Hill Cadence

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Hill Cadence

Postby sminns » Sun Sep 22, 2013 5:25 pm

People, what's your aim when climbing hills? Certain cadence range? HR limit?

If the optimum cadence when on flats is 90-100 pr thereabouts, what's the aim on hills? I find if I aim for high cadence on hills by strava results suffer big time! but if I aim for more speed my HR gets pretty high.
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by BNA » Sun Sep 22, 2013 5:29 pm

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Re: Hill Cadence

Postby warthog1 » Sun Sep 22, 2013 5:29 pm

sminns wrote:People, what's your aim when climbing hills? Certain cadence range? HR limit?

If the optimum cadence when on flats is 90-100 pr thereabouts, what's the aim on hills? I find if I aim for high cadence on hills by strava results suffer big time! but if I aim for more speed my HR gets pretty high.

I'm pretty new to decent climbs, but I find I mix the cadence up more than I do on the flats.
There are periods of greater than 90 but I tend to cadence lower overall than on the flats. Out of the saddle is lower too.
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Hill Cadence

Postby RonK » Sun Sep 22, 2013 5:39 pm

I can average 90rpm on the flats, but there is no way I can maintain that on long climbs.

I seem to generate most power at around 70rpm, but ultimately it is whatever I can sustain, depending on the grade, without crossing my aerobic threshold.

There have been times when a tiny change in cadence has been the difference between getting to the top and blowing up.

My tip: once you blow up, changing down gears won't save you. Do not rush at the climb - start in a gear you can handle. You can always change up if you're well on top of it.
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Re: Hill Cadence

Postby il padrone » Sun Sep 22, 2013 5:48 pm

Breathing rhythm is actually the guide I use. Once I get settled on the climb in a comfortable (usually low) gear to spin, I aim for one full deep breath (in/out) for every two full pedal revolutions, More than this is lung-busting, slower than this leaves me panting too much, and eventually cramping the legs.

I don't use any sort of cadence measurement device, but know from past use of a cadence computer that at around 90rpm I am looking to change to a lower gear. I think that on most climbs I tend to spin faster than on the flat.
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Re: Hill Cadence

Postby human909 » Sun Sep 22, 2013 7:07 pm

If you cant maintain the same cadence on a hill that is a clear sign that you are in too high a gear! Get lower gears!
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Re: Hill Cadence

Postby trailgumby » Sun Sep 22, 2013 7:19 pm

I tend to put out most power at around 90-100rpm on the climbs. With the low gearing on a mountain bike I can climb quite hard like that and when fit regularly pull in roadies - much to their consternation!

But I've just started riding a road bike with standard gearing for something different while my tweaked thumb settles, and I have no hope of maintaining that on a climb whatsoever, unless it is a shallow one.

Today I found I was doing around 60-70, swapping between seated and standing. West head has some hilly sections and I covered about 1,000m vertical over 65km. Think I'm going to have to swap in a compact crankset if I want to use this as a ride-to-work bike on a regular basis. My form was horrible!
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Re: Hill Cadence

Postby Dimis » Sun Sep 22, 2013 7:22 pm

My approach varies depending on what I'm trying to achieve.

If I'm aiming for a quick time, I'm in higher gears girding away.
Not surprisingly my HR is up, and my energy levels suffer.
My strava times suggest this is the quickest way for me.

But if I'm aiming to survive to tackle steeper, or other hills, that day, or the next hill...
My cadence is up (in easier gears), but my times drop off. :(
Bonus is my legs (and heart) feel less taxed at the end of the day. :)

I try to ride by the feel not by the numbers my computer pumps out.
Sometimes, I pace myself well and feel like I'm floating over the hills, and other times...
Well, lets not talk about them...
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Re: Hill Cadence

Postby singlespeedscott » Sun Sep 22, 2013 11:23 pm

On the dirt I find it easier to maintain a higher cadence whilst climbing. Around 80-90 rpm i estimate. I guess it's because I'm really not moving that fast.

On the road I find my cadence is a lot lower. Around 60-70 rpm. There's is a couple of climbs around where I live that I would like to climb as fast as my mates but I simply can't go as fast as they do.

