Real Advice: An Intro to Climbing

climbing_3Real Advice is a new series here on our blog. To answer some of the questions we get from customers, we’re turning to the employees here at our home office for some answers. Just like anyone else, they need to balance time on the bike with full time jobs and families. Over the years they’ve gotten pretty good at getting the most out of their rides. Let us know what you think in the comments.

This week we asked Robert, one of our copywriters and dedicated lover of the road ride, to give us some tips on how to get better at climbing.

climbing_brianI learned a hard lesson about climbing a few years ago after moving to North Carolina from a certain Midwestern city known for ferocious winds and two-dimensional topography. I thought I was in pretty good shape—until I decided to join the Thursday night group ride my first week of work at Performance Bicycle. I doubt I had actually ridden a bicycle up a hill before (unless bridges count), but I didn’t think it could be too hard. After 5 miles of rolling hills, I was utterly exhausted, and had long since been dropped. My ego was deflated, but thankfully there’s nothing like a reality check to get you motivated. Here are some of the tips and tricks I used to improve my climbing:

  1. PRACTICE. This seems obvious, but there are no silver bullets here. The only way to get better is to go out and find hills to ride up. Don’t overdo it, but adding challenging vertical mileage to your rides will do wonders.
  2. BUDDY RIDES. After my embarrassment on the group ride, I found a strong climber at the office and rode with him a few times a week. It was painful, but forcing myself to match his faster pace helped me make huge gains in a short amount of time.
  3. YOUR FRONT DERAILLEUR. Use it. You’re not going to impress anybody by big-ringing it up the local hardman hill, and you may even hurt yourself. If you find yourself struggling and out of the saddle from the start of the climb, you need to get into the habit of shifting to the little ring sooner. Since it’s almost impossible to shift the front derailleur once you’re actually climbing, it’s better to shift five minutes too early than five seconds too late.
  4. STANDING vs. SITTING. This one is divisive, but it honestly depends on the type of climb. If the climb is, say, 2 miles at a 6% grade, you’re better off staying in the saddle and pedaling at a higher cadence. If it’s a short, steep climb you can probably just stand up and stomp on the pedals to power up it. In general standing makes you work harder than sitting and pedaling at a higher cadence. If you do need to stand, make sure to shift to a harder gear to compensate for the extra force on the pedals.
  5. RELAX. Climbing is hard, but we subconsciously make it harder than it needs to be. Next time you head uphill, pay attention to your upper body. I bet you’re clenching your abs, tensing your shoulders and white knuckling your handlebars. All this saps your energy and makes it harder to breath. Next time, try to keep things loose and relaxed, control your breathing, and let your legs do the work.
  6. EQUIPMENT. Yes, nothing can really take the place of saddle time—but there are some equipment upgrades that can make climbing a little easier. If you’re really struggling on the hills, consider changing your cassette to a 12-28T, or switching to a compact crankset—both of which can make things a little easier. But the most important upgrade you can make for climbing is your wheelset. Wheels add both raw weight and rotational weight to your bike, making climbing more difficult. Finding a good pair of lightweight wheels is a very personal matter, and much can depend on budget and personal preference, but here are some of my favorites.

Race Day: Zipp 202 Firecrest Carbon Tubulars

Training Ride: Easton EA90 LTD Road Clinchers

Workhorse:  FSA Gossamer Road Clinchers

If you already have a pair of wheels you love but still want to go lighter, then take a look at your cranks, seatpost or saddle. There are many places on a bicycle where grams can hide. For more ideas on how to improve your performance or shave some weight from the bike, check out the “Upgrade Yourself” article in the Performance Bicycle Learning Center.

First Look at What’s New – Weeks1-4

Every week we’re taking a look at what’s new, exciting or coming soon to PerformanceBike.com – here’s a quick roundup of our first 4 weeks of videos, featuring bikes and gear for every cyclist.

