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hill climbing technique

kevin69kevin69 Posts: 87
edited February 2011 in Road beginners
i am slow at hill climbing, soon dropping down to 34/25 at 70-80rpm (seated) for the majority of the climb after a couple of minutes.
I commute about 13km, the last 4km of which is uphill (approx 250m climb).
How should i try and improve?

Should i go for bigger gears all the way up?
Or stay in a low gear and spin faster all the way?
Or put a big effort into the bottom of the hill, and take it easier after the first km,
gradually imcreasing the high effort section?
Or take it easy at the bottom, and put all the effort into the top?

Once i decide how to train, how soon should i expect to see an improvement?
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  • ilm_zero7ilm_zero7 Posts: 2,213
    dont burn up on hills and keep the revs up - seems to work for me. I am far from good on hills, but find when with the club I do better starting modestly, and keeping driving, even increasing the work going towards the top.

    i used to stand up (if needed) far too late, now i stand up to get the tempo up before the pace has died. not very technical i know, but no two hills are the same are they?
    http://veloviewer.com/SigImage.php?a=3370a&r=3&c=5&u=M&g=p&f=abcdefghij&z=a.png
    Wiliers: Cento Uno/Superleggera R and Zero 7. Bianchi Infinito CV and Oltre XR2
  • The key is to keep things steady - don't exert too much over either the top or the bottom of the climb.
    You just need to keep things running steady all the way to the top - don't worry about what gear you're in. The reason I say this is because I know a lot of folk who can psuh a massive gear uphill and a lot of folk (like me) who push a smaller gear uphill - point is we both get there at the same time, just personal preference.
    Forget what gear or cadence you're in, do what feels comfortable to start with. When you start improving, then push harder.
    "That's it! You people have stood in my way long enough. I'm going to clown college! " - Homer
  • danowatdanowat Posts: 2,877
    Its a very individual thing, the key to me is keeping it in a high(er) gear and grind it out, I've experimented with spinning, but I find my HR goes skywards to easily and quickly.

    You need to suck it and see, mix it up, standing, sitting, spinning, grinding, its all good, just depends whats good for you.
  • peejay78peejay78 Posts: 3,378
    edited February 2011
    How should i try and improve?

    the simple answer to this is ride more hills, more often.

    Should i go for bigger gears all the way up? Or stay in a low gear and spin faster all the way?

    no to the former - it's not quicker. find a gear you get on top of; and find a cadence and rhythm that you can sustain, don't over spin, you want something that feels like you are moving and not gyrating excessivley because it's too spinny, or weaving around because you're griding. staying seated in the saddle conserves energy, get out of the saddle to adjust weight, maintain cadence, or for a change.


    Or put a big effort into the bottom of the hill, and take it easier after the first km,
    gradually imcreasing the high effort section? Or take it easy at the bottom, and put all the effort into the top?


    depends on the length of the hill. the general rule that I apply in hillclimbs is to divide the ascent into three sections, first one calm, aimed solely at finding the right rhythm and pacing, then in the middle start to up it a bit, then in the final third let loose and go for the line when you know you can make it without blowing up.

    some hills totally disrupt any attempt at a pacing strategy.

    if you are essentially fit then specific training on hills should pay a dividend within about 6 to 8 weeks.

    the unsaid thing in all of this is that getting to an optimum power-to-weight ratio will make a huge difference. this means losing excess weight, and riding a light bike with a light wheelset.

    some further comments on riding uphill here:
    keeping a tempo:
    http://traumradfahren.wordpress.com/201 ... lose-hill/
    sticking to a plan:
    http://traumradfahren.wordpress.com/201 ... on-coombe/
    the three-point hillclimb approach:
    http://traumradfahren.wordpress.com/201 ... -new-bank/

    and riding contintental climbs:
    http://traumradfahren.wordpress.com/2010/04/20/ventoux/
  • I also find it easier if i focus on the meter in front of the wheel rather than always looking at the summit
    You're the light wiping out my batteries; You're the cream in my airport coffee's.
  • Hi Kevin69

    When climbing a long hill at a fairly constant gradient (not a short power climb), start out in a gear that is lower than 'you think' you should be in. This is really important, because you'll usually be faster up a hill by starting out in a lower gear and then having the option to ride in a higher gear if you feel you want to go harder in the second half of the climb.

