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Climbing speed

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Old 03-31-17, 01:19 PM
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Climbing speed

I'm a slow climber and anytime I come across a hill steeper than 6%, I slow to less than 12 mph. How much I slow depends on slope, duration, and my available strength and energy.

What seems apparent to me is that it's almost impossible to adjust my speed to match other riders that I'm with. If I'm riding with faster or slower friends I might fall behind or someone might fall behind me.

Is this a common experience, of am I just unable to adjust my speed.
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Old 03-31-17, 01:24 PM
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There are no 'other riders'.. so I have no peer pressure..

I only keep track of miles on long bike tours, never speed , then once home I don't measure at all ..



4 blocks from down town the streets go sharply up, so I get off and push..

my 2 foot gear..
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Old 03-31-17, 01:40 PM
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Originally Posted by Barrettscv View Post
I'm a slow climber and anytime I come across a hill steeper than 6%, I slow to less than 12 mph. How much I slow depends on slope, duration, and my available strength and energy.

What seems apparent to me is that it's almost impossible to adjust my speed to match other riders that I'm with. If I'm riding with faster or slower friends I might fall behind or someone might fall behind me.

Is this a common experience, of am I just unable to adjust my speed.
So you couldn't force yourself to go slower if you wanted to? That's bizarre.
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Old 03-31-17, 01:55 PM
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Originally Posted by DiabloScott View Post
So you couldn't force yourself to go slower if you wanted to? That's bizarre.
I have a hard time adjusting my tempo. Part of the reason is that I don't like a cadence slower than about 60 rpm while seated. So, unless I have another gear to use, I just keep my cadence at a minimum speed until the slope changes.

On hills steeper than 15%, I usually stand and use a slower cadence and a slower speed than if I'm seated. I only stand for brief sections and prefer to stay seated.
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Old 03-31-17, 02:02 PM
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The wattage needed for climbing is significant, and on anything but the shallowes of grades will be more than riders use at their normal cruising speed.

Gearing down and climbing slower addresses that, and there's no magic here. To climb faster, either get stronger or get a motor.

BTW there are some online calculators that will allow you to compare climbing and wind speed wattage. Once you see these you won't feel so bad about being a slow climber.
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Old 03-31-17, 02:59 PM
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"Climbing" and "speed" are mutually exclusive in my world.
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Old 03-31-17, 03:41 PM
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One thing I love about where I live is the hills. Love climbing, and generally stand to do it. Pretty slowly up the steep bits. I don't believe in mortgaging the boiler in case the climb is too long. But it's great attacking railway bridges; a few hundred yards flat out, and down the other side.
I would not bike if it was flat. . . I'd do rollerblades instead and embaress the missus . . .
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Old 03-31-17, 03:50 PM
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11 mph on a 6% is a super climber around here.

There is a 6% climb around here. According to strava, there are 9000+ riders who have climbed this hill.

425 of them climb 12 and faster and that includes professional riders. Robert Gesink, Peter Sagan, Levi, Chris H and other Tour of California riders.

Most mortals around here climb this 6% at 8-10 mph. Super climbers who do pretty much nothing but TT up the hill do it at about 12 and 13.
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Old 03-31-17, 03:52 PM
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Originally Posted by peterws View Post
One thing I love about where I live is the hills. Love climbing, and generally stand to do it. Pretty slowly up the steep bits. I don't believe in mortgaging the boiler in case the climb is too long. But it's great attacking railway bridges; a few hundred yards flat out, and down the other side.
I would not bike if it was flat. . . I'd do rollerblades instead and embaress the missus . . .
Just curious ----- Which Lancaster?

I ask because i know of two (of probably many). One is in an area of rolling terrain, with no real mountains, but a great mix of hills of various grades. The other is in the middle of a plain, but surrounded by some decent climbs (well more than an overpass).
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Old 03-31-17, 04:00 PM
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Same here. I have to go my own pace, and not adjust to others'. So I don't worry about other people's speed on hills. On group rides that's where we usually separate and regroup at the top.

I have to go my own pace on hills, which is slightly faster than a walking pace. If I try to adapt to someone else, faster or slower, I expend way too much energy disproportionate to the achieved speed.

There are a couple of grades around here that are supposedly 8% or steeper (I don't know how accurate cycling apps are for estimating grades) and up to 2 miles long. Strava shows some of the faster local riders can take those at 15-20 mph. I'm a consistent 8 mph, give or take depending on head winds (it's also a very windy route). Any faster and my lungs explode.

