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.
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  1. #1
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    My climbing ability sucks. Advice appreciated

    Just getting back into biking after a 5 year layoff and I'm having trouble with climbs.
    I'm ok on very short hills that last only a matter of seconds but when it requires sustained effort I give out after 2 minutes or so.
    Here is an example. The trailhead leading to a local trail starts with a 0.2 mile ascent which is deceptively steep. I'll warm up for 5 minutes in the parking lot and then start climbing in the lowest gear I have keeping a cadence above 65rpm per minute. I get within 100 yards of the top and I physically cannot go any further. I pull over for a timed minute and then get back on the bike and finish it up. Unfortunately the initial effort getting to the trail always causes premature fatigue and invariably robs me of the ability to thoroughly enjoy the rest of my ride.
    I do resistance training 3 times a week and ride 14 miles daily on the local greenway but don't seem to be making any headway after 2 months. Should I scrap the longer, easier daily ride and work on daily small climbs or increase my overall daily distance to increase endurance?
    Although I rode quite frequently several years ago, I always rode downhill so I am a complete newbie when it comes to trying to make it to the top.
    Any help would be greatly appreciated!

  2. #2
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    I'd say if your long distance abilty is good to concentrate more on interval type training. Were you push at 85% or closer to max for 3-10 minutes, than cruise for 3-10 and repeat for a total of 1 hour.
    Do your stamina, ie long distance no more than 1x a week and the rest either interval or straight up climbing. As you mentioned, if you push to hard you're either gonna feel like you're gonna puke or at least be wasted for the rest of your ride so learn where your threshold is and push a little harder and/or longer into it, and a little steeper each week.
    If your leg strength is lacking, some squats or other leg weight training can help also.
    A good diet will help also, but espeacially pre and post ride.
    Google lactic threshold training. It helped me tons, and "Lance" too.
    My .02
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  3. #3
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    The best thing you can do to improve something is do it more.
    Scrap the 14 mile greenway ride in exchange for a 3 mile climbing ride.
    When you start to see improvements, add a half mile a more to the ride.
    Gauge your efforts, and save some gas for the top of the climb. You'll feel a bigger sense of accomplishment once you start making it to the top without taking a break.
    Try to make your pedal stroke feel as effortless as possible....even if it means that you pedal so slowly you fear you may fall over.
    It never gets easier, you just go faster.........= )
    Try to dial back your efforts on the climbs a little....even if you are feeling strong.
    Even if that means going at a slower cadence.
    When you get to a flat section, do an easy recovery spin, even if you can go harder, save your energy for the upcoming steep sections.
    Just ride more, and you will see improvements.
    After a year, you'll be middle ringing it up the same climbs!!!
    Look, whatever happens, don't fight the mountain.

  4. #4
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    I ride up hills to get better at riding up hills, as well as strength training along with intervals 2 days a week.

  5. #5
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    Trails that start with a tough climb are tricky because you're not properly warmed up. 5 minutes warm-up doesn't really cut it, but nobody wants to spend 20+ min riding in circles in the parking lot. My suggestion would be to use your lowest gear (as you figured) and just ride very slow - forget your cadence. If you can't ride slow enough to keep from blowing up, well then I guess you just have to walk the first pitch.

    As for improving your fitness, just ride more and faster. Long, easy rides don't help all that much, you have to push yourself and get the intensity up. Practice on the specific climbs that you want to get better at. When they get easy, pick a bigger one

  6. #6
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    I was in the same boat. I just started 3-4 months ago after a 2 year fight with cancer. I also like pizza and steak way too much so I was significantly out of shape.

