Hill training

mhj999 Posts: 122
edited April 2013 in Road general
A question that I was mulling over on my ride at the weekend....

When training on hills should you try to push a higher gear to get used to it (probably at a lower cadence) hoping it will get easier over time, or try for higher cadence in your current gear?
I guess the first would be slower but if you're training is it better for your fitness?

Sorry if it's a stupid question (now thinking it shoudl be in beginners section....)

Thanks for your replies!
Sensa Giulia 105


  • TakeTurns
    TakeTurns Posts: 1,075
    No need to put unnecessary force on the legs by riding in a harder gear, unless you're planning to ride hills with much higher gradients. Leg strength will come along. Having said that, leg strength alone will not get you up a hill. You need a good cardio/vo2max.

    There are some great tips out there on how to climb more efficiently, learn them and put them into practice. Speed is not of the essence, until you have mastered the technique. Once you're a better/confident climber, you can begin with working your way up them a little quicker.
  • sharky1029
    sharky1029 Posts: 188
    Personally I would say just try and get up it as fast as possible in a comfortable gear.
    Everyone has different techniques for climbing: I like to get into a rhythm early on and stick to that cadence, others like to stop larger gears or get out of the saddle and power up.

    It does also depend on the length of the hill, If it is a long steady hill, there is no point in trying to use a big gear up it but a short sharp one can be easier to power up.
    The best way to train IMO is to find a long steady yet reasonably steep hill and make a short loop around it so you can do intervals/laps on it and if you drive out and park the car at the top of the hill, you can push as hard as you like without having to save energy to get home.
    Normally recommended cadence is about 80-100 so training the muscles you use for normal climbs rather than training them to work slower and harder is probably counter productive.
  • danlikesbikes
    danlikesbikes Posts: 3,898
    ^-^ As TT says really.

    Personally I don't tend to train hills in a higher gear than I would normally ride. Your fitness should increase which ever you do as your training for the hills in either gear but you might find in a bigger gear your technique and form suffer as you look like your 'chugging' along.

    I have a little loop I use & try to ride it several times on a weekend & really concentrate on getting good smooth action, sitting well on the bike and getting a good momentum going and keeping my pace pretty steady.

    If you practice enough your fitness will get better & your technique should also improve too.

    Oh & its never a stupid question to ask for help - just ignore those who might be less helpful in their posting.
    Pain hurts much less if its topped off with beating your mates to top of a climb.
  • imposter2.0
    imposter2.0 Posts: 12,028
    mhj999 wrote:
    When training on hills should you try to push a higher gear to get used to it (probably at a lower cadence) hoping it will get easier over time, or try for higher cadence in your current gear?

    The rules of 'specificity' suggest that it makes more sense to simply train in the gears that you usually ride in. Improvement comes from the adaptions caused by regularly riding beyond your comfort zone - which usually means pushing yourself harder from an effort/intensity point of view, rather than simply turning a bigger gear.
  • smidsy
    smidsy Posts: 5,273
    Invariably people who go past me up hills (of which there are many) have a higher cadence. I often get to the point where I am in the granny gears and still not able to keep a high cadence. So lots more hill work required for me.

    However it is generally accepted (although not exclusively) that higher cadence is better for you that grinding big gears slowly.

    The VO2 max thing is the key as you need to be able to function well when things get tough in the oxygen department so good posture and breathing are just as important.
    Yellow is the new Black.
  • motd2k
    motd2k Posts: 71
    Counter intuitive, but the way I've learnt to attack hills is so choose the gear based on how i'm feeling. If your legs hurt more than your lungs, go up the cassette (higher cadence)... if your lungs hurt more than your legs, go down the cassette (lower cadence).
  • elderone
    elderone Posts: 1,410
    My system is to go down the gears until in the granny gear.I do hills to my heart rate,once it starts getting close to max I back off to keep it as steady as possible.It,s slow but steady and gets me up and over.
    Dulce et decorum est Pro patria mori
  • Monty Dog
    Monty Dog Posts: 20,614
    Mix it up, big gears, little gears, seated climbing, on drops, on tops etc - by varying the use of different muscle groups you should be able to do more repeats and improve your overall strength. Seated high cadence climbing isn't the fastest - its just that must people run out of legs if they try to power up in a big gear. You can generate hundreds of watts more power out the saddle - provided you can sustain the effort, you'll beat the seated twiddler every time. The seated high cadence thing was bunkum concocted by Coyle and Carmichael to try and explain away Armstrong's apparent ease of getting up climbs when it was purely down to drugs.
    Make mine an Italian, with Campagnolo on the side..
  • motd2k
    motd2k Posts: 71
    Indeed - the high cadence shifted the load to the cardiovascular system, which was directly benefiting from Lance's artificially increased oxygen capacity. I suspect you'll notice far fewer pros belting up climbs at 120rpm these days!
  • overlord2
    overlord2 Posts: 339
    I also tend to find if you get familiar with a hill it gets easier. The problem comes when you hit a tough climb that you don't know, it's all about pacing. Hit it too early you are done.

    For me getting good at climbing is actually climbing the hill you are climbing a few times. The gearing then comes naturally.
  • ^^^What Monty says
    I'm sorry you don't believe in miracles