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hills vs. rpms

Old 05-19-15, 08:26 AM
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daryou
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hills vs. rpms

I've heard over and over that to help reduce knee pain, I need to keep my revolutions at 80-90 per minute. I live in a pretty hilly area of Kentucky with some steep sections. What do you do when you're in the granny gear and you can't keep 'em turning at 80-90? Do you admit defeat and get off and walk or keep riding?
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Old 05-19-15, 08:30 AM
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I stand up. What do you mean by "steep sections" and for how long?
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Old 05-19-15, 08:47 AM
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I just keep on riding. There are hills that I ride where my cadence drops below 40 rpm (especially if I'm not paying attention). If the hill is long enough, and steep enough, there's not much I can do about it.
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Old 05-19-15, 08:53 AM
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Where in Kentucky? Have you done Tussey Hill yet?

Relatively high cadence in a low gear is the way to go. I've never made it up Tussey Hill, but I watched someone my age and on a similar bike motor all the way up in his granny gear and at a high cadence.

However, you have to train for this, because it is exhausting. Find a modest hill and spin up several times in your lowest gear. It will humble you.

I live in Louisville and have tangled with some of the really nasty hills: Tussey, Lily Pike Hill, the big bad hill at Milton, and Mitchell Hill Road. Others, like Pottershop and some of the other hills in Jefferson Forest I'm content just to read about.
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Old 05-19-15, 08:53 AM
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If you have decent biomechanics, there's no reason to keep cadence that high. It's funny how those old tales about low cadence keep going - do knees hurt by walking? You are putting much more stress on knees walking.

Now I recognize some people do have bad knees and other issues where high cadence is beneficial. But that doesn't maen everybody. Also bad biomechanics often is correctable by inserts, wedges and orthotics.

When climbing, there's no magic cadence. I often get bored sitting and creeping up a hill at a fast cadence so I will power up, alternating standing and sitting at 50-60.

Experiment and see what works for you.
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Old 05-19-15, 09:06 AM
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Mercer County, across the river from Lexington.
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Old 05-19-15, 09:12 AM
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Some of the hills can be 1/4 to 1/2 mile with the steepest section ( probably a 20% grade) a couple hundred feet long. Those, I'm standing and probably getting less than 20 rpms. I walked it.
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Old 05-19-15, 09:21 AM
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Originally Posted by daryou View Post
I've heard over and over that to help reduce knee pain, I need to keep my revolutions at 80-90 per minute. I live in a pretty hilly area of Kentucky with some steep sections. What do you do when you're in the granny gear and you can't keep 'em turning at 80-90? Do you admit defeat and get off and walk or keep riding?
Granny gear and spin up the hills.

I'm proud of riding up this hill on Saturday during the Almanzo 100 - I was the only rider in my group to ride up this hill. The Almanzo is a gravel grinder, so getting up on the pedals will un-weight the rear tire and you'll spin-out on the gravel. I passed people all day on this ride thanks to spinning in my granny gear (but I'm awful at descending, so they all passed me on the down hills).

I did get some knee pain around mile 45, made a mental note to shift to a smaller gear, took a big drink of water - a couple miles later, pain was gone.
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Old 05-19-15, 09:28 AM
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I can't stand up whilst climbing like I did in my 20s. In my old age, I love to spin up big climbs here in Colorado. I run a triple with a 28t inner ring and 28t cog, I am considering going to a 26t inner ring. I prefer to keep my cadence above 80rpm and make my gears fit the climb.
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Old 05-19-15, 09:39 AM
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Have you done either the Horsey Hundred or the Redbud ride? Both are great. And don't forget the OKHT. The century, which I've never done and don't intend to do, has brought many a strong man to their knees.
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Old 05-19-15, 09:40 AM
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Originally Posted by Mr IGH View Post
I can't stand up whilst climbing like I did in my 20s. In my old age, I love to spin up big climbs here in Colorado. I run a triple with a 28t inner ring and 28t cog, I am considering going to a 26t inner ring. I prefer to keep my cadence above 80rpm and make my gears fit the climb.
Speaking of which, I made it up Vail Pass in a recumbent not too long ago. Beautiful, the best cycling I've ever done.
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Old 05-19-15, 10:04 AM
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Originally Posted by daryou View Post
What do you do when you're in the granny gear and you can't keep 'em turning at 80-90?
Shift up two gears in back and stand.
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Old 05-19-15, 10:19 AM
  #13  
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You didn't tell us the gearing of your bike. If my area had hills with 20% sections, I'd have a triple.
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Old 05-19-15, 10:33 AM
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Originally Posted by daryou View Post
I've heard over and over that to help reduce knee pain, I need to keep my revolutions at 80-90 per minute. I live in a pretty hilly area of Kentucky with some steep sections. What do you do when you're in the granny gear and you can't keep 'em turning at 80-90? Do you admit defeat and get off and walk or keep riding?
If you're already in your granny gear and can't turn 80 or 90 rpm, turn slower. The force on your knees is nearly independent of rpm --in fact, in that situation, the force on your knees will be (slightly) lower at 40 rpm than at 80 or 90 rpm. Do the calculation and see. Pedal as slow as you want, until you can't balance or walking is faster. Then get off and walk.
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Old 05-19-15, 10:38 AM
  #15  
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Originally Posted by bowzette View Post
I stand up. What do you mean by "steep sections" and for how long?
I do too, though at that point I know the end is near.....and walking is inevitable.
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Old 05-19-15, 11:01 AM
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This reminds me that the whole % grade thing is confusing to me. I understand that the grade for a given climb amounts to an average over the ascent of the entire hill but 20% sections? There are only two climbs in the TdF that average 10% (Tour de France: Let's Rank the Climbs - Podium Cafe) and I wonder how steep their steepest sections are. We have some pretty good climbs here in eastern CT and I have yet to walk using a 50x34 w/12x25 cogs. My biggest climbing issue is the 10 extra lbs. I'm carrying. When the good climbers in my club B ride are climbing at 10 mph I am at 7-8 mph. I have no problem getting up the hill. I'm just one gear down on everyone else and spinning at 50-70 rpm. At age 69 I do miss the power I once had to make up for that weight.
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Old 05-19-15, 11:12 AM
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Hills? I live in the southern Rockies. It's at least 3.5 miles up hill from anywhere to my house. That's after some serious grade up 'n' downs of a mile each way. You just have to work up to it.
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Old 05-19-15, 11:31 AM
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You should realize that keeping cadence up is only a technique for limiting how hard you're pushing. The cadence itself isn't anything magic. And like TSL alludes to, it only applies to seated pedaling. When standing (which you probably can't do for extended periods anyway) the ideal cadence is much lower.