    Few tips given to me:

    1) Play with different gears ( I personally was too high, or too low and so I'd either run out of breath way too fast, or my legs would simply give out, Took some time for me to figure out what gear to be in on what degree incline, and as my legs have stregthened, its changed)

    2) Breathing, try pursing your lips and breathing out more slowly than normal, forces your lungs to use more oxygen and helpes prevent hypervenillation ( not sure when you say you give out if its legs or breathing or both)

    3) Local guys here ( high altitude UT) have me biking at least 6 hours/week uphill. So I end up biking 9-10/hrs minimum. I'm doing an 8 week 'training' 3 weeks where I push it really hard, increasing difficultly each week and then 1 week doing mellow, longer rides to build cardio a bit better for endurance, then week 4 will be as difficult as week 2 was, so gradually increasing difficulty/distance.

    4) Make sure your bike fits ( probably should've been 1) if you are sitting strangely, hunched, or don't have proper leg exstension it can def. wear you out prematurely, especially uphill.

    5) Change your diet if need be. Eating like crap = riding like crap from what I've seen. I'm on a big diet to lose weight, and just 5 lbs off has made a big difference, but simply eating better and you'll feel/ride better




    Anyways, this may be helpful, or you may know all of it already. But I've made more progress in the last month than I had the whole time previous to some of these basic changes and am doing whole trails that used to kill me after 20 minutes. Good luck, and most importantly have fun.

    I'm sure better riders will chime in as well.

  7. #7
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    Thanks for the input fellas'!
    Looks like the daily greenway ride is gonna be put on the shelf in favor of interval training and climbing time. Truth be told, I hate climbing but here in SW Va. unless you start from the top and have a shuttle service, climbing is inevitable.
    As far as diet, I forgot to mention that I am running a caloric deficiency at the moment in an effort to drop some weight. I'm down 40 pounds which is nice but the lack of nutrients is evident in my ability to perform well. Is there an ideal meal that should be eaten pre ride? I usually eat a meal of complex carbs and protein an hour before I head out. Should I consider some faster acting carbs to give me that initial burst of energy?

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by Nocturnalnature View Post
    climbing is inevitable....

    the lack of nutrients is evident in my ability to perform well.
    I'm running a low calorie diet as well, for the same reason, but you shouldn't have a lack of actual nutrients in any diet, if that makes sense.

    I personally try not to eat much very soon before a ride because it always tries to come back up if I do.

    I'll usually just have a protien shake and a handfull of carrots or something for lunch and then head to the trail a few hours later. I'm hungry by the end, but then I have a grilled chicken breast and spinach salad or similar for dinner. I've lost 5 ;bs, but I've lost much more fat and gained muscle as well. But I am by no means a dietitian either.


    And yes, climbing is inevitable most places. I hated it at first. It still isn't my favorite, but I at least enjoy it now.

    Keeping with it, and practicing uphill like others have said as well will help.

    I went several months incredibly frustrated not making any progress and just recently have seen a huge improvement. You may just have a bit of a 'step' to overcome before you see much improvement

  9. #9
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    I should have rephrased that better LOL.
    Instead of lack of nutrients I should have said decreased caloric intake. In general, I think I manage my macro's pretty well but will admit I am a bit dumbfounded about proper pre ride nutritional support.
    I never feel like I'm gonna puke. My problem seems to be lactic acid buildup followed in short order by my heart feeling like its gonna blow up. No chest pain, just that feeling of not being able to pull in enough air to meet my body's need for O2.

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by Nocturnalnature View Post
    I usually eat a meal of complex carbs and protein an hour before I head out. Should I consider some faster acting carbs to give me that initial burst of energy?
    I read somewhere (Friels' book maybe?) that you shouldn't eat within an hour of riding. Reason being, the food (carbs in particular) will trigger an insulin spike which will depress your blood sugar. If you eat within an hour of riding, the low blood sugar will coincide with the start of your ride, and you have no energy. So you either have to eat well before the ride to let your insulin stabilize, or eat and ride immediately.

    I've been testing this practice this season and it seems to be working well for me. I start on an empty stomach and start sipping sports drink as soon as I hit the dirt.

    Also, I wouldn't get to crazy about intervals and such until you get a good fitness base built up. In my opinion, beginners are better off just riding lots and riding hard. Unless you are an elite athlete, there is no reason your "training" shouldn't also be fun rides. If you're not having fun, you'll probably lose interest or burn out.

