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  1. #26
    don't try this at home. rm -rf's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Rob P. View Post
    There are a couple of reasons for not doing well on hills. The first is obvious - fitness and strength. If you're not fit you need to do repeats to gain the strength and fitness to climb.

    The second reason isn't so obvious. Take it from me, the BIKE is a major factor in how well you do hills. I currently am riding a Trek 1100 aluminum. 3X crank with 32 in the back. I can grind it up some pretty steep hills but my HR and breathing go sky high if I try to push myself. I've been riding this bike for a few thousand miles and it has not changed from day one. I suck at hills on it.

    My friend who just started riding a MONTH AGO can blast past me on any hill in the area on his new Orbea. And his gearing is 39X25. He's older than me, hasn't been riding, and still goes OTF on every hill. Why?? It's the bike. His Orbea is stiffer and is more efficient at transferring energy into motion than my Trek. Thus, his bike climbs better than my bike (all other things being equal).

    So, perhaps you need to do some repeats, but you should also look at what you're riding. Equipment does play a big part in staying up with the group on hills.
    I think that good equipment can at best boost climbing by a few percent. Of course, a few percent will win races, if the riders are otherwise equal. But it's only finishing tens of seconds faster in an hour of climbing.

  2. #27
    don't try this at home. rm -rf's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by cyclinfool View Post
    I think that's very true. I find when I am letting the climb beat me I just put my head down and mash. When I am attacking a hill I am using the full stroke, pulling back and down and then up and forward - you can hear my speed play cleats clicking away as the force is going back and forth. I think I just need to focus on pedal stroke and not so much on when will I get to the top of the hill.

    I guess that's my mission for today as I have a nice litte 1200' climb on tap with grades ranging from 6% to 8% - will be riding alone so I can focus on form rather than keeping with the pack.
    Someone on BF suggested trying to pull your knees up toward the bars. That brings different muscles in play for me, and does help. But it wears me out pretty fast. I like to stand occasionally, too, and drop down 2 or 3 cogs. If I try to keep a faster cadence when standing, I burn out.

    Really steep hills, like 18-20%, I shift into the 34-26, stand up, and pedal one stroke per second, which is 30 rpm. I have to concentrate on balance, since I'm only going 3 to 3.5 mph.

  3. #28
    gone ride'n cyclinfool's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by rm -rf View Post
    I think that good equipment can at best boost climbing by a few percent. Of course, a few percent will win races, if the riders are otherwise equal. But it's only finishing tens of seconds faster in an hour of climbing.
    Correct - it isn't the car, it's the engine. You can only blame the bike if it's a real boat anchor. In my case I have no excuses - the steed is one mean machine:
    2007 Tarmac Expert Triple with upgraded wheels to Easton Orion IIs - fast, efficient and oh so light.

    Well today I did the 3 mile 1200' climb, it went well but the big issue was the 15 mile ride out to it - directly into a 20mph wind. By the time I got there I was already pretty well worked. I got up it OK - focused on less mashing and more circling, seemed to work. I only stood up for a few spots. Took most of it in the lowest gear. Suggests are worked pretty well, thanks. I need the encouragement this year.


    Last year when I did this hill late in the summer I was able to do it in a few higher gears. But it is still early. Next week it's repeats on Lake desolation - 1000' and mostly 8% and then week after I'll do the hardest of the five climbs near my home - it's the same ridge, same verticle but the grade is worse. All this to get ready for Whiteface.
    "Of all the things I ever lost I miss my mind the most." Mark Twain
    If all you have is a hammer, every problem looks like a nail.

  4. #29
    Elite Rider Hermes's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by jppe View Post
    It's very simple if you have both cadence and HR monitors. Find a gear you can spin 80 rpm+/- and keep your heart rate no more than 80% of max. You should be able to tackle most climbs and not bother your knees.

    On steeper stuff my cadence will drop lower than 80 rpm-and it can certainly create some pain the knees if there are long hard climbs.
    +1 I would add that I use instantaneous % grade and speed from my Garmin 705 as a pseudo power meter. The 705 has an altimeter so elevation changes are reasonably accurate. I climb a 6% grade at ~10 mph, 75 to 80 rpm. Of course, if it is windy, this must be biased up or down. I know that I can hold that speed for 1/2 hour. For my weight, 7% is ~9 mph and 5% ~11 mph. As the grade increases, it is not linear e.g. 8% is ~7.5 mph. And of course, these speed/grade combination can vary.

