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  1. #1
    Trail Cubist
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    Bad power-to-weight ratio = BUMMER.

    Okay...I'm starting to get really bummed over my lousy power-to-weight ratio, and it's motivated me to (finally) start seriously counting calories in an effort to drop some weight. (My goal is to drop 14lbs in 14 weeks.)

    I'm 5'11", 48 years old and weigh 224lbs. I'm far from being "soft and pudgy." Most people who look at me say "Wow, I wouldn't have thought you weighed that much."

    I definitely have a bit of spare tire I need to get rid of (I'm sure that's worth 5-10lbs at least!) But before getting into cycling, I was a whitewater kayaker for many, many years. I was also a whitewater racer (slalom). As a result, I have huge back and shoulder muscles (whitewater is almost all upper body). And those over-developed back and shoulder muscles are a liability when mountain biking! (My upper body likely weighs a lot more than most other MTBers I know.)

    I've been road and mountain biking for a while...and I have strong legs...but even though I've more-or-less stopped paddling whitewater, I'm still having to haul all that upper body mass around on the bike...and it sucks—especially on climbs.

    I'm not using this as an excuse—I could certainly rider harder, longer, and more frequently...but I'm getting tired of being dropped on climbs by guys whose upper bodies look like a thin girl's upper body! (I don't see many mountain bikers with beefy, muscular arms and shoulders...)

    Anyone else in this predicament? How are you dealing with it? Losing weight? Riding more?

    Scott

    PS - Kinda funny...whitewater paddling is the exact opposite of cycling—the people who are fast in kayaks are totally "V" shaped—they have big muscular shoulders, back and arms...and tiny little stick-like legs! LOL
    29er wheels are dangerous. They may cause you to go faster which can result in serious bodily injury. —Jim311

  2. #2
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    .but I'm getting tired of being dropped on climbs by guys whose upper bodies look like a thin girl's upper body!
    What goes up.. must come down. The extra weight can be an incredible advantage when looking pass on some downhill sections.

    Also having a well developed upper body leads to better cycling over all. You'll find yourself less fatigued after long rides, and you'll be much better technically after a day of beating yourself up.

    Do enough biking and your legs will catch up.

    Don't worry about the little guys on the climbs. Technical riding skill and being quicker on downs can close the gains they can make on a hill in relatively short time.

    Also, race your own race. Beat yourself, and you win.
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  3. #3
    Trail Cubist
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    Thanks 14Stone—that makes me feel better! LOL Come to think of it, I've never had a sore or tired upper body after a few hours of riding...so maybe that's true.

    I'm still gonna try to lose some weight...but I'll keep riding. I think I mainly need to ramp up the ride lengths/distance. All my rides tend to be in the 1-hour range, mainly because it's tough to find time to go for longer rides. (I'll have to negotiate with my S.O. to be able to get away on weekends for longer rides...)

    Scott
    29er wheels are dangerous. They may cause you to go faster which can result in serious bodily injury. —Jim311

  4. #4
    Trail Cubist
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    (Dangit...sorry about the double post—browser and/or Internet got glitchy and I couldn't tell if it posted the first time!)

    Thanks 14Stone—that makes me feel better! LOL Come to think of it, I've never had a sore or tired upper body after a few hours of riding...so maybe that's true.

    I'm still gonna try to lose some weight...but I'll keep riding. I think I mainly need to ramp up the ride lengths/distance. All my rides tend to be in the 1-hour range, mainly because it's tough to find time to go for longer rides. (I'll have to negotiate with my S.O. to be able to get away on weekends for longer rides...)

    Scott
    29er wheels are dangerous. They may cause you to go faster which can result in serious bodily injury. —Jim311

  5. #5
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    Riding longer sometimes isn't the solution. Riding harder is

    I have an hour and a half in my evenings. If I'm biking to clear my mind, I don't do much other then some trail and a couple of hill climbs but I'll stop and just take some time for myself when I ride. On days where I'm aiming to damage myself I hit hills hard, and in repetition. I'm not there for fun, I'm there to destroy my quads. I do about 2 of those a week and I find its helped me keep up to the smaller guys on the hills.. or at least gives me the perception that I am anyway.

    Just ride. Believe me, if you're in the shape that you're saying you are, you're already ahead of a lot of clydes. Most of us have incredible leg power from hauling around the frames that we do, but weak upper bodies from not paying enough attention to them. Not speaking for all clydes, but I noticed the massive difference, and spent a lot of time on core and chest this winter to offset.

    First 35KM(20Mile) ride of the spring was yesterday and I already noticed a massive difference in how I handle a bike and how easier I find climbing.

