Road Bike, Cycling Forums banner

1 - 20 of 64 Posts

·
Registered
Joined
·
68 Posts
Discussion Starter · #1 ·
So I am a relatively new road bike rider (not new to biking). Based on my experience so far, I am going decent on flats and short climbs where I can hold good cadence and speed. I average about 16-17 mph overall on rides including elevation. But I believe what's holding me back are steep climbs where your average grade is around 5 to 7%. I have read and heard some riders use their big rings to power through the climbs while others just stay in their biggest gear in the back and spin like a hamster. I have employed both strategies and neither works. Being in the big ring kills the cadence but helps with the distance but I tap out before the climb finishes. If I stick with the small chainring and shift to the biggest, I keep spinning but don't cover much distance and then eventually tap out there too.

I wonder how the majority of people here attack climbs and how many use their big chainrings.

My current setup is a 50/34t crankset and a 11-28 cassette.

Appreciate any suggestions to get better here. Thanks!
 

·
Neophyte
Joined
·
2,137 Posts
People are different so you'll get different answers on gearing. The one answer you'll get from everybody is that if you want to improve your climbing, climb more. Much more. However much (and how fast) you're doing now, you might look back on in a few months or year and scoff at.

But how long (distance-wise), as an example, are some of these climbs you are talking about?
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
19,214 Posts
There's no magic solution. There is no 'this method' or 'that method'. Do what works for you.

If mashing doesn't work. And spinning doesn't work. You're pushing too hard. You're exceeding your fitness level.

If I stick with the small chainring and shift to the biggest, I keep spinning but don't cover much distance and then eventually tap out there too.
Then shift down to the 25 cog and lower your cadence a bit.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
4,770 Posts
The most major mistake I see in beginning climbers is they tend to attack the climb as soon as they hit it. They hit it hard, way too hard.
If it's a short climb, one can build up speed, use the big ring and just power over it. If you have the power.
If it's a long climb, it's better to drop gears as soon as you start the climb, bring your heart rate up to about 90%, then control your HR at that level as you climb.
Also look at the gradients, where it is steep is where you want to go the hardest. If this is at the beginning, keep it under control so you can complete the climb.
Most long climbs I run 150 of 175max heart rate, about 60-80 cadence.
It takes time to get the handle on this, just keep doing it.
If your racing, forget everything I said, this is for beginners. Later you will know what you want to do based on the climb.
I'm going to do a 9mile 1800ft climb right now, ..... minimum, we'll see when I get to the top of the mtn, if I want to go down the other side & back.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
68 Posts
Discussion Starter · #5 ·
People are different so you'll get different answers on gearing. The one answer you'll get from everybody is that if you want to improve your climbing, climb more. Much more. However much (and how fast) you're doing now, you might look back on in a few months or year and scoff at.

But how long (distance-wise), as an example, are some of these climbs you are talking about?
In particular there is this 1.2 mile long climb with an average grade of 5.4%. At its steepest part, the grade is like 14.7%. To add to that, its a narrow two-lane road with cars with no shoulder or bike path. So you have to be super focused to control your handlebars and not sway too much. The problem is that the steep part of the climb is not at the beginning (which wouldn't have been a problem) but at the middle after you have been grinding for like a half a mile already so there is no "ramp" to allow you to regain your speed and power before you attack the steep part. I can get out of the saddle and power through the steep part but can't continue non-stop and have to stop and catch my breath.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
4,770 Posts
You are going too hard on the entry if you want to make it to the top without stopping. Or your low on power, 30 second intervals are your friend, until you've done a few.
 

·
Neophyte
Joined
·
2,137 Posts
I'd say survive first, attack later... what Duriel mentions about keeping HR at ~90% for the entire climb may be a good thing to try for now. Some folks might tell you that power is a better way to manage your efforts but doesn't look like you're at a point where you want to spend lots of money (power meters are coming down in price but still far from cheap).

Definitely figure out how hard you can go and make it to the top without stopping rather than worrying that you are going too slow and trying to max out.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
119 Posts
I don't know if you are overweight since you didn't mention your height and weight. If you are overweight the easiest way to improve your climbing is to lose the excess weight.
 

·
Neophyte
Joined
·
2,137 Posts
In a different thread, OP reports he is 5-8 and ~153 pounds, so luckily weight is not likely a n issue for him.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
68 Posts
Discussion Starter · #10 ·
I don't know if you are overweight since you didn't mention your height and weight. If you are overweight the easiest way to improve your climbing is to lose the excess weight.
I am 5'8 and 157 lbs..run and lift regularly. Have muscle with only 13% body fat. Don't think fitness is the issue here. Like duriel said, maybe I am going too hard on the initial climb and need to back off a little bit. I am also convinced i am probably in not the most optimal gear combination which is why I asked how many people use their big rings for climbing vs just staying in the small chainring. I guess I will have to figure out with more experience.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
8,605 Posts
I am 5'8 and 157 lbs..run and lift regularly. Have muscle with only 13% body fat. Don't think fitness is the issue here. Like duriel said, maybe I am going too hard on the initial climb and need to back off a little bit. I am also convinced i am probably in not the most optimal gear combination which is why I asked how many people use their big rings for climbing vs just staying in the small chainring. I guess I will have to figure out with more experience.
This.

There are a lot of gears between attacking in the 50 tooth big ring and the 34x28. Use that derailleur and find what gear works for you. Don't worry about what someone else uses, use what works for you. Change it up, shift to a larger gear till your legs start to ache then shift to a smaller gear and spin awhile. Get out of the saddle and stand on short steep gradients. Find what works for you and build on that, don't try and build on what works for the other guy.
 

