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Hill climbing advice?

Old 05-01-06, 12:18 PM
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DRLski
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Hill climbing advice?

I know it takes lots of miles to get good at hill climbing, this is my second year of actual training and racing and need some advice. What do I do for my climbing endurance? If there's a fairly large hill with a gradual gradient I normally don't have too many issues, but if it's long then I can usually make it about half way up and then my legs don't want to do anymore work. And if the climb turns steep then my HR max's out and it's like hitting a brick wall for me. I live in NH so I have plenty of hills to train on and I rarely take the easier route, the bigger the hill the more likely I'll be riding up it, I ride hill after hill and am have been training this year starting in January and am up to about 450 miles on the bike for April and am gonna try to step it up in a big way to like 600+ miles for May. The only positive thing I can say is that I recover extremely fast now once I get to the top of the climb which I could not do last year. I have no problem on flats or rolling hills but any sustained climbing and I'm doomed, this was my biggest weakness last year and I'm trying to make it a strength for this year but I don't know what else to do. I ride as many hills as I possibly can on my training ride and I have been doing some hill intervals. I've also lost 40+ lbs from last year so I feel a lot better than that but still have some more weight to lose, I'm 5'7" 160lbs, just to give you an idea of how much weight I'm pushing up the hill.

Also, will weight lifting help at all with climbing?

Thanks.

Last edited by DRLski; 05-01-06 at 12:36 PM.
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Old 05-01-06, 01:52 PM
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I don't race and don't profess to be an expert on the matter, but seem to be OK at hills on the bike and hiking, usually at the front. I think the main thing would be to lose some weight. Congratulations on losing the 40 pounds so far, but the less you weigh, the better when it comes to hills.

Obviously the comparison is not exactly fair but if you look at the pros, the good climbers arer incredibly light. You're 160 which is about 71kg, the same as Ullrich but he's 5'11" or so and considered large for cyclists. I think Lance was about 62kg and 6' or so (i'm sure somebody will correct me here) and Simoni et al are even smaller.

It may be you've got a bigger build and muscle mass that would suit sprinting rather than climbing. Unfortunately I guess there comes a point when genetics can't be denied. I'm a scrawny bean-pole which meant I was rubbish at sport at school (rugby, football, standard athletics) but have since found I'm not bad at cycling, long distance running and stomping up to the top of mountains.
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Old 05-01-06, 02:12 PM
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actually, I've found myself to be quit good at sprinting however if you can't make it past the hill there will be no need for sprinting. Guess I'll just work on losing more weight then. Thanks.
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Old 05-01-06, 02:21 PM
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Hill repeats will improve your climbing, try differant types with some at a higher cadence and some in a bigger gear with a lower cadence unless it makes your knees hurt. What cadence do you climb at now and is your gearing correct for the hills you ride?
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Old 05-01-06, 02:28 PM
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Hill repeats will help with your heart rate recovering faster so next time you do a large hill, you can stand and hammer or power up the steep sections, and recover on the shallower sections. Always climbing, but actively recovering on some sections.
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Old 05-01-06, 02:29 PM
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Well, I have more than enough gearing I would think...got a 52/39 in the front and a 12-25 in the back.

I normally start off climbing at 85-90rpms however when I start to give I'll shoot down to about 60rpms or less.
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Old 05-01-06, 02:43 PM
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Hi,
park in Gorham NH, and ride up to Pinkham Notch. You can stop and have a hot cocoa or bowl of good soup there and then coast back. It's an excellent training ride. Come back and do it again later in the summer. Only this time do it twice.

You need a training program.
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Old 05-01-06, 06:58 PM
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Despite what you may think, from a pure physics point of view, climbing hills is no different to fighting wind resistance - both requires you to perform work, all terms used in their strict physics definition.

The major difference between the two lies in the human response to the two situations. In general hills are done at a higher power output evel than say flat riding. Another crucial diference is in the rider build - if you are light and strong, you may be a better climber than when you are muscle-bound. Muscle-bound riders will generally be better on the flats since they are not hauling all that muscle up the hill.

Having said that, to improve your climbing you need to consider your LT. The longer the hill, the further away from your LT you must ride. A 20 minute hill could be done slightly above your LT, while a 60 minute hill must be lower or you will blow up before the top.

So get a HRM assuming you don't have one, find a hill that takes about 20 minutes to climb and use that as your yardstick. Compare yourself carefully against previous times, carefuly keeping everything (except your body mass) the same.
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Old 05-01-06, 07:16 PM
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Where I live in Florida we don't have many hills to train on. We do have highway overpasses, and some bridges that cross bays and rivers. Whenever I go over a highway overpass, I turn around and do it twice, just for the workout. On Thursdays, I go to the Ringling Bridge in Sarasota, which is one mile long each way, and ride back and forth over the bridge as many times as I can before crapping out. It's great interval training, since you work like h*** going up, then rest on the way down, turn around and do it again...

