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Tips on maintaining speed during hill climbs

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Tips on maintaining speed during hill climbs

Old 10-29-22, 05:17 PM
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jonathanf2
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Tips on maintaining speed during hill climbs

I primarily focus on climbing. I do occasional group rides and I do fairly well keeping pace with the lead group. One area I feel like I'm hitting a plateau are on long climbs with other strong riders. I'm able to keep up to a point, but my heart rate starts nearing max HR and I can't sustain the pace. Even though I train consistently, it's one area I feel could see improvement. I do ride with younger 20-30 something cyclists and I'm in my mid 40s. I do comparatively well next to other cyclists my age range on group rides, but I still want to improve my performance before blaming my age!

Anyways, besides just riding more are there any tips be it nutritional or fitness related to improve my performance or keep my HR down? Thanks for any advice!
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Old 10-30-22, 06:20 AM
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Ride more hills. I have a bridge near me, which is fairly good hill training for Florida, because I do like going thru the mountains when I tour. I can actually do laps on this bridge circuit, which is about a 2.5 mile lap, with two climbs in one lap. I'd imagine you have better opportunities out in LA. -- Don't try and kill yourself, just put in more miles in the incline.

My second recommendation is to start weight training -- don't worry about "bulking up" that's just a myth. I work everything with weights from my feet to my lowerback and both sides of every part of my anatomy. That strengthens all parts that cycling misses.



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Old 10-30-22, 08:07 AM
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Ditto on the "more hills" suggestion. Helps one's strength. Challenges one's stamina.

But, also consider doing interval training along such routes. (Of course, this assumes your cardiovascular ability is the limiting factor here.)

Back in the day, I ran. Often, hard and fast. Distances in the ~8-20mi range. Much of it on hilly, even mountainous terrain. Up and over ridges. Some long inclines (up to a mile or more), and many shorter ones (in the ~50-250yd range).

I regularly used the Fartlek method (AKA "speed play"), focusing on periods of higher-intensity, higher-pace segments along a route. In time, I was able to measure fairly solid gains in my hill performance. (Not just hill performance, but particularly there due to my mostly doing the technique on hilly routes, so my strength likely also improved.) Stamina definitely improved, and I got less-winded after hard spurts. Overall cardio improved, and I could attack such routes much more frequently with high-intensity spurts. And, the length of those spurts increased. (Several other running buddies also noticed similar improvements, as we made this a frequent part of our mutual hill runs together.)

Might consider starting with inclines of longer than a mile. Then, every couple hundred yards, sprint for 10-15 seconds or so. Then get back to your consistent pace. When you're ready, again, ramp-up the intensity for another 10-15 seconds. (10-15sec might be far too short for you; if so, double it, even double it again if needed.)

In time, you should find that your ability to handle such high-intensity intervals improves. You should also find that your required "rest" period (back at your "normal" route pace) shrinks, allowing you to attack the inclines more-frequently at the higher-intensity pace. Eventually, you ought to be capable of taking on longer high-intensity periods. Takes time. But you ought to see such improvements via incorporating this sort of method on your customary hill routes.

Cardiovascularly, you can mirror this sort of interval/intensity training on a rower, one of those Airdyne-type whole-body gym bikes, swimming, running.

https://www.asics.com/gb/en-gb/runni...tlek-training/

https://www.nike.com/a/types-of-running-fartlek

Last edited by Clyde1820; 10-31-22 at 05:17 AM. Reason: clarity
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Old 10-30-22, 08:22 AM
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Originally Posted by jonathanf2 View Post
One area I feel like I'm hitting a plateau are on long climbs with other strong riders.!
What do you consider a long climb?
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Old 10-30-22, 10:34 AM
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I'd reply to this post except that I'd need to attach a PDF. I find I can't attach anything except a JPG. I've read everything I could find in the FAQ etc. This seems to have started with the new build. OK to PM me.
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Old 10-30-22, 10:45 AM
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Turn on the battery.
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Old 10-30-22, 10:48 AM
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Originally Posted by Carbonfiberboy View Post
I'd reply to this post, except I'd need to attach a PDF. I find I can't attach anything except a JPG, too bad. I've read everything that I could find in the FAQ etc. OK to PM me.
Take a screen shot of the .pdf and then post is as a .jpg or .png. Or just provide the link to it if it's hosted publicly.

On a PC, <ctrl> <alt> <print screen> will get you a copy of the currently active window. <ctrl> <shift> <print screen> gets the entire screen. If on a mac use the <cmd> key instead of the <ctrl> key.