I've tried spinning, mashing, and climbing out of the saddle for hill circuit training, including yesterday with 9 miles of mostly hills. It never gets any easier and my progress has been marginal.

I'm never gonna win any races or get much faster so I just go my own speed and don't worry about the rest.
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Old 03-31-17, 04:05 PM
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Originally Posted by ClydeTim View Post
11 mph on a 6% is a super climber around here.

There is a 6% climb around here. According to strava, there are 9000+ riders who have climbed this hill.

.
I agree that that speed on a 6% grade is very good, but as a practical matter, climbing speed is very much a function of length.

I divide climbs into various groups based on grade and length. One of them I call bite size, and I use it to refer to those climbs of short, often steep length, that one attacks and tops in a sprint like effort before crapping out.

The thing about bite size hills is that the best way to take them is with an attack. That means that I'll often climb at close to or even faster than my normal cruising speed.

OTOH - hills longer than bite size, namely those I'll be climbing for more than three minute or so, are a different story, and there's no way I can sustain even 10mph on a 6% grade for 5 minutes.
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Old 03-31-17, 04:19 PM
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Originally Posted by ClydeTim View Post
11 mph on a 6% is a super climber around here.

There is a 6% climb around here. According to strava, there are 9000+ riders who have climbed this hill.

425 of them climb 12 and faster and that includes professional riders. Robert Gesink, Peter Sagan, Levi, Chris H and other Tour of California riders.

Most mortals around here climb this 6% at 8-10 mph. Super climbers who do pretty much nothing but TT up the hill do it at about 12 and 13.
Yes, the 6% grade I was thinking of is about 1/4 of a mile long.

I've done a 6% climb in Italy that was 2 miles long with a 700 ft elevation gain. My speed was 4mph on that climb. Half of that climb was over 9%: https://www.strava.com/segments/7924550
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Old 03-31-17, 04:28 PM
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Originally Posted by Barrettscv View Post
Yes, the 6% grade I was thinking of is about 1/4 of a mile long.

I've done a 6% climb in Italy that was 2 miles long with a 700 ft elevation gain. My speed was 4mph on that climb. Half of that climb was over 10%: https://www.strava.com/segments/7924550

Ah OK, much shorter than I was thinking. The hill I mentioned is 8 miles long and 6% average. My best average is 8 MPH so I would have to say that 4 MPH is slow on a 2 mile climb considering I'm 230 pounds.

Are you a clydesdale rider?
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Old 03-31-17, 04:40 PM
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Originally Posted by ClydeTim View Post
Ah OK, much shorter than I was thinking. The hill I mentioned is 8 miles long and 6% average. My best average is 8 MPH so I would have to say that 4 MPH is slow on a 2 mile climb considering I'm 230 pounds.

Are you a clydesdale rider?
Yeah, I'm in the 230-240lb range, and I was on a 28lb 29er. Plus, I stopped to enjoy the scenery. This is the ride down;


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Old 03-31-17, 05:00 PM
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Originally Posted by Barrettscv View Post
Yeah, I'm in the 230-240lb range, and I was on a 28lb 29er. Plus, I stopped to enjoy the scenery. This is the ride down;

Ah OK. I didn't realize it was an MTB. I have done the same 8 mile climb on my 26 MTB with knobby tires before just for a better workout. My time went down from 8 on a roadie to 5.5 on the fat tire MTB. Big difference.

Is it my age or is there no sound on the video?
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Old 03-31-17, 07:09 PM
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My Garmin 705 uses a barometer to calculate elevation gain. (Strong winds or weather changes can affect it, but otherwise, it's more accurate than GPS elevation calculations.)

Attached, here's my 2016 Redbud Ride, 67 miles and 4900 feet. I was working quite hard, but keeping some in reserve due to the distance and hills, and riding it for the first time.

ridewithgps calculates this chart, Time Spent at Each MPH and Average Grade at each MPH. This is pretty consistent for me. Group rides with less climbing tend to have the zero grade average speed around 17 mph or so, since I don't hold back on flatter sections of the ride.

My average climbing speeds at each grade % are quite consistent from ride to ride. A 6% grade averages right near 6 mph, for instance.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

VAM
The VAM calculation is Vertical Meters per Hour (in Italian). As slopes get steeper, the gravity work becomes more important than the wind resistance, so VAM is useful to compare different grade climbs.

