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    Sophomoric Member Roody's Avatar
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    Problems and issues with HILL CLIMBING, along with stories and pointers

    This issue has come up recently on a couple threads. Do you have issues or questions about hill climbing? Any advice you can pass along to others? Any anecdotes or inspirational experiences?


    "Think Outside the Cage"

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    What's to know? It's all about strength to weight. If you want to go up faster (or at all in some cases), increase your strength, decrease your weight or both. The cheap weight to lose is the adipose on your body. Another source of weight loss is all the extra stuff you are bringing along out of habit. Do you really need everything you're carrying?

    Some cycling adages retain their relevance no matter what type of rider one is. As Eddy said, "Don't buy upgrades. Ride up grades." This is the way to become a stronger cyclist.

    A word of caution: Your muscles will get stronger faster than the connective tissue. If you increase your workload too fast, those tendons will let you know. Unfortunately, by the time they start talking to you, you're in for a bit of a backwards journey as you heal.

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    Long Distance Cyclist Machka's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Roody View Post
    This issue has come up recently on a couple threads. Do you have issues or questions about hill climbing? Any advice you can pass along to others? Any anecdotes or inspirational experiences?
    What are the hills like where you are?

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    Sophomoric Member Roody's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Machka View Post
    What are the hills like where you are?
    I have very few where I live. What hills there are are short and steep, such as river banks and small ridges.

    In my second home town, where I do a lot of road riding and mountain biking, there are glorious hills with vistas of Lake Michigan, Grand Traverse Bay, and dozens of inland lakes.


    "Think Outside the Cage"

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    Sophomoric Member Roody's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by B. Carfree View Post
    What's to know? It's all about strength to weight. If you want to go up faster (or at all in some cases), increase your strength, decrease your weight or both. The cheap weight to lose is the adipose on your body. Another source of weight loss is all the extra stuff you are bringing along out of habit. Do you really need everything you're carrying?

    Some cycling adages retain their relevance no matter what type of rider one is. As Eddy said, "Don't buy upgrades. Ride up grades." This is the way to become a stronger cyclist.

    A word of caution: Your muscles will get stronger faster than the connective tissue. If you increase your workload too fast, those tendons will let you know. Unfortunately, by the time they start talking to you, you're in for a bit of a backwards journey as you heal.
    Of course transportation cyclist or utility cyclist is likely to have additional issues with weight. The bike itself is usually heavier, and we are likely to be carrying more items or even actual cargo. In addition, the riders are often of a heavier body weight, since being super skinny is not as desirable as it would be with club riders and amateur racers.


    "Think Outside the Cage"

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    Senior Member wahoonc's Avatar
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    We have a mix depending on which way I ride from the house. Flat it ain't. We have rollers, where you can almost get up enough speed going down one to get most of the way up the next one. We have short 1/4 mile, steep grades, some times these are in steps with a slightly lesser grade in between them. Depending on the bike and the load I may get off and walk up some of the worst ones. Otherwise it is "put 'er in low gear and grind away" I gear all of my bikes pretty low, I am getting old and want gears on the low end, not the high end.

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    I moved from the center of my town to 3 miles outside in a very hilly section. Although I was capable of riding anywhere in town, my bike was geared higher than I needed -- I never used the top 2-3 gears of 8 speeds -- and created a sort of unconscious barrier to using my bike for day-to-day stuff. So I got a smaller chainring to get my a couple of extra lower gears, and I'm riding much more. The hills aren't a psychological barrier to get started. And now I am using the gear range that I have more fully.

  8. #8
    In the right lane gerv's Avatar
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    It's funny comparing the hills when I started riding to the hills I ride now. Of course those hills haven't changed at all. But they seem to flatten out with experience.

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    Sophomoric Member Roody's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by gerv View Post
    It's funny comparing the hills when I started riding to the hills I ride now. Of course those hills haven't changed at all. But they seem to flatten out with experience.
    But they might get a little bigger again when you get older. Until age 55 I did almost all of my riding in the big ring. Lately I find myself more in the small one, or the middle ring of a triple for even small inclines.

    I don't go down the hills as fast as I used to either!


    "Think Outside the Cage"

  10. #10
    Senior Member Null66's Avatar
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    Riding more, with some attention to performance.

