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Fast clydes: any of you good at uphill surging? Innate or trained?

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Fast clydes: any of you good at uphill surging? Innate or trained?

Old 06-15-15, 06:55 AM
  #1  
chaadster
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Fast clydes: any of you good at uphill surging? Innate or trained?

For being a clyde, I'm not a bad climber, and I even enjoy it for the way it plays to my diesel-like strengths; set the power level to Tempo and it flows steadily and easily.

However, keeping the fast kids in range when they squirt uphill is a real challenge for me. I have a hard time responding to uphill attacks, and just feel as though the power it takes to jump with alacrity and purpose is simply beyond me... at this point anyway.

So my question is for you climbin' clydes who can pour it on in the middle of a climb: how do you do it?!

Do you folks have a natural inclination to rev the motor? Did you train to sustain surging from high effort to max effort and back to high effort? Is it mental toughness that let's you find the extra watts and push through the pain? Weight training?

Or is it really, really difficult for a clyde to go to the well and generate the kind of power to it takes to meaningfully accelerate 200+ pounds uphill while reserving the juice to maintain speed beyond the crest?

So I guess I'm wondering, if I'm not pipe dreaming, if there are any insights, tips or tricks that successful climbers, those who really can give the lightweights a run for their money on the hills, have to share?

Maybe it's as simple as me going out to do rides just to hit max and burn out, nevermind distance and time, like 20mins of hill repeats or whatever.
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Old 06-15-15, 08:04 AM
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I guess I might surge sometimes .
Normally when I go down I'm cruising ,then as I hit the flat I start pumping and try to stay a an even 17 mph and start dropping gears as I see fit , but when I get off the big chain ring I just try n stay at 10 mph because my weight has caught up. I used to try n catch the other guys that would pass me after I run out of gears at 3\4 of the hills
But I'd end up pooped .so I was riding with a guy n he taught me to drop to the smaller ring sooner n pace myself at the end
WELL Sundays ride I did that .. n my bud passed me well ay the 7\8 point I just cruised on by him because I paced myself n he thought he had me ,but he was done for .. so I guess I'm not gonna try n surge again n try n pace myself from now on
At 280 I need all the advantage I can get
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Old 06-15-15, 08:19 AM
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Originally Posted by chaadster View Post
For being a clyde, I'm not a bad climber, and I even enjoy it for the way it plays to my diesel-like strengths; set the power level to Tempo and it flows steadily and easily.

However, keeping the fast kids in range when they squirt uphill is a real challenge for me. I have a hard time responding to uphill attacks, and just feel as though the power it takes to jump with alacrity and purpose is simply beyond me... at this point anyway.

So my question is for you climbin' clydes who can pour it on in the middle of a climb: how do you do it?!

Do you folks have a natural inclination to rev the motor? Did you train to sustain surging from high effort to max effort and back to high effort? Is it mental toughness that let's you find the extra watts and push through the pain? Weight training?

Or is it really, really difficult for a clyde to go to the well and generate the kind of power to it takes to meaningfully accelerate 200+ pounds uphill while reserving the juice to maintain speed beyond the crest?

So I guess I'm wondering, if I'm not pipe dreaming, if there are any insights, tips or tricks that successful climbers, those who really can give the lightweights a run for their money on the hills, have to share?

Maybe it's as simple as me going out to do rides just to hit max and burn out, nevermind distance and time, like 20mins of hill repeats or whatever.
Training. Strength training. Strength training on the bike (for now). We're already at a disadvantage, so we have to train what we can: strength. Losing weight will come elsewhere.

Couple of keys...
  • Results from training come from efforts over a long time. If you miss one day, no worries, because you still have another 6 months of them.
  • Intervals need to be done, and not flailing about, but with calm, steady, measured, smooth, proper cycling-form, output.
  • Non-intervals are still training. When I'm on a non-interval day, I'm still training my strength (I sometimes call it power output, but it's technically the torque I'm training, not wattage). Again, smooth, steady power output.
  • On longer climbs? No way I'll be able to match the skinnier riders. Climbs I beat them on are the short ones, 30-secs to 1-minute, where pure power comes into play, not power/weight ratio. And even then, I still lose to my racer buddy friends, only beating the non-racing, club rider mountain goats. But they'll wallop me on longer climbs.