    The other metric I know is my 3 to 5 minute climbing power. If I have to climb for a couple of minutes, I can greatly exceed the above numbers and know that I will recover fast.

    If I am on an unfamiliar climb, I rely on the above simple metrics to guide my climbing pace.
    Last edited by Hermes; 05-31-09 at 10:48 PM.

  5. #30
    Member billmagee's Avatar
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    Thanks gang, this has been really helpful. Today I climbed my home hill without tacking back and forth. A first! Best tips were: keep head down and look at the road; concentrate on making circles.

    I also offer this one from my (long, long ago) marathoning days: cut the distance into small parts and deal with them in your head individually.

  6. #31
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    I have always hated hills and while I don't go out of my way to look for them I have figured out what works for me. In the past I always cursed and tensed up at the base of the hill. The more I thought about my pedal stroke the harder the climb was because I was thinking about my legs and the building discomfort. Now, I make it a point to relax as much as possible and I think of anything I can other than pedaling and the pain. Much like "thinking of baseball" takes your mind off of certain things (women, ask your men), not thinking of the climb makes it go less painfully and much quicker. Sing a song to yourself or think about the upcoming evening or how much you hate your boss. I am an old rugby player and I recite the epic poem "Eskimo Nell" (a bawdy 40 or 50 stanza poem) and the climb just wizzes by. It works for me.

  7. #32
    Senior Member obie's Avatar
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    FWIW: two seasons into training out here with local club and some mountain regulars - what I've picked up to be useful for my riding.

    If you have the time do the long mountain climbs with experienced riders. 60-120 milers with 8000'+ climbing. 2-3 months, 1x a week, every spring (before the summer heats up). Take that for your base and then work with the group rides - shorter (50-60 miles) at a good clip. Do some hill repeats 1x a week, year-round (4000'+) to keep your climbing strength up. Do a few climbing events that are timed. Keep records of your miles, times on hill repeats, events and group rides. You'll see the results in a year or two.

    Get a CF bike, compact crank and 11-28. Learn to spin, don't mash anything over 5% and longer than 2 miles. Watch your liquids, food intake. Force yourself to eat/drink on long climbs - you're pushing the limit on these rides.

    Take your HRM along on hill repeats - know where you are on those climbs - max.effort?, 80%? etc. - keep these numbers and general overall feeling in the forefront when you go out on a heavy duty climb. Stay within yourself and don't get worked up when you get dropped and then start pushing to 'get back on it.'

    Take some time off in the summer. Rest is important to me. Hammering long climbs takes most people a few years of training before they can go hard, long and high without burning themselves out.

    Get your weight down and/or be realistic about your abilities, age/time to train and your size. There are very few 50+ y.o. climbers who can hammer long, mountain rides/events at a good pace (100 miles/9000'+climbing in less than 8 hours) that are over 175 pds. I know a few 50+ guys at 160+ who climb exceptionally well but, they have years of cycling/climbing in their legs and they are the exception.

    But, most of all....Enjoy the Views...the mountains are the best!
    Last edited by obie; 05-31-09 at 10:26 PM.

  8. #33
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    Quote Originally Posted by cyclinfool View Post
    My riding buddy could not ride this morning so it was either ride alone or do a club ride. I choose the club ride - it was in an area about 45 miles from my house in eastern NY near the Mass boarder. A 41 mile ride set at a moderately fast (tour) pace. Thought this would be good as I have never ridden in this region before. It was as expected - strikingly beautiful - rolling through farms and small towns.

    Before the ride started the ride leader talk about the course a bit and said that we would regroup at the top of the climb and wait for everyone to catch up. This part of the country can have some steep hills. The ride started off well - I held back in the pack as I did not know what to expect with this group and I did not want to stress my knee which I tweeked a few weeks back. For the first 18 miles the ride was on rolling terrain and we were averaging about 19 mph - I wasn't feeling at all pushed, it was a good pace. Then came the big climb. I did not know how long, how steep or what.

    So here is the question. How do you climbers approach a hill you have never climbed before?

