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  1. #1
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    Tips/tricks for SS sustained climbing?

    I'm just getting into this, and rode this past weekend up some steep-ish, non-techie switchbacks. My body tells me when to stand and mash, versus sit n' spin, but I was wondering if there's some advice the experienced singlespeeders could chime in here. Are there any tips/tricks to steeper climbs, especially when you're in the thick of the climb and trying to keep from stalling out. What are your strategies for maintaining sustained climbs? Thanks.
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  2. #2
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    Do everything you can to maintain momentum.

    Don't back off...

    SPP
    Rigid.

  3. #3
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    Like SPP says, momentum is the key. Keep it going from the bottom of the climb. Don't start slow and try to save yourself for the steepest parts. Deep breaths and recover as much as possible when it levels (if at all). Keep weight on rear tyre to avoid slipping. You can ride anything on a SS that a geared bike can, given the right gearing. Choose wisely.

    Rinse and repeat.
    I see hills.

    I want to climb them.

  4. #4
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    I wrote an post a few months about about Newton's 2nd law Force = Mass x Acceleration. Since we have no gears there is no way for us to slow down the bike. Therefore we can't really reduce Acceleration. This means we are stuck with a base amount of Force that we have to exert or the bike will stall out. Often times this Force we have to consistently exert to keep the bike from stalling is greater than the VO2 we can hold for the length of the climb. So when riding up a hill either one of three scenarios will happen:

    1) You'll run out of oxygen (hit your VO2 Max limit) and have to get off the bike. In other words- your fitness couldn't keep up with the speed you were pedaling up the hill.

    2) You'll stall out (too hard to pedal) or spin a wheel. You were going too slow. Either because you were trying to conserve your Oxygen or because your fitness isn't there to spin the bike fast enough (which is slightly different than #1. I've had times where I wasn't breathing very hard but I just didn't have the speed or strength to make it up- I should have been going faster.)

    3) You'll make it up the hill. Your fitness allowed you to push the bike at Force greater than or Equal to the mass of your bike (and the slope) times the minimum speed you pedaled the bike up the hill.

    For sustained climbs you have to think like a geared rider and try to go as slow as you possibly can without stalling out. This will keep your heart rate down, keep you from going into Oxygen Debit, and get you though the climb as long as you can keep from stalling or slipping the rear wheel.

    Your fitness level will automatically go up the more you ride SS. Just try to hit those short climbs as hard as you can to increase your leg strength and VO2 max.

    Anyways TL: DR version: Go as slow as you possibly can without stalling or slipping.

  5. #5
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    Tips/tricks for SS sustained climbing?

    Thanks for all the responses. I found myself leaning forward almost to the point of losing traction in the rear wheel, then backing off to maintain it. The cool thing I realized is that power txfer feels so deliberate. Standing and mashing on a SS feels different than a geared bike. I was wondering if there was a 'trick' to capitalize on this great power txfer (e.g. deliberately shifting weight, rocking side to side, etc) to enhance momentum. Maybe I'm over- thinking this.
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  6. #6
    Phobia of petting zoos.
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    Momentum is your friend and lover but it can be hard to maintain that on long sustained climbing efforts.

    Take a look at your chainring, it's round. Don't forget that! Your pedaling motion should aim to keep power through the whole circle. Don't stamp down and expect that to get you there (unless you're riding one of those goofy old Alenax bikes - google them if you don't know what I mean).

    Despite your best efforts to maintain that circle there will still be a dead spot. Get into the rhythm of rocking the bike forward through the dead spot in your pedal stroke. And yeah, rocking the bike from side to side is useful too. Wider bars give some leverage for that.

    Well, the above works for me, give it a shot and see if it helps.

    Oh, and don't let it get to you. Think happy thoughts. If you start to focus on any pain or how long it's taking, or how you long for something for your right thumb to press then before you know you'll be off the bike and having a hissy fit like a 13 year old girl who missed out on Bieber tickets.

    Grumps

  7. #7
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    Often in a long race and/or a long ride walking super steep sections is a better tactic. If your speed falls below around 4mph you might as well walk the steep section and resume riding when the terrain allows. Most long climbs only have a few steep sections and as such sometimes walking short bits is a good idea.

