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Learn to climb

Is it possible to learn climbing? Yes, of course. Just read on, and We'll put you on track.

Is it possible to learn how to climb?

Is it possible to learn climbing? Well, of course. Just like anything, it is possible to learn how to climb. But how? Well, just like anything, you learn it best by doing it...
But of course, it helps to have some background information. Climbbybike helps you to get to now some basic principles about climbing. Information that should help you to (learn to) climb faster and better.

Just like anything, it is possible to learn how to climb. And just like anything, you learn it best by doing it... (and by losing some weight :-)).

Cycling training and supercompensation

The ultimate goal of training is getting better and stronger through training and exercising your body. This is possible through the physical mechanism of the supercompensation. Perhaps you've already heard about supercompensation. And you've probably already experienced it. Supercompensation is a term for the phenomenon that, after a training impulse, your body always tends to recover above the original baseline.

At a training stimulus you become fatigued and your physical capacities diminish. Recovery not only brings you back to the original level but slightly above. If, at that moment, you do not train again, you descend back to your original level.
You do not need to train every day during your preparation. On the contrary. Especially for the novice cyclist, it is advisable to alternate a training day with a rest day, not to "overtrain" yourself. While resting, you can also improve your fitness. And if you start training before you have recovered, your performance level will even decrease!

If, at the contrary, you always train at precisely the moment that you are on top of the supercompensation, you will continuously perform better. Keep this in mind with your workouts. A perfect interaction between exercise and rest is mandatory.

The big question is: when should I give the following training stimulus and how strong should it be to benefit? There are no real signs so your own experience and knowledge of your body should help you with this. You can also measure your morning heart rate; if it is too high, then you probably have not recovered from your last training. Through your morning heart rate, sleep, weight, training info you can check if you're doing well.

A good training schedule also requires a long term planning. Usually, it is based on a period of four weeks, with 3 weeks of building-up (in volume and intensity) followed by a week of recuperation. Next, this period may be repeated over and over again.

Aerobic and anaerobic threshold

Your energy reserves during an intensive effort (= high heart rate) get exhausted after 90 minutes. For heavy climbs, this may be insufficient for many.
Calculate yourself for at an average of 10 k /h: 60 x / 10.
The solution is to use a heart rate below your transfer pulse. You transfer pulse is the pulse that corresponds to the acidification threshold of your body. Below your transfer pulse, you will be able to sustain your effort much better and probably reach the summit. Above this rate; you burn energy too fast.

Your maximum heart rate:
• 220 minus your age (men)
• 230 minus your age (women)

Determining your aerobic threshold:
Your aerobic threshold is approximately 75% of your maximum heart rate, e.g.; a man aged 30 has a maximum heart rate of 190, so his aerobic threshold lies at a heart rate of 142 (75%). This often corresponds to the "talking border ".

Determining your anaerobic threshold:

Your anaerobic threshold is the maximum heart rate you can sustain for long periods without acidification. When, during your exercise, the production of wastes through your muscles becomes bigger than their discharge, anaerobic metabolism kicks in. When the preferable aerobic system can no longer keep up with the demand for energy, the lactate cycle starts to provide the needed additional energy, burning stored sugars for fuel, and producing lactic acid as a by-product. When lactic acid builds up in our bodies, it causes discomfort like cramping and general distress.

Your anaerobic threshold is the heartbeat whereby the source and drain are exactly in balance.

Warm up with changing gears. Next, drive a race for 10 minutes at your maximum pace. Your average heart rate during your trial is normally just below the transfer pulse. Of course there are more scientific of ways to calculate your transfer pulse more precisely such as the lactic acid test, but the above will give you a good indication.

A good training schedule also requires a long term planning. Usually, it is based on a period of four weeks, with 3 weeks of building-up followed by a week of recuperation. Next, this period may be repeated over and over again.

Recovery work is done under your aerobic threshold. Duration training do you do between your aerobic and anaerobic threshold. Resistance Training do you above your anaerobic threshold. The latter you do in your training then do not use!

Your training schedule

It may be clear by now. If you want to train to climb, a good planning is essential. You cannot build up your condition in a few weeks. It is important to know your body. Experienced cyclists know how far they can go and usually already have a basic condition that allows them to build up faster.

