1. The most important thing about buying a new bike is to make sure it fits. The only way you'll know if the bike is right for you is to size up the bike and make sure that the bike's geometry matches your body's geometry. Ask questions and do some research.
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2. If possible, try to find a shop that will let you demo the bike on real dirt. Five minutes in a parking lot won't cut it. You wouldn't buy a car without a real world test drive, and a bike should be no different.
3. Don't belive the hype. Just because your favorite rider or best friend rides a certain bike, that doesn't mean that's the best one for you. Have an open mind and be realistic about your needs and ability.
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  1. #1
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    Building Climbing Endurance

    I've dabbled in mountain biking for years, but am finally getting serious about it. I'm getting more confident on obstacles and such, but building endurance is coming slowly.

    I thought I was in pretty good shape since I ride six miles on flat roads every day for my commute, but 15 minutes of heavy rolling singletrack and I'm gasping. When it comes to serious climbs, I am tiring fast and needing ample recovery time. Granted, these are some serious climbs (see below), but I'm impatient. How long did it take you to build up some climbing endurance?

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  2. #2
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    It has taken me roughly 2 months to get better at climbing. However, I'm still not on the level of most of my riding partners yet. I have found that the only way to get better is to get at it. I used to loathe climbing, now I find it to be pretty fun, usually because you're rewarded here in Indiana. If you go up here, you're going down at some point to make up for it!!

  3. #3
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    I dont think you ever stop getting better but it did take me a couple of months to build up to what was required of my usual treks. Its like getting game fit. the only way to get game fit, is to get game time.

    I also do uphill sprints which help build upper leg strength.

  4. #4
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    Anybody had good experience with spinning classes for this? I can realistically only make it to the trails a couple times a week and where I live is flat as day old beer.

  5. #5
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    Best thing to do is just to ride hard. If you have to ride flat then go flat out 100% on the flats at the same effort you would on a climb. Really power is power and you put out 250w flat going 18 mph or 250w climbing at 10mph.

    That is the other thing to remember about climbing technique is to used the gears to your advantage. don't try to climb with powerful pedal strokes, but keep the pedal stokes light, but firm and spin faster. Climbing fast first requires you to find where you can "climb all day long" type effort. When I climb I have two speeds. First is 90-95% effort that I can sustain for a long time. I am working hard, but I can do it for 5 min, 15 min or 1 hour sustained. This best for long climbs where I spin my way up. It not easy, but it is managable. Climbing speed 2 is burst mode. This pushing deep into my reserves and only works for short time. Maybe 30 seconds or 2 minutes max. When climbing like this it hurts. I am using more power than my body can maintain and I quickly draining my power. Once I do I have to back off big to recover. This can work on short climbs and is needed even on longer climbs to clear terrain. This why most of my climbs I run at 90-95% so I can burst to 100% or 110% to clear something and then "recover" at 90%.

    Now you can learn how your body respond to big efforts by climbing or doing it on flats. Spin class can help, but I took a spin class and did not like it much. The effort level is so disjointed from pace that it is hard. I never had good feedback on my actual power output. On a real bike you know either terrain and ground you are on how much effort you putting out. Plus I did not like not being able to coast on a spin bike. Often when standing and putting out big power I make take a half stroke every now and again. So a little freewheel just or relieve the strain for 2-3 seconds. That does not work on a spin bike since coasting will kick you off due to the flywheel on there.
    Joe
    2003 KHS Alite 4000 26" Hardtail - XC, All mountain, blah blah blah.. I just ride.

  6. #6
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    I'm used to not being able to coast since I used to ride a fixed gear in town, but spinning really doesn't interest me. I can't go all out on my way into work since I already sweat a lot, but I certainly could push harder on the way home and do some road biking when I can't make it to the trails.

    I know it will come in time, climbs and downhill runs are natural interval training.

  7. #7
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    Re: Building Climbing Endurance

    ... here in Indiana. If you go up here, you're going down at some point to make up for it!!...

    It works the same here in CA!



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  8. #8
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    I like JoePaz's advice. That's right along the lines of how I got better, because my climbing ability sucked. . .now, well, it sucks a lot less. My first lesson was to choose the correct gear to keep a steady cadence. I think for me, that's probably around 60ish pedal rotations per minute (I've never really counted). Choosing an easy gear and spinning fast just wears you out without ever getting anywhere, and choosing a hard gear and trying to power through it. . .well, pretty much does the same. Like JoePaz, I also save a little something in case I need a burst of speed/power. . .well, sometimes I save a little too much because I'm lazy.

