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hill help

Old 03-14-10, 08:54 AM
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hill help

Okay, so I took part in the Schulenberg Historic Dance Hall ride yesterday and the hills just chewed me up and spit me out; and I only did 42 miles! I struggled to get up some of the hills and even stopped halfway up a couple of them. This was my first time riding hills consistently, which I know factored into it somewhat, but I'm starting to get a bit concerned about the MS150. I imagine the hills and road surface I saw yesterday will be the same heading to Austin.
Can you guys recommend any hill-prep workouts for a true flatlander out in Sugar Land? I've got some long rides coming up (Tour of Houston = 70, FBISD ride = 70, Space Race = 100), so distance isn't a problem, it's just those blasted hills.
ANY help is much appreciated.
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Old 03-14-10, 12:05 PM
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Hop in your car and drive to the hills and ride them, for one thing. I'm not sure how far you have to go. But I understand the Houston randonneur routes are pretty hilly, and they start somewhere up north or northwest of Houston, not necessarily that far from you.

If you're not used to riding hills, you may just need to downshift more or sooner. It's tempting to power your way over the hills, but that also gets your legs toasted pretty quick, too, whereas downshifting for an easier spin makes it where you can do it for longer.

If you've got any excess weight, hills are where it will hinder you most.

Riding my Worksman cruiser, I looked for charity rides that were flatter. Then I figured out I needed to be working on hills, so I started looking for hillier routes. One I did is the Beauty and the Beast Tour in Tyler. But I think there's some hillier rides a little farther south, too.

There's also no law that says you can't stop halfway up a hill. If you're riding in a group or a race, that won't work so well; if you're just out riding, no problem, stop when you need to. Take a camera and it gives you something to do while you're stopped (or an excuse to stop if you need one!)

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Old 03-14-10, 05:11 PM
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Those next three rides are all flat, too.

If your in Sugarland you'll need to head more north to get any sort of hills.
You could start in Belleville which has mild hills, or do one of the more popular areas; Chappell Hill at 290.
You can do an out and back thats about 18 miles of just hills and repeat, or ride routes that include Independence or Washing-on-the-Brazos state park.

You could also try more westerly, like Fayettvillle. There are some ride routes that start from Brookshire, but it's pretty flat. Columbus is where is just starts to get interesting.

There are some mild hills between Waller, Prairieview, and Hempstead (HWY 359 and 290)
Northwest cycling club has some maps of their Saturday rides, you can start at Zube park and head out or just ride the business 290 out and backs.
(You can do a 28 mile round trip in a straight line, but only about 10 miles or less has any hills.

Keep the cadence up, and use all the gears ya got. However, getting some practice helps. I did some Austin riding over the last couple of weeks and a few 200k Randonneur rides that included Chappell Hill area. The first couple of times were rough when your used to Houston, but I get better each time. The first time I did a route from Brookshire through Columbus to Fayettville I had to walk some of the hills. While I haven't done that exact route again yet, I haven't had to walk any since then.
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Old 03-14-10, 07:00 PM
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There were a lot of riders our in Fayetteville this morning training for the MS150.

#1: Ride hills.
#2: Ride more in general - schedule an hour of riding in SugarLand every evening - just nice and easy. (I find most MS150 peeps focus on weekend rides - add some more riding
#3: Lose weight.

1 and 2 are mainly to achieve #3. Cut out caloric drinks - diet soda if you drink regular soda - cut the cream and sugar with your coffee, etc. You'll start dropping weight instantly.
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Old 03-14-10, 07:14 PM
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Originally Posted by johnybutts
There were a lot of riders our in Fayetteville this morning training for the MS150.

#1: Ride hills.
#2: Ride more in general - schedule an hour of riding in SugarLand every evening - just nice and easy. (I find most MS150 peeps focus on weekend rides - add some more riding
#3: Lose weight.

1 and 2 are mainly to achieve #3. Cut out caloric drinks - diet soda if you drink regular soda - cut the cream and sugar with your coffee, etc. You'll start dropping weight instantly.
Good advice here. Even if you don't do #1, doing 2 and 3 will help.

