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Hills and blowing up(23 posts)

Hills and blowing upfiltersweep
Jul 2, 2003 5:15 AM
I've been riding in several hill rides that have a few thousand feet of climbing- mostly river bluffs as there are no mtns anywhere near here. These are club A-rides, and they attract rather accomplished riders and racers. I'm beginning to pray for rain, hope I'm stuck at work late, wishing for horrendous traffic jams... anything to avoid these rides. The only thing I like about them is they truly are a challenge to stay with the lead group.

There seem to be a few cliques within the club, and invariably the "hill people" show up and have their own little sub-group. One of the guys, who has the upper body of a nine-year old simply rockets UP the hills, never appears to be in the least amount of distress, and when it is all said and done, one of my riding buddies looked at him derisively across the parking lot and said, "Look at him, he doesn't even need a shower." This on a ride where I typically explore a NEW maximum heart rate each time ;)

I'm trying to understand this phenomenon. Do these people even come close to experiencing pain on these climbs, or are their heartrates tucked in nicely at maybe 80%? Do they wait all week for this ride so they have fresh legs while we are still suffering from last night's sprintathon? Does an extra 10-20 lbs of upper body muscle really make THAT much of a difference? Is there that much difference in cardio conditioning? Do they have a different pain threshold (and I'm sorry, but wearing a HRM at least provides me with some objectivity, if you know what I mean)? Or, are they simply from another planet? Where they are impervious to the laws of gravity?

Who ARE these people?!
re: Hills and blowing upandy02
Jul 2, 2003 5:44 AM
As one of those with an upper body of a nine year old I can say that I have to look forward to the hills. It is the only place I can make everyone else suffer! the flats suck, I have to grap a wheel and hold on. And yes losing a little weight will make you faster. Now that I don't swim anymore (use to do tri) I am a much better climber. Or maybe it tha fact that all I do is ride now so going from 150-200 miles/week to 200-300 miles/week helps to.

Just be glad you keep going!!!! Because going is half the batttle....or is that knowing? Well as long as you know you will go you won? right?
Nice to hearfiltersweep
Jul 2, 2003 6:11 AM
It is nice to hear the flats suck... that is the one night I look forward to ;) I hang with a small group that dabbles in tri (and we are built like it- like a very lean 170-175) and we share the pacemaking on those rides. There isn't much point drafting off the "little guys" anyway.

The strange thing is, no matter how dead my legs feel, I'm always fine on the flat ride. It is a great workout, but it doesn't have that "challenge" feel- and it is something I always look forward to because it is rather predictable and frankly, fun. The hill rides are very unpredictable and they definitely are not "fun". Funny thing is that I rarely see the hill guys on the flat rides. I always assume it isn't enough of a challenge for them, but I might need to rethink that?
But it still seems a little unfair, doesn't it?Kristin
Jul 2, 2003 9:50 AM
Climbers shouldn't be allowed to suck wheel on flats. It makes them fresh for the next climb, where they brutalize those who just pulled through the flats.
Body weight is a huge factor....biknben
Jul 2, 2003 5:49 AM
The answer is yes to most of those questions. They do experience pain but the enjoyment of watching everyone else drop back offsets that pain. They probably show up with fresh legs. If you really want to excell at this ride you may have to give up the workout the day before.

The weight thing is a huge factor. You describe their upper body as that of a 9 yo. Upper body strength is not neccessary. Yes, you use your upper body muscles, but they are in a supporting role. They provide leverage and stability. The legs are doing 90% of the work. I'm a lean guy who enjoys climbing. My weight fluctuates bewteen 155 and 160. I can tell when I'm 160 without getting on a scale.

Yes, they probably have a different pain threshold but that too is mostly in the head. They are probably just chanting, "Pain is weakness leaving the body", as they continue. Pain can be overcome by watching others in MORE pain.

