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I did a video on my blog illustrating the frustration of going up hills (such as they are in Suffolk!) when you're a little on the portly side. Aside from shifting the remaining excess weight, what advice do you guys have for better climbing?

http://www.suffolkcycling.com/cycling/cycling-hills-weighty-issue/

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bashthebox [751 posts] 1 year ago
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Climb them more often? Ride in 34-32?
Strength to weight is what dictates hill climbing though, and it's a lot quicker to lose weight than it is to build enough muscle to push the guts and extra muscles uphill.

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bashthebox [751 posts] 1 year ago
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Just saw you've already lost a stone, that's great work. Have you altered your diet at all too?

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Shades [292 posts] 1 year ago
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Sheer bloody mindedness and the ability to suffer. Also convince yourself that something awful will happen in your life if you climb off. I often wear my Alp d'Huez top, which would mean untold amounts of shame if I baled out!

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Suffolk Cycling [65 posts] 1 year ago
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Not intentionally. But I guess once you start any proper exercise in earnest you tend to be a *little* more careful about what you drink/eat. So only five pints on a night out, not six  1

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jollygoodvelo [1396 posts] 1 year ago
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At 90kg and with a fondness for pies and ale, hills are never going to be my friend.

However I personally think it's a mental thing. You're not going to go so slowly that you fall off, and no matter how it feels, you're still going faster than walking. So just slot it in the bottom gear, put your hands on the tops (it opens your chest and lets more lovely oxygen in), and winch your way up.

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bashthebox [751 posts] 1 year ago
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Bikes have a weird way of making you healthier. I've always enjoyed cooking so my diet has mostly been pretty good - freshly prepared food with lots of veg and not too much added salts and sugars. However before the bikes took over, I was a bit of a late night party machine. Huge binge alcohol intake, a lot of late night dancing and all sorts of naughty pills and powders too. Never made a conscious decision to give that all up, but when you really want to get up on a sunday morning to do 100km of hard graft, it suddenly makes a lot more sense to have a quiet night in on saturday, making sure the bike's running smoothly.
As I said, I've always been a good cook but now my meals are far more slanted to pre and post ride nutrition. Biggest problem there is involving my other half in portion size by accident. You forget that if someone isn't burning off the extra 10k calories a week, it's got to go somewhere....!

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bikebot [1795 posts] 1 year ago
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When you are passed by someone climbing, take note of their cadence vs yours. If you're already in the granny gear, not much you can do, but a lot of people do instinctively use too high a gear or shift down late rather than maintain a light fast spin up a hill.

If you're on a longer ride, do take a few breaks out of the saddle and stretch the leg muscles.

If you're trying to lose weight and build up strength, you might want to look at how you can add some variation to your training. If you keep straining the same muscles in the same way, there's a diminishing return. Try something different, such as intervals (sprints) and see if your climbing is any better a few days later. In the past, I've seen my cycling improve after I resume running in the winter.

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andyp [1444 posts] 1 year ago
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'Sheer bloody mindedness and the ability to suffer.'

This, in addition to riding them a lot. I've always loved hills even though I'm a big lad, I made myself enjoy them and see the challenge in them. It's mostly mental, apart from the *pace* you go up them. Nothing beats a big lad pulling a train up a long hill and seeing skinny guys dropping off the group. You just have to remember that it's very unlikely to kill you so dig deep and drive on. I did the Cingles du Mont Ventoux at over 100kg, wasn't a problem in the slightest. People have gone much faster, sure - but I enjoyed it all and was never in any doubt that I'd do it.

Small change to diet and I'm back in the 80s ...hills just get better and better  1

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bigmel [111 posts] 1 year ago
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As a previous 100kg+ (Clydesdale category) rider, may I offer 2 points which reiterate the advice above.

1) You have the power - stay seated on the climbs, get in a low gear and spin your way to the top with a sustainable "time trial" level of effort.

