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When does a hill become too steep to be worthwhile ?

slogslog Posts: 67
Earlier today I went out riding with 2 mates who are 'proper' cyclists for a ride of some 120 odd miles, taking in some of the best climbing South West Wales has to offer. As a long course triathlete, I more often than not ride alone, choosing routes with varying terrain, based on what event I'm working towards. I tend to choose events with hilly bike courses as I seem to do better on these, despite being 14 1/2 stone.
Today, after loads of perfect long 7-12% drags ( most of which I was dropped on :D ) we climbed the legendary "Devil's Staircase", a 25% effort over about 600m. I knew it was coming, so a throttled back for the 5miles or so leading up to it, as did my mates. The climb itself was quite traumatic (chain came off 2 thirds up, struggled to clip back in, lah, lah, lah) and though I recovered pretty quickly afterwards and rode hard for another 50 miles, I was wondering what was actually gained training wise by grinding up such a brutal gradient....

Posts

  • twotyredtwotyred Posts: 822
    I've just done a climbing repeats session today which consisted of getting into the big ring and halfway down the cassette and trying to get as far up the local 20% hill as I could before my legs stopped working then going back down and reaching the same point at least twice more. Its prescribed by my coach as strength training although it probably also has a similar effect on fitness as intervals do.
  • phreakphreak Posts: 2,133
    Depends what you're training for doesn't it? I would imagine on a triathlon course you're unlikely to encounter that kind of terrain so it would seem of minimal value. If you're climbing the Mortirolo though being able to grind at a low cadence will have its uses.
  • cyco2cyco2 Posts: 593
    My take on steep hills is they are a fun to climb and see how you're getting on. Yes, they are good for strength training but so are sprints and hills that can be sprinted up good too. I would have thought that learning to climb it as fast as possible is more beneficial. My climbing hero at the moment is John Tiernan Locke who is a stunning climber. And I cannot believe he tries to ride up steep hills half block on the big ring unless it suited him because he's so fit he doesn't have to grind up it.
    ...................................................................................................

    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.
  • phreakphreak Posts: 2,133
    That's true but it depends on your climb. When I was going up the Mortirolo I didn't see a single person that wasn't grinding up it :)
  • alihisgreatalihisgreat Posts: 3,872
    I like to hit the steep ones to see where i am on Strava :mrgreen:


    I don't think it has much benefit in training, maybe a strength... but you'll get that from lesser gradients if you go in a bigger gear.

    Just enjoy the ride though -> it would be boring if the whole ride was pan flat, or just a repeat of similar hills -> and its always good to challenge yourself on something tough.
  • MuffintopMuffintop Posts: 296
    cadseen wrote:
    When you have to walk :D

    7eab65b5ab11bcec

    I'd've thought that would when it would be most valueable.

    Mx
    FCN: Brompton: 12, Tourer: 7, Racer: 4

    http://www.60milestonod.blogspot.com
  • mattshropsmattshrops Posts: 1,158
    Bit off topic but had a similar question i was asking myself the other day. on a hilly training ride and having a bad day, i wondered whether to cut it short or continue on. Looked at my hr data when i got home and i definitely should have cut it short. Doesnt seem any point limping home too tired to raise the heart rate to any reasonable training zone.Waste of 20 miles really and probably impacted on my recovery time where i could have gone better on the next ride.The instinct to "not be a quitter" is not always correct.
    Death or Glory- Just another Story
  • Monty DogMonty Dog Posts: 20,614
    Riding steep climbs is good for strength and training your threshold - over-gearing helps employ muscles in the core and upper body that don't get used as much in general riding. I'm less sure of the training benefits for long-distance triathlon but certainly it helps if you're doing road racing with uphill finishes.
    Make mine an Italian, with Campagnolo on the side..
  • okgookgo Posts: 4,368
    In my race today the only hill was a bit of a sod, but I feel like I really pushed myself on it and hopefully will be stronger for it!

    This hill - http://app.strava.com/rides/812524#12024642
    Blog on my first and now second season of proper riding/racing - www.firstseasonracing.com
  • I got a smidge lost in the contryside between Ley Hill and Bovingdon, a little south west of Henel Hempstead, couple of days ago. Went over a crest and found myself staring down the face of a 13% incline, according to the roadsign.
    Proper shat myself. I thought I was gonna go over the (drop) handlebars and DIE.

    My usual circuit between Amersham and Chesham invovlves a long(ish) incline down the A404, then doubling back up Station road for a bit of an uphill beasting. No idea what the % is, but it gets steeper toward the top.
  • slogslog Posts: 67
    Thanks for the replies so far... As a side note, I went out with the same guys and 2 other triathletes yesterday
    and Friday, and the course was 60 odd miles fast and rolling, with just a few short sharp 12 % efforts. It became very obvious that the same 2 mates who'd rinsed me on a hilly course last weekend were not comfortable turning a big gear at threshold for long periods of time, and did their best to "hide' in the group, their words, not mine.
    From a training perspective this is perfect for me as I now have 2 groups of riding buddies with completely different riding styles/strengths, which can only make me a more rounded rider :wink:
  • bisonerbisoner Posts: 171
    I did Streatley Hill on Saturday. My bike was in for repair so I used a mates bike which had an 11-25 on the back. For half the climbed I had to stand up constantly as it hit around 16% and eventually got burned by another guy in the group - he was sitting down the whole time - he had a 12-27. It would have been interesting if I been using my bike with its 11-28 though. Generally I tend to climb much better on the 5 - 10% stuff. I think my lack of raw power catches me out on the really steep stuff - along with the need to shave off a bit more weight.