You'll probably have to paste it in paint or some other photo editor then save it.
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Old 10-30-22, 10:59 AM
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Originally Posted by jonathanf2 View Post
Anyways, besides just riding more are there any tips be it nutritional or fitness related to improve my performance or keep my HR down? Thanks for any advice!
Though I don't know for sure, I seem to have a higher HR for everything I do while riding. So maybe you just need to accept that and just get use to it.

Do you do a lot of solo riding or is your only riding when in this group that pounds hills a little faster than you'd like? Increase your time riding solo or with just one or two others. And challenge yourself as you climb most every hill you encounter. You can rest on the way down the other side.

Don't underestimate how much better climbing will be on a lighter bike. The almost 5 pound difference between my old steel Schwinn Paramount and my newer Tarmac made many of the hills I use to swear at disappear. And I have more energy for later in the ride.
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Old 10-30-22, 11:09 AM
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I'll second interval training here. You should be looking to improve your threshold power, so sub-threshold intervals would be most appropriate, which are usually 10 - 20 mins long e.g. 3x20 min efforts with 5 mins recovery in-between. You may start with shorter intervals and work up e.g. 3x8 mins, 3x10 mins, 3x15 mins etc. You could also mix it up with under-over intervals, which push your threshold upward and condition your body to recover from harder efforts just above threshold.

Bodyweight is also critical on long climbs. By competitive climbing cyclist standards I'm a heavyweight at 78 kg and simply cannot compete with fit 60-something kg climbers. So there is that to consider, depending on where you fit in with your riding group in terms of weight. If the guys who are dropping you on the climbs are 10 kg lighter and you don't have significant bodyfat to lose, then you have to be realistic with your expectations. Climbing is not a level playing field in that respect! If you do have scope to lose a few kgs without compromising your power, then that will make a significant difference on those long drags. For Alpine events I can get myself down to around 75 kg and that 3 kg makes quite a difference on a big climb.
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Old 10-30-22, 11:20 AM
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When the other riders start to drop you, go as deep in the red as you can, for as long as you can, then a little further. So deep you're afraid you might not make it home. So deep you might puke. Hang on for just one more telephone pole, one more turn of the crank. Then another.

Take the next day off.

Repeat weekly.

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Old 10-30-22, 11:36 AM
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Originally Posted by jonathanf2 View Post
I primarily focus on climbing. I do occasional group rides and I do fairly well keeping pace with the lead group. One area I feel like I'm hitting a plateau are on long climbs with other strong riders. I'm able to keep up to a point, but my heart rate starts nearing max HR and I can't sustain the pace. Even though I train consistently, it's one area I feel could gsee improvement. I do ride with younger 20-30 something cyclists and I'm in my mid 40s. I do comparatively well next to other cyclists my age range on group rides, but I still want to improve my performance before blaming my age!

Anyways, besides just riding more are there any tips be it nutritional or fitness related to improve my performance or keep my HR down? Thanks for any advice!
Most of us occasional group riders do way too much work at the top end at the expense of basic aerobic fitness, which results in frustrating plateaus in performance or frank exhaustion. Dont start in with the VO2max 5 x 5s and hill repeats until youve done an honest analysis of your training deficits.
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Old 10-30-22, 11:48 AM
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It could be just coincidental, but part of my getting-faster training strategy was working out in the gym. This was in my 50s and I had riding buddies who were younger and faster than I on the climbs. This is not what you'll usually see advised on BF, but it worked well for me. These workouts were right out of The Cyclist's Training Bible. I only did the AA stuff in the attached doc, circuit style, during gym low population hours. I did 1 set of 30 for a month, then 2 sets of 30 for a month, then 3 sets of 30. I used the same weight for all the sets of the same exercise, except for squats and leg sled where I used a normal succession of weights . Regardless of the number of sets, I used a weight with which I couldn't quite do 30 on the last set. I worked out twice a week in the fall and once a week in the spring.

Of course at the same time, I was riding my guts out with my group once a week, chasing those youngers up every hill, and doing zone 2 rides on weekdays. It took a couple years, but I eventually did get fast enough to ride with the leaders.

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Old 10-30-22, 12:40 PM
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Just to reply to everyone, I do strength train at the gym, try to eat healthy, I'm fairly flexible (palm the floor while standing) and I feel I do ride faster uphills than the average weekend rider. I usually have limited time during the week to ride, but I can ride almost daily if I want (though I mix that time with strength training). I ride hills because it's best way for me to get a max workout within the 1-2 hours I can ride. I've also built my disc road bike to be reasonably light within my budget (about 16.2 lbs.) and I ride with guys who own Aethos frames and they're not riding any faster. For at least B level group rides, I can keep pace with the lead riders. I'm now trying to crack into that A level group and I've seen the difference. They can hold their fast hill climb pace much longer. Though I know it's not a strength issue for me, because when it comes to short punchy climbs, I can out power them to the top. I definitely feel it's my cardio and trying to keep my heart from redlining on steady long climbs that needs to improve.