This whole program is also only prepping my body, changing it, getting it used to moving fast & putting out torque. After a year or two, the program will change.
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Old 06-15-15, 08:35 AM
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Originally Posted by chaadster View Post
Or is it really, really difficult for a clyde to go to the well and generate the kind of power to it takes to meaningfully accelerate 200+ pounds uphill while reserving the juice to maintain speed beyond the crest?

So I guess I'm wondering, if I'm not pipe dreaming, if there are any insights, tips or tricks that successful climbers, those who really can give the lightweights a run for their money on the hills, have to share?

Maybe it's as simple as me going out to do rides just to hit max and burn out, nevermind distance and time, like 20mins of hill repeats or whatever.
Use low enough gears (you might need a road or mountain triple) to keep your cadence up. 60 is acceptable, 70-80 is better. If it drops too low you won't be able to recruit as many muscle fibers and will fatigue sooner.

Pace yourself. Once you cross your lactate threshold accumulation is proportional to the 4th power of exertion. If you reach that limit your average speed will be much lower than if you didn't. There's only 5% separating what you can manage for 20 minutes not an hour, or 10 minutes and 20 minutes.

Train at least 6 hours a week, preferably 12. 7-10 minute efforts as hard as you can with 2-5 minutes between them will do the most for your performance. You can do that on flat ground or up hill, although up-hill makes pacing easier because you don't have to catch up to the acceleration where "flat" becomes "slightly down hill" and some people find it more motivating. Strength training won't help you - for more than a few seconds lactate accumulation and how much oxygen your muscles can use are the limits.

There's some science supporting a polarized approach where you do that for 20% of sessions (1-2 days a week) and keep everything else below your aerobic threshold (Friel Zone 2). Regardless you need to keep your slow days easy enough you're fresh for the hard ones. You also need 1 rest week every 2-3 hard weeks to allow adaptation to occur.

Loose weight. Lots of easy miles will burn calories but not make you hungry.

That increased my power to weight ratio by 90%, as in I can use a 50 ring where I used to need a 30.

Finally, if fat's not the only reason you're big accept that genetics give and take. With maximum power scaling with weight raised to the 0.8 power you're not going to match climbers' (should be under 2 pounds per inch, as in 140 pounds at 5'10") power-to-weight ratios up-hill but should be much faster on flat ground where speed comes from power to drag.

Last edited by Drew Eckhardt; 06-15-15 at 01:17 PM.
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Old 06-15-15, 09:44 AM
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Hills are a physics exercise. I like 'em, I look for 'em but unless they're shorter than a mile, I pretty much just settle in and go. There are obviously different levels of "settle in" but for the most part, if I'm riding near my LTHR I need to pay attention. It just isn't faster for me to attempt to go any harder than that, even for a short while. Even if it's tempting to try and keep up with somebody faster, the fastest I'll make it up the hill is at a steady pace.
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Old 06-15-15, 09:45 AM
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Originally Posted by mkadam68 View Post
  • On longer climbs? No way I'll be able to match the skinnier riders. Climbs I beat them on are the short ones, 30-secs to 1-minute, where pure power comes into play, not power/weight ratio. And even then, I still lose to my racer buddy friends, only beating the non-racing, club rider mountain goats. But they'll wallop me on longer climbs.
Pretty much how I am. I don't ride with groups often, but when I do I usually have a good power punch initially and quickly fade after about 5 minutes of climbing. If I know it's a short climb of 5 minutes or less I usually power into the hill, take it easy and pace myself then attack on the last 25% so I max my HR out at the top and recover.

I've managed to get up on over some good hills pretty face this way, but it really taps into my tank on longer rides.
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Old 06-15-15, 10:21 AM
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One thing that I learned that is helping me a little on climbs is pulling on the hoods when I need a little bit more power. This puts me in the anaerobic zone, but if I'm already there, it gives me a little extra boost.