    You're in a good boat, any mileage you do is going to be beneficial.
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  6. #6
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    I guess the truth is that even if I can descend faster...and even if I'm a solid technical rider, I still can't shake the idea that climbing is everything. It's just depressing (for me, anyway) not to make it up a climb without walking—especially when smaller guys cruise right on up.

    So yeah, I think doing hill reps is something I should try. I think the trick is finding a hill that I can actually ride up but isn't too easy (one where I can make it but I'm definitely sucking wind and feeling it at the top).

    The other challenge I find with climbs (I guess everyone does) is when it's a rocky climb. Rocks (e.g. babyhead-sized rocks, loose rocks, roots, ledges, etc.) on a climb seem to double or triple the perceived effort it takes to get up...and if there's a serious waterbar or log near the top, forget it! LOL

    The trail system I ride regularly has several climbs like this—very steep, pretty long, and loose and rocky. I get maybe a third of the way up one and run out of steam...and maybe two-thirds of the way up the other.

    I don't think my problem is a low pain threshhold...my legs just give out.

    Scott
    29er wheels are dangerous. They may cause you to go faster which can result in serious bodily injury. —Jim311

  7. #7
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    When I first started last year at the tender weight of 312lbs, I was barely able to make it up some hills without heaving for like air was going out of style and seeing stars half way up.. Those hills I now use for repetition climbs, and it feels good.

    Climbing is most definitely not everything. It FEELS like it is because downs are so much faster then up, but if you get down that fast, then you're doing something right, ups come as the engine gets worked on.

    No joke, the first race I went to last year, a guy passed me on a hill, I swear his back tire was spinning like a dirt bike, and he was literally eating a power bar and riding one handed. I got a good chuckle out of it, got off my bike, and walked up the rest of the hill, It shouldn't be depressing or discouraging. They're racing their own race. Race yours to the best you can... pending you're racing.

    If you're just out on the trail, then forget em. Find something you wanna get good at, and get good at it

    I race cause I like challenging myself. If someone passes me and they're a good rider, I learn from them by watching how they take their lines through the rough stuff, and I try to mimic it. If they're not technically sound on their down.. I'll go around them half way down.

    Once you get over the "gotta be faster then the small guys" mentality, you'll start getting faster then the small guys cause you won't care half as much as they do about being faster then the big guys.
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  8. #8
    Old Punk
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    I'm 6'3"/220 and some what lean, big chest, and big, long arms. I also paddle alot, not much that's classed though. I learned to spin faster, not crank harder. Now I only get out-climbed by a 5'2"/100lb girl. Lol
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  9. #9
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    You could also work on improving from the opposite end - build your legs up with squats and lunges etc. and you'll start sailing up those hills.

    Okay, maybe "sailing" is an overstatement, but I forced myself to do a lot of painful leg workouts over the winter while my trails were covered in snow, and now that I'm back on the bike again I've found that I'm less slow on climbs than I was in the fall. Might work for you too.

    I forget who said it, but some Tour-de-France cyclist said something about training along the lines of "it never hurts less, you just go faster."

    Good luck!
    "Never trust a man in a blue trench coat. Never drive a car when you're dead." -- Tom Waits

  10. #10
    @adelorenzo
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    Focus on hills on your road bike. IMHO there is no substitute for the training (and fat burning) you can get on the road. There's a reason that pro mountain bike racers do much of their training on road bikes.

    I'm in a similar boat, I"m a strong rider with a large build, hills are always a tough battle. No matter how strong you are, at the end it does just come down to getting skinner though. I wish it weren't so, but I've been on both sides of the equation these past few years and skinnier me would kick my ass every time.

    The other option is to get a singlespeed and put that upper body mass to good use.

  11. #11
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    Yep, it seems like the guys who climb in the Tour are all skinny. Sprinters are thick and muscular. May just have to accept it to a degree. However, as a former very skinny runner, and now a clyde (and let's just set the record straight -- It IS NOT because I have big upper body---muscularly) I did find that on my very long endurance training months, my upper body got skinnier. I read somewhere that your body actually "digest" extra muslce that isn't being used. Look at Lance when he has been training before the Tour versus when he is swimming etc. So, muscle mass can change if you put in enough endurance, but there is a limit given the whole body type--fast twitch versus slow twitch.
    If you're really honest about it, they're all "cheater lines".

  12. #12
    Damn Fool
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    Lose some muscle or...

    Ride single speed!

    Ok, so on long rides your body's nutritional needs change over time. If my memory serves me correctly, after about 2 hours your body's macro-nutrient needs begin to include protein. If you aren't ingesting any, your body will begin to cannibalize muscle tissue. So if you really want to ditch the powerful upper body, go ride long.

