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Need Help on Hill Climbing(19 posts)

Need Help on Hill Climbingmrr
Mar 24, 2003 2:35 PM
Hi My name is Martin Robets I need some advice and appreciate any feedback you can give me.
I am 51 years old and have been biking with a hybrid for about 4 months. I had a lot of trouble getting up hills and had to walk the bike a lot. I live in a very steep hilly region.
I was very determined to conquer the hills. I lost weigtht did intervals, changed my bike to a triple zurich buenos aires. I am determined and aggressive. I ride the spinner bike, do hill climbing intervals, yet I seem to make little progess. I rest every other day.

The hills here are long and steep. I get up one third of the hill and start to breath out of control and have to walk the rest of the way. I am in the lowest gear of the triple. I am in good health and am an ex bodybuilder. I am 5
feet 10 inches and 169 pounds. I am determined to ride in my region without walking the bike a great deal of the time. I push myself, train hard, yet I can not conquer these hills.
Am I expecting too much too soon? Is it my age? Is there a phsycological factor when you see an endless hill? Can you psych yourself out on hills? Is there a method to conquer long steep hills. I am frustrated as I thought with a road bike with a triple, some training, and a good weight loss would allow me to fly up hills, but that has not been the case. Please advise as I don't want to walk the bike, I want to ride the bike. Thank you very much. Please send comments and suggestions as I am very determined yet frustrated.
re: Need Help on Hill Climbinggeeker
Mar 24, 2003 3:13 PM
I'm 45, started cycling abt 1-1/2 yrs ago, after moving to a very hilly region. Four months isn't that long to develop climbing skills. I found that a lot of it was confidence. I had to become confident in spinning a high cadence up the hills, and in not going down to the granny gear too early. [Reference: my house is at the top of a big ridge, with descents of 500' in just over 1 mile in one direction, and 900' in 2.2 miles in the other direction. Any time I go out the door, I have to do a big climb just to get home.]

The biggest single thing that helped me was attacking smaller hills, by climbing at higher speed and in higher gears than I was used to. This gave me more confidence and better physical ability to recover on the road. Then, *gradually*, I would turn faster cadences on the bigger climbs. As the cadences increased, I eventually found the granny gear ineffective (not enough forward progress for pedaling effort), and I started climbing many stretches in higher gears. This process took some time, but as I got used to attacking hills (rather than struggling up at low speed in the granny gear), fitness *really* improved, and I got respectable at climbing.
re: Need Help on Hill Climbinghrv
Mar 24, 2003 3:32 PM
I'm guessing your smallest gearing is 30 (front chainring)and 23 - 25 (rear cog). Maybe if you tried going smaller in the front and larger in the back, and installing a mountain bike rear der. to allow using a 'dinner plate' in the rear? Do you have access to mtn. bike rentals? If you do,try one and see if you can climb without blowing up. If so, try to set up your road bike with similar gears.

Also remember that the 'average' rider who is comfortable on steep hills has been riding for at least a year, so having more miles in
your legs would be very helpful also.

good luck,
re: Need Help on Hill Climbingjtolleson
Mar 24, 2003 3:41 PM
Best advice for getting to the top: SLOW DOWN.

Seriously. Getting impatient and pushing will get you anaerobic. If you can find a slow pace and patiently-patiently-patiently keep moving forward (even at 4-5 mph) without stopping or walking it will be just the ticket.

You've got to get your heart rate down.

Good luck.
Second going slowskywalker
Mar 24, 2003 4:06 PM
When climbing long hills, stay under your lactic treshold. If you cross LT, you will blow up within minutes.