    Changing down to a lower gear from a too high a gear will nearly always cause a drop in speed and usually signifies you went too hard in the first half of the climb!

    Cadence will naturally drop as you hit a hill, but your goal is to keep your cadence as consistent as possible, to maintain your relative speed to the slope.

    You're looking to be as efficient as possible on a climb so (pedalling frequency) 'cadence' is also factor: It takes time to find your 'cadence range' on a hill and what works for you. Roughly speaking, you're looking to err on the side of spinning up a climb than mashing big gears, simply so you can 'hold' the speed up the climb and then 'accelerate' by changing up a gear if need be to go faster - as I've just mentioned above.

    Taking it further (more advanced techniques):

    Once you've found your own rhythm on a hill using the techniques above, experiment next with getting out the saddle and really 'pushing' over the tops of the hills. Note I say push OVER the tops of the hills....not die at the top - this takes judgement and practice. This technique is really the icing on the cake if you want to ride hills fast, but the first few steps need to be in place first and that can take a good few months, even one summer of constant hill riding 'in the saddle' to master.

    Anyway, Kevin I don't want to overload you with too much information. Start with attempting to ride your hills as smoothly and as 'consistent' as you can effort wise and take it from there.

    Have a great Sunday!

    Becky
  • NuggsNuggs Posts: 1,804
    There are two things that really suck about cycling:

    1. The only way to get better at climbing is to do more climbing

    2. Hills never get easier, they just get faster

    :wink:
  • Nuggs,

    ....The REAL solution is to make the hills your BEST FRIEND...and you'll be onto a winner every time :-).

    Becky
  • Kevin
    If you're running a 25 on your cassette, and the cadence gets too low (for you) try getting a 27.
  • PostieJohnPostieJohn Posts: 1,105
    Peejay speaks a lot of sense.

    I read an article by some 'mountain goat', I can't remember which but the key points went as follows.

    - First, eat, drink, whatever.
    - Then sort out your breathing regulate your breathes getting good lung fulls.
    - tap out a steady rhythm
    - Select the gear you'll ride the first 2/3rds of the hill or in his case mountain.
    - Keep all that together
    - Impress everyone with your quad power over the last 3rd.

    And from Team GB, brow sprint.
    Start your sprint 200m from the summit and finish 200m the other side.
  • thanks all, especially peejay and becky

    Based on peejay78's advice, this evening i tried going a bit more gently for the first 2km
    (which is also the steepest section), putting a bit more in the next km, then putting everything
    into the last km and onto the flat.

    This definitely *felt* faster, but some of this is probably psychological, and the
    clock wasn't that impressed. Having a couple of people suggest the same techniques
    helps though: it gives me confidence that the approach is right, its just a case of having
    a bit more practise.

    Losing a bit of weight will help too, and its much cheaper to lose it off the rider than the bike.
  • Hi when i first started hills used to make me feel sick, im like i would vomit!!

    so strategy was really important, i followed advice and totally agree with staying seated to start and spinning but not to fast. Tempo is everything, start feeling comfy and keep it that way. Then push when you feel you can.

    One cracking tip is too look up the hill and spot a marker say 25 meters ahead (a road sign tree etc etc and work to it/focus on it. when your on it then asses to a new one if things are tough pick one out not too far away and if things feel good stretch it out a bit. same applies when a change in gradient. Sounds complicated and allot to think about but its not. when you get the hang of it it will be second nature.

    Doing this whilst keeping a good solid rhythm is fantastic.

