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New Science of Climbing

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Old 05-11-18, 07:30 AM
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New Science of Climbing

Velonews published a detailed article on climbing: http://www.velonews.com/2018/05/from-the-mag/training-center-new-science-climbing_465398

My takeaway is to lose weight, maintain a smooth and steady cadence, and give up any hope of climbing faster than my smaller & fitter friends. Being a larger cyclist, my advantages consists of steady speed on flatter terrain and faster descents. But weight loss, power improvements, and a smooth & steady cadence can improve my effectiveness on climbs.

"To develop biomechanics like Sepp and be as economical with your aerobic engine as possible, focus on a steady, high cadence, and donít bog down. Try to stay seated as much as possible, even on steep gradients. Also, spend dedicated time tuning your pedal stroke with both neuromuscular and cadence work while climbing. (See ďSeppís Favorite WorkoutĒ below.)"
Read more at http://www.velonews.com/2018/05/from-the-mag/training-center-new-science-climbing_465398#rhoGl73oXjguWHLV.99

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Old 05-11-18, 08:37 AM
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While I appreciate the study's attention to detail (who doesn't love graphs?) I don't think it really tells us anything we don't already know. Going up hills, W/kg is king, so I'm never going to beat the 140-pounder, even when my FTP is well more than 100W over his. Take into consideration someone who is still 140lbs, but can still easily churn out 3W/kg-- he passes me up the hill like I'm standing still. Climbing is always going to suck for "us." One of the dudes I follow on Strava has a lifetime average of around 120ft/mi ascent-- his annual climbing totals will approach mine, but in 1/3 the mileage. He's also maybe 160lbs dressed out.

The key is to tire the little guys out on the flats.
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Old 05-11-18, 09:09 AM
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Iíve learned to ride my own ride on hilly terrain. As a larger rider, Iíll go off the front on the flats and descents at strategic times. Climbers hope that bigger riders never pull away off the front. Once a bigger rider drops a climber, the climbers are going to exhaust themselves without someone giving them a pull.

Some of the better climbers Iíve ridden with do everything possible to control the pace of the group on the flats. They then enjoy dropping bigger cyclists on the climbs. The articleís advice to stay seated, keep the cadence fast & smooth and ride your own pace is spot-on in my experience.

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Old 05-11-18, 09:12 AM
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At 220 lbs it is a little discouraging at times not only being passed but waifs likely doubling my 7-8 mph average up a 5-6% grade.

Thanks for the linkys.
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Old 05-11-18, 10:48 AM
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Originally Posted by DrIsotope View Post

The key is to tire the little guys out on the flats.
I don't ride flats.
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Old 05-11-18, 10:54 AM
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One thing I've found with recumbents, and with us larger riders in general, is that if you let the lightweights dictate the speed when on the flats, you automatically put yourself at a disadvantage for climbing. Take your advantages when you can; they don't think twice about dropping you on the climb!
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Old 05-11-18, 11:24 AM
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Originally Posted by DiabloScott View Post
I don't ride flats.
I still climb hills to the tune of 400k vertical a year, even though I'll never be particularly fast at it... so what is it that keeps the climber types off of flat ground? Just because you have no advantage there doesn't mean you should avoid it altogether. Even birds spend time walking around.

But then again, I don't think cycling is purely about climbing, which is a philosophy a lot of people do seem to have. I find that moving solo at 23-25mph on the flats is a whole lot more enjoyable than grunting up a grade at 8mph, even though the amount of work is about the same.

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Old 05-11-18, 11:35 AM
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Just go up the flipping hill.
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Old 05-11-18, 11:55 AM
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My only question is where does the "new" part come into the picture? Or where they referring to the new study?

Seems most of this is what I've felt and see tossed around here by others quite a bit.

Thanks for posting the article though. I frequent Velonews some, but would have missed it otherwise.
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Old 05-11-18, 11:56 AM
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Originally Posted by DrIsotope View Post
I still climb hills to the tune of 400k vertical a year, even though I'll never be particularly fast at it... so what is it that keeps the climber types off of flat ground? Just because you have no advantage there doesn't mean you should avoid it altogether.
I am not a climber type - I'm sub-clyde but hardly a waif. Climbing's just what I like to do. Cycling for me is about enjoyment and being social with other riders, not about having an advantage over them. Your annual vertical is almost twice mine. Chapeau. "I don't do flats" is just a joke at people who avoid hills because they're too hard.



Originally Posted by DrIsotope View Post
I find that moving solo at 23-25mph on the flats is a whole lot more enjoyable than grunting up a grade at 8mph, even though the amount of work is about the same.
- that's why they make chocolate and vanilla. As for articles like the OP posted, some of them have good tips for getting smoother and faster and stronger - this one didn't really speak to me.
I think I might have better climb times if I found my max sustainable heart rate and pegged it there for 45 minutes - but I don't think I'm going to try that.