Last edited by hammond9705; 03-14-10 at 07:15 PM. Reason: Clear up
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Old 03-14-10, 09:05 PM
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There is a ride in Chappell Hill in a few weeks. Most of the MS150 is hills.

I went to a Hill Clinic last weekend 03/06 in Fayetteville put on by Houston Cycle Centers. For a first time MS150 rider and newer road cyclist is was very informative. Too bad only 40 people showed up to an excellent program put on by HCC.

Flat rides at this point are only good for mileage. The CP training series has been focusing on the hills the last few weeks. Run training rides further west or north ( Montgomery area ).

I agree with Johnnubutts tips. I was 240 lbs last June. With a change in what and how much I ate plus lots of cycling - I am down to 185 lbs and can ride 18-19 mph avg. I average around 120 miles a week with rides during the week and weekend also. I hope to be in shape for the MS150.
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Old 03-15-10, 06:26 AM
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Originally Posted by aggarcia
There is a ride in Chappell Hill in a few weeks.
Head for the Hills link (March 27th)

For some other rides: Magnolia Miles, Bluebonnet Express, and if you don't mind spending $50 for a ride -> Camp for All.

As others have said, before hitting a steep hill, drop down two gears (and continue shifting down as needed), increase your cadence, and sit back in your saddle. If you need a break after reaching the top, go ahead and catch your breath. Promise you won't be the first nor last. Also if you encounter consecutive hills, try to build up some momentum going down and you won't use as much effort going up.

As a native flat land Houstonian, I totally empathize with you. However, if you do the above rides, the hills won't be nearly as intimidating. Promise.
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Old 03-15-10, 06:40 AM
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https://www.kenkifer.com/bikepages/skills/uphill.htm
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Old 03-15-10, 08:27 AM
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Wow, thanks for all of the info.
I'm going to try to cut as much excess weight as possible. But I haven't been able to cut my by simply riding, despite eating fairly well. (I'm 5'9" and 175)
I was dropping down in gears pretty quickly as soon as my momentum from the previous hill was done, but I think I tend to increase my cadence too much. Sadly my bike computer cut out that morning, so I can't tell anything from the ride. I'm also pretty sure I was too far forward in the saddle in most cases and therefore couldn't get comfortable on the bike. Part of this was because I've always been under the impression that it's best to stay seated so that energy isn't wasted, but on the flip side if I'm not on the right part of the saddle then sitting isn't doing me much good.
Of course it could partly be that mentally I was just intimidated since these were my first hills and I kept getting frustrated. (But I'm pretty sure most of it is that I'm not in the best shape that I could be. )
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Old 03-15-10, 11:48 AM
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Don't expect to spend any time out of the saddle going uphill unless you have a lot of power for your weight. I think good riders can do that for hours on end. I can do it for about 10 seconds. The thing is, it forces you to use pedal strokes about equal to your weight. If you're light and powerful, no problem; otherwise, you'll kill your legs in short order.

Here's George, one of our local randonneurs:

I passed him a couple of times on the last ride (and then got passed right back). Anyway, he was cranking up some of the steeper hills at 5-7 mph, never got out of the saddle, never stopped at the top, either. The route got hillier as we went. I did the 200k, he went on to do the 400k. There were faster riders in front of us, slower riders behind us. But just because you don't race up the hills doesn't mean you can't do the distance.
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Old 03-15-10, 05:44 PM
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Chappell Hill to Washington on the Brazos and back may be the best training ride for the MS150 there is. It's 30 miles of one hill after another. Good news is it's free (except for March 27th) and there will be a ton of other riders out there also. Good luck hope to see you out there.

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Old 03-15-10, 05:49 PM
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Thanks for helping to put it in perspective. For some reason I have this idea in my head that my speed should drop below X mph. I guess I need to consider that if I'm killing myself to keep some sort of perceived "necessary" speed then my overall speed for the entire ride is going to drop for the ride. But if I just take it easy and get up the hills at my own pace then I'll have a faster overall ride and probably have a lot more fun while doing it.
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Old 03-15-10, 06:25 PM
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If your bike is set up for "racing" with a pretty high gear ratio and you find that even your lowest gear isn't low enough -- get a mountain cassette (I'm assuming you've got a road bike with a road cassette here) -- that will give you even lower gears. You might need to change your rear deraileur -- might as well try it first or talk to the bike shop about it.

