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  1. #1
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    How do I get better at climbing hills?

    At the end of my commute is a good sized hill that I can't avoid. The hill itself is probably adding 15-20 minutes to my commute as it ends up being 'peddle, run out of air/legs, stop/rest, repeat'. I think its like a 300ft rise over -- i don't trust the source of the data that much. Suffice to say i'm having a lot of trouble with it and it is the part of my commute that dwells in my mind despite how well the rest is going e.g. increased cadence, speed, etc.

    Can someone recommend some specific exercises or strategies to that will allow me to eventually power to the top of this hill without the stopping/starting?

  2. #2
    Marathon Cyclist MediaCreations's Avatar
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    Well done on attacking the hill each day.

    I'm sure that there are plenty of climbers on the forums who will give you some great advice but in the end a big part of improving your climbing is to keep doing hills.

    I hope you get some good advice. Keep up the good work.

  3. #3
    Every lane is a bike lane Chris L's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by MediaCreations
    I'm sure that there are plenty of climbers on the forums who will give you some great advice but in the end a big part of improving your climbing is to keep doing hills.
    That's actually THE major factor. The more hills you ride, the better you will climb. Other things that might help could be walking up stairs two at a time. However, the most important thing is the mental approach, do not fear it. A lot of people are beaten before they even start a hill because they can be intimidated by it's appearance -- don't be. The worst that can happen is that you fail to conquer it, in which case you can come back tomorrow and have another go.
    "I am never going to flirt with idleness again" - Roy Keane
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    Member Radworld's Avatar
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    The only advice I can give...is keep assaulting them. Seek them out. I "balanced" tough hill on my ride by adding a hill that was even tougher. Sounds crazy...I know. But as it turned out I stopped considering it as "the hill". It not only became secondary but hardly noticeable. As far as exercises all I have ever done are thrusts and squats with weights.

  5. #5
    Tiocfáidh ár Lá jfmckenna's Avatar
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    Ditto on the keep climbing Gadfly. However you did not mension anything about gears. I assume you have a geared bike and if so are you climbing in your first gear? If so and you are struggling you may want to consider a cassette geared for hill climbing to make things easier. Also you may find getting out of the saddle to help a bit too. I believe this is actually less efficient but it allows you to use different muscles and to stretch a bit. If you do get out of the saddle gear up first then get out and climb and sit and gear back down.

  6. #6
    Photog Extraordinaire Crack'n'fail's Avatar
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    climb, climb, and then climb some more. Learn to love to climb, live for it. Another thing to consider is your size and weight and how they affect your abilitiy to climb. If your a bigger rider who hammers out tempo on the flats you'll probably always feel less comfortable climbing. If you focus on climbing, you'll lose some of that other stuff. It's about finding your strengths and balancing them.

  7. #7
    1/2 a binding 1/2 a brain telenick's Avatar
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    How's you spin form?

    Are you "scraping the dog poop off your shoe" in the back and up part of the stroke? After the poop is scraped, think about driving the knee forward in the forward part of the pedal stroke (that's the weakest part of the pedal stroke.)

    There are lots of spin form exercises you can do to improve. Do a search and you'll find lots of suggestions to help you. A smoother spin will help your climbing a lot because it keeps the momentum going instead of being a masher and having to restablish mo' at the top of every stroke. It's better for the knees too.

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    Mad Town Biker Murrays's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by jfmckenna
    However you did not mension anything about gears.
    That was my first question, too. Perhaps you need/could use some lower gears since you are running out of legs.

    -murray
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  9. #9
    I couldn't car less. jeff williams's Avatar
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    I do my 'hill sprint thing'.

    I also have a big hill, near the end of my commute.

    What I do, have done is:
    Find the highest gear you can 'take' the hill seated.
    Repeat next day faster.
    Next day even faster.
    Third day go up a gear, go mid fast.
    Next day..(you may be sore) go back to lower highest gear, go mid fast.
    Next day, go fast.
    Next week, day..go to the higher gear, go mid fast.
    Next day fast.
    3rd day, go up a cog again, go slow.

    Over weeks, you can crawl over the cogset.

    Keep doing this until, you can sprint up hills. Road on my mtb I 'sprint' uphill, seated- running 12-38.

    Being seated is important, a guage as to the muscle drive power.

    Next, I find a longer hill, steeper grade, and start over.

    >jef.