Week 1

This week’s gear: Sidi Wire Carbon Road Shoes, GORE Oxygen SO Women’s Jacket, Skratch Labs Exercise Hydration Drink Mix and the Charge Filter Apex Cyclocross Bike.

Week 2

This week’s gear: Louis Garneau Course SpeedZone vest, Giro Sonnet Women’s Helmet, Shimano Dura-Ace ST-9000 Shifters, Zipp 202 Firecrest Carbon Clincher Road Wheels and the Charge Cooker Single Speed Mountain Bike.

Week 3

This week’s gear: Charge Bikes Mortar Pub Bike, Feedback Sports Recreational Work Stand, Sidi Drako Mountain Bike Shoes, Light & Motion Seca 750 Headlight and Shimano Dura-Ace BR-9000 Brakes.

Week 4

This week’s gear: Dakine Juniper Women’s jersey, Dakine Tempest Women’s Short, Dakine Shield Jacket, Dakine Charger Crew Jersey, Time ATAC XC8, XC6 & XC4 Mountain Bike pedals, and the Van Dessel Gin & Trombones Disc Cyclocross Bike.

Holiday Gift Ideas

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Since we’re in the holiday spirit here at Performance Bicycle, we decided to take a stroll around our home office to find out what some of our coworkers recommended for the cyclist on your gift list. We talked to folks from accounting to merchandising to discover some great cycling gift ideas, even if you’re just shopping for yourself!

First up are a few ideas from Alison, a merchandise planner in our components division, and also a budding road cyclist.

1. What is your favorite piece of cycling gear that you used this year?

I love my Diadora Women’s Aerospeed 2 road shoes:

And I don’t have this Selle Italia Women’s Diva Gel Flow saddle, but I rode it on a friend’s bike and it was great – I need to get one!

2. What is a great stocking stuffer product for a cyclist?

Forté Grip-Tec handlebar tape is perfect for any road cyclist.

3. How about another holiday gift idea – non-cycling related?

I haven’t been very good this year, but I would like some Frye Harness 12R boots.

Zach is a merchandise assistant on our clothing team who loves to ride anything with 2 wheels – he’s going to learn how to jump on a dirt bike next.

1. What is your favorite piece of cycling gear that you used this year?

I got to test-ride some Zipp 303 Firecrest Carbon Clincher front & rear road wheels – they are awesome.

DSC_01202. What is a great stocking stuffer product for a cyclist?

The Blackburn VIP SL Ride Wallet comes in handy when you want to stuff your phone or credit card in a sweaty jersey pocket.

3. How about another holiday gift idea – non-cycling related?

A ukulele, just because.

Alicia is our clothing product developer, responsible for the design and fit of our private label apparel – but she really loves to hit the trails on her mountain bike.

1.  What is your favorite piece of cycling gear that you used this year?

The Performance Women’s Thermal long sleeve jersey is great for cold-weather riding.


2.  What is a great stocking stuffer product for a cyclist?

Extra CO2 cartridges are always appreciated by the cyclist on your list.

3.  How about another holiday gift idea – non-cycling related?

I love it if my friends donate to a local charity on my behalf.

Johnny is a merchandise assistant for our components group, and all-around fast guy on any bike that you put him on, be it road, mountain or whatever.

1. What is your favorite piece of cycling gear that you used this year?

The Rock Shox Reverb Adjustable Seatpost is really useful and dependable.

2.  What is a great stocking stuffer product for a cyclist?

Stan’s sealant is a must if you want to go tubeless (and you should).


3. How about another holiday gift idea – non-cycling related?

Some sweet socks from Stance.

Michal works in our accounting department, and is a regular fixture on our lunch time road rides.

1. What is your favorite piece of cycling gear that you used this year?

Other than my bike….. I’d have to say Speedplay Light Action road pedals:

However, I do love my Pearl Izumi Thermal leg warmers. Couldn’t ride this time of year without them.


2. What is a great stocking stuffer product for a cyclist?

Everybody loves a good tail light (especially for this time of year) or one of those cool little multi tools.

