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  1. #1
    Join Date
    May 2010
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    MD
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    164

    Tips on making it up steep section of hill?

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    Being a still-somewhat-new rider, I feel like I'm fairly okay at climbing. I'm not GREAT, I'm not super strong or fast, but walking hills is not something I am used to experiencing. However, we just moved (and bought our first house so I haven't had the time to train like I would like), and there is this one hill in our area -- and I just CANNOT get up that sucker!

    It's maybe .2 miles long (maybe? I really have no idea), but the only section I struggle with is right in the middle where it suddenly pitches super steep. Strava has it at a 15% grade, I don't know if thats accurate or not. The first attempt up I tried to stay seated, the second time up I knew where the steep section was coming and stood for it, but both times I just could. not. turn. the pedals. It isn't even really that my legs are hurting or I'm out of breath, its like I just don't have that type of power in my legs to begin with. Both times I panicked that the bike was about to tip over so I bailed and unclipped.

    Does anyone have advice for learning how to tackle this type of hill? I'll keep riding the long, more gradual climbs in my area but I feel like that won't help me handle the super-steep section on this hill. I could keep trying this hill every week or so but I don't want to keep trying and failing and then get it in my head that I really CANT do it. Has anyone overcome this type of challenge before?

    FWIW, my bike doesn't have super generous gearing on it, but I still feel like this should be doable with better technique or maybe a mental trick -- I'm guessing my biggest enemy is the fear of the bike tipping over....(but, like, its really about to).

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Apr 2013
    Posts
    130
    You really need to define your gearing, however, I live in the wasatch so 15% on my first bike (standard double with 12-25 in the back, so stingy for sure) was fine with practice. All you do is find hills and ride them, try less steep hills for practise and work up (try map my ride for route planning, and I would only use a garmin with barometric as a reliable indicator, not strava or MMR on the bike) and keep trying at your steep bit, I always stay seated unless I feel I am about to fall.
    so things you should answer first:
    what kind of bike (including weight etc)?
    what is your gearing? What gears are you using? (this might be a dumb question, I never have enough gears LOL, so I never have any left, but people so strange things)

    The thing that helps you in hill climbing is hill climbing, weight loss if you are heavy, and optimal gearing would be nice. My most recent bike is standard double with 11-28 so it is nice to have a bit more range for sure. I have never ridden a triple or a compact, but my friend has 11-32 on her cassette and it is lovely to watch her spin up the canyons, but I am always faster LOL. I am a masher by nature though. When I climb, say canyons, I try not to look ahead to far, take it a bite at a time. I don;t really have short climbs so I do think the longer climbs really help. There is nothing wrong with stopping and unclipping and taking a breather but not on 15% because it sucks to try to get going again at that point.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    May 2010
    Location
    MD
    Posts
    164
    OK so apparently I have 50/34 up front and 12/25 in the back. I'm definitely in the easiest gearing I can do for this hill (I too always run out of gears!). My bike is a Specialized Dolce, so a proper entry-level road bike. I'm 145 lbs and 5'3", I'd like to lose 15 lbs but 5 is more realistic.

    So, my gearing is also stingy in the back, but with training I should still be able to power through it right? Or is there a technique I can use for the standing climb to get me over the real steep section. Like I said I just get so slow I feel like I'm about to fall over - its not that I need a breather, I just don't feel like I currently have the strength. And I for sure can't stop for a breather and get going again on that section without falling over!

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Feb 2005
    Location
    Concord, MA
    Posts
    13,394
    Everyone is different, but I never stand to power up a hill. But, on the subject of gearing, I have one bike with a triple, which has gone from a 25 to a 27 to a 28 and one bike with a compact that has an 11-32. I don't care if someone passes me. I get up anything.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Sep 2007
    Location
    Uncanny Valley
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    14,501
    With the caveat that I learned all this stuff by feel and I'm not sure how much thinking about it helps ...

    Increase your cadence by around 5 rpm as you approach the climb and spin into it. Are you already in your bottom gear on the shallower beginning? What cadence do you maintain on the flats? Make sure you're not shifting under hard pedaling, which will lose you momentum, besides being hard on your drivetrain. When the road steepens, use the increase in grade and your momentum to help throw your body weight forward into standing. Unless you're *very* tiny, once you're standing muscle power really isn't an issue, because you're using gravity and your entire body weight to turn the pedals. It will take more cardio energy but *less* muscle power to climb standing.


    Also, doing the shallower hills *will* help you. You'll improve your shifting technique, your cardio endurance and your leg strength. Every one of those translates to steeper sections. If you want to actually "train," you can do repeats on one of the shallower hills, as well as practicing powering up them as hard as you can.
    Last edited by OakLeaf; 06-18-2013 at 09:44 AM.
    Speed comes from what you put behind you. - Judi Ketteler

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Oct 2002
    Location
    San Francisco Bay Area
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    9,324
    Practice standing as Oak described on the shallower hills so it feels more natural and comfortable, before trying it on that section where you feel like you're going to fall over.

    Standing to climb will make your heart rate climb quickly. I rarely stand for that reason and since most of my climbs tend to be long. But it is kind of fun to power over a small hill while standing.

    Veronica
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  7. #7
    Join Date
    Apr 2011
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    perpetual traveler
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    1,267
    I sometimes switch back up steep hills. However, you can only do this on roads with no cars. Or where you can stay in your own lane. I've managed to get up some pretty steep hills that way seated.