  10. #10
    Not a senior! townandcountry's Avatar
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    Keep going at them. I don't really like going up hills, either, but I've noticed that some of the hills that used to bug me are a little flatter now. I don't do any special training, just riding. Chris L has a good point about the mental part. Depending on the size of the hill they're either little speed bumps or bigger speed bumps. Good luck and happy trails.

  11. #11
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    Many thanks for the variety of good advice. Yes, i'm in the lowest gear on the bike (its a Bianchi Veloce Triple), though today i tried staying a gear up from that and trying to hang on even if i could probably walk faster .

    I was 178 lbs before i started bicycling thing a few weeks ago, and a fair amount of that is fat -- in theory the hill should become easier over time. Assuming i can keep the commuting enthusiasm going...

    I'm going to seek out some different hills to practice on -- something that isn't right at the end of my commute with work hovering at the top of the hill .

    re: stroke. I think my stroke is OK. I was up to a cadence of around 80-90 but the switch to clipless + a RAD fitting by the LBS seems to have me using new muscles that need a few days to catch up.

    thanks,
    Gadfly

  12. #12
    The Cycling Photographer SipperPhoto's Avatar
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    I have to agree... hills are like 90% mental. There is a big one here I ride occasionally now... Newport Coast Drive... for the past 2 years whenever I heard people mention a bastard of a hill.. Newport Coast is always brought up.. I lived in fear of the hill... One day, I was feeling pretty good, and decided... screw it... i'm gonna do it... and it really wasn;t anywhere near as hard as others made it out to be.... it wasn't a whole lot of fun, but it didn;t kill me....

    The only way to train for hills, is to ride the hills

    jeff
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  13. #13
    Senior Member oldskoolboarder's Avatar
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    I got better by riding my hills w/ an SS. First w/ a 36:18, now with a 44:18. Now when I ride it w/ a gearie, I feel like a wuss.

  14. #14
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    Try a lower gear and stay in the seat as much as you can, standing exerts a lot of energy and you want to conserve as much as you can on the hills. When you do stand up try to push down over the pedal and don't rock the bike from side to side.

  15. #15
    Pat
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    Well one of the things about climbing hills is diagnosing them. That is you look at the hill and decide what you have and use what strength, power and endurance you have as efficiently as you can to get up the hill. Around here, people seem to attack hills and on longer ones (not that many), they run out of gas near the top and slow way down. Had they gone up at a slightly lower speed, they would have been able to maintain it all the way up.

    I took a friend out on a ride. We came to a hill that he had never climbed. I climbed to the top and stopped to see how he was doing. He almost made it to the top and gave up. The thing was he gave up where the hill "broke", that is the hill got less steep. It is hard to notice the fall off when you are climbing it but if you make it to that point, you can get to the top if you just keep going. I mentioned that one and also suggested he get a cluster with some bigger cogs on it (lower gears). The next time we did that hill, he climbed it with no problem.

    Another thing you might think of is lower gears.

    Of course, what the other people are saying that climbing hills is the best way to get better is true. But I assume that you have this one hill on your commute and you just need to figure out how to climb it with what you have.

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    Three ideas that help me:

    - Break the hill into smaller pieces mentally by selecting a sign, tree, etc. as a target. Ride to the target and pick another point. This makes the hill more mentally manageable.

    - Try to get some momentum going into the hill. Ride faster getting to the hill and try to maintain as much of that speed as you can. But make sure you downshift before you've run out of cadence.

    - I notice you keep the cadence pretty good at 80 - 90. Whenever your cadence starts to slow, stand up and get it back to a higher pace.

    And like others have said, keep climbing. Although you might want to initially climb it hard one day and take it easy the next so that you don't overtrain.

  17. #17
    Senior Member jazzy_cyclist's Avatar
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    I'm getting better the more hills I do.

    But one thing that really incentivizes me is that I can't seem to clip out fast enough if I'm going up hill and decide that I can't make it!

    -Jim

  18. #18
    Senior Member JavaMan's Avatar
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    Hey Gadfly,
    Tell us more about your commute. We could give you better advice if we knew more details. How long is it before you hit the hill? How long is the hill? For example, Newport Coast Drive mentioned by SipperPhoto is 2 miles long. How fast in MPH do you go up the hill? What quits first, your lungs or your legs? How many times do you have to stop on the way up? Going slower is always an option to lower your heartrate so you don't blow up.
    Tom

  19. #19
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    On one of your rides that is not your commute make that same hill the focus of the ride and climb it about 5 or 6 times then wobble home and see how easy it is to only climb it once next time.