No, they are not from another planet. Although, if a road climbed to it, I'm sure they would enjoy it.
Capacity levels are probably different too...bent_spoke
Jul 2, 2003 8:54 AM
I remember seeing a thing on TV where they said Lance had a max hr of 190 or so and Hincappie was over 200. I've also seen the Etheopians run in road races & they fly with little effort or at least they make it seem that way. Genetics has something to do with it...but loosing a few lbs & doing more hill work will help.
Sounds like to me you are doing too many fast group rides...eschelon
Jul 2, 2003 5:57 AM
You stated that prior to your hill group ride you did a previous night of sprintathon...I usually give myself 2 days of non-intensity bicycle work...more like recovery stuff. You can't expect your body to be fast everyday.
re: Hills and blowing upmainframe
Jul 2, 2003 6:08 AM
Are all these people the same age as you? Younger maybe?
wait, wait, wait...funknuggets
Jul 2, 2003 7:46 AM
let me ask a few things... number one... what type of bike do you have? You said "tri-guys" and those types of guys "tend" to have frames that have some aggressive geometry as in steeper seat tubes that are seemingly built more for TTs and a more forward position which will definitely NOT help you on the hills. I would also be interested in your frame size and crank length. May also be a factor as "spinning" is the generally accepted method of climbing these days. Plus, weight is definitely a factor. As a 170 guy, I know, but there are several 160-70 guys on our A rides that can flat out hammer on hills.

The waif guy on the Litespeed Ghisallo (Will) comes and only shows his face in the front on the climbs, then disappears for the rest of the ride.

operative word: "dabble"filtersweep
Jul 2, 2003 8:13 AM
We are all on road bikes with road geometry (are road bikers at heart, enter the odd tri for fun- are NOT tri-geeks)- I'm on a 57cm Look, and the other non-climber guys are on a Specialized, a Trek 5200, and a Seven Ti/carbon mix- no aerobars on any.

I'm on a 172.5 crank- and I'm a spinner. I should mention that the worst of the hill rides, I managed to somehow average exactly 20mph despite the climbs- which rather put things in a different perspective. I probably shouldn't compare myself to a cat 2 waif, but I'm looking to take this to the next level, and I'm always coming up with new goals. I am trying out a new larger cassette next ride rather than the 11-23 which normally serves me well.

I don't quite get it- I have seen some really big guys who can really climb- usually with a seated mashing cadence. Despite strength to weight ratios, I wonder what the impact of cardio capacity is on climbing?
interesting thought...funknuggets
Jul 2, 2003 8:45 AM
Strength to weight is a funny thing, many mature professional riders mash all the time... look at Ullrich and Jaja... notorious mashers, it works for some people, not for others...

I guess weight and training are the only suggestions here. Working in hill intervals once a week would be ideal, then on some typical hard Saturday where you dont have a race for a month or so, plaster yourself on a super hard hill ride, doing repeats on a long climb. One of my favorite interval workouts (please note that we have no mtns or "long climbs" here...) is to start your first in your small ring, in the say, 42-21, then 1/3 way up, go to 19, then 2/3 up go to 17. Then go back down to the bottom, start at 19, and then keep doing that until you cant keep a cadence of ... say 55 or so all the way up. When you get into shape, you might even be able to jump on the big ring... this ride, if ridden right could pretty much wax you for the next week or two.

With structured training comes experience and confidence. If all you do is wait for saturday to come around and get drubbed by these waifs, then the honus is on you.

After that, just remember gravity dislikes you.

So sayeth the funk.
Anything can look easy when somebody else is doing it.dzrider
Jul 2, 2003 7:36 AM
Why, in a world where people agonize over the difference between a 16 pound bike and an 18 pound bike would you be surprised that 10-20 pounds makes a difference? If you're interested, put 20 pounds in a back pack and try a tough hill.

Some people also seem to have a feel or talent for climbing that has little to do with their weight. My 15 year old son is 5'11' and a solid 185 pounds. This morning I watched as he climbed a 10% grade for 250 yards on a 42x15 fixed gear. When I told him I couldn't believe he did it. He said "You have to feel when to push so you're not working hard all the time." I hope he can explain that in somewhat more detail, cause he climbs way better than I do and we're close to the same size.
Jul 2, 2003 8:30 AM
Is your son a cyclist? If not, is he active in other sports?