  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by Nocturnalnature View Post
    My problem seems to be lactic acid buildup followed in short order by my heart feeling like its gonna blow up. No chest pain, just that feeling of not being able to pull in enough air to meet my body's need for O2.
    Efforts like this definitely require a good long warm-up. Just take it easy in the first 20-30 minutes

  12. #12
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    if you are crapping out that close, it may also be mental. just keep at it, each time you may get a foot closer, love that, try for it. when you get the top you will do a rocky dance, and it will all be worth it. try doing it at the end next time, after your done, redo that hill all warmed up and exhausted. also, dont stop and wait, just keep going on foot pushing the bike, mentally that may help for next time.

    I definately think part of it is psyching yourself out for it and its all mental.

    though also, remember, big dogs take big breaths. gulp your air instead of fast shallow breaths, it will help keep rythm and keep your heart rate down, let that breathing and pedal rythm calm you, look far ahead, keep your balance (hardest part usually on tough climbs, you can GO super slow, but you cant balance) and keep at it. finally clearing that hill will feel so awsome, clearing it in the middle ring will feel better. never thought I would clear this one hill in anything but smallest gear, then I could clear it in the big ring after a long time trying. I did a dance, doesnt look as good in spandex as in old sweatclothes, but it feels as good.

  13. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by Nocturnalnature View Post
    Just getting back into biking after a 5 year layoff and I'm having trouble with climbs.
    I'm ok on very short hills that last only a matter of seconds but when it requires sustained effort I give out after 2 minutes or so.
    Here is an example. The trailhead leading to a local trail starts with a 0.2 mile ascent which is deceptively steep. I'll warm up for 5 minutes in the parking lot and then start climbing in the lowest gear I have keeping a cadence above 65rpm per minute. I get within 100 yards of the top and I physically cannot go any further. I pull over for a timed minute and then get back on the bike and finish it up. Unfortunately the initial effort getting to the trail always causes premature fatigue and invariably robs me of the ability to thoroughly enjoy the rest of my ride.
    I do resistance training 3 times a week and ride 14 miles daily on the local greenway but don't seem to be making any headway after 2 months. Should I scrap the longer, easier daily ride and work on daily small climbs or increase my overall daily distance to increase endurance?
    Although I rode quite frequently several years ago, I always rode downhill so I am a complete newbie when it comes to trying to make it to the top.
    Any help would be greatly appreciated!
    Ride hiils slowly, ride hills quickly, ride long hills, ride steep hills, ride short hills, ride shallow hills....

    When you have ridden all the hills you can find....turn around and ride them all again.

    BTW you usually get pretty good at going downhills too.

  14. #14
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    I truly appreciate all the helpful hints and information!

    Dichotomous,
    I do believe you are partially correct regarding it being a somewhat mental challenge. I've asked myself "Am I really going to die if I go just a little further"? My mind listens to my heart and screams "YES", although in truth I seriously doubt it.
    Gonna go out tonight and try some of the recommendations and hopefully have some progress in the coming weeks/months.
    Thanks again everyone!

  15. #15
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    Climbing is a psychological-game. Most of the time, the simple lure of the next descent is enough motivation. This logic works well when its a rolling-type of trail where climbs can be steep but usually pretty short. On long climbs, consequently, ones where the brain starts wandering, finding a good cadence is key. When you feel like quitting, look for 'markers' and aim for them. Once you get to that 'marker', choose something else farther up and aim for that continuing this head-game until you've reached the top. This seems to work especially well on technical climbs where sections can be broken-down into 'puzzles'.

  16. #16
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    I felt this way as well. I was riding maybe once a month and the climbs were brutal. I would ride in first gear at just over walking speed. I felt kind of dumb but when the people I was riding with would give up and walk I would pass them up. Now I have been riding almost everyday, some climbs, some flat, some of both, and its been a huge improvement. I've also lost 10 pounds in about a month.

