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Best technique on hills

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Road Cycling “It is by riding a bicycle that you learn the contours of a country best, since you have to sweat up the hills and coast down them. Thus you remember them as they actually are, while in a motor car only a high hill impresses you, and you have no such accurate remembrance of country you have driven through as you gain by riding a bicycle.” -- Ernest Hemingway

Best technique on hills

Old 09-11-13, 01:55 AM
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Best technique on hills

Hi,

I am not sure if this site is read in the UK, but even if it is not, then I'm sure you'll still recognise the question.
PS: if it is not but you know of a good UK based cycling forum then please let me know also! thanks,

My regular cycle route is around Richmond Park. I do 3 laps normally, (starting with the clockwise "harder" one, then flipping each lap). Folks who know London cycling will know this route very well.
My question is regarding technique and gear selection. e.g. when going around clockwise, I am usually in the big gear on the front, and use the rear cassette to compensate for gradient. This is for most of the circuit except for the one v. steep "wind-y" section around broomfield hill. I think my front cranks are 53/39, and the rear cassette is 23/11.

but for the long uphill drag from queens road to Richmond gate, I usually stay in the big gear on front and the easier/easiest gear on back.

My question is... is the additional power from being on the bigger gear the most efficient one? How should I check? Maybe I should be on the small crank in front and try to pedal faster or some other technique?

I'm racing against a virtual copy of myself (Garmin), and am getting diminishing marginal returns on "simply cycle harder", and I think I need to be cycling smarter instead.

Gavin
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Old 09-11-13, 02:17 AM
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First, big ring at the back means you should go small ring on the front. Cross chaining (using the big ring at the front with big at the back or vice versa with small) will wear out your chain faster.

Second, 11-23 really isn't much of a climbing cassette, if you're ever looking to do longer climbs I'd suggest an 11-27 or 12-28.

Lastly: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zam74qlzGtQ
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OY9dVZW9qGo

The GCN videos on technique are great, short and simple.
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Old 09-11-13, 04:23 AM
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M&Ms. The more M&Ms the faster you will climb. I noticed a big plateau when I started doing 100+ on a Saturday ride & filled in the week with another 100-200miles. I would always aim for 1000' of climbing for every 10miles of riding. It was just a goal, not always realistic. We've always lived in hill/mountainous areas so, it was probable. What you find at this bench mark is that when you would run out of steam, previously, you are fresh & recover quite fast. Your power numbers go up & you find a climbing style is efficient. Guys that get into a breakaway are hoping for a miracle. Conserve & use that power wisely. BTW, M&MS = Mile & Mountains
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Old 09-11-13, 11:13 AM
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Originally Posted by MrGlass70
...My question is... is the additional power from being on the bigger gear the most efficient one? How should I check? Maybe I should be on the small crank in front and try to pedal faster or some other technique?...
Power comes from the legs. There is a cadence where you can produce the greatest power for a short time, and a cadence (usually higher) where you are most efficient at producing power for long durations. For short hills that you can get up in under a minute, you choose gearing that allows you to maintain something close to max power cadence. For long hills that take many minutes to climb, you choose gearing that allows you to maintain your most efficient cadence. This is a simplification, but a good starting point about which to experiment and modify as the situation dictates.
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Old 09-11-13, 05:06 PM
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ride all three laps in the big ring/small cog. chicks will dig it.
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Old 09-11-13, 06:29 PM
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Originally Posted by MrGlass70
Hi,

I am not sure if this site is read in the UK, but even if it is not, then I'm sure you'll still recognise the question.
PS: if it is not but you know of a good UK based cycling forum then please let me know also! thanks,

My regular cycle route is around Richmond Park. I do 3 laps normally, (starting with the clockwise "harder" one, then flipping each lap). Folks who know London cycling will know this route very well.
My question is regarding technique and gear selection. e.g. when going around clockwise, I am usually in the big gear on the front, and use the rear cassette to compensate for gradient. This is for most of the circuit except for the one v. steep "wind-y" section around broomfield hill. I think my front cranks are 53/39, and the rear cassette is 23/11.

but for the long uphill drag from queens road to Richmond gate, I usually stay in the big gear on front and the easier/easiest gear on back.

My question is... is the additional power from being on the bigger gear the most efficient one? How should I check? Maybe I should be on the small crank in front and try to pedal faster or some other technique?

I'm racing against a virtual copy of myself (Garmin), and am getting diminishing marginal returns on "simply cycle harder", and I think I need to be cycling smarter instead.

