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Why can't I climb?(5 posts)

Why can't I climb?boyd2
May 7, 2003 5:51 PM
I have been mountain biking for about 13 years. I have done a whole lot of riding, but rairly on a road bike. I just bought my first road bike and I am loving my commute. I have about 400 miles on it now. My problem is that I am having trouble climbing. I am tearing it up on the flats and in the small hills, but I struggle on the big ones. I really feel like I can climb better on my old commuter setup MTB. On the trails I consider climbing the strongest aspect of my ride. I am thinking it could be three things:

1. Its all in my head and I can't climb well on any bike. Or the road bike is just too different and I need time.

2. Saddle position. I think that I have the fore/aft setup correct. It feels good. I am pretty far back already and you should move back for power right? BTW I do just the opposite on the MTB. I tend to sit really far forward on the nose of the saddle when climbing to keep the front end under control.

3. Crank length. I am riding 170's on the road bike. I have always ridden 175 on the MTB, except for one beater that I had set up 170's. They drove me nuts and I quickly took them off.

This weekend I hope to do a club ride with a buddy. Perhaps the experienced guys can help me out. Thanks in advance for your help.
I used to think the same thingIFTreedog
May 7, 2003 6:09 PM
I was beat, confused, and frustrated. Then I started climbing more, alone, in harder gears. What I once did in my 39x23, crying and whining to an audience, I now do in a 39x17 quietly by myself. For me it was a matter of not knowing how to climb and believing that I couldn't. Because stronger guys than me could climb better, I had to huff and puff and make a bunch of noise about why I couldn't climb.

Hope it helps.
I've just come from there.jesse1
May 8, 2003 2:39 AM
Same situation as you. On the mtb I love to climb and I was better than most of my fellow riders. Looking forward to getting back to road riding, and continuing to excell on hills I bought a 17 lb bike (since I'm just under 150lbs), and was SHOCKED at my inability to climb!
Well, I decided that I'd better swap a 25t for the 23t back there, and the first long hill I came to after that, about 1/4 the way up and I've got the chain on the 2nd largest gear in the back (just one more in reserve) and it's still hard!
Finally, I decided to do what we normally wouldn't do on the mtb, I put it in the next harder gear and stood on the pedals. Whoa! The bike took off! I was back to being a hill climber again! Every now and then on a long climb, I still sit (to kinda rest), but then put it in a harder gear and stand.
When I do sit, my rear is to the back of the seat. I feel like I can push forward on the pedals better like that.
As far as going to a longer crank length, that may help as you've been more accustomed to the 175.
How often do you train by climbing?Spunout
May 8, 2003 3:51 AM
It is always hard at first. Three weeks with two sessions per week of 'hillervals' may produce results.
re: Why can't I climb?skywalker
May 8, 2003 10:52 AM
There are many possible reasons for being unable to climb, and no discussion board can possibly address them all. Best way to deal with the problem is do more climbing, preferably with someone who climbs well.

As to your specific questions, gearing on a road bike is quite different from gearing on a mountain bike (especially if you run a double on your road bike), so you just may need time to get used to working in a harder gear. It took me almost 2000 miles until everything clicked.

Saddle position affects your climbing ability quite a bit. Basically, seat forward puts more emphasis on quads, seat back, on glutes & hamstrings. The optimal position depends on the relative strength/endurance of those muscle groups, and thus varies from person to person.

Also keep in mind that you can shift emphasis between muscle groups by changing your position: hands on the hoods will work glutes & hamstrings, hands on the top of the bar will work quads. Alternating between the two positions gives you a break on long climbs. While you are it, add some climbing out of the saddle. I think that of hands on the hoods as the basic position for long climbs (glutes & hamstrings seem to have better endurance, even though their power output is lower), but it helps to break it up.

I don't think that the crank length is an issue, but I'll leave it to somebody technically knowledgable to comment on. My primitive understanding is that shorter cranks work better with harder gearing, so road bikes have shorter cranks than mountain bikes.

It is also possible that you are having problems climbing on your road bike because it is not the right size for you. A top tube/stem combination that is too long or too short can interfere with climbing. Same goes for the saddle being too high or too low.

Good luck sorting it out.