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  1. #1
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    Hill climbing tips

    I am a pretty skinny girl. OK, I am a really skinny girl. My bent, is a lowracer style, and it weighs about 1/3 of what I do. A little less than a third. Anyways, I am ok on the flats and rolling hills, and rock into the wind. But on the kind of hills where I would stand up on the pedals on an upright bike, I just can't seem to generate the power I need. I shift down and down til I finally have no more gears then I tip over.

    And walk. Which is really embarrassing. I need some ideas how to keep drving that baby up the big steep hills. I am fit, but don't have a lot of horsepower, I guess.

  2. #2
    Senior Member BlazingPedals's Avatar
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    I started to write that hills are all about your horsepower to weight ratio. But that's not quite true. Power to weight matters, but so does the bike and so does your technique. I've never ridden a SpeedMachine, but it is reported to be a bit slow on hills. What to do about it, though?

    First, do what you can to reduce weight. If you're carrying a bunch of junk on your rides, see about paring down your pack. If you don't take a pack, see about removing the rack. Skinnier, lighter tires might be a possibility (I don't know what tires you're running.)

    Second, you can get lower gears. This won't speed you up, but it will allow you to climb those hills instead of getting off and walking. Sometimes all it takes is a smaller granny ring or a wide-range cassette.

    Third, technique. Spin, don't let yourself get lugged down. Always try to get a good run at a hill. Sometimes that means dropping your buddies, at least temporarily. Uprights don't do as well on flat ground, and they lose their cruising speed more quickly when the road starts pointing up. Using your advantage when you've got it helps offset their better final climbing speed.

    Fourth, train! Especially if you're relatively new to the recumbent, your 'recumbent muscles' aren't up to the task yet. I found this, even when going from one lowracer to another; they used slightly different muscle combinations and I was slower for a while. The best way to get better on hills is to do hills.

    Finally, if you just can't get that thing to climb, you might need something lighter and stiffer. Or to use your upright on hilly rides. But while upgrade disease is the norm on this forum, we tend to frown on upright riding.

  3. #3
    Senior Member LWB_guy's Avatar
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    Been there, done that.
    While you're training, you should pedal up hills on winding country roads with no traffic. That way, you can zig-zag from side-to-side when the uphill road becomes steep. Also, you needn't be concerned about anyone seeing you walk. If some passerby stops and gives you unwanted attention, you can always pedal away downhill. Eventually, you'll get to the point where you can pedal up those hills in a straight line. But not just yet. Patience and training are both required.
    When I have ridden up a hill or uphill for a couple miles, I like to do a U-turn and ride downhill because it goes downhill as fast as I want.
    Last edited by LWB_guy; 06-18-09 at 11:46 AM.

  4. #4
    Opt-in Member GreenGrasshoppr's Avatar
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    And don't mash the pedals. It's bad for your knees.

  5. #5
    Senior Member gcottay's Avatar
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    You are already almost perfect in that you not only ride but also tackle hills. Here are a few suggestions for becoming even better:
    • Go back and read what BlazingPedals wrote
    • Don't feel even one small bit embarrassed about walking up a hill. Making it to the top under your own power is a victory. As a person who actually gets out and rides, you are already exceptional.
    • Eat balanced meals. Your body needs fuel.
    • Continue riding and tackling hills.
    • When you go even a foot further up a steep hill than you have before, declare a small victory.
    • Consider replacing your small front ring with something even smaller
    • You are the perfect candidate for a very light bike.
    .
    George
    Laissez les bon temps rouler

  6. #6
    HenryL HenryL's Avatar
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    Recumbent muscles are different from upright climbing muscles. Only cure I know is ride more. If there is one hill that defeats you, find one similar but not as steep and do repeats on that one, clicking up a gear as you get stronger. It just takes time.

  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by hannahmontana View Post
    I am a pretty skinny girl. OK, I am a really skinny girl. My bent, is a lowracer style, and it weighs about 1/3 of what I do. A little less than a third. Anyways, I am ok on the flats and rolling hills, and rock into the wind. But on the kind of hills where I would stand up on the pedals on an upright bike, I just can't seem to generate the power I need. I shift down and down til I finally have no more gears then I tip over.

