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Hill climbing tips

flopstocksflopstocks Posts: 110
After completing the Dartmoor classic Medio sub 4 hours on Sunday I have realised how much I seem to suffer on hills.

After putting in a lot of miles I now have the legs on my friend over 40+ miles. But on shorter rides, and on the early hills on Dartmoor I can now see my weekness.

I'm 37 13 Stone, approx 5'10". My mate 35 15 Stone approx 6'. On the earlier main hill he was 30 seconds quicker than me yet my heart rate maxed at 198bpm, his only 182bpm. I can't understand how he can get the extra 2 stone up there maintaing the lower heart rate.

Over the longer distance I have the legs on him, but somehow I need to get up these hills faster without maxing out the heart rate. It's not the legs that are suffering I am simply maxing out.

Posts

  • imposter2.0imposter2.0 Posts: 11,729
    Comparing heart rates is pointless - you might as well compare shoe sizes, as everybody will be different. Sounds like his sustainable power and w/kg is simply better than yours at the moment. You both sound like you could lose a couple of stone, if I'm honest, but ultimately, it is your aerobic threshold which needs to improve.
  • flopstocksflopstocks Posts: 110
    For sure I definitely could do with losing a bit of weight. It's just annoying how my mate is able to pull away up the hills carrying an extra 2 stone.
  • imposter2.0imposter2.0 Posts: 11,729
    There could be any number of reasons for that, but without more information on the pair of you it will only be speculation. It could be that he simply rides more often and is therefore better trained than you..
  • flopstocksflopstocks Posts: 110
    Imposter wrote:
    There could be any number of reasons for that, but without more information on the pair of you it will only be speculation. It could be that he simply rides more often and is therefore better trained than you..

    No unfortunately quite the opposite. I have been riding much more than him lately, this has given me the legs on longer rides. But does not appear to be helping me on the hills.

    However he has always been better than me, it's only recently that I am able to make him suffer on longer rides.
  • gethincerigethinceri Posts: 1,216
    But how big are his shoes?
  • simon_esimon_e Posts: 1,697
    flopstocks wrote:
    I have been riding much more than him lately, this has given me the legs on longer rides. But does not appear to be helping me on the hills.
    Intervals are probably the answer. You may need to do them alone to begin with so that you don't get sucked into racing. Technique makes a difference - pacing the climb, pedalling efficiency, deep, effective breathing. A relaxed upper body helps. Do you tense up or pull on the bars / grip them tightly? It's a common way to make it harder.

    There are loads of articles out there e.g. some I bookmarked a while ago this one (comment by AJ101), a cyclist mag article, Cycling Tips, a post by former National Hill Climb champion Tejvan (loads more on his site), GCN videos...
    Aspire not to have more, but to be more.
  • cougiecougie Posts: 22,512
    Sounds like he's just fitter than you. Or possibly using his gears more efficiently.
  • MishMash95MishMash95 Posts: 104
    There are also plenty of other factors to consider:

    - Anaerobic capacity, given you sound like you are both working at a high (unsustainable) intensity, you will be working anaerobically. Different people have different anaerobic capacities, it is also dependent on what you train. Some riders have a physiology which supports riding at a high intensity.

    - Mental fortitude, a lot of cycling can come down to this, how far can you push your pain threshold? Some people are better equipped to mentally smash out a high effort for a short duration and know that it will be over soon, other riders are better suited at the long game (e.g. time trialists). Most people have plenty of room to improve this, only once you know how deep you can go, do you start to find it easier to repeatably go there.

    - Freshness. This one is huge really. I personally find that I can ride at Z2/Z3 pretty much every day, however, after an intense training session, or a hard/long ride, my top-end power (Z4+) starts to get capped. Meaning the next day, I can go out and instantly feel like i'm suffering, even though i'm pushing power I know I should be able to push for longer. (This is where having a power meter comes in handy).
    To give an actual quantifiable example, after 2 days off, I wanted to do one final all-out effort up a local climb before moving away from the area. I blew my doors off and pushed out 400w for 4 minutes (which was a huge PB for me). The next day, I was out on a ride with a friend, and felt toast after a 3 minute effort at 340w. Quite a large difference in the actual demands, however given my muscles were fatigued, I couldn't push any higher.

    I'll add that sometimes it can be hard to tell if you are fatigued, I used to do a lot of riding in the infamous "happy-hard" zone, where you ride kind-of hard all of the time, but it leaves you too fatigued to put out really strong efforts, though at the time, you feel like you are riding well. Given you have been riding more than your friend, there is a chance that the additional fatigue you are bringing into the ride (even if its only a small amount) is capping your ability to ride at your max.