It's not the miles, but the quality of the workout.
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Old 05-01-06, 11:40 PM
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If your HR is maxing out quickly, check your breathing. On extended climbs, I frequently come across and pass lots of people who are practically panting and gasping for air. Focus on breathing out and expelling the air out of your lungs and the intake breath more or less takes care of itself. This helps to set up a rhythm which can lower your HR as you're breathing more efficiently.

Also, if you're legs are losing steam part way up, you could be climbing in too high a gear. Unfortunately, I don't have a formula for choosing the right gear on a climb, but I do go by feel as I tend not to count my cadence. I find a gear that allows me to climb, usually seated on a long hill, with a moderate amount of resistance that gives me good development without lugging me down. If I do get sluggish, I shift down and if my cadence starts to spin too much, I upshift. It's really just something I've developed by feel. As I progress, I've found that my aerobic abilities have improved which allow me to either spin faster or take the hill in a higher gear as I get stronger. This weekend I managed to climb a hill both one gear higher than normal and seated the entire way which I've never done before. Keep working on it. Bottom Line....find a rhythm you can sustain the entire climb.
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Old 05-02-06, 07:47 AM
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If you're unable to complete a climb, you're going too hard for your fitness.

When I want to work on my climbing endurance (like today), I'll pick an effort level and maintain that on hill repeats for 2-4 hours at a time. A good target heart rate for me these days is 80% of max. That training target will go down later in the year, as my fitness improves.

I also see that your lowest gear is a 39/25. That's not all that low. My lowest is a 34/27, and I use it when the going gets tough (above 9% or so). If you can't comfortably maintain a 60 cadence, you'll do better with lower gears.

Finally, to get your legs used to climbing stresses, I recommend sitting/standing drills. Sit for a minute, stand for a minute, sit for 2 minutes, stand for 2 minutes. Repeat. Another good training drill is to climb seated in one gear higher than is comfortable. This will really work the muscles of the quads, glutes, and back.
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Old 05-07-06, 07:48 PM
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do hill repeats and try to keep a higher cadence the entire way up.

use a lower gear...or get a compact drive...and force yourself to
spin at or above 90 the entire way..even if you are slower overall
this is training not a race...so slower is better



then, with the group, climb the hill any way you want, and when
you start to crack, dive into those high rpm's like you trained,
and you will see a huge difference in your ability to smoke your enemies

also, learn to pedal at 120rpm and higher standing up, for 1 minute at
a time (on flats if you want)...that way, standing up on a hill at 90rpm
will be easy. every time you stand on a hill you will accelerate if you
train to spin at 120 standing...it works
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Old 05-07-06, 09:03 PM
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I agree with Terry.

If you're blowing up halfway up the climb, you're riding up it too fast. Doing that puts you into the anaerobic zone, and while you will train your anaerobic system, you won't improve your aerobic fitness - which is what's causing you difficulty in the first place.

You need to learn to start hills slowly. Your heartrate, breathing, and leg pain don't react immediately, so when you blow up, it's just your quick start catching up with you.

Learn to start slowly, and to stay slow - even if it seems too slow. If you get halfway up and want to crank it up a bit, fine, but if you blow up, you'll have to back way off and you'll suffer a lot more.
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Old 05-08-06, 10:14 AM
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agreed. start slowly with controlled breathing and cadence. When you are near the top, try to push harder a bit until you are inside the AT zone. Weight training helps too and certainly, light body helps even more. Good luck!
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Old 05-08-06, 03:29 PM
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Self dicipline was the hardest part for climbing for me.

Find the largest mountain you can and just focus on your pedaling and breathing, once you have a good technique then you can push it. When I started road biking I wouldnt even make it to the top of the mountain I trained on, the hardest thing for me was the mental aspect of hill climbing, the unbarable slowness of it so training like that was very helpful. Once I got a good technique and was able to tollerate spending an hour going at below walking pace I was ready to push my self physically.