    The other piece of advice that has helped me on long climbs is picking out something on the trail a hundred meters or so up and metally pulling yourself up to that point. Rinse and repeat until you've made it to the top. . .small victories. Otherwise, keep the seat high and your butt forward (though on long climbs, changing body position can work certain muscles harder while giving others a rest), and just keep doing it. I'm sure much smarter people will have specific training methods to improve more quickly, but this seems to be working for me in my quest to suck a little less each time I ride. Oh, and we have some pretty decent climbs here in the Black Hills, so I certainly feel your pain.

  9. #9
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    see racing subforum
    XC Racing and Training

  10. #10
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    Is climbing on high gear bad for the chain and/or sprockets? I think I could climb better when I won't have to downshift, but I worry about shortening the life of the components.
    What works for me may not work for you. What's best for you depends on many factors. We are different from each other.

  11. #11
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    people who casually play a sport say they do it to stay in shape. if you are serious about your sport, you stay in shape so you can play your sport. just like with basketball, boxing or any other sport, improving and staying in good shape is the first step to improving your ability to handle climbs, and other aspects of mountain biking. going to the gym, and good nutrition will all contribute to you becoming better at whatever sport you play. obviously, the thing you should do first and foremost is to keep climbing. i have two local parks where i live, and i visit them multiple times during the week before or after work. i routinely do the same climbs each time i visit and try to improve my time. this gives me a solid consistent baseline to see if i am improving.

    try to find something locally you can use as a training ground that will then prepare you for bigger rides. good luck!

  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by mtb_beginner View Post
    Is climbing on high gear bad for the chain and/or sprockets? I think I could climb better when I won't have to downshift, but I worry about shortening the life of the components.
    No. Climb in whatever gear works. Personally I climb at 80-90 rpm. Same as I would pushing hard on level ground. For me 60 rpm is way too slow. Not for the bike, but it means too much leg effort. The bike can take it so you need to learn what works best for your body.

    Now I will say this applies for non or moderately technical climbing. If you need to do more complex technical climbing then using a lower gear to make more pedal effort can help with powering over rocks and roots. With the higher gears the high cadence can make ti too easy to slow and loose forward motion relative to each pedal stroke and that can make it a bit harder. The challenge in riding stuff like this is know when to spin over stuff and when to power over stuff. It takes a good level of experience to know which is best method for each climb and parts of a climb and how best use the available traction.
    Joe
    2003 KHS Alite 4000 26" Hardtail - XC, All mountain, blah blah blah.. I just ride.

  13. #13
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    Just keep riding. I'll be honest, I am not sure how much a 6mile ride actually helps. It better be darn hilly otherwise that's a short trip. Props for commuting regardless!

    It all takes time man. And truth be told, some of us just are not "climbers". Some of us are better bike handlers, descender or whatevers. Some guys are just mountaingoats... they have the physiology and the ride-time so they are far better than the average MTBer.

    Keep riding.
    - The only thing that keeps me on a bike is happiness.

  14. #14
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    Just ride! Nothing will make you a better rider than riding. Other activities will help with endurance and cardio which will help with that aspect of riding, but saddle time is the best thing you can do. Try to go a little further each time you go out. Even the most seasoned, experienced riders gasp for air at times. For me my gauge or barometer if you will, is my recovery time. How quickly does my heart rate get back down to a comfortable level. For me, that is below 120 after that all out expenditure or big climb. This usually takes about 60 seconds or less from about 175. My avg heart rate for my average ride (10-15 miles) is the mid to high 150s.

  15. #15
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    Just getting back in to it, I learned it was about my heart-rate just like Hitmen said, above. I was constantly "blowing up" when I'd climb, sometimes even on easiest sections because I was pushing way too hard. I bought a HRM and now keep track where I'm at. At 51, my Max HR is 170 bpm. I started doing my riding in the Zone 3 Aerobic Zone which is 70-80% of my max (119-136bpm). I would break out of that zone and push to the 80-90% zone for greater periods during my rides and now after a few weeks, find myself pretty comfortable working in that Zone 4 (80-90% or 136-153bpm) without wiping myself out and my recovery is getting faster.

    It's a building process and I am still in the middle of it but the HRM really helped me realize what was going on and why/how I was wiping myself out. I don't ride without it, now. If I push to hard, I can see that (feel it, too) and I can rest on my climbs by gearing down, getting into the right heart rate, and I'm finally getting that explosive burst that one needs to get over those tougher obstacles without giving it all you have left.

