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need some hill riding advice(17 posts)

need some hill riding adviceSuddha
Aug 23, 2002 1:00 PM
I am a pretty fit 210 pound rider. When I join a team or group ride, I have no problem staying with the paceline and even pulling, as long as we're on the flats. But as soon as there's a long climb I drop off the back and then have to expend so much energy to get back to the group that the rest of my ride suffers. I think I climb alright for a heavier rider but in a group where most of the others weigh 170 or less, I just can't keep up.

Yeah, I could stand to maybe drop 10 pounds, but even then I'd be heavier than most and probably still have similar problems.

Any tips from bigger (or even average-size or smaller) riders out there? How can I change my strategy or improve my climbing so I can enjoy these rides?

stand, hydrate, momentumjose_Tex_mex
Aug 23, 2002 1:15 PM
For practice, when you are riding by yourself, every hill you come to get out of the saddle and climb. You will QUICKLY build muscles and climbing strength.

Always, hydrate just prior to the hill - a shot of gatorade is worth a lot at this time.

Make sure you use your momentum as much as possible and just try to stay on someone's wheel.

Can you use any of your strengths prior to the hill to get a bit of an advantage. Although, roadies hate me when I do it, I normally pick the pace up just prior to the hill. That little bit of Kinetic energy definitely helps the transition up the hill in to potential.
re: need some hill riding advicesweetbuns
Aug 23, 2002 1:15 PM
Run stairs....real stairs, not the stupid stair climber machine at the health club. I am lucky (hahaha) to live in a high rise, when the gym is closed and I am in the mood for heart pounding torture, I time myself and run up 20 flights. Ride the elevator back down and do it again.
re: need some hill riding adviceSuddha
Aug 23, 2002 1:27 PM
Wow, awesome advice from both of you. I wish I'd asked at the beginning of the summer! I'm going to sprint up all the hills in my solo rides and run some stairs. Gotta make friends with the pain.
re: also...sweetbuns
Aug 23, 2002 1:28 PM
Please don't discredit the value in dropping a few doubt you are fit, strong and you can kick my @ss (maybe).... even five pounds can make a world of difference. I am a few pounds lighter than last summer, and everything is easier, running, biking, recovery....I remember being in so much pain for the days following a hard race or work-out, now, no post workout pain. It is so great!
re: also...Suddha
Aug 23, 2002 1:35 PM
So true... though I have pretty heavily muscled thighs I think a lot of my weight is in my chest and shoulders, where I could certainly trim down. I remember reading that Lance used to have a bulkier upper body from his triathlon days and then post-cancer, he basically had to rebuild his body and did so by muscling his legs and not above the waist and look at what his new physique has done!
re: need some hill riding advicefunknuggets
Aug 23, 2002 1:43 PM
Advice for hill climbing will be all over the map. As another rider with somewhat similar weight history, I have found that the following can help:

Lose weight
Check your tire pressure
Hill Intervals
More Miles
Weight Training
Do you try to catch back up on the hill?Humma Hah
Aug 23, 2002 1:47 PM
... man, that's suicide! For me the key to hill climbing is steady effort. When I climb solo, I watch my speedometer to hold a steady speed. Otherwise I tend to speed up and go "in the hole" on my energy budget. Once anaerobic, I'm in trouble on a hill. Where I want to be is about 1-2 BPM under my anaerobic threshold, breathing hard but not gasping for air like a fish out of water.

If you can't keep up with the group in the first place, trying to catch up on the hill is gonna kill you. But if you have the ability to catch back up, you were not doing your best while with the group.

For now, if you really can't hang with the group on the climb, try to catch them on the downhill. Guys your weight can often dive like a brick.

And just keep trying. Famous quote: it never gets any easier, you just get faster.
In addition to all the great advice above,bikedodger
Aug 23, 2002 2:14 PM
try to be at the front when the hill starts. You can then ride at your own pace for part of the climb until the rest catch on that you are going slower than they want. When they go around, you will less ground to make up to cathch the rear of the group.