Gavin
The only thing you're getting out of the big-big gear combination is extra drivetrain wear. Climbing is much less about technique than it is about power to weight ratio. So the real answer to your question is to lose weight and do interval training. Hill repeats solve lots of problems. Twice a week with a least a day in between, find a hill and climb it. Go back down and right back up. After three or four reps, spin easy for five minutes and do it again. Keep doing that until you're gassed.
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Old 09-11-13, 06:47 PM
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By the way, this question comes up a lot. But really, there's no magic to this. Find the gearing that works for you and train smarter.
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Old 09-11-13, 07:52 PM
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Originally Posted by Blue Belly
1000' of climbing for every 10miles of riding.
We call this climbing squares, same as 100' per mile.

OP, get on the small ring in front. Don't be afraid to use lower gears. Some days ride the hills at low intensity for the entire workout, kind of like a climbing easy day.
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Old 09-11-13, 08:02 PM
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I love getting up out of the saddle; it gets my butt a rest, stretches the legs, uses different muscles... my routes are mixed terrain and it's also nice to stand up and crank a while simply to do something in a different position than in the flats.

+1 to getting off that big front ring.
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Old 09-11-13, 08:06 PM
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knowing you are from the uk, i couldnt help but read your entire post with a british accent.

anyway, the above advice is about all there is too offer...
1) dont cross chain (big-big or small-small combo)
2) some days go with lower gearing to work towards finding your most efficient cadence
3) some days go with higher gearing and push yourself to get stronger over time
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Old 09-11-13, 08:29 PM
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Are we talking about the 1.4% average grade climb over 1.3 miles from Ham Cross up Queen's Rd to Richmond Gate? If so, I say keep it in the big ring and keep crushing it out. It may feel like you're plateauing, but if you really keep pushing the effort, you'll get stronger. A power meter would be handy here so that you could see and sustain a power target, but if you have a heart rate monitor, that would help you meet your goals, too.
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Old 09-12-13, 06:32 AM
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Originally Posted by MrGlass70
Hi,


My question is... is the additional power from being on the bigger gear the most efficient one?
How should I check?
Maybe I should be on the small crank in front and try to pedal faster or some other technique?
Hi,

You check if big front smallest rear is the best gear for a section by using the small
front instead and playing around with the gears until you have your favourite, then
compare that gear to the original gear you were using.

My gear chart in gear inches looks like :
front 52 : 100, 88, 78, 70, 64, 59, 50
front 42 : 81,,, 71, 63, 57, 52, 47, 41

So my small ring gives me gears either side of the big/smallest combo.
I hope you can tell on the 52 its best to change to the
42 below 64 and on the 42 change to the 52 above 63.

So generally I'm on the small ring when I could be in big/smallest.

rgds, sreten.

Last edited by sreten; 09-12-13 at 11:01 AM.
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Old 09-12-13, 08:35 AM
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Best technique for a hill?? Easy...AVOID!
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Old 09-12-13, 09:28 AM
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Originally Posted by chaadster
Are we talking about the 1.4% average grade climb over 1.3 miles from Ham Cross up Queen's Rd to Richmond Gate?
That's not a hill, that's a false flat!

Originally Posted by daf1009
Best technique for a hill?? Easy...AVOID!
See above.
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Old 09-12-13, 10:11 AM
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Originally Posted by Blue Belly
M&Ms. The more M&Ms the faster you will climb.
There's a lot to be said for having emergency chocolate available ... but as with all things, you need to enjoy them in moderation.
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Old 09-12-13, 10:12 AM
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Originally Posted by MrGlass70
My question is... is the additional power from being on the bigger gear the most efficient one? How should I check? Maybe I should be on the small crank in front and try to pedal faster or some other technique?
Definitely you should be in the small chainring when you ride your bike up a hill.

How you can check is trying it both ways.
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Old 09-12-13, 11:09 AM
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First off wear a white colored lycra bib sans shirt. Shave legs, no helmet no gloves no water bottle. Use big ring and spin as slowly as you can but keep a steady pace up that hill.
Do this for 3 weeks and get back to us.
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Old 09-12-13, 11:15 AM
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this is an exc. video!!


Originally Posted by raisinberry777
First, big ring at the back means you should go small ring on the front. Cross chaining (using the big ring at the front with big at the back or vice versa with small) will wear out your chain faster.

Second, 11-23 really isn't much of a climbing cassette, if you're ever looking to do longer climbs I'd suggest an 11-27 or 12-28.

Lastly: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zam74qlzGtQ
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OY9dVZW9qGo

The GCN videos on technique are great, short and simple.
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Old 09-12-13, 11:21 AM
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My recipe: Charge up small hills in the hardest gear you can handle, and rest on the way down. Medium length and not too steep, try to keep the speed up and select the gear for a brisk cadence. Long steeper hills gear down and spin. Really nasty hills, just mash to the top in the easiest gear then make it up with momentum going up the next hill. "Small", "longer", "steeper" and "nasty" are all subjective.