Here's a climb we did yesterday. While I was able to reach the top with the top 5 of the group out of about 20 cyclists, the leaders were just that much faster. Basically I'm getting to that point where I'm between the A level and B level riders, so when the group splits I'm in that solo limbo climb before the next checkpoint!

https://www.strava.com/segments/611739

Also this is my weekly climb that I do on a regular basis:
https://www.strava.com/segments/3579826

Last edited by jonathanf2; 10-30-22 at 12:50 PM.
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Old 10-30-22, 12:54 PM
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Sounds like you are doing quite well then and seem to have most everything covered. If you haven't been doing this for the last dozen or so years, then keep on doing it till you've got those dozen years behind you.

I seem to be able to tell a lot of difference in how I perform when I can regularly ride over 125 miles per week. For the times I only ride 80 miles or less a week I can feel good about my performance but there isn't much improvement for any of the things I want to improve on.

Perhaps just increasing the amount of riding per week from any previous level is what gives the improvement for climbs and sustained efforts.
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Old 10-30-22, 01:29 PM
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Originally Posted by Iride01 View Post
Sounds like you are doing quite well then and seem to have most everything covered. If you haven't been doing this for the last dozen or so years, then keep on doing it till you've got those dozen years behind you.

I seem to be able to tell a lot of difference in how I perform when I can regularly ride over 125 miles per week. For the times I only ride 80 miles or less a week I can feel good about my performance but there isn't much improvement for any of the things I want to improve on.

Perhaps just increasing the amount of riding per week from any previous level is what gives the improvement for climbs and sustained efforts.
Just to add, I only started taking cycling seriously during the height of the pandemic and prior to that I was into powerlifting, running and HIIT training. Though I find biking just to be fun, challenging and something that requires discipline and dedication (similar to lifting). I also learned how to build and maintain bikes from watching YT videos. I'm actually amazed at how many cyclists have no clue on how to maintain their bikes. I just wish I started road biking earlier, it's such a great stress reliever!
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Old 10-30-22, 02:29 PM
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I cannot remember which 80's pro cyclist known as a great climber, might have been Sean Kelly (maybe) was quoted when asked his secret to great climbing stated " I put it in the big ring and spin".
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Old 10-30-22, 04:11 PM
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Originally Posted by Iride01 View Post
Sounds like you are doing quite well then and seem to have most everything covered. If you haven't been doing this for the last dozen or so years, then keep on doing it till you've got those dozen years behind you.

I seem to be able to tell a lot of difference in how I perform when I can regularly ride over 125 miles per week. For the times I only ride 80 miles or less a week I can feel good about my performance but there isn't much improvement for any of the things I want to improve on.

Perhaps just increasing the amount of riding per week from any previous level is what gives the improvement for climbs and sustained efforts.
I've noticed a progressive improvement within the past 2 years. Even my body has physically changed, having been into powerlifting prior to taking cycling seriously, my body is just leaner, chiseled and more vascular. I also feel like it's given me a significant shortcut for improvement beyond my cycling buddies who don't do any strength training whatsoever and it's helped me keep up and surpass some of the younger cyclists amongst the groups I ride with.

