How do you best train for climbs in a flat area? I am aiming to tackle some UK climbs in N. Yorks and the Lakes come autumn but I only have access to the flat local countryside at the moment. I don’t have any specialist equipment to quantify power output (e.g. power meter) or proxy measures of exercise intensity (e.g. pulse meter). The image below describes the most hilly circuit I can access nearby.

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I have read around the topic from the following sources:

http://roadcyclinguk.com/how-to/cycling-fitness-tips-climbing-drills.html http://road.cc/content/forum/27585-training-hills-when-you-live-flat http://www.kingstonwheelers.co.uk/coaching4.shtml http://www.bicycling.com/training-nutrition/training-fitness/no-climb-climbing-bike-workout [this offers a suggested workout]

And the key pieces of information seem to be as follows:

  1. Lose weight to improve power to weight ratio.
  2. Optimize the bike for climbing by selecting appropriate gears etc.
  3. Use a turbo trainer (not possible for me)
  4. Train abroad (not possible for me)
  5. Practice sprints into a headwind in a big gear – aiming for development of quads and core
  6. TT training – you spend a similar amount of time at a similar power output as used in longer in alpine climbs.
  7. Train on any climb available with a bike loaded shopping.
  8. Practice good pedal technique – on a hill every pedal stroke will count due to the heavier load.
  9. Interval training at lactate threshold (difficult to characterise without specialist equipment)

With all this said I am still unsure how to make the best of the short climbs I have locally. Is it best to practice in low or high gears? Is it worth trying to tack on a short sprint at the summit of these climsb?

  • "Use a turbo trainer (not possible for me)" - Why not? This has been a miracle worker for me (+ trainerroad/sufferfest) Jul 13, 2014 at 13:10
  • See if you can't find some road, if only a quarter mile, that has a challenging slope, then go up, down, up, down, up, down, up ... Jul 13, 2014 at 13:41
  • @RitchMelton pure lack of funds sadly. I might be able to get one around xmas time but that's bit late.
    – user12879
    Jul 13, 2014 at 13:55
  • @DanielRHicks this was my idea with the circuit. I guess the question is about getting the most from it. Part of the problem is I only really feel like I'm pushing it towards the last 1/4 of the hill. As soon as I feel like I'm really working I'm out of climb!
    – user12879
    Jul 13, 2014 at 13:56
  • I vaguely recall seeing, in a cycling magazine maybe 30 years ago, a setup that consisted of a second set of brakes that could be set to exert a constant drag, for training purposes. Would, of course, wear out your brake parts quite rapidly. Jul 13, 2014 at 18:56

2 Answers 2


Can you measure your cadence? (The answer to this is that you can, even if you have to resort to counting strokes and looking at your watch. But a computer will make it easier.)

On the flat, try riding in a high gear and at a high cadence, as much as you are able.

This should translate to lower gear / high cadence when climbing (which is what you want).

A word of warning though, riding in too high a gear can cause knee pain, which isn't good. So you're basically looking for a threshold - the highest gear you can manage, while maintaining a decent cadence (say, 70 to start with, but ideally higher) and without it being painful.

Something you won't be able to reproduce is the heat - climbs can get very hot as there often isn't much airflow. But as you say you're riding in Yorkshire that shouldn't be a problem ;-)

  • Thanks for this advice. I can measure cadence although only manually at the moment. I think I have a reasonably good feeling for cadence generally. Yep, Yorkshire will probably have rain!
    – user12879
    Jul 13, 2014 at 22:13
  • @user12879 also, be aware of how long the climbs are. I normally ride in the New Forest (quite flat) and got a shock when I rode in Mallorca because the 1km climbs I was used to were suddenly 6km climbs. Same kind of gradients just a lot longer.
    – PeteH
    Jul 14, 2014 at 6:16

You should focus on sustained efforts of 12 min to 1 hour. While specialized equipment; e.g. heart rate and power meters, can be helpful in maintaining motivation and gauging if you're backing off your effort, they aren't required. You can use RPE, rate of perceived exertion. Its also helpful to find a route of about 1 hour and challenge yourself to match or beat your best time every week or so. Similarly you could use a fixed segment to do intervals of ~12 min. Do several repeats in one session and try to get faster each time.

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