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Is there such a thing as a “natural climber”?

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Is there such a thing as a “natural climber”?

Old 07-12-20, 03:28 PM
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davei1980
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Is there such a thing as a “natural climber”?

So I am slow as h311 but I’ve ridden with some friends over the last year, one used to race enduro, one was a xc runner at a pac12 school, and one runs everyday with his military unit. I seem to enjoy climbing better than all of them. Is there such a thing as a natural climber? I am not a big dude but at 173, 68” I could lose 20lbs easy. I also ride a crmo bike that’s not light.
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Old 07-12-20, 03:49 PM
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Originally Posted by davei1980 View Post
So I am slow as h311 but I’ve ridden with some friends over the last year, one used to race enduro, one was a xc runner at a pac12 school, and one runs everyday with his military unit. I seem to enjoy climbing better than all of them. Is there such a thing as a natural climber? I am not a big dude but at 173, 68” I could lose 20lbs easy. I also ride a crmo bike that’s not light.
Are you saying you're faster up the mountain, or just enjoy it more?
​​​​​​
Because the two are quite different.
​​​​​
So, obviously, human beings are not created equally, right?

Some are stronger physically, others mentally, and a select few have the entire package. The latter category is what your typical professional cyclist or extremely elite recreational rider falls under. Most of us are likely somewhere in-between.

A "natural climber" in my book would be someone very petite, yet strong, and well-conditionded. This individual also has an above average-sized heart (every single sport has a few of these cardio superhumans), and is very comfortable in the pain threshold.

These are the people that blast by you on the mountain at twice your speed, and are already on their second run as you' start to make your descent. True mountain goats.
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Old 07-12-20, 04:20 PM
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Climbing favors the short and petite due to power to weight ratio. Though you can be a slow climber and still enjoy it more than others who are faster but hate doing it.
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Old 07-12-20, 04:24 PM
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Originally Posted by Ross520 View Post
Are you saying you're faster up the mountain, or just enjoy it more?
​​​​​​
Because the two are quite different.
​​​​​
So, obviously, human beings are not created equally, right?

Some are stronger physically, others mentally, and a select few have the entire package. The latter category is what your typical professional cyclist or extremely elite recreational rider falls under. Most of us are likely somewhere in-between.

A "natural climber" in my book would be someone very petite, yet strong, and well-conditionded. This individual also has an above average-sized heart (every single sport has a few of these cardio superhumans), and is very comfortable in the pain threshold.

These are the people that blast by you on the mountain at twice your speed, and are already on their second run as you' start to make your descent. True mountain goats.
They’re faster than me until we hit a hill then we’re either even or they’re wanting to stop and I can go till the top, sorry, that sounds self-absorbed. I don’t mean it that way
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Old 07-12-20, 04:32 PM
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There are definitely people that were born with natural talent for certain activities. There are also the people that worked very hard at acquiring whatever skills they have. I think many elite athletes were blessed with larger capacity lungs, hearts and mental toughness. A non-human example would be a race horse by the name of Secretariat. That incredible champion did things that were almost impossible to fathom unless you were exposed to them. When Secretariat succumbed to an illness, an autopsy was done. It was discovered that his heart and lungs were nearly 30% larger than the usual thorobred of his size. As coaches and trainers like to say, "you cannot teach that." No doubt, that happens in humans also. Of course, there are those that got to where they are by sheer hard work, mental stamina and perseverance. In some ways, that is more impressive.

If you are blessed with a talent for certain activities, and you happen to really like that activity, IMO, you may not be elite, but you are a natural.
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Old 07-12-20, 04:38 PM
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5'8" and 173 lbs? this is not "natural climber" in the world of cycling.
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Old 07-12-20, 04:56 PM
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Originally Posted by aclinjury View Post
5'8" and 173 lbs? this is not "natural climber" in the world of cycling.

OP recognized that the weight could be lower.
Likes climbing hills is a pretty good start though. Most people seem to hate it.

