Training for "BIG" Climbs

I have done smaller/shorter climbs in especially GMR aka Glendora Mountain Road here in SoCal. I know my weight has to come down quite a bit, my current weight is 170lbs - 77kg. Going up GMR my cadence slows down to an average of 73rpm, average speed was 4.9 mph, average watts 154. Yeah I know I’m slow, I’m working on it.

Well I have bigger goals and dreams of much much bigger and higher mountain roads. See the segment profiles below. How does one train for such big climbs? I do not have a time frame to do these, would be nice if I could do the Crystal Lake segment before the year is up. It all depends on my training and if it is possible to even attempt this climbs without having to stop on the side of the road suffering from exhaustion. Some recommendation as to what workouts to do that will get me up these mountains. Some of my cycling friends say to be able to climb mountains I have to ride up mountains. I can’t always train on mountains, but I can train everyday on my trainer. Any help or advice will be greatly appreciated. Thanks

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My advice in two points:

  1. look at your gearing and look to get something you can maybe spin at a quicker cadence. 34/34?
  2. you’re mentally psyching yourself out. Just do them. I bet you could do all of them right now.

Let go of your expectations and just enjoy the journey up. Think of it as scouting maybe, but no need to sit on the couch and hold yourself back from your goals.


Ask Alapahilippe.


agreed with @donlee, assess your gearing, and don’t stress yourself out over it. Keep training and increase your ftp and the climbs will take less time, but as they say, it never gets easier.

Also, if you get part of the way up and you blowup then you can turn around and go back, and feel proud that you tried and made it farther than probably 99% of the human population.

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I’m in a similar position to you. I’m not training for racing I’m training for a trip to the Alps. I’m based in the UK so there aren’t many big climbs (there are plenty of short but severe climbs, but nothing Alpine scale unless I head up to Scotland, and the Alps is closer and sunnier :slight_smile: ).

I’m doing full TR plan but with some breaks in between (for various reasons). Currently doing Sweet Spot Base, with the breaks I have that will take me to late October, then I’ll do Sustained Power Build, then I’ll probably switch back to a base plan for a while then do the Climbing Road Race leading up to my trip.

If you can get to the mountains more often than once a year then I’d start of the with the base, but head out to the mountains instead of riding a trainer when you get the chance. With the right gears you’ll get up and as @donlee says, don’t stress it too much, try and enjoy. I’m not sure of the gradients involved where you’re going, but on a light road bike in the Alps I think a compact chainset (50/34) and an 11-32 cassette is fine.

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As someone who’s definitely not a climber but someone who loves a good mountain, I found that two things are critical.

Measure your efforts. No point going off like a scalded cat for the first mile and then crawling up the rest.

Get used to eating and drinking whilst you’re working. Some people really struggle.

Don’t overthink things. It’s a piece of road that goes up and it does finish. Break it down. Use those mental breaks as reminders to eat and drink.

Most if not all riders, pros and amateurs alike, have a moment where throwing the bike in a hedge and calling a taxi seems like a brilliant idea. Challenge yourself to get 100 meters further when you reach that point. Chances are, you’ll be amazed just how many times you can encourage yourself to go just 100 meters further.

Good luck :+1::mountain_biking_woman:


same here.

My best long climbs are a result of focusing on the fundamentals:

  • plenty of long 3-6 hour rides to build aerobic endurance
  • longer and longer intervals (out to an hour) to build muscular endurance
  • increasing cadence to shift burden from muscles to aerobic energy system

A few thoughts here: Training for the Deathride

I would look at this as: What are the demands of my event? and Am I training myself for those demands?

If one of these climbs is likely to take you 1.5hrs, then your goal should be to improve your steady 1.5hr power number. For me this would be long sweet spot intervals - work up to workouts like Wright Peak. FTP/kg is a great proxy for these long durations - make that go up.

Steady power is going to be key for those climbs. And as others have said, make sure you have the right gearing for the climb so that you can spin at close to your ideal cadence.

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I rarely ride mountains when I am not racing them, and I am racing them just fine this year. I would recommend sequencing Sweet Spot Base, Sustained Power Build and 40k TT plans. The pitch of the road doesn’t matter (assuming your gearing allows you to keep churning).