If a drop back a gear so I can pedal faster I still find my cadence remains the same and I go slower. If I go a higher a gear I just can't spin the pedals and have to get out of the saddle. I guess I'm am just never going to be a climber as much as I like riding hills. :?
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Re: Hill Cadence

Postby Derny Driver » Mon Sep 23, 2013 12:34 am

sminns wrote:People, what's your aim when climbing hills? Certain cadence range? HR limit?

If the optimum cadence when on flats is 90-100 pr thereabouts, what's the aim on hills? I find if I aim for high cadence on hills by strava results suffer big time! but if I aim for more speed my HR gets pretty high.

You have to control your heart rate or you will blow. You settle on a gear that is comfortable without being too ridiculously hard to push. Cadence of 60-70 is normal. Stand up on the steeper sections but stay seated as much as possible as this is more efficient and faster.
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Re: Hill Cadence

Postby briztoon » Mon Sep 23, 2013 1:31 am

I just watch my heart rate. I can't climb to save myself, so as long as I keep my heart rate at about 180bpm (I'm 40'ish) I'm comfortable.
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Re: Hill Cadence

Postby Eleri » Mon Sep 23, 2013 2:41 am

It depends how long the climb is. Today I did a 60km ride with a 7km and 20km climb (in Italy) and my average cadence was just below 80 but that included a longish stretch on the flat where I was spinning at around 100. I'm riding compacts and am most comfortable at about 70-85rpm when climbing. But if it goes lower because the gradient increases, that's OK. I just know I can sustain a couple of hours climbing at that pace. My HR was sitting around 87% of max. If I go over 92% I blow up pretty quickly.
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Re: Hill Cadence

Postby g-boaf » Mon Sep 23, 2013 8:11 am

I aim to keep my cadence at 95-105rpm.

Find that easier to be honest. I also approach the climb at a speed I can manage, and if I'm doing okay I might speed up a bit more. I aim to be powering across the top of the climb with no troubles rather than blowing up.
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Re: Hill Cadence

Postby il padrone » Mon Sep 23, 2013 9:23 am

I think it also depends on whether you are riding a light road bike, or a tourer carrying panniers and camping gear. When touring fully-loaded I would never be able to climb a hill riding a cadence of 60-70. My knees would blow up and I would stall very quickly. Spinning is the imperative to get that 25kg load up hills, big or small.
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Re: Hill Cadence

Postby Xplora » Mon Sep 23, 2013 1:12 pm

Spin faster and faster... as a rule, it's much harder to spin 120rpm up a long hill than 80 because you run out of gears most of the time, but if you can keep the cadence high and not punch through your HR limits, that is ideal. Worth noting that Froome and Armstrong were noted for 110rpm climbing. They might have been on the juice or not, but the physiology remains the same. A spin that fast lets you stand and go up a couple gears to attack without loosing momentum. Just remember that standing is less efficient because you have to push your body weight down a lot of times, seated means that you are only pushing your legs down. Spinning is less powerful, but ultimately conserves energy. Spin at 120, you'll love it.
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Re: Hill Cadence

Postby TDC » Mon Sep 23, 2013 1:37 pm

Do whatever works for you in any given situation. Find your own rhythm, which will vary due to length/steepness of the climb and how you are feeling, wind direction, road surface and any other variable you care to think of. One size does not fit all.

Some riders are grinders, some are spinners, some are mashers, some like to stand up, and some use all of the techniques.
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Re: Hill Cadence

Postby singlespeedscott » Mon Sep 23, 2013 2:10 pm

I noticed in the Vuelta that Horner would do done those climbs standing the whole way :shock:
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Re: Hill Cadence

Postby singlespeedscott » Mon Sep 23, 2013 2:12 pm

I noticed in the Vuelta that Horner would do done those climbs standing the whole way :shock:
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Re: Hill Cadence

Postby Eleri » Mon Sep 23, 2013 6:25 pm

Xplora wrote:Spin faster and faster... as a rule, it's much harder to spin 120rpm up a long hill than 80 because you run out of gears most of the time, but if you can keep the cadence high and not punch through your HR limits, that is ideal.


Yes, running out of gears is definitely the limiter. If it's much over 7 or 8% you either have to have very low gears to ride at anything over 70rpm - I'm riding compacts 11/28 on 650c wheels - or be very strong (not me).
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