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  1. #1
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    Having trouble climbing -

    A little background first - I'm 6'4" 230 to 240 lbs and 50 years old. I have been mountain biking about 10 years and considered myself to be an intermediate. I didn't make everything, every time I tried to ride it but I make most things fairly consistently. Then I started taking a mtb class because there were several climbs I never made. The instructor is a woman and most of the students are women. Now I feel like I'm getting weaker and weaker at climbing and am a solid beginner mountain biker.

    Thru the class I have recognized that previously I was making most climbs and ledges with momentum. If I hit the snag with enough speed I made it over. If I didn't have the speed at the bottom I wouldn't make it. Most of the class we are starting just before the climb from a dead stop. Other students are making them and the instructor always demonstrates how to make it so I know it can be done. Since the class is focused on control and picking lines I'm going slower and making it over fewer and fewer obstacles. Even when I'm not riding with the class I find myself riding slower.

    In the class I spend most of the run up just getting clipped in with very little time/distance left to accelerate. Since I'm going so slow and still not clipped in, I'm struggling with balance and lines right up to the ledge. I get bounced out of the line I want with every little rock I hit. And since I'm not clipped in I can only push down on the pedals, not pull up. I would think I could generate at least as much climbing force as anyone in the class, but it seems everyone climbs better than me. Yes, I know I out weigh them, but I would think I could lift my body weight just as well as they could lift theirs.

    Any advice for me? Is it that much harder for a clyde to climb than smaller/lighter riders?

  2. #2
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    I am no expert at climbing by any means, but it sounds like you are talking about short steep climbs (5' - 20' vertical) and probably with rocks/roots (not long fire road type climbs). I believe momentum is your friend, why slow down to pedal up the hill if you can hit it with speed and use your momentum to clear the hill and obstacles.

    I don't believe it is harder for a "clyde" to climb, but I do think it is harder for a rider with a lower power to weight (p/w) ratio to climb and most (not all) clyes have a higher (w) and thus a lower (p/w). I do know some clydes that have a high power to weight ratio and smoke most people on hills (their legs are pistons!!).

    Never heard of mtb classes? Can you provide us with some sort of link? Best class is to ride with someone better than you and then either by watching what they do, or just trying to keep up, will make you a better rider.

  3. #3
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    I think gasiorv is right. I about die on long fire road climbs but short steep ones aren't too bad for me. It's all in how much of your momentum you can sustain on the climb, not how much climbing you can do from a dead stop.
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  4. #4
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    These are indeed short steep or ledgey/rocky climbs. We are stopped just below the climb as each student gets their turn. We stop fairly close to the climb so we can see what each student does and how they made it or where they got stuck.

    Before the class I would hit the bottom of these with as much speed as I could. Speed is EXTREMELY helpful in clearing a ledge or rock garden or whatever. But I don't have any speed when I start ~5 foot vertically below and maybe 30 feet horizontally away from whatever we are working on. Keep in mind almost everything in our area is rocks. The rocks are loose and bounce you around as you hit them or they are held in place and form ledges.

    I am being frustrated at no longer being able to clear what I use to clear consistently. But I can say that I'm getting better at making things at very slow speed. Previously if I came to a near stop I dab'd a foot or get off and walked over it.

    I will see if I can find a link or something. Our instructor posted on a local board that she was starting a class and I joined. I had been riding with anyone I could before the class, faster or slower, but that wasn't helping me much. The fast guys were SOOOOO much faster I rarely saw what they did. When I did see them it was like they flew the bike over ledges that I had to pound up. Then I saw them practicing bunny hopping on to a picnic table. I didn't want to ride with them until my skills improved a LOT. I wasn't learning much from the slow guys I was riding with - I just had to stop and wait for them.

  5. #5
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    There are some pictures in post #9 on this thread - Thank You Austin we are stopped / starting from about where the ledge pictures are taken from.

  6. #6
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    "I am being frustrated at no longer being able to clear what I use to clear consistently. But I can say that I'm getting better at making things at very slow speed. Previously if I came to a near stop I dab'd a foot or get off and walked over it."

    It sounds like your learning good slow speed technique, but at the same time I don't think anyone would tell you hitting a hill with speed is "wrong"
    Have you asked her about it?