    Hills seem to be easier.

    They even look smaller and less steep in a car.

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    Senior Member rumrunn6's Avatar
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    for me it was repetition, meaning the more I rode them the better I got at climbing them. a couple specifics, think about your gearing before you reach the hill, get down off your front high gear cuz you won't need them and it's easier to downshift using just the rear derailleur, don't over spin or you can burn out, don't mash if you don't have to, forget speed, the object is to climb, eventually you will find your ideal gear for each hill, then just sit and work, you'll get there, no matter how slow you are moving. eventually you get stronger. experiment with getting out of the saddle for some short sections, don't start on long hills, it takes some trial and error to learn when where and how to climb out of the saddle. that's a whole 'nother paragraph ... :-) hope some of that is helpful
    cycling is like baseball ~ it doesn't take much to make it interesting

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    Cat 5 field stuffer bbeasley's Avatar
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    "It isn't the hills, it's the cake".... Eddy Merckx.

    For me, if I want to get good climbing small hills I need to practice climbing big hills. As far as technique, on the steeper hills I sit upright engaging different leg muscles than when in the hoods or drops. I've also gotten better by spinning at a higher cadence, say 90+ instead of my previous 80+. The higher cadence works my heart and lungs harder as opposed to my legs. Cardio vascular system recovers much quicker than skeletal muscle.

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    Sophomoric Member Roody's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by bbeasley View Post
    "It isn't the hills, it's the cake".... Eddy Merckx.

    For me, if I want to get good climbing small hills I need to practice climbing big hills. As far as technique, on the steeper hills I sit upright engaging different leg muscles than when in the hoods or drops. I've also gotten better by spinning at a higher cadence, say 90+ instead of my previous 80+. The higher cadence works my heart and lungs harder as opposed to my legs. Cardio vascular system recovers much quicker than skeletal muscle.
    What is your cadence while you are actually climbing a difficult hill?


    "Think Outside the Cage"

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    Sophomoric Member Roody's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by rumrunn6 View Post
    for me it was repetition, meaning the more I rode them the better I got at climbing them. a couple specifics, think about your gearing before you reach the hill, get down off your front high gear cuz you won't need them and it's easier to downshift using just the rear derailleur, don't over spin or you can burn out, don't mash if you don't have to, forget speed, the object is to climb, eventually you will find your ideal gear for each hill, then just sit and work, you'll get there, no matter how slow you are moving. eventually you get stronger. experiment with getting out of the saddle for some short sections, don't start on long hills, it takes some trial and error to learn when where and how to climb out of the saddle. that's a whole 'nother paragraph ... :-) hope some of that is helpful
    Very helpful! I'm looking forward to the next paragraph....


    "Think Outside the Cage"

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    Senior Member enigmaT120's Avatar
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    I'm down to about 18 gear inches on my Fargo, and I think even lower on my Rocky Mountain. If I were hauling a trailer up my most direct commute route I would want lower than 18. Sometimes I stand up but only if I get bored with the slow pace sitting or want a harder workout. It takes more balancing skills. And I have to shift up a few gears if I want to stand on the pedals.
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  16. #16
    Senior Member wolfchild's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Roody View Post
    In addition, the riders are often of a heavier body weight
    Says who ??.Which riders are you talking about ??...Do car-free people have to have a certain type of look about them ??...The only reason people get obese and out of shape is because they neglect their health, diet and fitness...

    Quote Originally Posted by Roody View Post
    since being super skinny is not as desirable as it would be with club riders and amateur racers.
    Not all club riders are super skinny and not all car-free cyclist are overweight... I workout very hard and maintain a lean muscular athletic look, I am not a pro athlete but you could easily mistake me for one. Keeping fit has always been one of my important priorities in life. It makes no difference if I am car-free or not, I make sure to set aside some time everyday to exercise.

    As for hills...We have few hilly places in my city and I enjoy everyone of them. I don't use bikes with multiple gears... I ride FG and SS so whenever I see a hill in front of me I just attack it with all I got within me. Love the challenge.