    For long climbs adding bar ends helps give you a more powerful and relaxed climbing position. Also select the gear that works for your riding area. My view is that the best gear one that works well for the majority of the day. Some of the time it will be too low and sometimes it will be too high. If you are in a hilly area you will need to pick the gear that works well for climbs and then simply coast the downhills and go mellow on the flats.
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  8. #8
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    When you stand up and mash down on the pedals alot of people have the tendency to unweight the rear wheel...that's bad and as sucks here due to how slick our trails stay. When my uncle was teaching me to climb he kept telling me "kiss the headset". That kept me up and in a position to really use my legs but also allowed me to add in the arms like Uncle Grumpy said, all while keeping my rear wheel planted. I see alot of riders here that are hanging WAY over their bars on the climbs we have.

  9. #9
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    Just keep turning the pedals.

  10. #10
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    (michaelscott) "For sustained climbs... try to go as slow as possible without stalling out. This will keep your heart rate down, keep you from going into Oxygen Debit, and get you though the climb as long as you can keep from stalling or slipping the rear wheel."

    For me ^ this works, plus generating momentum, so that on any flat spot I can coast or spin without pressure. Doing so keeps my breathing in check, and saves some punch for those steep sections.
    Notice that with a smaller cog, one can generate more uphill momentum, yet it taxes both aerobic capacity & leg strength that will either crush you, or enables you to kill it.
    The best is the one you want to ride most often..

  11. #11
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    Tips/tricks for SS sustained climbing?

    Quote Originally Posted by Flyin_W View Post
    Notice that with a smaller cog, one can generate more uphill momentum, yet it taxes both aerobic capacity & leg strength that will either crush you, or enables you to kill it.
    Well said.

    Totally agree.

    SPP
    Rigid.

  12. #12
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    Use momentum to try to find the sweet spot for the gear your using, if not doable learn to ride real slow with a ultra low cadence. The sweet spot to me is when I can maintain speed without my HR going up too fast. To manage energy on really long climbs I try to master the seated climb, if I stand too much my HR goes ballistic. Mastering a real slow cadence/speed uphill helps avoid unclipping and causing a hill start or walking. This is handy in races when stuck behind other riders climbing slow (usually in the little ring) and you need to almost track stand mid climb to avoid the dreaded unclip which usually leads to running or walking it out.

  13. #13
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    All great advice. I'm just starting too, and this helps, especially the 'kiss the headset' guideline. I've lost the back tire a couple times, stopping my momentum and forcing me to walk.

    Wide bars help for the slow leverage just at the top of the climb to get you over that last hump.

    I also like the slow rhythmic cadence that you can develop while standing not sitting, my knees don't like it when I sit and mash.

    Lastly, when I get a chance on those slight 'breaks' and I'm riding alone, or not in a hurry, I will "practice my trackstand", aka "lower my heart rate, and take a breather".

    I thought I hated climbing, but writing this, makes me want to ride. Or maybe I just don't want to be at work...

  14. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by michaelscott View Post
    Go as slow as you possibly can without stalling or slipping.
    No, no, no! Go as fast as you possibly can to keep momentum.

    With experience you will realize just how wrong your advice is.
    My rides:
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  15. #15
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    Quote Originally Posted by serious View Post
    No, no, no! Go as fast as you possibly can to keep momentum.

    With experience you will realize just how wrong your advice is.


    The OP was asking about sustained climbing. Maintaining momentum is good advice on short efforts but on a long run nobody can redline forever, and while I don't completely agree with the advice to go as slow as you possibly can I think there is a balance somewhere in the middle, or as dwilson said- "find your sweet spot".

    Long, sustained climbs often have little chunks here and there that are steep and/or techie and you need to have something in reserve to handle those parts, and to have some gas in the tank for the rest of the ride.

  16. #16
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    For me - slowing cadence to expend the least amount of energy while maintaining balance and forward motion. Always attack a climb at the bottom and settle into a variety of other methods as laid out below..

    When my legs start screaming and begin to fail on long, sustained climbs I resort to different methods (in no particular order):
    1. The 'hurky-jerky' method of lunging the bike forward to get over a steep spot.
    2. The 'traverse' method of moving left to right over the hill while recovering (admittedly, not pretty - but effective).
    3. The 'seated' method of attempting to grind out a long climb using as little energy as possible while keeping some forward momentum.