    And walk. Which is really embarrassing. I need some ideas how to keep drving that baby up the big steep hills. I am fit, but don't have a lot of horsepower, I guess.
    I had a lowracer and found the hills were a challenge compared to my DF bikes. Some things to consider:

    - lower the weight of your bike even more
    - lower your gearing depending on the existing range [at some point there is no value to a lower gear]
    - ride hills as much as possible to build up your fitness
    - try raising the seat angle in small increments to close the angle between your torso and legs
    safe riding - Vik
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  8. #8
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    I'm assuming you use clipless pedals. If not, converting to clipless will allow you to pull on one side while you push on the other, more or less doubling your torque to the crankset if you have the energy.
    Longbikes Slipstream

  9. #9
    Raptobike Rider djwid's Avatar
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    I ride a lowracer that weighs 31lbs up hills here in the Pacific NW. There are lots of hills here in the Puget sound so I had to get better at hills. I used to be quite afraid of hills and now I just spin my way up most of them.

    My bike started at 1/8th my weight and now is up to 1/6th my current weight. But I shed a few lbs off the engine to make that change.

    I always try to get as much speed leading up to a hill as I can. If it is flat before the hill I push to get momentum to move myself up higher before I have to gear down and spin. I worked on my technique to spin more on hills. I also cheat and use ellipticals (q-rings) for my front, which reduces the dead spot in my pedal stroke.

    I started with a low of 16 gear inches on my raptobike and have since moved up to 20", next I will be switching to a 25" low (as soon as I can afford the chainring upgrade).
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  10. #10
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    i'm slowly getting better on hills. As above, combination of fitness and technique. I get a slight run-up, then shift into a lower gear fairly soon to keep cadence up.

  11. #11
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    Thank you everybody! I tried some of your suggestions (I am a student and can't afford gizmo upgrades) and got further than ever before! I actually thought I was going to make it for a while, but my legs gave out and over I went again.

    There is NO way I am giving up, I will defeat that hill by the end of summer!

  12. #12
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    A 20 ft length of rope with a grappling hook on it. Snag the first strong looking DF roadie that comes along.

  13. #13
    Senior Member cod.peace's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by hannahmontana View Post
    There is NO way I am giving up, I will defeat that hill by the end of summer!
    With that attitude you will soon be setting your sights higher...
    old steel Specialized Hardrock

  14. #14
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    Ok, so I found a bright white rocknear the last place I tipped over and that is my marker. Then I move it to where I make it. For a while, I passed the rock, if only for a few feet every time. I think it was part technique, and part "there is the rock gotta make it". But the last three times I didn't and last night it was by thirty yards at least.

    What seems to happen is if I get below a certain cadence pedalling, I just can't the pedals turning faster again and it turns into a viscious circle of reduced speed, lower cadence, reduced speed til I cant turn thm and I go down. I am just glad it's a short drop.

    Any other ideas for anyone to help me out?

  15. #15
    Senior Member Onus's Avatar
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    Are you gearing down before you start to slow down a lot?

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    Can't really add much if anything that hasn't been said already in this thread, but it can't be stressed enough that spinning is the key. I find on my highracer if I push back against the seat I can generate lots of force on the pedals, more so than pushing against my bodyweight on an upright, however I only do this for very short sprints as generating that much force is anaerobic and takes it out of you quickly, so when I get to any hill I gear down and spin my way up aerobically. Slower? Maybe, but what matters is you don't collapse at the top. There's some hideous gradients where I live but as yet I haven't found one I couldn't conquer. In fact I feel like I'm going faster when I spin up a hill because I don't feel like I'm about to collapse.

    As I've never ridden a lowracer I can't comment too much on that, the geometery may be different in some way. But yes, spin. People always ask me how I climb on this thing, I always say lower gears, that's why they're there.

  17. #17
    Senior Member BlazingPedals's Avatar
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    What's your low gear? We can do the number-crunching if you tell us your wheel size and the number of teeth on your biggest cassette gear in back and of the smallest chainring in front. Maybe you just need a better hill-climbing gear.

