills- big breathing through a big -----No. I can't believe I am even thinking that.
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Old 05-14-07, 02:28 PM   #19
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Perhaps this is why so many of us on this forum like hills. Big hills- big breathing through a big -----No. I can't believe I am even thinking that.
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Old 05-14-07, 02:53 PM   #20
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I think the mental part of picking your pace is the hardest part. I go at hills like I'm killing snakes or something equally as bad, and in a very short distance if there were any snakes or bad things they would have me for sure!?! I ride by myself often, but if I get the chance to ride with someone, I will let them go first, and make myself stay behind them. I went up a hill the other day with a friend, and we visited most of the way, I just have to get more disciplined myself.
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Old 05-14-07, 03:24 PM   #21
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Cyclist99
It's hard to train for these when you don't have any in close proximity.
Would you happen to have a 5+ story parking garage nearby, open on Sunday mornings?

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Old 05-14-07, 03:30 PM   #22
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Embrace the pain, the suffering, watch some cheesy movie of someone trudging up the Matterhorn, anything to convince you that it isn't insane to willfully subject yourself to hills. Then ride em. All the tips are good, but nothing will help except lots and lots of riding.

Speaking of which, time to go and climb Mount Doom again on my way home...
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Old 05-14-07, 03:54 PM   #23
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[QUOTE=LynnH]I think the mental part of picking your pace is the hardest part. I go at hills like I'm killing snakes or something equally as bad, and in a very short distance if there were any snakes or bad things they would have me for sure!?! QUOTE]

I have the opposite tactic. I like the hill, I will be going more slowly, so there is less coming at me at any given time, so I have time for reflection. I focus on my breathing and let my legs alone unless they request a lower gear. It's a wonderful time to get centered.
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Old 05-14-07, 05:22 PM   #24
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My thoughts on long rides with hills:

Get as "light" as possible-reduce body weight and weight of your bike (wheels and tires make a bigger difference than you might think) and also stuff you carry.
Have a lot of base miles with rides of longer distances (60-80 miles) under your belt.
Find the gearing for your bike that works best for how you ride hills-triple, compact crank, etc.
When climbing, keep your heart rate under 80% of max. If needed, take a hill more slowly to reduce heartrate.
Like others said-there is no substitute for riding hills-you need those rides to tone up the muscles needed for climbing. There is just no way to train for hills late in a ride unless you do hills late in a ride.
Get your self okay with going slow-there is a huge mental game and mental challenges with climbing longer hills. Get by the temptation to stop and rest if you can but do stop if your heartrate is above 80% of max and you can't slow down enough to get it down.
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Old 05-14-07, 08:39 PM   #25
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And don't forget attitude. Embrace the pain, love the hill, make friends with the hill...etc.etc. Stay positive, focusing on your progress, making jokes about needing a third lung, make yourself look at the view, whatever. Ride whatever hills you have often enough that going vertical is not a novel thing. I agree with RetroGrouch that, at first, just get up the hills in a gear that doesn't have you either grinding or spinning like a gasping hummingbird. Make friends, so to speak, with the road when it goes up, become familiar with it-- so climbing is not a surprise to be dreaded. Once you can feel (relatively) comfortable with hills, then worry about conquering them.

AND DON'T GET COMPETIIVE ABOUT KEEPING UP WITH SOMEONE going faster than your comfortable pace. As you get better, and you surely will, then you can lock on someone's wheel and get "pulled" up. Later, you may well pull out around somebody and pull them-- or pull away from them. But learn to cuddle up to the rhinosaurus first.
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