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  1. #1
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    hill climbing for those over the hill

    I hate to admit this in public but I am 70 yo. and I still want to get better in cycling. I average about 15 to 18 mph on a flat 50+ mile ride. A little more if I am pushed. The one area that frustrates me the most is the long 1 to 2 mile ascents. On a 4 to 6 percent climb I drop to single digits. I read a lot about how to improve climbing but I not always sure that the recommendations are suited for my age. For example I rode 55 miles on Saturday and felt good. But I have learned that it takes me two days to fully recover. I would be happy just to pick up 2 to 3 mph on a climb. I would appreciate any feedback.

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    Quote Originally Posted by cmacnulty View Post
    I hate to admit this in public but I am 70 yo. and I still want to get better in cycling. I average about 15 to 18 mph on a flat 50+ mile ride. A little more if I am pushed. The one area that frustrates me the most is the long 1 to 2 mile ascents. On a 4 to 6 percent climb I drop to single digits. I read a lot about how to improve climbing but I not always sure that the recommendations are suited for my age. For example I rode 55 miles on Saturday and felt good. But I have learned that it takes me two days to fully recover. I would be happy just to pick up 2 to 3 mph on a climb. I would appreciate any feedback.
    I am not sure training methods for hills at 70 would be any different than a younger person. You need to raise your FTP, focus on finding optimal cadence and pace, and reduce weight (if needed). Adding 2-3 mph on a steeper grade does seem a bit unrealistic though. On an 8% grade, the difference between 8 and 10 mph is an additional ~65 watts (assuming 170 lb total weight of you and the bike). That is a lot

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    Unless you are an olypmian, you are not going to do double digits on anything over a 5% grade.
    As you age, recovery is most important. @70 one does not hammer one day and hammer again the next. Choose your battles wisely, that is your advantage, wisdom!
    You could throw in some steeper hills a few times a month to improve your output, sometimes riding something steep makes 4% not so tough. But take a few days off to recover.
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    gearing comes to mind if you don't have the gears to keep you in the 90ish cadence range.
    Moderation is boring - do epic s##t

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  5. #5
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    About 9 years ago I moved from the relative flatlands of western TN to the Blue Ridge mountains of Virginia. I have progressed in those years from pretty sucky to decent but not great climber. I have a "15" rule where I try to achieve my speed in mph + gradient =15. If I'm riding hard I'll shoot for 16 or 17. When I am your age I'll be very pleased if I can achieve that 15 rule, but expect it will be something less than that, so it sounds like you're not doing too bad to me.

    Simplest thing to do is just climb more. Do rides that involve more climbing - make the total distances shorter if you need to aid recovery. On those 1-2 mile climbs try to match the cadence and effort (a hrm or power meter helps) that you use when riding tempo on the flats, albeit in a smaller gear.

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    Your numbers sound good to me.

    On a recent climb averaging 6% to 7%, I did a steady and fairly hard effort on the climb:
    .75 mile
    250 feet elevation
    6.3% average grade
    6.8 mph average speed
    193 watts NP.
    6:40 time.


    On a 4-5% mile long climb, I'd expect 8-9mph on a hard sustained effort.

    ~~~~~~~~~~~
    Climbing
    I do better if I'm familiar with the hill, so I know how hard to push.

    I'll use the lowest gear I have on a 5% grade, a 34-32, and spin up it at higher cadences. On steeper hills, it's still the same low gear, but my cadence drops at the slower speeds.

    I'm faster if I'm trying to keep up with a group ride. I'm motivated to work harder than I would if I was riding solo.
    Last edited by rm -rf; 09-13-2017 at 06:06 PM.

  7. #7
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    Climbing is all about watts/kg.
    Intervals and hill repeats can help you increase watts.
    Now about those kg. Do you have a roll around your middle? If so, get rid of it.
    At 5'10", I was at 160 lbs for many years of riding (vs 170 when I started).
    Then I started struggling in mountains.
    So that fall I lost 15 pounds. The next summer I went on a tour in Colorado with my buddies who were younger and produced more wattage than I could.
    I'd go to the front on a climb, ride very comfortably, and just leave them far behind.
    So the next year THEY showed up much lighter and I was the one off the back.
    That was only 4 years ago. I'm 70 now and need to shed some belly fat again to make climbing really fun again.
    It can be done and this is the best time to do it. As your training time decreases in the fall, a decrease in calories will not hurt your riding as much as it would in the spring. A 500 calorie deficit per day should result in 1.0 lbs per week loss (roughly).
    Here's a great read on the subject:
    Joe Friel - Question on Power & Weight

  8. #8
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    You're 5'10" and you weigh 145?? I'm 5'11" with a muscular build and I feel thin at 165! I couldn't imagine only weighing 145!!

