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Help with the hills for a former mountain biker(9 posts)

Help with the hills for a former mountain bikerDrPete
May 12, 2001 3:39 PM
OK, I tried to avoid posting this, but my last ride made me realize I need help. I just blow in the hills. I ride a CAAD3 with Rolf Vector Comps, so I doubt it's the bike's fault (amazing, isn't it?). My problem is that I just don't know the best way to shift for a larger hill. For the smaller rolling hills I just get out of the saddle and pedal through it, but I run into problems on bigger hills. I find myself in the big ring (39/52 in front, 12-25 rear), and I just keep clicking off gears to keep the cadence, but then I run out of cogs. Then, when I drop to the small ring in front, I just lose every bit of momentum I have because of the huge drop in gear ratio, and I usually end up dropping to my lowest gear to get up the hill. For all of you seasoned roadies out there, how do you attack the hills, both in terms of gears and in/out of saddle? Also, what type of training do you recommend? I'm not a racer, but I'd like to be someday... I'd love to know, because I'm struggling. Thanks.
a mountainous task, heh, heh. Sorry.Largo
May 12, 2001 5:01 PM
Anyway, you would have to be more specific with regards to small and large hills where you ride.
In general, on the road you need to be able to spin a big gear.
Try finding a hill that is fairly long, say 10 minutes to climb at a comfortable pace, not too steep, but not too mellow either, and do seated climbs on it in a big gear, say 53x15.
Don't stand, and keep good form. Do repeats.
This will make you strong, and before you know it you will be spinning happily away up those hills.
I'm not sure what you mean by big.
Big can be 300', or 3000' depending on where you live.
Big can be.... medium!DrPete
May 12, 2001 5:14 PM
I guess it's not so much a matter of big so much as steep. I live in the Maryland suburbs of DC, and it's generally pretty flat unless I venture up toward Pennsylvania. I guess 500-1000 feet is a good-size hill around here, but they have a tendency to sneak up on you and be kinda steep. I'm also still new to road riding and a little out of shape due to some thyroid problems I had earlier, but things are going better. I like your advice, though. I'll have to try it out. Another question-- do you stay seated as much as possible or do you climb out of the saddle?
Big is big. Its all relative.Largo
May 12, 2001 6:51 PM
I find that on long climbs, a good tempo in the seat can be most efficient.
Nothing feels as good as getting that "rhythym" going on a big climb.
Every one has a different one.
Alternate standing/seating to rest the different muscle groups.
Unless you are sprinting for a finish line on the top of a hill, standing will wear you out.
Watch the '99 giro to see some amazing climbing.
Good luck.
re: Help with the hills for a former mountain bikerDuane Gran
May 12, 2001 5:31 PM
I also live in the DC area, so I'm familiar with the hills you mention. Incidentally, there is a great hill on the Marlyand side of Great Falls to do hill repeats on. If interested in more info, email me (

Onto your question... for race preparation you usually want to be capable of "jamming" up a hill if at all possible. This usually involves getting out of the saddle at some intermediate point in the hill to get a little extra "ooomph" over the crest. If the hill is too long to jam up, ideally you want good momentum into the base and to carry that momentum as long as you can, which usually involves downshifting periodically. This is something everyone is familiar with.

It sounds like you are keeping it in the big ring too long. Not only does this cause you to spin out, as you mention, it increases the odds of dropping your chain into the bottom bracket. The solution is to generally switch from the big to little ring in front when your rear sprocket is using about the middle ring. Experiment a little, as this is a rough suggestion, but there isn't necessarily a perfect gear. This approach will be smoother.
re: Help with the hills for a former mountain bikerBrianU
May 13, 2001 10:54 AM
Alot of this is really similar to mountain biking. Being able to look at a hill and anticipate what gears you will need to tackle it. I live in an area with a lot of rolling hills and had to overcome your exact same problem when I started road riding seriously a couple years ago. I also run a 53/39, 25/12 setup and this is what works for me.
If I know that I'm going to need to drop to my 39 ring, I'll do it long before I hit the 25 cog. In fact, I never go lower than the 21 while on my 53 ring. The key to this is when I drop to the 39 ring, I also drop two gears in the rear at almost the same time. This gives a pretty smooth transition and gives about the same feeling as only changing one gear in the back. For example, I hit a hill with a pretty good head of steam in my large ring. I know that I will eventually have to drop to my small ring, so when I'm somewhere in the middle of my cog and still have plenty of momentum I'll switch to the 39 ring. Say that I'm on the 19 cog when I change up front, I'll then drop to the 15 in back at almost the same time. Make sure you do all this before you got to the point that you really have to mash on the pedals to keep your momentum. With some practice and time, it will become a smooth transition.
re: Help with the hills for a former mountain bikerpeter
May 14, 2001 2:24 AM
OK, I am a mountain biker, but I believe it doesn't make a difference. We all are cyclists . . .
I have two rules to state:
First, to eliminate the wear-out of chain, don't use the big chainring with big cogs. The rule is (with 2 chainrings) to only use the respective half of cogs, i.e. the outter half of cogs with big chainring + 1 or 2 bigger cogs and vice versa.
Second, when shifting to smaller chainring, I shift to down 1 or 2 cogs (smaller) at the same time. That makes the change smooth for me, but your road bike surely has different gear ratios, so you need to try . . . Lucky rides.
Struggling with the same thing...gromit
May 14, 2001 8:49 AM granny ring? I thought as the heart rate hit 190 and the sign said 20% gradient in the lowest gear...
Nothing for it, just find your favorite hill and climb it again and again. Try sitting and maintaining a spin of about 100 revs. Every so often click up a few gears and stand for a short stretch. Then sit and try to spin that gear.
There's nothing else to do, just grow some stronger legs...
have fun...
re: Help with the hills for a former mountain bikerHaiku d'état
May 14, 2001 9:21 AM
DP, check this post from a few weeks back:

i'm no climber, and i'm no racer. but, i've done three organized rides three weekends in a row, all of them hilly to mountainous. living in a flat part of tennessee, i was unsure about climbing technique, motivation, strategy, and century preparedness (maybe some of it's unrelated to your question). i was on the fence about this 3-mountain century as my first (7600+ feet of total elevation). there's some good advice in from some great folks in that post.

a rundown:

* set small goals on the climb
* change saddle position to work different muscle groups (fore/aft)
* alternate standing and sitting to keep fresh (i sit more)
* alternate hand position on the bars
* good hydration and fueling is important
* only scan the immediate course (keep your head down and pedal)
* don't set your pace too high for your abilities
* scale down what you're carrying on your bike/person
* the ones i missed can be found in that post

and, ones that i gleaned on my own...(YMMV)

* breathe. and, every few breaths, a BIG exhale works wonders
* stretch: legs, feet, back, neck, arms, hands
* RELAX from the waist up (unless you're standing)
* learn to love lactic acid
* sprint at the top (this doesn't work when you feel like you're about to die)

good luck. by the way, everytime i'm climbing and resort to my granny gear (on a triple, i'm such a sissy!), for some reason, old springsteen from "greetings from asbury park, nj" pops into my head. haven't figured this one out yet. must be something about endorphins.