    I now look forward to the challenge of any hill
  • peejay78peejay78 Posts: 3,378
    the last thing - i was thinking about this yesterday -

    even the biggest hill you can find, the one that terrorises you, will shrink over time as you get used to climbing it, and understand the changes in gradient and how to ride it.

    but there will always be days when you ride like a total dog, feel utterly deflated and are destined for the grupetto.
  • curiumcurium Posts: 815
    Good stuff in the Training Forum
  • rick_chaseyrick_chasey Posts: 65,262 Lives Here
    edited February 2011
    Go as fast as you can, untill you can't sit up.

    Repeat untill unbearable.


    Repeat throughout the week.

    End up going faster!
  • A lot of new riders on hiils go out too quick, I think in the mindset of 'let's get this over and done with asap'. Half way up the hill you are wanting to stop and out of breath. Until you get fitter - slow down at the bottom of the hill and force yourself to pedal slower in your easiest gear, spin as much as possible and then if you feel like you have something spare near the top - hammer it ! It's ok if you wanna chuck at the top of the hill and can't pedal anymore cos the hill is done ! Besides, it always looks better to accelerate over the top of the hill. Everyone watching you probably won't know how slow you've been further down the hill !
  • briantrumpetbriantrumpet Posts: 13,217
    peejay78 wrote:
    even the biggest hill you can find, the one that terrorises you, will shrink over time as you get used to climbing it, and understand the changes in gradient and how to ride it.

    but there will always be days when you ride like a total dog, feel utterly deflated and are destined for the grupetto.
    Peak Hill in Sidmouth (460ft in 0.64 miles) did this to me last week. I felt like giving up two thirds of the way up. Obviously I didn't (point of principle!), but just swore more. But the legs were like lead. Last Summer I went up it four times, thoroughly enjoyed it each time, and thought I'd tamed the beast.

    I'd agree about the getting to know a beast of a hill well though: working out where you need to stand up, where you can sit down and catch some air if needed (without falling off). My personal preference is to sit down as much as I can, keeping a reasonably high cadence - if I stand up too much, my lungs want to burst.
  • peejay78peejay78 Posts: 3,378
    peak hill has been used for the National Championships before, and also figures in the ToB, so it's certainly a bit of a beast.

    there's a hillclimb there every september/october - you should do it!
  • briantrumpetbriantrumpet Posts: 13,217
    peejay78 wrote:
    peak hill has been used for the National Championships before, and also figures in the ToB, so it's certainly a bit of a beast.

    there's a hillclimb there every september/october - you should do it!
    Yeah, I did it in the Tour Ride last September (44th out of 800 or so on the climb!), but I'm going to see if I can tame it a bit more this year before going mad and entering a real specialist hill climb. Though the main person I compete against is myself...
  • peejay78peejay78 Posts: 3,378
    most hill climbs have a really long tail, so you would be fine in a 'specialist' event - especially with your result in the tour climb which suggests you are pretty handy!

    back markers tend to be many minutes down on the lithe whippets at the front. as with other open events, hillclimbs give you the chance to compete against yourself; the time is everything.
  • peejay78peejay78 Posts: 3,378
    there is a really great hillclimb not far from exeter, runs from bovey tracey up to haytor, about three and half miles of unmitigated joy.

    definitely recommended! takes around 15 minutes and has one of the longest standing records in open events, set by Jeff WIlliams in the national event some years ago.

    http://www.thisissouthdevon.co.uk/news/ ... ticle.html
  • briantrumpetbriantrumpet Posts: 13,217
    peejay78 wrote:
    there is a really great hillclimb not far from exeter, runs from bovey tracey up to haytor, about three and half miles of unmitigated joy.
    Hmm, only 300ish metres of ascent - long, but not as brutal as Peak Hill - but very impressive to be able to do that at 14mph average - no wonder the record stands!

    We're not short of beasts round Exeter - there's the one the other side of Sidmouth leading up to the observatory (490ish feet in 0.69 miles, but with one very steep section), and the road leading out of Ottery up to Chineway Hill - only 520ft in 1.5 miles, but it ramps up right at the end. You need to pace yourself for that!
  • peejay78peejay78 Posts: 3,378
    i grew up in barnstaple, there were some rotters round that way, especially lynmouth, porlock, dunkery.

    currently the mendips are my stamping ground. they are as bad or as good as it gets, depending on your relationship with gravity.
  • briantrumpetbriantrumpet Posts: 13,217
    peejay78 wrote:
    i grew up in barnstaple, there were some rotters round that way, especially lynmouth, porlock, dunkery.
    Indeed!

