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Improving hill climbing


Clydesdale

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Guys/girls,

 

With the tri season now over and I'm well into recovery month. Been doing a bit of planning on how to improve my hill climbing. From now until November I'll do one long ride a week between 100 - 150km. Normally include a few 7-10km climbs with gradient of say 5% or so. For those in Melb , Kinglake, the 1 in 20 ect. I'm currently 105kgs and aim to get down to 95-99 ish. So that should help.

Anyway to my question.

Do you think I am better to train by doing these hill repeats several times or continue with my long rides as I have. I have seen great improvement in the last year eg. Kinglake time on strava went from 30min down to 24 I would like to get closer to 20 min if possible. I also want to complete the Amy's Gran Fondo in under 4 hours last year finished in 4:14.

I'm working strength training into my program with legs included once a week.

I still want to be able to ride the 150 plus km rides so maybe it will be a mix of them both.

 

Any ideas would be appreciated.

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Weight and FTP are key for climbing. Lose weight and start doing 2x20 min ergo sessions twice a week. When on the climb ride it at constant tempo. Don't blow as you won't recover work your way into the climb. Last km faster than the first one.

 

I honestly don't think strength training will help. Scrap it and spend the time on the ergo.

 

I am a shit of a climber but was 2 nd over the climb at grafton to inverall one year just took work to do it.

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My personal preference is to keep my hill work and long rides separate - which means riding on both Saturday and Sunday.

 

I'll hammer the hills on one day - usually the total ride length will be 50 to 80km and do a longer, flatter ride on the other day.

 

The hilly rides typically do not increase much in length, I just try to go faster (sometimes I'll do more repeats). Whereas the long ride I'll try to increase each week

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I agree with Trek52 and say strength training won't help much.

Weight is the first thing to attend to.

If your just going to focus on the bike for time period I'd suggest consistancy is where you should aim first.

Get out on the bike (or trainer) for an hour or 2 every day and just ride. Not fast not slow, just a steady tempo.

Watch your diet and aim to drop a few kg's. Once that occurs and you hit the hills you'll see a big improvement and you may not have even ridden any hills yet.

 

Keep your long ride that sure won't do any harm, but I don't think you need to do specific hill repeats or anything like that at this stage. Just get out there consistantly and work at dropping a few kg's.

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obviously your weight is a factor. Looking beyond that, learning to ride at your limit and hitting your hills hard on your training rides and riding them at limit will make you a better climber.

Too many riders ride up the hills at a comfortable pace, to get better you need to be working hard up the hills. Relax on the rest of the ride.

Although even at 95 kgs you are going to be flying

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I read somewhere for every kilo you lose - equivalent of 5% power increase

 

 

Riding up Alpe d'Huez:

80kg (bike + rider) at 250W: 1:03:24

79kg (bike + rider) at 250W: 1:02:41

80kg (bike + rider) at 253W: 1:02:42

 

So, roughly 1.25% improvement.

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Trek, how would your 2x20's be structured?

 

 

I do mine a bit harder than i maybe should but about 90% of ftp. If you dont know ftp then do a 20 min tt with a hr monitor and then take about 10 beats a min off your ave and sit on that for the 2x20. 5 min rest.

 

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My son weighs 55kg and goes uphill like a mountain goat. Last 2 times we went up our local climb (10km @ average 6%) I practically had to push him up. My scooter was burning the clutch as he was was creeping in the 25 cog. He was okay on the flats but shite up hill. Why? Because we have been doing a long ride of 135km every week. IMHO long rides will kill your climbing.

After freshening him up with some shorter rides and some fast motorpace he flew up the climb yesterday faster than he ever has.

So I would not be doing long rides and hill work together.

Like Will says, creeping up hills does nothing for you. You need to be fresh and ride them at good tempo, seated for at least 50% of the climb or more.

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Ok let me preface this by saying I know nothing so don't take my word as gospel, but I still would like to pass on what worked for me.

 

The weight loss thing, above all, would be the best thing you can't do. For all the reasons mentioned above.