    - Pacing. As others have said, perhaps you are going too deep early on in the climb. This does depend on the climb, however riding at a more consistent pace almost always yields the fastest time, unless there is a particularly hard steep bit to get over. It may be worth keeping within yourself at the base of the climb, and letting your friend go off, then you may actually find that he fades near the top, and you may have an opportunity to overtake.

    - Warm-up. One overlooked thing can be that perhaps you weren't warmed up enough. On a personal level, I find it far more comfortable and easier to ride at my max if I have done 30 minutes of easier riding already. I used to find that i'd perform significantly worse on a ride if I was in a rush to get to the group and didn't have time for a warmup, instantly hitting out and ruining my legs.


    The good news is that all of these things can be improved, and even as you gain more experience, you can keep on improving them more. For the time being, i'd suggest just keeping up with your training, and focusing on your weakness. If you start doing a few VO2max (Zone 5) intervals (This can be doing reps up that hill a couple of times, with a decent bit of rest in between. As you improve, you can either kick up the intensity, or reduce the rest duration between each effort), you may quickly find that you improve quite quickly. Though I would also recommend that if you do do these kinds of intervals, you keep the rest of your riding mostly easy (where possible), otherwise you wont be able to consistently train hard.
    Other than that, weight loss and improved aerobic threshold will lower the barrier for how much you need to suffer just to get over a climb. It's a fantastic feeling when you get to a point in training where you know you don't have to kill yourself just to get over a climb :)
  • MiddleRingerMiddleRinger Posts: 678
    He's got better genetics.

    ;-)



    *backs away from thread*
  • N0bodyOfTheGoatN0bodyOfTheGoat Posts: 4,862
    Have you tried different gearing and cadence strategies up the hills?

    I've discovered I put out more power at a lower cadence of ~70-75rpm, which means I now stay in the 50T chainring up far more climbs, only changing to the 34T if my second biggest sprocket (28) is unsustainable.

    I used to spin up hills in an easier gear on the 34T ring, typically at 90-100, unless the gradient ramped up over ~10%. This would send my heart rate up towards my max of 190bpm and I've yet to climb a cat3/4 with the new strategy where a hard effort has not beaten my time from last year.
    ================
    2020 Voodoo Marasa
    2017 Cube Attain GTC Pro Disc 2016
    2016 Voodoo Wazoo
  • StillGoingStillGoing Posts: 5,207
    Imposter wrote:
    Comparing heart rates is pointless - you might as well compare shoe sizes, as everybody will be different. .

    Completely agree with this. Without the benefit of a full vascular and cardio analysis, you've nothing to compare. He might be able to pump oxygenated blood around better than you, you might have vascular or heart defects etc etc, but without actual data of you both to compare against each other, HR is irrelevant. I ride with someone whose HR rarely gets over 145. He's younger than me, yet I beat him up hills, but my HR is always at the top end of the range due to a Subclavian Occlusion that I never knew I had.

    Thing with hills though, is the difference in techniques. I find those that try and smash it right out of the blocks as soon as the road goes up, invariably tire by about half way or two thirds up and struggle over the summit. Whereas those that gauge the pace, get two thirds of the way up feeling they have a little left in the tank, can add a bit of extra speed over the final section to go past those now struggling and beat them to the summit.
    I ride a bike. Doesn't make me green or a tree hugger. I drive a car too.
  • keef66keef66 Posts: 13,123
    I was pondering the same thing on Sunday as I sweated my way round a gently undulating 60 mile charity ride in Suffolk. My son was consistently a lot faster up hills than I was, despite weighing a couple of stone more. We're neither of us fat, but he's taller and has an upper body built more for rugby than cycling. I'd sit on his wheel and match his cadence, but watch as he pulled away every time. So the obvious conclusion was that he was simply able to generate a lot more power than me.

    Annoying but not a complete surprise.

    He's 29 and I'm headed for 61. He has testosterone, hair, a cardio-vascular system like a horse and muscles that respond quickly to training. He's just got a new bike and some very quick riding buddies, and has really been putting in the miles to fuel his Strava obsession.

    I'm just a leisure cyclist with one eye on early retirement and a long list of DIY projects which limits my cycling.