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Old 05-19-15, 11:32 AM
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If it's a long really steep hill, I never stand. Standing just wears you out if you can't make it all the way. Sit and pedal. Keep your upper body still and pedal circles. Don't worry about cadence, just turn the cranks. Never walk - take a vow.

If you don't have the strength to turn the cranks, try heavy squats and one-legged leg presses at the gym. Or much easier, buy lower gears. We have a low gear of 26 X 34 on our tandem. The weight work is still a good idea at our age, though.
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Old 05-19-15, 12:46 PM
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I've pushed relatively heavy touring bike loads up hills, now my town topography requires me to get off and push to visit friends who have a house on top.
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Old 05-19-15, 12:58 PM
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Originally Posted by Carbonfiberboy View Post
If it's a long really steep hill, I never stand. Standing just wears you out if you can't make it all the way. Sit and pedal. Keep your upper body still and pedal circles. Don't worry about cadence, just turn the cranks. Never walk - take a vow.
.
Interesting. I definitely stand for short steep hills (say 50' at 9% or something like that) and I sit for long steepish hills (several hundred feet at 5-6%). I TRY to alternate between sitting and standing for long steep hills (800' at 8-10%), but towards the end, I don't have the strength to stand for very long periods of time and I grind out whatever I can, sitting in my easiest gear.

Oh yeah, and I've never walked. Maybe the hills I encounter just aren't truly long and steep, but it's just not something I'd consider unless I was unable to stay upright.
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Old 05-19-15, 01:03 PM
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It is all in the gears. I have equipped my wife's and my touring bikes with Mtn bike gearing, and it makes a lot of difference on extended tours in mountainous areas. We run a 22 front with a 34 tooth rear granny gear. Gears and RPM are important, especially on a loaded touring bike.

Think about muscle fatigue. When doing weight work what will fatigue your muscles the fastest, more repetitions with a lighter weight or a few reps with a heavy weight. While doing curls a person may be able to do 20 repetitions with 25 pounds, but only 10 with 50 pounds. Both sets of the exercise did the same amount of work, lifting 500 pounds. My opinion is that the muscles build less lactic acid and take longer to reach the fatigue point with more and easier repetitions. Also, it is easier on your body. I believe the same applies to pedalling cadence while cycling.

My wife was rejoicing the top of a 5000' climb that took about 5 hours of constant climbing at speeds between 3.5 and 8 mph, averaging about 6mph. While the grade was not extremely steep it probably averaged about 6% with a few steeper sections. She probably averaged 60-70 RPM up the hill.

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Old 05-19-15, 01:34 PM
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Get a lower gear on the bike or use the lower gear on your feet.

To answer some other posters, yes, 20%. There's a fair few of those on the TransAmerica trail in Kentucky. (Use Shoe-Goo early and often to prevent wearing out the soles of expensive bike shoes pushing.)

If theory hasn't figured out that high rpms helps prevent knee enjury, the theoreticians should get to work. I found that to be true a while back (and relearned it since), and I've seen a bike tourist go home in the first two weeks of a planned three month tour because he blew his knee out straining up hills.
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Old 05-19-15, 02:05 PM
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I suppose many different problems can be experienced as "knee pain". Personally, I have never had a problem of knee pain climbing at 55-65 rpm. When I have had knee pain, it was due to bad position on the bike which resulted in the knee joint not being properly aligned with the upper/lower leg. On longer grades (ave say 6%) I like to stand now and then just for the change. Usually if there is a section of steeper road just hit it for 15-20 secs. I did have some hills in SoCal when I lived there that I stalled on (at the time my easiest gear was 39x24).

scott s.
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Old 05-19-15, 02:47 PM
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Johan Museeuw climbing the Kapelmuur https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lnX4uaDYyIU
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