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Best Way to Train for Hills?

Old 05-27-20, 04:18 PM
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tbiscuit360
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Best Way to Train for Hills?

I live in a very hilly area and basically no matter what the end of the ride is a slog up a hill. What’s the best way to train to defeat them that you’ve found?
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Old 05-27-20, 04:26 PM
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The best way to train for hills is to ride more hills and practise climbing hills. There is no other way, there is no easy way. If you want to be good at certain activity, you need to practise that activity over and over and over.
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Old 05-27-20, 05:45 PM
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Originally Posted by wolfchild View Post
The best way to train for hills is to ride more hills and practise climbing hills. There is no other way, there is no easy way. If you want to be good at certain activity, you need to practise that activity over and over and over.
Yup. No shortcuts for hills.
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Old 05-27-20, 06:36 PM
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"See hill, ride up it." You can't defeat them. Try to coexist. Every hill is different, not only that, but every ride is different, and the location of a hill in a ride makes a difference, as does the expected total ride duration. It takes practice. The best thing is just to ride a lot of hills. I've found 4 hour rides work really well. I like 50;-70' of climbing per mile. That gives the legs some rest between hills. One can expend a lot of words talking about it but there's nothing like practice, and especially practice with riders who are faster than you. Maybe next year.

It helps to come into short hills on rides of under say 4 hours with some momentum. I downshift when my cadence drops to 90. On long hills, best to just hold your pace coming into them. On really long rides, never attack a hill. Just sit and spin easy, mostly keeping your butt in the saddle.
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Old 05-27-20, 07:06 PM
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Originally Posted by tbiscuit360 View Post
I live in a very hilly area and basically no matter what the end of the ride is a slog up a hill. What’s the best way to train to defeat them that you’ve found?
Lose weight, increase power.
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Old 05-28-20, 03:55 AM
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For me it's a mental game. I expect some hills to be tough, so they are.

There are other hills that on paper seem to be similar, and I have no problems with them. That may partly be due to differences in pavement. Chipseal, rough pavement, uneven seams, etc., can drain energy. (For me, bigger tires run at lower pressure helped on chipseal climbs.)

Since I expect some hills to be tough, I tackle those repeatedly and try different approaches and methods. Sometimes a fast start, sometimes a more even effort throughout. Sometimes mash, sometimes sit and spin, sometimes stand and stomp the whole way up in the biggest gear I can move. Sometimes I'll combine all three. But that's mostly to break up the mental block.

Breath control too. I realized I was tensing up and not breathing properly on hills I dreaded. That just makes it worse. So I'll ease myself into the climb with full deep breaths and blowing out as much as I can on the approach, then consciously use the diaphragm and puff out the belly.

Watch some of Emma Pooley's videos on climbing tips when she was with GCN a couple of years ago. Emma is a mountain goat, but also tiny so her technique may not work for everyone -- she stands a lot to climb, and for a long distance. I had to lose 20 lbs to be able to do that. But I noticed how relaxed her belly is during climbs, puffing in and out like a bullfrog's throat. I realized I was way too tense and just chest breathing. That helped. Now my legs get cooked before my lungs feel like they're on fire. I used to be out of breath even before my legs were tired. Poor breath control.
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Old 05-28-20, 06:57 PM
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Originally Posted by rubiksoval View Post
Lose weight, increase power.
Or get an eBike. Or move. Those are pretty much your options. I think the motor would be the least satisfying and moving is obviously the most expensive and biggest hassle, so that leaves rule 5.
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Old 05-29-20, 08:02 AM
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Forgive me if this is telling you stuff you already know.
  • I think the #1 tip for hill-climbing is don't back off. There's always a temptation when climbing a hill to ease up on the pedals for just a second. Don't do that. You lose all your momentum, and getting it back is more work than it's worth. The hill winds up being much more work after that momentary break.
  • Maintain cadence. This is not possible with extremely steep hills where you're standing on the pedals, but in general, shift through the gears steadily so you can keep your cadence in a reasonable range.
  • Each hill has its own logic, and with hills that you ride regularly, you can figure out "here's where I stand, here's where I shift into the 15, the 17," etc.
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Old 05-29-20, 04:01 PM
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My normal ride around me is constant rolling hills. Short ones. Only 25 to 50 foot and sometimes more. But never flat for more than 100 yards. So just I ride them. Pretty much the same thing applies to hills as does increasing speed. Every so often, wear yourself out trying to get up one as fast as you can. Which essentially is unstructured or informal interval training.