    So if you want to match or beat your mate up hills you need to work on increasing your W/kg. Losing any excess weight will clearly help here and is an easy win. But then you need to find some hills and ride up them a lot, monitor your times and try to improve them. I'm not saying it will be quick or easy, but stick at it, eat and recover properly, and you will see gains.

    And if that doesn't work, just accept that he's probably got better genes than you.
  • Just get out there and smash some Vo2 max sessions twice a week
    I'm sorry you don't believe in miracles
  • kingstongrahamkingstongraham Posts: 19,964
    Salbutamol.
  • flopstocksflopstocks Posts: 110
    I've not had any easy life. A car accident in 2001 breaking my right femur in 3 places, also a Hip Debridement in 2013. Where my mate is 'normal'.

    But then we both finished about 30 minutes within the Gold medal time in horrendous conditions. So I am pretty pleased, just need to improve my hill climbing.
  • joey54321joey54321 Posts: 1,297
    Pretty bad use of the word normal.

    But that aside, climbing is just power to weight. He either weights less or produces more power on that particular section of road. Why do you say you need to get up faster without maxing out the heart rate? Maybe he is just pushing more than you are?
  • keef66keef66 Posts: 13,123
    flopstocks wrote:
    ...But then we both finished about 30 minutes within the Gold medal time in horrendous conditions. So I am pretty pleased, just need to improve my hill climbing.

    Hat! Sounds like neither of you are particularly slow then, and perhaps your mate just has the edge going uphill?
  • StillGoingStillGoing Posts: 5,207
    flopstocks wrote:
    I've not had any easy life. A car accident in 2001 breaking my right femur in 3 places, also a Hip Debridement in 2013. Where my mate is 'normal'.

    But then we both finished about 30 minutes within the Gold medal time in horrendous conditions. So I am pretty pleased, just need to improve my hill climbing.

    Maybe you just need to sit on his wheel more before you reach the hills and tire him out more.
    I ride a bike. Doesn't make me green or a tree hugger. I drive a car too.
  • flopstocksflopstocks Posts: 110
    keef66 wrote:
    flopstocks wrote:
    ...But then we both finished about 30 minutes within the Gold medal time in horrendous conditions. So I am pretty pleased, just need to improve my hill climbing.

    Hat! Sounds like neither of you are particularly slow then, and perhaps your mate just has the edge going uphill?

    Yes my point is that he's two stone heavier, yet manage to keep his heart rate down and pull away on hills. In theory I should have the advantage, but I am just unable to stick with him.
  • webboowebboo Posts: 4,260
    Maybe he has better technique and can use his energy more efficiently.
  • bristolpetebristolpete Posts: 2,255
    I live on the edge of Dartmoor and had to reinvent myself as a climber over the last few years. Much, much better now, but in context still pretty rubbish/average. I feel that for some, leg speed simply slows down too much and having watched lots of riders in and around Devon in the last few years I see this as the key.

    I use a power meter to measure my effort, actually slow down the climbing process to measure effort. I shed a stone this year (again) but interestingly, the weight loss has had less effect that I imagined in terms of time on a hill, but has had a huge effect on lowering heart rate for sustained effort. Also, using less watts on the same climbs too. Agree with others, there are so many variables for hills and would not beat yourself up. Dartmoor hills are frankly stupid at times. Very steep. In isolation on a ride they are OK, but string them together and you enter a world of hurt.

    The think I note from emperical data on Training Peaks and to a point Strava is that big hilly efforts take longer to recover now as I ebb towards 50. 83 miles in East Devon yielded a TSS of 407 (740 for the week based on 181 miles) but do not forget that 42 days before hand which is why others cite rest as a major player too Monday til Saturday the following week were all easy rides.

    I ride with a 29 year old who looks like Tom D on a bike and can climb like a rat up a drainpipe yet everything about him leads me to conclude 'WTF?' :shock: - so much going on within the body that we are simply unaware of.
  • keef66keef66 Posts: 13,123
    flopstocks wrote:
    keef66 wrote:
    flopstocks wrote:
    ...But then we both finished about 30 minutes within the Gold medal time in horrendous conditions. So I am pretty pleased, just need to improve my hill climbing.

    Hat! Sounds like neither of you are particularly slow then, and perhaps your mate just has the edge going uphill?

    Yes my point is that he's two stone heavier, yet manage to keep his heart rate down and pull away on hills. In theory I should have the advantage, but I am just unable to stick with him.