Try starting climbing in granny gear and keep going steadily. If you cannot keep your heart rate under LT in granny gear, you need a to develop more power (by attacking short hills, for example) or switch to a bigger cassette or triple.
Lactacte threshold?Iamhoosier
Mar 25, 2003 5:03 AM
I've seen this term before. What is it and how is it calculated? I have the same problem as the original poster. 50 yr. old, new road bike coming.
I have been riding a hybrid for a couple years(about 1,200 mi/yr). On a steep climb my heart rate accelerates rapidly, breathing becomes extremely labored. This is using "granny" but don't usually start there. Sometimes when I have to stop I can hardly catch my breath and just about throw up. guess I need to stop a little sooner. Thanks!
I mean lactate, not lactacte, can't type!! nmIamhoosier
Mar 25, 2003 8:48 AM
..uh huh, boobs on the mind again does that ty me tpyig. nmSpunout
Mar 25, 2003 9:53 AM
Nah, I'm a leg man. But what is "lactate threshold"?Iamhoosier
Mar 25, 2003 11:38 AM
How do I calculate my threshold? Besides dropping dead because I crossed it!
Try a search, it is an oft-discussed subject. nmnoveread
Mar 25, 2003 1:30 PM
Thanks, it worked!!Iamhoosier
Mar 25, 2003 2:16 PM
re: Need Help on Hill ClimbingCurtSD
Mar 24, 2003 4:15 PM
I totally agree. I used push hard at the beginning of climbs, trying to keep the speed up and conserve momentum. That works fine for short climbs, but for longer ones I've found it better to back off, let the speed drop, and settle into a level of output that I can maintain. You might think about getting a heart rate monitor, and find out what heart rate you can maintain. Then keep an eye on your heart rate on climbs to keep it at or below that level.
Hill Climbing - repetitionThe Human G-Nome
Mar 24, 2003 4:54 PM
on longer climbs, starting out slow"er" is key. especially if this is your first big climb of the day, getting out of breath will be very, very easy. believe it or not, the longer you climb, the more your body will begin to adapt and your breathing should in turn adjust and level out. if you're not in horrible shape, try attempting the same hill three times in a row, with about 2-3 minutes rest in between. i can almost guarantee you that the third try will seem considerably easier then the first even if your muscles now feel sore. (if you haven't yet developed any climbing muscles then this wouldn't be the case of course). it's not an accident that serious cyclists spend hours warming up. it's because your body needs that time to adapt.

i live in San Francisco and a good place to watch a lot of different styles of climbing in one place is the Sausalito climb into San Francisco from Marin county. you might have 30 cyclists on this single climb at any given time, all with dramatically different styles. mashers, spinners, out/in saddle, etc. inevitably, you'll have riders hit the very first part of this climb VERY hard and you can tell they're giving it everything they have on a climb where initial momentum means almost nothing. they inevitably burn out only half way up and you watch as the slower spinners pass them by and seem to be barely breathing. i'm just commenting on novices of course and not on already accomplished climbers.

IMO, most riders that adapt to a style that shows a lot of upper body momement and head bobbing while IN the saddle are the ones that are going to blow up first. the trick is to remain steady and relatively still on top, maintaining a steady cadence, and ALWAYS concentrating on total relaxation, even to the point of distracting yourself by thinking of anything but the climb. once you've got that licked, the only way to get truly exceptional (and not just adequate) at climbing is to get yourself out of the saddle and stay there. you will build muscle very quickly this way and once your heartrate is able to adapt to this new stress, the in saddle work will seem that much easier.

i love the climbs now so much that all my weekday night rides are dedicated only to hill repetition and finding the longest steepest grades on which to train (which isn't very difficult where i live). when the weekend arrives and i'm riding with the club/group, even though i'm just an average rider on the flats, i'll always be in the top 2 or 3 riders on any of the climbs (out of 30-50 riders). anyway, i'm really just a very average rider who found something that worked for me so i continue to utilize it. good luck on your endeavor.
re: Need Help on Hill ClimbingMrCelloBoy
Mar 24, 2003 4:15 PM
I agree with the last couple of posts... Ease up! It sounds like you're pushing too hard. Pedal slower and with less effort to keep your breathing and heart rate down. It may take longer than yu like to get up these hills, but you'll get up them.
Two things - keep riding and read some books.Fez
Mar 24, 2003 4:25 PM
Cycling, especially conquering hills, requires fitness and technique. Lighter bikes and lower gearing helps, but is not mandatory. Your bike sounds just fine.

4 months riding is pretty short. You need a good aerobic base. A book may give you some good training plans, but if you don't want to get that technical, just ride 3-4 times per week for 60-80 minutes. Try to find easier routes initially. Count your RPM (cadence). Spin easily at around 90-100 rpm. the whole time. This will build up your aerobic fitness and give you a good spin.

