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Heels down going uphill

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Heels down going uphill

Old 01-19-11, 09:41 PM
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pgjackson
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Heels down going uphill

So my buddy who is an avid rider told me a secret. He said when pedaling uphill to try to keep the heels down. Tried it and it works! I was blasting up hills with much less effort.

What other secrets out there do I need to be aware of?
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Old 01-19-11, 11:51 PM
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the most helpful thing ive found is to relax when things get tough. tensing up on climbs and thinking about how difficult it is wastes energy and only makes things more difficult. that and htfu
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Old 01-20-11, 12:05 AM
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For me, I tend to pedal as if "I'm walking in flippers," when attempting to produce low cadence wattage. If you're not built like a climber, staying seated may help as well. Standing makes me go lactic faster. Drink more and eat more while climbing....I suppose what I'm trying to get at is; attack those hills over and over again. Try dumb things, see what feels better, what makes you go faster. Have fun on your bike.
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Old 01-20-11, 12:30 AM
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When I'm on a long grueling climb, I relax my upper body in areas not pertinent to stability. A loose grip on the bar, slight bend in the elbows and relaxed arms and upper back goes a long way. When I am alternating between sitting and standing, I try not to make any jerky/sudden movements. Also, I find that I can maintain a slightly harder gear more efficiently than to trying to grind a low gear. Even on fairly steep hills I try to maintain a slightly higher speed by spinning harder, rather than trying to spin unnecessarily fast which, for me, wastes more energy. I also try not to hold my breath.
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Old 01-20-11, 12:33 AM
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Originally Posted by pgjackson View Post
So my buddy who is an avid rider told me a secret. He said when pedaling uphill to try to keep the heels down. Tried it and it works! I was blasting up hills with much less effort.

What other secrets out there do I need to be aware of?
"Heels Down" is something that the team managers used to/still remind the Tour riders to do when climbing.

Do you change your position on the seat, too? Like, moving back so that you are tending to push forwards (very slightly) in the pedal stroke.
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Old 01-20-11, 12:33 AM
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Putting the heel forcefully down while climbing up short steep sections is a method I often use while on the mountain bike. Your achilles tendon's natural reaction to being fully stretched like that is to spring back, thus giving a little more "oomf" on the upstroke. Take it where you can get it.

Also, as far as breathing goes when climbing on the road bike for me - getting old air out is far more important than taking in new air. Exhales for me when climbing are much longer than inhales, probably 2seconds and some change or something weird on the exhale. If you empty your lungs of that carbon dioxide, it's your body's natural reaction to take in more air automatically. Thus, you spend less time taking in less air.
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Old 01-20-11, 12:57 AM
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Originally Posted by DRietz View Post
Also, as far as breathing goes when climbing on the road bike for me - getting old air out is far more important than taking in new air. Exhales for me when climbing are much longer than inhales, probably 2seconds and some change or something weird on the exhale. If you empty your lungs of that carbon dioxide, it's your body's natural reaction to take in more air automatically. Thus, you spend less time taking in less air.
This is interesting. I'm going to have to pay attention to this on my ride tomorrow. I'm pretty sure that, for me, inhalation is the greater priority. I find that I have have to really inhale deep to get enough oxygen. However, I have had lots of sinus issues, including chronic sinusitis. I had a septoplasty and a non-cosmetic rhinoplasty, but it didn't cure all my problems.
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Old 01-20-11, 01:43 AM
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Mix it up on longer climbs. Seated and standing. Of course, gear up standing, gear down sitting.
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Old 01-20-11, 02:30 AM
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Originally Posted by pgjackson View Post
So my buddy who is an avid rider told me a secret. He said when pedaling uphill to try to keep the heels down. Tried it and it works! I was blasting up hills with what felt like much less effort.
FTFY

Sorry to burst your bubble, but there's no secret hidden magical power that you've somehow tapped by dropping your heels. You have to generate so much energy to get you and your bike up a hill at a certain speed, whether you drop your heels or not doesn't change that. It's all placebo effect.

When we go bowling and people are struggling I tell them to keep their left hand up in the air, like a rodeo cowboy does. I tell them it helps their balance, it doesn't. It just gets their mind off of their approach and throw so they relax a little more and their approach and throw is more relaxed and natural. To carry this analogy over, instead of focusing on how hard the hill is you are focusing on your new found magical technique. This minimizes the perceived pain and discomfort from climbing because you're not dwelling on it.

You have your own power threshold, I highly doubt that 'trying to keep your heels down' changes that.
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Old 01-20-11, 05:28 AM
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You have to generate so much energy to get you and your bike up a hill at a certain speed, whether you drop your heels or not doesn't change that. It's all placebo effect.
Maybe not? (Yes, this is a question.)

It could also be that dropping your heels causes you to use/recruit different muscles that produce more power. The only way the OP could find out for sure would be by using a power meter and hitting that hill several times. I don't think he has a power meter.

It might well be a placebo, but then again it might work for real.
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Old 01-20-11, 07:16 AM
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watch out for this
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Old 01-20-11, 07:38 AM
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Originally Posted by revchuck View Post
It could also be that dropping your heels causes you to use/recruit different muscles that produce more power.
^^^This.
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Old 01-20-11, 07:46 AM
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Originally Posted by pgjackson View Post
What other secrets out there do I need to be aware of?
Not a secret, but perhaps you might appreciate these "visualization techniques" that I sometimes employ when climbing while seated:

- imagine someone is pushing you gently up the hill hith their hand firmly against the small of your back. Now tense those lower back muscles slightly, as if to provide resistance against this imaginary hand. See if that doesn't cause you to "blast up hills with much less effort". (Thank you Paul Levine!)

