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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I'm jumping on the gas-prices-are-high-so-i'm-going-to-start-cycling bandwagon, but i also want to get good at cycling.

My friend lent me his Specialized Roubaix...i believe it's an Elite Triple.
Is this a good climbing bike? I would think so because the triple gearing would help me on the hills.

So what makes a good climbing bike?

I live on a very hilly area with 11-15% grades (it's on the signs). So i'm sure there are portions that are slightly steeper too. I want to get started right away so I can get better, because as it is, there's no way that I'd be able to get out of my neighborhood and make it back too.
If I want to get to school, I have to climb up the 11% hill (0.73 mi according to walkjogrun.net) which is maybe a quarter of a mile. I've done it before on a cheap mongoose mountain bike with some effort, so I'm pretty sure that with practice, it'll become easier. After that is (1.35 mi) of 15% descent. There's another pretty long hill that gets somewhat steep toward the end, but it looks do-able.
I'm worried about the way back. The 15% grade is extremely steep in some spots.

So where can I read up on climbing tactics?

Thanks for listening.
 

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A good climbing bike is a bike that is being ridden by a good climber. It is rare for a good climber to use a bike with a triple chainring. As you shift into easier gears you slow down and that third chainring gives the bike much easier gears.

Much easier gear=riding slower.

OTOH that third chainring sure makes climbing easier for someone who doesn't race.
 

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mikejungle said:
I'm jumping on the gas-prices-are-high-so-i'm-going-to-start-cycling bandwagon, but i also want to get good at cycling.

My friend lent me his Specialized Roubaix...i believe it's an Elite Triple.
Is this a good climbing bike? I would think so because the triple gearing would help me on the hills.

So what makes a good climbing bike?

I live on a very hilly area with 11-15% grades (it's on the signs). So i'm sure there are portions that are slightly steeper too. I want to get started right away so I can get better, because as it is, there's no way that I'd be able to get out of my neighborhood and make it back too.
If I want to get to school, I have to climb up the 11% hill (0.73 mi according to walkjogrun.net) which is maybe a quarter of a mile. I've done it before on a cheap mongoose mountain bike with some effort, so I'm pretty sure that with practice, it'll become easier. After that is (1.35 mi) of 15% descent. There's another pretty long hill that gets somewhat steep toward the end, but it looks do-able.
I'm worried about the way back. The 15% grade is extremely steep in some spots.

So where can I read up on climbing tactics?

Thanks for listening.
The only way to get good in the hills is to ride heaps of hills.

It's not the bike, it's the bloke riding it. Climbing is all about rider fitness.
 

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Descending a 15% grade depends a lot on the road. How smooth is the pavement? How clean is the pavement? How tight are the curves? Are there cross streets? Dogs? Deer? What's at the bottom?

In ideal conditions with a smooth, clean, straight road with no cross streets, no animals and nothing you need to stop for at the bottom, you could probably just let it run. In less than ideal conditions, you'll probably need to brake all the way down, maybe even stopping to let the rims cool occasionally. In this latter case, I would probably look for another way to go, even if it's longer.
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
hm.
well. i know that rider fitness is obviously paramount; which is why i asked about climbing techniques so i could get better. And that's why I mentioned triple gearing; i think it'd help me acclimate to climbing better than a double geared bike.

or am i wrong?

climbing techniques? or is it just straightforward, "pedal until you get to the top" kind of thing?
 

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Climbing long, steep hills is usually a matter of alternating sitting and standing. Put it in the gear that allows you to sit and pedal. Pedal there until your legs are screaming. Then shift up one to three gears and stand for a while (perhaps 30 seconds). Then sit again and shift back down. Repeat until you get to the top. I would keep my hands on the hoods the whole time.

Let the bike rock a bit (not too much) while you are standing. If the hill is very steep, pedal the bike like you are climing stairs (while standing).

If you're just beginning to build stamina, you may need to stop and rest periodically as you climb to get your wind back.

Keep climbing that hill until it is easier.
 

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Just read somewhere, that while seated, you should scoot your butt back in the saddle a bit and force your heal down at the top of the pedal stroke. Tried it this week end and my glutes and calves were screaming. Before trying this technique, it was my quads that would spent on a climb. I think the idea is, alternating between the seated and standing changes the muscle groups being used. Fatigue one group and switch to the other.
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
thanks. that's helpful.

does resting periodically help your thighs recover too? It'd be sort of lame if I got halfway up the hill but couldn't finish because my thighs were shot.