3. How about another holiday gift idea – non-cycling related?

Socks, socks and more socks. Preferably Smartwool!  [ed.: apparently you can't go wrong with socks!]

smartwool

Mark is a member of our product development team – so riding his bike and testing new gear is one of his job requirements!

1. What is your favorite piece of cycling gear that you used this year?

The internal clutch on the Shimano XTR Shadow+ rear derailleur really works to reduce chain slap on my mountain bike.

2. What is a great stocking stuffer product for a cyclist?

Dumonde Tech Original bicycle chain lube works to keep your bike running smoothly, and every cyclist wants that!

3. How about another holiday gift idea – non-cycling related?

Foothill’s Brewing Olde Rabbit’s Foot Imperial Stout – it’s hard to find, but oh so delicious.

Product Profile: Zipp 303 Firecrest Carbon Clinchers

Zipp Speed Weaponry has been making innovative carbon wheels since 1988, when they manufactured their very first disc wheels in their factory in Indiana. Zipp‘s founder, Leigh Sargeant, started off building components for Formula One racing cars, but moved into the cycling world when he saw the opportunity to apply his knowledge of carbon and making things go fast. Ever since those first disc wheels, Zipp wheels have been proudly made in Indiana – here’s Scott from SRAM (Zipp‘s parent company) to explain how their “made in the USA” claim is no exaggeration:

Zipp 303 Firecrest Carbon Clincher Wheelsets (available as separate front & rear wheels) are the latest all-around performers from the speed masters at Zipp – and they’re already proven winners at pro cycling’s most demanding races. Triathlons, criteriums, breakaways, field sprints, or even Grand Tour mountain stages – 303s excel in any environment. That even includes the cobbled surfaces of the Spring Classics, where this year Tom Boonen has been dominating proceedings on Zipp 303s (tubular front and rear models, in his case).

Boonen E3

Tom Boonen at E3 Prijs Vlaanderen 2012 - Tim De Waele - Cycling

So what makes the Zipp 303 Firecrest Carbon Clincher Wheelset special? It’s been completely redesigned with Firecrest shaping that has been designed specifically to account for the differences in airflow patterns between clincher tires and tubulars, so it far exceeds the aero performance of any other clincher wheelset in its class. It features a wider design that puts more rubber on the road during cornering (but without increasing rolling resistance) and a unique vibration-damping technology that reduces rider fatigue and improves handling. You can see the special Firecrest shape in the cutaway view below:

The Firecrest shape is more aerodynamic than any other rim design, improving handling in crosswinds and enhancing wheel strength and overall ride quality. The 45mm rim depth of the 303 Firecrest Carbon Clincher is a classic all-around performer and the patented Advanced Boundary Layer Control (ABLC) dimpled pattern smooths airflow across the rim’s surface.

Plus a wider distance between hook beads gives the tire a more stable shape without adding rolling resistance, in one of the lightest deep-profile carbon clinchers available (the entire 303 Firecrest Carbon Clincher Wheelset comes in under 1500g).

To complete the package, Zipp has refined its venerable 88/188 hubset, reshaping the hub body and pushing the non-drive-side flange and bearing out by 7.5 mm on the rear hub to increase overall stiffness and strength.

All of these features are combined in the Zipp 303 Firecrest Carbon Clincher Wheelset to create a wheelset that is perfect for the serious recreational rider or the hardcore racer who demands the ultimate in speed and performance for climbing, descending, sprinting or cornering! Here’s Eric, our component product manager, with his video review of the 303 Firecrest Carbon Clincher Wheelset:

Keep an eye out for Zipp 303 Firecrest Carbon wheels on the famous cobbles of this weekend’s treacherous Paris-Roubaix – where only equipment that combines speed, light weight, and utter reliability make the cut for the pro’s bikes. And check out the rest of the Zipp wheel lineup on PerformanceBike.com!

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