Training yourself to ride hills

nezumi
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Training yourself to ride hills

Postby nezumi » Tue Nov 17, 2015 8:56 pm

So on my commute of late I have realised that my main failing is that, on any decent hill (using "decent" very generously here) I can either stand up and mash my way along, and carry a decent pace - or I can sit down and just find myself dropping gear after gear until I am spinning my easiest gear.

Does anyone have suggestions on how to strengthen my pedalling so that I can ride harder gears at a decent cadence?

Should I try and push through on the hardest gear I can manage to build strength, or should I learn to spin and slowly try and increase the gears I am spinning? How hard of an effort should it be if I am "spinning" a decent gear up a hill?
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Re: Training yourself to ride hills

Postby trailgumby » Tue Nov 17, 2015 10:50 pm

Intervals.

The best way to do learn to do hills with more panache and power is to do hill repeats with a decent amount of recovery in between. The longest traffic light free moderate grade hill in my area that I can reasonably get to on the way to work is about 6 minutes long, so I do 3x that hill with at least 50% recovery time in between, although I prefer to go 5 minutes if I can. The recovery means I can go hard again. There are other hills along the way but this section of road forms the core of the workout.

I have an FTP (average output for an all-out hour's ride) of about 260 watts (yeah, lame), so I try to maintain between 280 and 310 watts for the duration of the climb. It seems easy at first, but keeping that bloody number up hurts as the postal box at the top of the hill approaches. It tests you.

Being a bit of a stick insect the power meter clearly shows I get the best out of my legs without burning them up with high cadence seated pedalling, 100rpm and up. An additional reason for working on this for me as a mountain biker is that pedalling standing up tends to put large power pulses through the back wheel, which causes you to break traction on loose steep climbs for an instant over the bars fail :P Need to keep it smooth. I just pick a gear that lets me do this, and work up and down the gears to maintain that cadence as the hill loses or gains gradient. Compared to my mates I'm a bit of a diesel. They take off up the hill, and I can't keep up at first but then I reel them in and then pass them as they blow up.

However, you need to mix it up. When I'm out doing a 2hr endurance ride as part of my base build I've recently taken to doing 12-pedal-stroke (ie, 12 per side) all-out *maximal* power efforts in a tall gear with at least 5 minutes recovery in between, and I try to get about 6 of those in per ride. My maximum power had jumped up 50W or so to mid-700W, and the whole curve seems to have lifted a bit.

Being an older athlete I've also been doing a periodized weights program to maintain muscle mass. Joe Friel's Mountain BIker's Training Bible plus his book on training with power meters have been useful guides.

Out-of-saddle efforts are good for working glutes, pelvic floor and core and should not be neglected as a workout interval.

Finally, you can do most of this with a just a heart rate monitor. I did quite well with one before getting the PM, managing to stay ahead of all but one of my mates at most races we did together.

The above was a bit of a ramble. Does it make sense?

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Re: Training yourself to ride hills

Postby Alex Simmons/RST » Wed Nov 18, 2015 7:09 am

nezumi wrote:So on my commute of late I have realised that my main failing is that, on any decent hill (using "decent" very generously here) I can either stand up and mash my way along, and carry a decent pace - or I can sit down and just find myself dropping gear after gear until I am spinning my easiest gear.

Does anyone have suggestions on how to strengthen my pedalling so that I can ride harder gears at a decent cadence?

Should I try and push through on the hardest gear I can manage to build strength, or should I learn to spin and slowly try and increase the gears I am spinning? How hard of an effort should it be if I am "spinning" a decent gear up a hill?


Contrary to popular belief, your limiter is not strength but rather it is your aerobic condition, and of course your body mass.

IOW you need to improve your sustainable aerobic power (and if sensible for you, lose excess body mass, especially excess body fat).