  7. #7
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    Momentum is our friend.
    But, if you have to start from a stand-still, us hosses can put down some torque, albeit, for short periods (at least in my world).

    Just glanced at those pics in other thread - speed won't get you through the step-like climb, just choose a clean line, keep your balance & power through.
    Les grimpées, je m'en fou!

  8. #8
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    Update - I went out this morning and pretty much just worked on climbs. I found that what was taught in the class works good if I follow the instruction. The class was to sit on the nose of my saddle and grind away on the granny ring. That works. But I was a dirt biker for many years and that doesn't come naturally to me. When it gets steep I want to stand up and move forward. That doesn't work with the granny ring. All I do is spin. If I move my weight back to control the spin it starts working again. How far back? To the nose of the saddle! Doh!

    What I had been doing and am more comfortable with is to stay in the middle ring. That way I carry more speed / momentum and spin less. Yes I have to crank harder but it seems to work better for me. At least that is the way I'm used to riding. If I start spinning in the middle ring I can move back and get traction again. But on a tough climb if I spin or lose momentum, I'm pretty much done anyway.

    After having figured this out I have to chose one or the other. Combining them doesn't work. Either sit on the nose and grind in granny or stay on the middle ring and carry speed. Maybe with practice I can learn to start with speed in the middle ring and drop to granny and sit down if I need to.

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by CxAgent2
    Update - I went out this morning and pretty much just worked on climbs. I found that what was taught in the class works good if I follow the instruction. The class was to sit on the nose of my saddle and grind away on the granny ring. That works. But I was a dirt biker for many years and that doesn't come naturally to me. When it gets steep I want to stand up and move forward. That doesn't work with the granny ring. All I do is spin. If I move my weight back to control the spin it starts working again. How far back? To the nose of the saddle! Doh!

    What I had been doing and am more comfortable with is to stay in the middle ring. That way I carry more speed / momentum and spin less. Yes I have to crank harder but it seems to work better for me. At least that is the way I'm used to riding. If I start spinning in the middle ring I can move back and get traction again. But on a tough climb if I spin or lose momentum, I'm pretty much done anyway.

    After having figured this out I have to chose one or the other. Combining them doesn't work. Either sit on the nose and grind in granny or stay on the middle ring and carry speed. Maybe with practice I can learn to start with speed in the middle ring and drop to granny and sit down if I need to.
    In my experience (25 years....maybe less than yours ):

    Dont lose your confidence.............you sound like you know what your trying to do ....and can do most of it.

    Fit(ish) clydes can generate quite a lot of power even if their pw ratio is not as good. Most (certainly not all) Lighter riders cannot sit on the saddle in the middle ring going up a steepish climb.........they HAVE to stand up or use the granny ring. Sitting is more efficient...........therefore they use the granny ring. If your fit enough to stomp up the climb in the middle ring .....do it..........it will take its toll after 20 or 30 miles but...........

    Watch the pro racers....unless the course is VERY technical their PW ratio (and VR Max)is good enough to use bigger gears ....watch how many will be using a double rather than a triple chainset next year or look carefully to see if any are running bigger inner rings on their triples.

    On my mountain bike I like to stay seated and use a 34 X 32 unless it gets really steep then I drop into the granny ring and prey .....i usually find I can run faster ......I know this defeats the object but it brings it into perspective a little.

    Its funny cause on my road bike I have to stop myself from standing to much during long climbs as i know this is ineficcient...(i wonder if it something to do with the frame angles ).........A lot of the people I ride with run out of gears on the big hills (road) and have no choice but to get out of the saddle......

  10. #10
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    With 25 years of mountain biking - you have at least double my experience. And was out for over a year. I try to say that my dirt biking experience transfers - but some does and some doesn't. Keeping my butt on the seat doesn't transfer because I could only sit down for very short times. Now I'm trying to learn the sitting trick.