    If you want to use them manly shoulders, ride singespeed. I realized that spinning away in the hamster gear on hills wasn't much faster than walking(for me anyway) so I switched to SS for the heck of it. After switching, I found that I was crushing my buddies on climbs. Basically, I just attack the hill and use momentum as my friend. You'll need a strong shoulders, back and coe cause you'll be levering on your handlebars something fierce, but it's a ton of fun..

    Oh, and SS will definitely make your legs strong. No question about that
    It's not about being better than others, it's about getting the best out of myself.

  13. #13
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    I'd like to get a singlespeed...and will eventually (just gotta find the money to do it). The minimalist thing appeals to me...but when I think about getting up the climbs on my local trails system on an SS, I crack up—I'd get about 5 feet and then the cranks would just stop...and I'd crash to the ground and lay there moaning! LOL

    The hills I ride are SUCH a b*tch because it is literally impossible to get any momentum for them. One climb begins with a super-steep, rocky grade right at a switchback U-turn, so no way to have any speed in reserve for that.

    On the second climb, the really steep part begins after a hundred yards of moderately-steep babyheads. Again—total death, and NO way to have any momentum when you get to the steep part.

    It SUCKS! LOL

    Scott
    29er wheels are dangerous. They may cause you to go faster which can result in serious bodily injury. —Jim311

  14. #14
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    Do you ride those hills on your geared bike?

    If so, note what gear you're in, and then if you convert to a SS find a ratio thats close. That's how I chose 32/19. It sucks cause I spin on roads and it becomes a chore to get to where I'm going, but once I get into the woods I find its the perfect gear. Possibly a bit too easy now.

    There are 3 climbs I do there. All 3 of them are steep out of the seat climbs.

    1. Single track one is easiest. I've done this geared at the end of the summer. On my SS I absolutely crush this climb now.

    2. Rockbed Climb. I've never been able to do this on my geared bike. I spin out, then instantly foot down when I lose traction. I did it the first time fully and completely on my SS.

    3. STEEP single track with switchbacks/roots/hell climb. Again, never was able to navigate this one without foot downing it at least once or twice on my geared. On my SS, I actually just rode it like it wasn't there.

    Its not that SSing is hard at all, its that you're just forced to ride to the gear you have. If you're anything like me, having options is a terrible thing. I gearhunt way too much. The SS simplified my ride, and I concentrate on doing what needs to be done to get to the top of a hill... which is to Quadzilla my way there.

    SSing doesn't make you stronger. You can do the same riding on a geared bike. It doesn't change much. What changes is that when you really want to go down or up a gear. You can't. So you either dig deeper, spin harder, or get off your bike and walk. All are acceptable as you're riding your bike and enjoying the outdoors.

    Also

    Focus on hills on your road bike. IMHO there is no substitute for the training (and fat burning) you can get on the road.
    I have a Cross bike now. I actually ride this more then my SS as it allows me to train a bit better. Its so different then riding my SS. I get way more of a burn doing hills in tall gears, and being able to set and maintain a pace on flats gets a good layer of training in for distance and time.

    On my SS... its all about riding well, and strong over short distances.

    *at least until i throw the 16t cog on, then it'll be about crying and walking the same distances*
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  15. #15
    Trail Cubist
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    I hear what you're saying 14Stone, and it makes sense. I generally never ride on my granny in front, and stick to my middle ring and middle 3 or 4 cogs in the back...but the particular hills that are slaying me now...it's not remotely a matter of geared vs. SS...

    ...it's a matter of the hill just being too steep and rocky for me to physically push/pull my weight up it, period! I've tried these climbs in my lowest granny gear...as well as right down the middle (middle ring in front, middle cog in back)...and everything inbetween. And the bottom line is that I just can't do them...yet.

    I simply seem to have run up against the wall that exists out there for everyone—somewhere—where it all comes down to (here's my thread title!) power-to-weight ratio. Meaning there is a limit to what everyone can do...and I appear to have hit my limit with these particular climbs.

    But I plan to continue hurling myself at them...and I know I'll conquer them eventually. In my case, I think what it will take is just a lot more riding—more frequent riding, that is...and doing longer rides just to build up a better base.

    Having a good endurance base is critical for steep climbs IMO because—in the case of one of the hills I'm struggling with—by the time I get to the bottom of this hill, my heartrate is already way up from the climbs before that hill and I'm already feeling winded...

    I haven't tried it yet...but I bet if I just walked at a relaxed, casual pace all the way to the bottom of this one brutal climb, then tried it totally rested, I'd make it! So I just have to train to get to the same point when actually riding to the base of the climb...

    Scott
    29er wheels are dangerous. They may cause you to go faster which can result in serious bodily injury. —Jim311

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