Road Bike, Cycling Forums banner
1 - 20 of 25 Posts

· Registered
Joined
·
12 Posts
Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hi,
First time posting... I have a Giant TCR Aluminum 9 Speed and would like to be a stronger climber. I keep up with my riding partners on flats and descents ... but seem to get dropped during climbs. Are there any training techniques that would help me improve?
Thanks,
Stacy
 

· Registered
Joined
·
5,358 Posts
Do a lot of climbing.

Climbing is about power/weight ratio. If you are carrying extra weight (fat) then losing it would help.

If you aren't well trained, then you probably can't go hard for the entire climb. Without knowing what your current ability and experience is it's hard to recommend specific training. But more climbing will almost always help your climbing. If you aren't experienced, then you need to do a bunch of climbing so you can know what it feels like to go too hard and blow up, and to find out how hard you can push yourself over various distances.

One last thing- climbing is to some extent a mental game. When you go up a climb hard its going to hurt. If you embrace the suffering and make it part of you, rather than avoid it, you'll go faster. If you decide that you are bad at climbing, you will give up easily and get dropped. Try to develop the attitude that you are good at climbing and try as hard as possible to hang in on the climbs.
 

· Registered
Joined
·
5,270 Posts
Stacy said:
Are there any training techniques that would help me improve?
On a mathematical level it's power to weight ratio. On a psychological level, it's knowing that it's hurting for the other guy, too. Your legs need to get used to working really hard, resting not enough, then working hard again.
 

· Registered
Joined
·
49 Posts
ericm979 said:
Do a lot of climbing.

Climbing is about power/weight ratio. If you are carrying extra weight (fat) then losing it would help.

If you aren't well trained, then you probably can't go hard for the entire climb. Without knowing what your current ability and experience is it's hard to recommend specific training. But more climbing will almost always help your climbing. If you aren't experienced, then you need to do a bunch of climbing so you can know what it feels like to go too hard and blow up, and to find out how hard you can push yourself over various distances.

One last thing- climbing is to some extent a mental game. When you go up a climb hard its going to hurt. If you embrace the suffering and make it part of you, rather than avoid it, you'll go faster. If you decide that you are bad at climbing, you will give up easily and get dropped. Try to develop the attitude that you are good at climbing and try as hard as possible to hang in on the climbs.
I likewise want to get better with climbing. Thanks for this post....lots of great points. One thing that stands out is your advice about 'embracing' what comes with climbing. Have to work on the mental aspect of it.
 

· Carbon Fiber = Explode!
Joined
·
3,955 Posts
Breathe. Pull on your bars. Keep a constant output. No matter how slow or fast you go.

You dont' want to zig zag your wattage.
 

· Registered
Joined
·
5,358 Posts
Keeping constant power is good advice. If you have a heart rate monitor you can use that instead, but be aware that the HR lags behind effort. When you go harder the HR takes a while to come up in response.

Another tip (on longer climbs that you ride seated) is to keep your upper body relaxed. It is easy to tense up and that uses energy that could better be used to push the pedals around. I have read some pros' advice to relax your face to the point that your jaw is moving a little. The theory being that if you scrunch up your face you probably have tensed up a lot of your upper body.

I try to make sure that my elbows can move. Flap them like a chicken (not very much, you don't want to look too silly) to make sure that you have them loose. Clenching the bars is another one. Try to keep a loose grip on the bars, you should be able to move your fingers. It's hard to do completely; I have done a lot of climbing and climb smooth enough that other riders in races comment on it yet I am still working on staying loose on the bike.

You also want your pedal stoke to be smooth and complete around the circle (not "pedalling squares"). Greg Lemond's advice to pull at the bottom like you are scraping mud off your shoe is a good one. You also want to make sure that you are pushing down in the early part of the stroke. This is another technique that you never stop working on.

On undulating grades I like to stand up on the little steeper sections. This gives my muscles a break since standing used the muscles a little differently and it keeps the speed up. But if you are right on your limit you may not want to as it'll raise your HR a bit and if you are right on your threshold that may take you over into the red zone.

Practice standing on climbs until it is second nature. It's good for getting up really steep stuff, for attacking another rider or responding to his attack (since you can put out more power standing) and for getting a break on long climbs. When you stand it is ok to let the bike rock side to side but you want to keep the front wheel pointing forward, otherwise you are riding an S-curve path up the climb. It takes just a little steering input to keep the bike on a straight line.
 