  18. #18
    Senior Member Dchiefransom's Avatar
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    Answer Blazing Pedals last post and something can be figured out.
    You can always test out a smaller chainring up front by riding it in a level parking lot. Just use the cadence you want to use going uphill and see if you can balance at that speed. Switching the chaniring or cassette is the cheapest way to make going uphill easier. Riding lots of hills will make your legs stronger.
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  19. #19
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    Quote Originally Posted by hannahmontana View Post
    I am a pretty skinny girl. OK, I am a really skinny girl. My bent, is a lowracer style, and it weighs about 1/3 of what I do. A little less than a third. Anyways, I am ok on the flats and rolling hills, and rock into the wind. But on the kind of hills where I would stand up on the pedals on an upright bike, I just can't seem to generate the power I need. I shift down and down til I finally have no more gears then I tip over.

    And walk. Which is really embarrassing. I need some ideas how to keep drving that baby up the big steep hills. I am fit, but don't have a lot of horsepower, I guess.
    Spin, and get stronger. If you need a lower gear, put it on. If you are already low geared enough that you can't balance and fall over, then you need to go back to the original suggestion: spin and get stronger. "Fit" is a relative term and you can always be more fit if there are obviously hills you can't ride up. You can be stronger without looking like Schwartzenegger. Ride harder when you ride and you'll get stronger pretty quick.

  20. #20
    ain't trike ain't right
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    I only ride bent lowrider trikes and this is what I do with steep grades:

    First, slouch down into the chair, this will force your knees up higher. Next,
    psition your pedals so its close to parallal with the ground with every upstroke
    at the sime time press down the pedal instead of pushing forward.
    You will notice the abs are being worked because your seated lower in the chair. Try to support your whole weight on a single pedal when doing this.
    Basically, your utilizing your weight and muscle to the drive the crank.
    Good luck

  21. #21
    Senior Member downtube42's Avatar
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    If you're delaying your downshift until your start to struggle, shift earlier to keep your cadence up.

    If you're shifting to your lowest gear early enough that you're spinning, then you grind down to a halt, it's down to:
    - Lower gearing
    - More power
    - Less weight
    - More determination/suffering

    For training, I agree with the earlier poster about finding a hill you can master, and do hill repeats.
    This has to be a tie between re-frozen slushy uneven dirty ice stuff just right of the nicely plowed pavement, and super-glassy ice with a dusting of fresh powder - SalshShark

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    I've seen alot of good advice given here.......one thing that I'll point out is that when you are doing a very short hill, accelarating just prior to it is a good idea, but if you're looking at a long one that is going to take time to climb, there really isn't much of a point in doing that. All you do is delay a change in gears that you have to do eventually.

    I ride with people who do not have the discipline to climb hills, simply because once their speed drops below 10mph, they go into the mode of thinking that they need to maintain 15mph and will pedal their butts off into exhaustion. My point is that aside fitness and equipment, it takes focus and patience to accept the fact that going up a hill requires energy management and discipline. Before burning yourself out approaching a long hill by accelarating to it, go by the feel of your pedals and shift accordingly, while maintaining your cadence and sufficient speed so you don't tip.

  23. #23
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    I am 68 years old and live in a very hilly area ( Atlanta) I started riding my Tailwind after a couple of years of only riding a Trikke ( not a Trike) which is another vehicle that takes alot of practice to climb with. http://www.trikke.com/Trikke-Video

    In the beginning, climbing even the slightest grade with a Trikke seems almost impossible, and the only way to get past that is to practice, practice, practice. Now I can climb hills on the Trikke, that were impossible for me when I first started riding it. When I went back to riding the Tailwind a couple of months ago , some hills were really hard, and now after only 6 weeks or so, I am easily climbing hills that were a real struggle . It's just a matter of making up your mind that you are not going to give up, and just keep at it. It will get easier and easier..

