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-   -   5% grade for 1 mile - whats your approach? (https://www.bikeforums.net/showthread.php?t=860927)

clones2 12-04-12 12:52 PM

5% grade for 1 mile - whats your approach?
 
A hypothetical 5% grade for one mile...assuming the grade is pretty consistent... what is your approach to climb this?

http://app.strava.com/segments/643658 - I'm between 20 and 30.

I just can't seem to find the sweet spot on this kind of climb. My times seem to be these best when I approach the bottom fairly hard and maintain as much speed as I can, say 18mph before my legs start to burn, then go up a gear or two. I will stay in my larger ring and try to pedal as big a gear as I can but try to stay around 80 rpm. I have a 50/34 - 11/28.

My issue seems to be that even though I can avg 15 mph for the entire hill... I have trouble finding a gear and cadence where I can sit for most of the hill and maintain around 13-14mph for the middle 80% of the climb. The first 10% I carry speed into the climb, and the last 10% I'll be out of the saddle pushing over the top. I usually end up having to get up out the saddle say 5 times to attack the hill a bit and keep my speed up, or else I drop towards single digits...

It's very inefficient and I tire out very quickly...

I'm curious what your personal approaches would be for this fairly consistent grade over a mile... Would most of you stick in your larger ring (50 or 53) for this type of climb?

mprelaw 12-04-12 12:59 PM

If you stay on your 50 ring, the lowest gear ratio you can turn is 50/28 = 1.785

Assuming you have a 23, 34/23 = 1.48, if you use the small ring. And go even lower, although you shouldn't have to go all the way to 34/28.

My lowest gear in the back is a 25. At 50/25, that's 2.0. I get the same ratio on my 34/17, and I have a 19, a 21, a 23 and a 25 left to use if I need them.

Can I get up a 5% grade at 50/25? Most likely I can, but I get up them a lot easier using 34/21, for example.

Don't insist on staying in the big ring.

Bah Humbug 12-04-12 01:03 PM

Carry in some speed, start standing in the big ring, stop gears before it burns too hard and then cruise up in a sitting gear.

Seattle Forrest 12-04-12 01:06 PM

It's not a race.

datlas 12-04-12 01:07 PM

Find a gear you can keep up for the entire climb, OK to drop cadence a smidge to say 60-70. If getting tired towards the end, stand up for 30 seconds for extra power.

banerjek 12-04-12 01:14 PM

The standard approach for dealing with hills is to start at the bottom and work your way up....

Your approach is going to vary with what you need to do after the hill. Hammering for one mile isn't a great idea if you have more than 100 to go. But if you don't have much else afterwards, why not? Standing might not be efficient, but it allows you to rest your spinning muscles for a bit and it's perfectly legit to do this frequently. As a matter of fact, cresting while standing isn't a bad idea since you'll want to spin on the other side.

MrTuner1970 12-04-12 01:31 PM

For finding your own sweet spot, there's these wonderful things called hill repeats. ;) You get to figure out what works best...for you.

My approach to climbing is taken from various training books I've read. Works well. Don't start hammering at the beginning of the climb, as you'll burn up. Find a gear that seems almost too easy. It will get harder in the middle of the hill, which is where the bulk of your work and time will be. For the last 1/3 of the climb, drop to a gear (or two) harder--not easier. Stand to climb, and power to the top.

clones2 12-04-12 01:32 PM


Originally Posted by Seattle Forrest (Post 15014775)
It's not a race.

It's always a race! :-)

roca rule 12-04-12 01:37 PM

I don't know about this hill. I would say that it is not steep or long enough to justify standing. The way that I would do it is:
Start with some momentum. If you have a flat before ramp your speed all the way to 17mph.
Once on the hill stay on your desired cadence and great for the duration of the whole climb.
If you must stand on the pedals do it at the very beginning our at the very end.
Basically you want to go into time trail mode. the kom is 4:10 which is very doable.
Now about a mile from my house I have this 2.4 mile climb with an averages grade of under 6% and the kom its 15.2mph now that is a though kom.

caloso 12-04-12 01:40 PM

There's no one right way to get over a hill. However from a training perspective, if I had a 5% mile long hill, I'd do all sorts of things: standing low cadence - high force intervals in the big ring; seated high cadence, low force intervals in my smallest gear; steady power intervals till failure; etc. You could hurt yourself all sorts of ways on a hill like that.

carpediemracing 12-04-12 02:08 PM

I used to live near a similar hill, and my first road race took me up that hill. I got shelled by the two guys with me (and they won the race).