Well, although the feat sounds impressive, 250 yards is a pretty short distance. Young folks can do all kinds of stuff that older folks can't. But where most untrained young folks fall miserably short is in endurance.

Give him a geared bike and ride with him on a long, steep climb that is more than 2 miles and let us know how he does.
We've done longer rides on geared bikes.dzrider
Jul 2, 2003 9:26 AM
He's a swimmer and tight end, but we have done long rides together over the years. He gets to the top of hills because he's strong and too stubborn to stop. Most kids look to me like they lack mental stamina. They stop more often because it isn't fun anymore than because they can't go on.
OK, forget the hills. How's his endurance?Fez
Jul 2, 2003 9:37 AM
Is he cranking out centuries?

I remember when I was a teenager. I considered 30 miles to be a long ride and 50 was a real long ride for me.

I have found endurance comes with training and time in the saddle. I dabbled in so many things when I was young that I never devoted the time to cycling that I do now.
He did 70 miles in a day with no training.dzrider
Jul 2, 2003 10:19 AM
10 miles into Hartford for a 50 mile ride and 10 miles back home. We decided it was faster to ride to town and back than to put 4 bikes on the roof and take them off each way. He's also run 5k and 3.5 mile races which is probably harder than a leisurely charity ride. He didn't train for them either. His swimming gets him good aerobic fitness, but mostly he's too stubborn to stop. His younger brother is leaner and a probably faster, but blows up after about 5 minutes, whines til we turn for home, then leaves the rest of the family behind. Except for a few who are drawn early to endurance sports, I think that's more normal kid behavior.
Not too shabby...Fez
Jul 2, 2003 10:34 AM
He must be quite the athlete.

I still think, in general, folks can still develop better endurance in the 20s and 30s.

If he continues to train, he'll be doing double centuries before you know it.
was he standing?cyclopathic
Jul 2, 2003 12:54 PM
'cause I've done 18% in 42x25 and your son is right you don't even have to pull on bars.
Thoughts on Hill climbing.Len J
Jul 2, 2003 10:10 AM
There are a limited number of things that affect one's ability (or inability) to climb well:

1.) Strength to weight ratio. The lower the weight for the same strength, the faster you go.
Weight- Bike, 18 lbs, rider, 170 lbs, stuff, 5 lbs total 193 lbs. Lose 5 lbs that's 3% reduction in weight. same power and you will go faster up hill.
Strength- Improve this with hill repeats and low cadence, High gear hill repeats.

2.) Technique. Ther is an efficient way to climb & an inefficient way. Sometimes an effortless climber is that way because of technique. No wasted motion, balance between leveraging the upper body with the legs, staying relaxed, not throwing the bike around needlessly. Try to pick apart & emulate the smoothest climber you know.

3.) Rest. The difference between professional and non-professional riders is that the pros ride harder on their hard days and rest easier on their rest days. When you ride hard your body needs rest to fully recover & recuit muscle. Too many hard days in a row = weak climbing.

4.) Attitude. If you dread the hills, they will eat your lunch. Your dread will become a self fulfilling prophecy. Try to see a hard hill climb as a tool to make you stronger next time. Instead of focusing on how weak you are compared to the "billy goats" notice how strong you are relative to many others. Relish the fact that the pain is shared & that the one who pushes through it, who turns the cranks in spite of it, wins.

5.) Equipement. Make sure that the gearing on your bike is a good match to your pedaling style as well as your strength. I'm a spinner. I can spin at 95 to 105 RPM all day with a reasonable heartrate. I have found that spinning a triple allows me to go faster longer uphill than mashing a big gear. Experiment on long climbs and you may find that you are trying to climb hills with gears that don't play to your own strength.

My $0.02.

Jul 2, 2003 12:10 PM
Spoken like a true goat! Nice advice Len. We should all provide our favorite hill workout. I think I heard Julich would sit and mash out 2/3s up the hill, then drop two gears and sprint the final 1/3 to build strength.

