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The FiftyPlus Hill Climbing Manual

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The FiftyPlus Hill Climbing Manual

Old 11-23-07, 01:40 PM
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CrossChain
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The FiftyPlus Hill Climbing Manual

A current thread discusses attitudes towards descending. Fine. But first, you gotta get up the darned thing before you can go down it at whatever speed.

How about ideas for whatever helps your climbing: training techniques, attitudes to foster, gearing and how to use it, strategies for long, sustained climbs or nasty steep little ones, how do you do rollers?, do you worry about weight?, prefer climbing in a group?, spin or grind?, try to keep a certain cadence?, breathing, position on bike...................................whatever others might find useful or interesting.
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Old 11-23-07, 02:01 PM
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Originally Posted by CrossChain View Post
A current thread discusses attitudes towards descending. Fine. But first, you gotta get up the darned thing before you can go down it at whatever speed.

How about ideas for whatever helps your climbing: training techniques, attitudes to foster, gearing and how to use it, strategies for long, sustained climbs or nasty steep little ones, how do you do rollers?, do you worry about weight?, prefer climbing in a group?, spin or grind?, try to keep a certain cadence?, breathing, position on bike...................................whatever others might find useful or interesting.
Leave the steep hills until you get the climbing technique but one bit of advice I always offer to new hill climbers is very basic. Approach the hill in a sensible comfortable gear and at a sensible speed. This will normally put you in your smallest front ring and possible a small gear on the back. As the climb gets harder- change down. harder still change down again, and again and again- till you run out of gears. Then when it gets harder still- Slow down. Works for me.
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Old 11-23-07, 02:19 PM
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I agree with Stapfam. I go with the little ring and a sensible pace whether long climb or short one. I usually stay seated. For rollers, I'll pick up some speed going down and use the momentum to help me up the other side. One of my normal routes has a 9.5 mile climb. On that one there's no use in pushing it. Stay sane and spin in the little ring.
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Old 11-23-07, 03:01 PM
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I'm a wimp, I have a triple and an 11-34 on my road bike. I'm slow but I get up there.
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Old 11-23-07, 03:30 PM
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another +1 for Stepfam-

Basically, you should be able to sit and climb - standing up is more for variety or really short bursts even for the racer types. I started racing as a Vet (somewhat an oxymoron-I was a novice Vet), the dialog was basically heroics like out of the saddle spurts weren't going to keep you in the pack. Some would mash a bit more, some would spin a bit more, but you worked to figure out what worked best for you, not ride like Bernard Hinault because you liked him

So, I'd say that if you have reasonable gearing on the bike for the terrain you normally ride, and in our age group that usually won't mean an 11-21 cluster and 54-39 rings, then it means specific workouts on those big climbs. Maybe ride easy out to the big hill, push a gear that keeps you in the HR that makes it aerobic, progressing slowly to extend how far up you go, gym work (with someone knowledgeable about age and muscles used for climbing) if that is your wont.
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Old 11-23-07, 03:39 PM
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Since technique has been discussed. I will speak on attitude.

Relax. Hills are great times to let your mind wander a little because you are not going quite as fast, often the hill will be climbed before you know it.
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Old 11-23-07, 03:40 PM
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I think that it depends on who you are.

For people of questionable fitness who have no cycling background here's my advice.

1. Don't wear yourself trying to take a run at the hill.
2. Put your bike into it's lowest gear at the base of the hill.
3. Pedal as slowly as you can without falling over.
4. Bite off the hill a bit at a time and don't fret over how long it takes.

Your body can process oxygen only so quickly. This technique will stretch out the effort and the oxygen consumption.
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Old 11-23-07, 03:41 PM
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Attack the short hills. Big ring with all the speed you can get. Stand if you need, but do not slow down.
Gear down quickly and spin the long hills. Your choice as to which is long and which is short.
How to get up the long steep hills is the real question. Equipment is so important, meaning the gears must be correct for you. If you cannot get up some hills on your normal route, then change your gears so that you can stay vertical all the way up the hill.

I am starting to really understand the importance of practice on the hills. Practice on a tough steep hill WILL MAKE a difference. I did not think practice would make that much differnece, but since I have now started taking days for just practicing hills I am getting better. Go up that tough hill over and over. It works.
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Old 11-23-07, 04:08 PM
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There's too much crap dumped on those who have climbing gears. My bottom gear is a 26 at the front and a 32 at the rear. Yes, that's on a road bike, not a mountain bike. Sure, I climb at 9km/hr, but the operative word is 'climb'. There's no pleasure at getting to the top as an exhausted heap of sweating blubber.