Basically you have some 4 minute power number that your body can put down. It's a concrete number that is affected by things like rest, prior efforts in ride, etc. If you go up that mile hill at 15 mph, you're limited in output by your 4 minute power number.

To go faster you need to either lower the weight of the bike/rider unit or come closer to your actual 4 minute number.

It's very hard to buy significant weight loss on a bike - in fact unless you're already in the 7-8% body fat range I'd say that it's basically just a hobby, getting a lighter bike. You can ditch your full water bottles, trim down what you carry on the bike, etc, but you're looking at a few pounds at best. If you can lose 10 or 20 lbs from your body then you're going to see a huge difference. I dropped from the 180-190 range to the 160 range going into 2010's season. Even though I lost about 10% of my power across the board I was a much, much better rider. Unfortunately I am back at 180 but I saw the light :)

For me, to hit a higher percentage of a given power/time period, I need external motivation - other riders, a car, etc. I also prefer using big gears and longer cranks. I'm not tall at 5'7" and my legs are short for my height (inseam 29") but I run 175s and I can kill it on short power climbs. I roll big gears, standing, and it's awesome until I explode.

I noticed that even though you state that the grade is consistent there are actually some steeper bits and less steep bits. One trick I've learned is that your heart rate tends to mirror cadence changes. In other words if you settle into a rhythm on a climb, pedaling at some given rpm, your legs will be helping pump blood at some predictable rate. If you suddenly increase your cadence, even by 3-4 rpm, your heart rate will start to elevate. If you're already at the limit you may blow up. This is why riders blow up at the top of a climb - they get to the top holding a high but sustainable effort then explode as they pedal faster when the grade eases. They think, "Oh, wow, I timed it just right" when in fact it's "Dude, you just blew yourself up".

To counter this phenomenon you can shift up before your cadence increases 4 rpm (that's what I found works). You'll be bogging down a bit because you'll be pedaling a climbing cadence when it's not quite as steep, but when the grade kicks up again you can shift back into the lower gear.

The above technique will help prevent your heart rate from going into the red zone if you're already within 1-2 bpm of it.

That with weight loss, external motivation (maybe climb to a given landmark, like a mailbox or sign or something, and keep repeating until you're at the top). If you can push hard at the top then you saved too much in the middle. Go harder next time.

deacon mark 12-04-12 02:08 PM

I would find a gear I can sit in as far as possible even the whole grade. Then at the top stand and power down the grade as fast as possible. Going slow is never a problem, going down a fast decent takes more bike skill and fun/guts. I have been afraid looking down a 5% grade but never looking up the grade to climb.

clones2 12-04-12 02:24 PM


Originally Posted by carpediemracing (Post 15014986)
I dropped from the 180-190 range to the 160 range going into 2010's season. Even though I lost about 10% of my power across the board I was a much, much better rider. Unfortunately I am back at 180 but I saw the light :)

For me, to hit a higher percentage of a given power/time period, I need external motivation - other riders, a car, etc. I also prefer using big gears and longer cranks. I'm not tall at 5'7" and my legs are short for my height (inseam 29") but I run 175s and I can kill it on short power climbs. I roll big gears, standing, and it's awesome until I explode.