Improving power output is a matter of training - exactly what that might entail varies for each individual, but in general it involves increases the amount of cycling you do, both in terms of the frequency and duration of riding you do each week, but also via increasing the intensity of effort at times.

Losing excess body mass is mostly a function of practising the art of fork control.

Being much more specific than that is pretty difficult because we'd really need to know a lot more information than one is likely to share on a public forum.

As for gearing, with hills you should ride the gear you are capable of sustaining. Over gearing really does nothing special for you. What matters for inducing positive adaptations is your power output relative to your current capacities.

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Re: Training yourself to ride hills

Postby JdM » Wed Nov 18, 2015 8:47 am

trailgumby wrote:The longest traffic light free moderate grade hill in my area that I can reasonably get to on the way to work is about 6 minutes long


Which hill is this out of interest? I'm busy cataloging hills like this in Northern Sydney to train on :D
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Re: Training yourself to ride hills

Postby Calvin27 » Wed Nov 18, 2015 9:33 am

As much as the advice given is good,

The lay man's response is ride more hills.
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Re: Training yourself to ride hills

Postby g-boaf » Wed Nov 18, 2015 10:23 am

trailgumby wrote:Intervals.

The best way to do learn to do hills with more panache and power is to do hill repeats with a decent amount of recovery in between. The longest traffic light free moderate grade hill in my area that I can reasonably get to on the way to work is about 6 minutes long, so I do 3x that hill with at least 50% recovery time in between, although I prefer to go 5 minutes if I can. The recovery means I can go hard again. There are other hills along the way but this section of road forms the core of the workout.

I have an FTP (average output for an all-out hour's ride) of about 260 watts (yeah, lame), so I try to maintain between 280 and 310 watts for the duration of the climb. It seems easy at first, but keeping that bloody number up hurts as the postal box at the top of the hill approaches. It tests you.

Being a bit of a stick insect the power meter clearly shows I get the best out of my legs without burning them up with high cadence seated pedalling, 100rpm and up. An additional reason for working on this for me as a mountain biker is that pedalling standing up tends to put large power pulses through the back wheel, which causes you to break traction on loose steep climbs for an instant over the bars fail :P Need to keep it smooth. I just pick a gear that lets me do this, and work up and down the gears to maintain that cadence as the hill loses or gains gradient. Compared to my mates I'm a bit of a diesel. They take off up the hill, and I can't keep up at first but then I reel them in and then pass them as they blow up.

However, you need to mix it up. When I'm out doing a 2hr endurance ride as part of my base build I've recently taken to doing 12-pedal-stroke (ie, 12 per side) all-out *maximal* power efforts in a tall gear with at least 5 minutes recovery in between, and I try to get about 6 of those in per ride. My maximum power had jumped up 50W or so to mid-700W, and the whole curve seems to have lifted a bit.

Being an older athlete I've also been doing a periodized weights program to maintain muscle mass. Joe Friel's Mountain BIker's Training Bible plus his book on training with power meters have been useful guides.

Out-of-saddle efforts are good for working glutes, pelvic floor and core and should not be neglected as a workout interval.

Finally, you can do most of this with a just a heart rate monitor. I did quite well with one before getting the PM, managing to stay ahead of all but one of my mates at most races we did together.

The above was a bit of a ramble. Does it make sense?


It does make good sense. Your all out maximum power efforts in the biggest gear (from very slow speed) is pretty similar to something a coach I knew was suggesting. Seemed strange, but it actually worked really well.

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Re: Training yourself to ride hills

Postby Xplora » Wed Nov 18, 2015 1:47 pm

nezumi wrote:Should I try and push through on the hardest gear I can manage to build strength, or should I learn to spin and slowly try and increase the gears I am spinning? How hard of an effort should it be if I am "spinning" a decent gear up a hill?