  24. #24
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    Small skinny guy here so I can relate to pushing 1/3 of rider weight uphill- my Gold Rush in day trip form runs near 36 lbs,. and I'm at 105. I put short cranks on it (155s) to help with spinning, and have a 22 tooth granny up front which helps a lot with hill climbing. When riding near stall speed I deliberately weave the front wheel very slightly, like motorcyclists do, and it helps prevent spills.
    Last edited by rnorris; 07-28-09 at 09:20 PM.

  25. #25
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    A few more thoughts:

    1. If you are trying this "difficult hill" every day, or even every other day, you may be "wearing yourself out." For your current condition, this hill sounds like a really tough workout. Exercise professionals recommend that you do "intense workouts" no more than two or three times a week, with "rest" in between. Rest does not mean "no exercise," rather a light easy day of exercise, or an alternate fun sport.

    The break gives your body time to recover from the intense effort, and during that time is when your body "solidifies" any fitness gains you made. Overwork destroys the benefits, and leads to "plateau" or even backsliding of fitness ability.

    You determination is unquestionable. However, if you have been going at this daily or nearly daily, you might need to take more than a few days respite from it. Rest completely, or do some very easy riding for a bit. Let your body repair and rejuvenate. If you think that is the case, you might even decide to attempt this particular hill only once a week.


    2. Do you try to power up the hill, and then down shift and down shift when you don't make it? What could be happening is that the initial "power effort" exhausts your leg muscles too quickly for the hill. It's as if you are doing leg presses in a gym, and that kind of weight-lifting-like effort is not sustainable for long---not in a gym, and certainly not cycling a real life hill.

    Have you tried starting the hill in a lower gear first? In fact, the "proper hill technique" I've read about (intended for diamond frame riders, but certainly applicable to us 'bent riders, if not more so) includes starting in a gear LOWER than what you think you would need for the hill. For you that might mean even starting the hill in your lowest gear. And that's perfectly OK. Spin your way up the hill using the easy feeling from the start.

    The idea is you can always increase candence/power/or gearing later if you feel up to it, but only in the last part of the hill, if even then. But pressing too high a gear from the start will certainly wear you out too early. In a way, if you have to down-shift, you've already lost. Starting the hill easy means you can spin a higher cadence, and not exhaust your muscles in "leg press" mode.

    You describe your bike as a "low racer," and if this is true, then spinning from the start is the primary technique, because the low racer body position makes it difficult to get "full body power" into the pedals like an upright rider could do. Instead, power can come only from "pressing." And pressing will not get you up a long difficult hill.

    So, perhaps (and this is just a suggestion), forget measuring the slow progress using the rock. Perhaps your goal should be to START the hill in a gear that you can take all the way to the top, and just spin your way "easily" there, the very next time you try the hill.



    3. Analyze the hill a little bit: does it get steeper as it goes along, in the middle or toward the end? If so, then the previous part about starting in a lower gear than you would need for the whole hill is even more important. Your legs have to be still in "fresh spin mode" when that later challenging bit arrives.

    4. If neither rest and recover, nor this different approach to hill-climbing works, it may simply be what someone else has already said: it takes time to develop what are known as "recumbent legs." Anecdotal reports say as long as several hundred miles of recumbent riding. Maybe just avoid this particular hill until you have more fitness for recumbent riding. No need to think of that idea as a defeat, just temporary reality. Build your way up to that hill by "paying your dues" (so to speak) with fully respectable riding on all your other roads and hills. Just have fun riding. You'll earn the monster hill at the right time.

    If you have lots of hills in your area that are bordering on being "too difficult," then maybe consider the advice of some who suggest getting your bike "re-geared" for you current abilities. But I'm betting that re-thinking your fitness practices and your technique will lead you to success.



    [by the way, not to be nosy, and you certainly shouldn't answer out loud here, but if you are a "skinny girl" does that mean teenager? If not, ignore what follows. However, if that is the case, then everything said above about rest and recovery, and building your recumbent legs, goes double. Your "adult body fitness" is still developing, and you would need to respect that process, not expecting what looks easy when someone else does it to be easy for you yet.]
    Last edited by hardtdavid; 07-28-09 at 09:57 PM.

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