    Anyway, back on topic... (apologies for the short detour round Devon)....
  • Stuy-bStuy-b Posts: 248
    the faster you ride the quicker you get to the top :D
  • cyco2cyco2 Posts: 593
    if I stand up too much, my lungs want to burst.

    This a very,very good exercise to do for the lungs

    I didn't have the luxury of long climbs but always rode them with different styles because in a race I had to do something to survive in the bunch. My favoured approach to a steep start was to climb it in a low gear breathing easily being careful not to let the acid to build up. Then as it eased a bit I would up the gear and build a nice rhythm. Those that went for an initial serge would eventually be overtaken.
    ...................................................................................................

    If you want to be a strong rider you have to do strong things.
    However if you train like a cart horse you'll race like one.
  • briantrumpetbriantrumpet Posts: 13,217
    cyco2 wrote:
    My favoured approach to a steep start was to climb it in a low gear breathing easily being careful not to let the acid to build up. Then as it eased a bit I would up the gear and build a nice rhythm. Those that went for an initial serge would eventually be overtaken.
    Indeed - this is pretty much how I take longer hills. I'm certainly not going to stand up at the start - I'll use standing up either just to change the rhythm for a while (it's nice to pedal more slowly for a while), or when I hit the sort of hill marked with one or two chevrons on the OS map (that's when the real lung-hurt and the swearing will kick in.)

    I realised today that I've been slack on the one-hour spins that have some decent climbing in - when the weather's been passable I've been going for 40- or 50-mile spins, but that necessarily means I'm a bit more cautious on the hills. Instead I went on my 22-mile loop today with 1400ft of climbing, and it was good to be able to really attack the hills without worrying if I'll get home with any legs left. Must do it more.
  • Evil LaughEvil Laugh Posts: 1,412
    cyco2 wrote:
    if I stand up too much, my lungs want to burst.

    This a very,very good exercise to do for the lungs

    I didn't have the luxury of long climbs but always rode them with different styles because in a race I had to do something to survive in the bunch. My favoured approach to a steep start was to climb it in a low gear breathing easily being careful not to let the acid to build up. Then as it eased a bit I would up the gear and build a nice rhythm. Those that went for an initial serge would eventually be overtaken.

    I found when I started out that breathing calmly and regularly helped a lot. It in turn kept my cadence constant. Focussing on my breathing calmed me and distracted me from the challenge of the hill and allowed me to easily increase my efforts if I wanted to from within a comfort zone. I soon noticed i was using bigger gears but the same technique.

    I'll add this is sitting, spinning and I prefer using the tops of the bars as leverage if needed. I'll only really stand if the hill is too steep to spin in my gearing or I know I've got enough in the legs to blast to the top.

    Worked for me anyway. I still get my breathing sorted at the bottom of a hill. It forces me into the right gear/cadence and I take it from there. As said above, always best to have some left at the end of the hill.
  • peejay78peejay78 Posts: 3,378
    went out this morning, did 40 miles with 3000ft of uphill.

    rode steel raleigh winter hack with 20-39 lightest gearing. wasn't the most pleasant experience, but seems to have the desired effect, builds leg strength and stamina.
  • Not that I'm Marco Pantani; but I always find that I like to start off as slowly as possible.

    When I first started tackling big cllimbs I would hit them too fast and then there is that pressure on yourself to maintain that pace. Better I find to start slow and then feel it out as you go seeing where you can take a little breather if need be (where it gets less steep and you can go slower) or speed up when you feel good, but never by too much.

    I find with my technique there can be a bit of back and forth with other riders as they drop behind me or come past me. But most importantly I always feel like I'm in control and I'm not about to either fall off or blow up.

    But most importantly like most others have said, just keep riding up hills.
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