  17. #17
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    I went out tonight and did intervals on the incline I mentioned above.
    Went up 7 times, each time going 10 yards or so past my last point and then back down. By the last round my legs were exhausted but it seemed like my breathing and heartrate weren't as out of control as before.
    I then went for a 6 mile greenway ride and pedalled back for one last climb. This time I made it further than I ever had, which has me a little confused since I was spent going into it.
    I did notice a neat thing though. If I keep my Camelback mouthpiece in my mouth (without drinking) it causes me to control my breathing better by taking deep breaths through the nose instead of panting out of my mouth.

  18. #18
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    Quote Originally Posted by Nocturnalnature View Post
    I should have rephrased that better LOL.
    Instead of lack of nutrients I should have said decreased caloric intake. In general, I think I manage my macro's pretty well but will admit I am a bit dumbfounded about proper pre ride nutritional support.
    I never feel like I'm gonna puke. My problem seems to be lactic acid buildup followed in short order by my heart feeling like its gonna blow up. No chest pain, just that feeling of not being able to pull in enough air to meet my body's need for O2.
    If you've never felt like you're gonna puke, you never pushed yourself to your limits.
    Yes, your mind is your biggest motivator, so make up your mind and do it. If I say to myself I'm gonna do 50 push ups, at around 45 I start to get tired. If I say to myself I'm gonna do 25, than at 20 I start to get tired. No, I don't say things to myself often, lol, but you get the point. Sure there's a limit. It's not like I can say I'm going to do 1000 Push ups, but I can surely do more than I think I can because of limits set up in my mind.

    Now to contradict that info, I'm gonna say, have a race with someone you think, in your mind that you can beat, or better yet, some one who can beat you but you don't want them to. When you see them pulling ahead your body will ignore the pain (lactic acid) more, and your mind will disconnect from it alot more than usual so you can push harder. Sorta like a temporary insanity.

    I see you have a protein shake pre-ride. Your better off with that shake post ride (with in an hour) to quickly feed your muscles, and that's also the time for simple (fast) carbs. Better off with a light but smart meal like pbj on whole wheat, and a banana about an hour before. It takes a bout an hour for that food to start being used as energy in a way that's good because even thou some is available sooner, it also takes energy from your body to digest the food. About 2 1/2- 3 hours (much sooner if you're exercising) after you eat, you start ot run out of food energy and start entering "fasting mode", so at that point mostly only some of the carbs you ate are gonna help.

    Hydration. Start to hydrate way before, during, and after your ride. You don't wanna feel bloated for the ride so slow and steady. If you're sweating alot, a drink like gatorade can help. Coffee Is also good right before a ride that your trying to push your limits. As long as you don't have too much, or are effected by it too much so you don't have a big "crash" when it's done.

    For me, I usually warm up for my first few miles, then at around 5-7 miles I hit a low spot, keep going and my energy comes back for another bunch of miles.

    P.S. before anyone feels the need to correct my info, or dissect my post. I tried to keep it simple, easy to understand and short. I already feel like it's way too long so I guess 2 out of 3 aint bad.
    Last edited by theMeat; 07-29-2011 at 08:36 AM.
    "Tortured by mental illness" ~monogod

  19. #19
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    Meat,
    Thank you for the advice!
    I think you got a little confused on the pre ride meal (I don't have a protein shake, typically protein and complex carbs), but you did answer my question regarding post workout nutrition.
    As far as feeling like I'm gonna puke, I'm not sure that would be an accurate gauge for me. I have pushed to the point of dizziness, near fainting and stomach cramps accompanied by explosive diarrhea. It doesn't really surpise me though as I have only regurgitated a handful of times in my entire life
    Thanks again for the great in depth reply and I appreciate you taking the time to help a brutha out.

    Sidenote- I also noticed tonight that I am too tense on climbs. When I focused on relaxing my grip and stomach muscles it seemed to make it much more bearable.