There are no cross streets until the bottom and the pavement is pretty rough and it's a very windy road. is it hazardous for the brakes if i don't stop on the way down? I would have thought that brake fading wouldn't be so bad because there's plenty of ventilation.
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
immerle said:
Just read somewhere, that while seated, you should scoot your butt back in the saddle a bit and force your heal down at the top of the pedal stroke. Tried it this week end and my glutes and calves were screaming. Before trying this technique, it was my quads that would spent on a climb. I think the idea is, alternating between the seated and standing changes the muscle groups being used. Fatigue one group and switch to the other.
nice.
that helps too.

is the source somewhere online where I could read about it?

thanks
 

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Pretty good info above on techniques...
I'll go ahead and comment on the bike.

The lighter and stiffer the better, but this also = much more money. Once you get past the $4,000 price point, it's all about bling.
Lighter = easier climbing
Stiffer = more responsive

Just about any bike company puts out good bikes above $2,200, so I can't really comment on "what a good climbing bike is." You definately want to make sure the bike is comfortable and fits you well. A good local bike shop will be able to help you with that.
With your situation, IMO, you would be better offer putting more money into lighter wheels than a lighter bike. You might also want to think about getting a compact crank on whichever bike you choose. The ratios on a compact crank tend to be better for lots of climbing.
Generally for name brand bikes:
17.5 - 18lbs: $2,200 - $2,500
16 - 17.5:$2500 - $2,900
you get the idea

You can get other deals from bikedirect.com and some other customer order shops that have good prices for the same types of bikes.

I noticed talk about rim overheating... Does this happen with carbon rims? In auto racing carbon brakes don't even work well until they heat up.

Craig
 

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mikejungle said:
thanks. that's helpful.

does resting periodically help your thighs recover too? It'd be sort of lame if I got halfway up the hill but couldn't finish because my thighs were shot.

There are no cross streets until the bottom and the pavement is pretty rough and it's a very windy road. is it hazardous for the brakes if i don't stop on the way down? I would have thought that brake fading wouldn't be so bad because there's plenty of ventilation.
A 15% descent for 1.35 miles on a curvy, rough road is a death ride. There is a 15% grade near me that is a little more than 1/4 mile long. I have appoached 50 mph on the hill (I worry about squirrels, frogs, anything at that speed). While gas is expensive, it is cheaper than the medical bills.

I am certain that I could not climb 1.35 miles at 15% (1,000'+ elevation gain) without severe pain if at all. If you could manage 6 mph, that would a 13-14 minute grind. Granted, with practice and fitness I it could be done, but ouch.
 

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Discussion Starter · #13 ·
Just a guess, but when John mentioned the rim heating up, i think it was because the heat would be perilous to the innertube or tire itself, not the wheel itself.

and I'll venture a gas that it's not as big a problem with carbon fiber rims because cloth isn't great at heat transfer, and although resin might increase its heat rentention/conduction properties, it's probably still better than metal.

hopefully i'm not too off. seems logical.

the 15% hill really looks insane. I remember the very first time I drove up it, i felt like I was driving to heaven. I would think that at some parts, it's between 25-40 degree incline? I think i'll have to have someone on stand by to pick me up when i attempt the climb.

Is the descent really that dangerous?
You guys are scaring me :(

Thanks for the info about bikes. I can't really afford to buy a whole new bike, so i'll stick with the roubaix...but what's a crank?

Where can I learn about bike parts?
I don't know the different parts of the handles, or the names of all the different parts. I thought there would be some sort of sticky in the beginner's forum, but couldn't find any.

thanks
 

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Regarding brakes heating to failure...

Typically when my brakes heat to the point of getting sloppy I will alternate braking between front and rear. The idea being I give one wheel a few seconds to cool then the other ect.

Anyone have any thoughts on that style of descent? I think it works as braking slop is reduced. But that is based solely on feel (or the placebo effect).
 

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mikejungle said:
the 15% hill really looks insane. I remember the very first time I drove up it, i felt like I was driving to heaven. I would think that at some parts, it's between 25-40 degree incline? I think i'll have to have someone on stand by to pick me up when i attempt the climb.
Could you tell us where this road is? I'd love to have a look with GoogleEarth!