    I would like to say I'm fit or even fitish but watching other riders and my pot belly tell me otherwise. I'm working on it but it took me years to get this way so it isn't going away overnight. Teach me to sit at a desk all day. As far as riding 20 to 30 miles - I haven't done 20 miles off road yet. I'll try for 20 in the morning. I tend to use up all of my energy in 10 to 15 miles. If I feel like I would go longer I usually add tougher routes and end up in the 10 to 12 range. I have done long road rides but I prefer off road riding. In my opinion road rides are a social event and mountain bike rides are for fun.

    I have ridden off road with some very, very good riders. They stay on their big ring most of the time. When they have to drop to their middle ring I'm struggling to stay in the middle ring or even keep moving at all. It is clear that they use momentum to clear obstacles. (Actually most times they bunny hop what I have to pound my way thru.) I was trying to keep my speed up and use momentum but that is not what the class is teaching. I think I will a better rider if I learn both - and when to apply them. Thanks for your comments and encouragement.

  11. #11
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    From what I'm reading I think you clearly stated where you can make a lot of improvement. Balance. Both side to side, and front to back. This will help both with you clipping in and when your actually going uphill.

    I'm glad the class taught lines and that is incredibly important when you are as big as we are. Using a little more gear and only going to the granny when you absolutely about to burn out helps as well. The key is taking a smooth line, laying down the power smoothly, and if and when you do have to stand to slowly shift your weight back slightly to give your rear tire more grip. Having the right tire pressure and tires don't hurt either.

    Can you trackstand? Oh yeah, how long?

  12. #12
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    Can I track stand? Only if you count a few seconds as a track stand. So no. A large part of the class is improving balance and mine can use improvement.

    Picking lines is something that does transfer from dirt biking. I usually see the line I want quickly but rarely can hit that line. I usually have 2 or 3 'contingency lines' .

    An update - I did 15 miles this morning. I overslept or I would have done 20 miles. Worked on climbing for a good part of it. I am definitely finding that staying in the middle ring and applying power smoothly helped. I had not done that before.

    I am also finding that pedaling BEFORE I think I need to helps. I was downshifting before the hill then waiting until my speed had dropped to match the gear before I started pedaling. Bad move. If I start pedaling earlier I frequently never reached the point of maximum mashing on the pedals. That made it MUCH easier to climb.

    I will post pictures later.

  13. #13
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    Balance

    Yep......airdefence is right............pick the right line......ride smooootthh......and balance.

    Something i have noticed...(i wonder if any other clydes have??).............my balance was very good when I was lighter................
    My dad was a roadie (fixed gear of course ) and told me I needed to practice trackstands.....so when I was 14 I practiced ..a LOT...I used toe clips and straps..............eventually when trying to beat my "record" in the house I came off and broke my shoulder ...haha
    My balance (and technical rididing) is nowhere near as good as it was and I think this has a lot to do with weight (maybe my center of gravity has shifted as I can now do track stands sat on the saddle better than standing up ))....or maybe its cause i reached the grand age of 46.

    It may be worth your while practicing trackstands and just hopping about on the bike.(I do this on grass now and use flat pedals to improve my technique rather than clipping in, and its easier to bail....its also quite good excercise...............don't worry if your not actually "hopping" the bike..........it will still improve your low speed balance.

    Have fun..............

  14. #14
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    i like to stay seated as much as possible and just spin my way up the climb... as long as I can keep myself "on top of the gear" i just spin my way up with out issue... if I drop to a lower cadance my legs give me fits about having to mash my way up.... but for short quick climbs hit it with the right amount of speed and momentum my way up is far easier then grunting (and spinnging the tires) your way up.
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  15. #15
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    You will find that if you sit and spin, you have a natural cadence that fits you best and most comfortably, that you can maintain. You may need to adjust gears to find this gear that will allow you to maintain this cadence through the steepest part of the climb.

    The key is learning how to apply your power to the pedals with just enough lift and down pressure to maintain that smooth cadence. Sometimes you need to session the climb to figure out what works for you. If momentum works for you go with it. If you can learn to save some reserves and just maintain cadence and pedal through while sitting on the nose and keeping the front end down while the back end bites, you'll improve a lot. Sometimes, brand of tires, aggressiveness of tread and adjustment of air pressure is what it takes to clean a climb. Sometimes it takes dry weather. Sometimes it takes cool weather where you won't overheat. Sometimes it just takes a bit more riding and conditioning climbing to get over the hurdle.
    I mix and match on an as needed basis between sit on the nose and spin versus stand and mash. BTW, some frame designs are amazing at climbing chunk. My Niner RIP made it much easier for me to clean chunk on stuff I used to get defeated by on my single pivot 26 incher. I'm 225, 6' 5" and 50 also. Keep trying, keep experimenting, and figure out what works best for you. Downhillers will tell you that in chunk, speed is your friend. The same can hold true for climbing, if you can maintain it and momentum while going uphill.

