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Thread: Uphill skills

  1. #1
    Join Date
    May 2006
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    Los Angeles, CA
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    25

    Unhappy Uphill skills

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    Anyone got some tips on how to build the muscle/skills to be able to better handle long uphills, or short very steep hills (other than practice, practice, practice)? Are there particular exercises I could/should be doing when not on the bike that might help when I'm on the bike? I'm about to move from a relatively flat area to the top of a hill. There's only two roads in/out of the neighborhood -- one is a 500-foot hill that's less than .25 mile in length, the other is the same gain over 2 miles. I can do the two-mile route without too much trouble but it's unfortunately the WRONG side of the hill (opposite direction) for errands. So if I want to use the bike instead of the car, I have to conquer the steep monster.

    Any suggestions?

    Cindi

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Jun 2006
    Location
    California
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    94

    Lightbulb Steep hill tip

    Hi,

    I live at the top of a fairly steep hill and it's a challenge everytime.

    A good trick that works for me... before the hill, pick up as much speed as possible and just before the bottom of the hill, shift to the lowest gear and spin really hard. There's also a stop light right before my street, and I have to make a hard right turn, so my timing has to be just right Today was not bad, I made it about 3/4 up before I had to stand up for the final push.

    Tip: be sure to shift so you don't drop the chain, I still manage to do this every now and again.

    Happy climbing !

  3. #3
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    Apr 2006
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    I'm wondering the same thing. I'm a serious hill slug and would LOVE to increase my power on hills. I read somewhere that doing leg presses, squats, and hamstring curls would be good (but I have a bad knee, so squats are out). I think anything you can do to strengthen the quads/hammys will help with strength output on the bike.
    I'm looking forward to other great tips from these ladies here who have so much to offer!
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  4. #4
    Join Date
    May 2006
    Location
    San Jose, CA
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    463
    There are isometric exercises that are great for strengthening, and should be safe for your knees. I recognize most of the exercises listed here, since I recently went through physical therapy. My condition was a back injury, but I also have weak knees.
    http://www.med.umich.edu/1libr/sma/sma_jumpersk_rex.htm

    Check out the wall squat. There's another one where you stand with your back against the wall. With your back straight, lower down into a squat (not quite 90 degrees) with the wall supporting your back. Try to hold it for 30 seconds. It's a real exercise for the quads, but doesn't require moving up and down. The goal is to do 3 of these, then try to get up to a minute or more.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Jan 2006
    Posts
    30

    Hill strength?

    I am really sorry to break this to you, but for me anyay, the only way I managed to get stronger on the hills was doing more hills!

    I came to Auckland thinking I was fit and could climb....oh boy! The hils here are steep and (because of all the volacanoes) just rise out of nowhere.

    Climbing uses so many muscles your arms are braced, your abs are held tight so your body doesn't waste your energy by trying to join in, your legs don't just push up and down but they push forwards and backwards. Don't under estimate how strong your hip flexors are too (if you clip in that is, they are a real powerhouse) also your glutes are powerful hip extensors.

    If "other" exercises are a problem to you (as I guess squats are the closest off-bike alternative) then I am afraid you need to find a smaller hill that you are happy with and do it again, and again, and again!

    Choose a low gear that you are comfortable with and try to stay in the saddle as long as you can. You are much more efficient and energy conserving in the seat. The number of times I have plodded past someone who was bouncing around like a gazelle up a hill! Its quite fun!

    As you get better it does all get so much more fun. I no longer see a hill and groan in anticipation, I just get in a good gear and go up it until I get there.

    Good luck and let us know how you go.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Jul 2005
    Location
    Seattle, WA
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    325
    I saw something the other day on my commute home that I would like to try. A guy was riding in a high gear on the flats--in other words he was off the seat, doing a standing pedal.

    Of course the balance issues are different but this should create some of the same aerobic needs as cycling up hill.

    Quillfred

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Mar 2006
    Location
    Boulder
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    930
    Not an expert here, but a beginner who has finally begun to figure out a bit of the hill thang.

