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Difficulty with hills - any advice

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jumpexchange 17 May 22:41  

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Hi
I took up cycling again about 3 months ago after 10 years of very little exercise. I am overweight (5'4" lady weighing 12.5 stone - down from 13 stone 3 months ago). On the weekends I enjoy cycling with my son on the cycle track (spen valley greenway) which gently climbs in one direction and then it's down hill all the way back. But in the week I am trying to cycle part of my route to work, increasing the cycling part and reducing the drive bit by bit. I live near Heckmondwike and work in Leeds. I now cycle Cottingley area to Leeds and back but it's all long and steep hills up and down for the rest of the journey home. I have tried a few hills from time to time on road and have to get off and walk within a minute or two - I dont seem to be getting any further with practice - is there anything I can do to get better at hills? My problems are that my throat feels red raw and my legs go to jelly.
Thanks in advance for any advice.

Dino 19 May 20:50  

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Hi I'm no expert but love hill climbing and found it difficult at first.

consider the following points and they may help:
1. you use more engergy hill climbling are you hydrated enough and have you eaten enough to 'fuel' the additional effort? You need 'plenty' of fluids, if you are feeling thirsty on a ride -any ride- you are alreday de-hydrated!
2. Pace yourself - don't try to keep the same pace if your body is telling you that you can't
3.That brings me onto the bike you are using - has it got the right gearing for the type of hills you are climbing? Speak to your local bike shop they will help
4. You will improve with time I promise but get your throat checked out as to why you have this problem in these circumstances.

Good luck sounds like you are doing a great job and if you keep at it without doubt you will see the benfits - I did!

My Latest Route: Mar 2012 Majors Green Loop

Patt 26 May 22:27  

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Keep at it, if you havent cycled for a while its going to take a little longer before you really start to notice the improvements

The good news is they will definitely come, keep on doing what you are doing and actually take it a bit easier rather than harder. Don't worry about getting off and walking, as long as you keep moving you are still getting benefits from the exercise!


stuartkendall 27 May 00:45  

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just dont get off... tell yourself you will make it to the top and you will. Yes it may hurt but so what :)

My Latest Route: Apr 2009 St Mellons to Coed Coesau and Draethen Loop

dudley 27 May 17:03  

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if your saddle is the wrong height, it isn't going to get any easier

if it is too low, it is like trying to walk with your knees bent - a killer after a minute or two.

knee should be just bent at full extension with the pedal at the bottom

My Latest Route: Nov 2009 Forth Estuary Circular

Cycling Dude 06 Jun 21:58  

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Ok, you can forget all the other issues about saddle height and other stuff, as a cycling tutor and creater of the cycling group stealth, i know how people find hills hard, but here is the secret!
The proper problem is the gears, the correct gear is in the front derailer (left gear shift put it in third (highest gear)) and on the right gear shift put it into second.
That will get you up any hill with ease, but if you stall it wont work.
Good luck
stealthcycling@hotmail.co.uk

My Latest Route: Jun 2009 Silkworth and Herrington Circular

stuartkendall 07 Jun 16:04  

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Even though im a fan of middle ring and 1 or 2 on the back..thats rubbish advice for off road cycling. I enjoy hills and am quite fit :) but quite frankly the granny is put there for a reason. Try big ringing it up a slippy wet boggy field and you will spin out. Same is true for the slippy rocky climbs at many of the trail centres. I know of many hills here in south wales where only a granny will do. In fact I even know of road climb out of Machen for which granny front and back are required!

My Latest Route: Apr 2009 St Mellons to Coed Coesau and Draethen Loop

Cycling Dude 07 Jun 17:06  

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the so called 'Granny' gear rings are for setting off and also for a work out purpose, you even attempt using your lowest gear on wet hills is daft and not right for a few reasons.
A) You will burn yourself out quicker
B) You do not get a good system of breathing
C) your bike will be going to slow and you will stall
I failed 5 cyclists on their cycling proficiency test because they stalled on a hill and they were in the wrong gear.
Only use the slowest ring for setting off and for a workout on the flat surfaces.