Training your core muscle may be the most beneficial weight training you can do for hill climbing.
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Old 05-08-06, 03:48 PM
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Originally Posted by terrymorse
Another good training drill is to climb seated in one gear higher than is comfortable. This will really work the muscles of the quads, glutes, and back.
+1

This is better than any weight training you can do and will improve your climbing over time. Just make sure to give yourself some recovery time after doing some hill repeats with this technique.
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Old 05-08-06, 05:17 PM
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Also try to check out the mental aspect of the training. If you start the climb with a negative attitude, no doubt you'll want to quit before the ride is done. I have a very active mind so long climbs are bad for me cause I tend to start thinking too much, so what helps me is to have the ipod going in one ear which enough to keep me occupied and yet not distractive enough for me to hear any possible dangers.
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Old 09-06-06, 08:19 PM
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what %grade hills are these?
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Old 09-07-06, 08:28 PM
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I didnt read all the posts but for me I just use a good steady pace that will get me to the top without stopping. I dont worry about pace or anything other than making the top as fast paced as I can. I may be doing this or have a different goal than others though.
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Old 09-08-06, 11:12 AM
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I have to agree with starting hills slowly. The hardest hills on my commute are the ones without stopsigns at the bottom. since I can build some velocity before approaching these, my tendency is to want to sprint before the hill and sorta coast/mash once I run out of speed. the hills with a stopsign on the other-hand, require me to stand from the beginning and don't give me much choice about how to climb them.

before I went singlespeed, I wasn't nearly as capable at handling hills... I crest hills at 8-9mph now when I used to do it at 4-5...standing in a hard gear is key.
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Old 09-11-06, 11:51 PM
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Originally Posted by terrymorse
If you're unable to complete a climb, you're going too hard for your fitness.

When I want to work on my climbing endurance (like today), I'll pick an effort level and maintain that on hill repeats for 2-4 hours at a time. A good target heart rate for me these days is 80% of max. That training target will go down later in the year, as my fitness improves.

I also see that your lowest gear is a 39/25. That's not all that low. My lowest is a 34/27, and I use it when the going gets tough (above 9% or so). If you can't comfortably maintain a 60 cadence, you'll do better with lower gears.

Finally, to get your legs used to climbing stresses, I recommend sitting/standing drills. Sit for a minute, stand for a minute, sit for 2 minutes, stand for 2 minutes. Repeat. Another good training drill is to climb seated in one gear higher than is comfortable. This will really work the muscles of the quads, glutes, and back.
Ok, I have got the climbing thing down. I can climb the hills around here without having to stop. Now how do I work on speed? I am tired of some guy just blowing by me like I was standing still.

Just asking.
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Old 09-12-06, 06:45 AM
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I've also lost 40+ lbs from last year so I feel a lot better than that but still have some more weight to lose, I'm 5'7" 160lbs, just to give you an idea of how much weight I'm pushing up the hill. Also, will weight lifting help at all with climbing?
One thing to keep in mind, trying to train hard in the face of continuing weight loss is more difficult than training after you have reached your goal weight. Keep up the good work, but realize you are still improving as long as you lose weight -- even if you are not currently gaining climbing strength.

It's possible that performing some upper-body weight routine could benefit you just as much doing "extra" climibing work. Only you know where your weak links are.
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Old 09-12-06, 11:50 AM
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do climbs backwards. what I mean is..............

get up the climb in a tiny easier gear. 100 yards from the top, stand, shift up, and sprint
up over the top. nothing matters before that, just get up the hill, then kill the
last section.


next time, or next hill, do it the same way...

as the weeks go by, start your ending sprint earlier by 1 telephone pole,
this will build you into a hill climbing machine. eventually you will be able to
stand up and hammer at the bottom, then sit and recover 1/4 way up, then
stand again, then play with your cadence, and before you know it, you
aren't too winded at the top. and your legs are right there ready....

always always always motor over the top and continue motoring hard onto the
downhill or onto the flats as long as you can muster !
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Old 09-13-06, 08:41 AM
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Well, as others have said, if you are blowing up on the hill, you are pushing too hard. You are probably going anaerobic and that can only last so long. You are better off gearing down and slowing down and going up at a pace you can sustain.

Good hill climbing is a matter of power to weight ratio. Cruising on the flats is about having the power to over come the wind resistance. Big riders with lots of muscle have only slightly larger wind resistances than light riders so they do well on the flats. The problem with muscle is its strength is proportional to its cross sectional area and its weight is proportional to its volume. You double to cross sectional area of a muscle and you probalby quadruple its weight. That is why light riders do so well on hills and do not make good time trialists.

Fortunately, conditioning makes a huge difference too. If you are not in good cycling shape, just riding hills will make for impressive improvements without changing weight. Of course, the better the shape you get into the more time you have to take to sustain it and need more training and more intelligent training to see additional improvements. It gets to be a matter of diminishing returns.
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Old 09-13-06, 08:58 AM
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climbing hills can hurt...but consider this as motivation: the faster you get up them, the sooner the pain will go away. LOL.
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