Climbing while in the big ring?

I just started riding in groups and I have noticed that a lot of riders use the big ring while climbing. A lot of the climbs are 30 to 90 seconds long and range from anywhere between 4% to 8% gradient. When I ride solo, I usually shift into the smaller chainring to get through the climb but I will get dropped if I do that while I am in a group. The climbs are a bit explosive i.e I need to go into my anaerobic zone to keep up with the group. My FTP is 308W which is around 4.0 to 4.2 watts per kilo. Any tips on how do I not get exhausted while in the big ring and how do I keep up with such a group on climbs? I have completed S=sweet spot base low volume 1, sweetspot base low volume 2, short power build low volume and I am currently in the first week of century specialty.

Your main issue is not really big ring vs little ring. It’s more about power and pacing. Solo, you can aim to keep a more steady and flat power, like Time Trial effort. But in a group, you are subject to the pace set by those at the front. No surprise that people hit short rises like you mention with some gusto. May or may not be meant to split a group, but it often is a deliberate stress. You can control a bit with your precise gearing and hitting cadences that are more to your liking, but if you want to roll with the group, you are effectively required to match the power in whatever gear works best for you.

Consider trying to “Sag Climb”, which means placing yourself at the front part of the group at the bottom of the climb, then allow yourself to slip back towards the rear of the group, as you go up and complete the climb. The ultimate goal being to crest the top at the tail of your group. It means you are able to ride the climb at a “slower pace” since you would be rolling a bit slower than the group for the duration of the climb. It’s important to try and balance your effort so you don’t slip too far back, but it is a popular tactic, especially for larger riders rolling with lighter ones.


Fast rides use hills to punish each other. If you’re doing 6-7w/kg you can generally jam up a (short) hill in the big ring pretty easy. Maybe have to stand for a bit, but not that big a deal. If you can’t do that… you probably aren’t as strong as you think you are.

Longer climbs will force people into the small ring if they are steep enough. Front derailures are stupid and fickle so better to skip it if you can.

I big ring a bunch of stuff others shift to the little ring for because I run a 50/34. I just find it easier then finding the right gear in the little ring

Rule #90// Never Get Out of the Big Ring. If it gets steeper, just push harder on the pedals. When pressed on the matter, the Apostle Johan Museeuw simply replied, “Yes, why would you slow down?” It is, of course, acceptable to momentarily shift into the inner ring when scaling the 20% ramps of the Kapelmuur



This for sure works.

I’m a heavy rider and when I was riding in groups regularly with faster riders (better W/Kg) than me I found this advice from another thread on this forum and tried it. It definitely did work; using momentum to get yourself to the front / near the front and then hold your own pace as everyone passes you.

Good luck :+1:


This is great advice. As bigger rider I’m just not able to climb with the folks that I outweigh by 60 or more pounds. I try position myself up front at the base of the climb, maintain a pace that allows me to work while just gradually falling back. Then on the downhill, I recover while letting gravity do its thing. This tactic has really helped me be able to hang tough on fast group rides.

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Is it a problem with you or the group you are riding with? If it’s a race, then dropping riders on hills is fair game. If it’s a group ride, dropping your group is simply bad manners.


At 4watts/kg, it doesn’t sound like you should have much problem. You just need to train your repeatability to do this over and over. Just keep showing up to the group ride. It will get easier and easier.

Also, if you are training with the century plan you aren’t getting the intensity for this kind of group ride but you can add the group rides to your century plan and it should be fine.

The right gearing can help. I mean that if you have a smaller corncob cassette, you may be forced to shift which is undesirable on a short hill in a race/group situation. It would be better to have a wider range cassette so that the easiest gear in your big ring is the right gear for getting over these rollers.


There are a range of “group rides” that happen all over the world.

  • Kicking might be considered totally expected for a “drop ride”.
  • Similar if it is a “group ride” that plans to do work and regroup at one or more points.
  • It is likely “bad” if it is a “no drop” ride that is meant to be social at a casual pace to keep people together.

Point being that not all “group rides” are equal, and it’s important to look at each one in context. It requires communication from the group leaders.


Yeah any group ride around where I live if you’re riding in the higher category you should expect it to be a drop ride. The people are looking to drop people as fast as they can at any point. Use to be people would attack when they noticed someone was going to take a drink. Others play tactics to pretend to be too tired to pull so they can sprint for town signs. Can be quite silly.

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This!!! Absolute key!!!


Everyone else is probably going anaerobic too.

Never seen a fast group ride where people piddle around at threshold up a short climb. 30s is more of a “bump”.

A good way to gauge how hard you might be able to go without killing yourself is to take a look at hard start TR workouts like:

  • Xalibu
  • Augusta
  • Rattesnake

With your current watts/kilo, it sounds like you should have enough power for the ordinary type group ride. Often it is a matter of positioning within the group. Start out near the front 3-4 place taking advantage of draft. This way if you drift back you will still be in contact with group. Also, ride the gearing that you can handle, you might want to try staying in your small chainring with a high cadence, particularly if you are a skinny type.

The group ride was 72kms in length and I got dropped on the last climb with 6kms to go. The group leader and 2 more riders were there for me thankfully. I do prioritize my trainerroad workouts over my group rides as I just did an FTP workout the day before the ride. I was recovered for the group ride but might want to keep things smooth.

I am inexperienced when it comes to group riding so when I see a gap I tend to overreact by pushing a lot of watts to close the gap. I realized that doing this over the period of 3 hours took a lot out of me and I had to take it easy the next day. I am not a skinny person but I am not sure what physique has to do with group dynamics.

Yes, I see that the century plan has a lot of steady work. I have already completed the short power build but I am preparing for a DIY training camp this season so I went ahead with the century plan as I want to work on my muscular endurance and reduce my heart rate while riding at a higher speed. I don’t have any issues while spending a lot of time at tempo but it is the anaerobic efforts that put me in the red and quickly increase my heart rate. @mcnesse.chad that is a pretty good advice and it really works for me on zwift as I weigh 72 kgs! Unfortunately, I cannot do that in real life as I mostly ride on busy roads so we are required to ride in a single file. Getting out of the paceline and going towards the front of the group on a busy road just confuses the drivers who are passing us.

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we always waiting top of hill or riding steady pace (communication). we are ride in group sharing pain on hills …haha


On a 90’s climb it’s doable especially if you’re drafting each other as well. It’s no different from doing Zone 4/5 then dropping to 1/2 depending on the size of your group and where you are after the climb.

Yeah, every group I ride with hammer the hills, regroup. Other rides are find your group in the ride, and ride accordingly, Such as a rando event.

Out of interest, how many riders are generally in the group rides? Does the group regularly ride the same route?

Might be that if the same hills are ridden regularly, you could head out solo and practice them. Find your gearing. Also, pay attention to the riders attacking the climbs. Are they sitting on the back of the group doing nothing 3/4/5 minutes before things point upwards? You can always drop back and force them up the line :wink: