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  1. #1
    Bike Junkie roccobike's Avatar
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    I really stink at Hill Climbing, Is at a 50+ Thing?

    I'm posting this on the 50+ to see if this is a age thing or something else. I really stink at climbing hills. I've just had two extreme events happen that tell me something is wrong and I'm not correcting it. The two events are:
    I just completed a 100 mile MS ride with my club at an average speed of 18.9MPH on a very flat course. I did four pulls on that ride. I followed that with a nice 50 miler the next day, no problems.
    On the following Tuesday I did a 30 miler with another club on very hilly terrain. On a 1 mile hill I got dropped by the entire group (17-18MPH group). I was so pissed off about this that when I finally passed the next to the last rider, I told her to hop on and started a pull that lasted about a mile and a half, passed the entire group and finished with a half mile at 21 MPH. I'm a fairly decent flatlander but brother do I stink at hills. So what's the problem? I've spent many Tuesday and Thursday nights riding with groups on hilly routes just to improve my hill riding. All I've got to show for it is a loss of 30lbs (that's good) and a slightly better brand of being lousy on hills. What's the secret to hill climbing?
    EDIT: My problem is not muscle soreness but running out of breath.
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  2. #2
    tsl
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    Hills and flats make entirely different demands on the body. There's nothing I can do riding in the flats that will help me climb. I need regular, consistent training on both.

    So my advice: To get better at hills, ride more hills.

    EDIT: And pay attention to how you're breathing. I found that I when I had to apply lots of power to climb, I held my breath. Not good. I had to learn how to keep breathing, steadily and deeply, while applying power.
    My two favorite things in life are libraries and bicycles. They both move people forward without wasting anything.
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  3. #3
    Banned. The Weak Link's Avatar
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    Yes.

    Unless you're jppe or hermes or one of those other body nazis.

  4. #4
    Galveston County Texas 10 Wheels's Avatar
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    Lose another 30 lbs.

    Or get one of these.
    Stop halfway up the hill and check your oxygen level.

    Prod 1 finger oximeter
    Sports Grade
    RX not required

    Our Price: $295
    List Price: $425


    Only fingerclip pulseoximeter that has High Low alarms.
    .
    Last edited by 10 Wheels; 09-20-09 at 09:28 AM.

  5. #5
    gone ride'n cyclinfool's Avatar
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    Hills are what seperates the men from the boys - so to speak. It is a complicated mix of a bunch of skills, strength, aerobic fitness, but I think mostly it's about mental toughness and the ability to ignore pain.

    I too suck at hills, two years ago a bought a lighter stiffer bike, did not help. Last year a droped a bunch of weight (I was 10lbs lighter than I am now) and I still sucked. This season I focused less on weight loss and more on strength, I choose Wed nights to go out and tackle the ugliest hills I could find in my area. I drove my car to the base and just went up and down and up and down on the bike until I could not do it anymore. On some hills (some in excess of 18% grade) I would grind to a total stop with sweat pooring out of my helmet and feeling like I was going to barf up my heart. I did this alone, no group pressure - just me against the hills. All of this helped a lot, it improved my mental toughness, strength and ability to deal with the pain. I got better when I rode with the club rides, I knew I could go up and over steeper hills and there was light at the end of the tunnel. Today I still can't stay with the really good riders, but I can now climb better than most of the B riders in our club where as before I was always the last one up the hill. Next season I plan to start this training earlier so that hopefully by the end of the season I am able to hang better with the B+ riders.

    I am sure some of our elite 50+ members can help you even more, but I think the thrust will be the same - hills take training and it isn't fun until you get some minimum level of competence.
    "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.

  6. #6
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    I have trained hills rather consistently for the last 3 years and I am quite a bit better at climbing now. Find a long hill near you and do it twice a week. Here we only have shorter ones so I do one of them twice in one session. By long I mean something that takes 40-60 minutes to get up at training speed.
    I also do a lot of forestroad CX-riding that involves a lot of hills.
    Teach yourself to enjoy riding uphill !

  7. #7
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    In hilly Asheville everybody gets climbing practice everyday. I think you've become a product of your less hilly environment. In lieu of moving closer to the Appalachians, maybe some weight training? Good luck.

  8. #8
    Climbing Above It All BikeWNC's Avatar
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    I feel like I've lost a lot of speed on the hills in the last year while my flats have gotten stronger. I can't figure out why either. Take yesterday's ride. I was able to climb with a low HR and easy breathing but just couldn't find the strength to push a bigger gear. That's how it's been for me lately. I'm using smaller gears and going slower. Fighting a chest cold didn't help but it seems like a greater issue than that. Maybe I'm just stale from doing so much climbing.