    Similar experience to Slog post the steep hill though. The guy who burned me on Streatley asked me to slow down when we were doing a threshold type ride for 25 miles together on the way back home over rolling terrain.
  • slogslog Posts: 67
    I'm not sure it is lack of raw power, but more about good old power to weight ratio. My proper
    cycling buddies are a lot smaller/lighter than me, yet weight differences become a lot less of an issue
    on the flatter courses.....
  • Brian BBrian B Posts: 2,071
    Steep hills are worthwhile if you participate in sportives/races any where from Wales to Scotland. If you can conquer steep hills like the staircase(I have done it and its hard) and do so on a regular basis then your can get up almost any hill and improve your times overall and have the power to drop others.

    There is nothing more demoralising than seeing someone you have done 50 miles with drop you like a stone when the tarmac gets really steep and they disapear from view.
    Brian B.
  • Ron StuartRon Stuart Posts: 1,242
    cadseen wrote:
    When you have to walk :D

    7eab65b5ab11bcec

    This reply I totally agree with from an event organisers point of view, if an event has a climb or climbs where ordinary mortals who have gearing 32" and below are walking and there are many of them then the organisers have failed to put on suitable parcours for the entrants as a whole.
    I recently did the Long Mynd 100 Audax in Shropshire and elected to walk Asterton Bank http://www.whitehorsepulverbatch.co.uk/ ... 20Bank.pdf
    and part way up I was overtaken by a lean fit chap riding the bank, he had to stop twice to lower heart rate and continued on, I got over the climb and was at a guess half a mile behind him, he was just a blue dot in the distance, well we arrived at the next control together. I overtook him shortly after and with two big climbs still to come which were rideable I finished some 15mins before him. So depending on the route overall sometimes putting in a very big effort earlier in a ride can leave you running low on energy for the rest of the event. There is no chance of putting in a measure effort on Asterton bank, certainly not on a compact maybe easier with Touring gears but you would be going not much faster than walking pace. :oops:
  • okgookgo Posts: 4,368
    You just need the right gearing.

    I was happily climbing a 25% gradient (it wasn't that long, but its still steep) with a 53/28 seated.
    Blog on my first and now second season of proper riding/racing - www.firstseasonracing.com
  • Tom DeanTom Dean Posts: 1,723
    okgo wrote:
    You just need the right gearing.

    I was happily climbing a 25% gradient (it wasn't that long, but its still steep) with a 53/28 seated.

    +1

    Stay in big ring :roll:
  • Ron StuartRon Stuart Posts: 1,242
    okgo wrote:
    You just need the right gearing.

    I was happily climbing a 25% gradient (it wasn't that long, but its still steep) with a 53/28 seated.

    So your on the big ring and big cassette sprocket sat down doing a 25% ascent not long but steep sat there happy as a sand boy right?

    Well the climb below I know very well it's called the Malhao and here the Tour of the Algarve are 2km up the last 3km section. The Malhao's last 3km section has an average of 9.2% with 13% ramps, as you can see from photo they are all on the inner ring and most are on the biggest sprocket 23 or 25 more likely as this stage has some other steep hills. Cummings took this stage and the yellow Jersey it seems riding out of the saddle with lower gearing than you use on a 25% climb. I have also ridden this one a few times and it isn't easy mate. Richie Porte won the stage this year and he also was on the inner ring and a big sprocket out of the saddle and blitzed them.

    578478_10150791597874524_527244523_11864477_1734885806_n.jpg

    Oh! and do you ride big ring to big cassette up steep climbs a lot :?:
  • okgookgo Posts: 4,368
    LOL sorry I meant on the 39 haha, what a [email protected] I must have sounded there!

    But the point remains, with the right gear for you, most hills should be at least do-able. Plenty of others had a normal 25 on but I know I would have really struggled without having that 28 gear to revert to, and I ride with a chap who has a double and an 11-23, and he will ride up anything with that.
    Blog on my first and now second season of proper riding/racing - www.firstseasonracing.com
  • Ron StuartRon Stuart Posts: 1,242
    okgo wrote:
    LOL sorry I meant on the 39 haha, what a [email protected] I must have sounded there!

    But the point remains, with the right gear for you, most hills should be at least do-able. Plenty of others had a normal 25 on but I know I would have really struggled without having that 28 gear to revert to, and I ride with a chap who has a double and an 11-23, and he will ride up anything with that.

    No problem, I thought maybe that is what you were meaning. Do bear in mind though that a lot of the pros use compacts, particularly on some stages in the Giro. Contador has used a 34 to 27 on a sit down climb (poor surface). If you can't turn a gear properly (pedaling squares) your in a too big a gear. No extra prizes for ruining your knees in this game. Do bear in mind that we in the cycling fraternity vary in our abilities, sometime it's age other times we simply are in the process of trying to get fitter (without injury) and my advice is to build up with lighter gears just like weight lifting after all that's what climbing hills is, lifting a weight by mechanical advantage over a distance.
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