As you venture into the hills, keep spinning easy up those hills. Like the others said, the key is trying to keep your heart rate from spiking high and that is by selecting easier gears. You will improve - you may not feel as though you are going fast initially, but its progress if you don't have to stop and walk the bike.

There are plenty of books that will teach technique on how to get out of the saddle. Read them. And practice them on flats and modest hills to master the technique - you don't have to be at a hill to practice.
Hey Martin, 4 months is not veryjiggs
Mar 24, 2003 7:38 PM
long. Your triple is a good idea but your cassette is small considering. Maybe a 12/34 cassette with a MTB derailleur would help. I started four years ago, rode mountain bike (and raced) and started road riding last fall. Last August, I did the Mount Washington climb, about a mile vertical, 7-1/2miles, long, not fast, but a long way from when I started. Every day I'm thankful that I got into riding, it is a great sport.
bob(turning 62 this fall)
re: Need Help on Hill Climbingtarwheel
Mar 25, 2003 6:05 AM
I'm 49 and started riding again 3 years ago after laying off for about 10 years. I live in a hilly area, although probably not as hilly as you from the sound of it. I'm not a great climber but I have improved a lot over the past couple years. In addition to the suggestions from others, I'll add a couple things. First, make sure you allow enough recovery time or rides after hard hill-climbing sessions. It's hard for your muscles to rebuild if you're riding hard every day or every other day. Last summer, I did my best climbing of the entire year after riding for two weeks at relatively modest paces in areas with very few or no hills (east-central Wisconsin and Florida). When I got back to riding in NC, I was climbing hills faster than ever and hanging with the best climbers in my group. Two months later, my legs were fried from over-doing it. Lesson learned -- make sure you schedule enough recovery time or rides. That might mean taking some days off your bike and walking instead, or riding at a very easy pace or in an area with no hills (if that's possible). My other suggestion would to make sure learn how to spin at a relatively high cadence -- at least 80 rpm, preferably 90 or higher. Spinning up the hills (and the flats) will keep your leg muscles from tiring out as quickly and build up your aerobic base. One of the worst climbers I know is someone who rides a lot, but tries to push huge gears up the hills. Her normal cadence appears to be about 50 on the flats and she drops to about 30 on the hills. She never seems to gets any better because she keeps trying to push those big gears. I hate to think of what it's doing to her knees.
I constinually need to remind myself that it doesn't matterbill
Mar 25, 2003 8:04 AM
who's going faster on the climb, what matters is who gets to the top first. There will always be the monsters, the genetic freaks (or the guys who spend their time training instead of clicking away on this website) who can bound up the hills, but lots of other guys will start out smoking and blow up. You have to learn not to chase them, be patient, and gauge what you are capable of by the size of the hill. Even if you lose contact, you are better off maintaining than blowing up completely -- catch them on the descent. On LFR's advice, I have learned to maintain my cadence and effort within a couple of beats of lactate threshold and just pedal up. You eventually end up passing a lot of the others. Relax, relax, relax, hands lightly on the tops, and just pedal, pedal, pedal. "Attack a hill as you would a giant -- at his head, not at his feet," said somebody really good.
Hill sprints are another story.
re: Need Help on Hill Climbingkeeshadog
Mar 25, 2003 11:10 PM

i agree with the guys who suggest getting a mtb rear derailleur and a mtb cassette. something that will give you a large cog of say 30 or 32. that should be more than enough to give you the gearing you need for just about any hill.
i ran into a similar issue a couple of years ago when i moved from the flat midwest to seattle. i'd been using a double up front with a ultegra 8 speed in back with a cassette range of 11-23. that was more than adequate for the flatland back home, but i was dying climbing the hills in seattle. i was thinking of going to a triple up front, but a guy at the lbs suggested going with a wider ranging cassette and that was a great recommendation. i swapped out the old cassette for a 12-30 and put an xt rear derailleur back there to accomodate that range and its more than enough to get me up any hill this city has to offer.
i'm in good shape and i've always been an excellent climber - you do have to work at it and attacking the hill is really where you eventually want to go - but without that extra range, i was tearing up my knees mashing up the hills.
i always enjoyed riding hills because i always tell my self that whatever goes up must come down (most times at least) so just try to think of the positive part of climbing hills - the fun you'll have descending!