    Climbing is power to weight. But I find it is so much more than that. Sure, if the hill is short then it is simply P/W but as the climb lengthens it is mental, core strength and muscle endurance. One thing I haven't done this year is get to the gym. That will be priority one this winter.

    But reality is, I've never been one of the fast guys. I don't know how they do what they do. I've tried everything to get there and never really closed the gap. I've about come to the realization that it is genetic. Not that the faster guys are genetic freaks but that I seem to lack something. It has been frustrating. Even my coaches were at a loss because I did everything they asked. Bottom line though, I still love to ride my bike.

    But to address the OP's question, it does sound like hill repeats will help. Weight loss almost always helps. If you can pull with that group on the flats and even pull away then it really seems like a P/W issue on the hills. Also, try to relax on the climbs. Use only the muscles needed to move the bike, anything else just burns energy needlessly. Breathe. I often find, especially when using a powermeter, that the group really goes very fast at the base of the climb only to drop back later. I often let them go staying at threshold then slowly reel them in as they slow. Of course the length of the hill is a factor. Shorter hills you just have to power over.
    Last edited by BikeWNC; 09-20-09 at 10:00 AM.

  9. #9
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    To climb hill you must have climbed many more hills.

  10. #10
    Road Nazi Hunter Donegal's Avatar
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    Climbing is a power to weight ratio thing further complicated with aerobic limitations. The more efficient your body is at climbing, the better your body can keep up with O2 uptake and lactic acid. The other issue is power to weight. I am a fairly heavy body type (mesomorph), so I will allways suffer on the hills. I live in North GA so I will allways be riding them. I have large strong legs, I can turn many into rollers, but the long extended climbs belong to the smaller, lighter guys with lots of climbing in their legs.

    I live off of a Road called Ridge Road. It's called that for a reason. When I leave my neighborhood, or when I am trying to come back, there will be hills. I have to climb a 12%+ hill to get out of my subdivision. There is not a 1/2 mile flat stretch of road within 10 miles of where I live. I can climb, but it's not pretty.
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  11. #11
    Senior Member late's Avatar
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    I agree with pretty much what everyone said. I would only add that strong legs are efficient legs. Squats, deadlifts, straight legged deadlifts. Get a 12-16 foot long piece of medium size surgical latex tubing from a medical supply house. For a couple weeks do squats and deadlifts (there are videos on the net that show how to do them safely) and then after you can do a couple sets of 14 add the tubing.
    Then double up the tubing, then buy another and heavier tube and use that. Etc.

    Alternatively you can go to the gym.
    We are as gods, we might as well get good at it.
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  12. #12
    Time for a change. stapfam's Avatar
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    I have to ride hills and flatlands are for wimps. Saying that-I am slow on the flat bits and even slower up hills.

    Practice does not make hills any easier- it just takes less time to climb them.
    How long was I in the army? Five foot seven.


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  13. #13
    Senior Member tntyz's Avatar
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    Try mixing up your technique. On my ride today I decided to stay out of the small ring (on a triple) but also keep my HR down below 145. Note that I usually "spin" my way up the hils. Had to focus on keeping good technique and pedalling as efficiently as possible. It was a completely different feeling and different muscles being used. Or maybe the same muscles used differently.

  14. #14
    Climbing Above It All BikeWNC's Avatar
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    One thing I do know, everyone's idea of a hill is different and no two hills are the same.

  15. #15
    Time for a change. stapfam's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by roccobike View Post
    What's the secret to hill climbing?
    EDIT: My problem is not muscle soreness but running out of breath.
    Cadence.----- If you are trying to keep to a particular cadence then hills will cause a problem.

    If you are going up hills (Or on the flat) at a fast pace and the legs ache- then change to a lower gear to take the strain off them. If you are running out of breath then change to a higher gear to take the starin off the lungs.

    And if you are running out of breath and the legs are killing you---Slow down.
    How long was I in the army? Five foot seven.


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  16. #16
    Cycling afficianado keesue's Avatar
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    Amen. That is as succinct as it gets.

    Quote Originally Posted by stapfam View Post
    Cadence.----- If you are trying to keep to a particular cadence then hills will cause a problem.

    If you are going up hills (Or on the flat) at a fast pace and the legs ache- then change to a lower gear to take the strain off them. If you are running out of breath then change to a higher gear to take the starin off the lungs.

    And if you are running out of breath and the legs are killing you---Slow down.
    Ridin' the back streets of San Fran on a Lemond Zurich, Torelli Tipo Uno, Cannondale F600, Specialized Enduro, a Dawes SST and Puch MTB to fetch beer .
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  17. #17
    Senior Member
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    Quote Originally Posted by roccobike View Post
    I'm a fairly decent flatlander but brother do I stink at hills.
    I got Joe Friel's book, "Cycling after 50," recently, but haven't read it. I did notice there was a quiz in the book to help you figure out what kind of rider you are - endurance, sprinter, hill climber, etc.

