Technique For Climbing Hills

General cycling advice ( NOT technical ! )
mattsccm
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Re: Technique For Climbing Hills

Postby mattsccm » 6 Sep 2018, 7:43am

Whatever is easier for ever you wish to achieve. I'll contradict a post above. If you are not racing then energy saving doesn't matter. If you end up knackered at the top you can have a rest. No need to consider the long term .
If the concern is to get a up a hill that's proving too tough then the most effective thing you can do is ride more hills and lose weight. Like many people, I attack hills using this as extra training and rest on the flats. As I said. What do you want to achieve?

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Cugel
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Re: Technique For Climbing Hills

Postby Cugel » 6 Sep 2018, 9:44am

mattsccm wrote:Whatever is easier for ever you wish to achieve. I'll contradict a post above. If you are not racing then energy saving doesn't matter. If you end up knackered at the top you can have a rest. No need to consider the long term .


Why is energy-saving only relevant to racing? Wasting energy with poor technique will not only prevent a win when racing but also reduce the miles you may need to go when commuting, touring or just shopping; exhaust you beyond the degree "pleasant" and into "knackered"; put you off cycling because it always feels too hard, and ....

Your advice is rather like saying "If you aren't an accountant, don't bother counting your money accurately".

Or put it another way: why be incompetent at something when you could easily become competent?

Cugel

peetee
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Re: Technique For Climbing Hills

Postby peetee » 6 Sep 2018, 9:57am

I would also add, never ever try to use momentum to get you up the first bit. Charging a hill almost always uses energy you will need further up, gets you nowhere near as far as you thought it would, puts you in the wrong gear where your muscles are straining followed by a hasty gear change that then results in too low a gear where your lungs can't keep up.
Maintaining a sustained effort is all about finding the sweets spot just below your aerobic threshold (fighting for air) and keeping you legs spinning and not bogging down. Finding your own pace, if you like. When I first started suplimenting my cycling fitness with swimming I struggled to do more than 20 lengths. As soon as I found my pace I was easily doing 100+ lengths within a couple of days.
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meic
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Re: Technique For Climbing Hills

Postby meic » 6 Sep 2018, 10:04am

I would agree with that as a strategy for long distance cycling. I do not agree with the never ever try and use your momentum to get up hills, for the reasons that you mention it will impact negatively on your long term ability within that particular ride but it will impact positively on your riding ability into the future.
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mmcnay
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Re: Technique For Climbing Hills

Postby mmcnay » 6 Sep 2018, 10:26am

I live in Norfolk so my experience is limited. But last month I went for a three day tour of Dorset, Wiltshire and Somerset. Hills galore, except for the levels of Somerset which reminded me of parts of Norfolk.
The first day I was cycling out of Beaminster in Dorset. I attached a hill like I sometimes do in Norfolk. I nearly had a heart attack a third of the way up. I ended up in bottom gear, going about fifty yards at a time, resting, then going on. Nearly fell off due to my recently aquired skills with the SPD pedals. But, got to the top. Hot and itchy, but with a beautiful view of the hills of Dorset.
That night in my B%B in Salisbury I Googled climbing hills. I got a thread here (Can't find it now.) that said 'low gear, take it easy pace yourself.' (paraphrase)
Next day there wasn't anything that steep and nasty as the one out of Beaminster, but I did find the going a lot easier by engaging lower gears and not knackering myself out to the point of burning lungs and legs and heart rate too high for a man in his fifties.
The day after that it was from Somerset, south of Glastonbury and into Dorset. There was one hill in particular that was a slog, but I made it up it without keeling over. I did stop half way up, but it had started raining and there was a tree handy. (At that point I got a message from my wife saying she had the promotion she'd been interviewed for, so happy stop that was.) The view was lovely. Although in the picture I took the road doesn't look that steep. The most satisfying thing was looking back at the road when I was at the very top and there was a sign that said 'Not suitable for motor vehicles'.
The last hill was up to Morcomblake from Whitchurch Canicorum. The hill is quite steep. I had been dreading it. But I got up it ok - without having to stop. By this time I was enjoying the hills. The slow and satisfying climbs, followed by the down hills. (With no-hands if not too steep.)
In short, my experience so far is 'take it easy in a low gear', enjoy the view at the top, then do a no-hands down hill for the sheer pleasure.

