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How to take Hills?

Old 08-12-19, 05:46 AM
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bygeorge
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How to take Hills?

Should I consider running at a hill and downshifting all the way up it! Or should I consider what gear I will need to ascend it and shift down before starting? I have noticed that I can keep up my pace racing at the hill in third ring and downshifting to second ring is pretty smooth but downshifting to first ring and clunking through the gears seems hard on the change and if I slow my pace to let it shift smooth I loose my momentum??
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Old 08-12-19, 05:51 AM
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How big is this hill? 8 percent for 1 mile? 10 percent for 1000 feet?

You'd do well to subscribe the GCN videos on YouTube. They have a series of tutorials on how to do exactly what you ask. And they demonstrate the techniques and explain why one might choose one over another, given certain circumstances.

I'd say to determine a cadence that you want to maintain during all portions of this hill, and find the gear(s) that permit that cadence. Don't blow up too soon.
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Old 08-12-19, 07:34 AM
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You want to carry all the speed you can up a hill. Don't slow yourself just to downshift and don't downshift too soon. Once on the hill and speeds start dropping, just momentarily ease up on the pedals to allow for quick downshifts as needed. Work through the cassette between shifting the rings to keep your chain line happy.
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Old 08-12-19, 09:15 AM
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Shift early, shift often. Sit and spin.
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Old 08-12-19, 09:43 AM
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Whatever gear you select on a climb, be sure to let off the power when downshifting from the big ring. If you are pedaling hard when downshifting, there's a possibility you will get "chain suck", and that can pull off your rear derailleur.

I had that happen to me twice, at the beginning of a hill.
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Old 08-12-19, 09:58 AM
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Think about your ability to uptake oxygen.

Way back when I had somebody advise me to ease up to a hill that you don't think you can pedal up, shift into your lowest gear combination and pedal as slowly as you are able and still stay upright. I think the theory is to ride as slowly as possible to giver your body more time to intake the oxygen that you need to make it up the hill. I used to have to do it that way and I made it up some hills that I wasn't sure I was capable.
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Old 08-12-19, 10:05 AM
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I have (had) two approaches to handling hills.

If it's a roller I take a run at it, go hard, downshift as I go up and recover over the top.

If it's a long hill I tend to find a comfortable gear and cadence to the place I am and adjust according to my breathing. I always (attempt) to stay one ring off the biggest. If I fall back to the biggest ring I try to find a place where the grade drops a little to take a rest.
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Old 08-12-19, 10:09 AM
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Originally Posted by leob1 View Post
Shift early, shift often. Sit and spin.
Counterpoint: climbing out of the saddle is way more badass and fun.
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Old 08-12-19, 10:11 AM
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On shorter hills you can sometimes power up in a higher gear to get it over with quicker. You won't know until you try!

On longer hills enter with some speed and downshift as needed. Being able to execute a shift without loosing momentum is key. Practice makes perfect.
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Old 08-12-19, 10:13 AM
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The easiest answer is you wind up doing enough of them that you don't have to ask the question.

For a more serious response:
The way the question is phrased, that sounds more like a strategy for going over "rollers". I consider a roller something I can be over in about 15 sec to a minute. In that case, the suggestion to watch some GCN videos is good. They'll cover it. If it is actually a "hill" you'll wind up in range of one to two gears you'll use the entire hill within the first bit of the hill. You won't be changing through all 11 cogs from bottom to top. Unless it's a really funky hill.

As for going big to small, do it while you're losing speed but somewhere in the middle of the cassette. You don't want to have to do it as the last gasp and the going is getting tough and you have a lot of force in the chain line. It'll shift nicer.
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Old 08-12-19, 10:47 AM
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There's too many variables to develop a single strategy, and depending on conditions, I might handle the very same hill one way on day one and another on day two. Where's the wind? What's the temperature? How tired am I? Is there a truck belching smoke? Did traffic time so that I was able to carry momentum into the hill?

Basically, try everything enough times so you're comfortable with the technique or know you'll never get comfortable. Do this enough times, and I think you'll develop an instinct where you know what works best for you when you see the hill. While you're learning, you won't break your bike, and probably the only thing you're risking is some slightly embarrassing walks up a hill.

