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Road Cycling “It is by riding a bicycle that you learn the contours of a country best, since you have to sweat up the hills and coast down them. Thus you remember them as they actually are, while in a motor car only a high hill impresses you, and you have no such accurate remembrance of country you have driven through as you gain by riding a bicycle.” -- Ernest Hemingway

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Old 05-30-13, 09:54 AM   #1
Gege-Bubu
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Will climbing make me faster on flats?

Probably this is a silly question, but I learned that if someone riding on flats fast, it does not mean that he is a good climber.

But is the opposite true? If I include some hard climbs to my training routine - does it mean that I will be faster overall, or climbing will train other cyclist abilities?
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Old 05-30-13, 10:19 AM   #2
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A structured training plan with tough days hard enough to force adaptations and rest days/weeks/month easy enough to leave you fresh enough to go hard increases your power output. When that yields a good power to weight ratio you're fast up-hill. With good power to drag you're fast on flat ground. Doing it on flat ground or in the hills doesn't make a big difference.

Having lived in the Colorado Rockies but done more riding on the east side of Boulder I'd argue there's no practical difference until you run out of gears. Equipment choice can usually avoid that and you could always spend some time at low cadence on flat ground with your big ring if you noticed unacceptable power output issues at low cadences.

I like the _Training and Racing with a Power Meter_ anecdote about the racer who blew up and got dropped every time he spent more than five minutes at his one hour power but a cadence of 70 or below. He got lower gears.

Psychologically hills are different. For better (you need to ride hard enough to force training adaptations) or worse (you're not going to ride at intensity long enough if you over do it) many people find it easier to push themselves up-hill.

Last edited by Drew Eckhardt; 05-30-13 at 10:25 AM.
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Old 05-30-13, 10:25 AM   #3
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hills are like mini High Intensity Interval Training. In that sense the answer is "yes. they will help get you faster on the flats". You could push just as hard when you are on the flats...do some solid HIIT training...bottom line is that if a hill causes you to exert yourself more...your body will respond by getting tougher...stronger...and you'll get faster all around but you could also get into a tiny gear and cycle up a small hill very slowly and easily which would not help you much so it's all a matter of to what degree you push yourself. Read up on "high intensity interval training" which is at least "one" of the keys to getting faster/better.
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Old 05-30-13, 10:52 AM   #4
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Yes it definitely will. Hills make it harder to slack off on the intensity and because the speed is slower, you're often going harder for longer. This definitely translates to better speed on the flats, but it also doesn't mean that you must have hills to train well to go fast on flats - it just requires more discipline and planning to get the similar intensity/duration workout on a flat than it does on a steep hill.
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Old 05-30-13, 11:35 AM   #5
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Depends what you mean by "fast". Obviously, training harder can make you faster. However, a lot of the traits of great climbers (low weight, high lung capacity, etc) have little benefit on the flats. On the flats, the weight part of the strength to weight ratio becomes irrelevant. I know that in my club, the best climbers are skinny guys (and girls) who have to wheelsuck the strongmen on the flats to keep from getting dropped.
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Old 05-30-13, 11:50 AM   #6
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I compare it to horse power vs. torque. My legs are very strong and I climb hills better than most (torque). But I struggle with making my legs revolve extremely fast (hp) even when there is little resistance. Now I'm not young and I have cycled in the mountains all my life where, as anyone will tell you, almost all your riding is uphill !
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Old 05-30-13, 12:13 PM   #7
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Yes, it will.
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Old 05-30-13, 12:14 PM   #8
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No it doesn't. Many come to places like South FL from mountain areas and struggle to keep up on the flats into the winds. Riders down here typically get smoked when elevation changes. You need to train for both.
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Old 05-30-13, 12:25 PM   #9
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No it doesn't. Many come to places like South FL from mountain areas and struggle to keep up on the flats into the winds. Riders down here typically get smoked when elevation changes. You need to train for both.
The question was not will climbing make anyone faster than folks from south FL, but whether, for this specific rider who trains on hills, will the climbing make him/her faster on the flats, and barring some wacky definition of 'training' that includes doing no work on climbs, the answer must be yes. One cannot do climbing workouts and not get stronger. One may not get SoFla 'roid-ragingly fast, but again, that's not the question.
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Old 05-30-13, 12:45 PM   #10
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No it doesn't. Many come to places like South FL from mountain areas and struggle to keep up on the flats into the winds. Riders down here typically get smoked when elevation changes. You need to train for both.
There is no way that training on hills will not have you prepared for flat terrain.

some light riders dimply have a bigger advantage on climbs due yo power weight ratio. However they arent getting less prepared by training on hills.

