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Humbled by hills

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Road Cycling It is by riding a bicycle that you learn the contours of a country best, since you have to sweat up the hills and coast down them. Thus you remember them as they actually are, while in a motor car only a high hill impresses you, and you have no such accurate remembrance of country you have driven through as you gain by riding a bicycle. -- Ernest Hemingway

Humbled by hills

Old 04-16-21, 11:49 AM
  #1  
CoogansBluff
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Humbled by hills

Pre-pandemic, I was doing group rides 1-2x/week with a group that's 25 miles north, and the group then usually road further north, meaning hillier terrain.

During pandemic, with no group rides, I was naturally staying closer to home on flatter roads. It's not like the mountains vs. the sea, but probably 1,000-1,500 climbs vs. 2,000-3,000 on typical rides of 30-40 miles.

So my first group ride back earlier this month, I surprise myself and average 20.5 mph over a 43-mile group ride, climbing 1,250 (which is relatively flat for that distance around Raleigh). This is near home. I'm thinking I'm as strong as I've ever been.

Days later, I go north with my old gang and get dropped on 18 mph rides twice in three days on 40-mile routes climbing 2,400. Now, I'm thinking I've lost more ground than they have over the pandemic.'

Not that it matters, just having fun, but I'm curious. How did that happen?

I should add that I weigh about 10, maybe 15 pounds, more than I did when riding w/ the northern group in 2019. But I'm posting similar times on my old solo routes around home.

So, what is the best explanation for these recent performances?

-Haven't been riding hills enough lately. Give it a month.

-Engine is fine, as evidenced by good speeds over flat, but added weight is taking a toll up hill.

-Hills are just the devil. That's all it is.

I also might've just been more ''up'' for the first ride. It was my first group ride back, and I didn't think I could hang w/ them, so I was busting it. On the hillier ones, I was overconfident and perhaps not mentally ready to grind.
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Old 04-16-21, 12:05 PM
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Doomrider74
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I dont find speed on the flat translates to the hills at all. Climbing, particularly long, steep climbs, are a complete different beast, IMO, and need to be practiced. Its almost as much of a mental game as it is a physical one.

The extra weight won't help, and will probably be more of a burden on long climbs than it will on the flats. 10lbs is more than half a bike extra weight you're carrying.
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Old 04-16-21, 12:09 PM
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Fitness is fitness and gears are gears. With hills, you either have both......or you don't. 10lbs can matter a good bit if the fitness was down or even the same. You'd have to work that much harder every time the road turns up.

The speed on the group ride that had 30 ft per mile shouldn't surprise too much. That's pretty flat. Doesn't take much power for a group to do over 20 on that. The efficiency of a group on flatter or downhill roads is amazing. Out near Clayton/Smithfield where I work and ride at lunch it's about 20 to 30 ft per mile. My speeds for a "hard" workout out there can be silly fast due to how flat it is. Falls Lake area can be 40 to 60 ft per mile depending on the route. I find the speed there depends a LOT on the route. Some routes you can earn the downhill cruise. Others it is ruined by a corner or stop right at the bottom. Like the stop sign at the bottom of Honeycutt. N Hills where I live, I often do neighborhood rides at 80 to 100 ft per mile. Those can be pretty slow, all the downs are mostly curvy and have stops at the bottom.

When traffic is low, I like Vernon, Possum, Norwood, Old Weaver, etc... As morning daylight returns this spring, I hope to make it north far enough to Lake Michie area again. Pretty and quiet up there.

Take heart, you'll be back in no time. Things seem to be freeing up and your fitness will return likely as you go with the group more often.
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Old 04-16-21, 12:13 PM
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Unless you're pulling most of the time on flats, your speed while drafting will be completely unrelated to your climbing speed.
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Old 04-16-21, 12:42 PM
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CoogansBluff
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Originally Posted by Doomrider74 View Post
10lbs is more than half a bike extra weight you're carrying.
The painful truth ...
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Old 04-16-21, 12:46 PM
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Originally Posted by Elvo View Post
Unless you're pulling most of the time on flats, your speed while drafting will be completely unrelated to your climbing speed.
Yes, and of course, I understand the speeds will be slower. Just wondering to what extent that someone might hold his own on one, and not on another, even if it were the same group of riders. That is, can you be significantly faster than someone on this course, but not another.
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Old 04-16-21, 12:47 PM
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Originally Posted by CoogansBluff View Post

-Engine is fine, as evidenced by good speeds over flat, but added weight is taking a toll up hill.
You won't notice the weight until you go uphill. Sucks, but true. Heck, these days I'm just happy to be outside....
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Old 04-16-21, 01:00 PM
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Since you seem a bit let down by your recent performances, I would suggest doing more hill work. The best way to train for climbing is by climbing, even if you have to go to the shorter hills (in your area) and do repeats.
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Old 04-16-21, 01:10 PM
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This is why i like my trainer so much. during winter i don't ride outside (have become a wimp lately) so i can ride "hills" in my garage, and they can be worse than anything near me. good weather comes and i am ready.
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Old 04-16-21, 02:41 PM
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Ill be the first to admit I am overweight and out of riding shape. I just moved up to the Memphis area from SW Florida, where the only hill I had to climb was the overpass. Now that Im up here I realize how out of shape I really am, even a bunch of rollers get to me. I could go forever down there on the flats. But Im glad that my regular rides now will incorporate some climbing, even if its only a few hundred feet to start working up to climbing fitness.
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Old 04-16-21, 03:02 PM
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Originally Posted by spelger View Post
This is why i like my trainer so much. during winter i don't ride outside (have become a wimp lately) so i can ride "hills" in my garage, and they can be worse than anything near me. good weather comes and i am ready.
Yeah, I will second that! Smart trainers are the SHIZ! (unless you are doing structured training, then the hills are ignored for the purposes of Zwift.)
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Old 04-16-21, 03:06 PM
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Originally Posted by Koyote View Post
Since you seem a bit let down by your recent performances, I would suggest doing more hill work. The best way to train for climbing is by climbing, even if you have to go to the shorter hills (in your area) and do repeats.
Thought about that. Might be as simple as doing a couple of repeats on the biggest hills on a particular ride. There are some steep hills around, just not as many because of roads around some big lakes, but they exist. Might need to go visit them.
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Old 04-16-21, 04:59 PM
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When you did that first ride with the group, were you well rested before that? Maybe even hadn't ridden for a week or so?

