I'm suffering on hills

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I'm suffering on hills

Postby Sebby303 » 22 Oct 2019, 7:23pm

Hello, this is my first time posting on this forum and i would normally battle through but i need some guidance. I'm a young 22 year old avid cyclist who rides a good number of miles a week ( about 50 to 100+). But because of university over the last three years i have lowered my mileage and put on upper body muscle and weight, I currently weigh 13 stone and 6'4 height. But after university i seem to struggle on every hill above 5% with other cyclists commenting on my pedalling being not smooth. I Don't know really what to do to improve my pedalling and regain my former climbing which was great.

As well I don't like to blame my equipment but my bike is a 56 frame Scott foil 30 2013 edition which i know if definitely not pro fit and giving me the best efficiency. I don't know if my bike fit and components are affecting my climbing ability but i know i am not as comfortable climbing as i used to be when i was 18.

Any help would be appreciated because it is frustrating not to be climbing to the ability i know i have.

Many thanks

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Re: I'm suffering on hills

Postby toontra » 22 Oct 2019, 8:14pm

The cliche about improving climbing is usually to climb more hills! If you are doing trainer/spin bike stuff that would equate to high resistance/low cadence, but better still find a local hill or hills and do repeats.

13 stone and 6'4 height sounds about right. A 56 frame does sound too small but should be rideable provided there is enough adjustability in the stem/seat-post/saddle.

I base most of my training around hill work. Good to try and learn to love hills and not let them become a psychological block. Avoidance only makes the problem worse.

As you've been a decent climber in the past that should give you encouragement. A bit of extra upper body weight shouldn't be a problem if most of it is muscle!

Good luck!

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Re: I'm suffering on hills

Postby LinusR » 22 Oct 2019, 8:37pm

If you are struggling to keep up with your friends on a hill your pedalling is unlikely to be smooth. It is because your struggling to keep up that the your pedalling goes to pieces. Not the other way around. So don't worry about it. I am 6 foot 1 and only a bit lighter than you (but 35 years older!) and I found hills to be much easier when I was over a stone lighter (surprise, surprise!). At your age you will very quickly get better with more riding. As previous comments have said. Ride more hills. I ride a 58cm frame. You need something at least that size.

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Re: I'm suffering on hills

Postby foxyrider » 22 Oct 2019, 9:29pm

When you are young you don't even think about hills a few years down the line, especially with a break from riding and gravity suddenly becomes a big issue! For most of my life i've lived on the edge of the Pennines but i still can't climb for toffee! Don't get me wrong, i can get up hills, i even seek out mountain passes to conquer but a climber i'll never be, i'm just built wrong, something that maturity doesn't help.

Best advice i ever had was 'climb at your own pace', trying to keep up with the anti grav brigade is just a hiding to nothing as you fight to keep up but ultimately will fall behind. That doesn't mean you can't improve your technique, different hill profiles need different techniques of course so work on finding your climbing cadence, practice riding sat still - heaving about like a bag of frogs is inefficient to say the least! And remember your breathing, keep it steady, you don't need to put yourself in oxygen debt to get to the top! (well maybe on some of the Cumbrian passes, see below)

But mostly just tell yourself you can do it - so what if you stop for a breather halfway up Holme Moss, you don't get a prize for 'cleaning' every climb (i can actually do the north side of the 'Moss quicker if i stop for a breather than if i slog on!)

Of course i'm assuming you are having difficulty on hills, if its on rolling bumps i would suggest a visit to the doctor might be in order.

Your bike does sound quite small, how did you end up with that size? its quite possible to get the saddle height right even on that size but bar position and even width are less easy to 'size up'. :P
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Re: I'm suffering on hills

Postby Polisman » 23 Oct 2019, 8:33am

Where I live there are a lot of long, not particularly steep, but challenging hills. The secret, for me at least is to try and break the hill down into sections and tackle it piece by piece. My favourite climb is about 4km bottom to the top.

The first part is a couple of rolling, fairly steep humps, Wych need getting out of the saddle, but I can sail over them now. The second part is a long, low gradient climb on a good surface. The third, is a rather twisty, steeper grade on a rougher surface, and the summit is a relatively smooth ride through three corners, steep at the very top.

By breaking the climb down into sections, there's no need for panic, and with each section your confidence grows. Once you've learned to do this on a familiar climb, you can translate it to any hill. The secret is not to panic at the bottom.