· Registered
Joined
·
638 Posts
Like most others here have said, just keep climbing and youll get better. What usually works for me is to stick the cadence at 100 to 115 and put my hands on the flats. Sitting up straight like that helps the breathing which is an important aspect of climbing. I think the most important aspect however is the mental one. Really when you think about it a climb is no different on your legs than when you pickup up speed on the flats. For instance if youre doing 18mph on a flat and then pick up to 23mph for a minute or so youre doing the same leg work as hitting a decent hill. The mental part of seeing your speed decrease is what I think gets people the most
Another tip would be to do some interval training for your heartrate. You can do this on the treadmill or on your bike. Basically pick a speed thats about 95% effort and then pick another speed thats about 75% effort. Now go at the 95% for say 45seconds then do the 75% for 45seconds. Repeat for a set time or distance. As you get better shorten the time for the 75% effort. This really helped me with climbing because it trains your body and heartrate to recover quickly. A common issue for people with climbs is that they can make it up the hill but once they crest the top slow down significantly before they can get back to a normal pace.
 

· Registered
Joined
·
12 Posts
Discussion Starter · #8 ·
Thanks

Thanks for all the great advice! I am fairly nw at riding. My weight is not an issue so it is obviously just more practice and a few little tweeks in my riding! Every little bit helps!



ericm979 said:
Keeping constant power is good advice. If you have a heart rate monitor you can use that instead, but be aware that the HR lags behind effort. When you go harder the HR takes a while to come up in response.

Another tip (on longer climbs that you ride seated) is to keep your upper body relaxed. It is easy to tense up and that uses energy that could better be used to push the pedals around. I have read some pros' advice to relax your face to the point that your jaw is moving a little. The theory being that if you scrunch up your face you probably have tensed up a lot of your upper body.

I try to make sure that my elbows can move. Flap them like a chicken (not very much, you don't want to look too silly) to make sure that you have them loose. Clenching the bars is another one. Try to keep a loose grip on the bars, you should be able to move your fingers. It's hard to do completely; I have done a lot of climbing and climb smooth enough that other riders in races comment on it yet I am still working on staying loose on the bike.

You also want your pedal stoke to be smooth and complete around the circle (not "pedalling squares"). Greg Lemond's advice to pull at the bottom like you are scraping mud off your shoe is a good one. You also want to make sure that you are pushing down in the early part of the stroke. This is another technique that you never stop working on.

On undulating grades I like to stand up on the little steeper sections. This gives my muscles a break since standing used the muscles a little differently and it keeps the speed up. But if you are right on your limit you may not want to as it'll raise your HR a bit and if you are right on your threshold that may take you over into the red zone.

Practice standing on climbs until it is second nature. It's good for getting up really steep stuff, for attacking another rider or responding to his attack (since you can put out more power standing) and for getting a break on long climbs. When you stand it is ok to let the bike rock side to side but you want to keep the front wheel pointing forward, otherwise you are riding an S-curve path up the climb. It takes just a little steering input to keep the bike on a straight line.
 

· Registered
Joined
·
638 Posts
I cant visualize an 8% grade but usually the 39 in front and Probably 22ish? in the back. Although they arent long climbs we do have some really steep ones in the chicago burbs but I really dont know the grade. Basically whatever gear I can keep the cadence up in the 100 range. On a 40 mile ride my cadence is usually at 89 to 92 average after the ride although lately ive been tyring to turn a big gear and stay in the 70-85 range which seems to be working well to build strength. For form on climbs I usually hold the bars on the flats and sit up straight basically pulling on the bars while keeping good circles with the cranks. Its odd to describe but the way I sit up its almost like my junk comes off the seat and I plant all the weight to my sit bones while pulling the bars. For reference Im using a Scott S10 with neuvation wheels. So the bike is pretty stiff and though im sure theres better climbing bikes out there it seems to do just fine.
 

· Registered
Joined
·
378 Posts
I am a beginner as well and what's helped me is to divide the hill into three sections. Get a visual target for the end of the first section and use the lower gear than you normally would and spin and spin so the legs don't get tired. When you are 1/3 way up the hill, work a little harder. If your legs are willing, go to a smaller gear in the back. When you pass the 2/3 mark, do not fade. Keep it up to the top of the hill.
 

