Hill speed vs Flat speed

theBlob

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Sep 28, 2011
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#1
I have been trying to work out what the difference is?
Some people are good at hills some are good at flats?

Is it hill people are generally lighter and have a better power to weight ratio when no wind resistance is at play?

But flats people have a more muscle and stronger but heavier, so they can push air but fall back due to the extra weight up hills?

Is it a body type thing or a training thing that determines who will be fast where?

Obviously at my level I could be better at either with better fitness. But at what point do you start to see where peoples natural abilities lie and I wonder do the climbers train differently to the flat guys? (besides just going up more hills or riding on more flats!:D)
 

Yamabushi

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#2
Yep, you basically got it. On the flats it's power vs wind resistance (drag), and when climbing it's power vs weight. So generally bigger stronger guys will have more out and out power with minimal extra drag so they can be stronger and faster in the flats and in the wind. When climbing it comes down to a power to weight ratio, and in that scenario it's usually the thinner and more wiry guys that rule the day.
 

GSAstuto

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#3
You can check out some parameters here:

http://bikecalculator.com/index.html

Assume a 60kg recreational rider @ say 250w

0 headwind and 0 slope = 35kph
0 headwind and 10% slope = 11kph
20kph headwind and 0 slope = 24kph

Assume an 80kg <fit> rider @ say 350w

0 headwind and 0 slope = 39kph
0 headwind and 10% slope = 12.8kph
20kph headwind and 0 slope = 27kph

So - you can see that really weight is not as big a deal as everyone thinks - especially at recreational level fitness. From 60kg to 80kg is a wide range and I'm giving benefit of the doubt that the larger rider is capable of more power based on nothing more than 'bigger muscles'. So where does the 'flyweights make better climbers' come in?

This is where you have to dig deeper into the anatomy of the cyclist and ratio of slowtwitch to fasttwitch muscles. I've some very fast small guys and very good hill climbing big guys who couldn't sprint at all. Most of this is related to their muscle ratio and capability to develop power over time. On the flats, I'd say it's about all equal with some edge to a bigger guy if he's properly trained because the extra muscle bulk <should> provide more power or more sustained power.

If you want to train for the hills - then climb more hills. If you are looking to excel at fast, explosive , riding, then perhaps track riding is where you want to be. And /or concentrate on reps of hard, short intervals.

Or do both for awhile and see what naturally gives you better results. If you train hard intervals for a few weeks and don't really notice alot of top end improvement , you are not likely to, ever. The same goes in the hills. If you train some extended climbs for a few weeks and find yourself improving steadily, then, well, maybe this is a niche to jump into.

Then there's the suffer factor. Some people tolerate the muscle discomfort differently. Some people can handle the hard pushes into anerobic work repeatedly and recover fast, while grinding away at sub-LAT for more more than 30min or so kills them. And other people can sustain just sub-LAT endlessly while the muscles are screaming bloody murder.

No one can hurt by adding more strength training to their diet. More power is always better. And by following a good training program outlined by a coach who knows how to do this is the best way. You need to get alot of baseline info to begin with, then set goals and training to meet them - or check them. Then have agile enough program to shift goals to match where you will optimize.

Or you can just play it by ear and ride more! naturally you will get better. And naturally you'll become the rider you are without external hassles, planning or extraneous input. As long as your bike fits reasonably well, you are eating properly and mix up your rides to include a good variety, you are doing what you need to to become better. If you are considering competition riding and have fixed time, then having a coach and set program will be more efficient and productive.

So, yes, it's a body type (more than weight) thing AND a training thing.
 

Yamabushi

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#4
So where does the 'flyweights make better climbers' come in?
While I'm general agreement with nearly all you've written... when the rubber hits the road in the real world with rare exception (Indurain for example), pure climbers are nearly always of the lighter, more wiry body type. And, conversely the strong men that do well in the one day classics and flatter windier conditions, TT's, etc. tend to be of an overall bigger body mass with more overall muscle. Perhaps it's a case of self selection, but that is the undeniable trend/correlation.
 