  16. #16
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    Sitting on the nose of the saddle helps. Steady power is good. Another thing that can help on very steep pitches, when your chest get's close to the stem is to pull up on the handlebars-this is another way to weight the back wheel.

    Observations:
    -Clyde's greater weight makes it more difficult for him to balance.
    -You can apply only so much power to a wheel before it breaks free and spins. Clydes need more power to go up since we weigh more. Therefore, we are more likely to spin-out on a steep ascent.
    -Momentum is your friend, but sometimes a climb requires slow speed climbing skills.

  17. #17
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    Thanks for all the good advice.

    Had class again this morning. This was probably the most frustrating class or ride I can remember. We were working on a climb we have worked on before. I have never made that climb. Its not a climb I would look at and think "I don't think I could climb that". But I have not made it yet. We also worked on a climb leading to that one that I usually make. I didn't make that one a single time today. And I had enough run at this one that I was always clipped in and had decent speed. There is no excuse for me not making that climb since I consistently make it any other day. Did I mention that I was very frustrated today?

    I finally split off from the group and rode by myself - or should have. I ran across a couple of ladies riding alone and clearly not knowing where they were going. I asked if they need directions and one of them started calling my name. Turns out it was the Physical Therapist who worked on my broken leg for most of a year. I rode with them until my PT fell on a rocky down hill and broke her wrist. After we got it splinted and walked her out she told me this was her third time to mountain bike. If I had known that I would not have taken them on that downhill. More frustration. Yes, I was watching them ride and gaging what they could ride so I could pick trails that were appropriate. Both of them were riding strong and under control. We stopped just before the hill and talked about it, what to expect, what line to take, and to get off and walk if she wanted too. I didn't see the fall but she said she hit it with too much speed and bounced off the smoother line into a big jumble of rocks. I guess she felt pressured to ride it by both of us riding in front of her.

  18. #18
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    Wow, sounds like a rough day.

    Climbing is a personal aspect of the sport. There are techniques, just like in motorcycles, but everyone figures out their own way to apply the techniques. MTB has even more variables like speed and how the motor is feeling on a particular day. Best thing you can do is practice and find a groove that works for you. I will say that slamming into climbs at high speed will likely cause more headaches that good climbs.

    Bigger obstacles/rocks do require speed to pop up on top of, but the rest of the time rock crawling is best done in a low gear at a speed that is fast enough. How fast is that? Fast enough to keep moving forwards without getting stopped by the rocks you are trying to get through.

    Clyde has nothing to do with climbing ability. Health, strength, balance, and coordination play heavily in the equation though. The latter 3 can make up for lack in the first if you take it down a notch and spin a lighter gear
    Quote Originally Posted by saturnine
    that's the stupidest idea this side of pinkbike.

  19. #19
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    btw you can be huge and have balance. i can still hop on only the back wheel for at least a minute before i exhuast myself. I asked about the track stand because that if very common to most people, and its great practice.

    thought about this today on my ride, try leaning on a tree to clip in before climbs, at least one foot so you have more time to get going. also, only clip in on down stroke so your foot is pushing down and forward. that will make that a lot easier for you.

  20. #20
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    Have you tried spinning the middle chain ring, sitting on the tip of the saddle, and leaning back off the bars? It gives you great feel for what's going on under your butt.
    .

  21. #21
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    just thought.....shoes

    Just had a thought.................if your not clipping in very quickly, look at what type of shoes you are using and the positioning of the cleat.

    I had to cut quite a bit of the sole away on my present (cheap ) pair to clip in quickly and have spent more time "adjusting" the cleat than any other pair...........just a thought.