Since you're talking about overall time, the key factor is that raising the slowest speeds (eg, uphill or against the wind) improves the time more than increasing the top speeds (basic math). No matter how fast the top speed is. And additionally, converting power to instantaneous speed is more efficient at slower speeds than faster ones (aerodynamics).
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Old 09-12-13, 11:43 AM
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Originally Posted by wphamilton
... and "nasty" are all subjective ...
Hi,

Nasty in my book is a hill you don't have gearing for and are forced to mash
in your lowest gear, real nasty you are are forced to stand in lowest gear.
Out of your league you walk, its not worth the probable muscle damage.

Somewhat objective, but depends on your gearing not just the hill.

rgds, sreten.
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Old 09-12-13, 11:54 AM
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Originally Posted by sreten
Hi,

Nasty in my book is a hill you don't have gearing for and are forced to mash
in your lowest gear, real nasty you are are forced to stand in lowest gear.
Out of your league you walk, its not worth the probable muscle damage.

Somewhat objective, but depends on your gearing not just the hill.

rgds, sreten.
Granted, but what I meant for example is that I topped my local "nasty" at 6 mph yet with a heart rate at 98% of my maximum. Checking on Strava, at one time a visiting pro had blistered the whole hill at 18+ mph! He and I would differ on "not too steep" vs "nasty."
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Old 09-12-13, 02:21 PM
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Originally Posted by TrojanHorse
That's not a hill, that's a false flat!
That's what I'm sayin'!

...and I'm from SE Michigan, so that's saying something!
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Old 10-05-13, 03:29 PM
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Thanks everyone for the really varied and interesting comments.... I'll keep going and let you know how I get on...
One question for Raisinberry777.... when I mentioned 11/23, you said 11/27 or 12/28 as being a better climbing ratio.... I wasn't aware that you could do 11/27. Is the idea behind 11/27 the fact that you can keep a really good spin going up the hill, while not losing top speed when in big cog for going downhill. IN which case, why do the manufacturers make an 11/23 at all?
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Old 10-05-13, 03:59 PM
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Originally Posted by MrGlass70
Thanks everyone for the really varied and interesting comments.... I'll keep going and let you know how I get on...
One question for Raisinberry777.... when I mentioned 11/23, you said 11/27 or 12/28 as being a better climbing ratio.... I wasn't aware that you could do 11/27. Is the idea behind 11/27 the fact that you can keep a really good spin going up the hill, while not losing top speed when in big cog for going downhill. IN which case, why do the manufacturers make an 11/23 at all?
Because some places are flat, so there's no need for a 25 or 27t cog. More importantly, the ratios are closer together. Compare

Available Ratios


11-23: 11-12-13-14-15-16-17-19-21-23
11-25: 11-12-13-14-15-17-19-21-23-25
11-28: 11-12-13-14-15-17-19-21-24-28
12-23: 12-13-14-15-16-17-18-19-21-23
12-25: 12-13-14-15-16-17-19-21-23-25



My crit racing cassette is the 12-23. One tooth jumps all the way through 19, including that Sweet 16.
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Old 10-05-13, 05:04 PM
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Originally Posted by caloso
Because some places are flat, so there's no need for a 25 or 27t cog. More importantly, the ratios are closer together. Comparep.
Some riders are also fit and don't have fat hiding their rib cage.

39x23 is plenty for fit riders without middle aged spread in the Colorado Rockies. The vast majority of routes don't exceed 6% over significant distances and at that point 240W of threshold power gets a 140 pound rider atop a 20 pound bike and stuff 11.7 MPH at 80 RPM. The serious climbs are bad because they're long not steep - Grand Mesa from the West averages just 3.2% over its 33 mile length and 5700 vertical feet which is a pleasant 137W recovery ride pace for such a rider at 80 RPM and 10.7 MPH or great way to start a 418 mile supported tour to Golden running over notable mountain passes along the way.

With more fat and/or less fitness it's also possible to pair a nice tight cassette with a road triple. 50 pounds didn't change my preference for one-tooth jumps through the 19 cog.

12-23: 12-13-14-15-16-17-18-19-21-23
or

13-14-15-16-17-18-19-21-23-26 10 cogs.

52x13 was enough of a big gear for Eddy "The Cannibal" Merckx. In the 1969 Tour he sustained a solo breakaway for 80 miles to the finish after climbing the Tour Malet and won the race with yellow, green, and polka dot jerseys. Most of us aren't that monstrous and can make do with less.

Last edited by Drew Eckhardt; 10-05-13 at 05:39 PM.
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