Climbing vs time-trialling: same effort, different power output | CyclingTips

I’ve been struggling to produce the same power time trialing that I can climbing. I’m in the region of 15-25 watts lower on flat terrain than I am climbing at threshold. This article below talks about kinetic energy, and how while time trialing there’s more kinetic energy therefore the muscles need to fire very differently (fast twitch) than they do while climbing (slow-twitch) where there is less kinetic energy. If you can include it in your podcast, I’d be curious to hear what can be done to increase fast twitch recruitment to improve time trial power–and to do it without compromising climbing ability. Thanks!

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I haven’t read the article but this is typical. Maybe not so much in the pointy end of the WT (Froome, Porte) but in neo, conti, and amateur yes. Time trialling is special, it also uses different muscle groups, positioned on the bike differently. Where climbing often your on the back of the saddle, towards the rear of the bottom bracket. When you TT you are over the BB. Something also to do with opening and closing your hip angles, ability to breathe when you have an open chest.

Because of gravity pushing you down into the bike when your climbing you can put out more power this way?

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Read the article and the science makes sense. fast twitch, slow twitch. I also think bike position, plays a part and gravity? I have identified as a sprinter, won a lot of races sprinting, @80 off kgs, I can fluctuate between 84-88 (side note goal is to get to 80 healthily and maintain) but I can also time trial. Its one concentrated effort, I know I have power on the flat and rolling terrain. I would say I am more of a time trialer now than a sprinter after competing 22 weeks of base, build, speciality, 40k TT aiming for an event that didn’t eventuate.

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This is me 100% and I always assumed this is the case for most people?.

20min numbers look something like this:

Climbing road bike: 352w

Flat / rolling road bike: 335w

TT flat / rolling: 310w

My TT position is very aggressive and I knowingly trade some power for the aero gains.

More interesting for me is the comparison of road bike flat to road bike climbing. Definitely something to do with having the gradient / gravity to ‘push’ against that helps push the watts. Haven’t listened to the podcast year, I’ll save that for some Z2 tomorrow!

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The kinetic energy theory where you “only pedal a.little to top up the energy” is ridiculous. If you need 400W to go 50kph then you must produce 400W. Power drops because your position is less optimized when in a TT position. You can verify this on the trainer. Do an internal at 105% hands on the tops then do the next interval in a TT position. If you can complete the interval at all your HR and RPE will be higher. There is no difference in kinetic energy on the trainer. Same.cadence, same flywheel, same gearing.

If you still aren’t convinced, go to the gym. You can “lock out” much more weight than you can start at the bottom of any arm or leg/hip pressing motion. It is simply a function of joint angles and mechanics

The only way to produce the sam e power would be to rotate your body forward around the BB so the joint angles were the same and the be going up a hill so steep that your cg is in the same.location relative to the BB


I might be the exception here.

I tend to struggle on long climbs, anything long (>10 minutes or so) I suffer and my power drops below sweet spot. On the other hand if I have a tail wind on the flats and my kinetic energy is as high as it can get without me spinning out, I can sustain much higher power pretty much indefinitely…

Might have something to do with the fact that I train mostly in Flanders and around Berlin, and at both places the roads are basically as flat as can be.

It may be a purely mental thing. But I think that could also be due to weak spots in my pedal stroke that don‘t matter when inertia carries me over on the flats, but does matter a lot on the climbs


No, I think it is more muscle type. As the article points out, some are better on flat terrain and some on climbs. Your conclusion only suits the hill climbing people.

I am like @dmalanda and produce power more easily on flat terrain, all things being equal.

I don’t think so. It is simply saying that riders stronger on the flat, are better when you can put out the torque only through a small window of the pedal stroke and “rest” their legs for the remainder. It makes sense to me. If I put out higher torque than you but for less of the pedal stroke and you put out less torque, but sustain it for more of that down stroke (like on a climb), we can both produce the same power, but in different ways. A hill allows you to push less torque but for longer, while high speed, flat terrain, is more conducive to higher torque but for a smaller portion of the pedal stroke.

This is just me thinking out loud, applying what the article is saying.


Might be useful? 10 reasons climbing feels different to (flat) timetrials…at the same watts and on the same bike LINK

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Agreed that it is average effective torque over the entire crank revolution

However, almost(?) everyone reports lower power in the TT position. On a trainer at the same power, cadence and gearing, the only thing differing is body position. There is no “difference in momentum” and power is lower in TT position. It is a function of joint angles

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I wish the article didn’t lead people to believe it is comparing upright road position to TT position. That isn’t the point and just a distraction to the information it is presenting.

I know, all things being equal, I do better on high speed flat riding than hill climbing. The article also mentions Brad McGee, on the track vs hill climbing on what one would assume, is very similar positions on the bike.

“Raoul and his colleagues noticed that Brad McGee could float around the track at 650 watts and make it look effortless. However, they questioned why he couldn’t climb when he clearly had good power.”

What science? The only thing in that article is speculation.

Performance of the bike/rider combination depends on numerous factors (power vs weight, aerodynamics and Crr) and these tend to fight against each other (a more powerful rider is generally larger, Riders can produce less power in aerodynamic positions but less power is required etc).

But rider performance a (as with any engine) really comes down to performing work/time=power (watts). When the hip angle closes down, watts go down regardless of “momentum”.

There are a lot of cycling articles written by people who have no understanding of what they are talking about.

The science of different potential energy in a bicycle and rider on different terrain.

I don’t think this is the point of the article. From my understanding.

I guess high school level physics “makes sense”.

However, I was referring to the speculation about differences in muscle fiber recruitment. The article doesn’t mention any research, published or unpublished, and in fact makes the claim that it is easy to determine such differences with EMG, when it is not.

The catchphrase that comes to mind is, “where’s the beef?”.

Yeah that one confused me as well. They say they don’t mean fast-twitch vs slow-twitch in the classical sense. But they don’t really say what they actually mean. Not sure if there is really any takeway from the article other than: “Well, some people are just good at climbing!”

No, it is not thorough and didn’t claim to be. It is an attempt to explain why some people put out more power on a hill vs flat and others put out more power on the flat vs hills. I’d like to read more about this topic.

Me too, but not this sort of junk journalism.