QUESTION: Why is it “easier” to go hard on a hill than on a flat road? I do intervals on both types of terrain and can’t seem to exert myself as much on the flats. — Maxine S.
RBR REPLIES: Many riders experience this. If they wear a heart rate monitor, they can hold a higher average heart rate on climbs compared to a flat road. The same is true if they use a power meter. It seems easier to sustain a given power output on climbs. This also holds if your method of gauging intensity is through perceived exertion.
One theory is that climbing requires much more force to be exerted by the quads just to maintain momentum. You can’t soft-pedal periodically like you can on flat ground.
Not all riders experience this phenomenon, however. Those who hate climbing often can’t go hard on climbs. They think about how much they despise hills, shift to their lowest gear and twiddle up. But these same riders will bury themselves in a flat sprint.
So if you want to go harder on the flats, you need to do two things.
1. Change your attitude to that of an all-around rider. Know that you can give a full effort no matter the terrain.
2. Do some training time trials on flat terrain. Work at increasing your heart rate and power production. As with most things, practice will help you improve.