I really want to step up my performance level to hang with the truly fast riders. One thing I notice though is that taller riders than me seem to have an advantage on progressive spin climbs, despite their weight disadvantage. Trying to match their pace requires that I increase my cadence, which also increases my heart rate. I've experimented with short 165mm cranks and using longer 175mm cranks. I also like to ride out of saddle, but it does feel like it expends more energy on longer climbs. I only wish I had a 200bpm max heart rate, but in my mid-40s that's something that's definitely decreasing. I don't aim to be a pro racer or anything, I just feel like there's still room for improvement and I want to go into my 50s being a super fit 40 something!
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Old 10-30-22, 06:34 PM
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You can probably already do 30 reps at 90% of bodyweight, so nothing to gain there. You say you max your sustainable HR, but you don't mention your legs. Getting down in the weeds, HR is based on signals received from one's skeletal muscles. When they're low on oxygen, they message the heart to increase its rate. One of the things which increases muscle oxygen use is frequency of contraction, i.e. cadence. So try climbing in a bigger gear. Ideally, you want your legs to fail at the same time you run out of HR. You have lots of leg, maybe you need to make more use of them. Fast riders who climb at high cadence also have a high VO2max, hence doped up Lance time trialing at 110-115 cadence.
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Old 10-30-22, 10:01 PM
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Originally Posted by Carbonfiberboy View Post
You can probably already do 30 reps at 90% of bodyweight, so nothing to gain there. You say you max your sustainable HR, but you don't mention your legs. Getting down in the weeds, HR is based on signals received from one's skeletal muscles. When they're low on oxygen, they message the heart to increase its rate. One of the things which increases muscle oxygen use is frequency of contraction, i.e. cadence. So try climbing in a bigger gear. Ideally, you want your legs to fail at the same time you run out of HR. You have lots of leg, maybe you need to make more use of them. Fast riders who climb at high cadence also have a high VO2max, hence doped up Lance time trialing at 110-115 cadence.
That might be the issue, it's not that my legs get tired, but it's as if I'm not getting enough O2 to my legs to maintain a fast climbing pace on long climbs. After I get a chance to lower my HR, my legs come back. Out of saddle I can generate the power to sprint climb for short durations, faster than those who can out climb me on long climbs. I also feel like I'm breathing heavier than others just to get more air into my lungs.

Thanks for all the insights so far, it's definitely got me thinking on areas I can improve.
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Old 10-30-22, 10:15 PM
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One other thing I've thought of is pedaling efficiency. By that I mean only applying force to the pedals tangent to the pedal circle. IME the quickest way to check on that and find any weak spots is to do what's known as FastPedal. On a trainer, or better yet, rollers, put the bike in a very low gear and pedal steadily at 115-120 rpm, starting at 15' and working up to 45', no breaks. Adjust the gearing so that you're in zone 2 while doing that. It's not supposed to create a big training load. When one gets good at it, it's useful for recovery. If you can't hit that rpm without bouncing, just pedal as fast as you can without bouncing. It'll come. I did that every Tuesday for years. Trains the spinal ganglia, helps at all rpm out on the road.

Once I got good at that, I'd only do that until 1 January, then I'd switch to doing 2' intervals of one legged pedaling, alternating legs and alternating cadence between 50-55 and 85, for same length of time as the FastPedal. Since it's only one leg, big training load is not an issue. I'd use a gear that'd have me crying for my mommy after 2'. These are both climbing-specific workouts because of the low crank inertial load which is characteristic of ordinary mortals climbing.
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Old 10-31-22, 12:55 AM
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If you're spinning and gassing out, switch to mashing -- bigger gear, slower cadence.

If you're mashing and gassing out, try spinning.

You might find alternating between the two works for you. Works for me.

But keep in mind that outdated and cliched "spin to win" mantra was developed around refining the technique for young elite level pros during the EPO era. They knew spinning faster with slightly easier gears was more taxing to the aerobic system, but less strain on the muscles. The aero system recovers quicker, while tired muscles needed longer to recover (hence the adjunct use of steroids to help muscles recover overnight for the next day's stage).

But everyone tends to gas out quicker from spinning. EPO helped enhance the ability to spin longer. We mere mortals don't have that luxury.

And as we age we lose aerobic capacity quicker than muscle strength. Yeah, we lose both. But aerobic capacity fades quicker.

Over the past several years my cadence has slowed from averaging 90 rpm all around, 110 rpm on climbs, to 60-70 rpm all around. Occasionally I'll spin on short climbs, but more often now I get into a bigger gear and mash or stand to climb. At 65 that's about as good as it's gonna get for me. And a couple of years ago I started doing more walking, jogging, running and squats, etc., to strengthen my legs to compensate for losing aerobic capacity. Overall I'm a little slower on the same familiar 20-50 mile circuits I've ridden for years, but occasionally I'm as fast or faster on our many short, steep hillettes on our roller coaster terrain. I just regard those 30-90 second climbettes as sprints.

No idea whether my method would work on real climbs. We don't have any of that here. No mountains.
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Old 10-31-22, 05:05 AM
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Patience

It takes years and years to develop an aerobic engine.