  16. #16
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    Re: Building Climbing Endurance

    Heart rate monitors are a great way to objectively see how hard you are pushing. One way I helped my climbing immensely was to find my lactate threshold (there are several tests you can use to determine this) and then do threshold rides 2-3 times a week. 2x20 min intervals, then eventually work up to 4x20 min intervals at or near your lactate threshold. For extended climbs, these workouts will definitely help

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  17. #17
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    The best exercise for climbing is climbing. I'm finding that regularity is the key; doing a climbing workout once a week mixed in with other workouts on other days is not going to do much for your climbing, but doing hard climbs 3 or 4 times a week is going to do a lot. I was just talking with my riding/training buddy about this, it like pushups: If you wanted to get really good at pushups would you do them once a week?, twice a week? No, you'd do sets almost daily with maybe two rest days a week. Climbing basically has two components, power and endurance. I'm finding that by doing a very short climb (1.5 minute, lowest gear, it's so steep I have to sit on the tip of my seat, I could not do this climb a year ago) several times as a 'repeat' during my workout that it's getting noticeably easier in just a few weeks, my power is increasing. Endurance is both the ability to do long efforts and 'speed of recovery'. Long effort endurance can be improved by just doing long rides without breaks. 'Speed of recovery' endurance can be improved by doing short hard hill repeats, I feel I am already recovering more quickly between climbs after just a few weeks and I'm an old guy (46), my goal is to be able to repeat that hill and only have to stop because I get too bored, -then I'll really be race ready. My problem is that there are no long steep hills near my house, there's one 8 minute road hill, so I try to do that as often as I can, but it's a little too far from my trails, and I like trail riding a whole lot better than road riding. Summary: regular short 'maximal effort' climbs are going to build power and quick recovery from hard efforts, try doing them 3 or 4 times a week for two months and report back. If you ride the same route a couple of times a week, repeat the hardest 'short' hill a couple of times and continue on with your loop.

  18. #18
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    I have a bit of a psychological barrier to climbing as slowly as I need to. I have to consciously tell myself that I'm not riding a road bike, and it's okay to climb at what feels like a snail's pace or I'll needlessly wear myself out.

  19. #19
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    Re: Building Climbing Endurance

    Quote Originally Posted by Oh My Sack! View Post
    Just getting back in to it, I learned it was about my heart-rate just like Hitmen said, above. I was constantly "blowing up" when I'd climb, sometimes even on easiest sections because I was pushing way too hard. I bought a HRM and now keep track where I'm at. At 51, my Max HR is 170 bpm. I started doing my riding in the Zone 3 Aerobic Zone which is 70-80% of my max (119-136bpm). I would break out of that zone and push to the 80-90% zone for greater periods during my rides and now after a few weeks, find myself pretty comfortable working in that Zone 4 (80-90% or 136-153bpm) without wiping myself out and my recovery is getting faster.

    It's a building process and I am still in the middle of it but the HRM really helped me realize what was going on and why/how I was wiping myself out. I don't ride without it, now. If I push to hard, I can see that (feel it, too) and I can rest on my climbs by gearing down, getting into the right heart rate, and I'm finally getting that explosive burst that one needs to get over those tougher obstacles without giving it all you have left.
    I recommend looking to scale your zones in the range between your Resting Heart Rate RHR and your Max Heart Rate MHR. This range is also known as your HRR Heart Rate Reserve and is really the range that you live in. So 0% = RHR and 100% = MHR.

    Also for cyclist, using 50, 65, 75, 85, 92% as the Zones may be more appropriate for cyclists, this from other sources. 60, 70, 80, 90% being more appropriate for running.

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  20. #20
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    Quote Originally Posted by HitmenOnlyInc View Post
    ... Even the most seasoned, experienced riders gasp for air at times.
    It never gets easier you just ride faster. As for hear rate a good ride will be north of 150 bpm for the duration. If I get to 180 bpm I will not last long. I can sustain about 160-170 bpm. This is about by 90-95% pace. I don't ride with a heart rate monitor, but did do some time on exercise bike at the gym. This was before I got my road bike and would use that to put in 45 mins of hard effort a few times a week. It was there that learned to play around with cadence and know how hard I could push and not pop. If my heat rate went over 180 bpm I was going to blow up. It just how long. If I kept ti to 170 or so I could do that pretty much all day it felt like as I could take in enough air for my body to process and sustain. Over 180 bpm it was like holding you breath. You can do it, but at some point you need to come up for air. I was basically using more that my body could replenish.
    Last edited by JoePAz; 08-16-2013 at 06:36 AM.
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  21. #21
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    Climb in one gear higher than you normally do. On another day try climbing in lower gears @ 100 rpm. Rinse, repeat.

