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Getting my butt kicked on uphill climbs. What to improve?

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Getting my butt kicked on uphill climbs. What to improve?

Old 06-03-21, 12:58 PM
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jonathanf2
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Getting my butt kicked on uphill climbs. What to improve?

Before I blame my bike and gearing (it's a bit heavy at around 24 lbs. and 46:30t gravel bike gearing), I'm wondering what physical/nutrition aspects I should focus on to improve my performance? I'm in my 40s weighing in at 150 lbs. and I lift weights regularly, with a focus on squats, deadlifts and bench press. Where I seem to suffer is my cardio/stamina. I've been dropped twice already next to other riders, being unable to keep up and I definitely want to improve that aspect of my performance. Any tips on what I should do to improve in regards to my training? I'm more aware on aspects regarding my strength training, but not so knowledgable on improving my bike performance. Thanks for any advice!
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Old 06-03-21, 01:39 PM
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You're going to have to sort out priorities. If you have a time budget you have to decide how much gym to bike time balance you want to allocate. Right now you're seeing the fruits of your gym work but lack of bike work.

You simply need more hours and workouts on the bike.

Decide that, then see where it leads you. Unfortunately, it's a common misconception that gym work is somehow 1:1 for assisting in endurance sport. It's largely icing on the cake for balance and injury prevention. Gym work isn't the "sponge" of the cake.......it's like garnish.

Decide on a balance and post up how many hours a week that is on the bike, then we can go from there.
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Old 06-03-21, 01:48 PM
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Speed uphill is a function of your power to weight ratio. You need to either increase your power over the time it takes to climb the hill or decrease your weight or both.
As burnthesheep says, increasing power on the bike likely means more of a focus on riding and less on lifting. A simple idea may be to go ride the hill on your own. Do several hard repeats (how many would depend on the length of the hill and how long you've been riding), and try to either bring down the average time it takes to do them, reduce the rest between efforts or increase the total number of efforts (this would be analogous to doing more weight, taking shorter rests or doing more sets in the gym).
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Old 06-03-21, 01:57 PM
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One thing I notice on my long bike rides, is that my body needs a day or two for recovery. I'm not as durable as when I was in my 20s, but I don't feel that old yet. My gym workouts are a bit different since I can allocate different muscle groups per day minimizing fatigue. I tend to ride 2-3 days a week @ 2 hours per ride, with my gym time taking up about 3-4 days a week at 1 hour per session. Depending on which I do more, either gym or or bike time is reduced and I try and have 1 rest day per week.

I've also reduced weight due to my cycling, originally clocking in at 155 lbs. Now fully hydrated I'm at 150 lbs. and can drop 5-10 lbs. in water weight depending on my cycling sessions.
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Old 06-03-21, 01:59 PM
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I would ask your buds dropping you how many hours a week they are riding and in what zones they are doing their rides. Then, do something similar. I have a friend who drops me on climbs, I asked him and he is doing almost double the training hours per week compared to me... so I am trying to pick up my pace.
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Old 06-03-21, 02:07 PM
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The best ways to get better at climbing...lose weight and climb more. Also, teaching the body to suffer at/near threshold effort level for extended periods takes time.
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Old 06-03-21, 02:39 PM
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What kind of hills? If the climbs are 3-5 minutes (i.e. about a mile or less depending) you need to work on your sprint power. Get out of the gym and do hill intervals until your femurs snap.

If the hills are long >20minute efforts you need to improve your FTP generally, that is be able to generate more power for longer periods. What works for me is on the long rides try to stay at 80% the entire ride and have some really long hills built into the route. I used to avoid the mountains at beginning of the season, but lately I’ve started riding them earlier and I think it’s helped.

After that its marginal gains. Lighter bike, good bike position while climbing, right gearing for the terrain.
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Old 06-03-21, 03:58 PM
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Since you only weigh 150lbs it seems weight isn't your problem. You need more power. A lot of ways you can do that. Depends also a bit on how you get dropped - are these short climbs where people go full gas or more longer ones?
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Old 06-03-21, 04:33 PM
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If you are feeling burned out for any length of time after riding, then you probably aren't fueling yourself correctly during the ride and shortly after. You ought to finish up a ride and be ready for another if someone was to ask you to go with them.

Also, you are probably riding at way too fast a pace for your current level of cycling fitness. You can't go all out the entire time you ride. You need to learn what pace and effort you can ride at all day long.
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Old 06-03-21, 04:55 PM
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Originally Posted by jonathanf2 View Post
I lift weights regularly, with a focus on squats, deadlifts and bench press. Where I seem to suffer is my cardio/stamina. I've been dropped twice already next to other riders, being unable to keep up and I definitely want to improve that aspect of my performance.
It's good that you're doing strength training, leg strength is a real asset on climbs.

But if it's your cardio that's holding you back, you need to add bike sessions that stress your cardio system.

The best climbing training for most people is probably 3-minute intervals. Climb at the fastest pace you can maintain for 3 minutes, soft pedal until you have recovered, then repeat. Do that up to 10 times.

