Going uphill

I am the worst climber I know. Yes I know I am on the short squat side and can sprint, but I will never be a mountain goat.
Many of the climbing workouts involve things like raising MAP. If a plan could bestow 1500w MAP on me I doubt I would climb much faster because it is hard for me to climb at a rate that really gets me out of breath, My cadence may typically slow from 90 to 45-50 for a 10 min climb, and it is just as hard turning the pedals in a 32t cassette as a 27t, I just go slower. I believe I need to generate the power to enable my legs turn at a rate, they consume more oxygen, and give me some ability to go uphill.The painshakes would increase leg power but do not represent the 5-10 min efforts of the hills around here. Assuming my logic is not too far off, what Suff workouts would be most beneficial?

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Hey @alchurch. I’m short on time right now so will add more details later but take a look at the FTP Progression No-Vid series. If you need to raise your game on 5-10 minute efforts they are spot on


I’m not a great climber either (currently at just over 93kg at 180cm with an FTP of about 240) but I do LOVE to climb. I’m heavy and slow but I have a large capacity to just hunker down and get it done. I’d just go to the library and filter for climbing. Lots of choices there other than the MAP ones. But, specifically for the 5-10 min efforts, Phil Gaimon’s Short and Long KOM are perfect vids to help you ramp up your pacing on just those types of efforts.

With Sir Mike there’s: G.O.A.T, Getting Away with It, TGTTOS, The Way Out and the OL rides: Gavarnie and Litor, Massif de l’Esterel (with this one in particular offering some nice cadence pyramids, sub-threshold and over-unders).

Of course there’s the classic Sufferfests too but you probably already know that :wink:

Edit: it is worth noting that, and I think you know this already but, increasing your MAP will help to increase your FTP. The purpose of the MAP focused intervals in some of the climbing videos is to help you raise the ceiling of your FTP so, theoretically, you’ll also be raising your sub-threshold and endurance efforts too. But, if despite all this, you are chronically grinding at below 50 rpm then you can find your “favourite” climb, target your cadence and try to increase that in 5 rpm increments. You could also target your speed up the same climb and similarly, try to increase your average speed by 1-2 km/h.


Thank you Sir Glen.
The issue as I see it, is that I do not seem to have the leg power to raise my breathing and heart rate to make FTP and MAP as important as it is painted. I need to turn the pedals faster

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I think you have your own answer then, sort of. If you need leg power, you can work on bigger gear efforts in the app and on the road. You can even work on standing or seated sprints. But low cadence big gear efforts won’t necessarily get your heart rate up. It will just destroy your legs. If the goal is to increase your HR then those sub-threshold (tempo) efforts could really help.

Climbing is soooo much about pacing. That means finding a gear (or the gearing) where you can sustain a reasonable cadence for the bulk of the effort. If your default is 45-50 then try 50-55 and so on until you are able to sustain it then keep increasing your target incrementally every time you go out on that climb.


What worked for me riding the hills in Kent (UK) are three things:

  • train MAP (and in effect bring FTP up)
  • loose weight. (the weight loss was unintentional, but a side effect of the increase in training.)
  • Increase core strength: this makes a massive difference as to how you spend your energy on the bike: You can now choose to just ‘piston’ your legs (keep the body still), get out of the saddle and go all Cotty style, or a mix of both.

And as @Glen.Coutts said: pacing is key.

On the downside: I’m 185cm and 75kg - the missus isn’t happy with it, she liked the additional 5kg… “More of me to love”. I’m pretty chuffed with my W/kg numbers though. :stuck_out_tongue_winking_eye:


So, my story (so far): conquering gradients of 20-25% is my Mt. Sufferlandria for this year. This is the result of having to step off and walk up climbs like this one last year:

Unfortunately, I haven’t lost any weight like @TrapMeSuf and I’m not sure if my FTP or MAP has gone up much. What I did do was to use something like this to calculate what power I needed to put out going up such a climb:

With a weakness of Sustained Efforts, I figured that my problem was as much mental as physical. I.e. I stepped off because I wasn’t sure that I could keep going to the top. My approach has been to build my own plan by picking one each of the following types of workout each week:

  • Sustained
  • Endurance
  • Climbing
  • Recovery
  • Weekly outdoor ride

In addition, I am doing 3 strength and 3 yoga workouts per week

I try to hit the cadence targets for all parts of the workout. Outdoors, I do notice that when the road goes up my cadence goes down but I’m trying hard to change down when I notice this and not change back up when the gradient eases until my cadence has gone back above 80.

The results so far? Not fully tested but I did complete hills like this last weekend that my Garmin was telling me hit 24% without thinking that I couldn’t do it:

Onwards and upwards!


If you’re not out of breath climbing, what’s limiting you? Producing power on a climb or on the flat is very much the same thing. If you can produce 200W on the flat for 10 min, that same 200W will get up a 10 min climb. How fast that 200W will get you up that hill will depend on your weight and the grade, but it will get you up that hill.