In any case, I doubt any section is even approaching 40%. That would probably make it the steepest road on the planet. There's an older thread floating around here about steep roads, and I think there's a 38% grade in New Zealand that holds the record.

Notwithstanding that, 15% is pretty steep. There's a 15% grade near my house that's about 1/10 - 1/5 of a mile long. I take it on regularly, but it's never easy. I can't imagine climbing that grade for over a mile.
 

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A stiff frame does nothing for getting you up a climb faster. It does make the bike feel fast though, especially when you are standing.

Good climbers are smart enough to pick gearing that works for them on the climbs they'll be doing. Some like to have high gears; most prefer gears low enough so they can sit and spin, although they may not do that for every hill. Of course gears that let a fast climber sit and spin will be too high for someone who is not that good a climber.

You should pick the gearing and system that gives you low enough gears. If that's a triple, get it.

The grades on signs are often the steepest grade on that section of road, not the overall average grade. 1.3 miles of 15% would be very very steep, close to the steepest road that long in the US. It's likely that the average grade for that 1.3 miles is less, and the steepest part is 15%. That's still pretty steep!

On steep descents I use both brakes at the same time but only to slow for turns, or if it's really steep, to slow down a bit. There's an article in _Cycling Science_ that shows that trying to brake to maintain 20 mph puts the most heat into the rims. Going either faster or slower results in less heat.
 

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mikejungle said:
the 15% hill really looks insane. I remember the very first time I drove up it, i felt like I was driving to heaven. I would think that at some parts, it's between 25-40 degree incline? I think i'll have to have someone on stand by to pick me up when i attempt the climb.

Is the descent really that dangerous?
You guys are scaring me :(

Thanks for the info about bikes. I can't really afford to buy a whole new bike, so i'll stick with the roubaix...but what's a crank?

Where can I learn about bike parts?
I don't know the different parts of the handles, or the names of all the different parts. I thought there would be some sort of sticky in the beginner's forum, but couldn't find any.

thanks
Check this out http://www.geographylists.com/list17y.html for a list of really steep roads in the US. I have walked the road in Hawaii and it was tough to walk.

To work on your descents, start out on less steep streets. You will be surprised how poorly bicycle brakes work compared to automobiles/motorcycles. I just started cycling last year and after 4,000 miles I still pucker up on 30 mph twisty descents.

To learn about the pieces and parts of bicycles as well as how to tune and roughly fit a bike, I would recommend this http://www.amazon.com/Zinn-Art-Road-Bike-Maintenance/dp/1884737706
 

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Discussion Starter · #19 ·
thanks for all the comments.

I thought that the grade was an average, but I guess just the steepest on the sign would make more sense. Even so, the hill is consistently very steep. only for a short section in the middle does it level off slightly.

concerning brakes.
I've seen rotors on mountain bikes...do any road bikes do that or are they purposely left off to reduced weight?
 

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I like the fact he used the word "tactics"...

Unless you are planning to race, it sounds like you are just looking to survive. Thats fine. The more you survive these things, the easier they will become. I have provided some people and provided advice for doing what would otherwise be considered impossible rides like Triple Bypass and the most recent 3S3M for us flatlanders and they have had good results with the 'survival mode'.

My advice is to practice. No duh, right? But there is a technique to what could be considered "survival" climbing mode that works to task different muscles and different aerobic systems so that you can ... postpone the fail. I would find a gear within which you feel you can ride all day when climbing. Find the combination and remember it. Then when you get into the thick of it (on longer climbs this is more effective)... pedal seated in this gear for say... 40 revs, then stand in a harder gear for 20, or for 10... I dont care... just alternate between seated and standing in a gear that is not too hard or BLAM. You will roast.

Also, I find that many people in your... what I would consider inexperience... tend to focus on the downward portion of the pedal stroke... the mash. However, I find that by switching to a bit lighter gear and focusing on bringing the knee UP will engage the core, hip flexor and sartorious and significantly decrease the pressure put upon the opposite quad/calf. I also think this helps to reduce the propensity for some riders to load up on the front wheel.

So, these are the two things I would do. Work on effective transition between seated and standing, and start focusing on pushing lighter gears and integrating the lifting of the knee and not just the mashing down. I feel these will help you become a better climber.
 
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