    Turns out this was a good size climb - about 1100' rise mostly between 5% and 6%. It was a winding road so I could not see what was coming. I went down in my little ring and spun for as long as I could to keep up and then started to fade. After that I made no attempt to stay with the group because I did not want to irratate my knee so I just drop down to the lowest gear and took my time - mind you I was huffing and puffing, but not grinding too hard. When I got over the top everyone was waiting for the old fat guy as promised. After a glorious decent and a short rest stop we headed back out for the last half of the ride. I stayed with the leaders - doing a little over 20 mph. I guess I did not spend enough on the hill. It was a great day - perfect temps (high 60s). I ended up with a 17.5mph average which I consider great for this time of year although I was a shameless parasitic wheel sucker for a most of the ride.

    Usually when I know a hill I can time my power output to exhaust my reserves when I crest the top - keep my momentum up and standing only when I have to. On long hills where I don't know what's coming mentally I just hunker down and crank it out making sure I don't spend it all in one place. This typically results in getting dropped.

    Whats your strategy for those long climbs?
    For me the answer is simple. I am not a climber and I hate hills. I climb them and so far I havenít had to walk any since I switched to a road bike but they are my least favorite part of cycling. I would avoid them all together except that I love going down them and most often they are in my way to where I want to go. The only advice that has ever worked for me is pick a speed and cadence I am comfortable with and do not watch anyone else or look for the top of the hill. I do try and relax and I do try to keep my HR below 75 to 80 percent. Other than that I get to the top when I get there, if it is in front of another rider that is fine and if not that is fine as well.

    I may get stronger and better at climbing but I never expect to hear myself say I like hills.

    After reading the original question I have to believe it wasnít written to me anyway.

  9. #34
    Elite Rider Hermes's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by obie View Post
    FWIW: two seasons into training out here with local club and some mountain regulars - what I've picked up to be useful for my riding.

    If you have the time do the long mountain climbs with experienced riders. 60-120 milers with 8000'+ climbing. 2-3 months, 1x a week, every spring (before the summer heats up). Take that for your base and then work with the group rides - shorter (50-60 miles) at a good clip. Do some hill repeats 1x a week, year-round (4000'+) to keep your climbing strength up. Do a few climbing events that are timed. Keep records of your miles, times on hill repeats, events and group rides. You'll see the results in a year or two.

    Get a CF bike, compact crank and 11-28. Learn to spin, don't mash anything over 5% and longer than 2 miles. Watch your liquids, food intake. Force yourself to eat/drink on long climbs - you're pushing the limit on these rides.

    Take your HRM along on hill repeats - know where you are on those climbs - max.effort?, 80%? etc. - keep these numbers and general overall feeling in the forefront when you go out on a heavy duty climb. Stay within yourself and don't get worked up when you get dropped and then start pushing to 'get back on it.'

    Take some time off in the summer. Rest is important to me. Hammering long climbs takes most people a few years of training before they can go hard, long and high without burning themselves out.

    Get your weight down and/or be realistic about your abilities, age/time to train and your size. There are very few 50+ y.o. climbers who can hammer long, mountain rides/events at a good pace (100 miles/9000'+climbing in less than 8 hours) that are over 175 pds. I know a few 50+ guys at 160+ who climb exceptionally well but, they have years of cycling/climbing in their legs and they are the exception.

    But, most of all....Enjoy the Views...the mountains are the best!
    +1 and well said. I would add that I try to drink early and often on a long climb. It is silly to have a full water bottle on the bike and get to the top with it still full. One loses a lot of water at high power and the water is better inside your body working toward your benefit than sitting in the bottle weighing the bike down.

  10. #35
    aka Tom Reingold noglider's Avatar
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    My two techniques for hills.

    1. Try to gauge the steepness and length. Take a guess at what a sustainable pace is and start out that way.

    2. When I guess wrong, it's no shame to stop and rest going up a hill. I just stand and catch my breath and resume when I'm ready. I never walk, though. That's my challenge to myself. I can't remember the last time I walked my bike up a hill. It could be over 30 years ago. I stop as many times as I need.

    I don't feel it's realistic to maintain cadence while climbing. If you spin while going up a difficult hill, I think you work too hard. That is merely my opinion.