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Old 05-11-18, 12:01 PM
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Originally Posted by Barrettscv View Post
My takeaway is to lose weight, maintain a smooth and steady cadence, and give up any hope of climbing faster than my smaller & fitter friends. Being a larger cyclist, my advantage of steady speed on flatter terrain and faster descents. But weight loss, power improvements, and a smooth & steady cadence can improve my effectiveness on climbs.
I didn't read the article, but I'd pretty much agree with that takeaway.
The other thing I'd say is to use the advantages you have. At 215lbs, I'm a pretty big guy compared to the guys I can keep up with... If we're on rollers or have a climb coming up at the bottom of a hill, I make a point to float to the front of the group so I'm hitting any hills before everyone else. The plan being that they might slow a little bit closer to my pace going up, or at worst I can hold onto the tail end of the group by the time we hit the top. I see guys braking to stay in the middle of the group going down hill leading up to a climb and I just say to myself "why". If I can coast down the hill 3-5mph faster than the group and hit the hill 20-30ft in front of them, so be it.
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Old 05-11-18, 01:31 PM
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Low weight, spin to win, stay seated...

None of this is new.


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Old 05-11-18, 04:28 PM
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So interesting how BF denizens aren't interested in new information or other ways of looking at or doing things. Everyone already knows and is perfect at everything. Ever since I joined here, 11 years ago, I've been preaching pedal technique but am always shouted down by the "it's-been-proven-you're-faster-if-you-just-hammer-the-downstroke" crowd. The linked article agrees precisely with the viewpoint on pedal stroke I developed 20 years ago just from my personal testing.

Interesting to me is that for the past few weeks as I train up for climbing season, I've been doing low cadence (Muscle Tension in CTS-speak) on one day, then FastPedal (115+) on another day. That's worked well for me. Looks like I should alternate those intervals during the same workout. That's an interesting idea.

I'm always working on getting smoother. It's not easy to put down smooth power in those wide cadence ranges. In tribute to the stompers, I do stomp on 'em for short periods when it a do or die situation. Definitely more power, but unsustainable in a long ride context.
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Old 05-11-18, 04:49 PM
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Man I wish I had a graph.
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Old 05-11-18, 05:18 PM
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A thing that I wish were shown by the graph is the direction of force with respect to the crankarm. The only useful application of force is at 90į to the crank. Pushing in a direction not normal to the crank is a complete waste of energy. It's what makes people bounce in the saddle at high rpms. This is what is meant by "pedaling circles," not pulling up on the backstroke as so many mistakenly believe. I've seen graphs from pedal based power meters which show direction of force, but I can't remember where.
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Old 05-11-18, 05:18 PM
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Originally Posted by Carbonfiberboy View Post
So interesting how BF denizens aren't interested in new information or other ways of looking at or doing things. Everyone already knows and is perfect at everything. Ever since I joined here, 11 years ago, I've been preaching pedal technique but am always shouted down by the "it's-been-proven-you're-faster-if-you-just-hammer-the-downstroke" crowd. The linked article agrees precisely with the viewpoint on pedal stroke I developed 20 years ago just from my personal testing.

Interesting to me is that for the past few weeks as I train up for climbing season, I've been doing low cadence (Muscle Tension in CTS-speak) on one day, then FastPedal (115+) on another day. That's worked well for me. Looks like I should alternate those intervals during the same workout. That's an interesting idea.

I'm always working on getting smoother. It's not easy to put down smooth power in those wide cadence ranges. In tribute to the stompers, I do stomp on 'em for short periods when it a do or die situation. Definitely more power, but unsustainable in a long ride context.
I also am interested in the data presented in the article and specifically the pedal stroke data. The application of a intensive and rational analysis of data often verifies common sense opinions. However, opinion without data and analysis is not equivalent to real science. This article crosses into factual information and that's an improvement over tribal opinions and know-how.

I'm considering advanced power meters that provide pedal stroke data. The new Garmin pedal sensors achieve this.
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Old 05-12-18, 06:58 AM
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Reinforcing the Old School basics of developing a supple high cadance pedaling style: " Keep a steady cadance and learn to spin".
Yep, the basics are the basics at any age in cycling.

The Inevitable Crunch: "Learn to Grind".
Here is where >50 YO connective tissue & knees need a reality check before blithely setting off to do " 45-50 RPM...while climbing" while seated.
Putting in a good bit of FG hours every season having to put out the grunt to get up and over is SOP but it takes the seat time, technique and adaptation to do so.
I'll keep working on a smooth powerful transition from seating to standing at ~60 RPM and leave the grinding to the young pros.