· Registered
Joined
·
5,358 Posts
Gear selection- don't automatically go down to your lowest gear when you start on a climb. Try to pick a gear that you can handle for the entire climb for the level of effort you want to put in. If it's a climb where the grade changes, break it up into sections. If you use too low a gear then you'll be slow. If you use too high a gear then part way up your legs will get fatigued and you will need to shift to a lower gear. If you were just hanging in with the group then when you shift down you will slow down unles you really try hard to increase the cadence to maintain the same speed with the lower gear. But you shifted down because your legs hurt, so you're really going to suffer when you shift down and have to spin it up to hang on.

The general rule for gear selection is that if your legs hurt but you are breathing fine, shift down. If you are breathing hard but your legs are fine, shift up. The reason is that pedalling isn't totally effecient. No matter how smooth you pedal there is some wasted effort. Take two riders of the same weight on the same hill. Rider A rides mashes at 50 rpms and rider B spins at 100. Both are putting out the same amount of power but rider B's legs only have to do half of the work each pedal stroke. That means that rider B's leg muscles will be stressed a lot less. But there is a cost- because of wasted motion rider B is using more energy to make the same power to the pedals. So (assuming the same physiology) rider B's heart rate will be about 5 bpm higher than rider A's even though they are putting out the same power. Rider B's legs will burn less but he's going to be breathing harder than rider A.

You'll want to modify this rule of thumb a bit for long rides, where leg fatigue can accumulate, by biasing you gear selection to the lower gear so your legs don't wear out before the end of the ride.
 

· Registered
Joined
·
11,561 Posts
"Rider A rides mashes at 50 rpms and rider B spins at 100. Both are putting out the same amount of power but rider B's legs only have to do half of the work each pedal stroke. That means that rider B's leg muscles will be stressed a lot less."

Do we really know that? They do half as much work per stroke, but twice as many strokes, hence the same power. What if the work is the primary cause of "stress" and not the force, or what if it's the velocity not force?

"But there is a cost- because of wasted motion rider B is using more energy to make the same power to the pedals."

As far as I'm aware there is no reason to think that is true, you would expect just the opposite since riders are typically more efficient at lower cadences than the usual self-selected ones (e.g. 85-95 rpm) and typically become even more inefficient as they go above them (e.g. 100-110 rpm). B would be a very unusual rider if at 50 rpm he was using more energy for the same power as A.

Also most riders can't make the same power when overgeared as in their normal range.

So it would seem to me when racing and trying to keep up, your best bet is to have a low enough gear that you can maintain approximately a normal cadence.

If just out riding or doing something like a century, it might be advantageous to ride hills at a low cadence because it is both more efficient and may compromise your power (which again from an energy perspective would leave more in the tank).
 

· Registered
Joined
·
5,358 Posts
Dwayne Barry said:
"Rider A rides mashes at 50 rpms and rider B spins at 100. Both are putting out the same amount of power but rider B's legs only have to do half of the work each pedal stroke. That means that rider B's leg muscles will be stressed a lot less."

Do we really know that? They do half as much work per stroke, but twice as many strokes, hence the same power. What if the work is the primary cause of "stress" and not the force, or what if it's the velocity not force?

Muscle strength isn't linear. Moving a slightly easier weight is much easier. For example take the typical weightlifting "1 rep" chart. (that's a chart that estimates the amount of weight you can lift just once based on the number of times you can lift a lighter weight. The 1 rep weight is useful for planning purposes but it's hard and a little dangerous to test directly, so weight lifters have developed a chart to estimate it).
On the chart I looked at, if you can bench 135 lbs for 8 reps than your estimated one rep max is 167 lbs. Looked at the other way, a weight lifter can do 80% of the work each rep 8 times as many times.

Dwayne Barry said:
"But there is a cost- because of wasted motion rider B is using more energy to make the same power to the pedals."

As far as I'm aware there is no reason to think that is true, you would expect just the opposite since riders are typically more efficient at lower cadences than the usual self-selected ones (e.g. 85-95 rpm) and typically become even more inefficient as they go above them (e.g. 100-110 rpm). B would be a very unusual rider if at 50 rpm he was using more energy for the same power as A.
I think you have my example backwards- B is the 100 rpm rider. As you point out in many cadence studies the lower cadence around 50 rpm is most efficient, that's because at higher cadences more energy is used moving the legs around but not all that is putting power to the pedals. No one has a perfect pedalling action, there is always some wasted motion. (the normal range for pedalling efficiency is about 18-25 %. At 25% for every watt of power to the pedals you're burning 4 watts worth of fuel.)
Dwayne Barry said:
So it would seem to me when racing and trying to keep up, your best bet is to have a low enough gear that you can maintain approximately a normal cadence.
Yes, I'd agree with that.
Dwayne Barry said:
If just out riding or doing something like a century, it might be advantageous to ride hills at a low cadence because it is both more efficient and may compromise your power (which again from an energy perspective would leave more in the tank).
But as I tried to point out (and probably wrote poorly; I was in a hurry), riding at too low a cadence makes your legs get tired sooner. So for a long ride you may want to climb using a lower gear than normal to "save" your legs.