    Also, it helps greatly to be able to ride out of the saddle for at least part of a climb. I didn't do it for many years, and once I became practiced at it, I became a much better climber. I'm now a pretty decent climber. In fact, I'm so good that I'm lousy at riding on level ground and downhills. My cycling buddies always beat me on the flats and going down, but I'm as good as my strongest friend while climbing.
    Please email me rather than sending me a private message. My address is noglider@pobox.com

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  11. #36
    OM boy cyclezen's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by cyclinfool View Post
    ...
    So here is the question. How do you climbers approach a hill you have never climbed before?
    ...
    Usually when I know a hill I can time my power output to exhaust my reserves when I crest the top - keep my momentum up and standing only when I have to. On long hills where I don't know what's coming mentally I just hunker down and crank it out making sure I don't spend it all in one place. This typically results in getting dropped.
    Whats your strategy for those long climbs?
    i'm coming from a 'non-climber' who likes to climb... yeah, I know, weird...

    so many variables on a ride, its hard to say what might be my best approach for a longer climb. How long is the ride, ride temps? when in the ride do the climbs come along? Who else is on the ride?
    Given all that, I never go on a ride without some fore-warning of what to expect... not the full details, but at least what the general profile might look like. Then I ride accordingly.
    Things I do (on a climb 3 miles or longer and some gradient above 7-8% avg)
    bring the heart rate up slowly - once I blow up, itz near impossible to get back down to some semblance of 'aerobic'.
    look up at the expected terrain often - topography often reveals the more difficult sections.
    never much above 60 and never much below 50 for any length of time. spinning too much just sends my HR over the limit.
    in unknown groups, pick someone who seems at my fitness level and temperament and just hangout for the 1st mile or so...
    if my heart is in my throat, that's OK; if its in my ears, I'm goin too hard for a joy ride.
    'stand' more often than I think I need to...
    drink more often than I think I need to...
    don;t eat just before or during a climb, grab something immediately at the top
    if I smell Asbestos on the down passing cars then I know it a long and/or pitched road ahead...
    look forward to the rippin descent which is sure to come at some point (in a loop ride...)
    Golden rose, the color of the dream I had
    Not too long ago
    A misty blue and the lillac too
    A never to grow old

  12. #37
    gone ride'n cyclinfool's Avatar
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    This weekends hill work is paying off. After resting yesterday I did my usual morning ride. An 18 mile loop which is rolling but has a nice hill in the middle and at the end. Since I do this ride at least twice a week it is my progress measure. No wind today - my partner and I rode it hard. We topped the last hill at an average of 18.2mph beating our best speed this year by 0.5mph. We didn't draft each other this time - if we did I am sure we could have done a little better. My best speed ever on this loop was last year when three of us - each doing 5 minute pulls topped the last hill at an average of 18.7MPH. This morning the knee was almost pain free - just a litttle twinge at the end of the last hill and some stiffness during the cool down. The conditioning is coming back - but it is always such a painful process.
    "Of all the things I ever lost I miss my mind the most." Mark Twain
    If all you have is a hammer, every problem looks like a nail.

  13. #38
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    There are no big hills.Drop the chain on the 20 tooth gear and pedal up,no problems.Don't even break a sweat.
    Everything should be as simple as possible...But not more so.---Albert Einstein

  14. #39
    Eternal Newbie Kevrob's Avatar
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    One solution to not knowing how long and steep a new hill is:

    http://www.earthtools.org/

    If you have the route mapped out before leaving your computer behind, you can use the "Find Elevation/Height Above Sea Level" tool to learn when you will have to chug upwards.

    I don't have a GPS. Will those thingees give out with similar info?

    Kevin

  15. #40
    pedo viejo
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    Quote Originally Posted by BengeBoy View Post
    The most important thing I think about on a long climb is cadence, and riding with (only) light pressure on the pedals. If I feel like I'm working too hard, I drop down to a lower gear. If I'm not working too hard, I shift to a higher gear. The more tired I am, the more I think about maintaining a nice, smooth cadence, and trying to make perfect circles with my feet. For some reason, a long time ago I decided the worst thing to do on a long climb is to get sloppy, so I think about not getting sloppy.

    And I try to remember to relax. I find that moving my hands off the hoods or drops and putting them on the flats of the handlebars right next to the stem helps me relax. It opens up your chest and lets you take nice deep breaths.
    +1. Nice summary.

