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Difficulty with climb

Old 09-19-22, 09:25 AM
  #1  
Paultreks
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Difficulty with climb

I'm an overweight newish roadbike rider (206lbs 5'5"). been riding inconsistenly for two years. I can now ride 20 miles on the flats, however even slightest climbs are difficult. I find myself stopping and fell once. Any advice on how I can improve? I've read building leg muscles is not the answer.

Thank you
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Old 09-19-22, 09:31 AM
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Building muscle to carry yourself up a hill is not the answer? Thats surprising.

- lose weight.
- learn to shift gears better.
- build muscle.
- stand to climb.

Any combination of the above 4 will help.
Climbing can be tough and climbing well is a skill- practice helps.
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Old 09-19-22, 09:38 AM
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Originally Posted by mstateglfr View Post
Building muscle to carry yourself up a hill is not the answer? Thats surprising.

- lose weight.
- learn to shift gears better.
- build muscle.
- stand to climb.

Any combination of the above 4 will help.
Climbing can be tough and climbing well is a skill- practice helps.
not believing everything I read for starters.
definitely see losing 30 lbs will make a difference- yes.
will working on leg muscles and core.
Stand to climb- on shorter climbs. I read you burn more energy standing but will try that.

Thank you for the tips
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Old 09-19-22, 09:47 AM
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If you are just starting out riding, then be patient. Your legs will quickly get strong enough if you ride several times a week. If this is a ride every two or three weeks then probably never.

However you do need to consider if you have the low ratio gearing you need. When you say you stopped once and fell, you were in the lowest possible gear ratio weren't you? If not then you might need to learn how to properly use your gears.

I prefer to maintain a cadence of 85 to 95 or so RPM when climbing. And if my cadence starts to slow from that, then I shift to the next lowest ratio. If you let your cadence drop below 75 and are struggling up a hill then shifting becomes more difficult as you have to let up on the pedaling power more to properly make a shift.

If after getting your legs somewhat in shape, you find you are always going to the lowest gear ratio to climb your average hills, then you probably need to consider changing up the gearing on your bike or getting another bike.
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Old 09-19-22, 09:56 AM
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is bike fit / seat height proper ?

what gearing does your bike have ? chainrings and cassette ?

the average 5-5 @ 200lbs plus person will not be a gazelle up the hills - so good chance you will need lower gearing to compensate

spin and take your time - don't push too tall of a gear - especially on long climbs ... bad for the knees ... you will need your knees when you get older
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Old 09-19-22, 09:56 AM
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I've been riding two years averaging riding once or twice a week. not a newbie but not getting in enough riding time a week that I need.

I believe I was in lowest gears but simply could not generate any more energy to pedal.

Will work on my cadence though (was pretty low to start I think) thank you for the tip.
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Old 09-19-22, 09:57 AM
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Been there. Rather recently.

I got stronger by following this beginners training plan;
https://www.cyclingweekly.com/fitnes...eginner-153317

I had to Google and read up on a lot of the terminology, it was all Greek. Bought a $30 Polar heart rate monitor, which really helped me keep a less intense pace, especially during the warm-up and cool-down parts of the ride. Also a handlebar mount for my phone to see the heart rate, and the free Strava cycling app to track progress. This training plan is truly for us beginners, you only measure against yourself.

When finished with the training block, I take a several week break, riding just for fun, then decide if should repeat it or move on to slightly harder block.

P.S. I see the Polar HRM has increased in cost, there are lots of others.

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Old 09-19-22, 10:02 AM
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Make sure your in your smallest ring in the front and the biggest ring in the back. You’ll be going slower, but you will be able to keep up your cadence to get over the hill.
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Old 09-19-22, 10:04 AM
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1. Anticipate the gear required for the hill, and select it before beginning to climb.
It's tough to change gears with low RPM and high pressure on the pedals. It's better to be in too easy a gear.
Else, you fall off trying to change gear at the last min.

2. Ensure your bike is up to the task for your fitness level and type of climb.
My brand new bike was not. I had to change it from 52/36 front & 11-30 rear - - to - - 50/34 front and 11-34, before I even bothered to take it out on the road.
Historically, many road bikes came with 11-28 on the rear..... At least for me (6'1", 58yr & 190lb) that's not going to happen around where I live.

3. Training is not about beating yourself to sh death.
80% of your riding should be quite easy, building endurance. 20% should be hard.