  20. #20
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    Why the responses after more than 2 months since i posted this message?

    I eventually beat the hill recently though it is pretty slow going.

    The following helped:
    Taking the initial up swing easier
    Sticking to the easiest gear on the bike
    Improving my standing form so i had something to fall back on
    more climbing, more climbing, other hills, more practice, more confidence
    more determination
    trying the hill cold e.g. without the ride that leads up to it.
    more looking up ahead as opposed to down -- e.g. focus on a fixed point in the distance,
    specifically trying to relax/lower my heart rate at easier points in the climb

  21. #21
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    Some body posted and brought it to the top-I did not check the date-Sorry for the response-never happen again!

  22. #22
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    I live just a bit south of you in University Place and know there are more than enough hills in this area of the country to practice on. However, because I do a little myofascial therapy on the side (my wife practices almost full-time) and I spend almost as much time doing Yoga as Cycling over the last 5 years, I would say that many people do not use their full lung capacity. I see many people breathe into the tops of their lungs, failing to use their diaphram and expand their tummy to let air in.

    The other advice so far about riding hills is excellent advice, so let me give you this breathing lesson to try as you practice those ever present hills in our area of the world.

    First, make sure you have loaded your body with oxygen before the hill if possible by doing at least 5 or maybe 10 big breaths before the hill. Don't do so much that you end up getting light headed, but enough so that you feel energized.

    Second, while doing those breaths, force the air out of your lungs and passively allow the lungs to fill with air all the way starting from the bottom of your lungs just above your waist to the tops of your lungs. Don't stress, the lungs or help them along, you will get better at this while you practice. Then again, when your lungs are filled, force the air out quickly and smoothly and allow the lungs to passively fill with air again.

    Third, continue this breathing while on the hill.

    Fourth, relax that tongue. When your tongue is relaxed, the jaw and face will relax and so will the rest of the body. If you find it hard to do that, start out with relaxing the jaw and face muscles. Hills are a challenge and the more relaxed your are, even when working hard, the easier it is for you to overcome them.

    Here is one other good tip that hasn't been pointed out. If this hill or any other hill has varying pitches, or degrees of steepness, you can sometimes ride an easier gear on the shallower pitches to help catch your breath and shift down a couple cogs on the steeper sections and stand to pump over these stretches, then shift back up a couple if the hill levels off somewhat again to rest.

    Also, imagine the hill is at least another block or more longer than it actually is so you continue peddling smoothly and decisively over the top and onto the flat or downhill on the the other side before you allow yourself the mental victory of having completed the hill.

    Last, but not least, mentally tell yourself how much you love riding hills and how easy it is while climbing the hill. It really does make a difference in how your body responds when you change your mental approach to a hill.

    Before you know it, this hill and many others will be your friend.

  23. #23
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    I knew the answer was going to be, climb, climb, climb!!!! Wanted a magic bullet answer. Oh well, back to the hills!!!

  24. #24
    Senior Member Garfield Cat's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by SipperPhoto View Post
    I have to agree... hills are like 90% mental. There is a big one here I ride occasionally now... Newport Coast Drive... for the past 2 years whenever I heard people mention a ******* of a hill.. Newport Coast is always brought up.. I lived in fear of the hill... One day, I was feeling pretty good, and decided... screw it... i'm gonna do it... and it really wasn;t anywhere near as hard as others made it out to be.... it wasn't a whole lot of fun, but it didn;t kill me....

    The only way to train for hills, is to ride the hills

    jeff
    Jeff, have you tried going up Newport Coast from PCH and then about .33 of the way up, turn left on Pelican Hill Road? Take that loop which is about 2miles and it ends at Newport Coast again. Then turn left onto Newport Coast going up for about .7 miles and turn right on Vista Ridge. Take that up for about 1.45 miles till it ends at Ridge Park Road. At that juncture its over 1,000 feet in elevation. Turn left to Ridge Park Road and its mostly downhill till you hit Newport Coast again. Total mileage is about 5.5 miles. Then turn right going up Newport Coast to San Joaquin Hills Road where you turn left and go mostly downhill. That will take you to Fashion Island where you can stop and get something to eat.

    That in a nutshell, is "going up Newport Coast". Do this a few times and you'll be ready for Glendora Mountain Road (aka GMR).
    Last edited by Garfield Cat; 05-19-09 at 05:50 PM.

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