·
Neophyte
Joined
·
2,137 Posts
There are TdF pros nowadays who will go with a compact and spin up hills in 34-28, at the same time there are still plenty who will pick a higher gear and do more out of the saddle, etc. It really comes down to what suits you (both preference and what you can push yourself to do).

You sound like you're on the right track, experiment + manage your effort level at this point.

Edit: Sorry this is basically what velodog said, I wrote it an hour ago and for some reason it took forever to post.
 

·
Super Moderator
Joined
·
40,420 Posts
This.

There are a lot of gears between attacking in the 50 tooth big ring and the 34x28. Use that derailleur and find what gear works for you. Don't worry about what someone else uses, use what works for you. Change it up, shift to a larger gear till your legs start to ache then shift to a smaller gear and spin awhile. Get out of the saddle and stand on short steep gradients. Find what works for you and build on that, don't try and build on what works for the other guy.
^All this.

At my size, I'll never ever be a great climber, but I plod along as best I can; my advice is to get up that hill any way you can.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
19,214 Posts
I am 5'8 and 157 lbs..run and lift regularly. Have muscle with only 13% body fat. Don't think fitness is the issue here.
It's EXACTLY a fitness issue. You're pushing yourself beyond your fitness level. Lifting weights and having muscle is irrelevant (actually it's a hinderance). Running is irrelevant.


Like duriel said, maybe I am going too hard on the initial climb and need to back off a little bit.
Yes. Because you don't have the fitness level to maintain that pace.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
68 Posts
Discussion Starter · #15 ·
It's EXACTLY a fitness issue. You're pushing yourself beyond your fitness level. Lifting weights and having muscle is irrelevant (actually it's a hinderance). Running is irrelevant.


Yes. Because you don't have the fitness level to maintain that pace.
I generally respect your "opinion" around here but I have to disagree here. I have been popped on this climb by much older and heavy set guys with beer bellies and they do not look anything like Chris Froome. My longest ride so far has been a 50-miler with more than 2000 ft of elevation over which I averaged 16.5 mph. I believe climbing a steep grade is my weakness and apart from that, I am generally a decent B-pace rider.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
19,214 Posts
I generally respect your "opinion" around here but I have to disagree here. I have been popped on this climb by much older and heavy set guys with beer bellies and they do not look anything like Chris Froome.
You can disagree but you're wrong. You're just not comprehending fitness. It isn't just how you 'look' or your age.
Those older heavier guys have better fitness than you. You can change your pedaling technique all you want. It may help a bit, but it ain't gonna stop those guys from popping you on the climb.


My longest ride so far has been a 50-miler with more than 2000 ft of elevation over which I averaged 16.5 mph.
I know a guy who's 70, a beer belly, and would destroy you while riding his single speed. He rides upwards of 15,000mi/yr
I'm not knocking you. I really don't care what level anyone rides at. I'm just pointing out that no amount of technique is going to make you as fast as someone with superior fitness. It's a major fail to judge someone's fitness based on appearance.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
4,770 Posts
It's really simple. If you have to stop at the top of a step up and recover before continuing a climb. One is going too hard.
You can run a marathon or dead lift 1000lbs, on a bike I'll beat u up a climb cause that's where I live & ride.
You have to do it to get it!
Did Contrador learn to climb over the summer? No, it took him years of dedicated training and a little help here and there.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
68 Posts
Discussion Starter · #18 ·
You can disagree but you're wrong. You're just not comprehending fitness. It isn't just how you 'look' or your age.
Those older heavier guys have better fitness than you. You can change your pedaling technique all you want. It may help a bit, but it ain't gonna stop those guys from popping you on the climb.


I know a guy who's 70, a beer belly, and would destroy you while riding his single speed. He rides upwards of 15,000mi/yr
I'm not knocking you. I really don't care what level anyone rides at. I'm just pointing out that no amount of technique is going to make you as fast as someone with superior fitness. It's a major fail to judge someone's fitness based on appearance.
I am sure he can and so can a lot of other people I know. Am i looking to ride 15000 mi/year? No. Not even half. I understand I need to put in work to increase climb related fitness which I am happy to do. I just came here to see if there are any technical improvements I can make which will help. if the answer is no, its ok, I will continue to put in work. Thanks.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
19,214 Posts
I am sure he can and so can a lot of other people I know. Am i looking to ride 15000 mi/year? No. Not even half.
That wasn't my point. You brought up getting popped by older fatter guys. I merely explained why.


I understand I need to put in work to increase climb related fitness which I am happy to do. I just came here to see if there are any technical improvements I can make which will help. if the answer is no, its ok, I will continue to put in work.
I think you've been given lots of good advice on techniques to try. They will help a bit. It's trial and error finding what works for you.


But as duriel mentioned above, " If you have to stop at the top of a step up and recover before continuing a climb." That's purely riding above your fitness.
 

·
Neophyte
Joined
·
2,137 Posts
It seemed like a bit of a semantics issue so I wasn't going to comment on it at first, but seeing how the thread has gone...

OP, you are right that it's not a weight issue. Everybody else is right that it's a fitness issue (cycling fitness), or at least an experience issue.

Eventually when these climbs are a mere blip to you down the line, I hope you come back and tie up this thread by letting us know what changed for you.
 
1 - 20 of 64 Posts
Top