If it is a long climb, try to be the one setting the pace at the start. Eventually the stronger climbers will go harder and you will fall off the back. Don't go much over threshold until you get towards the top and then empty the tank. If you expend you W' or FRC to early, you are done. Try to catch on the descent. (Assumes we are talking real climbs)
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Old 10-31-22, 05:23 AM
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Originally Posted by jonathanf2 View Post
Just to reply to everyone, I do strength train at the gym, try to eat healthy, I'm fairly flexible (palm the floor while standing) and I feel I do ride faster uphills than the average weekend rider. I usually have limited time during the week to ride, but I can ride almost daily if I want (though I mix that time with strength training). I ride hills because it's best way for me to get a max workout within the 1-2 hours I can ride. I've also built my disc road bike to be reasonably light within my budget (about 16.2 lbs.) and I ride with guys who own Aethos frames and they're not riding any faster. For at least B level group rides, I can keep pace with the lead riders. I'm now trying to crack into that A level group and I've seen the difference. They can hold their fast hill climb pace much longer. Though I know it's not a strength issue for me, because when it comes to short punchy climbs, I can out power them to the top. I definitely feel it's my cardio and trying to keep my heart from redlining on steady long climbs that needs to improve.

Here's a climb we did yesterday. While I was able to reach the top with the top 5 of the group out of about 20 cyclists, the leaders were just that much faster. Basically I'm getting to that point where I'm between the A level and B level riders, so when the group splits I'm in that solo limbo climb before the next checkpoint!

https://www.strava.com/segments/611739

Also this is my weekly climb that I do on a regular basis:
https://www.strava.com/segments/3579826
You still haven't said how your weight compares to the guys you are aiming to match? I'm just trying to work out if your issue really is a lack of cardio endurance or simply that you are being beaten by lighter climbing goats. The fact that you can out power them on short punchy climbs might be a good clue as to your natural rider profile. Long climbs ultimately come down to Watts/kg and strongly favour super lightweight riders. That's why GC riders at pro level are rarely north of 70 kg and climbing specialists even lighter.
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Old 10-31-22, 05:59 AM
  #24  
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Peter makes a good and really salient point.

I can easily exceed the power of all the Strava leaderboard up Hollywood Gate to Gate (except the KoM). However, I would probably be at the 15-20th percentile due to mass. Hills over 6-8% are all about W/Kg although the energy systems used depend on the length. A sprinter might have an easy time on a short climb, a Puncheur could excel on a 2-4 minute climb but eventually it is the really light specialists who excel at the long climbs (say 10 minutes plus)

As a former bodybuilder, I suspect you have too much mass to do well on really long climbs but your explosive power probably gives you a realy advantage on shorter climbs. All just a guess

Edit: I just noticed the average gradient is only 1.4%. That is not a climb, more like pretty gradual up and then a descent down. Aero matters a whole lot on that sort of segment. I could probably challenge the leaderboard.......on my recumbent.

Last edited by GhostRider62; 10-31-22 at 06:09 AM.
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Old 10-31-22, 07:10 AM
  #25  
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Originally Posted by GhostRider62 View Post
Peter makes a good and really salient point.

I can easily exceed the power of all the Strava leaderboard up Hollywood Gate to Gate (except the KoM). However, I would probably be at the 15-20th percentile due to mass. Hills over 6-8% are all about W/Kg although the energy systems used depend on the length. A sprinter might have an easy time on a short climb, a Puncheur could excel on a 2-4 minute climb but eventually it is the really light specialists who excel at the long climbs (say 10 minutes plus)

As a former bodybuilder, I suspect you have too much mass to do well on really long climbs but your explosive power probably gives you a realy advantage on shorter climbs. All just a guess

Edit: I just noticed the average gradient is only 1.4%. That is not a climb, more like pretty gradual up and then a descent down. Aero matters a whole lot on that sort of segment. I could probably challenge the leaderboard.......on my recumbent.
1.4% for the whole up and over and down. (The segment link here.) Strava simply averages the starting and ending elevation. And they don't do any smoothing of the climb, so dragging along the elevation chart shows ... 0.6%, 4.3%, 7.2%, 2.1%, 13.3%, 6.1% ... where it should calc a more gradual change in the grade from point to point. Raw GPS recordings are very noisy and need smoothing.

The first 2.5 miles have a net gain of 625 feet, not even including any small roller hills within the climb. This 250 feet per mile (4.7% average: "moderate") is a real climb.

Pacing

I'm not a fast climber. My best efforts have been solo efforts within the climb, setting my own pace. I really like my Stages left side power meter for pacing. It keeps me from going too far over my limit at the beginning, and is an instant encouragement to go a bit harder toward the end. My "perceived effort" tells me I'm maxed, but I find I can actually go a bit faster.

Would I have an even better result if I tried to hang with a "too fast" group of climbers? Would motivation improve over optimal pacing strategy? Maybe!

Last edited by rm -rf; 10-31-22 at 07:16 AM.
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