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fixed gear hill training?(11 posts)

fixed gear hill training?DougSloan
Mar 28, 2003 7:58 AM
I enjoy, in a sick way, training on the fixed gear in the hills. I'll take it up 10% or so slopes that are .5 to 1.5 miles long. In a 48x18, it will drop the cadence down to around 20 rpms (i.e., this is REALLY hard).

I was doing this in November and December, and being of the "more is better" philosophy, I hurt my knees pretty bad and had to lay off entirely for 2 weeks. But, I was doing way too much of it (twice a week, with about 2-3 miles of climbing each time). While it was getting me in fantastic shape, strengthening my legs, back, and even arms (every single pedal stroke required total body effort), doing it excessively was obviously bad.


1. Is this beneficial training at all, assuming it's not over done?

2. Does the potential downside of injuries outweigh any beneficial effect? and

3. Assuming it is beneficial, what amount of this at what frequency would be suggested?

(any other advice?)


no answers but solidaritydesmo
Mar 28, 2003 8:46 AM
I do similar once or twice a week with a 48x17. But I stick to grades about 6% or less and never ride anything I can't keep at least 50-60 rpm's and a smooth spin on. I have noticed a lot of improvement in my overall fitness and climbing from these workouts. I look at it as the weight training I refuse to do in a gym. I'd say there's some knee injury risk (I'm an old guy), and you need to listen to your body. I notice if I push too hard on the way up I'll get some calf cramps spinning down the other side. So, good? Bad? Who cares it's lots of fun.
no answers but solidarityDougSloan
Mar 28, 2003 9:06 AM
I have blisters on my hands today from doing this yesterday, pulling so hard on the handlebars. Maybe slopes that require standing ordinarily in a 39x25 are too steep for this. I does feel like weight training, but using your entire body at once.

Your cadence advice is sound.Dale Brigham
Mar 28, 2003 9:59 AM
Power intervals (high torque, low cadence pedaling) are a tried-and-true training method. The cadence advice desmo gave above (keep it at least 50-60 rpm) is commonly cited in coaching manuals. In fact, for juniors, the recommendation is typically to keep cadence above 60 rpm. That's also good advice for folks with knee problems (or history thereof), less highly trained cyclists, and old timers like me who just don't like to hurt.

As you experienced, Doug, joint (knee) pain is the bugaboo for this workout. Try a slightly lower gear, a slightly shallower rate of climb (not as steep a hill), and/or a shorter work interval to stay below the knee injury threshhold. Also, a key part of this drill is to maintain good pedaling form: pull the foot back, up, and over the backside of the pedal stroke; pedal circles. This makes it a good neuromuscular learning drill, as well as a good muscular development workout.

Mar 28, 2003 9:58 AM
The type of training you are doing was recommended by Coconi years ago. It was practiced by the likes of Obree, Rominger etc.

Going up a hill with minimum rpm of 30 - maximum of 40 in the highest gear.

However, it has fallen out of favour as exercise physiologists question its merits as it is not specific in terms of speed of firing the muscles in the real cycling world. Fact is you do not climb hills or ride the flats at 30-40rpm.

When I was using it the only benefit I found was coming out of dead stop U turns!

Another negative is that you are changing your neuromuscular pattern to pedal slow and, unless you do some fast spinning after each effort, you will find your normal comfortable cadence naturally dropping.

The East Germans and Australians use 60rpm which is closer to the real world and spot on if you are a Ullrich type masher climber. Carmichael has adopted this use from the Australian Institute of Sport.

There may be some supporting muscle and connecting tissue benefit plus overall fitness.
thanks bothDougSloan
Mar 28, 2003 10:15 AM
I see what you mean about the cadence and muscle patterns, etc. I would point out that I have to ride back down these hills, too, hitting around 180 rpms... :-)

Thanks. I think I'll look for some less steep hills.

oh, something elseDougSloan
Mar 28, 2003 1:15 PM
I remembered something that I wanted to say.

Part of the rationale for this training is not so much for leg strength, but the extreme cardio/pulmonary workout, too. It is so hard to pedal that I darn near blow a gasket, barely able to maintain consciousness, likely maxing heart rate each time (these are steep hills for the gearing I'm using). Every last muscle of my body is recruited some how, from my toes to my fingers to my head. I can't seem to push myself this hard otherwise. Is that a bad thing?

Riding until you blowmass_biker
Mar 28, 2003 6:46 PM
I find that this type of riding trains you to ride until you blow. Great if you want to learn how to blow, and blow spectacularly.

Here in New England, I use a fixed gear (39x16) from November on. This past winter, I was on it pretty regularly up and down some of the hills (nothing like what you have in CA) and focused on staying in the saddle and applying power throughout the pedal stroke - a good exercise on a fixed gear. When it got a little steeper, I would have to stand and stomp a bit, but focusing on smoothness.

Overgearing a climb and pedalling until you blow a gasket does not make you faster in my opinion. Overgearing a climb in an appropriate manner does improve your muscle strength and endurance. Combining that with fast leg speed and suppleness of the pedal stroke (something the fixed gear does teach you) does make you faster. As does being forced to pedal faster to accelerate/hold the wheel in front of you.

For what it's worth, this training technique was demonstrated (for me) at last week's training race - over 75 entrants in a Pro 1/2/3 and I was finding myself spinning contently at 90+ RPM at speeds upwards of 30mph.

I would say that the great thing about the fixed gear (assuming an appropriate gear) is that you are always a little "tall" for the climbs and a little "short" for the downhills and most flats. Finding a healthy balance makes you faster - not pushing it to the extreme. Certainly, anything that makes your knees hurt is not good. This past winter I did 3-4 hour fixed gear rides with nary a knee twinge; I know if I sought out steeper stuff my joints would protest and that would defeat the whole exercise.

But that is just one opinion.

Mar 29, 2003 3:24 PM
I've been doing the fixed gear hill training thing too, but with lower gearing (42x17). It has made enabled me climb faster and without destroying my knees. I do it 1x per week.
About the knees. . .Mike P
Apr 1, 2003 6:51 PM
Have any of you tried to account for what part of the stroke causes pain in the knees? Push Down, pull back, or up and over?

I have recently starting paying more attention to the "up and over" and have noticed my knees tend to ache slightly on the harder hill workouts. I never really experienced any aches in my knees prior to this.

So, if the pulling up and over harder causes pain in the knees, would concentrating more on the push down and pull back phase tend to decrease irritation of the knees? Does that make any sense at all???

power at acute angleDougSloan
Apr 1, 2003 8:35 PM
I can tell when mine hurt. It's when the knee angle becomes acute (small), and I'm pushing hard. If I straighten the leg more and use my hips standing, there isn't nearly so much discomfort in the knees.

Also, I've notice that if I pull up really hard, I get a little pain, but I think this has more to do with doing something out of the ordinary, rather than the activity itself.