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Training for long hills

Ok, so I've entered IMCH for next year. Looking at the bike course and chatting with a friend who did it a couple of years ago it seems that the majority of the climbing is long pulls, rather than the short sharp hills where I live. I have seen riser blocks for the front wheel advertised at TriUk, and wonder whether anyone has any experience of using them? What effect does raising the front wheel have? I assume it must alter the engagement of the leg muscles to mimic a real climb by altering your position on the bike? Or not. Worth a punt??



  • BopomofoBopomofo Posts: 980
    A riser block is usually used to level the bike when the back wheel is raised on a turbo trainer. It doesn't simulate a hill.
    I can only suggest looking bit further afield to find a hill. Where are you? One of the gang might know a big hill nearby. Is it too obvious to suggest repeating small hill many times? You can also try strength training by mashing a really high gear.
  • FlavadaveFlavadave Posts: 749
    Alright FK!

    I've got one of those riser blocks, and to be honest they're pretty useless for hill training. Certainly no substitute for the real thing.

    As bopo says, if you haven't got any decent hills near you, maybe a repeats on a small hill will do the job? Mashing it up the hill, then coast down to recover and back up again?

    Not the most exciting of training options, but certainly beats the turbo for interest.
  • These are the blocks I was talking about. Has anyone else used them? They are stackable to simulate different gradients...


    The other thinking behind my question was my personal situation - I work and live away from home during the week, and would like to get my long training rides in then, rather than missing valuable family time at the weekend. Whilst I appreciate that there is no substitute for time on the road, I am hoping to get a fair amount of conditioning work done over the winter months - when I don't much fancy cycling on dark, wet, country roads. The idea was to get as much base work done on the turbo as possible so I was wondering just how effective these things can be...

    Has anyone any experience of using these things? I might just have to stick my riser block on a couple of paving slabs for a session or two and see what difference that makes!!

    Cheers guys,

  • andyb99andyb99 Posts: 229
    Getting beyond the joke this blatant self product placement business of conheads.....although this 'book' he speaks of is NO USE WHATSOEVER for actual training and it even says so on the back.
    However....i would recommend reading it......i liked it
  • Thanks Conehead - I have read it already. Not bad for an ex-rock ape - any idea who the author is??

    I've already done one IM distance race - the Forestman, in the New Forest this summer, so no Fear anymore - just the desire for improvement. That race has a very cheeky little marathon on the end if anyone is interested - almost all off-road on stony forest paths, with one or two gentle inclines just to get the heart-rate up a bit!

    My problem is getting into the habit of training in a structured way. Until now I have always done 'some' biking/swimming/running, with no real structure (strength or speed training for example). This year I'm determined to do things differently and use the whole year in the most effective way I can - hence the question about these climbing thingies. I've recently been posted to a new job, which involves far less travel than previously, so hopefully a decent routine should be easier to establish and stick to...

    I believe the bike course may also have been changed since you did it - a colleague talks about the course being three laps, but the current website says there are two.


  • ShaggyShaggy Posts: 140
    See 'Trew on a turbo' on tri247 website for a whole plan of structured turbo sessions. For front wheel I use the yellow pages, just keeps the seat angle more level.

  • From what I understand the purpose of these risers is not to make the bike level but to raise the front wheel even more, thus creating the impression that you are cycling uphill - hence they can be stacked to increase the angle of climb. My question is whether or not they bring any tangible benefit as you are not pulling against gravity as you would be on a real hill, just the resistance of the turbo trainer but with potentially a slightly different body position.

    I reckon a couple of weeks of sessions with the front wheel elevated (higher than level) might be in order...

  • I think the confusion arises here...

    Stack 2 blocks to simulate climbing workouts
    Riser blocks are certainly marketed as being useful for practicing hill clims, but so far as I am aware there is little to no physiological benefit to lifting your front wheel higer than your back wheel. Lifting your front wheel up isn't going to make things harder just like having your front wheel lower isn't going to make things any easier! In my oppinion good hill climbing is about power to weight ratio (and having the balls to push through the burn). A Turbo is one of the best investments you can make and will help you build up both the stamina and strength that you will need for your Ironman, especially over the winter, but personally I have never found them useful for simulating the road.