My long climb VAM is usually somewhere around 550 (which is 1800 feet per hour). Steep climbs much over 8% tend to get higher VAM scores, just because most riders have a lower limit on their mph before they fall over. And short "attack" climbs can go way higher, of course.

Strong riders can easily hit 1000 or 1200 on long steep climbs, and higher on critical climbs. The rider's weight greatly affects their VAM scores, of course.

A couple of years ago, my Blue Ridge Parkway ride with a lot of climbing included an 850 foot high, 6.1 mph average climb. That VAM was 614, so I was working pretty hard.

Doing the same climb at 8 mph would be about 820 VAM. I hit that once when I was going all-out trying for a good Strava segment number on a 9.5% grade (there were only 6 other strava riders on this obscure road.) It was 3:15 elapsed time, 200 feet, 4/10 mile long.

~~~

Ridewithgps chart:
Attached Images
File Type: jpg
redbud.jpg (85.4 KB, 231 views)

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Old 03-31-17, 10:54 PM
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Yes, I'm in the single digit speed climber's club. I'm 210 pounds and 62 years old. They will usually wait for me at the top, but sometimes I'm not last.
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Old 03-31-17, 11:55 PM
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Originally Posted by Barrettscv View Post
I'm a slow climber and anytime I come across a hill steeper than 6%, I slow to less than 12 mph. How much I slow depends on slope, duration, and my available strength and energy.

What seems apparent to me is that it's almost impossible to adjust my speed to match other riders that I'm with. If I'm riding with faster or slower friends I might fall behind or someone might fall behind me.
Normal ... you've got to ride your own ride when it comes to hills. And preferably well away from other riders.
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Old 03-31-17, 11:56 PM
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I think it is common and natural. I notice some riders who are fit and strong but can't climb as well as myself. Then I find I cannot compete with them in a head wind, despite putting in a good effort. We are different and that's okay. Our bodies are not machines.
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Old 03-31-17, 11:58 PM
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Originally Posted by Barrettscv View Post
I have a hard time adjusting my tempo. Part of the reason is that I don't like a cadence slower than about 60 rpm while seated. So, unless I have another gear to use, I just keep my cadence at a minimum speed until the slope changes.

On hills steeper than 15%, I usually stand and use a slower cadence and a slower speed than if I'm seated. I only stand for brief sections and prefer to stay seated.
Riding between the Sacramento Valley and the Pacific Ocean with my wife many decades ago is how I learned to love triples. No matter how slowly she wanted to climb over the hills between Sonoma, Napa and the Central valley, I could always find a gear low enough to spin at her pace. Maybe you just need a wider gear range so you can spin at slower speeds with your slow-climbing friends.
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Old 04-01-17, 01:11 AM
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I don't get hung up on the speed showing on the Garmin when slugging up long grades. It's depressing. I just know that my global average VAM is 745 and I'm pretty okay with that. My 7,175ft climb up GMR and Baldy was a 784 VAM, and my ~5,000ft^ rides fall in the 760-780 VAM range. Short climbs can get into the 1,000 VAM range, but I've never seen a score higher that isn't a Strava segment error (I have one segment that's like a 7,000 VAM score.)

Looking only at a 740 VAM makes a 22 mile climb with 4,700 vertical feet look pretty good when I finish it in just over two hours. But as it's happening, watching that single-digit speed on the way up is not encouraging.
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Old 04-01-17, 04:25 AM
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Climbing speed
Originally Posted by FBinNY View Post
…I divide climbs into various groups based on grade and length. One of them I call bite size, and I use it to refer to those climbs of short, often steep length, that one attacks and tops in a sprint like effort before crapping out.

The thing about bite size hills is that the best way to take them is with an attack. That means that I'll often climb at close to or even faster than my normal cruising speed.

OTOH - hills longer than bite size, namely those I'll be climbing for more than three minute or so, are a different story, and there's no way I can sustain even 10mph on a 6% grade for 5 minutes.
Even in my earliest days of cycling, while still riding a Schwinn Suburban I found in rolling hills that it was efficient to use my momentum and pedal hard to ascend the next hill. I adopted a get-it-over-with attitude towards all such “bite-sized hills.”


Now as a cycle-commuter for fitness I use such bite-sized hills for interval training. On my urban, rolling route it's hard to find a suitable segment without traffic lights to do defined, regularly phased. non-stop intervals with the hard phase uphill, and the easy phase downhill. So I do a hard interval whenever I encounter a bite-sized hill.

