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Why do I go up hills slower than a lead baloon?

PiersHSPiersHS Posts: 109
Hi all,

So here is the story- I've been cycling for a year and a bit regularly, and before that rowed competitively. At the moment I sail at quite a high level. I am 17, 78kg and have a bodyfat percentage of around 8% and manage to get out on the bike about 2-3 times a week. I'm not unfit, and can keep up easily with my club's fast rides on the flat, however as soon as the road goes upwards it all turns to sh*t!

Apart from regular hill training, which I am doing, are there any good ways to increase hill climbing ability through technique or gym training?

Specifically the problem seems to be a relatively early build up of lactic in my thighs, not a problem I get sprinting or similar though.

Cheers for your help!
Piers HS
Forza Zappi's CC

Posts

  • mustolmustol Posts: 134
    Sounds like you might be pushing too higher gear - drop down a couple of gears so you can maintain a higher cadence. What gearing are you using?
  • jonomc4jonomc4 Posts: 891
    I have the same problem as you and likewise it makes no sense to me. The only way I found to improve was.

    1) some weights at the gym
    2) Some hard grinds on the turbo going at 60rpm with high resistance for 10 minute stretches - this helped most
    3) Just deliberately going up hills
    4) I aim to keep cadence on hills at 70 - 80

    Now 1 and 2, most people will disagree with, but all I can say is it worked for me. You can try it but it is not the usual advice given.
  • styxdstyxd Posts: 3,234
    Try standing up to climb.
  • seanoconnseanoconn Posts: 6,666
    Pump up the tyres and oil your chain.
    Pinno, מלך אידיוט וחרא מכונאי
  • SetarkosSetarkos Posts: 239
    Mess around with cadence a bit and see what works best for you - I'm best at ~90 but I ride with some former oarsmen and they tend to prefer lower cadences.
    Considering your background in rowing I would discourage weight training completely.
    Also lactate can actually improve muscle performance, quoting myself from a different thread (although given that it's your self-diagnosis, it might not actually be the cause why you blow up):
    Setarkos wrote:
    You can also train to use metabolise lactate more efficiently because contrary to popular belief lactate can actually benefit muscular performance.
    Quoting a work-out suggestions from a German forum:
    i) 30" attack (L6) and then 3-4min @105% - 10-15min rest interval (3 reps)
    ii) 2-3' L5 and then 3-5min @105% - 10-15min rest interval (4 reps)

    Given that you used to row competitively it is quite likely that you have a lot of upper body muscle mass. Unfortunately on a hill upper body muscle mass is about as useful as fat. One might even argue that it uses up more energy which should got into your legs.

    Another reason could be that you the fact that you can keep up with the fast riders in your club doesn't mean you're on the same level. On the flat you benefit from their slipstream a lot and also you might be going considerably harder than they are at the same pace.

    Do you always get dropped on the first hill or is it rather the 3rd, 4th,...? Do you get dropped immediately or do you slowly fade? Do your companions attack the hill or do they ride up steadily? How do you pace yourself up a hill? How long and steep are the hills, where they drop you?
  • imposter2.0imposter2.0 Posts: 11,016
    PiersHS wrote:

    Apart from regular hill training, which I am doing, are there any good ways to increase hill climbing ability through technique or gym training?

    Gym training is pointless and technique is difficult to comment on without knowing if there is any room for improvement or not. Sounds to me as though your threshold could do with going up a bit though - which is a general fitness issue. I know you said you were 'fit' - but relative to your clubmates, there does seem to be a bit of a gap there if they are leaving you behind on the hills...
  • PiersHSPiersHS Posts: 109
    Wow, epic response, cheers for all the comments guys.

    I'll try and make it a bit clearer my setup, technique etc. At the moment I have an 11-28 on the back and a 50-39-30 on the front. I try to stay out of the 30 though. Technique wise I tend to climb mostly seated, with occasional bits out of the saddle to move around a bit. Though I don't tend to be able to stay out the saddle for long (30secs).

    Normally when I struggle it is the 3rd or so climb into a run, normally for the first two I am ok. This only tends to happen on short/steep climbs, so 8-10% gradient. I find on long draggy climbs of shallower gradient I find much easier once I am in a rhythm and don't fall back on those. Once I am over the top, i find it doesn't tend to be too long before I can get the effort in again and get back to speed to catch the group, normally takes about 15 secs or until I am back up to speed. (19-20mph) .

