Tell me how to love hills...

Discussion in 'Beginners' started by capricapers, 8 Nov 2018 at 17:59.

  1. capricapers

    capricapers Regular

    I used to cycle a lot as a young girl and as a teenage tomboy, took great pleasure in beating the boys on the straight, in my single-speed, huge-wheeled Raleigh that my father bought for a tenner.
    I had a few road bikes after that and loved them too. The sensation of speed was exhilarating. Then, in the 90s, and noughties, I somehow ditched the racer and went around on a MTB. Now, in my late 40s, I bought a women’s Specialized Tarmac Disc Expert (I secretly wanted the S-Works really!) and took to road biking again. I discovered Strava (the dreaded ‘S’ word) and found, to my amazement and delight that some of my very first rides on my new road bike had segments that put me in the top 10 or 20 of all-time women. HOWEVER, even with a new and beautiful road bike, I am still crap at hills. I can get up them - even though I dread and hate them - but I can’t go fast up them and I certainly don’t enjoy them. On the hills, I don’t know where to look - do I look at the horizon or down at the floor and pretend the ground is flat? I feel a bit of a cheat and a rubbish cyclist if all my achievements and strengths are sprinting or on sharp/severe or even very gentle descents. I can go on moderately long rides (60 miles) on my own, averaging 16mph or more and I am not afraid to plummet down hills at 40mph but my average mph falls to 14.5 overall when hills (inclines) are factored in. Sometimes I climb at a ridiculous 5mph. Is this largely a physical or a mental thing? I am 5ft4’ and have a typically athletic and muscular frame. I have never been skinny. In an ideal world, I would lose 8lb (and be 9 stone) but despite playing a lot of sport (netball, badminton, tennis, yoga) I can’t shift the 8lb.
    Sooo, how can I get better at hills? Is it
    A) learn to love them (mind over matter)
    B) lose the 8lb, you lard-a*se !
    C) practice, practice, practice, train, train, train
    My pescetarian diet is based on non-processed, natural foods. I am not a cake-eater!
    Thanks for reading through this and I hope you can help me to improve. As you can tell, I am very impatient :bicycle:
  2. 13 rider

    13 rider Guru

    You may never learn to love climbs but keep at and you will get better. The more you do the quicker you will get no short cuts . Climbing is certainly a mental as well as physical challenge . Everyone has there own technique to get up you just need to find yours . Gear slection is very important but again very personal too low a gear and your legs spin to quick too big and your turnover is too slow . Ideally at the bottom of the climb select the gear you know will get you to the top and spin away . Keep at it
  3. ColinJ

    ColinJ A big clot!

    I love hills and ride up and down them all the time. The thing is though ... you are already way quicker than me, so I can't give you any meaningful advice on what you should do. (Unless "Don't worry about speeding up - just enjoy riding at whatever speed you feel comfortable with" counts as meaningful advice! :okay:)

    PS If you DO manage to speed up, let us know how you did it - I'd like to speed up too! :laugh:
  4. OP

    capricapers Regular

    Thanks Colin, I do love the straights and I don’t mind tincy, gentle inclines but more than 1% and I get a bit panicky at having to change to the small sprocket and change cadence/tack, as it were. I do think that the more ‘slender’ people manage hill climbs far more easily. I wonder if it helps to be tall as well (which I obviously am not). If I should get better at hills, I will be sure to share my ‘knowledge’.
    Pat "5mph" and Andy in Germany like this.
  5. ColinJ

    ColinJ A big clot!

    Okay, one piece of advice - experiment with your gears. You might be a grinder but spinning, or a spinner but grinding! (I am a spinner.)

    PS Ah - I didn't know that you meant 1% - I was thinking more like 10-20%!

    Play with the numbers at Bike Calculator and you will be surprised at how much even a gentle slope knocks your speed back. For example, the power that gets me to 16 mph would only get me to 10 mph up a 2% slope.
    Last edited: 8 Nov 2018 at 18:20
    RealLeeHimself and capricapers like this.
  6. OP

    capricapers Regular

    Thank you. My legs never spin, even in the easiest gear on a moderate hill. I think I need a lot of practice. Sometimes I have no gears left, even on a 12% hill - which means maybe I’m not trying hard enough?
    Andy in Germany likes this.
  7. OP

    capricapers Regular

    Sorry, what’s a grinder? Sorry to be thick! I’m never happier than when I’m on the largest sprocket, building up speed.
    Andy in Germany likes this.
  8. Pumpkin the robot

    Pumpkin the robot Über Member

    The only way to get better at hills is to do more hills.
    I think once your speed picks up on the hills, your competative side will come out, and you will enjoy doing hills as much as riding on the flat or downhill.
    Last edited: 8 Nov 2018 at 18:28
    capricapers likes this.
  9. ColinJ

    ColinJ A big clot!

    'Sprocket' is usually used for the cogs at the back. You are probably talking about the big chainring (front)?

    Grinders tend to use big chainrings and small sprockets. That gives them a high gear ratio and a low pedalling cadence. You see some riders overdoing it and struggling to 'grind' the cranks round. Spinners are the opposite - using smaller chainrings and/or larger sprockets for a lower gear ratio and a higher cadence to achieve the same speed. Some riders do not like the feeling of their legs whizzing round. I don't like the feeling of having to force the cranks round. Even with low gears, once you get to really steep hills (say) 15+% then it always going to be hard work no matter what gear ratio you use!
  10. Dayvo

    Dayvo Just passin' through

    Don't bother riding UP them. Just go down.


    Nope, there are no shortcuts, I'm afraid. As Pumpkin says, you just have to stick at it.
  11. gavroche

    gavroche Getting old but not past it

    North Wales
    When it comes to where to look, personally, I look right in front my front wheel and every now and again, just look up to see where I am. If you keep looking way ahead, the top of the hill never seem to get any closer.
    groundy74, alicat, smutchin and 2 others like this.
  12. 13 rider

    13 rider Guru

    High cadence does feel odd but you can practice it . On the levels drop a couple of gears but try to maintain the same speed to teach your legs to spin .
    Do you know how many teeth your largest sprocket on the rear wheel has ? .
    capricapers likes this.
  13. screenman

    screenman Legendary Member

    Not a cake eater, how could you? Best bit of advice I was once given was to never look too far ahead, it works fr me.
    capricapers likes this.
  14. Reiver

    Reiver Legendary Member

    learn to climb out of the saddle, I just love been up on the pedals for a dance - trouble is my legs don't always get me to the top and I have drop a geat or two and spin, hate that bit.

    It's advice that is often given but I like to see how far to go so as I can pace myself. Have just started night time riding again and I really don't like not knowing where the top is.
    capricapers likes this.
  15. MikeG

    MikeG Veteran

    Watch the best professional climbers. They're universally skinny, and more and more of them are spinning low gears whilst sitting, rather than trying to force their way up a mountain using strength. Think of it as an endurance activity, not a power activity............and lose those 8lbs!
    uphillstruggler and capricapers like this.
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