Long, steep hills? I get onto the granny at the bottom, sit up and spin. I get my cadence up early and keep it there ... as long as possible. Do enough climbing and you'll reach the point where your biggest issue will be boredom (yes, I stopped half way up a hill last week because I got bored ) I change up when I feel I can and don't hesitate to drop back down.

Hills are just part of the ride, nothing more, but just as you wouldn't choose a carbon fibre racing bike to tackle a rock strewn bush track, you have to be geared correctly. If you're struggling on your local hills, fit the right gears - the bike should work FOR you , not YOU for the bike/image.

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Old 11-23-07, 04:16 PM
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It really doesn't matter how you get to the top of a climb-just get there anyway you can. Of course some folks seem to favor sitting in the saddle versus standing and mashing but if one works better for you than the other go for it.

Having said that, weight makes a huge difference on hills. LOSE body weight and find ways to lighten your ride (wheels, tires, what you carry, etc).

Find a cadence that you're comfortable with and stay with it. For most folks using easier gears and spinning seems to work best.

For longer climbs it is NOT a sprint. Keep your heart rate manageable by either using easier gears or lowering your cadence.....or a combination of both. If you start a climb with an already high heart rate........good luck. It ain't gonna come back down.

Take long, controlled deep breaths-hold briefly and exhale.

Stay patient and do whatever it takes to keep the bike going forward......as long as the bike is going forward you're doing good.

If a hill gets too steep for you, weave back and forth and "tack" your way up for a bit.

On hairpins, while a little longer, follow the outside of the curve rather than directly up the inside........usually it can be a little less steep.

When you get to the top, have a small moment of celebration for a terrific job!!!
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Old 11-23-07, 04:22 PM
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I like to do various things on hills, all with the mind to be versatile.

I generally start out climbing in the highest gear I can maintain. That way too, you can stand on it for the sudden slightly steeper parts.

If I want to practice staying seated on long climbs, I just find a comfortable gear to spin and still keep up a fair pace. Balancing output with the breathing and staying aerobic.

Still other times, I try to stay standing as long as possible.

Another thing I love is finding some climbers better than myself and trying to hang in as long as possible, using them to better your condition.

Most of all, you must not have a negative attitude towards hills. If you start out thinking "oh no, a hill" or "it's going to be hard" or "I hate hills", that will defeat your climbing. Rather, you should attack the hill yelling "remember Pantani" (Marco Pantani a master TDF climber)

And, I'm trying to be as thin as Pantani...LOL

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Old 11-23-07, 04:29 PM
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Here's a different spin on attitude: You can be a cool 50+ like me and do the climbing on a fixed gear.
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Old 11-23-07, 04:31 PM
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I have a HRM that beeps when I go out of zone. On monster climbs I ride until it beeps and then I stop. When it starts beeping again (because I dropped under the zone) I start riding again.
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Old 11-23-07, 04:35 PM
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Jppe made a point. The "Best" hillclimbers seem to be the lighter riders. Not as much excess weight to carry up but bear in mind that a heavier rider will normally have stronger legs aswell so Just because you may be heavy- do not think you cannot ride hills. A light bike helps and so does gearing but you do adjust to your bike and gearing you have. My Giant is set up for hill climbing with a triple and a 28 rear sprocket- giving me a low gear of 30/28. Boreas is a lighter bike and has gearing of 34/27. When on the Giant I use the lowest gear. Boreas does not have that low gear but it still makes the same hills. Perhaps a bit faster due to the gearing but also not using a great deal of extra effort.

What you have to do is attempt the hills. Don't go out and do a 15%er as your first one- but there must be some gentle 8% slopes in your area. Don't be worried or scared of them. SKT has proved that- He has a problem with a heart rate that will run away if he does not control it- but his bigger problem is that he lives in a hilly area. Every ride he does has some big hills. Hasn't stopped him and even he has to admit that although he has to take care- He is doing hills now that a year ago he had trouble walking.

So if you want to climb hills- Stupid I know as who wants to climb hills- You have to practice them. Doesn't take long before Even Mountains are within your reach.
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Old 11-23-07, 05:42 PM
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stapfam's post reminded me of this.

Leaving the town of Sausalito towards San Francisco, there is a fairly steep but short climb. I was following this group of 4 pretty strong riders, all the way from Mill Valley, one fellow was built like a Olympic candidate, huge broad shoulders tapering to a small waist and powerful looking legs, quads and calf muscles well defined, complete with a body suit. He was holding his own good on the flats and I thought, uh oh, maybe better leave this guy alone..LOL

Well, as soon as we hit the hills, even on the beginning less steep part, the big guy just immediately fadded out, as we all flew past him. I don't know if he blew up or what but by the time we got out of Sausalito, he was just a wee dot still at the beginning of the hill. It really surprised me.