Once your climbing fitness has improved enough, you can switch over to 5-minute intervals.

I also add in 20-30 minute hill repeats to improve endurance. But only after I have a good cardio fitness base.
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Old 06-03-21, 04:58 PM
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The lifting isn't really useful (like others have said) for climbing. I did no squats or dead lifts and in 18 months increased my FTP from 220W to 300W. Any time you spent lifting could probably better be spent just riding your bike.

Train to suffer more. This applies during your rides and just riding in general. Many of us (and we're not pros) can handle 10 hours a week/5 days a week of riding. We aren't genetically more gifted than you. I think many of us accept we'll be fatigued to some degree but also manage our fatigue so we aren't over-trained. Training will also allow you to pace yourself better and know what your limits are so you can go right up to them on climbs. It isn't all about simply being fitter, it's about almost-but-not-quite blowing up and keeping going. Embrace suffering. Suffering isn't bad, it just means something good might happen.

Ride more. My riding fitness is much higher simply going from 4-6 hours like you to 10 hours per week. And that extra time is almost entirely in Z1 or Z2. Just making more mitochondria so I can feed more energy to my muscles before I hit my lactate threshold. It was truly shocking how much fitness I gained (and weight lost since I had a lot to lose) simply by riding in Z1 and Z2. It never feels like you're working really hard and then, boom, you're dropping people on climbs.
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Old 06-03-21, 05:05 PM
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Originally Posted by guachi View Post
Train to suffer more.
This concept confuses so many people. Cycling doesn't become easier as we get fitter. Our bodies develop the ability to suffer longer and deeper before reaching the point of blowing up completely. Therefore, cycling actually gets HARDER as we get fitter.
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Old 06-03-21, 05:13 PM
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Already a lot of good suggestions, so I just want to point out some other things.

5-10 lbs dropped in only 2 hours riding at your weight? Maybe you aren't properly hydrating. You can ride along on very little power on flats, but as you're experiencing, climbing is a true test of wattage where dehydration could drastically impair your performance.

46x30 lowest gear isn't doing you any favors climbing either. If you have to grind up at a low cadence then you won't even be utilizing your cardio.
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Old 06-03-21, 05:34 PM
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This is the segment where I'm getting my butt kicked:

https://www.strava.com/segments/633449

I can go up this hill climb non-stop, but I'm definitely hitting a stamina threshold if I ride at the same pace next to slightly above average riders who aren't pro athlete or KOM leaders. I'll definitely look into doing more interval training to increase my endurance.

On the flip side I've definitely noticed my cycling has made my legs even stronger for squat training and it's also ironed out sciatic pain I was experiencing a few months ago. My legs in general just feel more limber and look more defined. Now I want to improve my cardio/cycling to match!
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Old 06-03-21, 05:47 PM
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Originally Posted by surak View Post
5-10 lbs dropped in only 2 hours riding at your weight? Maybe you aren't properly hydrating. You can ride along on very little power on flats, but as you're experiencing, climbing is a true test of wattage where dehydration could drastically impair your performance.

46x30 lowest gear isn't doing you any favors climbing either. If you have to grind up at a low cadence then you won't even be utilizing your cardio.
I drink a ton of water, have both my water bottles filled and usually refill them where I can at fountains or buying more water at gas stations. I just feel like I sweat a lot on rides.

I'm currently using my gravel bike, but I do have a 2nd set of wheels with slicks. Saying that, the first time I got dropped was next to a young kid also on a (steel) gravel bike. I was able to keep up until we hit a steep section and his fitness was just that much better than mine. The second time I got dropped was this week next to a roadie who seemed like an average/above average rider. I had a hard time matching his pace and even though he was in his low gear I had a hard time finding a gear to match his. Again, I'm guessing his fitness was also better, but I do think his gearing might have been better suited for this particular segment.

I also ride this same bike on uphill dirt trails with my knobby wheelset and I can usually keep up or pass many MTB'ers. I don't see myself getting another bike anytime soon, so I would like to improve with what I have for now.

Last edited by jonathanf2; 06-03-21 at 05:50 PM.
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Old 06-03-21, 06:03 PM
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Actually, having a cassette max out at 30t is bizarrely high for a gravel bike especially if running a 46t chainring. Unless 30 refers to the inner chainring on a 2x, in which case it's lower and therefore easier than road gearing so definitely not a reason you can't keep up.

That segment you linked to is long enough that you need to work on your sustained power. Sweetspot or threshold intervals are simple and effective. If you had a powermeter, it would show how little power you're actually putting out on the flats and how much more is necessary climbing, which would help demonstrate how a lot of your current riding time might not be conducive to getting faster. You can use your imagination, but real data is generally more eye-opening.
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Old 06-03-21, 06:14 PM
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Originally Posted by jonathanf2 View Post
I'm in my 40s weighing in at 150 lbs. and I lift weights regularly, with a focus on squats, deadlifts and bench press. Where I seem to suffer is my cardio/stamina.
RIDE YOUR BIKE MORE!

Increase your riding volume per week and also the distance per ride (with decent amount of climbs in your case).... If you need more free time for that, spend less time on the gym!