I have about four on my usual 14 mile commute, and all are nicely ascended at my increased pace in about two minutes. Such hills, previously approached with some dread, are now anticipated.


I use Relative Perceived Exertion as my monitor.
Originally Posted by Jim from Boston View Post
The RPE scale ranges from 6 to 17, with descriptions of the intensity. Multiply the RPE by 10 is the approximate heart rate. Jim's scale is the equivalent on a 0 to 100 scale, easier to think about…

My basic training is to ride at my RPE of 50% for six miles to warm up, then cruise at an RPE of 60%, and do intervals (on hills) at 70% [described as “hard”; 60% is “somewhat hard," and 80% is “very hard (lactate threshold; breakpoint between hard but steady breathing and labored with gasping)"].

I try to change gears to maintain a cadence of about 85-90 rpm on flats and rolling hills, and about 60 to 80 rpm on harder hills, to maintain my RPE. Shift up to higher gears as the cadence rises, and shift down as the RPE increases.
One thing I have learned about doing intervals on hills is to respect them, and not stay in too high a gear that I slow down to an unstable low speed. I once popped my chain off and wedged it between the chainring and chainstay doing that to stay upright.

BTW, I once read a thread on Bike Forums that asked about the converse side of climbing hills, namely, “Oh No! i just realized that i coast too much.”
Originally Posted by CJC View Post
So todays ride, for some reason i realized i coast way too much. I have no logical reason why?...

i have no clue what my cadence is but assume its 60rpm so maybe i am running to high a gear and should shift down and spin faster and longer? i will have to wait for my garmin to figure out the cadence.

any opinions and tips to break this habit?
Originally Posted by CraigB View Post
Coasting is not allowed among those who believe rides should be “sufferfests.”
Originally Posted by sstorkel View Post
It's not coasting.... it's interval training!
Originally Posted by zencalm View Post
Wait! What's the problem with coasting? I think of it as my reward for pedaling long and hard. Plus, it's fun. I never realized it could be a problem.....
Originally Posted by Jim from Boston View Post
I often think the same thing when I find myself coasting, and as also posted above, using a cadence meter is a good motivator to keep pedaling. Furthermore if you track your average speed for a ride, pedaling downhill is an easy way to bump up the average.

As far as feeling "guilty" about coasting, I think to myself that I did have to pedal up the hill to be able to coast down, and maybe the respite is good for recovery. A saying of Ronald Reagan from the 1980 presidential campaign strangely comes to mind as I coast. RR said, "I paid for this microphone, Mr. Breen."

I paid for this hill.

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Old 04-01-17, 05:21 AM
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Originally Posted by FBinNY View Post
Just curious ----- Which Lancaster?

I ask because i know of two (of probably many). One is in an area of rolling terrain, with no real mountains, but a great mix of hills of various grades. The other is in the middle of a plain, but surrounded by some decent climbs (well more than an overpass).
Lancaster GB. There's only one; rolling terrain sounds about right. There are excellent climbs but I prefer those around Windermere and Ambleside.
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Old 04-01-17, 10:24 AM
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Originally Posted by peterws View Post
Lancaster GB. There's only one; rolling terrain sounds about right. There are excellent climbs but I prefer those around Windermere and Ambleside.
That's one of the problems of communication via Internet --------- no accents.

Without the clue that hearing you would have provided, I limited my thinking to the US. The two I had in mind are in Pennsylvania and California.
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Old 04-01-17, 10:39 AM
  #25  
berner
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I'm the slowest and the oldest rider in our club. But thanks to advice I got from Barrettsvc some years ago, I'm turning a triple where the small chain ring is a 26T and the biggest cog in back is a 30T. This produces gear inches of 22 or 23. With this setup I can grind up anything in my area which typically does not run more than 8% for a mile or so. Now and then, about one or twice a year, my asthma subsides and I'm faster than usual. At those times I love to blast over short rollers while standing and barely losing any speed.

On one occasion, several years ago, I was on a club ride with many short rollers of 6% to 8%, and riding with another club member. I was having a good day, standing to climb while he slowly would grind up the slope. At the top of the hills, I would stop to wait for my riding partner, and wait then wait some more. I was surprised to be ahead by several minutes on such short hills of only several hundred yards. This made me realize how a climbing pro could put so much time on the rest of the peloton. I also realized that some ability to climb with minimal pain is important. There are not that many hills in coastal Rhode Island and Massachusetts but there are some. I go out of my way to ride them and so slowly get stronger. I'm also getting older, but sadly, faster than I'm getting stronger.
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