    I do have lower gearing than you do and would prefer even lower. 11-28 and 50-34 is what I have.
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  8. #8
    Join Date
    Dec 2005
    Location
    WA State
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    4,364
    As long as it's not a busy road - you can always do the paper boy - zig, zag up the steepest section. It's like skiing in reverse, by cutting across the slope, you taking a path that is less steep.

    Otherwise I agree with Oak - anticipate the hill, make sure you are geared down before you hit the steep spot, try to take as much momentum into as possible. If you feel like it's hard to stand and pedal, you may want to get your bike fit checked.
    "Sharing the road means getting along, not getting ahead" - 1994 Washington State Driver's Guide

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  9. #9
    Join Date
    Apr 2012
    Location
    Rowland Hts, CA
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    461
    My Specialized Amira Elite 2012 is a compact 50/34 in front and 11-28 in back. At 15% grade, I am definitely out of gears and can barely make it up the hill even though I am also a masher by nature.

    So, I agree with the others... I think that it is a combination of training, weight loss, and not enough hill gears
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  10. #10
    Join Date
    Sep 2006
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    Oslo, Norway
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    Quote Originally Posted by fallstoclimb View Post
    It's maybe .2 miles long (maybe? I really have no idea), but the only section I struggle with is right in the middle where it suddenly pitches super steep. Strava has it at a 15% grade, I don't know if thats accurate or not. The first attempt up I tried to stay seated, the second time up I knew where the steep section was coming and stood for it, but both times I just could. not. turn. the pedals. It isn't even really that my legs are hurting or I'm out of breath, its like I just don't have that type of power in my legs to begin with. Both times I panicked that the bike was about to tip over so I bailed and unclipped.
    when you say you felt the bike was about to tip over, was that sideways, because you were moving slowly, or backwards, because the hill is so steep?

    15 % is steep. I ride stuff like this by gearing all the way down, standing and moving my weight way forward until I'm standing on one leg at a time, with hips directly above and weighting straight down on the pedal. I just use my hands to guide the front wheel and to pull a little when starting a new pedal stroke. I may end up practically bumping the bars, but the falling over backwards feeling goes away. If I ride over loose gravel I can sometimes feel my rear wheel slipping a little, I have so much weight on the front. I can still fall over sideways if I can't keep up enough speed :-) but I don't unclip until I'm actually standing still. For me it's a balance thing.
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  11. #11
    Join Date
    May 2006
    Location
    Suburban MA and Western ME
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    You can climb at 2.5 miles per hour and not fall over . I've watched ants climbing up a hill faster than I am pedaling, but have still not fallen over.

    If you decide to stand while climbing, since it is a short section, do as LPH suggests and keep loose on the handlebars and keep your weight over the pedals. Then pedal as if you are dropping your leg - pushing instead of pulling. If you are seated, you again want a loose grip on the bars - I climb steep sections with my hands positioned on the tops of the bars close to the stem, and try to ensure I keep pedaling circles.

    I did A LOT of climbing this past weekend, and these techniques certainly helped. You will get there - as others have said it just takes practice and training.

    SheFly
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  12. #12
    Join Date
    Jun 2006
    Location
    Dumas, TX
    Posts
    217
    I have a triple, that's what gets me up the hills
    pedal pusher

  13. #13
    Join Date
    Jul 2012
    Location
    Houston
    Posts
    1,301

    Re: Tips on making it up steep section of hill?

    I can attest 3mph up a hill is perfectly doable :-) I can stand just fine, but I prefer the sit and spin method.
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  14. #14
    Join Date
    Sep 2007
    Location
    Uncanny Valley
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    14,501
    I will say that being able to stay upright in the saddle at extremely low speed depends a lot on having low gears. The taller a gear you have to push, the harder it is to keep from wobbling side to side. It can be done, but that's practically trials-rider grade stuff. Which, trials bikes don't have seats ... because you have so much more control and balance when you're standing with your weight on your feet ...
    Last edited by OakLeaf; 06-18-2013 at 01:31 PM.
    Speed comes from what you put behind you. - Judi Ketteler

  15. #15
    Join Date
    May 2010
    Location
    MD
    Posts
    164
    Quote Originally Posted by lph View Post
    when you say you felt the bike was about to tip over, was that sideways, because you were moving slowly, or backwards, because the hill is so steep?

    15 % is steep. I ride stuff like this by gearing all the way down, standing and moving my weight way forward until I'm standing on one leg at a time, with hips directly above and weighting straight down on the pedal. I just use my hands to guide the front wheel and to pull a little when starting a new pedal stroke. I may end up practically bumping the bars, but the falling over backwards feeling goes away. If I ride over loose gravel I can sometimes feel my rear wheel slipping a little, I have so much weight on the front. I can still fall over sideways if I can't keep up enough speed :-) but I don't unclip until I'm actually standing still. For me it's a balance thing.
    I felt like it was about to tip over sideways because I was moving so slowly. I do feel like I tend to sort of keep my hips back when I do standing climbs, if that makes any sense -- like I'm still sort of keeping my weight back. Maybe moving my hips forward would help me bring more power with each step down.

    For those who mentioned zig zagging, I probably could try that. The road isn't dead quiet but its reasonably quiet.

    I really am starting to think I want some more generous gearing, though!

 

 

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