    Some tips that were given to me that I noticed really helped.

    Of course, the shifting. Always shift before you start mashing your pedals. Once you get into your lowest possible gear, good luck.

    Don't dismount on a hill. Just... keep... going. It sucks, but getting back onto your bike and clipped in on a steep sucks much more (especially if there are cars). I talk to myself all the time telling myself I can do this, just get there, don't dismount. My goal on any given strenuous hill is just to NOT DISMOUNT. I don't care about speed or whathaveyou, I just won't let myself dismount (if possible, of course).

    For longer hills, set yourself small goals. I fixate on an object ahead (say, a speed limit sign or tree) and tell myself I need to make it there. Then I rinse and repeat until I'm at the top.

    Try to stay in the saddle as long as possible. When you're standing you've got the weight of your body to help you with those pedals, but it will burn your energy at a higher rate. In other words, It'll give you a nice boost but after a minute or two you will burn out, especially if you're not used to standing. Of course, on short steep hills sometimes it's worth it to just stand and get up it as quick as possible (these type of hills are the ones I usually stand for... get as much speed going into it and then stand for a few pedals to get to the top)

    If the hill is really long and sustained, something I've noticed that helps a bit when I'm at my limit (thinking about stopping) is to stand for a few strokes. Not enough to kill myself, but enough to use some different muscles. THen sit back down and continue. There is one hill around here that I have to do that several times on, and once you do the up/down thing once or twice it becomes a bit less awkward. Doing this changing of positions seems to refresh my muscles by giving them a bit of a reprieve.

    Of course, when it all comes down to it, it's just practice and figuring out what works for yourself. What I've found DOESN'T work for me is walking up a hill. Between the embaressment and the uncomfortableness of walking in my cleats, and the fact that it doesn't rest my muscles at all, I'd just as soon stop and let my legs rest than push my bike up a hill.

    K.

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Sep 2005
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    Switzerland
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    I was going to post the below tips... then I did the following calculation:

    Your grade is 500ft/0.25mi or 150m/400 m - you sure that's a 37% grade (or more if you say it's less than 025 mi)?
    Frankly that would stump me. I've only ever done 20%. TBH I've never even SEEN a 37%. Can Cars still drive that?



    Yes, don't stop. If you have clipless pedals, concentrate on pushing and pulling, still trying to use all muscles at your disposal even if you are reeeal slow. I seem to notice it eases a bit on the "help - no oxygen" state I get into.
    If you must stop, look out for a turnout where you can clip in in the "flat".
    Don't look up. see the bit of road in front of you - just the distance to make you safe if you expect any other traffic.
    And another way to make a hill easy (welll, easier) for you - is to try one that is harder. Just once
    Standing up - on a road bike - pull on the shifter horns, or whatever they are called.
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  9. #9
    Join Date
    Apr 2006
    Location
    Texas
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    830
    What Kimmyt said. I'm still new to this myself but I am learning thanks to all the wonderful advice given here. I asked nearly the same question not long ago. I took the advice to just ride the hills. Now I go out looking forward to riding this one set of hills. I go out specifically to ride it once or twice. In just a couple of weeks I've found that I'm stronger on the flats, don't get tired as easily, the little hills I hardly even notice any more and I'm not always the last person up a hill when riding in a group.

    I try to ride up the hill seated until my legs start to feel fatigued a bit, don't let them get totally wiped out, then I shift up (harder) one or two gears then stand for a count of 6 to 12 revolutions, then sit and shift back down (easier) a gear or two. I keep my hands on the hoods. It's amazing how much that actually helps "rest" your legs without being too hard on you aerobically. Don't shift to an easy gear too soon or you'll just lose all the momentum you had. I agree, don't look at the top of the hill, just far enough ahead to hold your line and see any road hazards. It really does seem to flatten out the hill. Don't worry about your cadence at first. Just use your body as a guide, make it work but don't exhaust it. Once you find a gear you can make it up a hill in, next time try making it up in one higher (harder) gear. It will make your legs stronger. Now I don't have to go down to my smallest chainring in front (I have a triple). Also on the flats I'll shift up a few gears and work on standing. I've found that helps me when I stand on the hills.