    To each their own, but I find riding spuds can help recovery on long grinders as I can switch from using solely downward pressure on the cranks to using upward strokes on the pedals while clipped in. This uses different muscles and enhances recovery and oxygen transport to the tired muscles.
    I go through a kind of cost-benefit analysis at some point on a long climb - is it better to walk up and save some legs for later or better to continue and grind through? This also depends on my mental tenacity ... some days the anger from my legs screaming to 'STOP' will piss me off to the point that I can dig deeper and pull off a climb. (Those are good days indeed =)
    \sigma_T\sigma_x \geq \tfrac{\hbar}{2m} \left|\left\langle p_x\right\rangle\right|.

  17. #17
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    Quote Originally Posted by c_m_shooter View Post
    Just keep turning the pedals.
    +1.

    Use your calves to rest your thighs a little.
    Making the smack track baby.

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  18. #18
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    One trick I use is weight distribution. I try to climb in a standing position that balances my weight front to rear in such a way that if I lean back, I increase grip. If I lean forward, I decrease grip. What this does is allow me to slip the rear tire slightly when needed. This is like hitting a lower gear breifly and can get you out of a jam and keep from stalling.

  19. #19
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    Quote Originally Posted by J.B. Weld View Post
    The OP was asking about sustained climbing. Maintaining momentum is good advice on short efforts but on a long run nobody can redline forever, and while I don't completely agree with the advice to go as slow as you possibly can I think there is a balance somewhere in the middle, or as dwilson said- "find your sweet spot".

    Long, sustained climbs often have little chunks here and there that are steep and/or techie and you need to have something in reserve to handle those parts, and to have some gas in the tank for the rest of the ride.
    Going as fast as you can does not mean redlining. Weather the climb is 20 seconds or 20 minutes, going as fast as you can for that period, it what we aim for. Nobody aims to ride as slow as they can. Well, not if performance is part of the equation.
    My rides:
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  20. #20
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    Tips/tricks for SS sustained climbing?

    Vision, line & pedal efficiency!


    Sent from my iPad using Tapatalk HD

  21. #21
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    I do it all, but I don't think I ever sit down on any climb. First I'll stand and start pedalling, then start smashing, then lean forward... I run 32/20, and while it's hard to keep momentum at the beginning with that ratio, I find it's easier to keep it moving when I don't have the momentum anymore. 32/18, had better momentum at the beginning, but when I'm out of gas and barely moving, it's hard to keep the bike moving.
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  22. #22
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    Quote Originally Posted by serious View Post
    Going as fast as you can does not mean redlining. Weather the climb is 20 seconds or 20 minutes, going as fast as you can for that period, it what we aim for.


    If I go as fast as I can for a 20 minute hill climb that is called a time trial, and if your ride ends there then that strategy works fine. The ride usually doesn't end there though so most mortals have to pace themselves up a long climb, and throughout the whole ride in order to maintain the fastest average speed. Riding a single speed can make pacing a climb more difficult because you are not always in an ideal gear. You have to adapt.

  23. #23
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    A lot of good advice here.

    One thing I do is what I call "dance". I use quite a bit of body motion to sort of "dance" my way up the hill. My dance enables me to rock the bike forward and backward to get over boulders. Also, I like to just hover over my seat when mashing then pop up and lean forward to get the bike over a rut or boulder. Another thing you can do is on the up stroke of the pedal, pull up with your knee. This has the effect of bringing in the hip flexor to help you. This is why many runners are excellent climbers. Running works the hip flexor (and the core). When climbing you will be using all the muscles in your body from your shoulders down to your feet. Bar ends help immensely for leverage.

    Lastly, when the hill begins to level off enough, you should sit down immediately. Sit on the nose of your seat and bend your elbows 90 degrees. Your forearms should be parallel with the ground.

  24. #24
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    You want to keep as high cadence as possible always. The higher cadence takes the bite off the grind and is actually easier than slowing down and grinding each stroke. I am not adverse to walking either.

    I gear my bike towards climbing - 32x20 on 26" wheels - so that I can get up more hills.

  25. #25
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    Tips/tricks for SS sustained climbing?

    It all comes down to how effectively you can conserve energy. As many noted, find your sweet spot, momentum is key as well as picking the best lines and maintaining focus,vision.....and confidence. The mind is a big part of the process.


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