I also found what I call 'force sets' on the spin bike or trainer. 3 min easy at 95rpm, 3 min at 75rpm, 3min at 65rpm (or something like that. Repeat 4 to 5 time with warm up and coold down.

 

I've also been doing hill repeats (we have a climb called Norton Sumit it's around 5km). Currently doing x 3 then a ride through Adelaide hills and back. Only doing out to 90-100kms total.

 

We're pretty spoilt for choice on the hills rides here in Adelaide. I guess we have to have something going for us.

 

Anyway, I was able to drop 4km/hr off my 20 and 40km TT average speed this season. I think this really helped.

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Just askin' the question....

Why is everyone so in love with 2 x 20mins as THE INT for cycling?. Is it ‘cause we all read the one same book on cycling with power?

We have no such rigid formula for running ie there are intervals left right and centre.. 6 x 5, 4 x 2k etc etc ---you could fill a book, in fact peple do! :) And its the same for swimming. ...

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Hi Clydesdale,

 

Here is some friendly advice from my experience in riding hills. You will get faster, but at the end of the day the laws of Physics will catch up with you as will that 60kg whippet that just pulls away not mater how hard you work. :smartarse:

  • Ride the hill every day you do a ride, include it in your long 150km ride, twice if you can (reduce the length of the ride if you have to, measure the session in time and effort not kms traveled).
  • Do your 2x20 session trek52 suggests on the hill(i.e. repeat the climb).
  • Do a 4x20 on the hill but not as hard as the 2x20, do this once per fortnight.
  • Do a 5x4min at the kind of effort that makes you think you are not going to make it to 4min but just mange to, do this on the hill (break the hill; into sections or repeat parts of it).
  • Drop the weight sessions, they are for beginners, track sprinters and rehab. A man of 100kg that is already active does not need to lift any weights, it will not help your running, cycling or swimming. So unless you are feeling seriously weak and feeble spend that time more wisely.

 

 

 

Just askin' the question....

Why is everyone so in love with 2 x 20mins as THE INT for cycling?. Is it ‘cause we all read the one same book on cycling with power?

We have no such rigid formula for running ie there are intervals left right and centre.. 6 x 5, 4 x 2k etc etc ---you could fill a book, in fact peple do! :)And its the same for swimming. ...

 

 

20min is a round number people like round numbers. But generally the training stress needs to be long enough to trigger adaptation in a particular system. Anerobic efforts can be from 5sec - 2mins, 3-8min is long enough for V02 Max efforts, 20-60min is good for FTP(Threshold efforts), Tempo efforts can be up to 3-4hours. These times and efforts overlap also.

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Agree. No point riding up a hill at a comfortable pace, you won't gain much.

 

Personally, I hit hills hard. Early in the season, I don't even make it all the way but better to smash yourself and get the benefits and riding up like a Sunday rider.

 

 

 

obviously your weight is a factor. Looking beyond that, learning to ride at your limit and hitting your hills hard on your training rides and riding them at limit will make you a better climber.

Too many riders ride up the hills at a comfortable pace, to get better you need to be working hard up the hills. Relax on the rest of the ride.

Although even at 95 kgs you are going to be flying

 

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I think the real thing about hill climbing is the continuous effort needed to keep forward momemtum going - completely unlike a TT, road race or training ride.

You need to work on your sustainable power output and really manage yourself. Note that if you are a big guy you are going to have to slow down - you CANNOT climb as fast as the lighter guys but you can climb well if stick to your own pace and your own plan. You will even get to like it! :)

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Riding up Alpe d'Huez: 80kg (bike + rider) at 250W: 1:03:24 79kg (bike + rider) at 250W: 1:02:41 80kg (bike + rider) at 253W: 1:02:42 So, roughly 1.25% improvement.

 

For steeper grades where nearly all work/power is going into overcoming gravity rather than wind resistance for same power output improvement is basically proportional to change in weight, so for a 1kg improvement: 1/80 = 1.25%. Alex Simmons had a reference to a graph showing where the power goes for different grades.

 

For a 5% improvement bike+rider of 100kg, need 5kg.