Aug 23, 2002 2:48 PM
Don't stand straight up with your weight forward over the front wheel, you are better off almost "squating" over the sadle (almost like the sadle is slaping your thighs if your bike is going side to side). You can push a little bigger gear this way, and keep up with, if not go past those that are spinning real easy gears. This is also hell on the quads, but well worth it. By the way, keep reminding yourself to make little circles, not just mash. This may not help you, but it has helped me.
Advice from a 200 pounderniteschaos
Aug 23, 2002 2:51 PM
I am actually 195, but I outweigh everyone on my rides buy a good 20 pounds. I never get dropped on the climbs though. I do all of my riding on the mountains around Greenville, SC, even my endurance peices. That gets you used to finding what style or percentage of the time you should climb should be. But for starters:

Be at the very front of the pack before the climb starts.

Pick a pressure and stay with it.

Spin like a mo-fo.
re: need some hill riding adviceBreakfast
Aug 23, 2002 7:07 PM
I'm a big rider and I believe you have to use what you've got and that's power to sit and turn gears. Look at Jan Ullrich and the way he climbs. Granted, he's not huge but he's bigger than most of his competition and he's not going to kill himself trying to dance on his pedals like Marco Pantani would.

As a big rider you need a good steady rhythm and you need to take advantage of every change in the terrain. That means you've got to accelerate at every little crest and keep speed through the parts of the climb where the grade dips or eases up. Look for any place on the climb where you can either turn the cranks faster or go up a gear.

Another helpful image is to think of turning the cranks like the way a big roll of carpet would unwind if pushed uphill, i.e. faster near the end. Speed up your cadence as you get closer to the end, use your gears, and keep some strength to push over the top.
re: need some hill riding advicebluebianchi
Aug 23, 2002 7:14 PM
I'm around 195 and usually hold my own on the hills.

Standard advice is for poor climbers to get to the head of the group/paceline just before a hill. Others will pass on the way up, but hopefully by the crest you will still be in contact with the back of the group. If you start a hill at the back, then a gap will develop.

As someone else mentioned, bigger guys like us can develop a lot of momentum on downhills. If it's a rolling course, use your momentum as much as possible, and downshift gradually. My number one pet peeve is getting behind a group that lets all their momentum die and suddenly downshift about 3 gears, forcing me to brake.

I don't stand except on really steep hills-- first because I have bad knees and standing puts a lot of stress on them, and second, because it's more tiring than sitting and spinning, especially if it's a long hill. Sitting and spinning lightly conserves energy, and has been one of Lance's mountain strategies since 1999--sit as much as possible, stand only when necessary.

Some riders scoot their butt back on the saddle a bit on climbs. This gives your legs greater reach and more leverage. Sometimes I also start getting my ankles into it more than I would on the flats.

On many of the rides I've done, the group is aware of people dropping off the back and lets up a little bit. It's less of an ego-fest and it's more fun to ride as a group. Also, getting dropped when you don't know the route sucks.

Good luck, and hope some of this helps.
192 checking in!El Caballito
Aug 23, 2002 10:02 PM
WoW! terrific advice.

Just before my wife got pregnant, I checked in at 180. Since the baby was born, I gained 20 lbs and dropping them has been a bitch.

Anyway, I find spinning as much as possible benifical. When I stand, I kills my thighs.

Staying focused on your breathing and riding within your limits has been my key. As mentioned, picking it up when it levels out a bit helps.

Don't know if this helps,but some excellent comments. Thanks.
My 2 cents.
Spin higher RPM, a HR Monitor and raised saddle heightteamsloppy
Aug 23, 2002 9:50 PM
1)A high spin rate (cadence).
2) a heart rate monitor.
3) staying in the saddle by raising the saddle height and
4) experimenting on the ride before the group ride

These will give you a competitive advantage over others in the group. Not all, but probably most and definitly some.

I am 196 to 210. I ride 30 miles per day (rt) to work. I ride one nogt a week with a "group" in the East Bay Hills of San Francisco.

I can stay with the group uphill and lead for awhile uphill, except for the steepest uphills (over 9% grade) on any group ride. I always stay close with this strategy.

