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Training for steep hills (12%+)

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Training for steep hills (12%+)

Old 10-13-14, 05:10 PM
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Training for steep hills (12%+)

I started road cycling 1 year ago and since then I've grown to be able to ride up HC grades and ride centuries with no problem at all. In general I have absolutely no problem with any regular climb, or short and steeper ones (1-2 block long 10%+ grades).

BUT on this weekend I tried to climb a particularly steep category 2 hill in Berkeley and I failed miserably half mile from the top at the steepest section. After stopping and gasping for a minute I managed to finish it though. I feel terrible because I can't get out of my head that the hill defeated me.

How can I prepare myself for a climb section that averages 12.5% for 1 mile and has 20%+ parts? Any advise?

This is the whole climb:
Strava Segment | El Toyonal/Lomas Contadas

And this is the last and steepest section:
https://www.strava.com/segments/3972864
Strava Segment | Spock! Help me, Spock!

Last edited by nemeseri; 10-13-14 at 05:16 PM.
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Old 10-13-14, 06:11 PM
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Lose weight and use a smaller gear.
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Old 10-13-14, 06:45 PM
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This one also pretty steep Strava Segment | LKHC Welch Creek
You have to be fit and has proper gearing (better have both) to take on those - there's no way around.
What's you cadence / power?
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Old 10-13-14, 07:33 PM
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I'm generally useless on any climb of more than a mile. About 4 years ago I moved to a house at the bottom of a hill, surrounded by other hills between 18-25%. They aren't very long, but for the first year or so they kicked my butt every time I went out on the bike. Now they are no problem and there is no [short] gradient that intimidates me. Not because I'm any better at climbing, it's only due to repetition, better technique and management of my efforts.

Were you out of the saddle for that mile? Do you normally climb out of the saddle for extended periods? I got used to my short, steep hills either sitting or out of the saddle with pretty much any gear. But one thing I did find out about myself is that I do a lot better out of the saddle for longer climbs. This seems to fly in the face of the conventional wisdom that heavier cyclists should do better seated. But it seems, like everything else, that it's really a matter of getting used to it.

There is nothing wrong with compact cranks or bigger cogs. You can do most everything, except maybe set a new hour record, with a pedestrian 50x11 big gear.
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Old 10-13-14, 08:32 PM
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Originally Posted by sprince
I'm generally useless on any climb of more than a mile. About 4 years ago I moved to a house at the bottom of a hill, surrounded by other hills between 18-25%. They aren't very long, but for the first year or so they kicked my butt every time I went out on the bike. Now they are no problem and there is no [short] gradient that intimidates me. Not because I'm any better at climbing, it's only due to repetition, better technique and management of my efforts.

Were you out of the saddle for that mile? Do you normally climb out of the saddle for extended periods? I got used to my short, steep hills either sitting or out of the saddle with pretty much any gear. But one thing I did find out about myself is that I do a lot better out of the saddle for longer climbs. This seems to fly in the face of the conventional wisdom that heavier cyclists should do better seated. But it seems, like everything else, that it's really a matter of getting used to it.

There is nothing wrong with compact cranks or bigger cogs. You can do most everything, except maybe set a new hour record, with a pedestrian 50x11 big gear.
Let's see!

1) I'm not super slim, but at 140 lbs / 5'6" I don't think that's too bad. I plan to drop some weight though.
2) I have proper gearing. I have a compact and a 11-28 cassette. And I love everything about this setup. As I said I've never had problem on extended climbs, like Mount Diablo, Hammilton or Mount Tam. I just checked and for short climbs I can fairly easily climb up 15% blocks.

You might just hit the head on the nail with mentioning standing. I almost exclusively sit during steep climbs, I only stand for short periods to get over short steep grades without shifting. On this climb my cadence fell very low and I was standing up for extended period. When I sat down it didn't help. Maybe if I tried to stay seated that would have helped to keep my cadence at a reasonable level.
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Old 10-13-14, 08:45 PM
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Practice more. Here's a few streets to check out.
https://www.7x7.com/arts-culture/real-top-10-list-steepest-streets-san-francisco
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Old 10-13-14, 09:03 PM
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I'm working on this as well. Most of my climbs are cat 3 and 4 but they still kick my butt. If you're sitting for most of the climb and only standing for the steep parts you're doing it right. I got into the habit of staying out of the saddle for long stretches this summer, and while I initially thought it was helping, ultimately I think it was hurting my climbing performance. For the last few weeks I've been trying to go back to basics, stay in the saddle, and keep my cadence as high as possible.
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Old 10-14-14, 04:30 PM
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12% is not that bad if you have a low gear. You should have the standard compact(50/34) and preferably a 32 tooth cog on your cassette. I run an 11/34 mtb cassette on my bike but, I only use the 34 on really steep stuff or on a hill (even 12%) at the end of a century when my legs are tired. And also, on those 20% grades you will need to lean forward or get out of the saddle otherwise you risk tipping over backwards (or sideways). Just watch your balance.
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Old 10-15-14, 09:03 AM
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The best way to get better at hills is to ride hills. Since you are already of reasonable weight you might see if a 12-30 cassette will work with your rd. That would give you a small boost when the climb gets real steep. Otherwise it really is a matter of improving the engine; strength and endurance and riding hills will get you there. HIIT will work as well but don't discount the need for rest.
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Old 10-17-14, 12:29 PM
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Your power to weight ratio needs to improve. You can't really lose any weight to change that so it means you need a wider base as well as some strength training. Some say weight training doesn't really help. Ask yourself "how can it not help?". You could try riding those hills in a gear/cadence to spin less and mash more that would build leg strenght. If your knees hurt your doing to much. Work on leg strengthany way that works for you
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Old 10-17-14, 12:51 PM
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In addition to all the good ideas and training advice above, it sounds to me you hit it too hard and ran out of steam. Try again but go a bit slower from the start saving up for that last 1/2 mile.
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Old 10-18-14, 07:41 PM
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Originally Posted by Looigi
In addition to all the good ideas and training advice above, it sounds to me you hit it too hard and ran out of steam. Try again but go a bit slower from the start saving up for that last 1/2 mile.

+1 pedaling a smooth continuous pedalstroke and a slow cadence can really improve the efficiency of the climb. Reducing your speed can also reduce the the load proportionality. 8 mph is twice the effort of 4 mph.

I use a cycling computer with a heart rate monitor and a cadence meter to manage my output while climbing. I say below 85% of my maximum heart rate. I might push harder at the end of the ride. I always keep my effort moderate until the last 10 miles of a ride. Better to finish strong than burn out early.
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Last edited by Barrettscv; 10-18-14 at 07:48 PM.
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