2) Lose the weight - it's obvious and easier than building power. The objective is clearly defined and measurable. And the performance benefit will help you EVERYWHERE.

Don't lose the faith - as you build dense muscle you will not drop that much weight to begin with, but your body fat will go. Give yourself 3 seasons to get into shape.

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Suffolk Cycling [65 posts] 1 year ago
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Great advice here. Thanks!

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parksey [343 posts] 1 year ago
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Ditto with the seated approach. I'm never afraid to get in a low gear early and just spin my way up with a good cadence, I then tend to stand and attack the summit in a higher gear when I can see it. Better that than go in too fast and then quickly lose that momentum and find that even 34/30 isn't low enough.

I'm still just the wrong side of 100kg, but I really enjoy climbing. I'm never gonna win any KOMs, but then that's not why I go out riding

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BikeBud [204 posts] 1 year ago
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I've been back riding for about a year, and have lost 1 1/2 stone in that time (with a fair bit of yo-yo ing!) Big Mel is correct - at first you won't lose much weight because you're building muscle (but you should look and feel a bit better).

These are my thoughts on hills & weight loss:

Gearing - make sure your gears are low enough, and ride with a fast cadence.

Frequency - keep going and riding those hilly routes!

Diet - Replace some of your poorer choices with better quality foods (snacks was my weakness), rather than drastically changing your diet. Stopping my pre-bed cerial habit made a big difference too (it took a couple of weeks before I stopped feeling hungry before bed though).
Fuel your riding though - eat properly in advance of a ride, and if your ride is long enough, take food with you. It is important not to lose muscle strength as you lose weight!

Strava - can be a great way of tracking how much faster you are up specific hills - most hills have segments. On one hill I started off grovelling up it at 9 minutes plus, and I'm now down to a PB of 4:09. After a while you'll also notice a difference in how you feel (from struggling, to attacking it) and what gear you're using (started on 34x28, now I'm comfortable with 36x23 or higher). You don't have to be getting a PB every time, but it is a nice way of monitoring your improvement and keeping your motivation up.

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redmeat [149 posts] 1 year ago
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That hill out of Bealings is not particularly difficult - are you sure you're not tiring your legs prematurely in an effort to go so quick on the flat?

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robert posts child [79 posts] 1 year ago
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Good advice here. Echo comments about weight not changing instantly and yet shape, and size can change. I am in the heavyweight group myself, and i know i have changed in last few weeks as my clothes fit differently and i am wearing clothes that were too small for me,yet my weight change is very slight .
I struggle with inclines, let alone hills, problem is if i drop gears as much as feel the need to, then the spin is easier but i run out of puff...only one answer, do the hills,keep doing the hills,and lose the weight....
Keep going!

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Suffolk Cycling [65 posts] 1 year ago
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redmeat wrote:

That hill out of Bealings is not particularly difficult - are you sure you're not tiring your legs prematurely in an effort to go so quick on the flat?

Probably, yes! But remember I only started a few months ago, overweight (obv) and with the fitness levels of a geriatric sloth. So that Bealings hill is tough for the likes of me. There's only a few like that in the area that still have me blowing hard: the one up Playford, Sandy Lane climb up towards Woodbridge, Sutton climb out of Melton being the main culprits.

Thinking about it, just about every climb is hard, so thank God I don;t live anywhere too hilly!

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Markus [49 posts] 1 year ago
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I'd thought I'd chime in, since I'm in the same seat, so to speak. Lots of good advice here! Here are some additions:
- Spinning in a low gear is all well and good. But you get faster by going faster. Try keeping it in the big ring as much as possible for a ride now and then and get up from the saddle in the hills. This builds morale, also strengthens your legs and hearth. (Don't bust your heart, though. Or your knees. You'd might want to be further along your weight loss scheme for this.)
- Bikebot already mentioned intervals. Intervals are good. (This reminds me, I should do intervals)
- As far as I know, when the liver is processing ethanol, it can't burn fat. This takes a while. Also, the energy content of alcohol is relatively high. Something to consider. (Keeping it occasional, myself.)