Try to make a schedule following the rules described above (alternate training, periods of 3 +1 week). Count back from the moment you will do the climb in periods of 4 weeks.
If you have a cycling computer or an iPhone or smartphone, you can perfectly keep track of your workout data via

The power-to-weight ratio (PWR)

The power-to-weight ratio (PWR) is the great equalizer among cycling and climbing. The PWR allows us to compare the cycling abilities between bikers of different size and weight.

Influence of gravity when cycling uphill

When climbing by bike you not just have to take road resistance into account but also gravity. Gravity increases with your weight becoming higher and the climb becoming steeper.
influence of weight and gradient on power output cyclist

Length of the climb - max sustainable power

Climbing a big climb can take over two hours. You need to be able to maintain your ratio for that time span. Some (professional) cyclists can produce 6.5 watts/kg during half an hour but may only be able to produce 6 watts/kg for an hour. So you need to know what your maximum sustainable power is.

Add climbs to your myclimbbybike and calculate your PWR and more

The weight of your body and your genes

Whilst you can try to train your body in certain directions, you (still) have the genes you have. Some have a body that is better for short heavy efforts, others, for long endurance efforts. The first (sprinters) have a good body muscle structure to climb short and steep climbs (e.g. Amstel or Ronde) as they can produce a lot of output during a short period of time, just like in a sprint. The others can sustain a certain power level during a longer period and are better at climbing long climbs.

The weight of your bike

Riding a lighter bike will of course increase your power-to-weight ratio. If you regularly climb by bike, it can help to choose a lighter (read: more expensive) bike with a compact or triple gear. However, it is better (and cheaper) to optimize your PWR-ratio through your own body, by good training.

How to calculate your maximum sustainable power

You can get to know your maximum sustainable power on any decent bike computer device, but, if you have a good reference of a climb you did in the passed, and you know some other variables like your weight and the weight of your bike, you can calculate your power and power-to-weight ratio below. This equation also prooves that a difference of only a few pounds can already mean a benefit of more than a few watts of power.

Calculate your power, power-to-weight ratio and kCalories

Please fill out all values.

Gradient: m
Distance (use","): km
Chrono: Hours Minutes Seconds
Weight: kg
Weight bike : kg
Speed: Km/H
Power: Watt
Power/kg: W/kg
Kcalories: Kcal

Choosing the right gear

A triple gear means that a third, smaller inner ring with typically 30 teeth, is being added to the classic two chainrings of the double crankset. Since several years, there is also the compact that aims to unite the benefits of both the triple and double.

In contrast to the normal drives, the compact uses a stitch of 110 mm. This makes it possible to use an inner chainring of 34 teeth, in addition to, e.g., an outer chainring of 50 teeth. The cassette at the back can, for example, consist of 12 to 26 teeth. The smallest gear thus becomes 34x26. However, with the introduction of the 11-speed (11 instead of 10 rings on the back gear) also very small compact gear have become possible.


The 11-speed group is a recent development. The 11-speed group is available both on the double and triple crank, but the triple is, in 2013, only available with Campagnolo, with a maximum (minimum)of 30x29. The 11-speed on a double crank can have 28 back teeth (Dura-Ace) and up to 32 back teeth on the Ultegra GS. On the Ultegra GS, cassettes can go from 11-23 up to 11-32. With an inner crank of up to 34 (smallest), you have a maximum (minimum) gear of 34x32, which should be sufficient for any climb.

Advantages and disadvantages of compact and triple

Whether you choose a triple or compact depends mainly on yourself. According to some "big climbers", a triple is for sissies. Never mind. Since the recent developments, also compact gear have very small gear and personally, we also ride a triple. On 10%+ climbs, they're merely useful. Given you landed on this page, chances are that you are there to use it for similar purposes.

In addition to knowing the maximum incline level of the harder climbs, information you can find on climbbybike, some insight in your power output and pedaling cadence (rpm) can help you to determine your choice for a compact or triple. The smallest possible triple resistance (30x30) makes your wheel rotate exactly in line with your crank, so, per rotation, you cycle the distance of the circumference of your wheel, e.g. 2100 mm for a 20-622 wheel. With the typical smallest compact resistance (34x28) your distance per rotation is 2,550 meter or 21% more than on a 30x30. With the Ultegra GS gear of 34x32 however, you come very close to the triple gear. Given your own maximum power, you will logically have a lower cadance with a compact.

