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Newbie Hill Climbing(15 posts)

Newbie Hill ClimbingKen Marlow
May 21, 2001 1:10 AM
I'm new to road biking and have a question regarding hill climbing:
I've got a cassette with gearing (12-23) that doesn't allow me to simply drop it in low gear and remain seated up steep hills. I see most rodies standing on their pedals. I tried this with one of my lowest gears and it felt like I was expending a lot of energy remaining balanced while shifting weight during down strokes, against minimal resistance. Is there an ideal resistance when climbing? How do I efficiently climb hills?

Thanks in Advance!
re: Newbie Hill ClimbingLen J
May 21, 2001 5:36 AM
My rule of thumb is that I Stand in a gear that is 1 to 2 gears harder than what I can sit & spin.
re: Newbie Hill ClimbingDuane Gran
May 21, 2001 6:14 AM
This is a complicated topic, but I'll share two bits of very helpful advice I was given:

1) When seated, hold on to the tops of the bar and imagine you are bending it inward toward yourself. Experiment with various positiong to hold. This will work your upper body and it will help you pull your foot over the "top dead center" mark. You may experiment with your sitting position. It is not uncommon for your uppper body to bob up and down a little when doing this, but try to keep it minimized and by all means don't mash. Sometimes when climbing I mentally repeat in my mind, "circle... circle... circle..." just to help me avoid mashing.

2) When standing it helps to imagine the feeling of just getting out of a chair, as apposed to just sitting down. There is a fine difference. Bear in mind that the whole purpose of standing is to leverage your weight over the pedals, so if you are leaning heavily on the bars you are too far forward and it defeats the purpose of standing. If you have a stationary trainer, practice standing with one arm behind the back just so you get a feel for the right position. Believe me, this will help you find the sweet spot.
buy this bookkeith m.
May 21, 2001 7:24 AM
the complete book of road cycling skills, by Ed Pavelka. No newbie should be caught without it. covers various riding technique and training, basic maintanence and diet, and safety skills. great book to have. You can get it on
re: Newbie Hill ClimbingSidley
May 21, 2001 11:17 AM
In addition to the good advice already given consider this:
1) Always shift to an easier gear before ascending. This will allow you to maintain cadence as you climb in your seat. 2) When your cadence begins to slow, shift to a harder gear as you stand. While standing, you should have a lower rpm but more power. 3) Alternate between sitting and standing all the way up. 4) remember its supposed to hurt. Despite running track and playing soccer my entire life, I never felt pain in my legs like my first couple of months of riding. By mid July, you will be going up the same hills 30% faster.
re: Newbie Hill ClimbingGregJ
May 21, 2001 11:27 AM
If the steep hills you climb are pretty short, 1-2 minutes, stand and go for it. If you are facing longer climbs, you may want to replace that cassette with a 12-25 or 13-27 or something like that. One extra low gear may be all you need to stay mostly seated.
And FurthermoreLazy
May 21, 2001 11:49 AM
In addition to all the good advice you have already received...

The best way to get better at climbing is to do it A LOT. Climb climb climb. It is absolutely brutal and hurts like h&ll but it works. Similarly, the only way to get better at descending, sprinting, or anything else is to practice it over and over. You won't become better at anything except riding flats if all you do is ride flats.

Keep the faith. It will get better.
How much can you push your muscles?Kristin
May 21, 2001 12:05 PM
I'm finding that my strength is building (esp. after Saturdays' ride) and I'm able to climb (up mole hills:) in higher gears. But when I try to stand, it HURTS - badly. I don't stay out of the saddle for very long. I quit(&sit) when I "think" my muscle's have had enough, but I'm never sure if I could have pushed further. Is there a way to tell when you've pushed enough? Or is it the old method: Push too far(& fall) once, then you know where your limit is?
How much can you push your muscles?Lazy
May 21, 2001 12:22 PM
Welcome to the wonderful world of cycling. This is a painful sport, and gravity is a cruel mistress. The only way I know of to find your limits is to keep pushing until your body just won't do it anymore (you'll know it's coming because you'll start to get lightheaded, that's probably close enough). My experience is if you "think" you've reached your limit, you haven't. When you actually reach the limit, you'll know it. You might be surprised what you can do. Be careful though, that level of exertion can be dangerous. Walking the next day can be a challenge too!

Give it some time. You'll get better/faster/stronger with experience and miles in the saddle.
It always hurts....DINOSAUR
May 21, 2001 12:39 PM
Look at cycling as the same as weightlifting. Guys don't start bench pressing 300 lbs from the get-go. You have to gradually increase your resistance. In cycling you have to gradually increase your workload over a period of time. It might take months or years, depending on your present physical condition. There are several books available regarding training techniques, or you can just go out and ride the cra* out of your bike and sooner or later (usually later) it will all come together. Everyone is different, there is no guaranteed other than just getting a lot of miles on your legs.

Also it always hurts, if it doesn't, you aren't pushing yourself hard enough. The pain treshold is probably what separates the pro's from us meer motals.

Be prepared for a couple of setbacks, you will fall flat on your face a couple of times, but you have to put the whole ball of wax together.

One way to learn is from the experience of others. Cycling clubs can be good, depending on the club. Usually you can hook up with a couple of riders who are slightly stronger than you and you can hone your skills.

I try to make my rides as fun as possible, that's why I ride....
How much can you push your muscles?Cliff Oates
May 21, 2001 2:21 PM
Fortunately, your limit is a moving target that is always getting higher, providing you train. You might try some sit & stand drills to help your standing climbing. Go up a gear or two before standing, then do 10 crank revolutions standing. Then drop back to the lower gear and sit down for 10 revolutions. Repeat until you run out of hill. It works.
Don't climb in the dropsAndy
May 21, 2001 4:51 PM
I've seen several people climbing with their hands on the drops. DON"T DO THIS... As one poster said, keep your hands on top or on the hoods. When climbing, you are moving slower and the aerodynamic effect is not a factor. If you keep your torso in a more upright position, it will open your chest area and allow you to breathe easier and more comfortably.
Yeah....grz mnky
May 21, 2001 6:35 PM
That Pantani pirate guy does it all wrong! ;-)

Gotta admit - climbing in the drops is damn tough on the lower back! I don't know how he does it.
Hi Ken Here it is.allaround
May 21, 2001 8:30 PM
It depends on the hill. On long steady climbs with moderate steepness, I like to keep my butt planted and spin. On the short steepies, I will stand and power over em. The idea is that on the steep short ones, you can afford to get a little anaerobic. On the long steady climbs, going anaerobic is a bad idea. It cuts into long term fuel. There is no feeling like climbing while bonked. It feels like dragging a kitchen sink!
Hi Ken Here it is.Ken Marlow
May 23, 2001 2:18 AM
Thanks; all of you for the tremendous help! A lot of great tips were provided, as well as the thoughtful steering to some much wanted reference materials.

Thanks again!