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Old 06-18-04, 10:48 PM   #1
American Sensei
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I hate hills

I'm 46-just returned to riding-enough that I splurged on a Jamis Aurora bike. I can ride hours on the flat, but uphill is killing me. I get winded, my heart rate climbs-I've been pushing my self to go a bit further uphill each time before gearing down, but it doesn't seem to get any easier. I am going further distances, but its labored.

Yet, after I come back down the hill (about 20 min of delightful coasting) my heart rate is back down, and I can ride a few more hours in the flat areas with no problem and get home, not really tired. My legs are holding up, its my breathing.

So what am I doing wrong on the hills? How can I build up my endurance? Do I just keep going a bit further up hill each time? I like the challenge of the hills
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Old 06-18-04, 11:06 PM   #2
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I think it was Greg LeMond who said: "It never gets easier, you just go faster." You will gradually go longer distances, and climg longer hills...but it will still be hard!
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Old 06-19-04, 12:01 AM   #3
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I would say first what kind of cassette cog ratio that you have in the back? I have a 12-23 for the road and a 12-27 for the hills. Secondly do you ride more than once a week. Third what kind of fitness shape are you in. I myself have been riding for 16 years consistantly so to me riding hills are not a problem. Not that they are ever easy but I would like to say that I am not suffering as much as when I was not in shape. And I'm 50 years old myself.
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Old 06-19-04, 02:56 AM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by American Sensei
I'm 46-just returned to riding-enough that I splurged on a Jamis Aurora bike. I can ride hours on the flat, but uphill is killing me. I get winded, my heart rate climbs-I've been pushing my self to go a bit further uphill each time before gearing down, but it doesn't seem to get any easier. I am going further distances, but its labored.

Yet, after I come back down the hill (about 20 min of delightful coasting) my heart rate is back down, and I can ride a few more hours in the flat areas with no problem and get home, not really tired. My legs are holding up, its my breathing.

So what am I doing wrong on the hills? How can I build up my endurance? Do I just keep going a bit further up hill each time? I like the challenge of the hills

Aha you are breathing really hard. Breathing rates are caused by CO2 buildup in the blood. In people with healthy lungs the blood gets nearly 100% oxygen saturated as it goes through the lung's capillary beds so fast breathing rates are not caused by an lack of Oxygen, at least not in the blood. What is happening is you are pushing yourself up to your anaerobic threshold or even going anaerobic. This really does not have that much to do with endurance. Endurance is more about your ability to just go and go at a moderate pace and not the max power you can generate.

Well, you have several options on dealing with this. One you could go out and do this regularly and build up your maximum power but that is a pretty long term deal. Of course, if you are not in very good shape, eventually if you keep cycling regularly, it will happen. I remember the hills around my house getting flatter as I went from couch potato to fit rider.

However, the other fix is just gear down and slow down on the climb. You might need to stick some lower gears on your bike either by 1) using the low gears that you have or if you are using your lowest gears currently 2) swapping out your cassette for one with lower gears or if your current cassette already has lower gears 3) going to a triple chain ring.

Good luck.
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Old 06-19-04, 03:15 AM   #5
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I think the approach to hills is at least 60% mental. If you approach a hill with a negative attitude, you may well be beaten before you even start the climb. My approach to hills when I encounter them (which is frequently as I specifically look for them) is that I want to totally own them. Contrary to popular belief, arrogance isn't necessarily a bad thing.

As far as the improvement side of things goes, it's one of those things that can sneak up on you, and surprise you. You might do a particular hill for three months and notice no visible improvement on it, then one day all that practice will pay off at once, and you'll nail it. You just need to give yourself a chance - and the best way to improve on hills is to ride more of them.
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Old 06-19-04, 03:44 PM   #6
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Thanks, I can see that I'm making a few training mistakes.
I think instead of pushing myself to stay out of the "granny" gear I need to gear down sooner instead of pushing myself to the limit in a higher gear.
And as you all said, just keep biking the hills-going a bit further each time. On the positive side, the downhill coast is just going to get longer.
Because of my work schedule, I am doing a flat ride (20 km) after work, and only doing the hills on Sat. and Sun. I think I need to work at least one "hill" ride in during the week instead of leaving it to only the weekends.
Thanks again
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Old 06-20-04, 09:47 AM   #7
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I decided I like Hills better than headwinds! At least hills you can go down the other side, and coast. Winds- it never lets up, you have to keep pedaling, you can't coast. It sucks!