GH
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Old 06-15-15, 01:13 PM
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Short Answer: You don't. Mostly.


Long Answer: Hills ultimately boil down to physics. Lifting a weight from height 0 to height X follows the formula: Ep = MgH. Energy = Mass * gravity * Height.

So basically, the amount of energy required to climb a hill is directly proportional to your weight. If I weigh twice as much as another cyclist, that cyclist uses half the energy. Now the answer becomes a bit more nuanced. Us clydes tend to have higher power outputs, simply because we have stronger leg muscles; and why wouldn't we? Every time we stand up, we're leg-pressing a lot of weight, building muscle in our legs that smaller people generally don't have. But we don't have proportional strength, because muscle mass doesn't correspond directly to power output, and even if we did, the body tends to put an upper limit on these things anyway. Generally speaking, power output follows a 1/x curve, where x = time. The longer period of time you're exercising, the lower power you can put out, so on a hill, a fat person would need to put out 500 watts to get the same speed as a skinny person doing 250 watts. But the fat person won't *ever* be able to output 500 watts for as long as the skinny person can put out 250.

So what happens is that we burn out a lot faster on the hills if we try to keep up. And what's worse, is that once we "burn" that "match", we toast our legs. We won't ever be able to catch the skinny person again since we've now burned out.

The bottom line is: we won't ever be able to keep up until we lose more weight. Simple fact of physics.


Now, I said "mostly", because there are a few exceptions to the rule. The first being bridges of up to 30-40 feet high. We can surge up those fairly well. In fact I've been known to pass many of my club members going up bridges simply because I know the top is only 30 seconds away, and I can get away with putting out 900 watts for the short duration. I'll be fatigued at the top, but since there's a downhill on the other side, I now have the advantage and I can rest my legs while the others try to catch up. Try do do this for a minute or more, though, and you'll be done for.

The second exception is a small "valley" situation. When going down a hill, we build up so much more momentum than smaller riders that we'll be carried up the other side of the hill a lot further than other people will. So take advantage of that momentum. When you're 1/4 of the way up the hill, make sure you're in a higher(ish) gear (make sure you're in the right chainring to finish off the hill though, you can't easily switch rings once you're under load), and start applying full power as soon as you have any sort of resistance, and slowly shift down as your cadence begins to drop. If you do it right, you'll be able to maintain your speed long enough to hit the top while everyone is still at the bottom.
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Old 06-15-15, 09:22 PM
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Thanks to all for sharing your ideas! Some divergent opinions on adding leg strength, but I'm of the opinion that you can't argue with watts, so more is always better! I do power based training that encompasses strength building routines anyway, so that's remaining part of training regimen because my coach says so...

Anyway, what @Mithrandir had to say really resonated with my experience, and reaffirms what I think is probably true: it ain't gonna happen, simply because the proportional power I need to make to match a 160lber is nearly unobtainable. I have neither the genes, habits, nor training time to even make a sensible run at that goal.

Ergo, I'll keep working on developing my ability to punch from threshold power up to L6 and back to threshold...and keep the door open for whatever changes and improvements may come. I gotta learn to suffer better, too.
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Old 06-17-15, 08:53 AM
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Well... my main point is that we should lose weight, not give up. That's how I plan on eventually conquering the hills.
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Old 06-17-15, 09:17 AM
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Keep practicing on hills and build up those legs. You will grin from ear to ear the next time you are out, your legs are stronger , and you feel the power as they dig in and scoot you up that hill. I too run out of gas too quickly, those skinny guys make it look so easy....
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Old 06-17-15, 11:13 AM
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losing weight isn't always the ticket. If you been riding forever and been at that weight +/- 10# forever than the easiest goal is to get stronger. You have to come up with a plan to get stronger through the week, so you can throw down on the saturday donut ride with your buddies.

