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Can I become a better climber?

freddy2freddy2 Posts: 30
I used to think that I was okay at climbing because I always get to the top, without stopping, whatever the distance and the gradients. I just grind it out. But I am fed up of people losing me or flying past me as if I was going backwards. The steeper the gradient the slower I go which may be natural but it is always slower than others around me. Over the weekend I was on 8-10% gradients slogging up them at about 4 mph. So slow!

What can I do to improve? Do I need gearing that suits my ability more? I am currently on a compact, 50-34 on the front, 11-25 on the back.

Or do I just have to accept that I am never going to be quick and continue to grind them out knowing that I will complete them in the end?
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  • ride_wheneverride_whenever Posts: 13,279
    to get better at riding up hills do them more often.

    hill repeats will get you better, as will improving your power to weight ratio.
  • PokerfacePokerface Posts: 8,640
    Depends on you size, weight and power really.

    But yes - practice will improve your ability to climb.

    I also can get up any hill* but will never be a good climber. Even if I lost another 2 stone. But I am a hell of a lot better than I was just a few years ago.



    *within reason
  • softladsoftlad Posts: 3,587
    height, weight and regular mileage info might be useful too...

    (edit - poker beat me to it.. )
  • markos1963markos1963 Posts: 3,724
    Confidence is a big factor, if you think you are cr*p on hills then your beaten before you start. Hill repeats help a lot, try and vary your pace on them if you can. Strat slow in a light gear then change up and put in a short effort, back off and recover for a bit and then have another go. I found this and switching to a single speed bike helped a lot.
  • jacsterjacster Posts: 177
    I agree..mentality is a big factor.
    I used to hate them but now I actively seek out the hardest - and love the feeling of beating it.
    For me technique is key.
  • phreakphreak Posts: 2,178
    In addition to what the others have said, I think the type of hill is a big factor. If it's a long hill then I tend to use my legs much more so building muscular endurance is key, whereas on shorter hills it tends to be an explosive burst to get up them, so building cardio fitness is important.
  • markos1963markos1963 Posts: 3,724
    phreak wrote:
    In addition to what the others have said, I think the type of hill is a big factor. If it's a long hill then I tend to use my legs much more so building muscular endurance is key, whereas on shorter hills it tends to be an explosive burst to get up them, so building cardio fitness is important.

    Wouldn't that be the other way around? Muscle power for short sharp hills and cardio for longer climbs?
  • phreakphreak Posts: 2,178
    markos1963 wrote:
    phreak wrote:
    In addition to what the others have said, I think the type of hill is a big factor. If it's a long hill then I tend to use my legs much more so building muscular endurance is key, whereas on shorter hills it tends to be an explosive burst to get up them, so building cardio fitness is important.

    Wouldn't that be the other way around? Muscle power for short sharp hills and cardio for longer climbs?

    Maybe. I've been training for a sportive in Italy so have been doing lots of hour long tempo work on the turbo to try and replicate climbing for that period of time. My pulse is never an issue but my legs are. I guess on a shorter climb its easy to go into the red to try and get over it quickly, hence it brings your cardio system into play.
  • nolfnolf Posts: 2,016
    phreak wrote:
    markos1963 wrote:
    phreak wrote:
    In addition to what the others have said, I think the type of hill is a big factor. If it's a long hill then I tend to use my legs much more so building muscular endurance is key, whereas on shorter hills it tends to be an explosive burst to get up them, so building cardio fitness is important.

    Wouldn't that be the other way around? Muscle power for short sharp hills and cardio for longer climbs?

    Maybe. I've been training for a sportive in Italy so have been doing lots of hour long tempo work on the turbo to try and replicate climbing for that period of time. My pulse is never an issue but my legs are. I guess on a shorter climb its easy to go into the red to try and get over it quickly, hence it brings your cardio system into play.

    PHYSIOLOGY FAIL.

    As for getting better at hills: grinding indicates you use a low cadence for hills. Perhaps try spinning up the hills?
    Hill repeats are good. Also get used to working hard uphill. If you get used to giving everything uphills, soon you'll notice that gets you up them faster.

    Perhaps take it a bit easier on the flat so you have more energy for the climbs?
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  • freddy2 wrote:
    I was on 8-10% gradients slogging up them at about 4 mph. So slow!

    this is about 150-180 watts of power. sounds like youve just started cycling? most club riders do 250-350 watts on tough 10% climbs.

    unless you are a ve3ry very very small woman 150 watts is poor. consistent with a newish or an untrained rider.

    if that is the case just ride more. if you have been riding for a long time maybe you need to go harder more often and shock your body out of its comfort zone.
  • phreakphreak Posts: 2,178
    nolf wrote:
    phreak wrote:
    markos1963 wrote:
    phreak wrote:
    In addition to what the others have said, I think the type of hill is a big factor. If it's a long hill then I tend to use my legs much more so building muscular endurance is key, whereas on shorter hills it tends to be an explosive burst to get up them, so building cardio fitness is important.

    Wouldn't that be the other way around? Muscle power for short sharp hills and cardio for longer climbs?