I prefer to keep a decent cadence around 80 to 90 rpm until I run out of a lower gear. But if you prefer to stand and run lower cadence that works too. It just tires me out more to stand.

Other than practice, weight is an issue. I just got a new bike that is almost five pounds lighter than my old bike. I'm already besting my times to climb from when I was in much better riding shape and condition four years ago. And I'm not even in my best riding shape for this year yet.

Do it safely though. Don't blast past others just to get a good time. Make sure it's safe and sane to get around them, otherwise, yield to them so you don't look like a jerk.
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Old 05-30-20, 12:08 AM
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What helped me was sprinting up 100-200yrd hills when ever I came to them
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Old 05-30-20, 12:20 PM
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I just keep doing the hill and won't quit as much as my legs want to. Did the same hill 3 times in a 24 hr period and set my PR. I really don't care how I compare to others as long as my performance increases.
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Old 05-30-20, 12:50 PM
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I've read, that the best training for cycling is cycling. I imagine, the same holds true for cycling hills

personally, I know the more I climb certain hills, the bestter I get at climbing those hills. I'll refrain form listing any now
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Old 05-30-20, 03:41 PM
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Staying in the drops and staying aero also helps a tad when climbing. Particularly since many of my climbs start at 20 mph or better. If my speed gets down below 16 mph then I start sitting up if I'm not going for a best.

For some reason, maybe it was when I was much slower, I have this bad habit of starting the climb out of the drops even when I'm at considerable speed. I seem to be getting rid of that habit though sometimes I find myself upright and wasting watts.
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Old 05-30-20, 07:22 PM
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Ride even bigger hills.
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Old 06-21-20, 09:38 AM
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Originally Posted by zacster View Post
ride even bigger hills.
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Old 06-21-20, 04:20 PM
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I get between 12000-13000' of climbing in per week, and I'm still not as fast on climbs as I'd like to be. I like climbing, and some days I'm better at it than others. Some days I feel like taking a nap, other days I feel like someone else is pedaling and I'm not even trying! Ride your bike. A lot. Then go back out and ride some more. And then keep riding. Eventually you'll be stronger than you are now and climbing won't get any easier. You'll just do it faster. But it will still be hard.
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Old 06-21-20, 05:36 PM
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It doesn't matter if you climb a lot or don't climb a lot; what matters (the most) is how much power you can put out and how much you weigh. Put out more power, go faster. Loose weight, go faster.

Simply riding up a hill doesn't mean anything if you're not improving your ability to put out more watts.

I can ride up most hills where I live at 220 watts or so with a 28 on the rear. Continually doing so won't make me stronger and able to go faster, though.
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Old 06-21-20, 06:47 PM
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I think that it's all about experience, and reasonably low gearing. I have a good idea of the pace/effort I can maintain on hills of different grades and distances. My 34 front / 32 rear lets me use moderate pedal pressure on fairly steep hills, and a less extreme effort on the really steep ones. Staying seated with moderate pedal pressure lets me climb for a longer time, as long as the hill isn't too steep for my seating cadences.

So hills don't worry me anymore.

"Defeat the hill"
I'm not sure what your goal is. Are you trying to enjoy a hilly ride more, or wanting to increase your climbing speed and power? (For some riders, hills intimidate them, and they obsess about the upcoming climb for miles before reaching it. So I could see that they feel the hill is trying to defeat them.)

For the fastest times on a climb, it's usually good strategy to go harder on the steepest parts. That's where you save the most seconds.

Last edited by rm -rf; 06-21-20 at 06:52 PM.
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Old 06-29-20, 06:46 PM
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A series of hill climbs treated as a HIIT workout is so much more satisfying than a flatland HIIT workout.

Seek the hills.
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Old 06-30-20, 08:45 AM
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Originally Posted by rubiksoval View Post
It doesn't matter if you climb a lot or don't climb a lot; what matters (the most) is how much power you can put out and how much you weigh. Put out more power, go faster. Loose weight, go faster.

Simply riding up a hill doesn't mean anything if you're not improving your ability to put out more watts.