    Setarkos- coming from the Rowing background and now sailing means you are definitely right in terms of upper body. Over the winter I was doing a fair amount on gym work on Upper body Hypertrophy, to try and gain some weight for the boat ( a 49er if anyone is interested- me out training HERE or, VIDEO). So obviously that weight is fairly useless. The club tend to ride hills fairly steady, but sometimes a chaingang will start up, so the attacks do to!

    On the flatter rides I am happy to take my turns on the front etc setting the pace, and don't have to work hard when in the bunch, so I don't think my fitness level is too bad (although obviously it can, and I am always trying, to improve) as I don't struggle until the pace gets over 25mph consistently.
    Forza Zappi's CC
  • alihisgreatalihisgreat Posts: 3,872
    PiersHS wrote:
    Hi all,

    So here is the story- I've been cycling for a year and a bit regularly, and before that rowed competitively. At the moment I sail at quite a high level. I am 17, 78kg and have a bodyfat percentage of around 8% and manage to get out on the bike about 2-3 times a week. I'm not unfit, and can keep up easily with my club's fast rides on the flat, however as soon as the road goes upwards it all turns to sh*t!

    Apart from regular hill training, which I am doing, are there any good ways to increase hill climbing ability through technique or gym training?

    Specifically the problem seems to be a relatively early build up of lactic in my thighs, not a problem I get sprinting or similar though.

    Cheers for your help!
    Piers HS

    There are some deceptively tricky climbs around Oxford:

    -White horse hill
    -Watlington
    -Brill from Ambroseden (steep) side - especially if you do the main road climb running up to it

    You gearing looks fine, the problem is probably your power-weight to be honest so there are two solutions

    1) gain power
    2) loose weight

    and ideally do both!

    Its a bit surprising that you struggle given that you used to row... all the rowers I've cycle with can put out monstrous power on shorter efforts like hills.
  • PiersHSPiersHS Posts: 109
    Alihisgreat, probably the reason I am struggling on the hills despite my rowing background is that when I stopped rowing in 2010, I did so to focus more on sailing, and also because I was a little small to continue at the level I wanted to- (about 6ft at the time and 65kg). The from then on I pretty much exclusively focused on transitioning to sailing properly, and from what I have experienced, rowing is short, but incredibly high intensity bursts so whereas sailing tends to be longer periods of medium intensity (of around 2hours or so) punctuated with short bursts of high above threshold intensity- so perhaps the problem comes not from being a rower, but from being a sailor... hope that clears it. But I know pretty little about how the translates to cycling, hence me asking here :)
    Forza Zappi's CC
  • PiersHSPiersHS Posts: 109
    ALIHISGREAT- Nice blog btw- didn't realise you were oxfordshire based so made good reading.
    Forza Zappi's CC
  • mattbass789mattbass789 Posts: 355
    seanoconn wrote:
    Pump up the tyres and oil your chain.


    And always ride through the pain.
    “If you worried about falling off the bike, you’d never get on.”

    @mattbeedham
  • SetarkosSetarkos Posts: 239
    I agree, sounds like a simple power to weight issue.
    How long have you been cycling for? Maybe you need to get used to hard 3-5min efforts on the bike.
    Anyhow, keep riding with (slightly) stronger riders - that's the least complicated way to improve. But also ride on a few slower rides to keep up the moral (not always getting dropped) and also to return the favour (let weaker riders profit from riding with you just like you do riding with stronger ones) - a good club will offer the ideal environment for that.

    However look at professional cyclists, there is a reason why there upper bodies are skinnier than that of Kate Moss... so since sailing seems your first priority you will have to keep dragging those muscles up the hills ;)
  • mustolmustol Posts: 134
    If you're getting tired on a hill - use your granny ring, that's what it's there for. The stronger you get, the less you'll need to use it. I've got a triple on my winter bike and use the granny ring regularly - it just means I can maintain a higher cadence on long or steep climbs, so my legs don't tire so quickly.
  • dnwhite88dnwhite88 Posts: 285
    A friend I ride with suffered on hills even though his fitness was quite good. He used a triple and changed to a compact chainset which helped him loads
    "It never gets easier, you just go faster"
  • ozzy1000_0ozzy1000_0 Posts: 144
    PiersHS wrote:
    Hi all,

    So here is the story- I've been cycling for a year and a bit regularly, and before that rowed competitively. At the moment I sail at quite a high level. I am 17, 78kg and have a bodyfat percentage of around 8% and manage to get out on the bike about 2-3 times a week. I'm not unfit, and can keep up easily with my club's fast rides on the flat, however as soon as the road goes upwards it all turns to sh*t!