    As already said, heart rate alone means very little. He could have a bigger heart which pumps more blood with every beat, he could have more red blood cells / haemoglobin so his blood carries more oxygen, he could have a better developed vascular system delivering that oxygenated blood more quickly to better adapted muscles, and he could have bigger lungs able to take in more oxygen with each breath.

    If, through training, good luck in the genetics lottery, or both, he has a tiny advantage over you in all those areas, it will add up to a significant difference when climbing. You can't do anything about your genes, so the only way to improve, assuming you don't want to resort to EPO or blood doping, is by training hard.
  • supermurph09supermurph09 Posts: 2,471
    It's probably down to a number of things but what about the effort being put in before the climbs itself?

    I'd suggest you both enter a couple of local hill climb events, if you are still level, some form of wrestling match to decide the winner might be a good choice.
  • kingrollokingrollo Posts: 3,162
    MishMash95 wrote:
    There are also plenty of other factors to consider:

    -
    I'll add that sometimes it can be hard to tell if you are fatigued, I used to do a lot of riding in the infamous "happy-hard" zone, where you ride kind-of hard all of the time, but it leaves you too fatigued to put out really strong efforts, though at the time, you feel like you are riding well. Given you have been riding more than your friend, there is a chance that the additional fatigue you are bringing into the ride (even if its only a small amount) is capping your ability to ride at your max.

    -


    The good news is that all of these things can be improved, and even as you gain more experience, you can keep on improving them more. For the time being, i'd suggest just keeping up with your training, and focusing on your weakness. If you start doing a few VO2max (Zone 5) intervals (This can be doing reps up that hill a couple of times, with a decent bit of rest in between. As you improve, you can either kick up the intensity, or reduce the rest duration between each effort), you may quickly find that you improve quite quickly. Though I would also recommend that if you do do these kinds of intervals, you keep the rest of your riding mostly easy (where possible), otherwise you wont be able to consistently train hard.
    Other than that, weight loss and improved aerobic threshold will lower the barrier for how much you need to suffer just to get over a climb. It's a fantastic feeling when you get to a point in training where you know you don't have to kill yourself just to get over a climb :)

    How do you avoid the happy hard zone though ? - My current cycling consists off 33 miles group training ride (16mph)- 45 miles club run (14mph) - 27 mid mid week solo (14.5 mph) 2 or 3 commutes @ 12 miles a day.

    The day after the mid week ride is the worst fatigue wise - I am still only up to around 120 miles a week. I have no intention of racing - I am a 54 year old asthmatic - and don't really want to get into the realms of a training program - but how do you ride outside the 'happy hard' - either above or below it ? - for me to start tootling around at 12 mph surley wouldn't bring any benefit

    Back to the OP - do you have asthma or allergies or anything? - if you out more - you may be exposed to stuff more that is hampering your performance ? - Technique is important I am not great on the climbs, but sitting is better for me even on very steep climbs - it might be slower but I don't get quite as much gaspy wheezy sound effects !!
  • N0bodyOfTheGoatN0bodyOfTheGoat Posts: 4,862
    kingrollo wrote:
    How do you avoid the happy hard zone though ?

    If I've understood the "happy hard zone" correctly, then you avoid it by doing hard effort intervals inter-spaced with gentle bits. Usually that's pretty simple for me, I go nuts on cat3/4 segments and then take it easy between them while putting my heart and lungs back inside me.;)

    By my standards, I went a bit bonkers on Tuesday https://www.strava.com/activities/1693918767/overview with power intervals celebrating a slight cooling of the recent heatwave temps (which has largely prevented me from doing many hard efforts), with gaps of random recovery bits between them. Unusually for me, not all power sections were uphill.

    I've done a ~40 mile ride each day since, but especially after the DOMS my legs had yesterday, I've been spinning in easier gears and very rarely (and totally unplanned) hitting anything like 300W+. Consequently, they have had much lower averaged and normalised power compared to Tuesday, for example ~163/191W today https://www.strava.com/activities/1699617040 compared to ~197/243W on Tuesday.

    This training by power is still quite new to me (with no training plan as such, still winging it), but I can already see the benefits of using it over training by heart rate and most definitely over average speed. Weeks like these where I'm over 200 miles are extremely rare, simply using the bike as an excuse to get outdoors and feel like I've done something with a week off work, I might break 300 over the weekend if my legs will allow.
    ================
    2020 Voodoo Marasa
    2017 Cube Attain GTC Pro Disc 2016
    2016 Voodoo Wazoo
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