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Old 05-06-14, 02:17 PM   #1
Altair 4
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So I Have This Hill I Want to Conquer...

...what's the best tactic to get the job done by someone who rides mostly flat terrain?

Details:
The Hill - It's 1.3 miles long, starts out at 3% grade and gets steeper as one reaches the summit, I'd guess it's 7 to 9% at it's worst, very near the top. 425 feet elevation change.

The Bike - Aluminum hybrid with 11-30 rear cassette and 28/38/48 crank set. Locked out front suspension fork. 700x35 tires. With fenders, rack, etc, I'll bet it weighs in excess of 35 pounds.

The Engine - 56 yrs old male, 175 pounds and 6' 3", pampered by mostly bicycling on flat rail-to-trails, 15 to 25 mile rides. Runs on regular.

I'm looking for some kind guidance. Just go at it, spinning? Take it in segments, and repeat until I build stamina/strength to go farther? Stay in the highest gear range I can for as long as I can, then drop gears? What do you recommend?
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Old 05-06-14, 02:23 PM   #2
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Just do it. I like to try to easy spin up the hill as much as possible. If I run out of gears to spin easy and it starts to require a bit more "umph" I'll ease up and shift it into a higher gear or two and then stand up and try to build up a few more MPH then sit back down and drop into a lower gear and that should buy a little more easy spinning time. You have to ease up when you shift though that's kind of key...
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Old 05-06-14, 02:24 PM   #3
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Seriously ... your bike is heavy, but you've got good low gears (~25 gear inches), and a 425 foot 7-9% climb should be totally doable for you.

My advice is not to "save" the low gears until you absolutely need them. As you ascend, select the right gear to keep yourself spinning at ~80-90 RPM.

Take your time and enjoy the way up. If the climb is traffic free, you can even tack if you have to.
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Old 05-06-14, 02:31 PM   #4
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I've been dealing with this myself. Throw out all the magazine/internet articles that tell you how to climb. The advice in those are repeated over and over, but don't apply to us. Crap like "ride out in front, so others will pass you, and you'll all summit together" or "select xxxx gear and shift to xxxx gear halfway up".... Blah blah blah. As if we are in a peoplton of 100 people, and we're all in good shape.

Instead, here in this thread, you'll have a lot of people tell you to "just do it". That is what it will take. The more often you do it, the more your specific adaptations will take care of business for you.



Here's my advice.... Next time you go up, go as hard as possible. Suffer. Badly. You might not even get your best time, just make sure to suffer. Badly.


Now, remember that feeling. When you finally reach your goal.... You will suffer like this again. Going up a hill faster doesn't get "easier" as you get better. You just go faster. If you find it gets "easier", you could be going faster.

Last edited by BikeAnon; 05-06-14 at 02:36 PM.
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Old 05-06-14, 02:34 PM   #5
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Another piece of advice.... relax. Your body is capable of doing more than you realize sometimes, but if you let fear and other things your mind can toss your way get in control, you can sometimes fall short of what you're actually capable of.

Given the bike you have, focus on spinning and not grinding your way up the hill. I have a hill near me that I started riding when all I had was a hybrid and it's that grade at its worst, although it doesn't stay there long and averages about 3-4 percent. I have "fonder" memories of climbing that hill on a hybrid than I do on either of the 2 road bikes I've acquired since then.
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Old 05-06-14, 02:53 PM   #6
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Thankfully 1.3 miles is pretty short. From the specs you (the OP) gave, I think you should be able to do it right now, without any exceptional effort, i.e. no real suffering.

Since you seem so concerned with just making it to the summit, I'd say take it easy, use your low (maybe lowest) gears and don't try to hurry the climb. You can work on speed later. So yes, "Just do it!" and I think you'l find it's not really that difficult.

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Old 05-06-14, 03:15 PM   #7
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That's a 6% average grade, 425/(1.3*5280). A good challenge.

You have low enough gears to sit and spin. Many riders would have to stand on a 9% grade with their 34-27 low gear.

