Forum home Road cycling forum Road beginners

Newbie climbing gearing/cadence question

Markymark15Markymark15 Posts: 2
edited March 2015 in Road beginners
Hi all, first time poster.

I'm a newbie having taken up cycling about 6 months ago to hopefully help shift a significant portion of my 16 stone frame!

I feel I'm making pretty good progress, gradually increasing my miles and average speeds but I find that I really struggle when it comes to climbing. On a gradient of anything over 8% I find that I really grind it out. Even in my lowest gear (34x28 I think!) I struggle to do anything much over 60rpm (and go massively into the red in any higher gear). It's not so much that I can't keep the effort up because I find I can grind it out for 30-40 mins but it's just really painfully slow (approx 6mph)! I consciously focus on my cadence on the flat and during turbo trainer sessions to try and keep it over 80rpm but haven't seen the crossover to climbing cadence yet.

So I guess what I'm asking is what is the best way to increase my climbing speed:
- is it just a case of keep going and as my weight decreases and my fitness increases then I'll naturally speed up? (I guess I worry that if I train slow then I'll always be slow!)
- should I work on a higher cadence while climbing, even if I can only keep it up for short periods and need to stop (I.e almost like intervals going uphill)?
- I don't thing getting a lower gearing set up is the answer but should that be something to consider?
- something else entirely!

Sorry if I've missed out any pertinent information!

Thanks in advance

Mark

Posts

  • kajjalkajjal Posts: 3,380
    Climbing is a combination of fitness, technique, experience and gearing.

    A 34x28 should get you up most hills but double check that is what you have. I am about the same weight in the winter and around 15 stone in the summer. Due to wearing extra layers, wind, wet roads and general cold it is a lot harder going in the winter. Keep it going and come the summer you will be a lot faster.

    If you use strava you can see which sections of hills other riders go faster on. Near me is a 25%+ section on one hill and until I stood up to pedal that section I was a good bit slower than other riders.
  • Hi Mark, it's mostly a matter of doing it more. As you get fitter and lose body weight, you will get better at hills. You may hear and read a lot about high cadence climbing, and it has its benefits, but it's not the only way; and there are hills that all but the very fittest can manage at 90rpm within the gears offered by standard road bikes anyway. Finding a comfortable rhythm and pacing yourself are key; in terms of training you do obviously have to do some time in the red zone, but building your base fitness effectively pays the dividends.
  • if you want to get more into the training side of things (just for personal benefit), consider buying a heart rate monitor and a book on heart rate training.

    as Simon says above, the base training is key to overall fitness. long slow miles. doing this for a few months will have two key effects: your base fitness will improve and you will lose weight (as long as you don't compensate by eating too much more!) due to the fat burning properties of doing long slow miles.

    if you're interested, I've found "Heart Rate Training", by Benson and Connolly, to be very good, although you can probably find the info online as well.
  • I feel I'm making pretty good progress, gradually increasing my miles and average speeds but I find that I really struggle when it comes to climbing. On a gradient of anything over 8% I find that I really grind it out. Even in my lowest gear (34x28 I think!) I struggle to do anything much over 60rpm (and go massively into the red in any higher gear). It's not so much that I can't keep the effort up because I find I can grind it out for 30-40 mins but it's just really painfully slow (approx 6mph)! I consciously focus on my cadence on the flat and during turbo trainer sessions to try and keep it over 80rpm but haven't seen the crossover to climbing cadence yet.

    6mph sounds reasonable to that sort of gradient, 8% isn't to be sniffed at, especially for any sort of distance. All that has happened is you've run out of gears for your power and weight, so grinding it out is your only real recourse, unless you want to get gears which are lower still (you can but not by much).
    - is it just a case of keep going and as my weight decreases and my fitness increases then I'll naturally speed up? (I guess I worry that if I train slow then I'll always be slow!)

    Yes, exactly this and little else.
    - should I work on a higher cadence while climbing, even if I can only keep it up for short periods and need to stop

    Intervals can be a useful training technique but I don't think it will help here. Get into your bottom gear and climb with whatever cadence you can sustain for the full climb.
    - I don't thing getting a lower gearing set up is the answer but should that be something to consider?

    34/28 = 1.21 gearing ration.

    You're current setup, subject to chain length could almost certainly take a 30T cassette giving you a ratio of 1.13.
    Some setups will take a 32 giving you 1.06.