    As for whether it is worth it to buy riser blocks... go with the advice above and use the yellow pages. Save your £30 and put it towards a train ticket to Scotland... That'll sort out your hill climbing for you!
  • P.s. I have heard that cycling out of the saddle on your turbo is really good practice for hills. Start with just a few minutes standing up, but build up until you can spend half an hour out of the saddle. The idea is that all the while you are concentrating on keeping your cadence nice and high and working on maintaining a smooth pedalling action. [I read this somewhere but never tried it, however it sounds like fun and I'll have ago as soon as my knee forgives me for IMUK]

    ** I spent the last 10 minutes looking for how I could Edit my last post but couldn't work out how. I know someone worked out how and posted it in another thread a while ago but search as I might I couldn't find it... If anyone could enlighten me I'd be very grateful! **
  • Thanks guys. I appreciate that lifting the front of the bike will not make the workout any harder, but what I reckon it will do is force you to subtly change your riding position, ie sit further back in the saddle, thereby engaging a slightly different combination of muscles to those used when cycling on the flat. Hence the bit in the blurb about stacking them to simulate hill climbs.

    It would appear that no-one has used this technique though...

  • Having re-read my original post I now see where the confusion has come from. I should have made it explicit that these risers are being marketed as being designed to be stacked to simulate hill climbing, and are not just the standard ones used to level your bike on the turbo. Oops!

  • jibby26jibby26 Posts: 261
    Buy some MDF and 4 x 4" posts to make a platform to put the riser block on if you want to do that. Considerably cheaper.
  • diddsdidds Posts: 655
    ... or just put your riser on a couple of phone books.

    Or just use lots of phone books and no riser.

  • Jack HughesJack Hughes Posts: 1,262
    Get some cyclo-sportives entered. Be prepared to travel to hillier places like the peak district, the lake district etc.

    Make a weekend out of it if you have to travel. Check out deals in Premier Inn.

    Or go really old school. Get the train then stay in Youth Hostels. Actually, Youth Hostels have been completely altered since last time I stayed in them, quite fancy it myself now.

    You can't learn hill climbing technique by propping up your front wheel with copies of the Michelin Green Guide to the Alps.

    In the meantime, crank up the resistance on that turbo. Climbing is about power to weight ratio. More power, less weight.
  • bathtubbathtub Posts: 280
    Thanks guys. I appreciate that lifting the front of the bike will not make the workout any harder, but what I reckon it will do is force you to subtly change your riding position, ie sit further back in the saddle, thereby engaging a slightly different combination of muscles to those used when cycling on the flat. Hence the bit in the blurb about stacking them to simulate hill climbs.

    It would appear that no-one has used this technique though...

    I used this method as part of my prep for IMCH last year.

    Quoted below is an article I read in"The Lance Armstrong Performance Program" book

    "To simulate a climbing position when exercising indoors,set the front wheel stand on a telephone directory or dictionary. The elevatedfront wheel mimics the raised triangle that a rider's body assumes when going uphill. The angle engages hill-climbing muscles of the lower back,butt,calves and triceps".

    Good enough for Lance then good enough for me, methinks.

    I used an old upturned draw 6 inches deep then mounted my riser unit on top of that.

    I used the spinerval DVD 24.0 hillacious ( 60 minute hill workout) for this session.

    I'm also 20miles from Ashbourne so a lot of my riding was done in the hills of the peak district.
  • Bloody hell, a turbo trainer riser block to help with hills??!!! This has to go down as one of THE top ten funniest things to buy a cyclist!!

    So if I stack up my entire collection of encyclopedia I can simulate Mont Ventoux??? HA HA.....

    HTFU get out there and do some hills you tart!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    What do they think triathletes are, a load of midlife crisis, more money than sense tossssssseurs???!!
  • Jack HughesJack Hughes Posts: 1,262
    Conehead wrote:
    you missed out the 'in lycra' bit.
    And the bit about wearing your Oakley shades, and getting the neighbours to come round and punch you in the kidneys half way through the session.

    I'm off to place my turbo/backwheel at the top of the cellar steps so I can practice my descending.
  • I'm off to place my turbo/backwheel at the top of the cellar steps so I can practice my descending
    hahahahaha!! Class.

    Seriously, there's so much involved in cycling up long hills, I personally would find it hard, if not impossible, to get any benefit from trying to train for this specifically on the turbo. I would focus turbo sessions on technique and endurance and get out there for the hills.