Ultimately, if you're not strong on hills but good on the flat roads, the trick is to switch to a low enough gear and speed that you're pedaling at the same rate and as hard as you do on the flats -- but often that requires a pretty low gear if the hill is steep.
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Old 03-15-10, 09:46 PM
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Muscle fatigue is the issue - on the MS150 you don't want to be standing to get up hills without some serious mileage and hills already in your legs from training.

I mostly race, and the first few times you stand to pound up a hill it's not bothersome, but the 5th and 6th lap, standing up the same hills and my legs feel just want to collapse.

Keep an eye on the amount of force you have to generate with each revolution - even if it doesn't hurt on this particular hill, you'll feel the effects down the road (literally and figuratively). With some practice you won't have too much problem with this. When people refer to "ride more hills" this is mainly what they mean (even if they don't know it). With riding more hills you feel out the level of force you can comfortable generate over many sets of hills - not just the one you're currently on.
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Old 03-16-10, 11:51 AM
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From the hill clinic, they taught one needs to keep a comfortable cadence not speed. I am a 18-19 mph on the flats. Over the last many weeks my conditioning and speed on the hills has dramatically improved with practice.

Using the gears and keeping proper cadence is important - the speed will improve. I almost never have to stand to get up hills, I would rather spin towards the tops of the hills if necessary. You can try and mash the hills with power or spin the hills with gears. Over a long ride which best fits you?
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Old 03-22-10, 08:18 AM
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What sort of gearing are you running? If you ride mostly flats, can I assume you're running a standard double (53/39)? And maybe a 12-25 cassette? If you ride flats AND you can't gear down enough, it'll make it tough on you.

As previously mentioned, one of the mental challenges is not feeling like you're going "fast" once the climb starts. If you're not racing, you just have to remember that every pedal stroke gets you closer to your destination, no matter the speed.

I had this problem many years when I backpacked. The first few times I hit steep hills I would try to maintain my pace...only to find myself sucking wind and having to stop. I finally took a trip with an experienced mountain climber who taught me how to reduce my stride...or "gear down" and from then on, I could cover a lot more ground.
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Old 03-22-10, 04:24 PM
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Truthfully, I watch my cadence. I know where my comfort zone is, and as I go up the hill and lose my momentum, as soon as my cadence starts to drop out of my comfort zone, I drop a gear and keep spinning. Also, watch your pedal technique. It's real easy to forget and start only pushing on the pedals and burn up your quads. Let your calves do some of the work as well. Working on the downhill to carry extra momentum into a hill is also good advice.

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Old 03-25-10, 06:53 PM
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DONT LOOK AT THE TOP. Just relax and put your head down. Find that comfortable spot where you can pedal up it and realize its not that bad. I agree with you that there is a big psychological aspect to hills and staring as you gasp and wheeze (personal experience) makes them longer adn steeper.


Originally Posted by alohaboy
Wow, thanks for all of the info.
I'm going to try to cut as much excess weight as possible. But I haven't been able to cut my by simply riding, despite eating fairly well. (I'm 5'9" and 175)
I was dropping down in gears pretty quickly as soon as my momentum from the previous hill was done, but I think I tend to increase my cadence too much. Sadly my bike computer cut out that morning, so I can't tell anything from the ride. I'm also pretty sure I was too far forward in the saddle in most cases and therefore couldn't get comfortable on the bike. Part of this was because I've always been under the impression that it's best to stay seated so that energy isn't wasted, but on the flip side if I'm not on the right part of the saddle then sitting isn't doing me much good.
Of course it could partly be that mentally I was just intimidated since these were my first hills and I kept getting frustrated. (But I'm pretty sure most of it is that I'm not in the best shape that I could be. )
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