Good info. Thanks. I'm just over 6'1", under 175. I would say my max minimum is 165, and that would be as light as I could ever go...bike is 15lbs 13 oz. ;-)

Interesting that you have success with 175mm cranks. At my height, 172.5mm seems a little small sometimes...although I'm guessing a move to 175mm wouldn't be very noticeable... except to my wallet for a new ultegra crankset. Thanks.

pgjackson 12-04-12 02:36 PM

Ride that sum-***** over and over and over (hill repeats). I have a 1-mile 8% grade by my house. Actually, you can't leave my neighborhood without going up it. I HATED this hill until I decided to master it. It will never get easy, but I have been able to drop a couple of gears since I first started and now it is not such a burden. The only way to get better at hills is to ride them over and over.

Clipped_in 12-04-12 02:46 PM


Originally Posted by pgjackson (Post 15015076)
Ride that sum-***** over and over and over (hill repeats). ...The only way to get better at hills is to ride them over and over.

So simplistic, but so true! :thumb:

jsutkeepspining 12-04-12 03:02 PM

personally for me when im trying to go as fast as possible up a hill i ride avery constant pace (i've included a kom i won where i rode at a very constant power. the power drops a lot becuase of the spider flexing, and not reading the magnet, but just look at the last minute versus the first minute. theres a difference, but not nearly as much as a difference as a lot of people would expect.) also i think i would climb the hill you pointed out in about the same time as old mill, so its a similar power graph.

http://app.strava.com/rides/17348655#318182793

Carbonfiberboy 12-04-12 03:26 PM

Unless I'm with a group that attacks the bottom of the hill, I don't do that on that long a hill. You're going into the anaerobic power range and then paying for that later. I may pick up the gear and cadence to warm myself up for the hill, IOW bring up the power and HR early, then sit and hold that power and HR as you go down through the gears. As you warm up on the hill, you should be able to increase your speed/power/HR. You want to climb the top half of the hill faster than the bottom half. Just sit it. Don't come up. You're too big for that to be efficient. If you don't have/trust your instrumentation, gradually increase effort until you are breathing deeply as fast as is practical, just shy of panting. Gradually accelerate in the saddle as you near the top. About 100 yards from the top, come up and go hard. You want to reach maximum speed right as you go over the top. Makes a difference in your descent time.

Everyone has a fastest climbing cadence. My long hill cadence (say 3000') is 78. On a 1 mile hill it might be a little lower. You have to play with it to see what's fastest for you. In any case, you'll be fastest in the saddle. On a big climb, I'll get up about every 10 minutes, but you should be up the hill by then. You'll probably do best in the small ring.

Bob Ross 12-04-12 03:31 PM


Originally Posted by datlas (Post 15014777)
Find a gear you can keep up for the entire climb

I would disagree; ime success (or gratification) is more easily achieved if you find a rhythm you can keep up for the entire climb...which is sort of like saying "find a cadence you can keep up for the entire climb" only it's not so dogmatic.

Going into the bottom of the hill too hot'n'hard is a recipe for failure...but so is going into the bottom of the hill too easy. Go into the bottom with modest effort and as much momentum as you can muster, and then as soon as you feel the tension in your quads start to increase, drop down one cog in the back. Keep calm and carry on, until you once again feel the tension in your quads start to increase -- and this could be 45 seconds after you last downshifted, or it could be 3 seconds later, doesn't matter -- drop down one more cog in the back. Keep this up, where you use your gearing to try and maintain the same perceived effort in your legs. Your cadence will stay more or less the same, but I don't advocate getting too hung up on cadence, it's more about getting your body into a groove that just feels like you could dance all night. Or at least until the top of this hypothetical one mile climb.

What useually winds up happening when I take hills this way is A) by the time I'm 75-80% of the way to the top I realize "Jeez, I've got a lot left in the tank!" and I can pop out of the saddle and sprint the rest of the way to the top (if that's my goal) ...but also B) I've passed all those other cyclists who went hard into the bottom of the hill long before I even get to that 75-80% of the way to the top point.

Drew Eckhardt 12-04-12 03:34 PM


Originally Posted by clones2 (Post 15014707)
A hypothetical 5% grade for one mile...assuming the grade is pretty consistent... what is your approach to climb this?

