This post could change your cycling forever.
Everybody knows that in order to climb hills effectively on your bike you need a good power to weight ratio. Most blog posts on this topic will then continue to bore you to death with lots of fancy equations. It’s actually much simpler than that.
Whilst I am determined not to bore you to death with any equations whatsoever, it is important to grasp the basic fundamental principles at work here.
Dummies guide to the physics of power to weight ratio for cyclists.
It takes energy to move anything with mass up a hill. The more mass the object has the more energy it will take.
In terms of ourselves as cyclists and our bikes, it becomes fairly obvious that the heavier a rider (plus their bike) is, the more energy it’s going to take to get him or her up the hill.
But of course, weight isn’t the only variable. Some riders are stronger/more powerful than others.
Looking at the diagram above, we can imagine four distinct “types”.Lightweight riders who are very weak or lightweight riders who are very strong. Conversely you can have heavy riders who are also very strong or heavy riders who are very weak. In reality, the division between boxes isn’t so black and white. It’s a spectrum, and at this point it’s useful to imagine where you might place yourself in terms of light/heavy and weak/strong.It should be fairly obvious by now that the best combination for climbing hills will be a lightweight rider who is also very strong. A heavier, weaker rider has no chance against a lighter, stronger rider.
At some level, a strong rider who is also heavy, will climb at a similar rate to one who is lighter but weaker.
This is the essence of power to weight ratios, and you don’t need fancy formulae to understand it, nor do you need fancy tech kit like power meters to be proactive about improving yours.
How do we use this to get better at cycling up hills?
So it’s possible to improve your own climbing on the bike without necessarily knowing any details about your actual power output (no expensive power meters required), if we simply work on the principle that we need to become more light weight and if possible also improve our strength.
The simplest way to achieve this for most people is to lose some weight, but preferably in such a way as to ensure that one does not also lose muscle mass. Fortunately, there are things we can do to nudge our bodies (and minds) in the right direction.
Unless you’re already a pro or semi-pro athlete, the chances are good that you’re carrying around a few useless kilograms of fat. This does nothing to help you. It slows you down on hills, and you’d be better off without it. Not only does it add extra mass, it actually demands some of your oxygen intake too. That’s just rude. Get rid of it.
Lose weight or increase strength?
Both, ideally! It’s a lot easier to lose weight than a lot of people would have you believe.
Again, no complicated formulae are necessary to understand that if you expend more energy than you take in, you will lose weight. If you consume more energy than you use up, you will get fat. It’s ridiculously simple.
So to lose weight, you just need to make sure that you’re using more energy than you eat.
The hard part, for most people, is the emotional aspect. We lack motivation, we lack discipline. We like donuts.
Having evolved over hundreds of thousands of years in environments where the next meal was never certain, our biology developed in ways that allowed us to store energy up inside our bodies. Times change quickly, and now for most of you reading this, you have such easy access to a hideous array of consumable products (notice I’m hesitant to use the word “food” there) that will provide way more energy than you actually need, that there’s a high probability that you’re already a little overweight.
Look around in any public place. Fatties everywhere. I rest my case.
Here’s TWO things you can do to maximise your chance of success
Join the ScarletFire weight-loss challenge group
This could be exactly what you need to spark some action!
Let’s face it, we all know what we need to do. But sometimes we lack motivation. It’s easier to stay in our familiar little comfort zones and carry on with the same old habits, because it requires no effort – we don’t have to think about it.
This is a CHALLENGE group, centred around a private facebook group, with a private Strava Club too.
It’s full of people who are all striving for the similar goals, and we all support each other. Because motivation and dedication is often the hardest part when you try to make big changes all by yourself.
Be deliberate about consuming more protein
You can do the weight loss thing with the help of a peer support group, or go it alone.
Either way, upping your protein is going to help you a lot, for two reasons.
Firstly, protein makes you feel fuller for longer so it seriously reduces cravings and hunger pangs.
Secondly, good quality protein will help your muscles to recover more quickly after a long hard ride, and is particularly useful when you may be riding again soon, without rest days in between.
This helps to minimise the risk of losing muscle mass. Ideally, you’re burning off the fat, building up the muscle and shifting your power to weight ratio up in to that top right box in the chart.
I use protein shakes from The Protein Works. My son enjoys working out in the gym too, and he uses their products to aid his post-workout recovery.
We like their whey protein so much, we recently bought a 4kg bag of the stuff – the largest size they sell!
Get a free 250g sample of recovery whey protein when you place your first order.