    Besides the 90rpm cadence thing is just one way to do it. Tour de France rides have been won by riders grinding up hills at 60rpm.

    But gearing changes are normally for people who just can't get up that climb at all, you're managing it, just not at your preferred cadence, I wouldn't worry about it, everyone has climbs they have to grind up.
  • mpattsmpatts Posts: 1,002
    While I'm not a big advocate for buying stuff for the sake of it, I donated Mrs Mpatts my old wheels, which are lighter and have a 12/28 cassette. She found climbing much easier as she now has some gears she can spin at.

    Considered opinion seems to be higher cadence is good. Weight very definitely makes an enormous difference - you'll feel every pound you loose.

    i suppose what I'm saying is I wouldn't worry too much about being fast or struggling too much, just keep up the good work. As others have said, if you want to get more structured in your training then there are loads of options. I certainly find when I get out of base mile season into lots of intervals I shed quite a bit of fat, although I've never been too scientific about eating so it's difficult for me to say if it's the intervals or the food that have made the big difference.

    Anyway, just keep enjoying it :D
    Insert bike here:
  • I feel I'm making pretty good progress, gradually increasing my miles and average speeds but I find that I really struggle when it comes to climbing. On a gradient of anything over 8% I find that I really grind it out. Even in my lowest gear (34x28 I think!) I struggle to do anything much over 60rpm (and go massively into the red in any higher gear). It's not so much that I can't keep the effort up because I find I can grind it out for 30-40 mins but it's just really painfully slow (approx 6mph)! I consciously focus on my cadence on the flat and during turbo trainer sessions to try and keep it over 80rpm but haven't seen the crossover to climbing cadence yet.

    6mph sounds reasonable to that sort of gradient, 8% isn't to be sniffed at, especially for any sort of distance. All that has happened is you've run out of gears for your power and weight, so grinding it out is your only real recourse, unless you want to get gears which are lower still (you can but not by much).
    - is it just a case of keep going and as my weight decreases and my fitness increases then I'll naturally speed up? (I guess I worry that if I train slow then I'll always be slow!)

    Yes, exactly this and little else.
    - should I work on a higher cadence while climbing, even if I can only keep it up for short periods and need to stop

    Intervals can be a useful training technique but I don't think it will help here. Get into your bottom gear and climb with whatever cadence you can sustain for the full climb.
    - I don't thing getting a lower gearing set up is the answer but should that be something to consider?

    34/28 = 1.21 gearing ration.

    You're current setup, subject to chain length could almost certainly take a 30T cassette giving you a ratio of 1.13.
    Some setups will take a 32 giving you 1.06.

    Besides the 90rpm cadence thing is just one way to do it. Tour de France rides have been won by riders grinding up hills at 60rpm.

    But gearing changes are normally for people who just can't get up that climb at all, you're managing it, just not at your preferred cadence, I wouldn't worry about it, everyone has climbs they have to grind up.

    This is a fab very wise post, all I would offer in addition is that I am old, fat and unfit and run a 34 32 lowest gear so that I can spin at a faster cadence on hills and make the most of the last few remaining flakes of cartilage on my knees! After five years of that strategy and losing about 4 stone I can now sustain 15 mph + mean speed on 50mile + rides (censored by some standards but major achievment for me) as I have got fitter I have felt my power increase despite the emphasis on CV overload my type of riding gives.

    If your knees are good and you have no joint pain stick where you are and progress will come in time. If your knees suffer and/or you would rather emphasise CV fitness go lower on your bottem gear and you will be able to use higher cadence.
  • JayKostaJayKosta Posts: 635
    As long as you are not going so slow and hard as to damage your knees, you'll be fine and will improve in short order - do a hard climb at least once or twice a week if possible.
    If there are sections of the climb that allow an upshift to a harder gear, then do that - but get back into the proper climber gear before you bog down.

    Jay Kosta
    Endwell NY USA
  • As stated above it's practice, fitness, and technique.

    Firstly, don't get too hung up on cadence and speed, find a rhythm which is comfortable and sit in it. You'll find that you'll be able to pick up gears in the rhythm and go faster.
  • mpattsmpatts Posts: 1,002
    telesv650 wrote:
    As stated above it's practice, fitness, and technique.

    Firstly, don't get too hung up on cadence and speed, find a rhythm which is comfortable and sit in it. You'll find that you'll be able to pick up gears in the rhythm and go faster.

    one thing that I just remembered - I expected it to get easier and it really doesn't, your ability to go faster at the same pain increases!
    Insert bike here:
  • rick_chaseyrick_chasey Posts: 52,624 Lives Here
    TBH, climbing is hard. Just is.

