Hills are often something that is misconstrued on the bike. Unlike running, where biomechanics and force vectors change, seated cycling biomechanics stay very similar. There are some changes like scooting back in the saddle and utilizing more hamstring and glute muscles, but they are less significant.
Climbing on the bike comes down to one thing: Power to weight. Gravity is pushing our behinds down and we have to constantly overcome that force. So, there are two ways to climb faster: lose weight and/or increase your power to overcome gravity.
When we see or hear people saying they are doing hill repeats on the bike to prepare for a climbing race/event like Six Gap, we scratch our heads. Unless they have a 10+ minute climb to do intervals on or are practicing positioning and climbing out of the saddle, they are not testing and building the physiological systems that they are going to need to be at top form. Climbing for 20-60 minutes is a highly aerobic effort and a 1-3 minute climb is not the trick to attain the goal. By improving FTP you will go uphill faster.
During a specialization phase, the one variance that our coaches can add into longer sustained efforts (tempo, threshold, under overs) that helps people when they go to the mountains is lower cadence work.
Climbing often forces you to have a lower cadence and if athletes are used to spinning at 90-100 RPM, being force to spin 50-70RPM for extended periods of time will blow them up neuromuscularly. Adding in intermittent portions in a workout at 70rpm will help them to be prepared for that.
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If you ever have a question about training advice, technical specs, or the athlete’s body you see online, your Science of Speed coaches are here to confirm or debunk! Science is the first word in our brand name and we take that very seriously. It’s why our team is comprised of people with the highest level of education, experience, and expertise. We looking forward to hearing from you soon!