I've always wanted to try and improve my climbing. However, since last year at this time I lost about 10 pounds, some of it from illness over the winter. Boy, does it make a difference, when you carry less weight up a hill. Of course, that's why the best climbers are always little skinny guys like Simoni. Well,I now weigh what he does. However, if you're not a little skinny guy, you have to be hugely strong like Eddy Merckx.
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Old 06-20-04, 03:23 PM   #8
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Sunday went out and climbed the hill-got down in the granny gear earlier-only grimaced for a short time when the guy 10 yrs older than me PASSED me on the hill! Also made a point to drink water and take my time, end result was yes it took me longer but I went farther and felt better. And there is such a charge when...you....get...to...the........ .. ..TOP. Fantastic View of Osaka as well!
Thanks for the help
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Old 06-20-04, 09:59 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by American Sensei
Sunday went out and climbed the hill-got down in the granny gear earlier-only grimaced for a short time when the guy 10 yrs older than me PASSED me on the hill! Also made a point to drink water and take my time, end result was yes it took me longer but I went farther and felt better. And there is such a charge when...you....get...to...the........ .. ..TOP. Fantastic View of Osaka as well!
Thanks for the help
American Sensei
Yeah, hills really suck. I have been riding again for about a year and a half now and when I first started I couldn't get up the hill to our house. I'd ride a couple a 100 or 200 feet and have to stop because I was so winded.

This past saturday I went riding with my husband who conned me into going up a very steep local hill, one I had never climbed before--I'm betting that this is a 18%+ grade. For the first time he went straight up it and I got up it by riding up the hill and at each cross street on my side I rode across hill for a house or two slowly and then back slowly to go back up the hill again; I never got off my bike or stopped moving. HooRAY!

You may always hate hills, but you can learn to conquer them. Use that granny and slow down, and the speed will come, maybe slowly but it will come if you keep trying to go up those hills. I am now able to gear up for portions of the hills around here, but since I have osteoarthritic knees I generally granny up them. I figure if I am going 4-6 miles an hour up a hill it's faster than I could walk it comfortably--and my legs are much, much stronger.

And remember, if you never do something, you can never become better at doing it! Also, I've found that the strength you build upthe hills helps your power on the flats. Keep at it and have fun.

P.S. I just turned 48 this year--I know you can do it. . .
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Old 06-20-04, 11:08 PM   #10
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Someone once sent me a private message asking about how to improve their hill climbing. Here's my response.


Quote:
Originally Posted by khuon
Climbing is definately something that needs to develop alongside basic flatland endurance. Most likely, you'll be going anearobic as you start hitting the climb. The trick is to delay this process as it really wears down your body. The longer you can remain aerobic through the climb, the better. You really have to condition your body to do this. Also climbing works different muscle groups so don't be surprised to find that you can pedal all day long on the flats but as soon as you hit hills, you're all of a sudden winded. The only real way to train for climbing is to... well... climb.

One thing I've always suggested is to turn it into a routine on a hill you know. Go back to a familiar hill that's not too steep and climb it over and over. Make it a part of your normal riding routine or just simply go there to climb that hill. Experiment. This does several things.
  1. It eliminates the intimidation factour of the unknown. You know what the hill is like. You've ridden it before.
  2. Gives you a baseline for comparison so that you can not only gauge your current progress but future progress.
  3. Provides you with "markers" for your body so that you can know when to shift. When to stand up and get out of the pedals, what your cadence should be, how your body should be positioned, etc...
  4. Gives you a sense of accomplishment. "I beat that hill." "This time I got THAT far up... next time, I'm going for THAT point."

Once you've conquered that one hill and have developed a certain technique or rhythm for tackling a "generic" hill... move onto other hills. Experiment some more by adding smaller hill into your rides to "break up your ride". This now tries to train your body to recover from hills. You'll now learn how to modify your technique to adapt to other types of hills.

Of course not everything will work for everyone but I've always been taught this and this is what I usually tell others who are beginning to ride. I hope this helps.
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Old 06-21-04, 03:45 AM   #11
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Great advice! I've been following it somewhat-I have "THE HILL" that I am working on-trying to reduce my time each week. I found out a long time ago I work well with "rewards" I've decided if I can cut my time to the top by 10 min. I deserve a new "cycling" item-be it shorts, jersey, computer.

Cycling vacation?
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Old 06-21-04, 06:30 AM   #12
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I think someone here deserves a smilie sticker on her hill climbing score card.
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Old 06-21-04, 09:59 AM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by khuon
Someone once sent me a private message asking about how to improve their hill climbing. Here's my response.
Geeze, khuon, great advice. Mebbe I'll just print this out and give it to all the people who think I am crazy not only to ride a bike on the road but to climb the hills around here too!

Quote:
Originally Posted by American Sensei
. . . I found out a long time ago I work well with "rewards" I've decided if I can cut my time to the top by 10 min. I deserve a new "cycling" item-be it shorts, jersey, computer.

Cycling vacation?
This method works with most anything you apply it too, if you use the right rewards! Some people call it bribery or coercion, but I say call it whatever as long as it works. I guess if your glass is half full you call it a reward and if your glass is half empty you call it bribery-coercion!

Cycling vacation sounds good to me.

My next big reward is gonna be a new, lightweight bike, done out to fit me exactly. . .and then a cycling vacation!