I find that a hill climb is easier the second time up: I have some idea of how steep and how long the climb will be, so I can do it without going too easy or too hard. I can also keep my balance at slow speeds, down to about 3 mph.

I'll go to the lowest gear I need, right away. I don't hold any gears "in reserve".


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Old 05-06-14, 03:21 PM   #8
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I'm in much the same situation in that coastal Rhode Island is mostly flat. Hills are no longer than one mile and not over 10% (I've measured the slope with a protractor and small carpenter's level)l. My strategy is to spin a low gear and to focus on a relaxed position and close attention to good breathing. Don't waste energy. Be as smooth as possible.
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Old 05-06-14, 03:23 PM   #9
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Thanks for all of the advice! I've been thinking about with the positive attitude that I can definitely do it. I'll post when I get the opportunity to give it a go. Work is killing me at the moment.
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Old 05-06-14, 03:24 PM   #10
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I had one that kicked my butt... 1 1/2 miles with the last 1/2 mile at 14% grade..

Luckily, it's a closed road and only for cyclists..

Since it's a closed road and it's rather wide, I was able to zig zag the hard (14%) part. Each time up I'd go a little further before I'd start my zig zag.. I can now make it all the way up in a straight line. I am getting better at it so now I have been doing it twice. I get to the top, go back down and do it again..

For a while I had to zig zag the 2nd time up. Now I can make my 2nd trip up it about half way before the zig zag begins..

My goal is to make it up 2 times without having to zig zag...
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Old 05-06-14, 03:27 PM   #11
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You definitely can do this. Go at it and see how far up you make it. I'll bet you can do the whole thing.

Keep the gear just easy enough that you can keep the cadence up. When the cadence falls, downshift a gear, repeat, etc. But probably you want to start with the same chain ring as you will finish in - going up cogs is easy, shifting the FD under load is tough.

Consider standing for part of the steepest parts, or alternate standing and sitting.

Don't skimp on hydration and don't do it in the serious heat. If summer comes early to W. PA, do the hill in the early morning before it gets too hot.
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Old 05-06-14, 04:06 PM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by RPK79 View Post
Just do it. I like to try to easy spin up the hill as much as possible. ...
This^... best advice I learned many years ago - "rest up hills" - just know to drop gearing into a comfortable spot and take your time...

I am 63 yrs, 5'8" fat (weight is private thank you but let's just say I got alot on you) and I routinely climb mountains ( I mountain bike more) where grades are averaged around 5% but in pitches crank up to 20%. Longest climb to date 32 miles before descending (and then adding another 5 miles of climbing). Thing is - you develop the process. After time and gaining experience your know what your body likes and dislikes.

Just go out and give it a try - if you succeed then you will know "ain't no big time"... if you fail, use it as a learning moment and adjust...
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Old 05-06-14, 05:39 PM   #13
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Seek out headwinds while you are on the flats.
Wind is a great teacher.
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Old 05-06-14, 06:18 PM   #14
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A heart rate monitor helps - you should be able to figure out on the flats what kind of BPM you can maintain for 15 minutes, then when you do your hill, just force yourself to ride below that pace. Concentrate on a smooth spin, relaxed upper body, and controlled breathing.
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Old 05-06-14, 06:22 PM   #15
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Seek out headwinds while you are on the flats.
Wind is a great teacher.
It is the horizontal hill that never ends. Where else can you cram a 30mi ride into 20?
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Old 05-06-14, 06:27 PM   #16
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I agree with just doing it and getting better with experience. I spin it to win it, no need in damaging the knees at my age.

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Old 05-06-14, 06:58 PM   #17
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Just do it.

I have ridden mostly rail trails the last few years, and I rode the Tour de Scranton last week. I won't lie, I walked a few hills, but I made it up some hills that I would have never expected to climb with almost the same gearing as you have (only difference is my cassette is 11-32.

My specs, 57 year old, riding a Trek 7.3 FX with 35 mm tires, complete with a rack and trunk bag (I carry lots of stuff) and my weight is close to twice your weight (330-340). My longest ride this year before the 34 miles I rode in the TdS was 17 miles on a rail trail that had a steady 500 foot climb in 8.5 miles, where I turned around and cruised back.