Yeah, you should basically give all of them a go. I would suggest that "blocking off" your cassette might be the easiest way forward. If you drop to the 21t when dropping through the gears, only go to 19t and SUFFER THROUGH IT. This will steadily force you to adapt new strategies to cope, either by spinning or muscles or standing, whatever. The joy of hillwork is that it prevents cheating. If you have noticed you cheat a little, stop cheating. Ultimately, you need to go on a bit of a journey when it comes to training. You might be best off standing up, but maybe you've already found the better strategy?

For me - I drop to the lowest gear FIRST, and THEN apply more power by spinning faster. 100rpm a hill is much easier to manage your effort with that 60rpm grinding. I don't blow up in the bigger gear first, then start chasing lower gears once I've already died. That said, I try to climb 10% for 15 minutes in 39/25 at a lowly 50rpm most of the way :lol: so spin to win isn't my strategy in the big hills.

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Re: Training yourself to ride hills

Postby barefoot » Wed Nov 18, 2015 2:18 pm

I used to be a lazy climber. Sit and spin. My endurance for standing climbs was utter rubbish - I'd have to sit down again after a handful of pedal strokes.

So, I learned to stand.

I incorporated standing climbs into my commute routine. One slope in particular - a gentle incline over just a few hundred metres. I made a point of riding it standing every morning. It was exhausting at first... until it wasn't.

Now I climb out of the saddle pretty well. I still climb seated by preference - it's more efficient, and I can lay down some pretty big watts on a seated climb when those around me are standing up and dancing - but when I need to get up I can stand and put down a whole lot of power for quite a while.

The other thing that "trained" me to ride hills was losing >10kg. It's amazing how much easier it is to haul yourself up a hill when there's less of you to haul.

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Re: Training yourself to ride hills

Postby chalk » Fri Nov 20, 2015 6:33 am

Would hill repeats also help with training for a gran fondo with decent climbs

As I recently entered the seight challange events
Which I completed the whittlesea challange last Sunday. But I fou I couldn't produce any power after the second climb and my legs were done

And with the next 2 rides being longer and more elevation gain. I'm wanting to train hard for these 2

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Re: Training yourself to ride hills

Postby Derny Driver » Fri Nov 20, 2015 9:55 am

Alex Simmons/RST wrote:
Contrary to popular belief, your limiter is not strength but rather it is your aerobic condition ...



Improving power output is a matter of training - exactly what that might entail varies for each individual, but in general it involves increases the amount of cycling you do, both in terms of the frequency and duration of riding you do each week, but also via increasing the intensity of effort at times...



As for gearing, with hills you should ride the gear you are capable of sustaining. .....

Do you understand what Alex is saying?
As your general fitness improves, so does your hill climbing.
To climb hills fast, do more training on the flat and on hills.
Ride up the hill in a comfortable gear, not too small, not too big.
Alternate standing and sitting. Hands on hoods when standing, on top of bars when sitting.

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Re: Training yourself to ride hills

Postby Xplora » Fri Nov 20, 2015 11:22 am

^^^^ "ride lots" The Cannibal.

I acknowledge that there is great value in "time crunched" plans, and the existance of powerlifting is proof that it works - how many people genuinely put in 5 minutes of training all week expecting gains - most of a lifter's time training is spent waiting between sets :lol: - but managing the intensity correctly is flat out dangerous for some (I am terrible at it, and I have a quality power meter to help and time on my hands to get it right)

Variety is the spice of life, and it's the spice of training too. Try something, try something till it is hard, try something different, try it till it is hard, repeat forever.

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Re: Training yourself to ride hills

Postby grantw » Fri Nov 20, 2015 11:40 am

Some of the best advice I ever got about climbing was to relax my upper body, especially my hands - which would death grip the bars or hoods as I tried to lever my way up climbs.

I can climb all day if I'm relaxed but I fail pretty quickly if I'm not. Whether I'm spinning or standing and pushing hard, if I can keep loose I'm comfortable and that usually means I'm moving faster for longer.
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Re: Training yourself to ride hills

Postby nezumi » Fri Nov 20, 2015 10:53 pm

Derny Driver wrote:
Alex Simmons/RST wrote:Contrary to popular belief, your limiter is not strength but rather it is your aerobic condition ...