- imagine there's a tow rope connected to your lower back muscles and running through your navel straight up to the top of the hill, and it's pulling you.

- (this one goes hand in hand with the "drop your heel" stuff) instead of pedaling in circles, pedal in "footballs" with the long axis of the football perpendicular to the downtube of your frame.

That's all I've got. Oh wait, one more:

- htfu
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Old 01-20-11, 08:25 AM
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Gotta love the power of the placebo effect.

There is NO way that 'heels down' will give you some magical power boost that's significant. It may help you shift briefly to other muscles, but it will likely yield no statistically significant time decrease if you actually tested it over and over again.

The laws of physics are against you here.

Having climbed many, many hills and having timed my climbs on lots of them, on a TT bike, road bike, standing, sitting, triple gearing, standard gearing, the one take away message is - be in better shape to go faster. All the rest is BS, just as physics predicts.

You don't even have to ride big hills to get better at them - just put out lots of watts during training, either on the flats or the trainer.
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Old 01-20-11, 09:25 AM
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As far as I recall, "heels down" is a psychological trick used by some cyclists to counteract the habit of inadvertently lifting the heel too much during parts of the pedal stroke. It helps some cyclists achieve better form, and is useless to others. Nothing secret about it, nothing magical about it. It worked for me, along with lowering my seat a tad because my coach felt that was what inspired me to pick up the habit in the first place.


Originally Posted by hhnngg1 View Post
Having climbed many, many hills and having timed my climbs on lots of them, on a TT bike, road bike, standing, sitting, triple gearing, standard gearing, the one take away message is - be in better shape to go faster. All the rest is BS, just as physics predicts.
I think you're oversimplifying it here. Physics is not as simple as saying that a set number of watts is required to move a set weight up a set incline. Efficiency plays a part here, and getting an efficient pedal stroke can help you make an overall increase in speed.

I'm not saying this heels down thing is one such case, but if it was as simple as strength-to-weight, they'd just weigh and trainer test riders to declare the winner, and drag races would be won on the dyno.
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Old 01-20-11, 09:30 AM
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Originally Posted by rat fink View Post
This is interesting. I'm going to have to pay attention to this on my ride tomorrow. I'm pretty sure that, for me, inhalation is the greater priority. I find that I have have to really inhale deep to get enough oxygen. However, I have had lots of sinus issues, including chronic sinusitis. I had a septoplasty and a non-cosmetic rhinoplasty, but it didn't cure all my problems.
It's something that definitely helps me. I'm still taking in air, but am exhaling for twice the amount of time as I am inhaling.

I'm unsure if it works for everyone, or if there's a real tangible benefit, but I feel a definite ease when I do it.
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Old 01-20-11, 09:32 AM
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Placebo or not it is always nice to learn a new pedaling technique. When it comes to climbing - all riders need to learn how to rotate muscles. Muscle rotation can help any rider have a smoother pedal stroke. Smooth pedaling means effeciency. Better riding is all about being efficient. While climbing I often add a little more anckle movement (anckleing) and out of the saddle pedaling technique (relaxed upper body with little or no grip on the handlebars - hands just resting on the hoods or drops). These techniques are not limited to just hill climbs. Everybody has different abilities and this will effect how they climb. But knowing different techniques and using these techniques will help get you up and over the hills.
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Old 01-20-11, 10:42 AM
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I like to "dress left" for climbing and "dress right" for descending. The transition can be tricky.
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Old 01-20-11, 10:45 AM
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Originally Posted by Looigi View Post
I like to "dress left" for climbing and "dress right" for descending. The transition can be tricky.
But it is very important for power transfer.
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Old 01-20-11, 11:26 AM
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All I know is that when a fellow cyclist advised me to keep my heels down, I tried it and found it harder to go up hills. I agree that it's probably just in your head.
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Old 01-20-11, 11:45 AM
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the breathing trick does help to exhale all the air you can out and it will force you to breath in a deeper breath. i do lower my heels some when climbing (compared to when im spinnig in the flats) as well as shifting back in the saddle. i spend half my time standing and half seatted wheen on long climbs.
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Old 01-20-11, 11:51 AM
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Originally Posted by Looigi View Post
I like to "dress left" for climbing and "dress right" for descending. The transition can be tricky.
Great, now everyone knows. Everyone will be climbing faster than us now the cat's out of the bag.
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Old 01-20-11, 12:46 PM
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It might be placebo...but it worked for me. I've only been riding for about 4 months, so pretty much everything is new to me. I noticed less lactic acid build up and I didn't have to shift as low as I normally do to get up the hill.
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Old 01-20-11, 01:31 PM
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I would say that it is probably just a form question. We all know that form = efficiency. If visualizing keeping your heels down helps you climb better as a result of improving your form then that is probably what is happening. Its the same thing as high cadence vs. low cadence. It is much more efficient to spin up a hill at 80+ rpm then it is to slog up it at 40-60 rpm. Efficiency is not joke.
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Old 01-20-11, 02:28 PM
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I like to amp up the effort before I hit the incline, enough that I'm working at my hill climbing effort level and just reaching whatever speed that entails as I arrive at the hill ... that extra momentum can really help on short climbs. I think of it as speading the work out over a longer distance.
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