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    Quote Originally Posted by JDCowboy View Post
    You're 5'10" and you weigh 145?? I'm 5'11" with a muscular build and I feel thin at 165! I couldn't imagine only weighing 145!!
    That's why I referred to "roll around your middle", i.e. fat.

    I never set a weight goal, only a body composition goal, and that in general terms.

    Andreas Kloden was 6' tall and weighed 139 lbs. My hunch is that's after training for the TDF.

    Admittedly, I have more of a cyclist build with skinny arms and an embarrassing lack of chest muscles even though I do some strength training.

    As you know, some have a climber physique, some have a sprinter's physique, and then there are the rest of us domestiques, ha ha.

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    Quote Originally Posted by duriel View Post
    Unless you are an olypmian, you are not going to do double digits on anything over a 5% grade.
    What.

  11. #11
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    Nothing replaces losing a few pounds and riding more. But, what I truly believe helps is doing some weight lifting: leg press, hamstrings, ad/abduction and core/back work. The older one becomes the more important I feel this is but, just my opinion. good luck

  12. #12
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    On those climbs what is suffering most, your breathing or your legs? How high is your heart rate?
    I'm 20 yrs your junior and struggle with hills, I always have. Doing all the hill in gearings that keeps my cadence high is important and the drop off to a slow 50-60 cadence is more often or not mental with me. I try and remember Jens "shut up legs" The best improvements I make are with regular hill work and every couple of weeks going all out on a familiar hill (not too long) to challenge myself and hopefully see improvement. I could also afford to lose a bunch of weight, me, not my gear.

  13. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by ceugene View Post
    What.
    So, you know or are a 70yo that goes up a 5%, 3 mile grade with an avg speed of over 9.999mph? Please do tell.
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    Quote Originally Posted by duriel View Post
    So, you know or are a 70yo that goes up a 5%, 3 mile grade with an avg speed of over 9.999mph? Please do tell.
    For me that's a 214 watt effort. On a good day that's possible.

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    Quote Originally Posted by duriel View Post
    So, you know or are a 70yo that goes up a 5%, 3 mile grade with an avg speed of over 9.999mph? Please do tell.
    You said olympian for effect.

    Anyway I know a handful of 60-70 year olds who still do Old La Honda in around 22min, so any of them would be able to maintain 10mph on 5% for 20 minutes.

  16. #16
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    Now you really made the OP feel bad, so sorry.
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  17. #17
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    keep your excess body fat to a minimum would be first on the list(best way to increases strength to weight ratio), second as we age, we lose far more strength than endurance and endurance is a huge part of climbing, especially on longer climbs so keep at it. lastly keep up on a good nutrition and proper rest, since as we age recovery becomes more important. plenty of good climbers that are older. you may may not be able to compete against the best of the younger climbers, but no reason you can't improve.

    2-3 mph is a huge increase though, you may want to temper those expectations
    Last edited by Trek_5200; 09-25-2017 at 03:24 PM.

  18. #18
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    Strength training is key for older athletes. You begin to lose muscle mass after age 40, it's just a physiological fact. You've had 30 years of it. If you aren't implementing some type of strength training into your weekly routine, then your hill climbing ability, along with other muscular endurance activities will suffer.

  19. #19
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    Quote Originally Posted by ceugene View Post
    What.
    I have to assume heís referring to a mountainous climb...something like 20+ km with AVG. gradient of 5%. Even then, a good climber ( non pro) can average over 10 mph. But yeah, a short 5% hill can definitely be attacked way above 5 mph by club riders.

    Also, someone mentioned climbing 5% grade with 34-32 combo. Wow. You would have to be spinning like crazy to move quickly. Props if you have that kind of cadence.


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  20. #20
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    To OP: great for you to still be riding those miles into your 70s. As others have mentioned, the more you hit the hills, the better and more efficient you will become. Get the proper gearing for the types of gradients in your area. Start somewhat easy at the start of the climb. I see so many riders charge a climb hard and blow up way before they get to the top. Bottom line though, you just really need to do hill repetitions/intervals. And lastly, a lot of people who donít climb well (besides physical limitations) think negatively when they see a hill...a defeatist attitude. Change the way you think about hills. Seek them out rather than avoid them. You can definitely improve


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  21. #21
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    Assuming a 190# guy and bike, 10 mph, 6% grade, 0 wind, I am getting a 261watt effort. So for a 70yo on a 2 mile climb which would be a 12 min effort, I am still thinking this would have to be an ex-pro or olymian effort.
    I am still waiting for results of a 70 yo on this climb, other than hersay.
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