I don't think the op has any TdF ambitions, so you might want to broaden your perspective on what constitutes the "world of cycling."
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Old 07-12-20, 05:09 PM
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The simplest definition of a natural climber is someone with above average W/kg over an extended period of time compared to shorter duration efforts.
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Old 07-12-20, 06:01 PM
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Originally Posted by aclinjury View Post
5'8" and 173 lbs? this is not "natural climber" in the world of cycling.
yes, I am not fast nor am I competitive!
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Old 07-12-20, 06:05 PM
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I am sorry I worded that awkwardly; I guess my question is are some people predisposed to climbing more than others?
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Old 07-12-20, 06:08 PM
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Originally Posted by surak View Post
The simplest definition of a natural climber is someone with above average W/kg over an extended period of time compared to shorter duration efforts.
That's only simple if you have a power meter. A much simpler version is "someone who does better going uphill than on flat terrain." And the OP seems to follow that definition, certainly as far as the group that he rides with is concerned.

Even defining it in terms of W/kg is a bit too simplistic, different riders use their power ratio differently, or can sustain it for different lengths of time. You get small sprinters like Caleb Ewan or Oscar Freire, and you get big climbers like Indurain or Dumoulin (Tom, not Sam), and you get puncheurs who are good on short climbs and can win in the Ardennes (Kwiatkowski, Alaphilippe, Rodriguez) who are not the same as the guys who can sustain it over long Alpine passes (Contador, Majka). There are guys at the top level who have better W/kg than others, but might be spent by the time they get to that last climb of the day and can't hang on.
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Old 07-12-20, 06:12 PM
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Originally Posted by davei1980 View Post
I am sorry I worded that awkwardly; I guess my question is are some people predisposed to climbing more than others?
Short answer, yes.


Longer answer, it is possible to improve your climbing, even (especially?) if you start from a low baseline; so don't be surprised if one day, one of the guys who you are dropping up hills now, turns around in the future and starts dropping you. However, you appear to be starting from a good baseline, so if you're happy to be the mountain goat of the group, then carry on as you are.
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Old 07-12-20, 06:12 PM
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In terms of “enjoyment” I would say somebody who prefers longer duration power zones possibly over shorter duration power zones.

Like z3/4/5 versus z5/6/7.

In terms of success relative to others? W/kg better than your peers in z3/4/5, period.

Just IMO.
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Old 07-12-20, 06:36 PM
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Originally Posted by davei1980 View Post
I am sorry I worded that awkwardly; I guess my question is are some people predisposed to climbing more than others?

Name any aspect of cycling and this will be true.

For example, I can't do a decent wheelie to save my life.
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Old 07-12-20, 07:03 PM
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I hate climbing, but if I know the descend is worth my effort, I will hammer it out for that blast of fun. Kinda do that whenever I go out on certain route. Worth every cuss word expressed going up.
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Old 07-12-20, 07:14 PM
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Light bike with short chain stays?
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Old 07-12-20, 07:20 PM
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['m a born mountain goat. Racing days, 6'1/2", 145 pounds. Long arms and legs. Not the fastest uphill, but after thousands of feet of climbing, I still have no trouble going up. And I have always loved it. Love getting out of the saddle and doing "the dance". I've done that for some very long stretches. Much of the 16 miles of the climb out of Ashland, OR when I was limited by a 42-23 gear.

Yes, some of us are born to be climbers. We aren't all short and tiny.