    Apart from regular hill training, which I am doing, are there any good ways to increase hill climbing ability through technique or gym training?

    Specifically the problem seems to be a relatively early build up of lactic in my thighs, not a problem I get sprinting or similar though.

    Cheers for your help!
    Piers HS

    I know it sounds over simple and probably not very satisfying.. but..; train more for longer; a year isn't very long in cycling terms. personally I reckon your body can only adapt at a given rate (specific to you), and to trying and move this on too quickly will lead to being to knackered or overtraining... to be up there with good club riders takes time and persistence. I'm not a great cyclist but I really enjoy watching my average speeds improve and watching myself develop. My first year (bearing in mind I was a middle aged fatty) saw me doing solo rides of about 17-18mph over 50-60miles and doing longer group rides at similar speeds. the second year was solo 19mph averages and group rides a bit faster. This is my 3rd year and i'm already feeling faster than last year... I think it just takes time and consistency, if you get a good routine of training and resting, where you're regularly riding good base distances with club runs, then add in some hard shorter intervals and hill repeats, you'll probably find you'll get thinner and lighter and start going up hills faster. I used to surf and swim a lot, I've lost a lot of muscle through cycling... I do quite a lot of hard turbo intervals around 3minutes x 6-8 repeats, I feel that these help with seated climbing, I just feel smoother, like when the hill starts it just feels familiar and I'm able to sit into it and pace it well... just keep at, it sounds like your fit and heading in the right direction.
  • zardozzardoz Posts: 251
    I don't think anyone has mentioned bike setup, my hill climbing improved considerably after having a proper bike fit. My problem was my quads got tired really quickly because the way I had my bike setup I was not using my glutes effectively. Agree about cadence as well, getting the right gear and keeping a good rhythm is more efficient - and do more hills!! Practice makes perfect.
  • cyco2cyco2 Posts: 593
    seanoconn wrote:
    Pump up the tyres and oil your chain.


    And always ride through the pain.
    :cry:

    That's the way to make the gain :lol:
    ...................................................................................................

    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.
  • seanoconnseanoconn Posts: 6,666
    cyco2 wrote:
    seanoconn wrote:
    Pump up the tyres and oil your chain.


    And always ride through the pain.
    :cry:

    That's the way to make the gain :lol:

    Up the hill again and again
    Pinno, מלך אידיוט וחרא מכונאי
  • PiersHSPiersHS Posts: 109
    Well, I've been doing some changing of technique and come to the shocking realization that- I wasn't peddling hard enough ( Shock horror! ) Seems really dumb, but I was just spinning, which was infact not really helping, so once I started pushing bigger gears, problem is much better now.

    Cheers for all the advice
    Forza Zappi's CC
  • joe.90joe.90 Posts: 171
    seanoconn wrote:
    cyco2 wrote:
    seanoconn wrote:
    Pump up the tyres and oil your chain.


    And always ride through the pain.
    :cry:

    That's the way to make the gain :lol:

    Up the hill again and again

    in the wind or pouring rain
  • houston26houston26 Posts: 115
    I used to struggle but turns out it was my technique, I used to try and hit the hill as fast as I could and maintain speed, doesn't work

    Select a gear that's just under your ability to maintain speed on the approach, and stick in this gear all the way up, changing gear on a climb never works well. If its a short climb then try out of the saddle, anything otherwise make sure your censored is planted.
  • TakeTurnsTakeTurns Posts: 1,075
    joe.90 wrote:
    seanoconn wrote:
    cyco2 wrote:
    seanoconn wrote:
    Pump up the tyres and oil your chain.


    And always ride through the pain.
    :cry:

    That's the way to make the gain :lol:

    Up the hill again and again

    in the wind or pouring rain

    ketchup
  • joe.90joe.90 Posts: 171
    TakeTurns wrote:
    joe.90 wrote:
    seanoconn wrote:
    cyco2 wrote:
    seanoconn wrote:
    Pump up the tyres and oil your chain.


    And always ride through the pain.
    :cry:

    That's the way to make the gain :lol:

    Up the hill again and again

    in the wind or pouring rain

    ketchup

    well thats that. i hope your happy!
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