Improving power output is a matter of training - exactly what that might entail varies for each individual, but in general it involves increases the amount of cycling you do, both in terms of the frequency and duration of riding you do each week, but also via increasing the intensity of effort at times...

As for gearing, with hills you should ride the gear you are capable of sustaining. .....

Do you understand what Alex is saying?
As your general fitness improves, so does your hill climbing.
To climb hills fast, do more training on the flat and on hills.
Ride up the hill in a comfortable gear, not too small, not too big.
Alternate standing and sitting. Hands on hoods when standing, on top of bars when sitting.


In broad terms, yes - my main issue is that I find myself going "too easy" in terms of gearing when seated, or not really knowing how hard I should go. I am aware of the general concept of spinning up hills (feels very hard for me), but should said spinning be at a light resistance, or should you be both spinning the gears but also feeling it quite strong.

The essence of my question is should I start in an easy gear, spin my guts out and work up, or start in a high gear and keep working at it until I can spin that? (In overall training terms - not for each hill)
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Re: Training yourself to ride hills

Postby kb » Sat Nov 21, 2015 7:55 am

nezumi wrote:The essence of my question is should I start in an easy gear, spin my guts out and work up, or start in a high gear and keep working at it until I can spin that? (In overall training terms - not for each hill)

Probably both.
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Re: Training yourself to ride hills

Postby trailgumby » Sat Nov 21, 2015 10:31 am

JdM wrote:
trailgumby wrote:The longest traffic light free moderate grade hill in my area that I can reasonably get to on the way to work is about 6 minutes long


Which hill is this out of interest? I'm busy cataloging hills like this in Northern Sydney to train on :D

Look for "Taronga Zoo KOM Proper" on Strava. 1.8km at an average of 5%, and low traffic.

If you see a guy on a black Cannondale CAAD9 with white helmet and shoes, and ProLite wheels, say hello. :)

Edit: here it is:
https://www.strava.com/segments/669209

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Re: Training yourself to ride hills

Postby trailgumby » Sat Nov 21, 2015 10:50 am

nezumi wrote:In broad terms, yes - my main issue is that I find myself going "too easy" in terms of gearing when seated, or not really knowing how hard I should go. I am aware of the general concept of spinning up hills (feels very hard for me), but should said spinning be at a light resistance, or should you be both spinning the gears but also feeling it quite strong.

The essence of my question is should I start in an easy gear, spin my guts out and work up, or start in a high gear and keep working at it until I can spin that? (In overall training terms - not for each hill)


WIth a bit of practice you learn to judge how hard you can go without blowing up. For me it is about whether I can get enough air in the lungs to maintain the output. If I start to go anaerobic and blow up then I'm going too hard.

There are three types of session that I do.

3 x 6 minutes @100rpm with 5 minutes recovery in between Tuesdays
3 x 6 minutes @60rpm with 5 minutes recovery in between Thursdays
4 x 3 minutes @100rpm with 3 minutes recovery in between Thursdays

I'd like to find a longer hill for a 10 minute climb but there isn't really one that's convenient. I juggle the gears according the the gradient to maintain the rate of perceived exertion (before power meter) and wattage (with power peter) and RPM. My aim is to have just enough left in the tank to still be aware of my surroundings when I get to the end of each repetition. There are other hills on the ride (eg Parriwi Rd Mosman) so if you have an otherwise flat ride you might want to add another rep or two.

The shorter, higher intensity intervals replace the low cadence ones as I get closer to an event.

The 60rpm sets are by far the most difficult mentally and I have a little chant going by the end "I hate Mark Fenner" (the guy who designed the program I use) :lol: I also have to pay attention to my joints as this is quite a high load to put on them and the first sign of any little twinge around the knees or other vulnerable areas and I end the session.