By taking the climb this way, I've been able to shave 4 minutes off my first attempt, and now hardly even think about it. Also if riding with a group never be tempted to follow someone else's pace, as most inexperienced riders tend to smash the first part and die halfway up, often creeping over the top in exhaustion! Climbing hills is a bit like life, you can't absorb it all in one big lump, take it in small bites, and before you know it you won't even think to worry about it ever again :)

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Re: I'm suffering on hills

Postby ANTONISH » 23 Oct 2019, 10:30am

What gears are you using ?
Possibly you would do better on something lower than you are currently using.
Also the advice of keeping to your own pace is good.
Many cyclists start a climb too fast - try taking it very easy to start - when you are riding within your comfort zone you can try riding a little harder and see how you feel - it's quite hard to get back from going into the red too soon.

"Hills are the cyclist's friend" (Sean Kelly)

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Re: I'm suffering on hills

Postby Carlton green » 24 Oct 2019, 12:08am

I would agree with all that has been said said far but would like to add some comments from a slightly different angle.

At various times over the years my cycling fitness has reduced, basically I didn’t get out on my bike enough or even at all and consequently muscles and muscle memory diminished. It takes time and miles to get back that fitness so just gently train by your self and don’t over do things - slow and steady improvement is a good target to aim for, gently pace yourself.

The other thing that’s worth doing is having a real good look at the mechanics of your bike, is everything in the best possible condition? I’ve never run an expensive bike, and never expect to either, but my bikes have nearly always been in near perfect working order and it makes a big difference to how easy they go up hills.

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Re: I'm suffering on hills

Postby Marcus Aurelius » 24 Oct 2019, 6:03am

If you want to get better at hills, as the saying goes, do more hills. Personally, I find plotting routes with a few hills in, and doing the routes repeatedly, helps a lot. To get maximum effect, plot a route that includes a few steady gradient hills, and ‘inverse ski jump’ profile hills, but make the variable gradient hills, later in the route. Try and give yourself a couple of miles in between the hills that are relatively flat. Just repeatedly riding up and down the same hill, really won’t help much.

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Re: I'm suffering on hills

Postby Polisman » 24 Oct 2019, 8:01am

+1 for the bike maintenance. A worn chain /cassette /chainring can really sap energy, as can under inflated tyres and wheels that are out of true.

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Re: I'm suffering on hills

Postby Tangled Metal » 24 Oct 2019, 8:40am

Compared to other posters here I know very little about training and getting faster. I'm more a utility, touring and leisure cyclist but a few things came to my mind.

I'm 6'5" tall, 13 stone 7 lbs and ride a 60cm bike. Your bike frame seems too small to me but I'm far from knowing enough to be sure of that. I'm also 46 and have been slowing down a lot over the last two years so not someone who is doing things right myself.

Second point is I'm the type of rider on hills who uses higher gears than most. It comes from years of walking, climbing and resistance work that resulted in very strong leg muscles. I have no idea if I'm faster climbing because of it but I can power up pretty much anything I've tried. Including steep, Scottish hills with full touring loads, heavily loaded trailer and front derailleur stuck in the 50t chainring and a 25t big cog at the back. I put that down to strong leg muscles.

Perhaps go to the gym to increase leg strength might help. Could you have lost muscle strength in the legs as you increased upper body strength? Just an idea after reading the comment about pedalling smoothness dropping because you're struggling instead of being the cause. If muscle strength in legs is contributing then it's possibly an easy thing to address.

Third point, I grew up near the top of a hill. The easiest way up was 1 in 5 hill but that wasn't a nice riding direction. So at the end of every ride I had a 1 in 4 hill to climb. It's certainly a good way to learn to cope with hills better. Tiredness with 1 in 4, well it helped me get better on hills.

Good luck with finding your way to better hill climbing.

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Re: I'm suffering on hills

Postby hamster » 24 Oct 2019, 9:39am

Saving weight and all that stuff on the bike has little effect. If you save 3kg on your bike (like going to a top-end racing machine) you will only take 3% or so off the weight, which is peanuts.
The best approach is to improve the engine. Riding and aerobic conditioning will solve things; you will also be lighter at the end of it.

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Re: I'm suffering on hills

Postby pjclinch » 24 Oct 2019, 3:43pm

When I was your age I would attack all hills in a big gear and power up them out of the saddle, swinging from side to side.

Then I took up touring, and found that if you tried that with a loaded bike then the luggage tends to swing slightly out of phase with the rider and it all goes very worng very fast, so I learned to sit down and spin lower gears. That made my climbing a lot smoother.

Not knowing what your climbing style is I don't know if you're trying to mash over-sized gears, but it's a possibility. If you can climb in the saddle and stay inside your aerobic threshold (preferably at about the same cadence, so change down to keep it roughly the same) then it's simply a case of supplying the same power you do on the flat and going a little slower to account for the climb. If that's not what you're doing, give it a try. Doesn't suit everyone. Note that Alberto Contador was never a smooth climber, but that didn't stop him being as good as it gets.

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