Many of the cadence studies that show the best efficiency being 50-60 rpms were done using untrained riders at low power outputs. I have read some more recent studies of experienced racers that show that the self-selected cadence is either as efficient or not nearly as inefficient as previously thought.

BTW you can run your own test to see what the most efficient cadence is for you- find a long constant grade. Hold a constant speed and try different gears for at least 5 minutes each (to let your HR stabilize). The most efficient cadence for you will be the one that shows the lowest heart rate at the end of the 5 minutes.
 

· Registered
Joined
·
638 Posts
Rider A leaves New York at 8:34am heading west at 65 RPM riding a 53x16 gear with a WSW 18mph wind gusting up to 23mph. Rider B leaves Chicago 9:02am heading east at 88RPM riding a 53x18 gear with the same WSW 18mph. At what time will they give each other the "nod" as they pass?
 

· Albert Owen
Joined
·
1,041 Posts
In my experience:

1 - Good climbers like, even love, hills.

2 - Every hill and rider has a rhythm. Find the one that matches you with the climb, and you're set.

3 - Don't think when you climb, just "be". Thinking only makes you tense, wastes energy and usually spoils the moment.

The rest is just fitness, strength, aptitude and technique, which, obviously, varies from person to person.
 

· Registered
Joined
·
29 Posts
I'm not a racer, but here's what works for me:

On short hills, pedal hard where the pedaling is easy & use the momentum to help you with some of the steeper bits. My legs don't get as tired pedaling hard where it is less steep. You might need to slow a little beforehand to allow space between yourself and the rider in front of you before the acceleration. Often I find myself coasting when other people are slowing and starting to stand.

On longer or steeper hills, have an idea of how far the climb is and try to pace yourself. Don't burn out if there is still a lot left to go on the odometer. Constant effort is best; concentrating on maintaining a constant cadence also helps; set short goals, just to the next sign or just to the top of the next steep bit.

I prefer to stay seated as much as I can; staying seated lets you get more power from the backwards part of the pedal stroke and keeps the muscles from fatiguing as fast. Others prefer standing. For me, standing depletes power fast like a bottlerocket, while staying seated allows more power from the back-stroke and more gradual depletion of power. I might stand to get past short steep spots or just before the top, knowing I'll soon be able to rest on the downhill. If I need stand for an extended time, I try to gauge down on the power so it doesn't get depleted as fast.

I've also seen some people picking a spot before the crest before which they take it a little bit easier and then going all-out starting from that spot to the crest. It's a question of knowing yourself and the spot from which you can push it.
 

· Carbon Fiber = Explode!
Joined
·
3,955 Posts
When alternating between seated and standing, make sure when you switch that you shift appropriately.

Also, for really high climbs, curving in "waves" helps "lower" the gradient. But usually that doesn't come into play unless you're in no man's land which is 17-20%+
 

· Registered
Joined
·
219 Posts
Stacy said:
Hi,
First time posting... I have a Giant TCR Aluminum 9 Speed and would like to be a stronger climber. I keep up with my riding partners on flats and descents ... but seem to get dropped during climbs. Are there any training techniques that would help me improve?
Thanks,
Stacy

here's a question. is there "too aggressive" of a climbing style?

when i watch lance stand up, he seems to dance lightly on the pedals
and not pull hard on the bars. he flows.

through hours of playing around, i found i climb really well doing the
opposite. i pull really hard on the bars, breathing like an ox, and grunting
the whole way.

my bike zips back and forth and i have a great time.
i do like it better. i can do it longer, since i found my vent and
am letting out steam. is this bad?

i only weigh 155lbs, so there's no equipment issue.
but this feels really comfortable for me.
 
1 - 20 of 25 Posts
This is an older thread, you may not receive a response, and could be reviving an old thread. Please consider creating a new thread.
Top