The ability to dole out threshold power for long durations and to mentally handle the high discomfort that causes is what makes a great climber. Also do not ignore core strength, especially low back. Those belly breaths Chad talks about in the ride text help too.


You could do worse than try FulGaz in challenge mode. Some very big climbs there.

A bit more on my drive train, compact 50/34 and 11‐32 cassette, I’m thinking that should be enough. I have a few long rides, nowhere near enough though. I definitely need more training. I know the suffering will never goes away when climbing. I need to definitely improve my threshold power. My power to weight ratio is pathetic. I’m hear to improve all aspects of my cycling, especially the climbing. I know I need to start weight training to increase my power as well.

Would it be safe to just target climbing workouts once I am done with SSB training? I did SSB MV I and I am on week 3 SSB MV II currently.

Like I said, there is no real time frame for me. I would even do my SSB training all over again if it will increase my power to improve my climbing abilities which are poor at best :-1:

Do the TR sustained power build, and Century plans.

When you’re on the climb, it’s all about pacing, gearing, nutrition and hydration.

If you can ride a bike for 3 hours, you’ll be able to climb for 3 hours - with the above 4 things right.


I can most definitely ride for more than 3 hours. My longest rides being a bit over 5 hours. I have done GMR twice, both times with a longish approach to the start of the segment. Round trips of about 63 and 66 miles. I have thought about driving to the base of the segment and start there, but that seems like it would not be as challenging as with the long approach.

Like I said - you can probably do all those climbs now. :slight_smile: start at the base.

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That should be plenty of gears for almost any climb in North America. I have a 11-34-tooth climbing cassette on my bike right now for the Mount Washington climb in New Hampshire - but that is 7.6 miles averaging 12 percent with grades that kick up as high as 22 percent. If you are looking at sustained grades of 6 or 8 percent, you should be very comfortable with a 34:32 low end option.

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Climber here… and a big one at that. I’m 6’6", but weigh 178lbs. I have super long femurs which gives me the “long lever” and so I can still put out a high w/kg ratio. I can average 11mph on HC grade climbs that are 6% average.

Speaking from experience, I’ve never gotten faster on climbs when I spend lots of time actually climbing (in fact… when I do that, I usually regress). I live in Tucson, and so one of the benchmark climbs for a good rider here is how fast you can do the Mt. Lemmon HC segment. I got 1:46:XX on the climb this April, averaging 11.8mph. But, leading up the ride, I was hardly doing any training on the mountain at all. Most of time was spend doing super hard, eye-watering, workouts on TR. Most of them were in the VO2 Max or threshold range. Spent a lot time doing TH workouts, with surges above TH. Then when I did the ride itself, I was taking in 400 calories per hour. (I’m blessed with an iron stomach… my wife calls it a nuclear reaction chamber.)


Thank you much for the reply, I’ll definitely start a new training program with V02 Max and Threshold workouts being the main priority. I am still on the SSB MV II, I’ll be done with this block real soon.

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it somewhat depends on how long you’ve been riding; how many seasons and what type of mileage do you do?

Pending that answer, a nice diet of tempo and Sweet Spot during the week (1 session of each), with some longer endurance rides (75% ftp) on the weekend, and you’ll really build up an awesome aerobic engine.

While climbing hills helps you climb hills, some great climbers come out of the Netherlands, so all hope is not lost by using your turbo trainer. :wink:

Let us know what you decide and how the training goes!



Have not been riding very long. I had about a three year layoff 2015-2018, had to have two knee surgeries. Got back on the bike from May of 2018 through October 2018 and then stopped. Back on the bike in March 2019 to now. Everything is going well with my health and I hope to keep it that way. Most of my outdoor rides were about 2 hours in duration about 34-35 miles. With a few longer rides thrown in from time to time. Longest ride being 5 hours and 84 miles. A few 50-65 milers as well. For the most part, if I do ride outdoors it’s about 35 miles most often. Since starting back up in March of 2019 I am at 1840 miles for the year thus far. I set a goal of 3000 miles for the year, I think I should be able to achieve that goal.


I agree with the 34/34 combo. I moved from a 28 to 34 cassette and couldn’t climb without it. The extra gears are a life saver. You’ll definitely be able to do it. Just keep peddling. I count to 30 over and over again on the climbs and eventually you make it to the top!

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