Lots of really good pointers on this thread. As always, riding is more an art than a science, and you need to learn what works for you.
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Old 08-12-19, 10:50 AM
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Originally Posted by ThermionicScott View Post
Counterpoint: climbing out of the saddle is way more badass and fun.
Especially if you can do it in the drops. More badass than fun, perhaps.
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Old 08-12-19, 10:57 AM
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full gas man
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Old 08-12-19, 01:09 PM
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I've used several methods:
  • Mash big gear. Saves my lungs so I don't run out of breath. Works until my mighty guads are on fire and I grind to a halt.
  • Spin tiny gear. Saves my guads for the town line sprint. Works until my lungs are on fire and I grind to a halt.
  • Work out on hills, doing repeats methodically until I get into shape. To my shock and amazement, this actually worked.

Semi-seriously, which is all the seriously I can manage, it depends on the bike and group (if it's a group ride). If it's a fast group close together I avoid standing for climbs -- it can disrupt the flow and even a small wobble or side-to-side rocking can be risky, so I make sure nobody nearby will be affected. I kinda eyeball what the other riders are doing if I don't already know them well. In slower casual groups I leave plenty of room around me so it's okay to stand to pedal. I don't sprint or try to pass people on climbs unless there's plenty of room. Drives me nuts when wannabe racers do that, darting between slower riders on a casual group ride. Nobody is impressed, especially when they gas out near the crest.

One road bike is old school with downtube shifters. Can't shift on the fly while standing to stomp the pedals. Gotta sit, at least for a moment, to shift safely. So I plan ahead whether to sit and spin or stand and mash. Once committed, I stick with it. Although indexed downtube shifters make it easier to shift quickly during that brief moment sitting. With friction shifting it's easy to blow a shift and get stuck grinding a giant gear at 30 rpm and you're pretty much stuck, at least until your legs die and then you panic trying to unclip before you tip over. Fun times.

The other road bike has brifters so I can shift while standing. Makes it smoother and easier to switch between sitting and standing to distribute the effort for longer climbs.

My favorite hybrid has a 30/40/50 triple chainring and 11-32 cassette, and bar-end shifters on an albatross bar. I hardly ever actually need to stand to climb, but I'll do it occasionally to stretch the legs and cool off the taint. Mostly I sit and spin like an eggbeater.

As other folks suggested, check out the GCN videos on climbing. While the presenters are all retired pros they're far from elitist and mostly aim toward the recreational cyclist who wants to get better. Lots of "cheats" that help conserve energy. One particularly good video showed about half a dozen of the presenters, including Emma Pooley who's a mountain goat. Interesting to watch the different styles of each when they all try to finish an entire climb without ever sitting.
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Old 08-12-19, 04:02 PM
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Depends on the hill, what your body likes, your fitness, where you are in the ride.....too many variables for a pat answer.
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Old 08-12-19, 05:13 PM
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I stand up on the pedals and ride up.
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Old 08-12-19, 05:20 PM
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Originally Posted by bygeorge View Post
Should I consider running at a hill and downshifting all the way up it! Or should I consider what gear I will need to ascend it and shift down before starting? I have noticed that I can keep up my pace racing at the hill in third ring and downshifting to second ring is pretty smooth but downshifting to first ring and clunking through the gears seems hard on the change and if I slow my pace to let it shift smooth I loose my momentum??
Get a bike with di2 and shifting should be smooth at least for me it is.but then again not many big hills where I live biggest climb I do is bear mountain not to steep of a grade.
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Old 08-12-19, 06:42 PM
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Originally Posted by livedarklions View Post
Especially if you can do it in the drops. More badass than fun, perhaps.
Originally Posted by wolfchild View Post
I stand up on the pedals and ride up.
^^THIS

It's an opportunity for me to give my "backside" a break ;-)
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Old 08-12-19, 06:51 PM
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Originally Posted by bygeorge View Post
Should I consider running at a hill and downshifting all the way up it!
Don't speed up because you'll waste too much energy on aerodynamic drag and speeding up can radically reduce your endurance - endurance drops from 60 to 20 minutes with a 5% increase, and another 5% drops that to 10 minutes.

Conversely, if you're riding at a sustainable pace there's no reason to slow down.

Pedal at the same sustainable power output after reaching the hill, changing gears and/or cadence as necessary. Get lower gears if that requires dropping below ~50 RPM for any distance.

Or should I consider what gear I will need to ascend it and shift down before starting?
Changing to an equivalent gear in a smaller ring won't hurt you and avoid the need to change rings climbing. 50x23, 39x18, and 30x14 are all the same ratio.