Does that help?

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Re: Training yourself to ride hills

Postby Derny Driver » Sat Nov 21, 2015 10:55 am

nezumi wrote:
The essence of my question is should I start in an easy gear, spin my guts out and work up, or start in a high gear and keep working at it until I can spin that? (In overall training terms - not for each hill)

No neither.
The 'general concept of spinning up hills' should not be interpreted to mean you have to ride up hills at a cadence of 100. You can do that if you like. Or you can ride up at 70. The cadence is neither here nor there. Cadence is an individual thing. You ride up in the gear which is comfortable. Not so easy that you are spinning the legs with little force on the pedals, and not so hard that you are over exerting yourself.
As with most things on the forum, people are over-thinking everything.

How to ride up a hill by DD
Relax the upper body and concentrate on technique. Dont rock hips, bob head etc. Pedal smoothly at a comfortable cadence. Stand up for steepish bits like the inside of hairpins, sit down for most of the climb though. Change up a gear on flatter sections where you can, change down if you lose decent cadence. Ride at a pace which is slightly uncomfortable but do not overexert yourself as its hard to recover up hill. What you do, what gear you select will depend on your overall general fitness and how you feel on the day. Ride within yourself. There is nothing magical to be gained by doing weird $hit. Just ride up the hill. Each time you do it, it will get easier.

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Re: Training yourself to ride hills

Postby trailgumby » Sat Nov 21, 2015 1:13 pm

Derny Driver wrote:Cadence is an individual thing. You ride up in the gear which is comfortable. Not so easy that you are spinning the legs with little force on the pedals, and not so hard that you are over exerting yourself.
As with most things on the forum, people are over-thinking everything.

When starting out, as nezumi seems to be in this aspect of his cycling, you are likely right. And I don't have your experience in coaching people, so I'm not going to hold myself out as an expert.

However, I would say it depends on what you are trying to achieve. For my chosen pursuit - mountain biking - cadence varies the most of any of the disciplines due to changes in terrain (range of 50-120+ being typical). So the sessions I mentioned above support the specific requirements of the activity.

I have observed that my power numbers are consistently highest for least fatigue when spinning at higher cadences. But doing "comfortable" cadence only, while great for cardio, leads my pedalling action to start getting sloppy, with consequences for my lower back. Low cadence repeats help a lot with my pedalling action and muscle recruitment form. However, too much work at low cadence elevates my risk of over-use injury around the knees. So I do both but not all the time as they achieve different but beneficial outcomes providing the risks are managed.

Doing only one thing all the time and not mixing things up leaves me exposed to injury or weakness when the activity changes. Being the "wrong"side of 50 and in a sedentary job, thinking about these things in this level of detail is what enables me to maintain the level of physicality to which I've become accustomed ;)

These observations are consistent with the literature and I'm passing them on for what they're worth in the hope that some of the distinctions might be useful.

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Re: Training yourself to ride hills

Postby Derny Driver » Sat Nov 21, 2015 1:58 pm

All that makes perfect sense tg
Im coming from a different place as usual but appreciate your insights.
Im not an expert on anything ...maybe 6 day racing and track riders of the 1950's and 60s?
Not much call for information on that though

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Re: Training yourself to ride hills

Postby Xplora » Sat Nov 21, 2015 6:02 pm

A good way to sum up DD's advice would be "pedal efficiently" as a priority. The suggestions he makes create a situation where you aren't wasting energy doing silly things. If you are rocking, then you are pushing your body away from the pedals, instead of the legs into the pedals. If your head is bobbing, your core isn't stabilising your body so you aren't pushing the pedals smoothly and consistently.

Let's not beat around the bush here. A good proper climb at your maximum effort doesn't allow you to be wasting energy!