I can ride up most hills where I live at 220 watts or so with a 28 on the rear. Continually doing so won't make me stronger and able to go faster, though.
I can attest to the more power/less weight scenario. 3 years ago I increased my FTP over the winter by about 30 watts through The Sufferfest and Zwift on the trainer, and lost 30 pounds in the process. When I went outside in the spring all of the hills had disappeared. Seriously, all the small hills and climbs that we have in NYC, and it truly isn't a lot, felt like little bumps in the road to me. I was able to climb the small hill in Prospect Park without slowing down. On the bridges across the East River the other riders just got in the way, even when riding on my commuter bike. I just felt like Superman. Well, that was 3 years ago. Due to family issues I didn't get to ride nearly as much indoors the next winter and lost some of the watts and put a few pounds back on. And I feel it every time I think I can just blast up that hill in Prospect Park, but can't.
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Old 07-07-20, 08:43 AM
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I like climbing.

Here's my 3 cents worth of advice:

1) Make sure you have the low gears you need on your bike. You might consider having a triple derailleur up front or perhaps even better a long cage derailleur with an extra low geared cassette on the rear.

2) If the climb is long and steep accept it and realise that for some certain amount of time you'll be climbing. Then, find your rhythm and climb. I've been staying the past few months in La Alpujarras in Andalusia. I've climbed all up and over the Contraviesa, Sierra Nevada and Lujar Mountains which surround the Guadalafeo River valley. While not the steepest nor longest climb I've done in the area, one I encounter very regularly and often with a backpack filled with groceries starts from the river near Orgiva and rises up and up past Tablones. Over approximately 6 kilometers (3.7 miles) it rises 312 meters (1024 feet) to a junction at the top of the hill where the highway splits. When I come to it I just think to myself: welcome to up. Up is the next 25 minutes of life, and I get on with it. It's not terribly hard, you need only moderately good fitness, appropriate gearing and a positive mindset.

3. If you're on a long ride with many steep ascents, be careful not to burn out your legs. Find a good cadence and maintain it.
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Old 07-07-20, 08:07 PM
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I'm not very experienced but what I find that helps me sometimes is this; don't focus too far up to the top of the hill; look only a few feet in front of you and pedal until it gets easier)...especially on long climbs.

Glenn
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Old 07-10-20, 06:47 PM
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Make sure you can measure cadence (your pedal RPM). As others have said find your rhythm using your gearing and maintain a more constant cadence.

I ride but not hardcore but have recently started using a smart trainer which mimics hills. Just like being outside I'm try to maintain a good cadence at all times even hills. If you find your bike doesn't have a low enough gear (you seem to strain in the lowest gear) you should look at having a different cassette fitted that has a lower gear like Joey mentioned. Most recent bikes have long cage derailleurs that allow a larger diameter cassette (lower gearing) without other changes but your local bike shop be able to help.

Let us know what gearing your have and type of bike (number of gears on crank and rear wheel)
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Old 07-11-20, 04:30 PM
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Originally Posted by WFdave View Post
Make sure you can measure cadence (your pedal RPM).
O.K. I can measure cadence; I see a number. Now what do I do with it?
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Old 07-13-20, 08:38 AM
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Originally Posted by asgelle View Post
O.K. I can measure cadence; I see a number. Now what do I do with it?
Very good question. Well, the first thing to do is to watch it while you're riding and see what happens when you vary cadence, sorta like when one gets their first HRM. Try to figure out what the numbers mean, specifically what they mean for your speed and endurance. What's your best cadence for long efforts on the flat, what's your best cadence for short climbs, long climbs, medium climbs. If you have a PM, it makes this process a little quicker, but not much.

An easy thing to do is to ride a long climb, say 2000', and vary your cadence by fairly large numbers, say 10 rpm, holding same power or speed in each cadence for say 10', and see what your legs and lungs do. See what range seems best, then try to refine that a bit more. Do that in the saddle and standing.

A good way to decide on best cadence in any situation is that your legs and lungs should hit their limits at about the same time. If you run out of lungs but legs are still good, lower your cadence. If your legs give out but you still have reserves in your breathing, raise your cadence.

Then when you see what your best cadence numbers are, you can go on Bikeforums and see what other people's best cadences are and then ponder that over the years, maybe try to train at other cadences for a while, see if that makes a difference to your endurance, and therefore overall speed in various situations. Always keep investigating.

Once you figure out what your best cadences are in various situations, keep an eye on your cadence as you ride, particularly on long or intense rides, making sure you are using your best cadences even as you tire.
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