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redmeat [149 posts] 1 year ago
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Suffolk Cycling wrote:
redmeat wrote:

That hill out of Bealings is not particularly difficult - are you sure you're not tiring your legs prematurely in an effort to go so quick on the flat?

Probably, yes! But remember I only started a few months ago, overweight (obv) and with the fitness levels of a geriatric sloth. So that Bealings hill is tough for the likes of me. There's only a few like that in the area that still have me blowing hard: the one up Playford, Sandy Lane climb up towards Woodbridge, Sutton climb out of Melton being the main culprits.

Thinking about it, just about every climb is hard, so thank God I don;t live anywhere too hilly!

The America Hill/Rose Hill combo back into town from Witnesham should get you going.

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Suffolk Cycling [65 posts] 1 year ago
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Oh yes, I'd forgotten about them.

First month of all this I was having to stop on some of these hills. Much better now and never need to stop, but as the video shows, there's still a lot to do!

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bashthebox [751 posts] 1 year ago
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You can do it! Just keep thrashing yourself, and as others have said I bet there's little naughty things in your diet you can cut out/cut right down on. Crisps, perhaps? That last pint of the evening? Mid morning snack?

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movingtarget [144 posts] 1 year ago
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I'm at the other end of the spectrum at 55kg but the same thing holds true, try to keep your cadence at least around 60 rpm instead of trying to grind your way up to the top. You'll build up your cardio as well as your quads and glutes but you won't hit that painful lactic acid threshold as quickly. Over time you'll lose weight (fat) and gain muscle so the hills will still be hard but you'll be doing them faster! Hills take a toll of everyone even us lightweights. As they say, it never gets easier, it just gets faster  3 If you find you're in your lowest gear but still grinding away at a low cadence, try to find a used (or new if you can afford it) cassette with 30 to 32 or at least 28 teeth on the cog (11-32 or 12-32 depending on what speed your chain set is). Having that additional low gear really helps physically and mentally (just knowing it's there to drop down to if you're having a bit of a slog that day).

In terms of actually climbing, I've found that I do best when I start out slowly at the base, whatever speed I need to maintain my cadence while not feeling that I'm really burning through my legs and then as I gain a rhythm, breathing smooths out and I'm spinning smoothly, I'll increase my speed around 1/3 to 1/2 way up the climb. Starting out too fast at the beginning of a climb almost always results in me having an overall slower time (you end up slowing down as you climb instead of being able to maintain or increase your pace) and feeling crappy when I get to the top as I've burned through my legs (O2 and energy) too quickly and have filled them with lactic acid.

Welcome to the joys of climbing and don't forget to have fun (cuz why else would we dress up in Lycra in our free time  4 )

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Wrongfoot [35 posts] 1 year ago
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Markus wrote:

- Spinning in a low gear is all well and good. But you get faster by going faster. Try keeping it in the big ring as much as possible for a ride now and then and get up from the saddle in the hills. This builds morale, also strengthens your legs and hearth. (Don't bust your heart, though. Or your knees. You'd might want to be further along your weight loss scheme for this.)

I disagree completely. When 110kg+ pedal mashing would have made my already tree trunk legs even bigger. Spin to lose weight, as a big guy your legs are already accustomed to carrying your weight up steps etc. and you'll have plenty enough muscle for great performance when you lose weight. Big guys can sprint a bit too or squat a lot of weight so they have a lot of fast twitch, you can depend that they aren't distance runners so what they need to develop is slow twitch and stamina. If you spin a fast cadence on your intervals and just put power down when seated rides you can get your heart rate up easily. Standing and mashing pedals when heavy just increases injury risk (Markus - I know that you did mention this) and develops a poor pedaling stroke. Standing is more efficient/necessary for light riders they need all their weight to put power through the pedals, big guys have enough mass to put power down without all their weight going through their feet

Spin yourself thinner by 10-15kg and the power you always had as a big guy will be plenty. Train away your weaknesses and they are almost certainly fat and lack of stamina not lack of leg muscle. The weight loss can be massively rewarding on the bike, it's like your already training with weights and as you get lighter it gets easier.