Remember there is two sides to that power to weight ratio. Most imply weight, when power is easier and faster to gain. You will also have to have the endurance at higher BPM to maintain the hurt for longer w/o blowing up. You will also have to learn, train for what I call active recovery. Which is managing attack after attack, yet recover in that 20-90sec of tempo after the surge. Faster you can recover at speeds, more power to react to attacks and maybe give one yourself.

There is allot of mental toughness needed, but fun as heck to throw down w/ the skinnies on the shorter climbs. For me, sub 10min is better boxing range, though there are some really fast guys I ride with so often I need sub 5min climbs. There is strategy to the attacks and if you can attack back, know where to play your strong hand. Riding with those faster than you will also motivate you to get faster yourself if you have the personality for it.
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Old 06-18-15, 03:27 AM
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If you happen to catch any race video from the back of the field, you might notice the sprinters popping of the back. They are not even trying to keep up to the leaders. Their goal is just to get in before the time cut. Indurain was a big guy. He would let the climbers attach and then smoothly roll back up to the attackers. It takes a lot of energy to accelerate on a hill for heavier riders.
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Old 06-18-15, 07:06 AM
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One mental trick I've found when climbing - don't look up at the top of the hill, just look about 3-5' in front of the bike and pedal away. Don't stare down at the tire or you'll hit debris and potholes, but focus on the road, not the skyline.
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Old 06-18-15, 09:51 PM
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Bottom line, with riders of the same race ability/grading, the little guys are going to leave the big ones behind in the hills. When everyone's pushing hard, that's simply going to be the case.

I have ridden races where the climbers didn't want to push on the climbs, but rather hang with the bunch, presumably because they couldn't continue their break once down the other side and on the flats. That merely plays into my hands

Now, on the topic of training and hill technique, I basically have 2 versions. If I'm keen and train by doing hill repeats and keep a decent workload up so I've got good cardio fitness, then I can do 80-90rpm up the hills. If I'm a bit slack and my cardio isn't up to it, my body prefers to hang in at around 70rpm. If it's a longish climb for 2km+, then regardless of my level of fitness, it's the 70rpm that will get me to the top with the smallest deficit to the little guys
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Old 06-19-15, 10:19 AM
  #16  
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Presuming you are doing a standing start and coming to a complete stop at the top of the hill. The simple requirement is you need energy to move your from the bottom to the top. Most of the energy required will be to raise potential energy of the payload (you and the bike). Essentially you will be creating kinetic energy (moving the bike) by converting chemical energy in your body. There will be loses due to heat, friction with the road surface and air resistance.
Disregarding them for the moment (they are not negligible, but complicate the calculation).
Potential Energy (PE) = m * g * h
Where:
m = mass
g = gravitational acceleration
h = height
PE is proportional to m, so a 10% increase in mass will increase the PE by 10%. Meaning you will need 10% more kinetic energy to get to the top of the same hill.
Power is work done (energy) divided by time:
P = W / t
Where:
P = Power in watts
W = work done or energy in Joules
t = time to do work.
If your power is constant we can rearrange the equation to get
P = (m * g * h)/ t
becomes:
t = (m * g * h) / P
so with constant power, gravity and hill height your time will increase proportional to increase in mass, given by the above equation.
If there is no wind air resistance will become less relevant the slower you are going. Friction will increase due to increase in weight. The steepness of the hill is theoretically irrelevant in this calculation. You are gaining the same amount of Gravitation Potential energy when you the same mass to the same height. So it shouldn't theoretically matter whether the hill is 10% or double as long and 5%.
However, as you are generating the energy you need to create it from chemical energy, and there is only so much you can generate at one time. Your muscles will become inefficient and therefore on steeper hills you may require more energy than less steep ones. So on a steeper hill wind resistance might become less relevant but power (how much energy you can put out over time) to weight ratio will become the most relevant factor.
What I am trying to point out in the last paragraph is that the energy you require to put into your body and for your body to convert into forward motion is not the same as the simple kinetic energy required to get you to the top of the hill. However all things being equal a change in mass will have the same affect on the time as I stated in the equations.
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Old 01-27-22, 08:25 AM
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When I started this thread +6 years ago, I didn’t know I was entering my own personal cycling Dark Ages, brought on by injuries and arthritis. I never stopped riding completely, but mileage and fitness went down despite fits and starts. I made a bounce last year, and was able to sustain training throughout the year; this past season was my best in six years, and by the fall, I was riding as strongly (by the numbers) as I was in ‘15.

