help improve my hill climbing ability

General cycling advice ( NOT technical ! )
1 cog short of a bike

help improve my hill climbing ability

Postby 1 cog short of a bike » 3 Feb 2007, 12:54pm

Can anyone help? :roll:
I wish to strengthen my leg muscles for cycling so I have been working my hamstrings and quadriceps at the gym using a weights machine.

My question is; are these the right muscle groups and can I do anything else to help improve my hill climbing ability?


Postby reohn2 » 3 Feb 2007, 3:18pm

The best way to get up hills fast is to keep going up hills, and think "round" when pedlaling
Forgot to mention,you won't go up them fast if your a heavy rider.
Last edited by reohn2 on 3 Feb 2007, 4:04pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Postby Mick F » 3 Feb 2007, 3:28pm

Yep. Agree.

Get on your bike and climb those hills! I don't think there's much else you can do, 'cept perhaps climbing stairs or speed walking up steep hills. You need to get the thighs powered up.

Mick F. Cornwall

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Postby thirdcrank » 3 Feb 2007, 7:39pm

I agree with the main points made by r2 + MickF:

1/The big problem fighting gravity is your weight.
2/Practice makes perfect (or at least better) and it also helps get the weight down (see 1/above)


I always understood that your back was the main thing in climbing, but the arms also have a part to play. The mind is important. Going up hill fast is going to hurt, if only because fast implies as fast as you can go. Don't look to the bit of road you can see - think further ahead. Riding with somebody a bit stronger than you will spur you into greater things.

When you start to refine things, cadence - your pedalling speed - is the key. On some steep hills, you may end up riving the bike just to reach the top but otherwise try to twirl up in a gear that means you are pedalling at your best pedalling rate. As you get stronger, you might achieve the same rate in a bit higher gear, and hey presto, you will be climbing quicker. And if you are trying hard, it still hurts.


Postby Dai » 3 Feb 2007, 9:39pm

Come to the Brecon Beacons for a cycling holiday - two weeks here and you'll be ready to ascend Everest!

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Postby David » 4 Feb 2007, 9:17am

Depends on the hills you want to climb. Having a steep hill to climb is great, there's a clear defined target to aim for and you can pace yourself and feel you've achieved something. Having a series of undulations where it's just a slog can be soul destroying and it's difficult to prepare or train for that.

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Postby piedwagtail91 » 4 Feb 2007, 8:16pm

try adding deadlifts. don't use a heavy weight but do lots of reps. this uses all the muscles you'll use climbing, legs,back , arms and shoulders. you need to tone your upper body so's you don't start to feel it in those areas before your legs give out.
doing high reps will also give your heart and lungs a good workout.make sure you use a good tecnique so as not to risk injury.
if you want to give yourself a good workout away from the bike try running up sand dunes! (similar leg action to climbing out of the saddle)or as above you can really make your legs hurt just going up and down stairs, again keep the reps high and add weight or reps as it gets easier.
third crank says it all for on the bike stuff.

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Postby thirdcrank » 5 Feb 2007, 5:24pm

One important point. Although one beauty of cycling is that it has many forms and many people are in more than one, this forum is hardly a specialist training forum. If you want to get really into this, i.e. beyond the level of the best way to improve your climbing is by climbing, have a look at the Cycling Plus forum (run by the mag of the same name.) They do have a specific section for this sort of thing.

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Postby piedwagtail91 » 5 Feb 2007, 5:59pm

don't overdo it at the gym though. you don't want to put any weight on,muscle or otherwise as it's all extra weight to really want to concentrate on high reps to make your heart and lungs more efficient. don't do low reps heavy weights. big legs might look good but they won't get you up hills if your heart and lungs can't drive them.


Postby gaterz1981 » 5 Feb 2007, 10:13pm

Spinning and rhythm are the techniques best to master to get you up a hill. Once into a good rhythm your legs take even strain throughout the stroke and you can settle into a great breathing pattern. Also its best to always take it to your limits, thats the only way to improve.

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Postby thirdcrank » 6 Feb 2007, 10:21pm

It occurs to me nobody has said anything about gear ratios. Depending on what sort of bike you have, you may have plenty of low gears but maybe not.

Just after I retired I began riding with a female former colleague. She was young enough to be my daughter and infinitely fitter than me but she was not an experienced cyclist. She could not keep up with me on any sort of slope and had to get off to walk on any really steep hill. Her bike had a bottom gear of 42 x 23 which is about 50 inches. I had 36 x 28 about 35 inches. I fitted her a 39 inner and a block down to 28 (37 inches) and needless to say, her hill climbing improved dramatically.

All sorts of things come into play: if you ride all the time in East Anglia you do not need the gears to be as low as if you lived in Pateley Bridge or similar but overgearing is a big mistake when climbing.

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Postby crazyace » 6 Feb 2007, 10:57pm

It's all down to your power to weight ratio, and it's quicker to lose wieght than to increase ones strength. The lighter you are the higher the gear you can manage with the same cadence therefore climbing faster. All the best climbers are small. Having said that you still have to be fit.
Cheers Alan.
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Cycle and Recycle.

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Postby 1 cog short of a bike » 7 Feb 2007, 10:20am

Thank you all for the advice.
I'm about 90Kg in weight (5' 11") and I know that I need to drop some more. I have over the last 9 months added muscle and lost fat so I guess I need to keep working at that.

One thing I did not mention is my daily commute bike is a heavy steel frame hybrid and I carry luggage on my daily ride to the station (8 miles). I really notice the difference when riding my lighter touring bike which underlines the difference it would make to shed a few more pounds.

I'm not going OTT at the gym as I tend to do 15 reps and 3 sets when using free weights or the machines. My aim is a little increase in strength and tone rather than bulking out like some you see.

Sorry got to share this one... it makes me laugh whe I see guys down the gym with huge arms and shoulders and weeny legs :lol: They need to get out a cycle :)

Thanks again all.

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Postby thirdcrank » 7 Feb 2007, 10:51am

Robert Millar, the only British rider to wil the Grand Prix de la Montagne in the TdF whenever asked, would always point out that the difference between the lightest racing bike and a heavy roadster was less than the surplus fat carried by most people.

If you are commuting, be ruthless what you carry and check everyday. I once found I had a four pack of baked beans in the bottom of the panniers on my shopper and they had been there several weeks. Probably an excellent training aid but a definite brake on performance.

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Postby essexman » 7 Feb 2007, 11:31am

So an approach i was taught for long climbs:
-Keep a steady rythm ie use those gears
-Work only on the legs
-Relax the grip on your handlebars
-Maximise ease of breathing: sit upright, keep your head up. You have to concentrate on clearing the lactic acid from your legs as fast as efficiently as possible.

Think about all those things and it helps take your mind off the fact that your legs hurt. Its aerobic fitness and low weight that gets you up hills, not leg strength.

Alt., learn how to count in a foreign languages and count up as you go up the hill. Its great for taking your mind of the pain.

Once you get to the top, change back to an appropriate gear quickly, i'm really bad at struggling along on the flat cos i dotn change up quickly enough.

Short hills\humps , hit em hard and fast, use your arms and whole body to pump yourself over the hump.