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Itís taken a while, but I now enjoy climbing steeper hills.

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Itís taken a while, but I now enjoy climbing steeper hills.

Old 05-16-12, 08:44 AM
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Itís taken a while, but I now enjoy climbing steeper hills.

It’s taken a while, but I now enjoy climbing steeper hills.

I’m the wrong demographic to be riding a bike up steeper hills. Being a 55 year old male who is still about 20 pounds overweight is not going to allow any easy or fast climbing of steeper hills. It really is a matter of strength to weight.
But, I like a good challenge. I’ve managed to lose weight and increase my cycling power during the last few years. I’ve also adjusted several factors that have made climbing easier;

1. Spinning is easier than mashing. Mashing the pedals at a slow cadence requires more energy and is less efficient than spinning at a higher cadence. Having a wide range drivetrain with a chain-wheel to cog ratio that is 1:1 or better really helps. I’ll take a triple crank-set, please.

2. A smooth cadence that produces power at all phases of the pedal stroke improves performance. Good shoes and clip-less pedals along with good technique matters. Again, staying seated and spinning is easier than standing and mashing. I will sometimes stand and mash, but I save that for the steepest part of the climb.

3. A stiff bike is better than a bike with excess flex between the bottom bracket and the contact patch of the tire. Steel might be real, but is it stiff enough for a heavy cyclist with good power output? Are the wheels stiff enough? Some aren’t.

4. Finally, the brain must be the master. It’s too easy to psych yourself out and allow the suffering to overcome the nervous system. Knowing that I can climb the hill and doing it is key. Climb hills often and it becomes routine. Controlling the pace helps, too.
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Old 05-16-12, 10:26 AM
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Like you, I'm the wrong demographic but by a wide margin. Also like you I find satisfaction in seeing progress in my climbing even though I'm bad at it. My strategy is to to ride as many hills as frequently as possible in my mainly flat region. Tactically, I spin on longer hills but really enjoy standing and attacking short hills. It seems on these short hills that speed barely drops at all.

I pay special attention to smooth pedaling so as not to waste energy of which I have none to spare. I have found that if a slope becomes slightly less steep for a short distance, I can actually recover a bit by maintaining the same speed rather than speeding up as might be expected. As the steeper slope resumes, I'm slightly better able to deal with it. Over all, I climb better now than a year ago.

As an asthmatic, I also don't have any oxygen to spare either so I have learned to breath carefully and with deliberation, just as a high altitude alpinist or musician would, inhaling deeply and exhaling fully.

Finally, on the technology front, on your recommendation, a 26T chainring on a triple and a 30T cog in the back, will get me up anything I'm likely to encounter in these parts, even loaded with 25 pounds of touring gear.
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Old 05-16-12, 10:40 AM
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Excellent! If riding for fitness, I think that one should learn to embrace tough hills, even at our age (you're 5 yrs older than I). The more you do them consistently, the less it hurts (physically and mentally). Make them part of your normal fitness rides if you can; do more and more climbing standing up out of the saddle - over time, watch your fitness really improve (cardio, legs, lungs) due to the enormous amout of work. Maybe even watch a couple of pounds melt away. In time, that hill or two, or three, that always gave you problems is now a welcomed challenge. At our age, spinning up a hill is the way to go; however, gradually, if your knees can take it, use whatever gears you can and still maintain an optimal cadence. Stiff bike good! You should have no problem with a steel frame being stiff enough, and being a little heavier person than you like. Yes, the mental aspect of doing tough climbs is very much real; but, with consistent time in the saddle on the hills, it can be overcome. Hill are painful, relatively speaking. You can train yourself to tolerate the pain. Facing hills is part of riding the bike, if you are really interested in fitness, and if you are healthy enough to take it. I'm glad that you are challenging yourself. Good Luck!!
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Old 05-16-12, 10:52 AM
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Hills hurt--but in a good way. Just take a break from them occasionally and just do some slopes.
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Old 05-16-12, 11:07 AM
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I learned very early in my cycling obsession that until I learned to accept the certainty of climbing hills, I was going to be very limited in where I could ride and how much I would enjoy it. I am a faster climber than I once was, but still not fast. But the most important thing is that I have learned to climb without blowing up, at least not as quickly.
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Old 05-16-12, 11:12 AM
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Originally Posted by berner
Like you, I'm the wrong demographic but by a wide margin. Also like you I find satisfaction in seeing progress in my climbing even though I'm bad at it. My strategy is to to ride as many hills as frequently as possible in my mainly flat region. Tactically, I spin on longer hills but really enjoy standing and attacking short hills. It seems on these short hills that speed barely drops at all.

I pay special attention to smooth pedaling so as not to waste energy of which I have none to spare. I have found that if a slope becomes slightly less steep for a short distance, I can actually recover a bit by maintaining the same speed rather than speeding up as might be expected. As the steeper slope resumes, I'm slightly better able to deal with it. Over all, I climb better now than a year ago.