 

So whilst lighter riders tend to go better up mountains as power to weight seems to scale in favour of them, still pretty suprising how many 'heavyish' riders get up mountains pretty quickly, and that not all light guys are quick up mountains. At least that's what I've seen up Mt Hotham at Tour of Bright. Guess something in there about how power scales with body size.

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Well here is my two penneth from a fellow fattie. The best climbing shape I have ever been in was when I finally finished the Alpine Classic in 2010 (DNF's the 200 twice before).

 

I probably had a 2-3 mth lead up. Lead up meaning that the AC was foremost on my mind. I was still crit racing and TTing now and then but in terms of climbing, there were some things I did that I'm sure helped, they were:

 

Riding with faster guys. I regularly went out with the NSTC/ St Ives rides with Trev, PeePee, Len and whoever came along. They have a simple rule, everyone waits at the top of the climb for the slower guys, but once the slower guys reach the top everyone rolls, so if you are slow you get less rest (great motivator LOL). Do this regularly and you'll find yourself guaging your progress against others in the group.

 

Timed climbs. I did repeats of Bobbin Hd (two climbs with a valley dividing the two). I'd roll down one side, and time myself up each climb 3 time (so 6 climbs) and use the descent to recover. At first my aim was consistency and to finish the last climb within a minute of the first, but that gap got narrower as I got fitter. Also when I first started, I did the six climbs, but only timed one side as I needed more recovery time. These sessions weregrat as they could be squeezed in after work or when you are time short and still get a great workout in. Did this once a week.

 

My third startegy was to just ride some longer hills or string local climbs together (3 gorges then 4, thn 5 etc). Didn't have any goal here except to feel good and not just 'survive'.

 

This training really culminated in Trev's infamous 'BIG WEEK' which was between Xmas and NY. Sunday to Sunday I rode 6 times and IIRC did about 750kms (Trev and Len did something insane like 1300kms). This week was one of the best blocks of training I did and I still remember it now (obviously). I knew my climbing was improving as on a particularly hot 130km through Palm Beach, Gosford and the Old Road I was not the last one up the climbs and I was recovering very well. Got a great compliment from Len saying that I was riding very strongly that day.

 

At the AC I really felt liked I'd turned a corned in my climbing ability.

 

So what I'm saying is do a combination of measured (time) efforts and something that makes you feel good, like riding with others. But the most important thing is to keep at it and not lose heart, you will get there. :)

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it's simple physics: the higher your watts/kg the faster you can go uphill. Be as light as you can (without sacrificing power) and improve your threshold power. lots of sustained efforts (10, 15, 20 mins etc) at or close to threshold will give you the best gains. It doesn't matter if you train indoors, on hills or flat terrain - if you are reaching the correct intensity/power levels the end result will be the same. For the average triathlete/cyclist aiming at endurance events, V02 and anaerobic efforts of less than 5 mins will do nothing for your threshold power.

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And I'd also suggest learning to generate your power at low rpms. It's all well and good if you can bang out 300W at 90rpm on the flat, but it's not the same thing being forced to do it at 70rpm going uphill.

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it's simple physics: the higher your watts/kg the faster you can go uphill. Be as light as you can (without sacrificing power) and improve your threshold power

 

your simple physics statement is wrong..

 

correct would be.. do what ever it takes to have the best watts/kg ratio..

ie: you can loose kg's and watt's as long as its more kg's to watts.. if so then keep loosing both...

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This training really culminated in Trev's infamous 'BIG WEEK' which was between Xmas and NY. Sunday to Sunday I rode 6 times and IIRC did about 750kms (Trev and Len did something insane like 1300kms). This week was one of the best blocks of training I did and I still remember it now (obviously). I knew my climbing was improving as on a particularly hot 130km through Palm Beach, Gosford and the Old Road I was not the last one up the climbs and I was recovering very well. Got a great compliment from Len saying that I was riding very strongly that day.

 

At the AC I really felt liked I'd turned a corner in my climbing ability.

 

 

Doing a big training block might not be practical for many of us. But the one time I was able to do this (in France last year) I have never climbed better!