Ben
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Old 07-12-20, 08:05 PM
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Originally Posted by Gconan View Post
Light bike with short chain stays?
Heavy bike with long chainstays lol
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Old 07-12-20, 08:11 PM
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Thanks all- I appreciate the discussion. I had never really thought about climbing until one if my friends told me he thought I was good at it. Now that I’ve reflected, I cab see I really enjoy it which is great, considering how time consuming it is! 39 y/o and still learning and growing!
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Old 07-12-20, 08:26 PM
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Originally Posted by davei1980 View Post
Thanks all- I appreciate the discussion. I had never really thought about climbing until one if my friends told me he thought I was good at it. Now that I’ve reflected, I cab see I really enjoy it which is great, considering how time consuming it is! 39 y/o and still learning and growing!
One of the gifts of loving climbing - weight loss! Incredible positive reinforcement.
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Old 07-12-20, 08:30 PM
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Originally Posted by davei1980 View Post
I am sorry I worded that awkwardly; I guess my question is are some people predisposed to climbing more than others?
At 5'6" and 138 pounds I'm not a natural at anything on a bicycle. When I started getting serious about riding, a slow process but at first I literally sucked on hills. This partly due to a lack of conditioning and age. Not because the conventional wisdom states that short skinny people should be good climbers, or at least better in proportion to their sprinting but rather because I wanted to do better on the hills I put a lot of effort into climbing.

When I say a lot of effort into climbing I'm really being serious. Anyway I'm overall a very average bicyclist but I do well on the hills. What I'm trying to say is not too long ago I sucked on the hills, today I just keep going until I'm at the top. My take on this, is, we like what we do well with and hate what we do not do well with. I pass people on local social rides going up and they tell me they hate hills. I used to hate hills. I really like them now. My fear of failure has basically disappeared not to say I might never stumble but if I do stumble I will have plenty of company. I'm convinced climbing is mostly mental, in the head. Believe you can do it and stay positive, that is half the battle.
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Old 07-12-20, 08:47 PM
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Example some runners are sprinters and some are marathoners. Some plod along and get there, some go as fast as the can for as long as they can.
Check out Ernest Clifford "Cliff" Young, At age 61 he ran the Westfield run from Sydney to Melbourne, 543,7 miles and beat the record by about 2 days. He just shuffled along, hardly slept and just kept going.

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Old 07-13-20, 02:47 AM
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I'm in the 85kg+ category so am classed as a natural descender.

My fat ass cannot comprehend a universe where people prefer cycling uphill to cycling down. Those folk seem to me to be fundamentally malfunctioning, but apparently they exist. And not just the Froome and Geraint whoops I've crashed Thomas, rubbish descender variety.
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Old 07-13-20, 04:46 AM
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Absolutely some folks are more naturally suited to one aspect of any sport - or specific sport itself - than others. I was always a fast short distance runner as a kid and so took part in 100m, 200m and 400m sprints my whole student life. When I got into cycling, I was quicker than most at sprinting which was unsurprising, more fast-twitch muscle fibres no doubt. This, along with a good power-to-weight ratio and being short and very light enabled me to be punchy on hills too as well as a decent climber albeit not a pure one.

Today I'm not at an ideal racing weight, could lose a few kg, and as such my hill climbing, while not terrible (for example my PR for a local 17km hill, ave 5.5%, 855m high is 50min 32sec so that puts me 374/3803 on Strava) is not the greatest and less than before but short hill sprints, I have plenty of recent KOM's for those.

We all have varying degrees of natural advantage, physically or mentally. Those with the greatest natural abilities are able to make a living from their chosen sport where even at the highest levels, there are standout individuals.
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Old 07-13-20, 08:25 AM
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You might be one of the guys I used to hate. Started the season overweight but doing ok, by the time July rolled around, the winter fat was gone and suddenly they were faster uphill than me. Keep at it and keep trying to improve. Make sustained efforts on the climb, keep it up a little longer than you'd like.

I started my season at 138lbs, I finished my season at 138lbs and 15 years later with a job, kids, a couple health problems, and limited time to ride, 138lbs.

As far as natural or not, you've just got to hate yourself a bit. The difference between keeping your lungs in your throat, letting everything hurt, and barely able to see because of sweat is huge. This is as important as any physical gift.

I'm still a fast climber, always was due to my size, but I can't draw on that depth and challenge the actual fast guys anymore. It's disappointing too, I know guys my age who do still have that demon.
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