Farrrr more coom id for the flatlander to be rudely awakened on a mountain climb.
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Old 05-30-13, 12:57 PM   #11
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No it doesn't. Many come to places like South FL from mountain areas and struggle to keep up on the flats into the winds.
Wind is a different issue than regular flats. Many people blow their legs riding too hard and not understanding how to deal with constant changes in wind direction/velocity.

IMO, hills are very useful for flats. Much more so than the other way around.
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Old 05-30-13, 01:00 PM   #12
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Just make sure you spend time spinning at high cadence during the climbing intervals.
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Old 05-30-13, 01:11 PM   #13
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There are select few people who can be strong all rounders particularly as the level of competition increases. I grew up in England and when I trained for time trials, particularly for shorter distances (10 - 25 miles) I preferred a combination of criteriums and outdoor track sprinkled in with interval work on routes with short steep climbs.

I live in Florida now so the highlight of my day is a decent bridge unless I am close to a mall or a beach
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Old 05-30-13, 01:31 PM   #14
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Sure conditioning is going to help anyone regardless of what terrain you ride. I simply answered the question the OP asked. Riding at max wattage on flats is very different than climbing. Typically climbers will redline their heart rate too fast and pop. You need to train sustaining high speeds on flats along with intervals.
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Old 05-30-13, 01:32 PM   #15
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I compare it to horse power vs. torque. My legs are very strong and I climb hills better than most (torque). But I struggle with making my legs revolve extremely fast (hp) even when there is little resistance...
Unfortunately a common misconception. It doesn't work that way. Power makes you fast up hills and makes you fast on the flats. Torque does nothing without RPM. Produce a lot of torque? Up shift to compensate. Produce a little? Down shift. Either way, same power will make you go the same speed.

The main difference between climbing and flats is the effect of weight. On the flats, weight is much less of a penalty, so power rules. Climbing it's power to weight, so somebody that's light may not produce as much power as big guy, but often the big guy's higher power output is more than offset by his weight.
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Old 05-30-13, 01:58 PM   #16
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There is no way that training on hills will not have you prepared for flat terrain. . .
Going up hills super slow, in a super low gear, I would assume does not improve your speed on flat terrain.
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Old 05-30-13, 02:03 PM   #17
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There's more to it than power or power to weight ratio. If I ride in the mountains for weeks, I have trouble keeping up with the fast group rides when I go back to the flatter club rides.
You have to learn to go fast and to go fast with others.
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Old 05-30-13, 02:27 PM   #18
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Going up hills super slow, in a super low gear, I would assume does not improve your speed on flat terrain.
Sure, but that's not 'training'. The OP was talking about mixing in hard climbs as part of their training regimen.
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Old 05-30-13, 02:30 PM   #19
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Going up hills super slow, in a super low gear, I would assume does not improve your speed on flat terrain.
Likewise, going slow on flat terrain doesn't help you anywhere.
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Old 05-30-13, 02:32 PM   #20
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There's more to it than power or power to weight ratio. If I ride in the mountains for weeks, I have trouble keeping up with the fast group rides when I go back to the flatter club rides.
You have to learn to go fast and to go fast with others.
That's the difference between 'riding' and 'training'.
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Old 05-30-13, 02:34 PM   #21
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Sure, but that's not 'training'. The OP was talking about mixing in hard climbs as part of their training regimen.
True. I was mainly thinking of myself when I wrote that. Sometimes I'll do a really long, hard climb in a super low gear and just take my sweet time. In fact, if I pound a bunch of bars and gels, by the time I get to the top, I end up felling slow(er), fat(er) and (more) bloated than usual.
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Old 05-30-13, 02:34 PM   #22
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Climbing = power/weight.

Flat speed= power/surface volume.

Anything that raises power is good.
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Old 05-30-13, 02:35 PM   #23
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Btw, the last two equations explain why I'm reasonably fast on the flats, but climb like a turtle.
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Old 05-30-13, 02:44 PM   #24
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The question was not will climbing make anyone faster than folks from south FL, but whether, for this specific rider who trains on hills, will the climbing make him/her faster on the flats, and barring some wacky definition of 'training' that includes doing no work on climbs, the answer must be yes. One cannot do climbing workouts and not get stronger. One may not get SoFla 'roid-ragingly fast, but again, that's not the question.
Do not disagree with this gentleman. He will put you in your place in a hot minute ....
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Old 05-30-13, 03:41 PM   #25
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Power makes you fast up hills and makes you fast on the flats..
The problem with this is that you are confusing power and speed. A offensive guard in football is far more powerful than a wide receiver but the wide receiver is much faster. And while that has something to do with power/weight ratio that is not the entire story.

You can power up hills but if your max RPM is 100 and the next guys is 120 you're going to go slower on the flats. Even gears have their limits to compensate. I assume steep hills mean a very low gear and flats means top gear so there's simply no more to go.

There's no doubt that all round fitness helps all round but being a great climber does not automatically equate to being fast on the flats - look at the Giro.
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