 

I remember after the first couple of smaller (ha, ha!!) climbs I felt stuffed. But when I got the chance to climb Alpe D'Huez I had 10 days of climbing under my belt and felt like I flew up it (well, for me at least - 56 mins still leaves me a quarter of an hour behind conti/schleck etc!!!!!!).

 

So if you get a chance to do the big block thingy, it can really help your hill climbing (or at least it did for me!!).

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Agree with Donncha.

 

Hill climbing requires power while standing. Really if you are fanging it up a hill you are not sitting down much and your cadence is likely not above 80. There is a very big difference physically in cycling while standing with a cadence of 60 compared to cycling while seated with a cadence of 100, both are important to practice but I believe the former is more important to be a strong climber, especially on anything above 7% average for any length of time.

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Hill climbing requires power while standing. Really if you are fanging it up a hill you are not sitting down much and your cadence is likely not above 80. There is a very big difference physically in cycling while standing with a cadence of 60 compared to cycling while seated with a cadence of 100, both are important to practice but I believe the former is more important to be a strong climber, especially on anything above 7% average for any length of time.

 

How many good TdF climbers do you see standing up? And what usually happens after a guy gets up a couple of times and doesn't get away. Physically he is giving a sign that he can no longer keep that pace or go faster without a short burst out of pedals and mentally he is gone if they catch him and spit him out.

 

I do very little cycling these days- and while it helps to be 60kg the other blokes I join ocassionally do serious riding. Yet I play a nice game with them up hills, sit at good cadence just flicking it around in second wheel, then when the front guy gets out of seat- usually with momentarily losing a little rhythym as he gets out, I flick the cadence just up a notch without getting out, sit on him, then when he gets back down I go past- him wondering "how the hell"? Just breaks him mentally.

 

You really need to work on trying to gauge what pace you can do over the whole climb then just sit down and knock that out all the way up.

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And I'd also suggest learning to generate your power at low rpms. It's all well and good if you can bang out 300W at 90rpm on the flat, but it's not the same thing being forced to do it at 70rpm going uphill.

 

 

Why does climbing have to be at a lower cadence, isn't that why we have gears? Or is it more a mental thing, I can't pedal this fast adn go this slow?

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Why does climbing have to be at a lower cadence, isn't that why we have gears? Or is it more a mental thing, I can't pedal this fast adn go this slow?

 

 

Gears can only do so much.

 

e.g: I'm heading over to France in the summer and training for climbs there.

 

At my weight (85kg) + 10kg (bike/bottles etc) and with the power I'm aiming to sustain for long climbs (~230W) an 8% gradient will see me riding at 75rpm on a 34/32. 10% will see me at 62rpm. Both assuming no headwind.

 

Even losing 5kg will still see me at 68rpm on 10% gradients.

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Guest C.C

 

your simple physics statement is wrong..

 

correct would be.. do what ever it takes to have the best watts/kg ratio..

ie: you can loose kg's and watt's as long as its more kg's to watts.. if so then keep loosing both...

 

What I meant that was that if you improve your own watts/kg you will be faster uphill than you were previously. Whether you lose weight, gain power or both the fact remains the higher the watts/kg, the faster you will climb.

 

Am I missing something?

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But when I got the chance to climb Alpe D'Huez I had 10 days of climbing under my belt and felt like I flew up it (well, for me at least - 56 mins still leaves me a quarter of an hour behind conti/schleck etc!!!!!!).

 

 

56 minutes to the Tour finish??? Nice going!

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its rare people time to the tour finish.. most finish times are logged to the podium at the begining of the town.

 

 

That's where I stopped on my first afternoon. But when asked a cyclist sitting in a cafe by the banner across the street he told me the Tour finish was still up the road. So when I have a proper go later that week I timed it through to the Tour finish.

 

Guessing that Alex's Alpe d'Huez chart is for the first finish then. As based on my power and time to the Tour finish it was out against his chart but closely matched it with my elapsed time to the earlier marked finish...

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56 minutes to the Tour finish??? Nice going!

 

Am sure I wouldn't break an hour right now!! But after going up 20km climbs at 7 or 8%, the 13km or so of Alpe D 'Huez honestly seemed short enough to actually go up as hard as possible!!