GSAstuto

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#5
Perhaps at the pro level - but not at recreational level. I simply don't see much distinction. At recreational levels most big riders are just carrying excess weight in terms of bodyfat that is not contributing to their power and very much adversely affecting their hill ability as a result. On the flats, they may have more power at-hand and thus go faster than their lighter, recreational counterpart who just doesn't have the muscle strength to sustain the higher speeds. But again, thats more because they are not training rather than their specific body type - at least at a recreational level.

Also - almost anyone, with a little training, could get around 150 -175w sustained power. Now apply that to whether you're on the flat or hill vs. weight and you'll see the differentiation. Getting above 175w takes more effort and getting much above 350w sustained takes alot of effort - but is common among pros who train rigorously. At that level, now you're distilling into the less than 1% of the cycling population who has the inherent genetics to even get to 350w+ sustained. At that point is where you will see more segregation of 'pure climbers' vs. 'TT' or 'sprinter' specialists. But overall - they'd all kick a recreational rider's butt from here to Sunday.

At any level, though, you will be faster up a hill (moreso) if you can drop some weight without dropping power. That's just physics. My point is that it's a bit less than you'd think because most riders fall into the 60 - 80kg range. Above and below that you'd see more variance, yet fewer instances.

I'm sick as a dog right now and have lost more than 8kg. That puts me below 60kg and I have done a fair amount of riding in the last few months prior. However , my power output is so low, that regardless my low weight, I can barely struggle up a ride like Wada without serious effort. Whilst at a heavier (and healthier) weight, I could do this climb quickly. I can definitely feel the weight advantage - but it means nothing without strength.

It's all about perspective.

While I'm general agreement with nearly all you've written... when the rubber hits the road in the real world with rare exception (Indurain for example), pure climbers are nearly always of the lighter, more wiry body type. And, conversely the strong men that do well in the one day classics and flatter windier conditions, TT's, etc. tend to be of an overall bigger body mass with more overall muscle. Perhaps it's a case of self selection, but that is the undeniable trend/correlation.
 

GSAstuto

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#7
Right - and maybe the point I'm circling around is that for most recreational riders it will be easier (and faster) to increase power then reduce weight. And the result won't be so much they are better in the hills or the flats - just 'better' overall. Weight reduction for most recreational riders is collateral benefit. But less significant than power gains.
 

Yamabushi

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#8
Right - and maybe the point I'm circling around is that for most recreational riders it will be easier (and faster) to increase power then reduce weight. And the result won't be so much they are better in the hills or the flats - just 'better' overall. Weight reduction for most recreational riders is collateral benefit. But less significant than power gains.
Definitely agree, that's the main takeaway from all this!
 

GSAstuto

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#10
I find the only thing lacking with cycling in Tokyo (and having family/biz matters) is that the time to reach the hills is a bit long and far. There are pretty good options inside the loop for power training - like early AM Palace Loops, Arakawa Intervals and Oi Futo on the weekend. Personally I use the Palace and Arakawa for midweek rides and then dedicate (or try to) one day a week for the hills. This is far off the pace of 'serious' riders who are seeking competitive interests and need to spend at least 4-6hr/day training.
 
Jul 26, 2011
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#11
I'm sick as a dog right now and have lost more than 8kg. That puts me below 60kg and I have done a fair amount of riding in the last few months prior. However , my power output is so low, that regardless my low weight, I can barely struggle up a ride like Wada without serious effort. Whilst at a heavier (and healthier) weight, I could do this climb quickly. I can definitely feel the weight advantage - but it means nothing without strength.

It's all about perspective.
Last summer I lost about 3-4kg in a month without trying. I looked amazing, but got slaughtered on a super tiny 13% climb.

I gained all the weight back this winter, which kind of sucks, but the increased power is totally worth it. Sure, I'd like to lose a few kgs, but I never want to go back to being too lean. And yes, such a thing does exist, even for women.
 
Dec 17, 2011
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kanazawa
#12
recreational "noob"

power training - like early AM Palace Loops
With a risk of derailing the conversation and turning it into a training thread, what is this fable "power training" you speak of, o wise one? :). No seriously, I'm still a complete noob, and the only thing I know is that I have an urge, to just ride. No particular focus when riding. But I do want to become a bit faster :eek:!