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Old 05-12-18, 09:08 AM
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Originally Posted by Carbonfiberboy View Post
So interesting how BF denizens aren't interested in new information or other ways of looking at or doing things. Everyone already knows and is perfect at everything. Ever since I joined here, 11 years ago, I've been preaching pedal technique but am always shouted down by the "it's-been-proven-you're-faster-if-you-just-hammer-the-downstroke" crowd. The linked article agrees precisely with the viewpoint on pedal stroke I developed 20 years ago just from my personal testing.

Interesting to me is that for the past few weeks as I train up for climbing season, I've been doing low cadence (Muscle Tension in CTS-speak) on one day, then FastPedal (115+) on another day. That's worked well for me. Looks like I should alternate those intervals during the same workout. That's an interesting idea.

I'm always working on getting smoother. It's not easy to put down smooth power in those wide cadence ranges. In tribute to the stompers, I do stomp on 'em for short periods when it a do or die situation. Definitely more power, but unsustainable in a long ride context.
Not a climbing context but in TTs my coach always tells me Iím faster at higher cadence. Weíll work on it and my typical cadence will improve and then it reverts back to my normal/preferred lower cadence when I stop specifically working on it.

I did just last week manage the first half of a 40K TT with an average cadence of 97 which was excellent for me. But the entire TT ave cadence was only 93, typical for me. I think I might be 100% slow twitch though, fast muscle contractions are completely not my thing, I find fast cadence very fatiguing. I also cannot produce an instant high spike of power, my legs just donít work that way.

I think what you posted about the direction of pedal force is interesting. My favorite thing is producing power on a long 1-2% downhill grade. Obviously that is high cadence stuff but downhill itís way easier for me even at the same power output. The feel is of continually topping off power rather than generating power. Qualitatively it feels so sweet to me. Lol it would be awesome if someone put together a 40K 1% downhill TT. 😁
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Old 05-12-18, 12:33 PM
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Originally Posted by Heathpack View Post


Not a climbing context but in TTs my coach always tells me I’m faster at higher cadence. We’ll work on it and my typical cadence will improve and then it reverts back to my normal/preferred lower cadence when I stop specifically working on it.

I did just last week manage the first half of a 40K TT with an average cadence of 97 which was excellent for me. But the entire TT ave cadence was only 93, typical for me. I think I might be 100% slow twitch though, fast muscle contractions are completely not my thing, I find fast cadence very fatiguing. I also cannot produce an instant high spike of power, my legs just don’t work that way.

I think what you posted about the direction of pedal force is interesting. My favorite thing is producing power on a long 1-2% downhill grade. Obviously that is high cadence stuff but downhill it’s way easier for me even at the same power output. The feel is of continually topping off power rather than generating power. Qualitatively it feels so sweet to me. Lol it would be awesome if someone put together a 40K 1% downhill TT. ��
So are you faster on the same course or conditions if you can hold that higher cadence?

Yeah, I used to say the same thing about TTs. I'm another one who kills 'em on the slight downhills. Even before we got our tandem, I rode my bike like a tandem. Keep it moving, use momentum, use cadence, never let up.

My observation is that high cadence is the territory of those talented with a high VO2max. Lance didn't start doing 115 cadence TTs until after he was juicing. Today we see those with really high VO2max taking advantage of that by climbing at high cadence and not tiring their legs so much while staying near the front of the selection. That way they can still attack when they need to.

One siphons of a certain amount of aerobic power just moving one's legs. Power to the road is the difference between what you'd use spinning a stupid low gear at that cadence and what you got left. High cadence training helps, but when everyone trains that way, one's right back to that equation. Those less talented (that would be me) wind up doing better by improving endurance at lower climbing cadences, like my optimal 78. Working on perfect pedaling is a road toward improved endurance. The real benefit there is that, unlike the popular high cadence thing, so few riders see the advantage in perfect pedaling that it becomes a competitive advantage for those who do. Who me, pedal imperfectly? Nonsense! You betcha, hammer the downstroke at that high cadence. See you somewhere near the top of that second pass.
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Old 05-12-18, 12:51 PM
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Originally Posted by Carbonfiberboy View Post
So are you faster on the same course or conditions if you can hold that higher cadence?
So he says.

Definitely the higher cadence at the same power is more aerobically taxing for me. The trick to my high cadence in my TT last week was that my power was pretty low in the first half of my TT. I can do these higher cadences at lower power without much problem, but if I need to crank it up a notch, it feels way easier for me to do that at a cadence that's 10 rpm lower.