I might just put it down to you had my more glycogen reserves that first ride and fewer for the second.

Though whether or not you pulled more on the second, or the wind direction may have played a part too in the difference.

Last edited by Iride01; 04-17-21 at 10:27 AM. Reason: can never proof read enough times.
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Old 04-17-21, 06:33 AM
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10lbs extra weight is alot when going up hill.
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Old 04-17-21, 06:37 AM
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Humbled by hills or maybe humbled by age and recovery?
If I (57 y/o) make a big climbing effort ride, it may take me 3-4 days to fully recover for a next climbing ride.
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Old 04-17-21, 07:44 AM
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Wait until you're 67 and ride mostly hills and mountains. I rarely ride two days in a row, when doing 40 or 50 mile hilly routes. I may ride today and tomorrow to sneak in some miles between bouts of crummy Colorado weather, so I'll ride a route with less climbing and probably only 38 miles each time. 10 pounds extra is a lot to carry uphill. I'm still 4-5 pounds above my ideal weight of 133-134, but I've made it up some 10% grades without using my lowest gear, so I'm doing better after 33 months back on the bike. Taking off the extra weight will help too.
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Old 04-17-21, 03:47 PM
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Curious thread. I've been riding nothing but flats since January, but will go back north to some "less flat" terrain mid-May. first time I've done this, so I'll have to find out how long it will take to adjust to hills again. Mind you, I'm not talking about mountains, just some 1/2 to 1 mile grades that can repeat a bit.
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Old 04-18-21, 06:57 AM
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Hills are the devil, there is no debating that.
...but yeah you weigh more and weren't riding as many hills for the last year so it makes sense you are slower on a hilly route.
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Old 04-18-21, 10:29 AM
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It's really just power and weight.
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Old 04-18-21, 01:20 PM
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Climbing is all about sustainable, continuous power. No stops, no coasting, no breaks, just continuous power. In other words, it requires aerobic base training. HIIT will increase the power that can be sustained, but the sustainability itself comes from the base training.
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Old 04-18-21, 03:42 PM
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Originally Posted by CoogansBluff View Post
Yes, and of course, I understand the speeds will be slower. Just wondering to what extent that someone might hold his own on one, and not on another, even if it were the same group of riders. That is, can you be significantly faster than someone on this course, but not another.
The sort answer is yes. I can ride with most recreational riders on a flat section. On a climb not so much.
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Old 04-18-21, 09:05 PM
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When I'm curious about a result, I look at my data. I have both power and HR on one bike, but only HR on the other. In either case, I look at time in zone to assess my fitness. Last Sunday, I was in zones 4/5 for 1:15 - I was really fresh. This Sunday I was OK, but not all that fresh and the total was about 1:00 with the same amount of Z5. That data tells me if I was in condition and well enough rested to make a serious effort. Without data, it's like "who knows?" These were both fairly hilly rides of about 3 hours. On rides of that length, I can usually manage about a .8 intensity number and have ridden to exhaustion. IME, that's a good way to get stronger. Of course one first has to have the aerobic conditioning to make that possible, so that's where to start: aerobic volume/week. I'm 75.

I wouldn't blame the weight gain too much. You can run your numbers through this calculator: Bicycle Speed (Velocity) And Power Calculator
I suspect that 10 lbs. might cost you .3 mph on a long 10% climb
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Old 04-19-21, 06:08 AM
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10lbs either way is 1 cog difference for me. However, I weigh around 200lbs and climb like a glacier moving. 10lbs might make a bigger difference for someone in the OP's weight range.
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Old 04-27-21, 10:34 AM
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From personal experience, I've learned that my aerobic power on flat terrain comes back quickly (weeks), my climbing power comes back more slowly (months).

Especially on longer, steeper grades (>8%). That type of fitness appears to take the longest.

If you're like me, just give it time. Those climbing legs will come back, eventually.
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Old 04-29-21, 07:47 PM
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Originally Posted by Carbonfiberboy View Post
When I'm curious about a result, I look at my data. I have both power and HR on one bike, but only HR on the other. In either case, I look at time in zone to assess my fitness. Last Sunday, I was in zones 4/5 for 1:15 - I was really fresh. This Sunday I was OK, but not all that fresh and the total was about 1:00 with the same amount of Z5. That data tells me if I was in condition and well enough rested to make a serious effort. Without data, it's like "who knows?" These were both fairly hilly rides of about 3 hours. On rides of that length, I can usually manage about a .8 intensity number and have ridden to exhaustion. IME, that's a good way to get stronger. Of course one first has to have the aerobic conditioning to make that possible, so that's where to start: aerobic volume/week. I'm 75.

I wouldn't blame the weight gain too much. You can run your numbers through this calculator: Bicycle Speed (Velocity) And Power Calculator
I suspect that 10 lbs. might cost you .3 mph on a long 10% climb
what % of FTP do you consider zone 4 and 5. An hour and 15 minutes sounds like a long to be those zones
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