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[XAP]Bob
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Re: Technique For Climbing Hills

Postby [XAP]Bob » 6 Sep 2018, 10:27am

Main technique - keep the pedals turning.
If the pedals keep turning you'll make the top.
A shortcut has to be a challenge, otherwise it would just be the way. No situation is so dire that panic cannot make it worse.
There are two kinds of people in this world: those can extrapolate from incomplete data.

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Re: Technique For Climbing Hills

Postby gregoryoftours » 6 Sep 2018, 10:51am

It's an individual thing and various on flexibility etc, but if your saddle is not at optimal height and position for you it will make climbing hills in particular more difficult than it needs to be. If you've not already paid proper attention to it I would try making small adjustments and see if it makes thinks any easier or worse. Also if your bars are higher than the saddle you can't effectively pull on the bars to assist your legs making your legs take more of the strain.

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Audax67
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Re: Technique For Climbing Hills

Postby Audax67 » 6 Sep 2018, 11:20am

Spinning in a low gear is about the only option for long hills (e.g. Mt. Ventoux) but on shorties I find standing on the pedals much more fun. Someone (Richard Ballantyne?) once observed that standing on the pedals should feel like climbing stairs.

I generally use a mix so as to employ different muscle groups, or at least use my quads at a different angle and extension - and, as they put it here, so that the buttocks get a change of ideas.
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iandusud
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Re: Technique For Climbing Hills

Postby iandusud » 7 Sep 2018, 12:04pm

On long hills start on a gear that you can comfortably sustain. This is what I have found works well for me and what I find happens is that after 10 minutes or so I get into a rhythm where breathing and heart rate settle. The next phase is often feeling stronger and changing up a gear or two. When riding in a group I often find myself being left behind at the bottom of a big hill but riding past the "hares" nearer the top and arriving at the top feeling good whilst waiting for the others who arrive ready to collapse.

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Re: Technique For Climbing Hills

Postby Vorpal » 7 Sep 2018, 12:55pm

I got out of the habit of honking (aka standing) up hills when I was hauling kids around.

After a few years of not doing it, it seemed strange when I tried it again, but I think it was just lack of practice.

When I was a kid, I think I stood all the time because I was perpetually growing out of my saddle height.

Now, I don't stand much, but I do it when I need to get keep my cadence.

I agree with the advice above that low gears and spinning are better. However, as you are training to improve hill climbing, I would recommend alternating; doing some distance sitting, and then some standing, and then some sitting, etc. Or go up the hill once standing, and the next time sitting, etc.
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mattsccm
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Re: Technique For Climbing Hills

Postby mattsccm » 8 Sep 2018, 8:13am

Cugel. All I was doing was suggesting, in terms aimed not to take huge paragraphs,is that rest of us we can sit and rest if we want and that a racer will rarely want to knacker them self on a hill as that energy will may well be needed a few minutes or at most hours when the whole point of the exercise is to first over the line.
As I said , "contradicting the previous thread", that was as incorrect as you feel mine is. For the majority of us we can recover should we wish to . The difference in energy consumption between standing and sitting, the whole point of this thread, will not be enough to affect a ride much. You might be an hour later doing a hundred miles or you legs may ache for half an hour after the commute but thats largely unimportant.
You fail to take into account the point that many of us cycle for exercise. Most of my rides seem somewhat pointless to me if I don't get home knackered . A pootle in the woods doesn't improve my time trial times and looking at the scenery can be done as well at 20 mph as 5 or what ever. Not that the scenery changes enough on a day to day basis to make it important.Should I be on holiday somewhere different things are different.
My question is, what would you wish to achieve in the climbing of a hill besides getting to the top? Without that any answers to the thread can only be partial. :D

mattsccm
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Re: Technique For Climbing Hills

Postby mattsccm » 8 Sep 2018, 8:14am

Good article in Cyclist magazine a few months back

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Re: Technique For Climbing Hills

Postby Vorpal » 8 Sep 2018, 9:11am

I ride my bike for more than one reason. Sometimes, I'm just out enjoying myself. I want to pootle, stop and take pictures, etc.

Sometimes, I need to get to work on time, or get somewhere. I don't really cycle just for exercise, but the exercise is a factor in my decision to cycle.

Going to work in the morning, I have limited time, and want to go fairly quick. Also, it's almost all climbing; 300 metres of it, sometimes steep.