I hit my 23 minute climb 3 times today, I mentally chanted 1 2 3 4 5 6 for about 15 minutes solid on the second repeat, just trying to keep my pelvis steady and my mind off the pain. I was spinning around 50rpm most of the time. 39/25 granny just doesn't allow anything else (although I really should look at a 12-27 or 12-28 for these hill days, 50rpm isn't setting me up for criterium good times). Just have to keep doing it over and over until it is comfortable.

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Re: Training yourself to ride hills

Postby JdM » Sat Nov 21, 2015 6:18 pm

trailgumby wrote:
JdM wrote:
trailgumby wrote:The longest traffic light free moderate grade hill in my area that I can reasonably get to on the way to work is about 6 minutes long


Which hill is this out of interest? I'm busy cataloging hills like this in Northern Sydney to train on :D

Look for "Taronga Zoo KOM Proper" on Strava. 1.8km at an average of 5%, and low traffic.

If you see a guy on a black Cannondale CAAD9 with white helmet and shoes, and ProLite wheels, say hello. :)

Edit: here it is:
https://www.strava.com/segments/669209


Think I may have already seen you! :D
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Re: Training yourself to ride hills

Postby nezumi » Sat Nov 21, 2015 6:31 pm

trailgumby wrote:
Derny Driver wrote:Cadence is an individual thing. You ride up in the gear which is comfortable. Not so easy that you are spinning the legs with little force on the pedals, and not so hard that you are over exerting yourself.
As with most things on the forum, people are over-thinking everything.

When starting out, as nezumi seems to be in this aspect of his cycling, you are likely right. And I don't have your experience in coaching people, so I'm not going to hold myself out as an expert.


Starting out in terms of taking a considered approach to training more than anything - I have been riding daily for about 2 years now and commute 25kms each way, but I don't have any form of cadence/HRM/etc.

I have been happy with my performance, but want to take it to the next level - when riding in a bunch or when I happen to sync up with others on my commute, I can generally keep up on the hills, but I do feel like I am pushing myself that bit more - what I need to develop is the ability to know how to push myself to the right level when solo, and how to pedal to go up smoothly and with enough left in the tank that I don't make it to the top and want to stop. :)

DD - your advice makes the most sense to me out of what I've seen so far. A lot of it has just been the general "ride more hills", but that's not going to help massively if my method of riding said hills is poor.

This is the main one I am gauging myself on at present. https://www.strava.com/activities/43535 ... 0469267015 especially the short part https://www.strava.com/activities/43535 ... 0469267009

I tend to find that as I make the sharp turn onto the short part I am in my lowest gear, pedalling squares and struggling for breath - but by midway up it I feel great and can stand up, drop down 3 to 4 gears and kick hard all the way to the top.
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Re: Training yourself to ride hills

Postby kb » Sat Nov 21, 2015 10:13 pm

Derny Driver wrote:There is nothing magical to be gained by doing weird $hit.

I think I may just print that out and stick it on my top tube...
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Re: Training yourself to ride hills

Postby trailgumby » Sat Nov 21, 2015 10:37 pm

nezumi wrote:Starting out in terms of taking a considered approach to training more than anything - I have been riding daily for about 2 years now and commute 25kms each way, but I don't have any form of cadence/HRM/etc.

In that case...

Cadence and HRM are good things to have that will help you be more methodical with your training. You can train very effectively in a structured manner with just HRM but the small extra cost for cadence is worthwhile. Power meters are even better, but are only a marginal step up from cadence and HRM for *significantly* more cost.

Gold standard is Garmin GPS, but there are lower cost alternatives. While nice to have, you don't *need* GPS.

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Re: Training yourself to ride hills

Postby Xplora » Sat Nov 21, 2015 11:20 pm

SRM was selling a power meter head unit (used by most of the pro tour AFAIK) that didn't have GPS for years after the Garmin units came out. They've recently changed their mind but this guy ain't spending 1000 bucks for Strava just at this point. :lol:

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