My Latest Route: Jun 2009 Silkworth and Herrington Circular

stuartkendall 07 Jun 20:50  

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You cant have done much mountain biking. Your advice seems pretty sound for roadies where cadence is important but as I said.. There are hills around south wales where you wouldnt have a chance of big ringing up them. Theres one guy I know who regularly wins 24 hr enduros who could possibly big ring some of them but even he couldnt do most. Penrhiw lane out of Machen for instance. The lowest gear possible granny-granny still requires a tremendous amount of force to get to the top of the ridge as it goes straight up... no zig-zagging. Also with that you have to lean down on the handlebars to stop the front lifting. If its been raining then you have to shift your weight back and fore to counteract rear wheel sliding too. Big ring... not a chance.

My Latest Route: Apr 2009 St Mellons to Coed Coesau and Draethen Loop

raywebb 07 Jun 21:05  

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Jumpexchange, use your gears as you would driving a car, as you get further up the hill and the going starts gets harder change into a lower ratio, (don't leave it too late though) keep changing down till you either reach the top, or your in "double granny" gear and your thigh muscles have just caught fire. Also set a realistic target...the next lampost, that drain cover...try and beat your last target even by 1 metre...

Stuart, got to agree with your comments, unless you are "hillclimbing" in Norfolk or Lincolshire, you have to use the full range of the gifts from Mr Shimano.


GiantXTC4 07 Jun 21:28  

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I would suggest that the hill is steeper and longer than you are ready for .
Because you are working so hard your leg muscles cannot cope at this stage. And they are requiring more Oxygen to keep working, which inturn makes you breath short gasps through your mouth, which give you the dry sore throat.
Make sure that you are comfortable on the bike and use a lower gear if neccessery.



Cycling Dude 07 Jun 21:38  

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MTB roadies makes no differencesame gears are universal until gear 12 but up 2 u if u wanna pass out then fine but my advice is universal :/

My Latest Route: Jun 2009 Silkworth and Herrington Circular

raywebb 07 Jun 22:25  

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I'm sorry Cycling Dude, but it's a simple fact of mechanical engineering, some gradients will not be achieved in the gear ratio you suggest. I weigh the best part of 14 stone and even by standing full weight on the pedals it would not get me up Hadleigh Castle hill on the big ring.
The body is the engine for working the gears. too high a gear and the engine will stall, too low a gear and the engine will race, use the gear appropriate to the conditions in order to maintain a comfortable rhythm.


Cycling Dude 07 Jun 22:40  

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granted that weight does have something to do with it (why didnt you say so) w.e your name is I am working from the average of average built people, so we agree to differ, does it actualy matter all we need is to get up that naffing hill!

My Latest Route: Jun 2009 Silkworth and Herrington Circular

dudley 08 Jun 08:13  

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it reads as though cycling dude's experience and advice is all from a well thumbed text book for his course.

you cannot tell people which cog to be on, scoff at being on the big / small ring.

some bikes have 2 rings, some have three, and they are not the same either.

the original question was for assistance

set the bike up right (height etc)
tyres at right pressure (rolling friction)

pedal at a consistent cadence (60+rpm)

get in the ring / gear / cog that allows YOU to maintain this cadence.

you will be in a low gear on hills, and perhaps travelling slowly to start. as you get fitter, you will be able to nudge it up a notch or two.

if you do stall, then the hill is either too steep for you, or you are in too high a gear.

My Latest Route: Nov 2009 Forth Estuary Circular

Cycling Dude 08 Jun 15:02  

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your advice soundas as if it came from wikipedia, some bikes have only 1 front derailer, w.e gear works for you is the best personally i like a challange but have it your way

My Latest Route: Jun 2009 Silkworth and Herrington Circular

AndyK 08 Jun 17:30  

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poor "jumpexchange" all he wants is good advise and we've ended up with a slanging match!

I suggest you go back to basics and find yourself a good training hill. Ideally this will be of a consistent, gentle gradient, and will be quite long (choose what you think counts as "gentle" or "quite long", it's all realtive).

When you start climbing you should be in a gear that feels just a bit on the easy side, but is at least one or two higher than the easyest one you have (forget about big rings, small rigs etc, etc. As I said, it's all relative).

Now just relax and start reeling that hill in, nice and steady and at your own pace. You'll notice that the gear that seemed easy to begin with will then feel increacingly resistant, stick with it until you really feel you need the extra help and then change down into one of the gears you've left yourself. Try and stay in this one to complete the hill, only resorting to your easiest possible gear if you really really need it, right at the top of the hill.

Think of the hill in thirds:
* first third, the gear you're in feels just a bit too easy
* second third, this gear comes into its own and feels just right
* third third, resort to a lower gear.