4. Consider taking a coach. For approx $150-175/month you can take a professional cycling coach.
It's worth the money just for the educational benefits alone.
These guys & Gals are extremely good at finding your weak points and limitations, then guiding you past them.
(Ask me how I know) I spent 9 months beating myself and not getting faster, coach worked wonders.
Silly stuff, you might not think of.... My usual RPM on the flats was <70rpm, now I'm at 85-92+rpm. My coach made me and it really does help!

All the best

Barry
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Old 09-19-22, 10:11 AM
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And the previous question concerning your gearing warrants repeating. If your cassette is only 23-25 tooth with say a 52 chainring you are already working too hard. Not knowing what type of groupset you have, I imagine it is highly likely you could change the cassette to make life a bit easier.
I avoided hills for about two years as I was simply a terrible climber, my bike was not set up for climbing and I wasn’t in climbing condition. I now look forward to a good vertical challenge as I can climb most anything (perhaps slowly) I’m 62 and am cycling stronger than ever doing centuries and double metrics with not much stress. You can do it, just be patient and persistent.
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Old 09-19-22, 10:19 AM
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BTW - Paultreks Welcome to bike forums.
Have you discovered Clydesdales Athenas-200-lb-91-kg/
You currently qualify (as did I) and if/when you don't qualify any longer, they are not too judgmental and might let you stay.

Barry
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Old 09-19-22, 10:31 AM
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OK you peeked my interest and I noticed you listed your bike in your profile (well done).

A Trek Pilot 1.2
The web claims 52/42/30 front, & 12-25 Cassette on the rear.

With a small 30 tooth Front & big 25 tooth rear, that's pretty good for climbing.

alcjphil Pointed out my error above.....
small 30 tooth Front & big 25 tooth rear, the easiest gear, could use some help.
I myself use 34 front-34 rear & 34-36 on my bikes.

Unless you are prepared to learn a lot about how the tooth limitations/specifications work on derailleurs, a trip to the bike store for options might be in order.
It's generally not just a case of finding a larger rear cassette, other spec's need to be taken into consideration.

------------------------------------------ -may also be
I suspect it's low RPM and/or technique ^ causing you some troubles.

Barry

Last edited by Barry2; 09-19-22 at 01:59 PM.
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Old 09-19-22, 10:35 AM
  #13  
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As a very overweight rider who doesn't do enough miles ..... I have to agree it is not just leg strength. I have done group rides where I could barely manage the hills---as in, lowest gear, struggling to keep moving forward---but could easily match the group's speed on the flats.

Yes, my legs are weak, but also, muscles need fuel and air ... all of which is delivered by the bloodstream. Heart and lungs are really important when climbing. Under constant load your muscles need to offload all the waste matter while also sucking in all the oxygen and fuel they can get .... and if you cannot breathe hard enough and pump enough blood, your legs muscles cannot contract no matter how strong they are under optimal circumstances.

If you really want to get good at hills, I would suggest intervals and hill repeats---which are intervals uphill. sort of.

Easiest are the intervals .... basically, ride flat-out for 30 seconds, rest 30 seconds, over and over .... ride until you want to quit, then until you need to quit, then until you are about to fall over. It has been explained to me that intensity is what really matters ... . do fewer repetitions but go Really hard for each one .... then finish a normal ride to clear out your muscles.

If I were going to ride intervals I wouldn't do what I just suggested, though ... I would go online and look up "riding intervals" and "HIIT" (high-intensity interval training.) Learn from the experts, because I am Not an expert.

Hill repeats are just that .... find a hill, attack it, roll back down, do it again, and keep doing it until you can barely do it .... then finish your ride to clear out your muscles.

There are a lot of training programs online ....

Anyway .... yes, lower gearing and better technique matter, but those aren't the "Answer." I have been practicing breathing technique (make sure to Fully empty your lungs--panting is inefficient and exhausting) but I still need to practice intervals and hill-repeats .... the heart-lung machine is extremely important in climbing.
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Old 09-19-22, 10:38 AM
  #14  
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Originally Posted by Barry2 View Post
OK you peeked my interest and I noticed you listed your bike in your profile (well done).
A Trek Pilot 1.2
The web claims 52/42/30 front, & 12-25 Cassette on the rear.
With a small 30 tooth Front & big 25 tooth rear, that's pretty good for climbing.
I suspect it's low RPM and/or technique causing you some troubles.
Barry
Well, to my mind a 30 tooth small ring and only a 25 tooth big cog, the gearing isn't all that low especially for a triple setup. A larger cassette would be helpful depending on the capacity of the rear derailleur
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Old 09-19-22, 10:42 AM
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Originally Posted by Paultreks View Post
I'm an overweight newish roadbike rider (206lbs 5'5"). been riding inconsistenly for two years. I can now ride 20 miles on the flats, however even slightest climbs are difficult. I find myself stopping and fell once. Any advice on how I can improve? I've read building leg muscles is not the answer.

