Ride Your Life training tips
Cycling on a climb is not the same as doing it on other terrains; therefore, you must prepare differently. So here are three specific tips to improve uphill performance.
In cycling, everyone would like to go fast uphill. It is uphill that makes the difference for the classification in the races, and the show goes on, getting the public excited. The epic climbs remain in the fans' memory and make the history of this beautiful sport.
Improving uphill may help you to enjoy more a bike tour. A cycling trip always includes some stretches on climb.
1. FIND THE IDEAL PEDALING CADENCE
You have noticed this already: uphill pedaling does not have the same rhythm as on flat surfaces, and, indeed, not everyone pedals at the same speed.
This is evident among professionals: those who "blend" at high rates and those who use harder gears. So what is the right cadence?
There can be no one-size-fits-all answer. Many factors influence the pedaling pace, and this varies according to:
• Terrain (uphill, flat, downhill)
• Anatomical features (muscle mass, length of the levers, percentage of slow/fast fibers)
• Development of coordination skills
• Neuromuscular fatigue
• Beliefs and commonplaces
However, everyone can find their optimal pedaling cadence in a given situation.
How to do it? Simple: with a test!
Choose the climb you would like to improve and repeat it three times (in three different workouts, if possible under the same conditions). The first time you ride "by feeling" at the most natural pace for you to maintain. However, in the other two attempts, do one at 5-10 RPM more and the other at 5-10 RPM less than in the first one, and then compare the travel time. Run it as fast as possible by simulating a stopwatch.
Your ideal cadence for that climb (or other similar ones) will be close to the one you maintained in the test, which turns out to be the best one.
2. TRAIN THE REQUIRED POWER
If you know the approximate duration of the test, you can estimate what the highest pace that you can sustain consistently is.
If you have a power meter, the analysis software allows you to identify the MMP (Mean Maximal Power), which is the maximum sustainable average power for that specific fraction of time. Without the watts reference, you can instead rely on speed (if it takes half an hour to climb 10 km, the average will be 20 km / h).
The optimal energy management takes us to the best performance.
At this point, to try to improve, you can stimulate higher powers by "breaking" the climb into shorter steps but repeated at a greater intensity.
For example, if you have a personal best of 30' at an intensity of 300 watts on average, you can train yourself to do three laps of 10' each (with a short recovery in the middle) at 310-320 watts. The subdivision can occur in several ways, for example, in 6 repetitions of 5', or 4/5 of 7', etc. In case you don't have a power meter, you can do the same thing based, as mentioned before, on the speed.
This will allow you to train the same volume necessary to cover the climb but at higher power.
3. CHECK YOUR WEIGHT
It is useless to go around it: weight in cycling, for performance purposes and especially uphill, is essential! The lighter we are, the more we will go faster uphill with the same power.
Getting as close as possible to our ideal weight will help us be in optimal conditions to improve our records. Beware that this does not necessarily mean losing weight.
The goal to improve uphill is to increase the power/weight ratio by reducing excess fat mass. However, weight loss is often associated, at least in part, with a reduction in lean mass. This can correspond to a proportionally more significant decrease in power, with a consequent deterioration in performance.
Also remember that, first of all, you must always consider your psychophysical health!
You can be as thin as you want, but you will not be performing anyway if you are not well.
NOT ONLY THE BODYWEIGHT
Someone may pay more or less attention to it, but obviously the weight of the technical components (bicycle, clothing, water bottles, etc.) also affects your speed! So try to optimize even just one of these with lighter, aerodynamic components or eliminate the extra ones. Sometimes, it can be enough to empty the bottles!
As much as you improve on uphill as much you can enjoy more bike trips that include mountains and climbs. Climbs mean panoramic views and excitement.
Everyone can improve uphill, and the means to do so are available! These three tips are selected to try to act on the aspects that have a stronger influence than others on performance when pedaling uphill.
Following them requires commitment and a careful preliminary assessment. Always ask yourself the pros and cons of everything, evaluate whether it is worth it, and choose the option you think will bring you closer to your goals!
Daniele Bazzana - BC Training
Athletic and Biomechanical Trainer