As I train through the winter, I’m looking at power numbers right now which are poised to set PBs, my club’s spring/summer camp schedule was just released, and I’m back to thinking about not just surviving group rides, but riding with the fast kids and strategies for standout performances, which brought me back to this thread. I’m unfortunately about 10lbs heavier, but I’m hoping I can shed that by the end of spring and be looking at an awesome summer of cycling.

Re-reading the thread and realizing my perspectives and challenges aren’t unique and don’t make me an unrealistic dreamer is encouraging, and so I just want to say thanks to those who participated and offered insights!

Because I ride hills and not mountains, my goal remains to be able to dump as much power as possible for 5-10mins, go anaerobic, but then at the crest fall back only to L4 Threshold power rather than L3/Tempo for another 5min interval and get back on the wheels of the fast kids. If I can build the fitness to do that just 2 or 3 times during a ride without blowing up, I’ll be running pretty good.

To that end, I’ll start riding more of the Richmond flat/short course on Zwift, and do repeats of the sprint zone at L6 and really practice that transition to a sustained L4.

Stay well everyone!
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Old 02-01-22, 09:45 AM
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To state the obvious, weight loss has a pretty dramatic effect on my ability to climb. I ride quite a bit but my love of beer and food keeps me fighting to stay about 30 lbs overweight. Last year I got more serious and lost as much as 20lbs during our summer gravel race season and wow! I could climb pretty damn good. At 58 years old and weighing 230, I finished 30th overall out of 165 riders in a 70 mile race with 3500’ of climbing. Nothing to write home about but I was pleased with my time being my best ever in that race and it was mainly because I went from a really awful climber to a mediocre one.

I’m pretty strong on the flat and downhill, can ride with all but the young guns but weight kills when I point uphill. Your vascular fitness could be near peak and yet never compete with top riders if you are heavy.
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Old 02-02-22, 09:23 AM
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Originally Posted by pipeliner View Post
To state the obvious, weight loss has a pretty dramatic effect on my ability to climb. I ride quite a bit but my love of beer and food keeps me fighting to stay about 30 lbs overweight. Last year I got more serious and lost as much as 20lbs during our summer gravel race season and wow! I could climb pretty damn good. At 58 years old and weighing 230, I finished 30th overall out of 165 riders in a 70 mile race with 3500’ of climbing. Nothing to write home about but I was pleased with my time being my best ever in that race and it was mainly because I went from a really awful climber to a mediocre one.

I’m pretty strong on the flat and downhill, can ride with all but the young guns but weight kills when I point uphill. Your vascular fitness could be near peak and yet never compete with top riders if you are heavy.
My weaknesses are wine and food, so I know what you mean! I’ve also had times when I lost a lot of weight and felt the difference it makes cycling, so I feel you there, too. My hope is not to compete with the top riders, but I think I’m a decent climber despite my weight— which I guess means I have a balance of power, technique, stamina, and ability to suffer which allows me to never be last up the hill even though I’m always the heaviest— and with some proper training focus and ride strategy, I think I can improve my performance and really reduce the time the that fast guys put on me on the climbs. Now, I live and ride in areas with rolling terrain, so I’m talking about climbs that are rarely more than 10 minutes and most commonly 3 to 5 minute efforts; all this would be out the window were I in the Alps, Rockies, or somewhere like that.
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Old 02-02-22, 09:47 AM
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The last challenge puts it all in perspective. The track cyclist might not actually be a Clyde by weight, (I don't know how much he weighs) but certainly by mass/weight per height.


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Old 02-02-22, 09:54 AM
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There's also this video:

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Old 02-02-22, 10:15 AM
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And the followup with a weight handicap:

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