Assuming this wasn't part of some longer ride where I had to be fresh for the rest:

Without instrumentation apart from my Mk 1 eyeballs the grade (it's obviously not a 10% hill where I'd stand) would suggest I sit and spin and end up in a gear that felt right for the hardest possible 5-10 minute interval around 90 to 100 RPM. I'd change cogs as needed as the grade changed. If I over-estimated what it would take to get to the top I'd finish harder. If I was very wrong on the grade I'd shift until I ran out of gears, dropped much below 80 RPM, and started standing. There'd be no burn for the first couple minutes but it'd be somewhere between unpleasant and painful by the top.

With my power meter I'd try for 240W-250W (best 10 minutes is 245W, 5 minutes 252W) and the same cadence depending on how fresh I was.

As a 190 pound fat guy with 20 pounds of bike 240W would mean 10.0 MPH using my 30x21 (50-39-30 x 14-23 straight block) at 94 RPM.

At my 145 pound racing weight it'd be 11.9 MPH using 39x23 at 89 RPM.

Obviously you don't have my body or gears and what works very well for me may be less optimal for you.

At any point in time each of us has power limited by fitness and freshness. Trying to get where you're going faster will mean you run out and get there slower.


I just can't seem to find the sweet spot on this kind of climb. My times seem to be these best when I approach the bottom fairly hard and maintain as much speed as I can, say 18mph before my legs start to burn,
Bad idea. You'll have the highest average speed maintaining a steady effort you can just barely maintain to the top.

The issue is that lactic acid accumulation is proportional to power output raised to the fourth power once you cross your lactate threshold.

Go just 10% too hard and your endurance will be 30% less than you need.


then go up a gear or two.
Likely a bad idea too. You have less endurance at lower cadences and may not work as hard because perceived effort is higher.

_Training and Racing with a Power Meter_ has an anecdote about a racer who got dropped every time he spent over five minutes at a power he could sustain for an hour when his gearing choice forced a cadence below 70 RPM.

I do a little better over 90 RPM than under, although over I can ride 3x10 at or past threshold on consecutive days while too much under I can't at the same fitness and stress balance.

Looigi 12-04-12 03:35 PM


Originally Posted by caloso (Post 15014893)
There's no one right way to get over a hill. However from a training perspective, if I had a 5% mile long hill, I'd do all sorts of things: standing low cadence - high force intervals in the big ring; seated high cadence, low force intervals in my smallest gear; steady power intervals till failure; etc. You could hurt yourself all sorts of ways on a hill like that.


This. You could also do it with only the right leg, only the left leg, in the drops seated, in drops standing, no hands...

cvall91 12-04-12 03:49 PM

When I climb, I usually just sprint up every hill. Has worked for me so far.

caloso 12-04-12 03:52 PM


Originally Posted by cvall91 (Post 15015309)
When I climb, I usually just sprint up every hill. Has worked for me so far.

Location noted.

Ultraslide 12-04-12 04:37 PM

Hit the bottom with some speed - but not top speed, to prevent early flame out. I am light at 5 11 and 150 so my technique is to run a high gear/med cadence and gradually increase my cadence (95-100) until I am ready for the next higher gear. If I need some recovery seconds I just stay in my current gear usually around 80-85 rpm. If the road flattens for a bit I shift to a harder gear and stand for some cheap speed and then back to the saddle to climb. Rinse. Repeat.

It helps to know the relationship between your hr and cadence.

carl_h 12-04-12 04:38 PM

Hills in Miami? I can sprint up those, too!

ericm979 12-04-12 04:55 PM

I do a lot of 5 min climbing intervals. My best ones have been done by starting a little harder than I think I can handle for 5 minutes and standing up and increasing the pace when I feel myself flagging. Being mad helps. It's too short an effort to allow any rest. But you can't go out too hard, or go too hard during the effort, or you will have to ease up to recover.

Your tactic of going really hard at the beginning is not the fastest way for the entire segment. Back off just a little.

If you do a lot of them you'll get better at pacing, and of course you'll be better trained for ~5 min efforts.


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