    The only thing I'll add is when the gradient gets serious, it's sometimes useful to focus just on the pavement a few feet immediately in front of you. I find it's easier to relax and focus on form if I don't look up the road (and get caught up in, "holy s--t, does this thing ever let up?")

  16. #41
    The guy in the 50+ jersey PAlt's Avatar
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    I'd echo much of what's been written here. Try to keep your heart rate in the +/- 80% of max range, spin 80-90 rpm on cadence when ever possible, mash only when necessary, try to keep your pedal stoke as smooth as you can. I keep a mental rhythm in my head in terms of breathing, that tends to keep my HR under control. I also never focus on the "top", just on the "journey". I watch the road to pick the line that affords the smoothest track (that is the least amount of pitch in the climb and corner) as safety, and surrounding riders allow. Seems to work for me.

  17. #42
    aka Tom Reingold noglider's Avatar
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    I'm going to go against conventional wisdom. Sorry. Higher cadences do not reduce the amount of work you do. They increase it. The reason for higher cadence is to reduce risk of injury to your knees. So the trick is to find a cadence that is not too fast that it wastes energy but not so slow that you hurt your knees. My feeling is that for tough climbing, it's way, way below 90 rpm.

    I also feel that high cadence climbing does little to build ability to climb. I think it hinders it, because climbing is an opportunity to push harder on the pedals than any other time. I couldn't climb well until I got a fixed gear (66 inches) and didn't have the opportunity to shift down. You don't need a fixed gear to build this skill. You need to choose your gear well.

    Plus standing up helps you put more force on the pedals.

    I'm willing to talk more about this if you like. I've been cycling seriously for 34 years, and this is what I've learned.

    High cadences are fine for flats and downhills but I think they are bad for vigorous climbs.
    Please email me rather than sending me a private message. My address is noglider@pobox.com

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  18. #43
    gone ride'n cyclinfool's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by noglider View Post
    I'm going to go against conventional wisdom. Sorry. Higher cadences do not reduce the amount of work you do. They increase it.
    High cadences are fine for flats and downhills but I think they are bad for vigorous climbs.
    Interesting perspective. For smaller hills where I can keep a high cadence and power through it - it works. For longer hills I just can't spin at 100+ for an hour, the moment you let off for just a second your cadence drops and if you are at the end of your gears your done.

    I have been biking pretty much regularly since I was a 4 YO - but only seriously in the last 3 years. What I mean by seriously is in groups where I have actually been trying to keep up as opposed to just out for the ride - a relatively new type of riding for me. What I have found on hills is that if you loose your momentum it's grind time - which is just demoralizing. Last year by the time Aug came around I was in rare form, was doing hill repeats on an 8% 1000' hill at 9mph. I lost my conditioning over the winter and it's frustrating. But it's coming back.
    "Of all the things I ever lost I miss my mind the most." Mark Twain
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  19. #44
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    I will add one more little tidbit... When you are spinning along in your lowest gear, try standing up and SHIFTING one to two gears higher. You can usually do that, as you can throw your weight into the pedals. Go for 50- pedal strokes then sit down and downshift to the lowest gear, and it will feel a lot 'easier' than it did before. Mix it up. Go 50 standing, then 50 sitting, shifting as I've stated. That's when you're on the geared bike...

    on the fixie..., well, momentum is your friend, so you want to hit the bottom of the hill hard, then try and maintain... also, sit/stand--but you don't have the benefit of the easier gear when you sit. However, with practice, you find that climbing a hill with a fixed gear is actually easier and more efficient that riding it geared.

    train safe-
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  20. #45
    Senior Member woodenidol's Avatar
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    I will echo the feeling you are not going to become a strong climber spinning some low gears. Honesly, you want to climb well, lose weight. Its the biggest factor. It may not be easy, but it will gain you the most percieved power increase. I like gadgets as well as the next guy, but good grief, being a good climber has very little to do with garmins, heart rate monitors and power output tracking hubs.

    If you are heavy, you will be slower than the light guys considering equal training. In my youth as a rider I was easily the best climber in the club, mostly I was the lightest and liked to climb. Bigger guys simply had to be much stronger cyclists to stay with me. That being said, many a guy I creamed on the hills would smear me in time trials or especially sprints where those monster quads made my little legs seem feeble.