Now, repeat! The more you practice this training ride, the easier and easier it will become and you can translate your technique to bigger or steeper hills when you feel ready.



My Latest Route: Nov 2009 Morningside Loop Via Innerleithen and Peebles

Cycling Dude 08 Jun 18:24  

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Here man all advice is good, does it even matter, and I like having domestics about cycling, it gets people involved as for hills, just try your best

My Latest Route: Jun 2009 Silkworth and Herrington Circular

stuartkendall 17 Jun 13:17  

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but use an appropriate gear ;)

My Latest Route: Apr 2009 St Mellons to Coed Coesau and Draethen Loop

jumpexchange 20 Jun 21:37  

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Thanks for all the advice, and I dont pretend to understand any of the techie stuff you're debating, but thought I'd let you know how I've got on.

I've moved my seat up a little, which has helped. I am making sure I'm not dehydrated - I think that was a problem. I think I was taking a run at the hill and then feeling very dejected as i slowed down so quickly.

I am now starting slower and trying to keep a steady pace, using low gears and keeping a few in reserve as you've advised. I am now making it up some long gentle hills, but very slowly - the other day a runner overtook me near the top of a hill and said "race you", which was very embaracing!! But I am improving but very, very slowly.

Last week I was chased by aggressive dogs, twice, the first time I was going down hill and accellerated away. The dog was on a lead and the young girl holding the lead look terrified as I approached so she knew what the dog would do and I think she only just managed to hold him. The second time I was going up hill, the dog was on its own, no lead and it was really scary - it was amazing how I did manage to speed up a bit though with the addrenalin on the hill, but I was so scared I was nearly sick after! Is this a problem you have encountered? What is the best thing to do?


stuartkendall 20 Jun 23:15  

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depends on the size of the dog. With a big snarling rabidly aggressive one that i couldnt out-run i'd put the bike between him n me. Failing that just make sure you ride with someone slower than you :)

My Latest Route: Apr 2009 St Mellons to Coed Coesau and Draethen Loop

Ian9393 23 Jun 13:20  

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Jumpexchange - I hope the cycling is still going well. The best advice I can recommend (which I use when cycling uphill) is to chant to yourself! I often ride along muttering "I love hills, hills are great" or something like that. "first mile's the worst mile" is another old favourite.

If you stick to the same route on a regular basis, you get to know how long it takes and which are the worst bits (as I am sure you know). It's those never-ending hills that you don't know which are the worst! Good luck!

As for dogs, they do provide a remarkable injection of energy into a cyclist's legs! I am generally scared of most dogs but they are usually harmless. Always expect one to pop out when you are passing a farm!


Nobby the Snake 24 Jun 16:05  

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Hi jumpexchange; hope you find this useful, Okay me and my partner recently discovered the joy of cycling with 4 kids in tow. Now she was very nervous of the roads and traffic at first, but gradually gained confidence, now we are quite confident at all aspects off safety. What you need is a course in climbing on a bike, it involves changing of the gears (the twiddly bits on the handlebars) one should say 1/2/3 on the left. Or 1/2/3/4/5/6/7/or eight.
Now up hill you need to select a gear and it has to be 1 on the left and 2/3/4 on the right when climbing a hill. This will have you knackering yourself out by the time you get to the top, but wholly satisfied......Hope you find this useful


jumpexchange 10 Jul 22:00  

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Hi
Thought I'd drop in to say I'm still keeping going, trying hard to get up the little hills. I am getting there on some hills (that most of you will probably consider very gentle hills) without going right down the hills. I'm recovering a bit more quickly after getting up the hills too. It really is taking a long time, progress is slow, but I do now feel I am going in the right direction.
Thanks for all the advice and encouragement, it really helps.


shnuggs 11 Jul 17:18  

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Hi Jump! How far are you riding? You need to keep it simple as a beginner, don't go too far until you are capable of it but also doing less than 20minutes isn't giving your body time to warm up properly either! Just stick to 30 mins 3-4 times a week at first and build up gradually. As for the hills just focus on something close by like a lampost or a fencepost, never look toward the end of the road, big no no. The further away you aim the harder your target becomes, pass your lampost then aim for the next, just don't look up the hill! And keep positive, telling yourself "I can do it!" not "I can't do it!"

You'll get there!