    On the "hill climber" quiz, the first question was: "Are you significantly thinner than most of the people you ride with?"

    BTW, if you're averaging 19 mph on long rides on flat courses, I'd be surprised if you're really "lousy" at hills. I think you're just slower than whatever person/group you're comparing yourself with.

  18. #18
    Senior Member Shimagnolo's Avatar
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    Yes, it is a 50+ thing;
    I could climb like Tom Danielson, were it not for the fact I am 50+ pounds heavier than him.

  19. #19
    Have bike, will travel Barrettscv's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Shimagnolo View Post
    Yes, it is a 50+ thing;
    I could climb like Tom Danielson, were it not for the fact I am 50+ pounds heavier than him.

  20. #20
    Climbing Above It All BikeWNC's Avatar
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    ^^^ What he said. We all have our illusions of grandeur.

  21. #21
    Member stingray66's Avatar
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    I used to have problems with my schwinn curiser 7 speed It had 14/28 gears in the back changed out to 12/34 and that helped a lot it was when I went from a black wall tires to white wall Directionally tires and went to a 32 lbs to a 55 tire pressure These two upgades did make my cruiser a way faster bike
    I now have no problems going up hills and have more fun keeping up with the racing bike’s and some times blowing them away with a cruiser bike

  22. #22
    feros ferio John E's Avatar
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    A moderate hill climb, such as a long, steady 7 or 8 percent grade, is my favorite type of cycling. Uphill I can hold my own against some of the guys who can drop me on the flats, particularly against a headwind. Pace yourself, gear appropriately, and practice. I find it helpful to alternate between standing and sitting.
    "Early to bed, early to rise. Work like hell, and advertise." -- George Stahlman
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  23. #23
    The guy in the 50+ jersey PAlt's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by The Smokester View Post
    To climb hill you must have climbed many more hills.
    Simple, but true. Two years ago, when I started to get more serious (structured training), I not only stunk at climbing, but actually tried to avoid it. The coach who was helping me with my training told me after I finished the RAIN ride in 2007 in 8hrs. that I could likely do any mountain ride in this area I wanted. Didn't believe him.

    In 2008, without a coach, I trained with the goal of riding Assault on Mt. Mitchell and did it. Besides all the usual things we read about in the forum, it was just going out and climbing, pure and simple. Yes, you have to push yourself sometimes, but the act of doing it weekend after weekend, and doing hill repeats 15x on a short climb known around here by the locals as "The Wall" during the week did the trick.

    Am I a great climber, nope. Am I afraid of doing climbing events, nope. Now I look forward to the climb for the challenge, and hope they make me better, stronger, and smarter in my technique. A friend recently sent me a link to details about the "Death Ride" in California as a bit of a joke. After I went to the site and read about it, I sent him back "I could do this..." Probably means I'm crazy.

  24. #24
    Spin Meister icyclist's Avatar
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    OP - I realize you live in NC, but how does anyone ride up a "hill" at 17-18mph? By California standards, that's not legally definable as a hill.

    On a more serious note:

    "I've spent many Tuesday and Thursday nights riding with groups on hilly route [snip]. All I've got to show for it is a loss of 30lbs (that's good) and a slightly better brand of being lousy on hills. What's the secret to hill climbing?"

    Assuming the others you ride with are about your age, and assuming you're lean, then yes, you have a problem if you're the last person up the hill after all your training.

    Do you know, though, how much hill climbing these other club members do, in comparison to you? The same, less, more?

    "My problem is [snip] running out of breath"

    1) Are you observing what gears/cadence other riders are using, those who are faster than you are up the hills? Are you trying different combinations to see what happens?

    I think looking at what others do would yield better results than asking us, since we have a rather limited knowledge concerning your skills, especially compared to those you ride with.

    2) Are you asking your fellow riders what you might do to improve your climbing skills? Again, that would seem a better way to go than asking us, if you haven't already done so.

    3) Consider a climbing camp. This link is for one held in NC.
    This post is a natural product. Slight variations in spelling and grammar enhance its individual character and beauty and are in no way to be considered flaws or defects.

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  25. #25
    Spin Meister icyclist's Avatar
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    Here's another climbing camp, in November - if you'd like to travel to New Zealand!

    From the web page:

    Climbing/Descending Camp : : November 20th - 22nd 2009 Auckland New Zealand

    Are you frustrated and tired of getting left behind on the climbs?
    Have you considered it might be possible to go faster with your current fitness level?"
    This post is a natural product. Slight variations in spelling and grammar enhance its individual character and beauty and are in no way to be considered flaws or defects.

    Icyclist, the blog considered too areodite for bikeforums

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