    Maybe. I've been training for a sportive in Italy so have been doing lots of hour long tempo work on the turbo to try and replicate climbing for that period of time. My pulse is never an issue but my legs are. I guess on a shorter climb its easy to go into the red to try and get over it quickly, hence it brings your cardio system into play.

    PHYSIOLOGY FAIL.

    *shrug* I can get up the 10% grade at the end of our club ride at 20kph+ so it seems to be working just fine for me. Each to their own.

    I've also whizzed past people stopping on Mow Cop, and I can guarantee its because they don't have the power in their legs rather than the puff in their lungs.

    I would have thought if you're riding for any length of time then you would want to keep your heart rate as low as possible, otherwise it wouldn't be an endurance ride. Hill reps are fine at aiding good cardio vascular recovery but the chances are that a) you're not going to be sprinting up a climb, and b) the climbs will come after you have lots of miles in your legs, so I'd question their value over improving your lactate threshold.
  • softladsoftlad Posts: 3,587
    phreak wrote:
    Hill reps are fine at aiding good cardio vascular recovery but the chances are that a) you're not going to be sprinting up a climb, and b) the climbs will come after you have lots of miles in your legs, so I'd question their value over improving your lactate threshold.

    on a road race loop, it's quite possible that you will be sprinting up the climbs - and they will also be in the same place every lap, whether you have miles in your legs or not...
  • redddraggonredddraggon Posts: 10,862
    phreak wrote:
    *shrug* I can get up the 10% grade at the end of our club ride at 20kph+ so it seems to be working just fine for me.

    12mph doesn't seem that fast
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  • neebneeb Posts: 4,385
    his is about 150-180 watts of power. sounds like youve just started cycling? most club riders do 250-350 watts on tough 10% climbs.

    unless you are a ve3ry very very small woman 150 watts is poor. consistent with a newish or an untrained rider.
    Depends on the OP's weight surely? He might be putting out decent watts at that speed if he's seriously large...

    If you have significant excess weight (fat) then the best way to get better at hills is to lose it while maintaining fitness. Otherwise, just ride more hills...

    I agree on the psychology though, I find it far easier to go all out when sprinting up hills than putting the same amount of effort into sprinting on the flat.
  • phreakphreak Posts: 2,178
    softlad wrote:
    phreak wrote:
    Hill reps are fine at aiding good cardio vascular recovery but the chances are that a) you're not going to be sprinting up a climb, and b) the climbs will come after you have lots of miles in your legs, so I'd question their value over improving your lactate threshold.

    on a road race loop, it's quite possible that you will be sprinting up the climbs - and they will also be in the same place every lap, whether you have miles in your legs or not...

    Yes but I doubt the original poster is going to be doing road races any time soon :) I mean if you want to climb like Contador where you're sprinting up climbs then fair enough, but who here actually does climb like that? I'd imagine the vast majority here ride tempo up the climbs rather than sprint up them.
    12mph doesn't seem that fast

    I thought the pros were only just doing over 20kmh on the hill time trial yesterday at the Giro? Ok the climb was a bit higher than 10% and considerably longer than most UK climbs, but lets not any of us pretend we're anywhere close to the pros :)
  • neeb wrote:
    Depends on the OP's weight surely? He might be putting out decent watts at that speed if he's seriously large...

    i assumed 80-100kg.

    if they are 200kg then fine. they must be doing serious watts

    on the other hand 150 watts is world class if you are 25kg.
  • redddraggonredddraggon Posts: 10,862
    phreak wrote:
    12mph doesn't seem that fast

    I thought the pros were only just doing over 20kmh on the hill time trial yesterday at the Giro?

    You say you do it at the end of a club run, which I presume is pretty near London, and London is pretty flat, so no 10% will go on for Long.
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  • phreakphreak Posts: 2,178
    :lol: I'm not here to justify whether I'm good or not. Just saying I've worked a lot more on improving muscular endurance than cardio vascular fitness over the winter and am climbing (and riding in general) much better as a result.

    As an example the Carmichael hill climbing video states several times that the workout will not quicken your pulse, but will build great strength in the legs.

    Of course building up your aerobic capacity will be important, but it sounds like the original poster is suffering more from a lack of power in his legs and the inability to sustain that power over a period of time.
  • phreak wrote:
    the workout will not quicken your pulse, but will build great strength in the legs.

    strength is not a limiter unless you can't stand up and why is quickening your pulse a good thing?
    phreak wrote:
    Of course building up your aerobic capacity will be important, but it sounds like the original poster is suffering more from a lack of power in his legs and the inability to sustain that power over a period of time.

    :roll: sustaining power over time IS aerobic capacity. its an aerobic sport
  • phreakphreak Posts: 2,178
    Never mind. Hill repeats are the only way to get better at climbing. Geez, you offer up an alternative point of view and everyone gets all pompous on you :?
  • the alternative point of view scientifically is wrong.

    99% of power in cycling is about aerobic capacity and the other 1% is strength in a sprint only.

    and no. climbing hills is not the only way to improve climbing.
  • freddy2freddy2 Posts: 30
    Thanks to all for the comment so far. For the record I am 5’ 7” weighing in about 12 st. Overweight for my height but my build is stocky rather than wire like in my defence!