  20. #20
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    I'll echo a few points that others have made it's mental game and physically the more you do it the better you'll feel on the climb. It'll still kick your a$$ but you can cope with it better.

    I like to keep a simple thought my favorite mantra is "no dab" I'd do whatever it takes not to stop. If you can crest it once you know it can be done and you'd start expecting to clean it everytime. I remember when I first started riding there's a 3 mile gentle climb that I had to stop 3-4 times now I use that to warm up or get back in shape.

    Just keep at it.

  21. #21
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    Quote Originally Posted by AZ.MTNS View Post
    I ride up hills to get better at riding up hills, as well as strength training along with intervals 2 days a week.
    What a strange idea! Intensity work to get better at an intensity thing??

    For me, there's something a little different about hills and flat intervals. So, I try to be specific. Also, I'm not really motivated enough to ride intervals unless it's 'cross season and I'm having fun with it, but I have fun riding hills. Routes that were hard in 2008 are fast and rhythmic now. Intervals never get easier.

    14 miles on pavement is not much. But, you're having problems at 2 minutes. So if you can't substitute a mountain bike day for that ride, change up your route - try something with rolling hills.

    Try running instead of resting if you can't continue on the bike. For me, 65 is a pretty low cadence. I suspect I use it now and then, but in a sustained climbing situation, I'd get out of the saddle at that point - too low for efficient seated climbing, for me. So you might try that if the traction is good enough.
    "Don't buy upgrades; ride up grades." -Eddy Merckx

  22. #22
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    Here are a couple things I'll add.............
    *Disclaimer: I am not a nutritionist but I'll pretend to be one for a second*

    Pre Ride:
    Pre Hydrate all day leading up to the ride.......as much as possible.
    If you're riding in the morning, drink a few glasses of water after breakfast. It'll help get that food working too.
    Stay away from a bunch of protein before riding. Try to eat carbs. I find a few pieces of wheat toast with peanut butter or nutella is great pre ride food.
    I've even had good luck with cereal.
    The problem with protein before riding is it takes alot of work for your body to digest. More blood rushes to your stomach, and leaves less in your legs where you need it.
    Carbs kind of self digest and will easily burn away as you workout.

    During the ride:
    When climbing, try to relax ALL of the muscles in your body, besides your legs obviously.
    When you have a death grip on the bars, you are wasting O2 in your arms.
    If you are tense in your shoulders, you wasting blood there too.
    Tensing up your face muscles will waste precious O2 as well.
    Save all that oxygen for your legs where you need it most.
    Easy grip on the bars, relaxed shoulders, poker face. Trust me.

    Try not to stare at the top of the climb. It will screw with your head, making it feel like it takes so long to get there. It will also kink your neck ( and waste O2)
    When approaching a climb, take a look at the top and gauge how much effort you are going to need to use to get to the top. Then focus a bit closer towards your front wheel.....lets say 10 feet max.
    No matter how tempted you are to keep looking at the crest, DON'T!!!
    Keep your head low and focus on relaxing.
    It will be a surprise when you get to the top.

    If it gets really steep, scoot forward a little onto the nose of your saddle, and keep your elbows low and relaxed.

    Post Ride:
    Re Hydrate, and eat a protein filled meal, followed by a well deserved frosty beverage.
    I find a nice big Burrito works good.

    Rinse and repeat.
    Look, whatever happens, don't fight the mountain.

  23. #23
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    I sometimes find that cussing out loud and/or making guttural noises help me overcome that last bit of the climb.... Give it a try...
    Contact information: http://about.me/marpilli

  24. #24
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    OH, was that you^^, lol. So funny and so true
    "Tortured by mental illness" ~monogod

  25. #25
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    All said before, BUT:
    - I found out the hard way that diet & excercise are complex...simple carbs before are GOOD/REQUIRED
    - Intervals are good, but I still suck
    - If you have a road bike and some long steep hills close by it's a good opportunity to increase you ability to sustain climbs
    - Heat seems to affect my climbing thresholds and it's been HOT!

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