As an asthmatic, I also don't have any oxygen to spare either so I have learned to breath carefully and with deliberation, just as a high altitude alpinist or musician would, inhaling deeply and exhaling fully.

Finally, on the technology front, on your recommendation, a 26T chainring on a triple and a 30T cog in the back, will get me up anything I'm likely to encounter in these parts, even loaded with 25 pounds of touring gear.
Hi Berner,

I like your approach to the challenge. I also need to control my breathing, or I run the risk of hyperventilating. Attacking rolling hills is great fun and something I do when my fitness base is strong.

Cheers,

Michael
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Old 05-16-12, 11:15 AM
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Originally Posted by WC89
Excellent! If riding for fitness, I think that one should learn to embrace tough hills, even at our age (you're 5 yrs older than I). The more you do them consistently, the less it hurts (physically and mentally). Make them part of your normal fitness rides if you can; do more and more climbing standing up out of the saddle - over time, watch your fitness really improve (cardio, legs, lungs) due to the enormous amout of work. Maybe even watch a couple of pounds melt away. In time, that hill or two, or three, that always gave you problems is now a welcomed challenge. At our age, spinning up a hill is the way to go; however, gradually, if your knees can take it, use whatever gears you can and still maintain an optimal cadence. Stiff bike good! You should have no problem with a steel frame being stiff enough, and being a little heavier person than you like. Yes, the mental aspect of doing tough climbs is very much real; but, with consistent time in the saddle on the hills, it can be overcome. Hill are painful, relatively speaking. You can train yourself to tolerate the pain. Facing hills is part of riding the bike, if you are really interested in fitness, and if you are healthy enough to take it. I'm glad that you are challenging yourself. Good Luck!!
Hi WC,

For now climbing is a greater challenge than speed or endurance.

"It's a little like wrestling a gorilla. You don't quit when you're tired you quit when the gorilla is tired". ~ Robert Strauss

Cheers,

Michael
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Old 05-16-12, 11:18 AM
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Originally Posted by stapfam
Hills hurt--but in a good way. Just take a break from them occasionally and just do some slopes.
So Stepfam,

Where is the post that covers your Alpine climbing?

Michael
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Old 05-16-12, 11:31 AM
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Originally Posted by BluesDawg
I learned very early in my cycling obsession that until I learned to accept the certainty of climbing hills, I was going to be very limited in where I could ride and how much I would enjoy it. I am a faster climber than I once was, but still not fast. But the most important thing is that I have learned to climb without blowing up, at least not as quickly.
In Chicago a person can ride a single speed and never know what a hill is! I'm glad I started doing hilly century rides. Now hills are an obsession.

Michael
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When I ride my bike I feel free and happy and strong. I'm liberated from the usual nonsense of day to day life. Solid, dependable, silent, my bike is my horse, my fighter jet, my island, my friend. Together we will conquer that hill and thereafter the world.
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Old 05-16-12, 11:42 AM
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I also find myself enjoying the challenge of hills. I have a triple and a couple of years ago I changed the cassette to a 13-30 which gives me a 1:1 ratio on the low end. It really really makes a difference when it gets steep. It also allows me to take a "breather" on moderate slopes or for the end of a century when the legs are spent.

Between gearing, pedaling technique, and better fitness, I now look forward to hills that used to really crush me.

I'll take hill country over the flatlands any day.

John
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Old 05-16-12, 11:57 AM
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Originally Posted by Barrettscv
In Chicago a person can ride a single speed and never know what a hill is! I'm glad I started doing hilly century rides. Now hills are an obsession.

Michael
Yeah. I occasionally get to ride around Hickory Hills. Haven't found any hills there yet . I'm sure they named the place as some kind of joke.
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Old 05-16-12, 12:09 PM
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After you're able to actually get up a climb it then becomes more of a mental challenge each time. Sure it might hurt some but it is what's happening in your head that in the end determines how you feel about it.
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Old 05-16-12, 12:13 PM
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Originally Posted by Barrettscv
So Stepfam,

Where is the post that covers your Alpine climbing?

Michael
That's Mountain and is a different challenge altogether. For me one mountain at a time is enough- but hills and If you do one- Then more will follow. And sounds like you are like me- I can do flat rides but we have hills. What is a ride without at least one good hill? Boring.
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Old 05-16-12, 12:15 PM
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Originally Posted by BikeWNC
After you're able to actually get up a climb it then becomes more of a mental challenge each time. Sure it might hurt some but it is what's happening in your head that in the end determines how you feel about it.
Yes, I'm noticing that. My heart rate used to spike as high at 177 bpm while climbing at a snails pace. Now I've doubled my pace on the same hill and my heart rate stays below 160 bpm. Conditioning and mental control are key.