  17. #17
    Cat 5 field stuffer bbeasley's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Roody View Post
    What is your cadence while you are actually climbing a difficult hill?
    There's a feeling I call being on top of a gear. It's when you're holding speed and cadence, for me that cadence is north of 85. If I can't hold that, then it's time to down shift and maintain the cadence at the sacrifice of speed.

    A friend of mine is a former National Champion in the 40K points race. He loaned me some rollers last winter. He had me working on pedal stroke and cadence 3 times a week for 20 min per session. On the rollers you either pedal smooth or end up on the garage floor. I hit the floor 3 times before I got it. That exercise has pushed my average cadence up by about 10. Those 10 RPM allow me to recover noticeablly quicker from hills or any high effort like pulling at the front of a fast, for me, pace line.

    Previously, I had tried to increase my cadence by just pedaling faster. I never could seem to make it stick, something about that garage floor helped me turn it into a habit.

  18. #18
    Senior Member wolfchild's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Roody View Post
    What is your cadence while you are actually climbing a difficult hill?
    Riding my fixed gear up hills cadence is very slow, the only way for me to climb hills is to stand up on the pedals and push hard...Down hills are a different story, I've reached a cadence of 144.

  19. #19
    In the right lane gerv's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Roody View Post
    But they might get a little bigger again when you get older. Until age 55 I did almost all of my riding in the big ring. Lately I find myself more in the small one, or the middle ring of a triple for even small inclines.

    I don't go down the hills as fast as I used to either!
    Roody... dead wrong! It's all downhill after 55.

  20. #20
    Prefers Cicero cooker's Avatar
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    My biggest commute hill is Poplar Plains Rd, which rises 30 m over about half a kilometer, so about a 6% grade. I'm old and heavy and carry some stuff, so I'm slower than most youngsters.

    You asked for inspirational anecdotes. Occasionally I do three or four loops up Poplar Plains and down the parallel street just for fitness. One time (true story, I swear!) some young people wearing shirts labeled "University of Toronto Triathlon Club" were doing the same loops, and to my surprise, I lapped one of them. Of course, it could have been her hundredth time around. Also she looked like kind of a noob, so maybe she had just joined the club and wasn't yet in shape.

    One of the things I thought I might do for a challenge this summer is ride the 5 or 6 road sections Toronto cyclists have identified as the steepest in the city. They're all pretty tame compared to what many other cities have to offer. Most rise 30-40 m at grades under 20%. The toughest, but not steepest, rises 100 m in a kilometer.
    Last edited by cooker; 06-26-14 at 07:58 PM.

  21. #21
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    Hi Roody,

    I remember when I introduced myself to the Carfree forum a while back, you asked me about how I deal with hills since...well, you all know where I live now

    One thing I've noticed that's helped me with hill-climbing that hasn't been mentioned so far is BREATHING. I find that I can maintain a good pace on a slightly harder than optimal gear going up hills when I can control my breathing rate. Also, I remember in another thread related to hill climbing that paying attention to your breathing rate helps you figure out when you need to shift to an easier gear during the middle of your climbs.

    Otherwise, I've done a lot of stuff that's been mentioned already, especially the stuff by rumrunn6. I did a lot of that stuff (repetition, controlling my cadence to make sure I don't over-spin or over-mash, etc.)

    I'm still packing a lot of excess adipose on my body, just like my user handle, and I'm still a Clydesdale in terms of cyclist weight. Doesn't stop me from going up Twin Peaks every single day after work. Didn't stop me from going up Mt. Diablo two weeks ago, either on my heavy Surly Long Haul Trucker that weighs 31.5 lbs. unloaded (DiabloScott caught a picture of me):

    Mt. Diablo Cyclists are Awesome!

  22. #22
    Long Distance Cyclist Machka's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Roody View Post
    Of course transportation cyclist or utility cyclist is likely to have additional issues with weight. The bike itself is usually heavier, and we are likely to be carrying more items or even actual cargo. In addition, the riders are often of a heavier body weight, since being super skinny is not as desirable as it would be with club riders and amateur racers.
    When I was car-free, I was just about the skinniest I've been as an adult. I looked like a slender boy.

    I would think that car-free cyclists would be slender ... they commute by bicycle, they do their errands by bicycle or walking, they go places on the weekends by bicycle.