Good luck and keep up the good work!
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Old 06-21-04, 10:58 AM   #14
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rhythm, rhythm, rhythm.

i use little mental tricks to keep my pace steady. this is absurd, but this is the best one i've found so far:

i visualize my legs as pistons - up/down, up/down, up/down. i also move my body slightly with each pedal stroke and fall into a pattern as best i can. sometimes i count each stroke and try to keep a steady tempo that way.

keeping upright on the bike will allow you to breath easier, so make sure you're not too crunched over.
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Old 06-21-04, 11:37 AM   #15
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Work at a sustainable rate, and pick a gear to suit. If you have to ride more slowly, then so be it. My climbing cadence (pedalling rate) is a bit slower than flat riding, but still quite fast. I alternate sitting and standing. When Im sitting, I spin my legs in circles.
There is no substitute for actually climbing hills. No amount of flat-riding will make you a better climber.
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Old 06-21-04, 12:23 PM   #16
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Low gears definitely help.

I used to abhorr hills, and being raised in a flat city didn't help with my training. Anyway, my touring bike has a low of 22/32 (that's 18,5 gear-inches), which I use sometimes when riding alone, but quite often with the kids.

With low low gears, hills are slow, hills may be warm and hills may require a lot of water, but hills aren't more painful than riding on flat terrain. I just spin at 60 rpm (instead of 80-90 on the flats)... and I eat kilometres very slowly, but smell a lot more flowers. Everyone passes me when going uphill, but who cares!
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Old 06-21-04, 04:37 PM   #17
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Please be sure it's the bike and not the equipment riding it. I, like many women over 40, have a mitral valve with just a little murmur. Only time it ever bothers me is on *&$#@ hills. Not dangerous but it does make a difference especially with the shortness of breath with the increased lactic acid build-up.
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Old 06-21-04, 04:51 PM   #18
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Been there, done that. I just turned 49 and have been riding for three years now. I still don't like hills, but I find that I can climb them easier and a little faster than when I first started. Less weight does help and that comes with proper diet and more exercise. I use a push/pull technique, pushing down with one leg at the same time pulling up with the other. Quirky, but it works. Yes, I use granny gears too and not ashamed to do so. Good luck on your riding and you will get there.
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Old 06-21-04, 06:55 PM   #19
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I hated hills, and I sucked on hills...UNTIL I decided to embrace them and love them. Once a week, I have a hill climb day where I visit our local training hill-3/4 mile at a ridiculous gradient. Sometimes, I climb it for 2 hours: I use the coast down as recovery and immediately climb it again. Sometimes I aim for a certain amount of "climbs." The hill feels shorter and I can definitely feel the difference in perceived exertion.

I've also incorportated some gym work: squats, dead lifts, lunges, leg presses, and core and upper body.

Don't forget to stand to get your cadence back up (another skill I've been working on.) Really, just learn to love the hill and let your brain wonder. Soon, there'll be no better feeling than the intense hill climb.
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Old 06-21-04, 08:25 PM   #20
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This is a great thread and inspiring for us "older" riders.
Someone mentioned that the approach to hills is 60% mental and I believe this is true. I find that if I keep looking up at the hill and telling myself how difficult it's going to be, I seem to run out of energy sooner and the climb seems to take forever. If I refrain from focusing on the hill itself ,concentrate instead on my spin, and stop repeating negative thoghts to myself, I'm up and over faster and with less exertion. While I'm never going to love hills, I'm less intimadated than I was when I first got my bike and am making steady progress. I'm sure this will be the case for you also.
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Old 06-22-04, 06:30 PM   #21
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I'm getting to like hills more this year. I've lost about 15 lbs (mostly due to illness over the winter and a very stressful year) and now that I'm lighter and have less of a load, it's easier. Hills that seemed really tough last year are suprisingly easy this year. A friend of mine said I'm turning into one of those skinny climber types. Well, I have to be good at something since I can't sprint for s***!
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Old 06-23-04, 05:53 AM   #22
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Quote:
Originally Posted by wabbit
I'm getting to like hills more this year. I've lost about 15 lbs (mostly due to illness over the winter and a very stressful year) and now that I'm lighter and have less of a load, it's easier. Hills that seemed really tough last year are suprisingly easy this year. A friend of mine said I'm turning into one of those skinny climber types. Well, I have to be good at something since I can't sprint for s***!

I've got to stop looking on HOW FAR AWAY the top of the hill seems and just concentrate on moving my feet, pushing down, pulling up....getting...the ...bike...up....the ...hill. And suddenly I look up-and I'm there!
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Old 06-29-04, 10:00 AM   #23
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For the last 3 years, all I've ridden is a flat railtrail, though a darn long one. I've worked on building up distance and have neglected hills. Big time. This goes along with a fear of cars more than hills, so no hills. I know if I am ever going to be a "real" cyclist (especially a touring one, which I aspire to) I've got to get over my "hill phobia". This thread has helped me a lot...I wonder how much of the challenge is mental vs. physical. Thanks guys!
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Old 06-29-04, 10:53 AM   #24
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Quote:
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I remember the hills around my house getting flatter as I went from couch potato to fit rider.
I love this quote, 'cause it's true.
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Old 07-28-04, 12:36 AM   #25
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You want to build lung capacity? You want to be able to go up hills. Start by blowing up balloons. Hundreds and hundreds of them. Get the cheap small ones that are hard to blowup.
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