  22. #22
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    First some answers -

    I need to and have started working on track stands. If I ride up to a stop I might go a few seconds. If I jump on the bike at a stop I'm doing good to make it that long. I will continue to work on my balance.

    Shoes - I have had trouble clipping in. I will check my shoes to see if that is part of the problem. When I can I hold onto a tree and clip in both sides before I ever start pedaling.

    I think the biggest cause is a lack of strength. For my weight (~250 lbs) I don't think I can generate as much push as the lighter people. I will bet I weight about 100 lbs more than most people in the class. Easily 50 lbs more than the next largest guy. I started doing hill climbs on the road yesterday to try to improve my strength. I know its not the same. But if the problem is a lack of strength on my part then repeated hill climbs of any sort will improve that.

    Now for some pictures. The first three are a climb I now make consistently.


    This is the bottom of the climb. It doesn't look hard at all in the picture. But you are making a left turn just before you get to it then all the ledges are off camber trying to push you to the right. This bottom part is really about just keeping your balance and keeping moving. Ahead you can see my bike just before a right turn.


    You can see my bike in the picture to show location. Just out of the right turn is about a 1 foot ledge at the top of a short ramp. (ledge is almost directly above my left grip) There is one line of the ledge that has some 'ramp' to it so if you can hit that line its not a hard ledge. But you have to get to this point with your balance and get lined up properly. At the same time I have to be accelerating hard so I have some momentum to get over this ledge. The problem for me was both hitting the line and accelerating. If I get to far to the right there is a double snag where my front wheel hits a small bump at the same time my rear wheel is climbing the ledge. I finally quit worrying about hitting exactly 'the line' and just accelerated enough that I could climb the square part of the ledge.



    If I get my back wheel over that ledge (lower left of the center of the picture), the rest is easy. It just about 6 foot more vertical over about 20 foot horizontal with some roots at the top. There is time to get momentum back before I get to the roots.

    Note this is a climb I had never made before the class. Now I make it most of the time. I credit that to the class teaching me to slow down and balance a little more than just 'hit it with momentum'.

    I will post some pictures of the next trouble spot in a separate post.
    Last edited by CxAgent2; 08-17-2009 at 12:17 PM.

  23. #23
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    power

    If you think you are lacking power lots of hills are obviously a good idea......dont forget the protien drink when finished and these sessions should be 30 - 60 minutes (maybe a bit longer depending on fitness)

    Try some interval work....gear where you can just keep your cadence at 50 - 60 stay seated, do 4- 6 of between 5- 10 mins with your recovery interval at half of your "climb".

    If you drop below 50 then the gear is to high and can cause knee problems so be careful.

    I much prefer to do these on my turbo trainer or sometimes road bike.......whatever ....I dont particularly enjoy these sessions but have come to accept that there is "riding" and there is "trainning".....(i think riding should always be enjoyable

    Interesting photos.....i live in the uk so i have no idea about that type of dirt.....but i am intersted...........is it powdery and fine or course and hard? ....loose or quite compact?

    Whatever it is it looks better than the wet muddy cack and loose stone I usually ride.....our summer has been very poor for the 3rd year here in the North East(uk)

  24. #24
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    These pictures are the next big climb on that same part of the trail (Windy Loop).



    This is the bottom of the climb. Doesn't look too hard. There is a slight right turn at the top of this picture. I usually spin out on the last root in this picture at the beginning of the right turn.



    This is the view looking just above and to the right of the previous picture. I have never made it past the little ledge near the lower left of this picture



    I've never made it this far still on the bike. I have either spun out or stalled out on the roots or rock below. I normally pull off behind the tree on the left to get back on the bike. I can ride the rest of it clipped in or not. But I haven't managed to keep moving all the way thru here.

    So I can make the first climb consistently. But I haven't made the second climb ever. This doesn't make sense to me. The second climb doesn't look that much harder than the first one. The only thing I can think is I'm just too weak to power up the second climb.

  25. #25
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    The first climb is pretty much hard rocks with a few loose "marbles" scattered about. The second climb right now is loose powdery dirt with loose rocks everywhere. We haven't had any rain in months. I've tried the second climb with it has been hard packed dirt and even a little wet. It always get stuck (spun or stalled) at about the same spot.

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