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msfergus [22 posts] 1 year ago
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I'm more than a little jealous. I live in W Yorks on 2nd stage of the Grande Departe this year as it happens and there's little flat cycling round here for an equally overweight chap! I used to cycle a lot as a teenager but 40 years on and born again cyclist, I'm feeling the pain of those hills.
I've no doubt the advice above is sound but I'm just working on keeping my expectations low, cycling as often as I can and already I can see (small) improvements in terms of time, distance and weight loss. Yesterday I did a category 3 climb in several chunks. Wasn't pretty, but I got there. It was part of the Tour de France route and some wit has painted 'Fat lad at the back' across the road; my guess is he drove there to do that! If I lost a stone in 6 months I'd be dead chuffed.

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Quince [382 posts] 1 year ago
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I haven't read everything written so far, so I'm sorry if I reiterate what someone's said, but GCN did a video on losing weight by cycling not too long ago and I think it was fairly sensible.

A couple if subtler points from it (or somewhere else, I thi they're good anyway) were to make sure eat on the bike, rather than solely off it; eat decent, mainly unprocessed food outside of big events; and throw in a bit of interval type stuff at the end of a longer ride.

On the first point, I find fuelling as I'm burning seems a much more natural way to regulate calories than trying to rely on theoritical numbers either side. Obviously, have a good carby (read: porridge or similar) meal before a big ride, and something proteinous (and some more carbs) at the end to facilitate recovery - but in terms of the calories you burn riding, try as have these as you're riding rather than having your stomach telling you to 'make up for it' at the end.

Food-wise, most unprocessed foods have a harder time of cramming fat and sugar into tight space than their processed alternatives. They also are generally more nutritionally balanced as they haven't had any one part of them (i.e. the sugary part) stripped away and eaten in isolation. Even from a pure cycling perspective, eating healthily has its performance benefits, and the less sick days you have, the more time you can spend riding, and the fitter - and leaner - you can get. I actually find this approach less restrictive, as I can eat what I want - so long as it isn't junk - which means I don't really feel I'm denying myself. Vegetables are also really interesting when you stop viewing them as the sad and wilted bits at the bottom of a ready meal.

The last point is a bit more tenuous than the first two, but I find throwing in a few bits of high intensity work at the end of a longer ride cause my body to kick into metabolic overdrive and believe it needs at the resources it can get, i.e. dipping into the fat reserved it holds so dearly. Of the three, it's the most likely to have elements of being a trumped up old wives tale, but I do think that incorporating variety into one's riding is a good thing regardless. You don't just get better at climbing hills by just climbing hills, and by taking a broader view you may see improvements happen naturally over time as the result of different factors. If nothing else, you're less likely to get demoralised if you're aware that you have a range of options, and they'll all help. Just go and ride your bike.  3

Sorry if that was a bit long, I hope you find something in it!

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matthewn5 [748 posts] 1 year ago
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Ride to work at pace, ride home from work hard and fast to work up a a sweat. Lost 4.5kg so far over 2 years and it stays off. Even though I'm only doing 8km a day round trip the changes are really noticeable. The OH is well impressed by the new physique... Hills are SO much easier and it was a lot less expensive than taking 4.5kg off the bike.

Ideally I want to lose 4kg more to reach a BMI of 22.5 which is in the middle of the healthy range for my height.

As regards technique, if I'm doing a quick 100km I will stay in the big ring and stand up on hills to keep the speed up. If much longer, I tend to save energy by a quick drop into the 39 and spin up. Standing uses much more energy.