    I do quite a lot of hill climbing and so feel I have some experience. Although my usual climbs are often as short as 6-8kms, they are steep and at a generally very unchanging gradient. Sometimes I get the chance to climb mountains. Thanks to my experience on these smaller climbs I can confidently do Ventoux in a good time (for a girl!). There are so many factors here - it's not just about geometry and position, but also about leg strength, cadence, speed, body adjustment on the saddle as you work and psychology.

    It doesn't take too much either to get real and lasting benefits from outdoor 'proper' hill climbing. Book into a campsite for the bank holiday weekend somewhere hilly and climb every day. I can guarantee that the experience will stay there in your legs for many months and you will be surprised how much easier it is the next time you find yourself near a set of hills to tackle.

    Failing all that - take yourself down to Sussex for the day and do Ditchling Beacon a few times!

    Fair play though - IMCH. Hats off to anyone doing this.

  • ShaggyShaggy Posts: 140
    You need a rope round the handle bars going to a pulley attached to the ceiling going to two minions who can vary the angle of the bike in real time giving you a faithful recreation of any climb in the world.

    For the tri market we will be weaving the rope from strands of carbon fibre and painting the pulley red.

  • bulletbullet Posts: 115
    Somebody told me to find a lap which is about 10 minutes long ,with a reasonable hill in it !

    Then start by doing 5 or 6 laps or what ever you can manage ,put effort in on the hill and try to keep the cadence up ,then use the rest of the lap as recovery ,then as you become stronger add more laps .

    This is a masochistic form of interval training.

    So helpfull with your mental strength training .

    Do this a couple of times a month ,and soon you will be more effective on hills !!!

  • Hmmmmmmm, a 10 minute lap dosnt sound very long to me?? I would suggest find a longer hill that way you have more time to grind rather than power up and enjoy the inevitable decent.

    I wouldnt worry about hills too much, a good endurance base is far more important, once you have that (and few triathletes do TBH) then concenterate on fine tuning, ie hill reps and speed intervals.........
  • transittransit Posts: 163
    Although my usual climbs are often as short as 6-8kms
    "As short as"!!!! - I don't think I know any hills that long!

    Hill repeats, can't beat them, nothing too steep, might get out of saddle for last 10-20% of interval (dependent on time), recover on descent.

    Agree that raising front wheel can have some benefit, would just leave hill training for road work.
  • jacjac Posts: 452
    I agree transit about the 6-8k climbs...not sure where these are in the UK? Or the longer ones!?
    I do have some great hills near me though which always present a challenge. All my routes bar one are hilly. You can't bear getting out on the road.
  • Jack HughesJack Hughes Posts: 1,262
    The longest climb in ENGLAND is reportedly up Cragg Vale, from Mytholmroyd, West Yorkshire.

    It is about 5.5 miles (9.6 kilometers) and over 900ft. (300m).

    My Garmin had it as 6 miles, and 1000ft though, starting from the valley bottom at the bridge over the river to the junction with the A58 at the top.

    Obviously, the gradient is relatively gentle...
  • jacjac Posts: 452
    Cheers Jack.
    I'm West Yorkshire based so will hunt this out!
  • Apologies!

    Although I try to ride about 2-3 times per week while here at home, I do the majority of my 'serious' road cycling in France where we have a small base at the bottom of a gorge. This means that many /most of our rides will incorporate a climb out of the gorge at some point, which is typically 5-8kms. Compared to the Alps, Pyrannees and Ventoux, which we also do - I consider these climbs relatively short. This is the explaination for me sounding like a bragging idiot in my previous post.

    I think I'm a road cyclist first and a triathlete second, so can get a bit stupid about cycing. The point is, just as Firestarter says, the hill training is easier to achieve than a good endurace base. When I first started climbing outof the gorge only a couple of years ago (and I'm 44) I thought it was impossible. Now these climbs are just a part of a daily ride - however I cannot run further than 10k without being utterly knackered. Guess where i need to focus my training!

  • ShaggyShaggy Posts: 140
    Thought about this thread while riding this morning. Not a hilly route but a bit windy. Aim of session was to develop power so rather than change down and keep cadence up, I changed up and kept cadence down and sat up on the hoods.

    As it's unlikely most of us can spin out our top gear on the flat, change up until you can keep cadence about 60 (this will feel uncomfortable as we probably all cycle in the 70-100 range on the flat), sit up on the hoods and concentrate on good pedalling form and keeping torso and shoulders still. Don't let yourself change down. Do this for an hour a week and it will develop muscular endurance and that will help on the slopes for sure.

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