My secret to hills with a group is to maintain a cadence over 80 (90 to 100 preferred) and watch my heart rate monitor with a pace I know I can maintain (no matter what) to the summit. I might lead, I might drop, but it lets me stay close. 150 is forever. 160 for is for 1 or 2 miles. 170 is for a 1/4 mile or less to the summit. 190 for something really short. When the pace seems to pick up, I glance at he HR monitor, at 150 I stick with it, at 160 and a long way to the summit, I back off. I often close later on others who have pushed too hard early.

I think about alternating "spinning" with just "push power". To spin, I think push, pull at the bottom of the stroke, a lift with the foot flat and pressure on the top of the foot, a push forward at the top of the stroke feeling the toes hit the front of the shoe, then repeat: the "circles" mentioned by others above. I then alternate with just "power" when the weak "circle" muscles start to feel fatigued. This alternating muscle groups is what cross-country and distance coaches taught in collegiate track & field (when I weighed under 160). I think I have an advantage by combining my more powerful "just push down" with the use of "spinning" in order to alternate muscle groups.

For steeper sections, I almost stand. "Almost" is the key adjective. Standing for anyrthing but the most miniscule diustance is unecessarily fatiguing. If you are going to do the "Death Ride" you need to climb in the saddle (or almost in the saddle).

To almost stand, my butt is still on the saddle, however gently. I raised by saddle height to do this. The feeling I imagine is riding up a hill, the power of pushing down as if standing, almost standing, but my butt still touching the saddle lightly or intermittently.

I practice the same rides on my own, trying different heart rates to see how far I can go. After a certain turn or oher marker I know I can probably make it to the summit at a certain rate. Often I drop, but the catch up an pass using a knowledfge of my sustainable heart rate.
"Unrolling the carpet"Tig
Aug 24, 2002 1:09 PM
I'm a lightweight (135#) who can't climb too well but can sprint. I handle spinning pretty well so I have been trying a very old technique called "rolling out the carpet". It can help you if your legs are suffering from trying to climb in too high of a gear at too low of a cadence.

To get the right picture, compare your cogs to a cross section of a carpet roll being rolled out. The more the carpet is rolled out, the smaller the diameter it has. Now, consider doing something similar with your shifting from lower gears (larger cogs) at the beginning of the hill, to higher gears (smaller) towards the top.

This allows you to not wipe your legs out too early in a climb. You shift to a lower gear than you normally would use for that hill once you start slowing down at the hill's first section. Spin while keeping your lactic acid in control and hopefully your heart rate (some people's HR goes up fast when spinning). Don't worry about a few people passing you. As you continue to get in the rhythm of the climb (a steady rhythm is important) while still in decent shape, you can try shifting up to a higher gear. I try to wait until I'm closer to the top and then pass a few people back at the summit. Jump into a higher gear and catch the others on the way down, or do like I do and tuck in a super aero position and pass them!

This method isn't for everyone. If I can delay lactic acid buildup until the top of the climb, I can recover quicker since my heart rate is also not anaerobic.
Aug 24, 2002 5:42 PM
I've got you beat by 21 lbs. At 231 I know when the hill goes past 4% I'm going off the back. For years, I road with a group comprised of Cat 1/2/3 racers that routinely dropped my heavy butt on the climbs. This year I could not devote as much time to riding as I wanted. So I invested in a Kinetics Fluid trainer and Troy Jacobson's Spinervals tapes.

For me, the structured intervals helped keep me motivated to do the indoor work. The benefit was that I started to learn how much longer I could ride at a certain HR. Even if my legs felt like they were going to fall off, I know now at 175 bpm I still have some more in me.

The result, I recently rejoined the fast Sunday ride. (it's about a 60 mile ride total). The last climb is the worst. 1 mile long at 6% then 1/4 mile at 8%-9%. I found myself with the lead group approaching the last steep 1/4 mile. HR was 170. I knew from the tape workouts, I could go harder. The group always jumps here trying to break the group up. I jumped with them. HR 178. 1000' to go, pace is getting high. 500' to go HR 183 - I can last here for 2 more minutes. Summit, HR 188 - I'm dieing but I'm with the lead group. Over the top.

For 10 years I've been dropped on that hill. Gravity is not in favor of large riders. You will be working at 400 Watts to stay with some whippet of 170lbs riding along at 250 Watts. But I swear by the Spinerval tapes. They've helped my riding more than any other training I've done.