Raised front wheel + Small Front Cog - Target hill climbing muscle group better?

Just trying to pull some info together and find if there was any truth/worth in combining the use of Mid Cassette + Small front cog (Shane Millar - big cog small cog tests) and a raised front wheel (50mm or more on top of normal wheel stand) to better target part of the pedal stroke and muscle groups that are used when climbing gradients?

I don’t have any problem out sprinting and riding with faster club riders (in my age group 56/club cycling) that are the same weight/build as me, but up hill its a different story. Yes I can do more hills in the summer - but in preparation for next year during this winter I’d like to give that area as much help as I can while using the trainer.

Currently doing 3rd season of TR and now on SSB1 Low Vol + augment with added workouts to raise TSS between that, and SSB Mid Vol, as I have previously felt burnt out by Aug doing Mid Volume plans + Club rides. I was hit by a car back in August this year (not my fault) which didn’t help weight and fitness - but thankfully escaped with a few scars, bruises an muscle tears. Recovered, lost 14 pounds over the last 3 months - down under 198lbs for first time in years, trying to get it right for 2019.

Feedback appreciated.

EDIT: Trainer - Elite Drivo

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The most important thing on steep gradients is W/kg. The inertia of your trainer is the second most important thing. And the actual incline on the trainer, the least important.
In my experience, people that get dropped uphill are the ones who can’t pull a group (only draft) and/or have a low W/kg.
So, to be a better climber, focus on W/kg. When that is as good as it gets, start looking at inertia in your trainer for specific goals.

Interesting question, and this is my opinion.

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That is the frustrating thing. Being a big lad my W/Kg is pretty low 2.65 - but I often end up on the front of the group, or at least doing my bit on the flat into the wind. So a bit of a puzzle how to improve just the hills.

Edit: 2.67 W/Kg

What you can do is to start the uphill riding in the front and while climbing rotate backwards in the pack. Losing 10-15 meters that way would still have you in the pack. Otherwise there’s not much you can do about physics. Get lighter or stronger.

Or make the thin guys suffer so much on the flat that they can’t pull away on climbs. :wink:

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Simulating incline is no harm, I did this for XC to get my position dialed in for longer climbs.

But as mentioned, hard to beat small guys on climbs. As posted earlier, either fall back gradually or shred them on flats. Use your strengths to your advantage.

Done the raised front wheel thing with the Cyclops Riser blocks and found it was more of a novelty than anything else really. Also did low cadence work on the trainer and think it’s a bit pants. I pretty much don’t bother now as a couple of weeks of outdoor riding seems to sort out that muscle recruitment for me come spring. I’d actually like to see some evidence for low cadence drills on the indoor trainer making a difference by the end of a training plan. All I see is anecdote.

Anyway, I think deep down you know what you need to do - set a new goal for 3w/kg.

That definitely will make a difference and you feel it and see it in your PRs. You can do it too. You definitely can, just need a motivational uptick :slight_smile:

Often the simplest solution is the most difficult. I feel your pain - I’m 6’2" 87kg. I can outsprint most cyclists on the flats, but my W/kg is lower than my 65 kg teammates. When the climb starts, I try my best to be at the front to drop back, and make them pay for it on the descent. I have a goal of 84 w/kg for this season, which will put me at about 3.5-3.6 w/kg when the road points uphill.

The best answer is get stronger and lose weight. And you can do both, simultaneously!

Thanks for feedback

Yup - 3w/kg is definitely the goal. Shedding the weight has been a battle, but I got there and it’s still dropping gradually - just need to get back to my 2017 FTP of 274 (210 lbs) but with the new lighter me.

I know smaller riders are always going to win on the climbs - it was the query about possible slight change in muscle group emphasis from the different gearing and position I was curious about.

On raising the front, they did some research mesuring EMG on different inclines, e.g. how the muscle activation pattern changes. Not a whole lot unless it is really steep. Really, really steep. So this would only be applicable to MTB racing.

I like to raise the front in order to introduce some variation to my … well … rear. This time of the year I spend quite some time in the basement and to avoid sore spots “back there” I change the position slightly. And apart from raising the front there isn’t much you can do indoors.

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There is some validity to using appropriate gearing on the Erg trainer to better target muscles. The short Verdi’s is, “Ride in gears that simulate what you’re riding is like outside.”

Although I mostly use TR, I also use VirtuGo (like Zwift) and Zwift in free ride mode so I can ride around and practice changing gears specifically for climbing. It’s an excellent way to understand your gearing combos and your wattage output so when you get outside you can ‘replay’ what is working from your training. (I don’t have power metesr on my bikes)

I’m 104kg with and FTP of 278w. Bigger power (say 340w) for long intervals (say 10 to 20 minutes) is something I’m good at, so if I’m in a group and I know the route I like to force the pace higher where I can endure and sometimes this will tire out some of the lighter riders I’m with before the hills. On th hills I have learned to stand more to help keep my cadence higher when climbing and use slightly different muscles. And once the hill ends, back to high power output and chasing down those 60kg climbers.

I’m mostly MTB and gravel so I don’t know if I have good Road strategy or not. But it works for gravel.


I am similar weight, ftp, and group ride experiences. After getting back into cycling in 2016, my first big event was 5 mountain passes with 15,000’ of climbing. My W/kg was maybe 2.8 at the time, so that meant spending 8 hours climbing on 5 sustained climbs. If your weight is fixed, then you need a lot of muscle/aerobic endurance. If you can drop weight then its like getting free watts. If you can drop weight and grow ftp, win win!

As already stated, if you want to get faster on climbs then focus all of your energy on:

  • losing weight
  • growing ftp

For sustained climbs you also need to focus on muscle endurance. There are TR plans for that.

I’ve played around with gearing and haven’t found value in trying to optimize muscle recruitment (Shane Miller video). Regarding little vs big chainring, all I’ve been able to conclude is that just like on the road, the little chainring provides a torque multiplier.

What does that mean? It means that less torque (force on pedals) is required to cover changes in trainer resistance (going from 100W to 200W in erg), or when you are riding outside and need a burst of power to bridge a small gap or deal with a short kick up in grade on the road.

I’m not a fan of using small chainring on my Kickr in Erg mode, for me it feels easier because less torque is required to cover both small and large changes in resistance. I feel like the “flywheel inertia” narrative is missing a) the impact of gearing on pedal force / torque, and b) ignoring that in Erg mode the trainer is a system with both a braking system AND spinning flywheel. You can’t cherry pick and focus on the spinning flywheel, and ignore the impact of Erg braking and how that translates into required pedal force thru all the gearing (both trainer gearing and your bike’s gearing).

My best long climbs have come as a result of focusing on the fundamentals:

  • muscle endurance via longer and longer intervals at sweet spot and threshold
  • aerobic endurance
  • increasing cadence to shift burden from muscular / anaerobic energy systems, to aerobic energy systems

Hope that helps.


All helpful feedback - cheers folks