    I don’t dream of climbing like a pro as that is well beyond me, I would just like to be quicker. The climbs I referred to were in the Pyrenees and ranging from 10 to 18km in length. It sounds like I have to work harder on them and build up my endurance and strength. I would like to spin more but I already spend time in my lowest gear so not much scope for that.

    No magic bullet then. Attack the hills more on the routes and sportives I use at home and hopefully with time I’ll improve. Losing weight would always help but I’m never going to be stick thin.

    More comment welcome, but thanks anyhow.
  • mickenmicken Posts: 275
    the alternative point of view scientifically is wrong.

    99% of power in cycling is about aerobic capacity and the other 1% is strength in a sprint only.

    and no. climbing hills is not the only way to improve climbing.

    I'd certainly be interested in adding some other ways to my training.
    What are they please?
  • hard intervals at or +/-5% of your 1hour tt pace, SST riding, 2x20, TTs, chaingangs etc

    ride your bike hard.
  • boneyjoeboneyjoe Posts: 369
    Hill intervals can be quite fun. Find the steepest hill in your area - ideally 2-3km long. Ride up it at max pace - start spinning in a low gear, and then gear up a couple of times as you ascend, so you're actually going faster towards the top of the climb. Get up out the saddle as you gear up, and then sit down again once your speed is up. HR should be 90-100% for the entire climb. When you reach the top, ride back down again and then repeat (no more than 10 times), but take a breather at the bottom if your heart rate hasn't got down to about 150 by then.

    Sounds awful, but your body will adjust to it. A few of these sessions and climbing quickly becomes a whole lot easier.

    Be sure you're perfectly healthy before you take this on (no colds etc) and give yourself 1 or 2 rest days after each session (and don't do more than 1 per week).
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  • mickenmicken Posts: 275
    hard intervals at or +/-5% of your 1hour tt pace, SST riding, 2x20, TTs, chaingangs etc

    ride your bike hard.
    Cheers :)
  • mickenmicken Posts: 275
    boneyjoe wrote:
    Hill intervals can be quite fun. Find the steepest hill in your area - ideally 2-3km long. Ride up it at max pace - start spinning in a low gear, and then gear up a couple of times as you ascend, so you're actually going faster towards the top of the climb. Get up out the saddle as you gear up, and then sit down again once your speed is up. HR should be 90-100% for the entire climb. When you reach the top, ride back down again and then repeat (no more than 10 times), but take a breather at the bottom if your heart rate hasn't got down to about 150 by then.

    Sounds awful, but your body will adjust to it. A few of these sessions and climbing quickly becomes a whole lot easier.

    Be sure you're perfectly healthy before you take this on (no colds etc) and give yourself 1 or 2 rest days after each session (and don't do more than 1 per week).

    Agreed, this is where I'm going with hill climbing at the moment but have been using a number of hills on a loop. Training primarily on heart rate, I usually do about 1000 feet for every 10 miles within the loop.
  • TommyEssTommyEss Posts: 1,855
    phreak wrote:
    the workout will not quicken your pulse, but will build great strength in the legs.

    strength is not a limiter unless you can't stand up and why is quickening your pulse a good thing?
    phreak wrote:
    Of course building up your aerobic capacity will be important, but it sounds like the original poster is suffering more from a lack of power in his legs and the inability to sustain that power over a period of time.

    :roll: sustaining power over time IS aerobic capacity. its an aerobic sport

    Exactly...

    I think what you're trying to say, but with your science backwards, is that the training you've done has helped you get up hills better.

    On a longer climb, where you remain seated and spin, will keep your body (hopefully) in aerobic resperation - whereby your body can get in enough oxygen to fuel the muscles.

    For those short sharp hills you've mentioned, where you burst up the hill - that's when you start working anearobically - the extra muscle groups required to lift your censored out the saddle, and throw your bars side to side - mean you can no longer breathe in enough oxygen to fuel everything- you go into oxygen debt, and the physiology of your muscle cells switch over.

    One of the by-products of anaerobic respiration is lactate - and that's what can lead to the cramps if you go on for too long.

    Training in the anaerobic zone will help to increase your lactate threshold - i.e. you should be able to go longer and harder before you slip into anaerobic respiration.
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  • ToksToks Posts: 1,143
    freddy2 wrote:
    I used to think that I was okay at climbing because I always get to the top, without stopping, whatever the distance and the gradients. I just grind it out. But I am fed up of people losing me or flying past me as if I was going backwards. The steeper the gradient the slower I go which may be natural but it is always slower than others around me.
    Getting to the top without stopping doens't really demonstrate climbing prowess. You haven't mentioned your mass/weight but regardless you simply need to get fittter. Some combination of more intensive rides or more frequent rides maybe needed. Those people cruising past you will probably drop you on the flat too if push came to shove
  • bristolpetebristolpete Posts: 2,255
    Have to report a year ago I was asking the same question. It comes on and gets easier. I am climing much better now and its still getting better. You have to plug away. Getting the weight down has helped, as has extra gym work, but above all else, getting out there on the bike and hitting hills.
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