Attitude is right, you can't ever "like" riding hills. You can like how you stress your body or how you can whack other riders doing it, but whoever "likes" riding hillis is not a goat, but a freaking lunatic. I treat them as a necessary evil and train them so Im not the one getting whacked by someone elses mountan stick.

Nah, you CAN like riding hillsRay Sachs
Jul 3, 2003 4:13 AM
I personally love 'em. I love the feel of getting into a good rhythm and seemingly floating up the hill. This doesn't work when it gets really steep, but anything in single digit grades can be a blast and even steep ones are fun if they're not too long.

MASSIVE CAVEAT - I don't try to go particularly FAST on climbs. THAT can be really painful. When I'm riding with people who are more than a little bit stronger than I am, I suffer like a dog on hills and probably ride them slower as a result of trying to ride them faster. But when I'm out riding solo or with well matched riders, I freaking love climbing.

Really, it can be fun.

re: Hills and blowing upaliensporebomb
Jul 3, 2003 6:15 AM
Interesting thought.

I have some friends who mountain bike fairly religiously
and I try to ride with them on my cheesy 40 pound hardtail.

These guys have spendy mountain bikes that weigh half as
much but one particular ride has a very steep exit hill
that's just obnoxious.

Last summer it always used to piss me off that they'd just
ride up the damn thing and exit and be done whereas I'd go
a certain way and just have to stop and walk the rest - as
I said, it's pretty steep.

So last summer I got super pissed and started hammering
towards the end of the ride, yelling all the way and I
went flying up the thing and out the other side at about
18 mph. I had to brake abruptly or I would have dropped
into the ravine on the other side.

I then realized that part of the problem was mental:
I just assumed I wouldn't be able to do it due to (a)
heavy bike (b) me being heavier than my friends and
(c) it looked so steep.

I also realized that weight loss just due to riding was
probably part of the success but sometimes when you get
mad and have adrenalin going you can really move.

The friends I ride with couldn't be more different:
Paul, skinny - would be the perfect roadie (I've
converted him, heh) and my other friend Todd who
is built more like me.

Now with my light bike and me dropping weight hills are
not quite as painful as they once were. But they still
can be quite the obstacle.

I'm thinking of the damn highway 18 monster between Shakopee and Prior Lake, Minnesota - just a b@$#! - not because it's steep but because it's very long....this is
the hill that if I have a headwind going down it I can
still reach 35+ mph for minutes at a time. Harumph.
re: Hills and blowing upNEIL
Jul 3, 2003 9:44 AM
Strength to weight ratio and climbing technique are the two biggest factors in climbing success in my opinion.

Being 215lbs and in the clydsdale category, I know that I have to approach a hill much differently than 15 years ago when I raced, was 19, and weighed 150lbs. Back then I was able to accelerate at will on a hill and initiate attacks or respond to them, but now I have to rethink the way I get to the top. Now momentum is my friend. It's kind of like a train metaphor. Once you get the speed rolling, you want to keep it rolling. Approaching the initial part of a climb coming off the flats, I try to keep the speed up and put in a lot of effort to carry me up at speed. Once gravity catches up and the momentum wanes, it hits you like a ton of bricks. The longer a clydesdale can keep the montuem going the better off he'll be. Standing usually makes things worse, you lose the momentum and I can't maintain foward speed as well with side-to-side motion. I climb only on the tops of the bars, stay compact and seated, head up, and find a consistant breathing pattern and grind away.

I also have tried the Big Mig philosophy of spinning up a climb, but I find this very hard until the last part of a climb. I tend to mash the big gears as long as I can to keep the momentum up, once that goes, I have to revert to the spinning, but at that point, it's out of necessity. This is illustrated pretty clearly when you contrast the climbing styles of Jan Ulrich and Marco Pantani (in the old days). How many times have you seen Jan stand up and react to violent attack...almost never. But he is able to drop the majority of riders in mountain stages. Jan isn't even a "big guy" as big guys go.

The positive thing is on the flats and the shallow rollers, the clydesdale will put the hurt into the flimsy climbers. They don't have the power or momentum benefit and actually have to work harder to keep a fast pace. If you can burn them out before you get to the climbs, you might stand a chance of staying with them to the top.