Thank you
All of the above advice and comments are very valid. There really isn't ONE answer. Fitness, weight, strength, adaptation are all 'Body' considerations which are interlinked.
Then there's equipment considerations, bike fit, gearing, weight.
How can these be addressed?
Bike equipment - of course gearing is a major consideration. It sounds as though you have 'gearing' choices. so maybe you have something which you can still usse, at this time.
Body considerations - all intertwined. Losing weight happens over time, Aerobic fitness happens over time, same for strength and adaptation to the act of cycling/turning the pedals and driving the bike.
There are a couple things you can do to get through 'time' while all this is improving.
Start by picking the easiest uphills you can find, that you think you can get up, with some work. Put the bike in the easiest gear you have. Warm up your riding by first dong a mile or 2 or 3 on a flat section. Then climb the hill, starting at moderate pace. Climb the hill without stopping. If you're able to ride out of the saddle - occasionally alternating between on and out of the saddle helps change how the muscles are used. Your weight is a small davantage 'out of the saddle' and going a bit slower like that, is ok.
BE DETERMINED! don;t give up. Climbing is not as much about being able to suffer, It's more about having, developing the determination to make it to the top.
At the top, coast back down, ride a short piece on flat section at a pace which allows you to get to normal riding state. go back to the hill and ride up again. Do same coast down/recovery.
Do this until you really can;t anymore. Always try to go 'one more time' after you thin you can't... Accomplishment by determination is a moment of joy.
Do this at least once a week, 2x would be better (with a few days in between).
As things get easier - pick a longer and/or steeper hill - repeat.
All the Above will improve - Fitness, Strength, adaptation and even Weight - if you eat/drink for the person you want to be. IF you eat for a 200 lb person, you will remain there. If you eat for a 170 lb person, you will get there.
No magic, no quick way, Technology only works to help. An E-bike will help allow getting up those hills - but it won;t change/improve your life as dramatically or thoroughly as you doing the climbing.
Climbing those hills will improve everything in your life.
Ride On
Yuri
OP, BTW: if you give some indication where you are, you might also get some good tips from BF members who are in, or the know the same area.
also, riding with others gives a motivation that riding solo doesn't afford. There are 'riding' groups in many areas which are 'easy, social' and encouraging. They're usally always welcoming and happy to have others join in. 'Expectations' are left at the spot where you get both feet off the ground and onto the pedals, riding.

Last edited by cyclezen; 09-19-22 at 10:46 AM.
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Old 09-19-22, 10:55 AM
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Originally Posted by alcjphil View Post
Well, to my mind a 30 tooth small ring and only a 25 tooth big cog, the gearing isn't all that low especially for a triple setup. A larger cassette would be helpful depending on the capacity of the rear derailleur
Phil,
You are correct!
Due to not nearly enough coffee I got the numbers backwards.

Yes 30 - 25 could use some help.
I myself use 34-34 or 34-36

Oops. I'll go edit the post.

Thanks

Barry
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Old 09-19-22, 11:06 AM
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Hike in the hills. Climb stairs. Jump rope.

On the bike? Embrace the challenge and understand the more time you devote to something the better you become at it.
Think in terms of years and not weeks.
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Old 09-19-22, 11:17 AM
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Originally Posted by Paultreks View Post
I've been riding two years averaging riding once or twice a week. not a newbie but not getting in enough riding time a week that I need.

I believe I was in lowest gears but simply could not generate any more energy to pedal.

Will work on my cadence though (was pretty low to start I think) thank you for the tip.
More detail! How hard were you breathing? Did you run out of breath completely? Or did your legs lose strength? Can you do a deep squat:

If so, can you do 30 of them without stopping? If you had to stop, what stopped you? Breathing or legs?
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Old 09-19-22, 11:25 AM
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Originally Posted by Paultreks View Post
not believing everything I read for starters.
definitely see losing 30 lbs will make a difference- yes.
will working on leg muscles and core.
Stand to climb- on shorter climbs. I read you burn more energy standing but will try that.

Thank you for the tips
The thing about standing is that it actually recruits your weight to help you get up the hill.

People often handle hills differently from how they ride flat so definitely don't believe everything you read, you'll need some experimentation to figure out what works for you. Hint--if it gets you up the hill intact, it's not a wrong answer. A lot of us do things in a way contrary to conventional wisdom because the motor (us) is definitely not standard issue.