 

Interestingly, the fastest guy in our group went up in 53 mins. He was almost 50 yrs old and he was probably no stronger than me on the flat.

 

But he weighs 63kg (ie even less than Schleck and Conti!!!!).......

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I hear you TGL. I have a rematch this weekend with 16.8km long Mt Donna Buang climb as part of the Cycling Victoria TT series - first time up this climb since the 23 ascents I rode over 8 trips last year in preparation for France. Having pretty much avoided hills since returning it isn't going to be pretty!

 

Just to confirm - times mentioned are to the banner and cafe's as you first get to the village or through to the Tour finish (anticlimatic pole in a large empty carpark towards the top of the village?)

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Just to confirm - times mentioned are to the banner and cafe's as you first get to the village or through to the Tour finish (anticlimatic pole in a large empty carpark towards the top of the village?)

 

Went through the village and kept climbing until stopping the clock at the TdF finish line.

 

Was completely and utterly spent. Like I said, wouldn't break an hour now. But after climbing Col du Solour, Col D'Aubisque, Mont Ventoux, Col du Tourmalet, Col de Galibier, Col de Telegraphe, Luz Ardiden etc, I was in the best possible shape to go hard up Alpe D'Huez!

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Went through the village and kept climbing until stopping the clock at the TdF finish line.

 

 

Nice. Amazing what a block of climbing big cols can do for your climbing ability!

 

Clysdale - can you get any hill repeats in during the week? Hills once a week as part of your longer weekend ride I don't feel will be enough, especially as you have to balance your efforts up the climbs with getting through the rest of the ride...

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No based in Melb so all climbs too far away to get done before or after work. I've included plenty of climbing on m y planned rides between now and sept so fingers crossed I'll be all good and beat 4 hours for gran fondo.

 

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No based in Melb so all climbs too far away to get done before or after work. I've included plenty of climbing on m y planned rides between now and sept so fingers crossed I'll be all good and beat 4 hours for gran fondo.

 

 

You can't manage even one midweek ride in the hills? I am also in Melbourne so know the extra effort needed to climb during the week, but it is possible..

 

Other options if you can't sneak in a midweek trip to the Dandenongs or other longer climbs are multiple repeats on shorter climbs (I've used High St from Doncaster Road to Manningham rd a few times. It is unfortunately only ~1.8km long but wide and well lit). Then there are laps of Kew Boulevard or joining in the 'Tour of the Burb's' on a Thursday night. Or use one of the oft windy days for big gear work into a headwind.

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Hi Clyde,

 

If you can make your way up Gisborne/Macedon/Back of the airport, plenty of hills there (it's where I go, but I'm on that way) but granted there are some better places.

 

Cheers

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Hi Clyde,

 

If you can make your way up Gisborne/Macedon/Back of the airport, plenty of hills there (it's where I go, but I'm on that way) but granted there are some better places.

 

Cheers

 

 

Youse talkin' hills or mountains? Macedon front gets 14% at times. That'll put hairs on your chest! :)

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GSP I'm in st Kilda.

Dalai I o do tour d burbs occasionally but didnt really consider it. In terms of climbing was thinking more Kinglake and dandenongs.

 

 

Agreed not quite the same, but still puts additional load @ climbing cadence.

 

I am further out in Ashburton, so if motivated do ride out to Mt Dandenong and can get in two or three repeats of the 1 in 20 before or after work...

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Youse talkin' hills or mountains? Macedon front gets 14% at times. That'll put hairs on your chest! :)

 

 

It does have whiskers on it for sure. 42/21 Combo makes it harder. At the moment my 21 keeps slipping back to the 19 so avoiding that section until I get around to tightening the derailleur.

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In regards to shorter climbs - I know it isn't the same as longer efforts.

 

But take for example High st in Doncaster (longest inner east climb I've found so far) I mentioned earlier... On its own, each ascent is only 1.8km, Climb it 10 times and you are looking at 18km of climbing for the session. Only place around Melbourne close to that length in a single ascent is Mt Donna Buang at 16.8km!

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