Disadvantages of the triple: more weight, less precise derailleur (long cage), bigger distance between pedals

Advantages of the triple: smaller gear, more options in the smallest gears, straighter chain line

Disadvantages of the compact: possible (in)compatibility with derailleurs and shifters, less power transfer and increased wear by often inclined catenary

Advantages of the compact: lighter, more precise derailleur

Your bike and accessories

When selecting a good bike for climbing, a number of elements play a role like the weight of the frame, the torsional stiffness and bracket stiffness (a climb is usually followed by a descent) and the groups that can be put on the bike. And although rather personal of course, it helps if the bike looks good.

When cycling uphill, of course, your gear is essential. To mount a big col it can, especially for novice cyclists, be recommended to opt for a "triple". A triple is a bike with 3 sprockets in front. Make sure the chain runs always in a fairly straight line between the front and rear sprockets.

A triple can go as far as 1 to 1. That is to say that the number of front and rear tooths are equal (e.g. 30/30) and your wheel does exactly one turn per crankshaft revolution (for a racing bike usually 2100 mm). If you want to go even smaller, you better buy a mountain bike with mountain bike gear. It is important to find a good cadence. For most climbers, a good cadence is between the 65 and 70 revolutions per minute. Climbing is controlling your heart beat and cadence!

Choose a bike with a bicycle frame that fits your size. To tell you the size of your bike frame you can use the following method:
racing bike: inseam x 0.665
mountain bike (hard tail): 0.226 x inseam
The inseam is the length off the ground to your scrotum (without shoes).

Make sure your brakes work properly, because an ascent is usually followed by a descent. Make sure to have a helmet, also not unnecessary uphill. And cycling shoes are also essential. Make sure the plates under your shoes match your pedals, because there are different systems (Look, Shimano, Time ...). A bike computer and heart rate are helpful during your preparation and on some (e.g. the Garmin Edge series) you can post climbing routes. Download them via climbbybike!

Cycling nutrition

Foods and drink are a must, because you need food and drinks for cycling and climbing!
In addition to training, nutrition and hydration are the most important elements for excellence. It is not only important 'what' and 'how' we eat and drink, but also 'when' we do this.

Important to know is that if you get off your bike after a workout or trip, the first half hour is the most important to take in foods (recovery drink with carbohydrates and amino acids and sufficient moisture). A good energy drink contains the amino acids, carbohydrates and also antioxidants. Especially in combination with proteins, your body can process carbohydrates faster:
Examples of proteins: egg - yogurt - low fat cheese
carbohydrates: cereals, peoples products, fresh vegetables (vitamins, minerals and fiber)
Avoid: fast sugars

There are two types of carbohydrates: simple and complex. Both are broken down into glucose which generates energy in your muscles.
Complex carbohydrates give away their energy slowly and are therefore ideal for activities such as climbing where a sustained supply of energy is required. Simple carbohydrates release their energy more rapidly but are also faster exhausted.

Control your weight

If you ride uphill, you fight against gravity. Not too weigh too much is the message. Obesity is not just bad for climbing but also bad for your health and can cause high cholesterol and diseases such as diabetes, heart disease, hypertension and osteoarthritis.

Start by calculating your BMI (Body Mass Index). To calculate your BMI you need your weight in kilograms divided by the square of your length in meters.

for example:
You weigh 80 kilograms and are 1.80 meters:
80: (1.8 x 1.8) = 80: 3,24 = 24.7

This is just within the normal weight range.
• 18.5 to 25: healthy BMI: normal, healthy weight
• 25-30: obesity. You are overweight, but obese does not lead to serious health risks yet.
• 30-40: obesity. Increased risk of diseases such as diabetes, heart disease and back pain.

Weight loss goes (or is supposed to happen) gradually. Adjust your diet, exercise and lifestyle.

Calculate your BMI

Your Weight(kg)

Your Height(cm)

Your BMI

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