    Good luck. Personnely I think you rode well. You hung with them on the flats, and approached the hill by riding within yourself. Well done in my opinion.

    Happy climbing.

    Im starting my climbing work in a couple weeks. Trying to let the lung heal up before I see just how bad it will hurt.

  21. #46
    Senior Member Eclectus's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by cyclinfool View Post
    10wheels - Somtimes pictures don't do a hill justice. However - this pic does.
    This is what I will climb in late June - 8 miles 3500' to the weather station at the very top.

    You could start out riding like a demon, drop everybody, then get off and hide behind a tree. Then after the peloton goes by, ride down to the gondola lift and take it up to the top. Then zoom down and pass by people who are only halfway up. They'll probably make you next year's race director, and you won't have to do anything exertionall

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    Quote Originally Posted by Eclectus View Post
    You could start out riding like a demon, drop everybody, then get off and hide behind a tree. Then after the peloton goes by, ride down to the gondola lift and take it up to the top. Then zoom down and pass by people who are only halfway up. They'll probably make you next year's race director, and you won't have to do anything exertionall
    Sounds like one of the first TDF winners.

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    Quote Originally Posted by noglider View Post
    I'm going to go against conventional wisdom. Sorry. Higher cadences do not reduce the amount of work you do. They increase it. The reason for higher cadence is to reduce risk of injury to your knees. So the trick is to find a cadence that is not too fast that it wastes energy but not so slow that you hurt your knees. My feeling is that for tough climbing, it's way, way below 90 rpm.
    I also feel that high cadence climbing does little to build ability to climb. I think it hinders it, because climbing is an opportunity to push harder on the pedals than any other time. I couldn't climb well until I got a fixed gear (66 inches) and didn't have the opportunity to shift down. You don't need a fixed gear to build this skill. You need to choose your gear well.
    Plus standing up helps you put more force on the pedals.
    I'm willing to talk more about this if you like. I've been cycling seriously for 34 years, and this is what I've learned.
    High cadences are fine for flats and downhills but I think they are bad for vigorous climbs.
    I don't think one can compare just from 'comments' here. Everyone has their own experience of climbing and what might be their own special effort.
    I personally find when I'm ridin near my max efforts, dropping rpm to 60 to mid 60's and using a higher gear gets me up faster. Anything above 70 rpm for a mile or more will put me into O2 debt. So I climb better in a bigger gear than trying to twiddle up in a smaller one - at the same pace. I do vary standing to seated quite a bit and find that gets me to the top in better shape. So I'll agree that one can climb well at cadences nearer 60 than 90.
    My comments apply to climbs which are multiple miles and not some combo of up and down.
    That said there's nothing like hill intervals, both at high cadence and also in larger gears, to push endurance and help build strength. Unlike riding the flat, each pedal revolution means something on the upslope and making each count is really the test of truth.
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    I think this is the best thread I've seen all year.
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    Quote Originally Posted by noglider View Post
    I'm going to go against conventional wisdom. Sorry. Higher cadences do not reduce the amount of work you do. They increase it. The reason for higher cadence is to reduce risk of injury to your knees. So the trick is to find a cadence that is not too fast that it wastes energy but not so slow that you hurt your knees. My feeling is that for tough climbing, it's way, way below 90 rpm.
    I tend to agree, there are lots of variables though. Watch the pros, they are often way below 80 rpm on the climbs unless making a big effort.

    Personally depending on the hill I may employ any one of several techniques, but spinning like crazy usually isn't the one I choose, especially on long not so steep climbs (several miles or more at 6% or less).

    These days most of my climbing on long grades is done when fully loaded with touring gear. For sustained climbs with 30# of baggage I find that a gear that allows 60-80 rpm about right.

    Also I do not find resting on the way up a climb particularly helpful, but rather find it discouraging. I try to rest at the bottom or top if necessary and try hard to not take a break during a steepish climb. Rather than rest I switch techniques for a bit, maybe standing and mashing a bigger gear for a few minutes, or maybe spinning a lower gear for a short while, just to mix it up a bit.

    Shorter steeper climbs I am more likely to spin a bit higher cadence.

    Everyone is different and we all need to find what works for us, but I think the spinning thing tends to get oversold for climbing.

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