There are some physiological factors, but if you have decent bike fit and the right gearing, the normal grades encountered on the road should not greatly reduce your ability to produce that 200W for 10 min.

That’s physics and physiology. There certainly are psychological factors. If you get to the bottom of a climb and are dreading it, you’re likely not going to do as well as if you were looking forward to the challenge. If that’s the problem, it takes an attitude adjustment, which can be more difficult than other adjustments like fit and gearing. What works for me tackling things like that is to start out lowering my expectations and goals so it’s not as daunting, then just do it, taking it easy. With repetition, it gets easier, and maybe even enjoyable, and that leads to getting better at it.

It think of those as the three Ps of cycling; physics, physiology, and psychology, in order of increasing complexity and squishiness.


Speed on the flat is higher, so higher cadences are used.There is also the possibility of micro rests, or criss crossing threshold without dropping much speed.Once a rhythm is found there is little need for a gear change. On hills, any change of gear will affect velocity and break rhythm. Gravity will also slow you anytime you take a micro break . There is a need to produce the power at a much lower cadence too. On my last adventure ride, I tended to change down too early, at the bottom of a climb, in order to raise cadence and minimise gear changes further up the hill, but this just meant I went into the hill at a slower speed and this became my new norm for the next few hours

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Sometimes, though, a change of rhythm is a good thing. I sometimes change up a couple of gears so that I can stand up and give my backside a break. Changing back down as I sit back down allows a little re-setting of my cadence to a higher rate


What size chainrings do you have and what w/kg at FTP?

currently 2.15k but typically 2.5k . I have 2 bikes, compact 12-28 and semi compact 12-32

I wonder if it would help if you practiced switching gears (and cadence) to produce the same power. For me, the learned ability to generate a given amount of power across a range of cadences has really helped my climbing and everything else.

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I put some numbers into bikecalc

70kg rider, 9 kg bike at 2.5w/kg, on a 6% gradient gives an estimated speed of 11.4kph which is equivalent to a cadence of 75rpm on compact 50:34 with a 12-28 and 80rpm on a semi compact(52:36) with a 12-32. Its lower than I would want to ride for a long climb but ok.

If you are riding at 45-50 rpm that would suggest a much steeper gradient or that you are starting the climb at 90rpm which at 6% would required 2.85w/kg, so you could be blowing up by riding above threshold?

As gradient pitches up things get much harder
70kg rider, 9 kg bike at 2.5w/kg, on a 10% gradient gives an estimated speed of 7.3kph which is equivalent to a cadence of 45-50rpm on compact 50:34 with a 12-28 and 50-55rpm on a semi compact(52:36) with a 12-32.

At these really low cadences most people are going to hit muscular fatigue before their cardio system gives out through lack of oxygen, which matches with what you are describing.

Put the 12-32 cassette on the bike with the compact chainset so you can increase your cadence when climbing. When you hit the start of the climb get a feel for how hard you were pushing on the pedals on the flat when the effort was sustainable and change down earlier to keep the pressure constant rather than waiting for your speed and cadence to drop, to avoid going into the red.

As other have said for a 5-10 minute climb you’ll get the most bang for your buck from working on increasing your MAP.

If you have some bucks to spend, consider an MTB or Gravel chainset so you have a lower gear you can spin at 80-90rpm on the climbs.


Thanks JGreengrass. My critical rides tend to be multi day and close to a century each day, and so there is an element of “pacing for the long haul” involved.I am not sure what 7.3kph is, but it probably corresponds to the 4mph I often default to as my legs fatigue.I often try to hold 10mph, there is a mental thing about not liking speed to drop to single figures and so as you suggest, pacing may be a huge issue.Trying to stay with a group must produce a graph like the 1 min in FF starts at AC then fades badly. Thank you for giving me a much better understanding

Hey @alchurch ,
I’m late to the party here but all the advice you’ve received is really good. Doing all sorts of climbing workouts in SYSTM, RGT and outdoors which tap into different energy systems will help as well as off the bike strength training. As athletes age this becomes paramount for both fitness and health. If you really want to map out a strategy specifically for you, I’d highly recommend a chat with a coach:


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It is interesting to see how others build their workouts. I have just hit MAP sessions, 3 times a week and am in to my 7th week. Good luck with your 25%ers. I have been over every mtg range in England and Scotland, and 3 climbs have beaten me so far, all around 30% and had 100miles in the legs before tacking 2 of them. Too steep to pace up, it is survival mode only for me.I ride about 4/5ths of the way up then my legs blow.check out hardknott pass on YouTube

Yep. Hardknott pass was one I didn’t even attempt :rooster:. I was informed by the rest of the group that I would have hated it. One of them fell on the way up by failing to unclip before keeling over sideways when grinding to a halt. Another crashed on the way down the other side when he thought unclipping was the best way to slow down :scream:

It’s now on my list of “to do before I die”. Hopefully the two events will be quite separate :grinning:


That’s happened to me. Which is why I avoid 30% grade climbs. If I had mountain bike gearing, maybe it would be different, but I don’t.

It’s hard to believe anyone would think that.


I think we all feel that way!