Based on my experience in Scranton, I have switched to a 42/32/22 crank so I can climb hills more easily until my weight gets in line.
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Old 05-06-14, 07:11 PM   #18
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You'll have to figure out your type- spinner or masher. Won't take long- if you're geared to low, you;ll run out of lung before you run out of hill. If you're geared too high, you'll run out of leg before you run out of hill. When you get it right, you'll fall into a rhythm that feels good- hard, but good- that'll get you to the top. Once you find that gear/rhythm, that hill will get easier as you get used to it, build technique and muscle. BTW- all the really good rides are at the tops of hills...
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Old 05-06-14, 07:16 PM   #19
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... Concentrate on a smooth spin, relaxed upper body, and controlled breathing.
This is the type of advice you read about in magazines. If the hill is beyond what you are capable of... there is no "spin, relax, or controlled breathing". It's beyond that. Once you are in your lowest gear, and doing everything you can to survive, there's no "spin".

Quote:
Originally Posted by Rick@OCRR View Post
Thankfully 1.3 miles is pretty short. From the specs you (the OP) gave, I think you should be able to do it right now, without any exceptional effort, i.e. no real suffering.....
No offense, Rick, but you do not understand what this is like, and can't relate.

Let me help.... Think of the most difficult thing that you CAN do on the bike. Now think of something HARDER than that. Something you CAN'T do. Then have someone tell you you can go do that thing right now with no exceptional effort.
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Old 05-06-14, 07:39 PM   #20
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Some people find hills undesirable regardless of gearing, equipment and all that stuff.
I dont mind them too much, but have come to believe tackling them is all mental. All in your mind.
Along with standing, I just concentrate on other stuff, relax, breath, dont think negative stuff, etc . . .
Beat them in your mind and your bike will follow
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Old 05-06-14, 08:29 PM   #21
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That's a 6% average grade, 425/(1.3*5280). A good challenge.

I'll go to the lowest gear I need, right away. I don't hold any gears "in reserve".

Personally I like to always have at least "one more gear" that I can drop into if I really need it. I think of it as a psychological crutch ... I've been there where I'm riding a hill and go to shift to a lower gear and there isn't one. I hate that. Like the others have said, try and ride it, see what happens and repeat "I love hills, I love hills".
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Old 05-06-14, 08:31 PM   #22
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I prefer the top down approach.
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Old 05-06-14, 08:36 PM   #23
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Concentrate on a smooth spin, relaxed upper body, and controlled breathing.
Quote:
Originally Posted by BikeAnon View Post
This is the type of advice you read about in magazines. If the hill is beyond what you are capable of... there is no "spin, relax, or controlled breathing". It's beyond that. Once you are in your lowest gear, and doing everything you can to survive, there's no "spin".
I gotta agree here.. Often on massive climbs I am in the lowest gear that I have, wishing I had 3 or 4 lower options as I plug, plug, and plug away.. There is absolutely no spinning whatsoever going on...
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Old 05-06-14, 08:36 PM   #24
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This is what I saw recently. I rode with some dude who had the very same bike I had. I saw him go up crazy steep hills that I couldn't by gearing way down and spinning like crazy. Spinning like crazy is really hard but I think that's the way to do it.

If that doesn't work, imagine yourself light as a feather floating effortlessly in the aether of life as you ascend the hill.
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Old 05-06-14, 08:37 PM   #25
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Good advice above. Basically sit and spin and relax your legs while doing it. Spin doesn't necessarily mean revolve the pedals at a high speed. Rather revolve them smoothly. Obviously you can't really relax your legs, but you can relax the muscles not currently in use during that moment. So focus on your legs and what they are doing. BTW hope you have clipless pedals. Much easier climbing with clipless and stiff soled shoes. Also make sure your saddle is high enough. Much easier to climb with a saddle height that requires you to extend your legs. Straighten your back, relax your shoulders, and fill you chest from the bottom. If you can't make it all the way up, rest a day and have a go at it again.
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