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Cycling on Hills

Yet again Mother Nature ruined perfectly laid plans to go crush some hills tonight. The Soles Inspired athletes had planned a group hill ride on Myrtle, the local giant in Stillwater, MN. In light of the expected rain and 40 mph gusts we cancelled the event. Here’s what would have been presented.

Training on Hills
– Regardless of whether or not your big races will be on hilly courses like Wildflower 70.3 or Ironman Coeur d’Alene, riding hills have a place in most training plans. If nothing else, they are speed training in disguise.
– Be very clear of your goal when training on hills. If you are trying to simulate race conditions then hit the hill as you would on race day. If you are in an anaerobic/speed-based training phase then get out of the saddle and go hard until you barf. If you are doing an early season ride then stay seated to build hip strength.

Racing on Hills
Let me be very clear that the following philosophy on how to race on hills is just one of many opinions on the subject.

– Conserve energy on the way up as best as possible. Don’t go hypoxic on the climb and ruin your legs. Come out of aero and find your rhythm without pushing too hard. Don’t worry about all the guys out of the saddle hammering past you …you’ll catch them soon enough.
– Begin to build speed just before the crest of the hill when everyone else starts to back off and congratulate themselves on their great climb.
– Bomb down the back side as fast as you can safely manage. You’ll make up more time here on the descent than you will lose by conserving on ascent. For courses with lots of little rolling hills you’ll have the added advantage of carrying some of that momentum up the start of the next hill.

To summarize the race strategy: Work for consistent effort, not consistent speed.

Bike Handling Skills
– Practice makes perfect. Don’t wait until your race to figure out how fast you are comfortable cornering. Get out there and complete repeats on the same course when possible.
– Ride your rear brake to steadily slow down while feathering your front brake as needed.
– It is normal if your bike starts to shake a bit at top speeds. It’s called the “speed wobble” (or in some circles the “death shimmy”) and can be avoided. First, make sure your bike is properly tuned. Second, don’t white knuckle the bars. Third, bring a knee or two in to touch the frame. Your leg pressed against the top tube may be all that is needed to dampen the vibration.
– On long sweeping turns keep your eyes up and look where you want to be going. Your body will naturally follow your eyes ….so stop looking at that 75 foot drop off!
– On those sweeping downhill turn use the brake entering the turn but try to let go of the brake through the turn as any traction used for braking cannot be used for corning.
– For speed, ride the tangents. For easy handling, ride wide. On open roads, just stay to the right for safety. During a fast descent the wind in your ears will drown out the sound of the most obnoxious Harley Davidson so always assume there is traffic behind you when riding open roads.
– And, most important, relax. Smooth movements make for safe descents. Sudden movements are never safe. Again, practice makes perfect.

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