Question: I’m a 48-year-old recreational rider who trains 100-200 miles a week. I’m not built like a climber and go up hills slowly. This year, I’ve climbed a lot, ridden 2 or 3 “spinning” classes each week and lifted weights. But when the road gets steep, I still lack power to turn the gears. How do I improve? — Giny C.
Coach Fred Matheny Replies: I get lots of questions about how to climb better. That’s why I focused one of my eBooks to the subject: Climbing for Roadies.
Basically, climbing better comes down to these factors:
- Power-to-weight ratio. You can either reduce your weight or increase your power (or both) in order to climb better. I’m keenly aware of how difficult it is to lose weight. I’m an old college lineman who has lost 50 pounds since my playing days. I climb okay, but smaller, lighter riders with good power will always be better.
- Ability to suffer. Climbing is hard work. To get the most out of your talent, you need the ability to ride right on the edge of blowing up. This isn’t fun, but it builds character (or so I’m told).
- Practice. Good climbers like to climb, and they seek hills. Poor climbers often opt for flat courses if they have a choice. This retards the development of the aerobic power, strength and technique necessary to improve climbing. If you want to climb better, climb!
- Motivation. It’s possible to have plenty of fun on the bike without being a very good climber. That’s one reason compact cranksets are so popular! If you really want to climb with speed and power, you’ll have the motivation to work at it. If not, there’s nothing wrong with you. Just gear down, go slow and enjoy the scenery.
- Serendipity. Don’t over-enthusiastically force yourself to attack every climb. That’ll soon cause you to start avoiding hills. Instead, cruise when that’s all you feel like doing. But on rides when you’re feeling good, hit the hills hard and get the benefits. Listen to your body.
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