Moving to a larger cog before the hill is unnecessary.

I have noticed that I can keep up my pace racing at the hill in third ring and downshifting to second ring is pretty smooth but downshifting to first ring and clunking through the gears seems hard on the change and if I slow my pace to let it shift smooth I loose my momentum??
Shifting cogs should be almost instant when you keep the pedals turning without pressure, especially going larger which can't be impeded by friction from housing wear or dirt.

If going to larger cogs is sluggish, you need to look at tension and make sure the hanger isn't bent. Cable housings settle after installation and need a little more tension to compensate. If your rear cable tension was adjusted correctly to begin with and that's not the situation you may have a bent hanger that changed alignment. B-tension with too little or too much clearance between top jockey wheel and cog could cause issues too.

Last edited by Drew Eckhardt; 08-12-19 at 06:55 PM.
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Old 08-12-19, 07:21 PM
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I read interesting advice from Jens Voigt who said, begin a long climb at a much slower pace in a lower gear than you feel you need to. As you begin to regulate your breathing, begin to pick up the pace as much as you’re comfortable with. As you continue to climb, you can continue to pick up the pace until you near the top when you can begin to hammer. I believe Jens used the metaphor that such a technique is like “rolling out a large carpet,” which goes very slowly at first but then gradually picks up greater and greater speed.
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Old 08-12-19, 07:52 PM
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Originally Posted by bocobiking View Post
I read interesting advice from Jens Voigt who said, begin a long climb at a much slower pace in a lower gear than you feel you need to. As you begin to regulate your breathing, begin to pick up the pace as much as you’re comfortable with. As you continue to climb, you can continue to pick up the pace until you near the top when you can begin to hammer. I believe Jens used the metaphor that such a technique is like “rolling out a large carpet,” which goes very slowly at first but then gradually picks up greater and greater speed.
Keeping in mind that he's talking about climbs in the Alps and such, and that climbing while racing is a lot more of keeping you from maxing out effort too early than regular riding might be.
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Old 08-12-19, 07:58 PM
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Originally Posted by Drew Eckhardt View Post
Don't speed up because you'll waste too much energy on aerodynamic drag and speeding up can radically reduce your endurance - endurance drops from 60 to 20 minutes with a 5% increase, and another 5% drops that to 10 minutes.

Conversely, if you're riding at a sustainable pace there's no reason to slow down.

Pedal at the same sustainable power output after reaching the hill, changing gears and/or cadence as necessary. Get lower gears if that requires dropping below ~50 RPM for any distance.



Changing to an equivalent gear in a smaller ring won't hurt you and avoid the need to change rings climbing. 50x23, 39x18, and 30x14 are all the same ratio.

Moving to a larger cog before the hill is unnecessary.



Shifting cogs should be almost instant when you keep the pedals turning without pressure, especially going larger which can't be impeded by friction from housing wear or dirt.

If going to larger cogs is sluggish, you need to look at tension and make sure the hanger isn't bent. Cable housings settle after installation and need a little more tension to compensate. If your rear cable tension was adjusted correctly to begin with and that's not the situation you may have a bent hanger that changed alignment. B-tension with too little or too much clearance between top jockey wheel and cog could cause issues too.
.

Good stuff. On rollers, though, I will pedal the hell out of hill descent 1 to carry the speed onto hill ascent 2 and so on.
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Old 08-12-19, 08:02 PM
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Define: hill

Gaining 80 feet in a quarter mile takes a different approach than gaining 2,000 feet in 10 miles-- even if you do that quarter mile rise 25 times.
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Old 08-12-19, 09:31 PM
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for me the most important thing is to keep your own pace that you're comfortable with.
We used to ride bikes up the alps in italy and this goes for hiking as well.. go too fast and you'll blow out pretty quick, go too slow and you won't feel comfortable.

The trick is always been pacing yourself at a comfortable speed that you can maintain for the duration of the climb.
Practice will help.
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Old 08-13-19, 11:58 AM
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Originally Posted by livedarklions View Post
Keeping in mind that he's talking about climbs in the Alps and such, and that climbing while racing is a lot more of keeping you from maxing out effort too early than regular riding might be.
Wouldn't you want to keep from “maxing out too early” no matter if you’re a racer or not? I’m not a racer, but Voigt's technique works really well for me. It keeps me from blowing up on long climbs.
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