Not making fun, just that by all appearances, he looked so powerful! bless him.
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Old 11-23-07, 06:10 PM
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More attitude: Any given hill can only be halfway up. The other half is down.
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Old 11-23-07, 06:41 PM
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When I rode more, climbing, of course, was easier. I remember that one thing helped as much as any other, and that was--don't look up to the top of the hill while climbing. Look only a little distance ahead, so you don't know how much further you have to get to the top. Your mind won't be as bothered by how far you have to go, as how far you have gone.
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Old 11-23-07, 06:45 PM
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No one has mentioned an electric motor assist!
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Old 11-23-07, 07:05 PM
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Originally Posted by BikeArkansas View Post
Attack the short hills. Big ring with all the speed you can get. Stand if you need, but do not slow down.
Gear down quickly and spin the long hills. Your choice as to which is long and which is short.
How to get up the long steep hills is the real question. Equipment is so important, meaning the gears must be correct for you. If you cannot get up some hills on your normal route, then change your gears so that you can stay vertical all the way up the hill.

I am starting to really understand the importance of practice on the hills. Practice on a tough steep hill WILL MAKE a difference. I did not think practice would make that much differnece, but since I have now started taking days for just practicing hills I am getting better. Go up that tough hill over and over. It works.
I totally agree. I attack short hills. If I am familiar with the hill I know how many coals too put on the fire - I'll stand and stay in high gears know that when I hit the top I have enough left to get up to top speed and the recover. On the 3 mile climb I regularly do for practice I will stay in the seat and spin. As it gets real steep I will sit way back on the saddle to get a little more out of my stroke. At this point I am typically in the lowest gear and low cadence - I have no place else to run but to just grind it out. At this point my speed is down to 5mph.

My goal next year is to be able to do this entire climb in the middle ring at a reasonable speed - I am a long way from this now.
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Old 11-23-07, 07:12 PM
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^^^ Riding a fixed gear or singlespeed forces you to mash on rolling terrain. It's a great training tool.
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Old 11-23-07, 07:31 PM
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A lot of good advice so far. Climbing can be a different experience depending on your fitness, your bike, your gearing, the steepness and length of the hill and the way your body works. Some people do better in very low gears, sitting and spinning at high rpm. Others like to power up hills at lower rpm, standing more often to use body weight to push the pedals down for a burst of speed.

One caution about the technique of shifting down-down-down as the climb gets harder, don't wait too long and let it get too hard or you will exhaust yourself long before the top of the hill. I like to start a long climb with a little speed and keep that speed up as long as I can do it without working too hard. As soon as it becomes hard to pedal, I work my way quickly down to the lowest gear I think I'll need on that hill. If I don't kill myself at the bottom of a hill, I am often able to shift up near the top and be in better shape to regain speed at the top.

Technique is important, but repetition is even more important. The more you climb hills, the better and faster you can climb hills.
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Old 11-23-07, 08:33 PM
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Originally Posted by europa View Post
Hills are just part of the ride, nothing more, but just as you wouldn't choose a carbon fibre racing bike to tackle a rock strewn bush track, you have to be geared correctly. If you're struggling on your local hills, fit the right gears - the bike should work FOR you , not YOU for the bike/image.

Richard
I don't have to be hit by a truck to recognize a profundity when I see one, and I think I just saw one!!!

Well said, Richard!
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Old 11-23-07, 08:42 PM
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Originally Posted by DnvrFox View Post
No one has mentioned an electric motor assist!
Wrong forum. You want Electric Bikes, two up from here.
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Old 11-23-07, 09:18 PM
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I'm SLOW up hills. Since I have recently moved, I am riding with a different group of folk (all 55+). In my old town, I was a middle-of-the-packer, back-middle on hills. Now, I'm struggling to keep up and on hills, fugedaboudit. These guys leave me in the dust. But riding three times a week with them, with 3500-4000 feet of climbing each time, BETTER get me in shape, or at least closer to it. Oh, and 10 less pounds would help, too. I decided last year that I wouldn't avoid hills. Now I just say, "thanks for waiting for me" and carry on.
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Old 11-23-07, 10:22 PM
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Originally Posted by Mojo Slim View Post
I'm SLOW up hills. Since I have recently moved, I am riding with a different group of folk (all 55+). In my old town, I was a middle-of-the-packer, back-middle on hills. Now, I'm struggling to keep up and on hills, fugedaboudit. These guys leave me in the dust. But riding three times a week with them, with 3500-4000 feet of climbing each time, BETTER get me in shape, or at least closer to it. Oh, and 10 less pounds would help, too. I decided last year that I wouldn't avoid hills. Now I just say, "thanks for waiting for me" and carry on.
10 pounds less on me and a new cassette on the bike have made a big difference in my hill climbing
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