My technique varies with gearing. On my touring bike, I can do the entire climb to work, sitting and spinning. My road bike is geared higher, and there are a couple of really steep bits that are hard to do sitting, on my road bike. I usually end up standing on the pedals for those sections.
One might argue that it's geared too high for the task. But part of my reason for cycling to work is exercise, and part of the point is getting there fairly quickly. I could take my touring bike, but I don't usually, unless I need to carry a lot. Even then, I may still honk up the steep bits.
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Cugel
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Re: Technique For Climbing Hills

Postby Cugel » 8 Sep 2018, 9:17am

mattsccm wrote:Cugel. All I was doing was suggesting, in terms aimed not to take huge paragraphs,is that rest of us we can sit and rest if we want and that a racer will rarely want to knacker them self on a hill as that energy will may well be needed a few minutes or at most hours when the whole point of the exercise is to first over the line.
As I said , "contradicting the previous thread", that was as incorrect as you feel mine is. For the majority of us we can recover should we wish to . The difference in energy consumption between standing and sitting, the whole point of this thread, will not be enough to affect a ride much. You might be an hour later doing a hundred miles or you legs may ache for half an hour after the commute but thats largely unimportant.
You fail to take into account the point that many of us cycle for exercise. Most of my rides seem somewhat pointless to me if I don't get home knackered . A pootle in the woods doesn't improve my time trial times and looking at the scenery can be done as well at 20 mph as 5 or what ever. Not that the scenery changes enough on a day to day basis to make it important.Should I be on holiday somewhere different things are different.
My question is, what would you wish to achieve in the climbing of a hill besides getting to the top? Without that any answers to the thread can only be partial. :D


I'm all for diversity, even in cycling styles (perhaps especially in cycling styles). Feel free to get up a hill (or down again) in any fashion you please. :-)

But the question of the OP was, inherently, how do I best get up a hill. The short answer is: efficiently.

But there is a matter contained in your recommendation that we might notice. To learn how to climb efficiently, one may adopt the method appropriate (nay unavoidable) in every other kind of learning - making mistakes to find out why this way is not so good at that way. However, why would you want to continue doing anything badly when you might do it well? There's no virtue in remaining inept is there? It doesn't stop you getting exercise or looking at the scenery. You can still stop at the top to do so - and perhaps do so more readily as you ascend, since you won't be just a small straining heap of discomfort staring at the next 5 yards of road.

Another advantage of your recommendation, though, might be that hill-attacking and the consequent blowing-up does in fact have beneficial side effects in addition to that of learning how to be more efficient at climbing - you stress the body to the point where it has to adapt in anticipation of having to do that kind of thing again. When I were a lad, we all climbed steep hills inefficiently as we tended to be limited in the lower gear. 42X21 or 24 were often the lowest available. The result was inefficient climbing, perhaps involving weaving and even stopping ... but we all developed immense thigh strength and perhaps also a greater aerobic capacity. And a greater degree of psychological resilience to pain and suffering.

Not everyone wants or needs big thighs, lungs and willpower, true. Still, they can be useful in other contexts.

Cugel

drossall
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Re: Technique For Climbing Hills

Postby drossall » 8 Sep 2018, 9:40am

Cugel wrote:But the question of the OP was, inherently, how do I best get up a hill. The short answer is: efficiently.

I'm not actually convinced that "efficiently" is the way to get up your first big hill. The answer to that question is, "Any way you can". By all means, then, when you're reasonably sure of getting up, work on doing it more efficiently. However much, in theory, efficiency should improve your chances, it's a bit chicken-and-egg, and you need to have cracked the confidence side, and built a base of climbing the thing at all, before you can develop the efficiency. In any case, the break in the Tour de France needs to ride in a really efficient way in order not to be caught before the finish and, whilst they'll often pedal up hills that would have some of us struggling, I think you'll still see them out of the saddle at times.

So I would want to encourage the OP that it comes with practice, there is a significant element of believing that you can do it, you need to keep the pedals turning - so get out of the saddle on steep bits if you need to, and consider lower gears if you're not able to keep a reasonable cadence (pedalling rate) most of the way up. Believing that can do it may come from experience on other hills. I joked earlier about finding a bigger hill, so that this current hill seems small by comparison, but maybe ride some slightly easier hills so that this one is only a bit more. And just keep trying! Also, as you do more general riding, the additional fitness will help on hills. I'm a terrible climber, but we all improve over time from where we started.