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carytb [71 posts] 1 year ago
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Hi. I lost about 2 stone a few years ago then took up cycling to help me loose more. The result was that I did not loose a single ounce over the next 2 years as I was just continually hungry. I recently adopted a Low Carb High Fat diet and have shed 10 kg in 2.5 months. I do fell hungry all the time and after a difficult first few weeks have now no need to eat carbs to fuel my cycling. In fact I now go out on the club runs without having anything to eat beforehand and just have a fry up or something when we stop. I would really recommend anyone to do the research and try it for themselves.

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CXR94Di2 [1121 posts] 1 year ago
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I've lost nearly 3 stone over 2 years, I feel great and look quite trim with a flat stomach. I could probably afford to lose another stone to help me climb hills better. However I prefer to carry the extra bulk /shape which I acquired from weight training in my youth. Presently weigh 15st to 15st 5 lb.

Hills are more of a challenge but can pace up most. I specced my chain set with a 32T rear cass as my emergency gear. Take it easy at the start of the hill and get a steady rhythm. Even I can surprise younger and lighter riders by keeping a smooth pace up hills well sometimes  1

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gazza_d [459 posts] 1 year ago
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As a fellow cyclist who is also gravitationally challenged, the best way is to improve your power to weight ratio by getting fitter & losing weight.

On anything other than really short climbs, you are far far better to stick in a lower gear and spin up - Watch the climbers in the TDF, they spin when sitting. Will save muscle power & knees than out of the saddle climbing or mashing a big gear slowly. Climb lots as well

If you don't already use Strava (can keep rides private) and you will see yourself improve over time, especially if you do the same segments frequently.

As the great Greg Lemond said, hills don't get easier,you just get faster - it is true, and while you may suffer like you did 6 months ago, I bet you'll be quicker.

Oh, and learn how to descend well, and laugh at the skinny kids on the way down!

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S13SFC [134 posts] 1 year ago
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I've dropped from 15st 5lb to 13st 5lb. The fat loss is greater than that as I've obviously put muscle weight on.

To do it I've combined doing two hard shorter rides (Tues & Thurs) with a long tempo ride on a Sunday and eating sensibly without denying myself too much of the stuff I love.

One of the shorter rides (50km or so) I do in the hills. They are still hard but certainly quicker and I certainly feel the benefit on the longer rides.

Shorter climbs I'm happy to be out of the saddle but the longer & more challenging climbs I simply sit and spin. The rhythm of spinning suits me and leaves me plenty in the tank.

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S13SFC [134 posts] 1 year ago
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I've dropped from 15st 5lb to 13st 5lb. The fat loss is greater than that as I've obviously put muscle weight on.

To do it I've combined doing two hard shorter rides (Tues & Thurs) with a long tempo ride on a Sunday and eating sensibly without denying myself too much of the stuff I love.

One of the shorter rides (50km or so) I do in the hills. They are still hard but certainly quicker and I certainly feel the benefit on the longer rides.

Shorter climbs I'm happy to be out of the saddle but the longer & more challenging climbs I simply sit and spin. The rhythm of spinning suits me and leaves me plenty in the tank.

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neildmoss [284 posts] 1 year ago
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What's worked for me is regularly doing a pre-breakfast ride that takes in a local 100m climb. I try for Mon/Wed/Thu to leave me a little fresher for the big Saturday ride.

I've gone from 87kg to 79kg without changing much else, in 8 months, just eating breakfast after the commute instead of before. As a result, hills are much easier.

However, I wouldn't say that I've improved my speed. My flat circuits take much the same time as before, but then I'm not actually training, not actively trying to go faster, not varying my routine. I'm just losing weight at this time. I'm aiming for the Le Mans 24h next year, so I will soon be changing a lot of things to make that possible and get the maximum distance possible.

So, for me, hill times means less weight and keeping a decent cadence.

And finally, the absolute 100% won't-be-taken-seriously-otherwise rule is: remove the valve caps.  3

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