    It's quite modern/tredny to talk about lots of low gears - even the macho pros now ride smaller gears for the new super-steep style climbs route organisers.

    My advice, and I mean this is the nicest possible pay, is just man up and do it.

    You'll go slow, it'll hurt, a lot, and you'll want to stop.

    Welcome to proper road cycling ;)

    Unless something specific is hurting like your knees, then best advice for 'i'm going slow' or 'i'm really unfit' is to suck it up and just ride through it.

    You'll feel better for it, honest.
  • t4tomot4tomo Posts: 2,643
    Weight is your enemy for climbing, so just keep doing what you are doing, your weight will come down and you'll find climbing much easier. In the meantime there is no disgrace is grinding up a steep hill in bottom gear at 6mph, at least your managing to pedal up it!
    Bianchi Infinito CV
    Bianchi Via Nirone 7 Ultegra
    Brompton S Type
    Carrera Vengeance Ultimate Ltd
    Gary Fisher Aquila '98
    Front half of a Viking Saratoga Tandem
  • mpatts wrote:

    one thing that I just remembered - I expected it to get easier and it really doesn't, your ability to go faster at the same pain increases!

    Yes and no. When I first started cycling the hill outside the back of my house requried me to stop a couple of times just to get up it, then I started to do it non-stop but it was still hard work. But now; I have a choice. I can put the effort in and it'll still be bloody hard but I'll get up it faster, or I can take it easy and not put too much into it, I'll just be much slower.
  • Not sure how I missed this post first time round, as it is pretty much where I am - 16st and 6 months in, and climbing takes me to the limit.

    I learned two things about myself (which may or may not apply to others)
    1. Not to worry about maintaining the 'correct' cadence, or even trying to. For me, at this point in my development, its a sure fire way to blow up in the attempt
    2. Relax into the climbing. I heard Chris Froome say this once and I remember thinking 'of course I do, what's he on about'. Except I didn't. I realised at the sight of a daunting rise, some sort of fight or flight thing kicks in, and I would tense up in preparation to attack the challenge, and put everything into every pedal stroke. Result, redline and blow up. Once I realised this and consciously relaxed I was amazed at how far I had got up my latest hilly nemesis before I was looking for an extra gear. After two aborted attempts I was really chuffed to make it up, and it's these successes which allow me to aim for my next challenge and help me realise the progress that's already been made.

    Recognise your successes and use them to motivate you when it gets tough

    Oh, and pedalling technique. Whenever I find myself pushing down on the pedals, I find that concentrating on the other parts of the pedal stroke mean that I use less energy overall and often speed up as a result. So that's 3 things.
  • holiverholiver Posts: 800
    Just wish I could dance up hills like Bertie does!
  • This is a good thread.
    I spent years running up hills and now I've stopped running and I'm cycling up them I'm back to it hurting again.
    I think the advice about practice and manning up and persevering is spot on. It's gonna hurt, badly at the start but you get better.

    Note the progress and look at it over a period of weeks and you will see improvements. When you are doing it have a realistic target in mind and work towards it.

    I love hills, sorts the men from the boys. Nothin like goin cyclin and keeping up with someone who has been doing it for years.
  • I've been riding on the road for a about five years now and yesterday thought it would be great to ride up a few local hills. I ride around 400 miles a month, but after about twenty minutes I thought why am I doing this.....pain and slow progress.

    As previous threads, it never gets easier you just go faster.

    On the Sunday Club run the lighter weight (younger) riders always sprint off up the hills, I'm near the middle of the group and the larger lads 18+ stones are off the back. I think weight plays a big part in climbing.

    Also, if you are riding hard it will hurt and it's about how you can handle this and keep going. Riding in a group and trying to hold a faster riders wheel will also help.

    At the end of the day it's about riding lots and enjoying it.
  • Weight does matter (particularly on properly steep inclines), but power:weight is a ratio - the former tends to get neglected in threads like this, which is a mistake when discussing riders of a lower level of fitness. Being overweight puts tremendous strain on the body, and (I imagine; I'm not) can be very uncomfortable - a 75kg rider with the equivalent extra weight evenly distributed across the bike will be more comfortable.

    But Chris Hoy at racing weight would still humble a great many.
Sign In or Register to comment.