Training for a climbing-heavy event no matter where you live

Climbing Tips

You don’t have to live in a mountainous area to be a climber but you do have to train for the hills to be your best. If you’re on the start list for such events as The Last Best Ride, Crusher in the Tushar, BWR San Diego, FoCo Fondo, or Rebecca’s Private Idaho, to name a few, you need the ability to tackle sustained climbs, and you might need the ability to hit a climb hard early in your day. Let us give you some tips and tricks to best prepare for your events with large climbs and maybe climbing big early in the course so you’re left with the best result. 

Prepare for Efforts at Various KJs

Play around with warm up time. If every single ride, you wake up, pound an espresso, warm up for 30 minutes before starting your workout you might not be prepared to hit a climb at mile 5, 18 minutes into an event. While maintaining safe training techniques and some warm up, practice having a shorter or controlled warm up before your efforts. Also practice doing your efforts after 2000kj. Preparing your body for various conditions under which you may have to have a high exertion level is key to perform under various conditions.


Low cadence work + hit the gym

Make sure you’re prepared for variable, and non ideal cadences, at high intensity levels. They don’t call it gravel grinding for nothing. No matter your gear ratio, at some point you're grunting out a very steep, loose climb. If you live in a flat area you may not have exposed yourself to this low cadence, high back and core stress, overload. That’s when you’re going to have back fatigue and muscular fatigue that you won’t be able to recover from like recovering from a hard effort aerobically. Have your coach, or get a coach, or have yourself as your coach whip up some low cadence drills and intervals. There’s many names for these, on the bike strength work, low cadence drills, cadence intervals, they’re all serving the purpose of preparing you for that inevitable scenario where you’re on a steeper climb than you get to decide your cadence for. The goal is to have strong core and muscular endurance to push over that climb. Yes, strength training can be a big part of this training. No we’re not crazy, yes, strength training can help you be a better climber, especially if your core, back, and glutes are a weak link under high force low cadence pedaling. 


Use specific intervals to prepare for key climbs

Interval application for increasing climbing ability while living in a flat place. This starts with understanding your ability, Power Duration Curve, and how that matches up to your climbing power ability to pace climbs at events. In cycling, we’re no longer in the dark on pacing, power numbers, and what it takes to make it with a certain group. In the case of BWR, Crushar in the Tuschar, and many of these multi year events, you can look up exactly how long a climb will take YOU, at your power ability, and you can see how long that climb will take you. Be realistic, objective, and you can find yourself punching above your weight at the finish. For example, looking at BWR San Diego, Black Canyon is the 10 mile dirt climb that is a major deciding factor on what group you will be in for the rest of the race. When using this pinch point for specific interval application, the KOM is around 25 minutes and for that, if you’re over 140 lbs, you’ll need to do 320-340 watts average depending on weight. For the QOM, it looks to be more on the 240-260 watts range, depending on your weight. If you’re no near that, start to look at your pacing based on your PD curve and see where your time will be conservatively. Make some intervals to better yourself based on your fitness and specific to what race you’re looking at doing. 



Climbing Black Canyon

Have a plan

Lastly, don’t keep yourself in the dark on the course, profile, and climbs. Have a pacing plan for the whole race, each climb, add nutrition into it. Yes, this is how you train as a flatlander for the best result in a race with climbing. Planning is key, just because you don’t have climbs to train on does not at all mean you don’t have the power to shoot up the climbs when you get to them. Use the course profile, use Strava, use every tool at hand to get to the race and the big scary climbs you’ve not done with the most knowledge. You may see a climber blow up from lack of preparation and knowledge on how long the climb is and that’s one person you won’t have to beat.

It's the perfect time to take on coaching or pick up a training plan for your event. We have a handful of event-specific plans to get you climbing fit for The Last Best Ride, Belgium Waffle Ride, FoCo Fondo and more! Check them out.

Zack Allison earned his bachelor’s degree in Exercise Science at Colorado State University. As part of his education, he participated in many hands on exercise science practicum and internships, coaching many types of athletes, specifically cyclists. Zack’s affinity for cycling started at the early age of 14 racing on the east coast. He quickly moved up the amateur ranks to race on the elite national circuit. This level of competition sparked his interest in exercise science, taking him to Colorado State University. While racing for his alma-mater and on various amateur teams he saw many podiums at the Collegiate Championships and Pro/Am events. Zack is currently living in Fort Collins, Colorado and has raced for Elevate Pro Cycling and currently races for Clif Bar. He also co-founded and operates Bike Sports, a bike fit studio, adventure experience, and gravel bike racing business. Growing up with great mentors and coaches, Zack has a goal of paying it forward. He hopes to use his education and racing experience to bring success to Source Endurance and his clients.