    I was logging up to 1400 km/week in that time (that was my longest week). On a more regular basis I was logging anywhere from about 200-300 km/week on my bicycle most of the year, and walking anywhere from 10-20 km/week. I could eat anything I wanted and as much as I wanted, and I did not gain weight.

    When I moved from car-free to car-light ... I started to put on a bit of weight because I wasn't exercising as much.

  23. #23
    Senior Member wolfchild's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Machka View Post
    When I was car-free, I was just about the skinniest I've been as an adult. I looked like a slender boy.

    I would think that car-free cyclists would be slender ... they commute by bicycle, they do their errands by bicycle or walking, they go places on the weekends by bicycle.

    I was logging up to 1400 km/week in that time (that was my longest week). On a more regular basis I was logging anywhere from about 200-300 km/week on my bicycle most of the year, and walking anywhere from 10-20 km/week. I could eat anything I wanted and as much as I wanted, and I did not gain weight.

    When I moved from car-free to car-light ... I started to put on a bit of weight because I wasn't exercising as much.
    I doubt very much there are any car-free people on this forum who have ridden as much distance as you. Most people are car-free because of ideological beliefs... Exercising, eating healthy and keeping fit and taking responsibility for their well being is the last thing on their mind. They are more interested in the health of a melting iceberg or some glacier then the health of their bodies .

  24. #24
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    Quote Originally Posted by wolfchild View Post
    I doubt very much there are any car-free people on this forum who have ridden as much distance as you. Most people are car-free because of ideological beliefs... Exercising, eating healthy and keeping fit and taking responsibility for their well being is the last thing on their mind. They are more interested in the health of a melting iceberg or some glacier then the health of their bodies .
    The last thing on their minds? Where'd you figure that out?

    I used to be a road bike rider for many years, dedicated to high performance biking and racing with my buddies. But now I'm car-free and commute and shop by bicycle. I ride more miles than I ever did as a roadie. I'm just as dedicated to fitness and I'm in the best shape in my life at age 54. I ride 200+ miles per week and my weight is nearly ideal for doing my weekly routine for as little effort as possible.

    I've always tended to push myself. So while some people may need to motivate themselves to try harder, I've found added speed by learning to not try as hard. For hills, what I can say is to practice, practice, so you know what different kinds of inclines and distances will feel like. For long hills get yourself dialed in with the right effort to make the crest of the hill with a consistent effort during the climb instead of using up all your energy and then riding jerky and out of breath before the top. For short hills you can often stand up on the pedals and/or just give the hill a non-sustainable but short effort that maintains your momentum as you go over it.

    Accept the physical laws of the universe. If you're not maintaining a decent amount of energy in reserve, you need to slow down for the hill. No amount of wanting it to be easy to glide over it will change that. Accept that long hills are harder than short ones. Your legs might feel fine on a 500 yard 8% incline. So go ahead and give the first 500 yards a reasonable go but be prepared to shift up a gear (or two!) when the same incline extends 1/2 mile. So ideally you're not looking to maintain the same speed all the way up the hill as maintain a decent but reasonably efficient and pleasant effort.

    I watch how I'm feeling each day and try to be sensitive to that. I won't maintain my best condition by going full bore every day. I need to back off and recuperate. So I try to quiet the voice that tells me I'm not going fast enough. It helps to note the difference in time. When I try really hard I can make my commute in about an hour and 15 minutes. When I'm taking it real easy and feel like I'm almost goofing off, I might slouch in at a hour and 25. I'm always surprised how little difference there is between pushing myself and just enjoying the ride.

  25. #25
    Long Distance Cyclist Machka's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by wolfchild View Post
    I doubt very much there are any car-free people on this forum who have ridden as much distance as you. Most people are car-free because of ideological beliefs... Exercising, eating healthy and keeping fit and taking responsibility for their well being is the last thing on their mind. They are more interested in the health of a melting iceberg or some glacier then the health of their bodies .
    A lot of people I know cycle to work etc. as a part of their training.

    My supervisor, for example, is a competitive bodybuilder ... he cycles to work (and leads a car-light lifestyle) in order to get his cardio in.

    I raced way back when, and several of my fellow racing cyclists commuted to build their base ... or to do traffic light intervals.

    I know many people who incorporate walking into their commutes for health and well-being.

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