My Latest Route: Sep 2009 Durham Circular via Iveston and Thornley

jumpexchange 16 Jul 23:00  

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Hi
I only do about 20 minutes each way on the way to/from work (because I drive the rest), then I do much longer rides on fairly flat routes on the weekend and some evenings. These rides are no problem - I can ride for hours on the flat.. it's just the hills I was really struggling with. The short targets have helped - next lamp post etc. And my technique is improving but I have a long way to go in terms of strength and stamina. I can't ride any more distance of my route home until I can manage a 2 mile long hill, since there is nowhere to park between where I park now and about 2 miles up the hill. I can do about half a mile now up hill as long as it isn't too steep so I have a way still to go, but when I first posted on here, I was struggling within a minute of starting up hill, so I do feel I am improving... no more joggers have overtaken me recently!!!!


shnuggs 17 Jul 14:17  

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Well thats great it sounds as if you really are coming on!

I have to point out that I am a beginner too so I understand exactly what you are going through. My ride to work (7.6miles) takes me over quite a hill it's about a 100 metre rise. On the way there the climb is about a mile long so it is pretty steep, on the way home the hill is about 2.5 miles which should make it long but easier you would think, unfortunately there are a couple of flat bits and a dip part way up which means the very last part of the climb is almost vertical!

The ride home used to take me well over half an hour, it now takes 26 minutes. The point is with practice and a lot of effort, it is do-able. Just be prepared to grit your teeth and sweat like a beast! Lol

One tip I picked up from somewhere was 'in order to learn how to climb hills you have to practice climbing hills' I know it sounds like a stupid statement but you did say that you can ride flats for hours so why don't you try introducing a few gentler hills into your leisure riding and work on getting up these quicker. Time yourself from bottom to top of a climb and each time you do it try and be quicker. When you feel you are ready then move onto a slightly bigger climb or a route which takes in a number of gentle climbs and gradually build the intensity.

But don't forget to factor in rest days, no matter what activity you undertake your body must be given chance to recover!

Have fun and take care, keep us posted!

My Latest Route: Sep 2009 Durham Circular via Iveston and Thornley

davetheconvert 19 Jul 13:51  

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Jumpexchange, keep up the work. I have only been cycling six months now after being quite a keen runner. I think the advice given so far is all good.
I would add that when facing a hill expect some pain! This is generally caused by a build up of lactic acid. Through training and improved fitness levels, the point at which the lactic acid builds up to a painful amount will change. Meaning that you'll be higher up the hill before it hurts. You can also train yourself mentally to withstand the pain. Remember pain is only 'temporary discomfort'. It is your friend. Once you've finished the hill the 'discomfort' you have just endured will start to give you plenty of endorphins.
Another technique you can use is to change the type of muscle and the muscle group itself that you work as you climb. You can use your calfs and hamstrings more (taking the effort from your quads) by digging down with your heel on each down stroke. Similarly if your climb out of the saddle you will change the muscle groups you are using (although this is a less efficient use of energy). Fast easy peddalling will use your fast twitch muscle fibres and slow treacle like peddalling will use slow twitch fibres. So when climbing out of the saddle you can try selecting bigger gears, plodding on for a while really trudging onwards, then return to the seat, whilst still peddalling drop the gears, make it easy and speed up your cadence. I wouldn't recommend this for distance rides, but to and from work this will help.

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stuartkendall 31 Jul 19:53  

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in fact its a pretty good method for distance rides too. I find standing up and using your bodyweight a bit saves energy. Then when you get a little tired get back down to your spinning. Simples :)

My Latest Route: Apr 2009 St Mellons to Coed Coesau and Draethen Loop

cinammongirl 01 Aug 16:41  

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im not sure i am near as techie as others here, but what i can say is that, you should carry a little spray bottle on your pocket (an accessible one) and have in the little bottle some lemon juice (the one you can buy in supermarkets). If you ever should have more problems with the dog, and for some reason you stop pedaling, then spray the aggressive dog on the eyes with the lemmon juice. This should sting, but it is not harmful in any way and it would buy you a few seconds if not minutes to get away.

As for the red-raw throat, drinking water is a very good idea, but, if you're doing this in slightly colder months, then perhaps it would be useful to invest on a cycling mask.
I use one during winter months, so that the air that i would inevitably be breathing through my mouth, would be a touch warmer than the real ambient temperature.

My Latest Route: May 2010 Woolwich Dockyard to Catford Station

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