And climbing really is the last thing a lot of us get good at, so it sounds like you're actually on a bit of a normal path for development.
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Old 09-19-22, 11:36 AM
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Originally Posted by Carbonfiberboy View Post
More detail! How hard were you breathing? Did you run out of breath completely? Or did your legs lose strength? Can you do a deep squat ... If so, can you do 30 of them without stopping? If you had to stop, what stopped you? Breathing or legs?
What about stopping for dizziness and vomiting?
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Old 09-19-22, 11:43 AM
  #21  
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Originally Posted by Paultreks View Post
Any advice on how I can improve?
It has been said upthread already, but let me say it this way: train with purpose.

Going out and just riding is not good enough, you need intensity (as has been mentioned). There are many ways to achieve workout intensity— hill repeats, max intervals, etc.— but the “with purpose” part is establishing a regimen which works with your schedule, employs targeted workouts, and assesses improvement.

There are many, many tools to help achieve that which I think are affordable (if not free), easy to use, and effective, but if you don’t want to get into that far, just keep hittin’ that hill, every ride, until you conquer it. Maybe try it earlier in the ride, while your fresh rather than later when you’re tired, or maybe make riding the hill the whole ride. I think once you climb it and know that you can do it, it’ll be easier to tackle next time around, and soon after that, it will cease to even be a challenge.
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Old 09-19-22, 11:48 AM
  #22  
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I recommend searching your area for some gentle uphill grades where you can ride several miles at an effort that is just beyond your comfort level--not so strenuous that you want to give up, but enough to make you work. Ride there a lot. Once it starts getting easier (this could take a while), find a slightly steeper hill and start the process again. Then steeper still, and so forth.

There is no magic secret to getting good at hills. It just takes lots of work.

You are not severely overweight, just slightly. And the fact that you've been going once or twice a week for a few years demonstrates that you're committed to it; you didn't just go out a couple times and then give up. So I suspect you're spending too much time on flat terrain and not taking on enough difficult challenges. You will never get good at riding up hills unless you ride up lots of hills!

I hope this doesn't come across as condescending or discouraging. On the contrary, I admire your determination to improve. Don't give up, keep after it, and I bet you'll be surprised at how you can progress.

Edited to add: On the question of building leg muscles, that's kind of complicated. Biking is about your heart and lung health as much as musculature, perhaps more. It is also about training your muscles, however big or small, to use energy efficiently. If you have big, powerful legs (and the cardiovascular capacity to fuel them) you can get up hills by selecting a moderate gear ratio and "mashing." That is, slow cadence and lots of force to arrive at the necessary power for pulling your weight. Most ordinary humans do better with spinning: achieving the same power by selecting a lower gear and increasing their cadence (even standing up to sprint when the hill is quite steep but short). Sometimes it gets so steep that you will be in your lowest gear and still have to apply a lot of force, and will not be able to achieve a high cadence. In any case, if you develop a strong heart and lungs through much hard work, the size of your leg muscles will not matter a lot. You need huge legs to produce the rapid acceleration that is required in track racing sprints, for example. Really good riders in most cycling disciplines come with a wide variety of body types, exceptions being the obese and the emaciated. All of us in the middle 60 or 70% of the body type bell curve have the potential to be good riders--without building lots of muscle.

Last edited by Broctoon; 09-19-22 at 12:08 PM.
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Old 09-19-22, 01:44 PM
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Remember when you fell behind the group running laps in high school? You’d come over the line last, exhausted, just as the coach told everyone to hit the showers — except you?

I do. Coach told me “4 more laps”. It felt like punishment, but it wasn’t. It was training, and it worked.

The same is true for climbing. If you’re struggling with the hills, do more hills. Ignore all the other training advice for now. Just get out there and do more hills!
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Old 09-19-22, 01:51 PM
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Use your easier gears. Find some long-ish climbs nearby that are not impossible and practice on them. Rinse. Repeat.
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Old 09-19-22, 02:08 PM
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Originally Posted by CAT7RDR View Post
Hike in the hills. Climb stairs. Jump rope.

On the bike? Embrace the challenge and understand the more time you devote to something the better you become at it.
Think in terms of years and not weeks.
I agree with this and only to add that it takes regular, consistent effort. Twice a week may not be enough. Best to ride every day, giving yourself a rest day every few days, even if it's not up hills but enough to keep your legs in shape and conditioned to spin the pedals. Then try riding up hills until you can conquer them with minimal effort. Next thing you know you'll be attacking hills in high gear riding up them at 15 MPH.
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