Since high cadence pedaling taxes me differently than does lower cadence pedaling, one strategy I revert to in a TT is to alternate between the two. I may not be able to sustain the high cadence stuff aerobically but I feel much more lactate in my legs with the low cadence stuff. I have a vibe for how much long my legs can survive the low cadence pedaling. So I frequently pedal faster early in a TT and when I can't do that any more I drop the cadence and crank out some power. I will pay the price for doing that but hopefully not until I've crossed the finish line. A 20K TT is short enough that I can get away with lower cadence and higher power.
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Old 05-12-18, 01:41 PM
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Originally Posted by Heathpack View Post
So he says.

Definitely the higher cadence at the same power is more aerobically taxing for me. The trick to my high cadence in my TT last week was that my power was pretty low in the first half of my TT. I can do these higher cadences at lower power without much problem, but if I need to crank it up a notch, it feels way easier for me to do that at a cadence that's 10 rpm lower.

Since high cadence pedaling taxes me differently than does lower cadence pedaling, one strategy I revert to in a TT is to alternate between the two. I may not be able to sustain the high cadence stuff aerobically but I feel much more lactate in my legs with the low cadence stuff. I have a vibe for how much long my legs can survive the low cadence pedaling. So I frequently pedal faster early in a TT and when I can't do that any more I drop the cadence and crank out some power. I will pay the price for doing that but hopefully not until I've crossed the finish line. A 20K TT is short enough that I can get away with lower cadence and higher power.
Ah, so not. Coaches always wish we were more talented than we are! It's not a matter of trying harder. Seems like you could experiment and figure out what steady cadence gives you the most kJ/hr. Of course every inclination of the road will give a slightly different answer. My guess is that for you, cadence is no longer about trainability. You've been doing this so long, you're probably as trained for that as you're going to get.
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Old 05-12-18, 02:01 PM
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Originally Posted by Carbonfiberboy View Post
So interesting how BF denizens aren't interested in new information or other ways of looking at or doing things.
Well we are. Or at least I think I am. But as some others have said it seems to be the same stuff that many of us have felt. Abeit, maybe we are hushed about it because we don't like being bashed by the mashers either.

I thinking that in the simplified version this post summed it [the article] up......
Originally Posted by TimothyH View Post
Low weight, spin to win, stay seated...

None of this is new.
You are perhaps looking at certain nuances. IE, when and how often to vary training for muscle strength vs muscle speed. I'm not too sure how far this goes to be called a "study" though. I only read it once very quickly so far and have not had time to go look at it again.

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Old 05-12-18, 02:03 PM
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Originally Posted by Carbonfiberboy View Post
Ah, so not. Coaches always wish we were more talented than we are! It's not a matter of trying harder. Seems like you could experiment and figure out what steady cadence gives you the most kJ/hr. Of course every inclination of the road will give a slightly different answer. My guess is that for you, cadence is no longer about trainability. You've been doing this so long, you're probably as trained for that as you're going to get.
Well the context was trying to broaden the cadence range at which I can perform well in a TT, which is smart- delivering my legs to the second half of a 40k TT in better shape by spinning more in the first half is a worthwhile strategy. And understanding that explicitly rather than just groping your way through races without really appreciating what's going on...

He mostly is a believer in self selecting cadence. Just sent me some data once that supported the idea that faster cadence (within the range I was already self selecting) was faster for me. I probably related the sense that high cadence felt harder and he was trying to illustrate that it is legit worth doing.

I don't exactly remember. But cadence isn't a huge focus of my training. Sometimes I do big gear low cadence, sometimes I do high cadence/high power work. Ninety percent of the time though, I just ride whatever cadence it takes to get the job done.
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Old 05-12-18, 02:14 PM
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Originally Posted by Heathpack View Post


Well the context was trying to broaden the cadence range at which I can perform well in a TT, which is smart- delivering my legs to the second half of a 40k TT in better shape by spinning more in the first half is a worthwhile strategy. And understanding that explicitly rather than just groping your way through races without really appreciating what's going on...

He mostly is a believer in self selecting cadence. Just sent me some data once that supported the idea that faster cadence (within the range I was already self selecting) was faster for me. I probably related the sense that high cadence felt harder and he was trying to illustrate that it is legit worth doing.

I don't exactly remember. But cadence isn't a huge focus of my training. Sometimes I do big gear low cadence, sometimes I do high cadence/high power work. Ninety percent of the time though, I just ride whatever cadence it takes to get the job done.
I need to do more high cadence, high power work. Reminders are good.
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Old 05-12-18, 09:08 PM
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Shimagnolo
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I thought that photo at the top of the article looked familiar!
Note the house up on the hill in the distance: https://www.google.com/maps/@40.0046...7i13312!8i6656

I've done all the rides mentioned in the article.
Magnolia is a killer.
It was the first ride I ever gave up on, and turned around.
Then a year later I went back and conquered it, (on a bike with lower gears).
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