It's a very simple training strategy that worked so well for so many riders.

And do attempt to progressively raise your average speeds and don't forget your recovery rides.

Personally, I still do weight training but at home. Just a few reps with large weights, only a very small amount of time in a day or two. The vast majority of training time on the bike or indoor bike.
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Old 06-03-21, 07:26 PM
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This thread is frustrating. No one here divulges their height. I see a lot 150 lbs, but there is quite the difference between someone who is 5' - 6" and 150 pounds and someone who is 6'-2" and 150. Ya know what I mean? Also the bike is on the heavy side, what size and weight tires are you running? Gravel tires get really wide and really heavy, rather quickly. There is an old cyclist saying that loosing a pound in your tires is like loosing five pounds in the frame.
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Old 06-03-21, 08:29 PM
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Originally Posted by jonathanf2 View Post
One thing I notice on my long bike rides, is that my body needs a day or two for recovery. I'm not as durable as when I was in my 20s, but I don't feel that old yet. My gym workouts are a bit different since I can allocate different muscle groups per day minimizing fatigue. I tend to ride 2-3 days a week @ 2 hours per ride, with my gym time taking up about 3-4 days a week at 1 hour per session. Depending on which I do more, either gym or or bike time is reduced and I try and have 1 rest day per week.

I've also reduced weight due to my cycling, originally clocking in at 155 lbs. Now fully hydrated I'm at 150 lbs. and can drop 5-10 lbs. in water weight depending on my cycling sessions.
Try cutting the gym time down to once a week or not at all. You need to be able to do 2 or 3 hard days on the bike with the other days longer and easier. The gym is holding you back at this point. If you get your ride time up to 10-15 hrs/wk with a couple days of high intensity your power and climbing ability will improve significantly.

edit: And increase your long rides to 3-4 hrs. 2 hrs wouldn't normally be considered a long ride. Build up your hours gradually over a few months.
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Old 06-04-21, 03:27 AM
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Originally Posted by headwind15 View Post
This thread is frustrating. No one here divulges their height. I see a lot 150 lbs, but there is quite the difference between someone who is 5' - 6" and 150 pounds and someone who is 6'-2" and 150. Ya know what I mean? Also the bike is on the heavy side, what size and weight tires are you running? Gravel tires get really wide and really heavy, rather quickly. There is an old cyclist saying that loosing a pound in your tires is like loosing five pounds in the frame.
If he has 50lbs over the people he is riding with, then that may be a reason for getting dropped. Given he is only 150lbs and hits the gym it is safe to assume he is not too fat so his body composition isn't a big role in him getting dropped.

Also old =/= good. Rotational weight matters far less than people think.
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Old 06-04-21, 07:05 AM
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Assuming the OP is just an average recreational rider like myself, it may take several years to develop proficiency in hill climbing. Reading the OP's posts, it make me sense he is relatively new to hill climbing and expects way too much for his training methods.
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Old 06-04-21, 07:53 AM
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Originally Posted by headwind15 View Post
This thread is frustrating. No one here divulges their height. I see a lot 150 lbs, but there is quite the difference between someone who is 5' - 6" and 150 pounds and someone who is 6'-2" and 150. Ya know what I mean? Also the bike is on the heavy side, what size and weight tires are you running? Gravel tires get really wide and really heavy, rather quickly. There is an old cyclist saying that loosing a pound in your tires is like loosing five pounds in the frame.
how much does height factor when climbing? honest question. i don't see height as an issue, it is not like there is much aero drag when climbing at 8-12mph (for me more like 6-8) up the grades in the route posted.
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Old 06-04-21, 08:16 AM
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That climb is a legitimate climb that requires pacing. It's possible you're going too hard and blowing up before you hit the top of the climb. Riding more and practicing 8-12 minute hard efforts will not only improve your fitness but improve your pacing, as well.
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Old 06-04-21, 08:45 AM
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Originally Posted by guachi View Post
That climb is a legitimate climb that requires pacing. It's possible you're going too hard and blowing up before you hit the top of the climb. Riding more and practicing 8-12 minute hard efforts will not only improve your fitness but improve your pacing, as well.
That hillclimb gets steeper towards the end where you really need to hustle to get up to the top. I can do it without stopping, but going up fast especially at the latter segment is where I start to slow down. I guess I'll just have to practice more with harder intervals.
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Old 06-04-21, 09:41 AM
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Originally Posted by CAT7RDR View Post
Assuming the OP is just an average recreational rider like myself, it may take several years to develop proficiency in hill climbing. Reading the OP's posts, it make me sense he is relatively new to hill climbing and expects way too much for his training methods.
Maybe not several years. Even just several weeks of focused training ought to produce marked improvements.

About 20 years ago, I was a fairly new rider and thought I was a decent climber. Then I joined the local Hills R Us recreational club ride. On big climbs, gray-haired guys in their 60s were leaving me in the dust!

I took that as inspiration and began some serious hill training. Several weeks later, I was they guy off the front.

It's amazing how quickly serious hill training can raise your climbing ability.
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