    On the 47 mile ride I did two weekends ago I was riding with a friend who has been riding for years. She's loves to mtn bike and just leaves me on the hills so I know she can climb. She actually told me she couldn't keep up with me on the hills on the last half of the ride. That made me feel pretty good. It does get easier. You just have to get to the point where you don't HATE hills. I don't like 'em a whole lot but at least I don't HATE them anymore (well at least most of the time I don't). They can really give you a great sense of accomplishment.

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Sep 2005
    Location
    Los Angeles, CA
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    135
    Quote Originally Posted by alpinerabbit
    I was going to post the below tips... then I did the following calculation:

    Your grade is 500ft/0.25mi or 150m/400 m - you sure that's a 37% grade (or more if you say it's less than 025 mi)?
    Frankly that would stump me. I've only ever done 20%. TBH I've never even SEEN a 37%. Can Cars still drive that?
    I know the hill Cindi's talking about - it's really, really steep.

    Cin, you know my best solution - tie the dogs to the front of the bike and yell, "Mush"

  11. #11
    Join Date
    Jun 2006
    Location
    Newport, RI
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    Hi Cindi,
    Here's an exercise that may help (other than just riding the monsters). Step up onto a bench that's knee high (your thigh should be parallel to the floor). Try not to push off of your standing leg. Lower back down. 15 reps each leg to start. Don't alternate legs in between reps.
    Last edited by redrhodie; 06-05-2006 at 03:24 PM.

  12. #12
    Join Date
    Mar 2006
    Location
    San Francisco, CA
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    51
    Are any of these your street? And I thought we had steep streets in SF!

    http://www.walkinginla.com/2004/Feb15/EldredSt.html

    Sorry, no advise but maybe walk your bike up?!?

    Erin

  13. #13
    Join Date
    May 2006
    Posts
    45
    I'm just rotten with hills but I did have to chime in and second the not hating hills being a big thing for me. If I had to be 100% honest. I hate em. I loathe them. I'd rather live on some nice flat plains while on my bike. But not giving in to that and not whining is the #1 thing for me. I holler out "I LOVE AN INCLINE" then chant it under my breath til I make it to the top oh so slowly. I've been doing this less than a week and it's really not that I'm magically stronger in the last 5 days. I just refuse to keep living in dread of hills. It's just an incline. It will not ruin my ride. I will not feel bad about my skills and ability because of it. Hopefully with enough self brainwashing and better fitness it'll be true.. In the mean time I don't have that sense of dread, the horrible feeling of inability, I -will- take that incline. I OWN that incline.

    Attitude seems to be everything with biking, for me.

  14. #14
    Join Date
    May 2006
    Location
    Los Angeles, CA
    Posts
    25

    Appreciate the tips!

    Thanks everyone for the advice, I really appreciate it! Although it's clearly going to take a lot of time and a lot of work, it's really nice to read that I'm apparently doing the right things. (Other than hitching the dogs to the front and yelling Mush -- sorry, I love my dogs a lot more than I love my legs!)

    E2theD: I laughed when I saw that web site -- it's not that street, but it's very, very close to there -- just a few blocks away, really. I'll see if I can get a picture of my monster and share it with you all. My last car couldn't get up that hill unless I turned off the air conditioner.

    Cindi

  15. #15
    Join Date
    Jun 2004
    Location
    Nebraska
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    1,192
    From experience:

    There is quite a bit to be said for losing a few pounds off the bio-load and putting a new teeny-tiny granny on the bike. (It weighs less, doncha know )

    Remember, hills are kind of like dogs. You just have to show them who's the the Alpha - and keep showing them - over, and over, and over...
    Give big space to the festive dog that make sport in the roadway. Avoid entanglement with your wheel spoke.
    (Sign in Japan)

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