Thursday, September 18, 2014

7 Things Beginners need to know to climb any Hill

I thought with the Hilly Hundred approaching and with a lot of people planning to do this for their bucket list, it was an opportune time to do this post.

Most people think that the secret to climbing hills lies in fitness, bodyweight and power. After all there is no substitute for training.  My approach is to make this training more approachable by making it progressive resistance training and doing it in a way that allows increasing overload instead of impossible overload.
In other words if you have a goal to bench press 300 lbs as a beginner body builder you would not start with a 300 lb bench but would progressively work your way up.

On another note, even though these tips are intended for beginners, some of these tips are things that many top pro hill climbers in the world know and use.

The first thing that you need to know is that having the right equipment is key!  Don't think that you have to run out  an $18,000 Specialized S-Works + McLaren Venge,

#1 it helps to have the right equipment - First we need to talk about terminology and what impact that  will have on your ability to climb any hill, without getting off your ride to push it over the summit.  Road Bikes of any variety are better than Cruisers, Mountain Bikes (for road hills, great for mountains and off road hills), Hybrids and the like.  While it is not necessary to have top end brand new bicycle,  a road bike almost always offers a weight advantage.  This is very important when you are fighting the planet Earth's gravitational attraction.

Some important terminology
Cassette - the gears on the rear wheel of your bike
Chain ring - the gears attached to the crank arms that are attached to the pedals - Bigger gears in front.

Which brings us to
#2 use your gears - you want to get in the smallest gear on your chainring and the biggest on your cassette as soon as possible when faced with an epic hill.  It may seem ridiculously easy for the first few pedal strokes, but rest assured that if you are climbing a hill of any significance, you will need the energy that you saved on the bottom to go over the top.

#3 go slow at the start - so you are pedaling in your easiest gears (if you look down while you are riding your chain will be as close to the frame as it can get) but you don't need to go as hard as you can in that gear.  Save your energy for where you are going to need it.... later on in this same hill.
When I tell people that they need to go slower, the typical response is, "If I go any slower, I will fall over!"  That's because you only went slow after you were out of gas, go slow at the start and you will not run out of gas!

#4 Stay Seated - climbing out of the saddle should only be done because you need a short rest for the muscles you use while seated or the hill is so short that you can power over it.  On long climbs it will cause you to blow up,,, unless you are very lean.  Note to strong burly guys, you may get away from this on less than Cat 5 climbs, but once the climbs are categorized you will likely blow up no matter how strong you are.  It is a power to weight ratio thing and if you fight gravity, gravity will win. Skinny people can ignore this part - still more efficient to stay seated most of the time, but skinny people will never believe me :)

#5 Pace yourself - Hill climbs of significance are not sprints for most of us, so we need to pace our energy output, so that we can stay on the bike the whole distance.  If it is your first time to climb a major hill, start out slow and stay slow until the top of the hill is with in easy striking distance, then (if you really have a lot of gas left in the tank), power on over the top!

#6 improve your pedal stroke - I could easily spend a whole post talking about this. If you are not clipping in, I only have 6 tips for you,,,, just kidding.  The idea is to have a smooth pedal stroke and one way to develop this is by practicing high cadence pedaling.  90 and above, if you one day find yourself pedaling at 130 rpm and your butt is rock solid in the saddle, you have arrived. If this is not you and you live in Indianapolis, come out to some Cure Chaser Cycling rides (indoor or outdoor) myself or one of our other coaches will be happy to help you get started towards a better pedal stroke.

#7 when you get tired scoot back in the saddle to use a different muscle group, when those muscles are tired, scoot forward. Refer to rule #20 The Rules

If you are training for the Hilly 100 come on out to our Blue Tuesday ride and get some vertical in before you show up in Elletsville next month.  You won't regret it.

We meet in the parking lot across from SouthWestWay Park 8400 Mann Rd, Indianapolis, IN
This week we will be starting at 5:45 and the maximum length of the ride is 2 hours. It is an out and back course and we all start and finish together.

We will be moving the start earlier as we continue to loose daylight, if you plan to come out be sure to have lights on your bike just in case. You can find the full details including what to bring Here

No comments:

Post a Comment