  22. #22
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    Quote Originally Posted by 8iking VIIking View Post
    Heart rate monitors are a great way to objectively see how hard you are pushing...2x20 min intervals, then eventually work up to 4x20 min intervals at or near your lactate threshold.
    ^^^ this. I'm lucky live in an area with 1-2 hour climbs on hand. Threshold training has helped me get up them faster, and given me a tactic. On longer rides/races, if I need to keep from burning out, I'll do a set of 20-minute intervals to get up a climb. 20 minutes on, recover my HR to zone 2-2.5, stay for a minute to rest, then it's back to threshold. I've found that I get to the top w/o being fatigued and my threshold speed stays consistent rather than tapering downwards.

  23. #23
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    I hate to break it to you, but at some point "Just riding" is going to stop being effective. The best/fastest bikers (as with ANY sport), LIFT WEIGHTS. I only skimmed the above, but it seems nobody has mentioned weight training. Specifically, deadlifts, squats, lunges and core work.

    check out bikejames.com for some great starting points.

    "Just riding" is not enough to get the most out of your body or your bike.
    ​mountain biking is fun.

  24. #24
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    You have to have a pretty good cycling base built over a couple of years before you need to get really complicated with your training, assuming you want to be race-fast in the climbs. When I was about 21 I started mountain biking, we had big hills nearby and my 3 or 4 college riding buddies and I would do a loop 2 or 3 times a week that had a climb that took almost an hour. One of the riding buddies was a Cat1 racer, and after a few months of chasing him on that 27mile loop with 1800' climb, I started to get much better at climbing, (eventually getting down to under 37min for the big climb). After about 2 springs and falls, I entered my first race in Cat2, we did 2 laps and the cat1s did 1 lap, it was a small race but I beat all 5 of the cat1s around that first lap, including my buddy. Then I placed 5th in my first Cat1 race about a month later (probably 30-40 guys in C1, again beating my buddy) the day after finishing top5 in a 'hillclimb', -anybody remember that they used to have hillclimb races?, just a sprint up the nearest 15-20minute climb, -brutal. This from just riding, never setting foot in the gym, but riding hard with consistent climbing workouts. Looking back, I'm sure gym work would have helped, but the most benefit is going to come from consistent hard climbing workouts. I took 20 years off, and got a little fat too, started riding again about exactly 2 years ago just 2 days a week, stepped it up to 3 to 5 days a week one year ago (hugely better than just 2 days a week), my local trail loop has 4 short hard climbs (1-2 minutes). I did consistent hard (short) hillwork all winter, with recovery days, and I finished 2nd in Cat2 in the local winter/spring series, and then moved back up to Cat1. My cat1 finishes are not great, but I've been finishing and getting not-last. I have no big hills nearby so the races with long climbs hurt me, but I'm increasing my repetitions up my steepest local hill and I'm getting noticeably stronger even in the past few weeks. You can become a pretty darn good climber from just riding your bike, add gym work too if you have time and motivation. With both, be consistent, consistency is the key. I added pushups/situps/pullups and some back strength work about 9 months ago, after every bike workout in my house. I put the bike away, do my other exercises and stretches, then get cleaned up, this has been working great for me. I try to do light squats, but my knees make so much noise I'm kind of scared to try more. My 'rule' is no more than 3 days on the bike (actual workouts), no more than 2 days off (an easy ride with the kids or wife counts as a day off). This has been really working well for me, total of about 6-7 hours per week, and my last timed lap at my local trail was 5% faster than my best from a few months ago. Also remember that you need rest, which includes quality sleep! Don't do hard climbs week after week year round never taking a break, every couple of months take a few weeks of easy rides to recover.

  25. #25
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    Re: Building Climbing Endurance

    Quote Originally Posted by docter_zab View Post
    I hate to break it to you, but at some point "Just riding" is going to stop being effective. The best/fastest bikers (as with ANY sport), LIFT WEIGHTS. I only skimmed the above, but it seems nobody has mentioned weight training. Specifically, deadlifts, squats, lunges and core work.

    check out bikejames.com for some great starting points.

    "Just riding" is not enough to get the most out of your body or your bike.
    This is a really good point. Weight training in the off season with some maintenance work during the season will help a lot

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