Training for climbing

I am an intermediate cyclist and have been riding for about 5 years. I’ve come a long way in that time, but I still suffer in the climbing category. I previously did winter training with Zwift, but switched to TR about 3-4 weeks ago and so far I like it a lot. After retesting my FTP, I ended up at 225.

With climbing, I feel like I have a hard time laying down a high power output for long periods of time and I certainly can’t climb at high cadences and to compound the issue, my low cadence power sucks. I noticed with my TR plan, I am often training at 85-95 rpm at both high and low power targets. My question is, how does training at those higher cadences help me with improving my climbing where I usually find myself at the 60 rpm range. I realize there are many other factors such as weight, gearing, etc…

Any help understandung this is greatly appreciated.

can you shift into an easier gear when climbing to simulate more of what you’re used to in training?

if not, some high torque/low cadence work might be good.

but to your title, the best training for it is doing it; throw a few hill routes in and focus on the higher cadence. 60 is low, maybe aim for 70 to start and see how that goes… ??


TrainerRoad gets us to ride at higher cadences because it’s supposedly biomechanically favourable.

Which is great until you rock up at your A event, find yourself on 13.8km of climbing at 8.1% and realise that even with a 34-tooth chainring and 32-tooth sprocket you can only grind out 60rpm without exploding… and you’ve spent almost no time at that cadence on the trainer…

You can either

  1. Make an effort to spin lower than recommended cadences during appropriate TR workouts (keeping the same power targets, but grinding) to get ready for big climbz

  2. Get a bigger cassette

  3. Avoid any big climbs until your FTP and leg strength have gone up enough that you can spin above 75rpm on 6-10% gradients

I should have done 1 and 2. 3 seems to be taking a long time…


Some workout notes, or in-ride instructions, ask you to lower your cadence if you’re specifically training for climbing. Here’s an example from Carson -2 - TrainerRoad:

Some TR podcasts offer tips regarding training for climbing.

You can search the workout library for the term “climbing” - the search looks at the workout description as well as the title.

I ride a standard 53-39 with 11-32 in the back. I ride TT climbing pace around 90rpm, but usually ride 75-85rpm when just doing z2. You just have to practice lower cadence if your gearing won’t let you get it higher. 80rpm is pretty natural for me tho, much more comfortable than 90 in z2. Also be sure to practice standing up.

Training at 85-95 rpm will not make you better at riding 60-70 rpm. You literally need to train at that cadence if you want it to feel more comfortable.

Climbing is my favorite type of riding now, but I had to teach myself to enjoy it and be better at it. Here’s some things that helped me: With the exception of climbing a lot outdoors I think the second best bet is to ride your trainer in the slowest gear ratio you have (For me that’s a 30 in rear and small ring up front) to reduce the inertia so it more closely replicates climbing in the real world. This works best for consistent power workouts/intervals. When climbing outdoors change position and cadence to keep things fresh. For example if you’re riding a climb with switchbacks or plenty of corners you can stand every time you come out of a corner for about 30 seconds. Then as your looking ahead you can reason with yourself that if you just can make it to the next corner then the current muscles in use can get a little break. When I’m really tired and having a hard time keeping my cadence up after using up all my gears I will play some tricks on my legs in between the standing sections. All I do it actually shift to one gear harder for about 15-30 seconds, then when I return to my easiest gear it feels like some relief and feels easy again for a bit. I think in the end you have to realize that climbing is uncomfortable to a certain extent for everyone, the more I pretended to really like climbing and trick myself into being excited for climbs my mental attitude improved and I actually started to legitimately enjoy the challenge. Good luck!


Riding in your biggest gear creates the opposite effect, I think….it increases the intertidal because the flywheel is spinning faster. If you want to reduce the inertia, you should ride in a smaller gear, I believe.

The OP may also want to do some extended climbing in Zwift…set the trainer difficulty to 100 and go climb Alpe d’ Zwift or the Ventoux a bunch. You can also go up and over the Epic KOM, reverse at the bottom and then do repeats in Watopia.

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I mean biggest as far as size not speed. I try to spend a fair bit of time in my 28-30 in the back.

  • That is still confusing without more specifics.
    • Big gear in front is fast flywheel with more inertia.
    • Big gear in back is slow flywheel with less inertia.

So, it is best to broadly mention Higher (Faster) or Lower (Slower) gearing, or better yet… be specific by listing a front/rear gear ratio.


OK, you are referring to the largest cog, which is not the same as “biggest gear”. People will interpret “biggest gear” as their 52x11 (or whatever big CR / small cog combo they have).


I edited it. Not trying to confuse people.


Much appreciated. :+1:

Thank you all for the responses. I did today’s workout and when it called for a higher power, I lowered my cadence to 75 RPM (See picture). That felt really good. My question is, should I do this anytime I have a workout that calls for elevated power for longer periods of time? TR usually calls for 85-95, but based on a few recommendations, I should be training in the 75 range. I just don’t know when to do this or when to follow TRs recommendations. Plus, I am still in the base stage. I want to get better all around, but I know I need work climbing at lower cadences. Sorry for all these questions, but there seems to be a lot of very knowledgeable folks in here and I would love to learn from your experiences. Thank you.

  • Maybe? This falls into the “It depends…” type of answer. You first have to ask your self “What do I need?” and then consider training related to that.

My take, I would not likely lock into low cadence all the time. Personally, I take a workout like that and usually split it. I would do one regular cadence (95) and the other low (65) for my use. That or I also mix within longer block by doing Hi/Lo alternated at 3 to 5 minute mini-blocks through longer intervals.

Unless you are planning for a case where all you do is low cadence, I don’t think strict low cadence work is needed or beneficial. Mix it up.


I wouldn’t use 75rpm all the time, sometimes it’ll be better for you to up the cadence at higher power levels. Over time it’ll benefit you if you become comfortable at all cadences. I am one of those sadists who like hills/ mountains, being able to vary your cadence helps a lot :+1:

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Adding a third vote for mixing it up. You could throw in some standing practice too. Like 10 secs standing at the top of every minute, standing every other minute, etc.

Using Antelope (5x10) as an example: 90s, 80s, 80s with standing, 70s, 90s.

Another vote for always be changing cadence. I did some hill climbing last weekend, overgeared at 50rpm to simulate steeper grades, and two days ago was doing undergeared at 100+. Overgeared work is mostly done aerobically at 75-85% ftp. All my big mountain climbs on 6-8% grades have been low to mid 60rpm range.

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