I now just do the math while climbing. I know I can climb a certain slope at a certain speed. I hold that speed and ignore the urge to quit. If I'm suffering, I'll work on my pedal stroke and focus on making perfect circles.
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When I ride my bike I feel free and happy and strong. I'm liberated from the usual nonsense of day to day life. Solid, dependable, silent, my bike is my horse, my fighter jet, my island, my friend. Together we will conquer that hill and thereafter the world.

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Old 05-16-12, 12:40 PM
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Living in a very hilly area hills are a way of life. While I would prefer not to see so many of them, I take great satisfaction in a good 50 mile ride that leaves me exausted but satisfied.

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Old 05-16-12, 01:48 PM
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And the wind? A continuous hill that never stops, and we are blessed with those continuous hills daily. I buck against 10-15 mph regularly, and up to 25-35 at times. And don't give me the old saying that it will be a speedy ride on the return. It NEVER works out that way.

So, I gear down and just keep pedaling away. Like today.
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Old 05-16-12, 03:08 PM
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Good on you! I dont know who it was that coined the phrase, "hills are your friends" but they had a very serious outlook on hillclimbing.

Looks like you've learned a few things up the hill. My Technium is less flexy being aluminum and the low gear is better than my near-corncob Trek 460 racer.....but still, that 40-28 low gear gets tough at the top of these michigan hills.
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Old 05-16-12, 03:13 PM
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Originally Posted by DnvrFox
And the wind? A continuous hill that never stops, and we are blessed with those continuous hills daily. I buck against 10-15 mph regularly, and up to 25-35 at times. And don't give me the old saying that it will be a speedy ride on the return. It NEVER works out that way.

So, I gear down and just keep pedaling away. Like today.
Wind, that great never ending horizontal hill we all have to deal with.

And you feel it the next day. I've ridden many 20 mile rides that made me feel like I'd ridden a fast 30 the next morning. It's really deceiving at times. I just hit the drops, grab the small chainring on my 52/40 double and spin. There were times when I've felt like a jogger could have dropped me but I got home.
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Old 05-16-12, 04:14 PM
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I focused hard on climbing over the last 4 years. It just takes practice and mentally keeping the pedals turning.
I find for serious climbs an HRM is key. Pick your target HR and hold it, forget about your speed. When I did the Whiteface race last year I was passed by every rider in my starting wave at the first. I kept my heart rate in the target zone and after a few miles I started passing riders who were blowing up and burning out. I continued to pass riders all the way to the top (8 miles and 3500 feet). This year I am not racing, my focus is elsewhere but still climbing to stay strong.
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Old 05-16-12, 05:26 PM
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I'm in a similar demographic, 52 and 20 pounds overweight, and I've had to do too much mashing, with a low gear of 42-32. I love steep hills. My biggest problem has been I can improve conditioning and get up most hills, but some absurdly steep stretches still are beyond me, plus if I end up in just slightly worse condition because life causes me to take a little time off, the hills I could get up before OK really wear me out.

So finally, I'm at least going to at least go to your step one. I'm getting a triple with a 48-38-26 and a cassette with an 11-34. Starting next week, I just might be be spinning up some of those hills I used to mash up.
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Old 05-16-12, 06:19 PM
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Many great points in this thread that I can personally relate to. I'll just pick out a couple.

First, don't use age as an excuse. I don't, and I'm 56. Earlier this year I couldn't pedal more than about 5 revolutions out of the saddle on a steep climb. Now I don't count, I just keep going (of course we all have limits). One thing that's helped me is riding with a friend who loves to climb.

Today I climbed one particular hill of .8 miles that used to totally kick my butt. I mean, I used to slowly grind to the top in my very lowest gears and feel completely toasted when I got there. Today it seems that I just glided up, not even getting into my lowest gear (39x27). I crested the top, upshifted and just kept going.

A hint, that many or most of you may already know: I typically upshift twice before getting up out of the saddle, and then downshift twice when I sit back down. I can mash higher gears OTS, but can't do it for as long as I can sit and spin.
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Old 05-16-12, 06:50 PM
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Originally Posted by on the path
first, don't use age as an excuse. I don't, and i'm 56
56 - wow!!
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Old 05-16-12, 07:05 PM
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Originally Posted by DnvrFox
56 - wow!!
Be'in a little smug today aye Pops
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Old 05-16-12, 07:24 PM
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A coach once wrote that you will not become a good climber until you accept the fact it is going to hurt. If you climb a hill and it does not hurt, turn around and climb it again because you did something wrong. Once I accepted this coach's approach my climbing has improved greatly. Of course an upgrade in bicycles also helped, a lot.
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Old 05-16-12, 07:35 PM
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Originally Posted by cyclinfool
Be'in a little smug today aye Pops
I've got every right to be a bit smug!
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