Any pointers towards bicycle training principles? goes off to search "training" in the forum threads...
 

jdd

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#13
I don't worry much about actual weight, but I do pay attention to the kind of weight I might have. Obviously, flab is bad, but muscle, regardless, is okay. I would worry if I were dropping weight without even trying to.

That said, I'm not training for anything other than general fitness (not for hills, flats, or anything else), so YMMV.

Incidentally, this is a great book. It should be about 1100-1200 yen, if you see astronomical prices, just look around a little.
 

GSAstuto

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#14
There are certified coaches on this forum who are far better informed these days than me as to advise about 'training'. But, I have been the subject of 'training' since elementary school in various sports such as wrestling, crew (rowing), skiing and cycling. And the common denominator is always the same. Work hard and smart. Don't over tired your body , but yet continue to push it to your maximum effort. Mix your training to include strength, intervals and technique. When you ride, ride with a purpose or small plan. Like - 'today I'm going to ride for 5min x 5times as hard as I can' . Or, this weekend I'm going to tackle the mountain I never rode before. Or I will ride farther than I did last week. Not surprisingly you will improve more and more by just having a simple plan like this. No fancy computers required, power meters, etc. Just try to do something strength-wise or endurance-wise on each ride you make rather than simply pedal along.

Remember - the human body is the laziest creature around. It will do ANYTHING not to waste energy. We are soft, easily attacked, weak and generally at high risk when it comes to most animals. The human body does not want pain or high effort that could potentially deplete energy stores or cause injury to prevent escape. So - you have to continually trick it and jog it. If you do the same activity too much, the body will learn how to be more lazy at it - not better. So , mix up your schedule of tricks to throw at your body and it will condition much faster than focusing on the same thing endlessly.

Above all - just ride your bike - with intent. Every day.
 

FarEast

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#15
The biggest bit of advice for anyone just getting in to the sport is this,

For the first 3 years just ride - get out on the bike and adventure, the pace will naturally increase over time and your body will adapt to spinning one of the most important tools in the cycling tool bag.
 

GSAstuto

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#16
Oh yeah, and I'd highly consider checking out one of the e-performance camps. Alot of good base knowledge there from folks who really know the sport inside and out. if you're serious about your cycling and don't want to waste time with self-learning curves, these are the best way to get a solid boot strap.
 

theDude

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#17
The biggest bit of advice for anyone just getting in to the sport is this,

For the first 3 years just ride - get out on the bike and adventure, the pace will naturally increase over time and your body will adapt to spinning one of the most important tools in the cycling tool bag.
Yeah, I've heard this. I'm a bit new and am just trying to get time on bike. With a mind to try to avoid overtraining. Lots of these rides I try to keep up with people or they are longer than I know I can do. Getting there. Have certainly made big strides since my first stints out with folks from this group in Q4 last year.... !


Oh yeah, and I'd highly consider checking out one of the e-performance camps. Alot of good base knowledge there from folks who really know the sport inside and out. if you're serious about your cycling and don't want to waste time with self-learning curves, these are the best way to get a solid boot strap.

Would love to hit ePerformance! Unfortunately the dates aren't working out this month....
 

FarEast

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#18
We are planning on one later this year that does not clash with the billion and 1 other events on the cycling calendar.

Hopefully we will have about 3 months notice before the event and will host two so that you have 2 dates to chose from - our Chiba venue is open again so we will have an event closer to home ffor those with transportation issues.
 
Dec 17, 2011
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kanazawa
#19
Lots of good, really helpful posts!

Yeah, I've heard this. I'm a bit new and am just trying to get time on bike. With a mind to try to avoid overtraining.
This is also my takeaway: get time on the bike, try to push the limits here and there by mixing things up, but don't overdo it. :) And, be patient I guess :eek:.
 

theBlob

Bokeh master
Sep 28, 2011
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#20
Great stuff guys, very interesting, keep it coming!

I haven't been structuring my riding at all, just enjoying getting stronger and the resulting speed over the last few months. I wasn't really planning on structuring it at this point just keep getting out there, sort out my diet and keep pushing myself.