Can You Really Put Out More Power On Climbs?

Can You Really Put Out More Power On Climbs?


– Why is it that it seems so much easier, both physically but also mentally, to hold high power on
a climb than on a flat? – You what? – Well it’s something I noticed back in the day when I was racing, was that I could hold higher
power for longer, uphill. – I’m not having any of that. See, I am absolutely convinced I can do more power on the
flat than I can uphill. I think we need to investigate this. – Before I got a power
meter, I used to think that this difference
was just a poor excuse by climbers who were
crap at time trialing, or sprinters who hate climbing. – Well it is certainly plausible that it is an imagined power discrepancy. However, the explanation lies in the difference between
power to weight ratio and power to drag ratio. Both of these are key factors in determining cycling performance. – But then I did finally get a power meter and I realized that I really couldn’t hold the same power on the flat as uphill. Well I was a bit annoyed so I
thought I’ll just try harder. And I tried harder and
I still couldn’t do it. I thought I was just being lazy. Maybe it was just the time trial bike and perhaps in an aero position I just couldn’t put out the same power. But then I tried doing time
trial intervals uphill, yep, on the aero bars,
and I could still get a higher power than on the flat. And if my body was
capable of that many watts uphill for 45 minutes, why
couldn’t I do it in a time trial? It was really annoying. – Maybe the answer lies in motivation? Perhaps some riders subconsciously put out less effort on the terrain they
know they’re not as good at? I mean, I don’t think
it’s the full explanation, but it could play a part. – Hmm, that’s worrying. One theory is that it’s
purely about gradient. So, when your bike is
at a different angle, it’s easier to put out more power. But that seems funny to me
because if that were true, wouldn’t we just change our
bike position on the flat? – Hmm, maybe. Another answer lies in
physics and physiology. The science of pedaling uphill is different to pedaling on the the flat. And the difference is, kinetic energy and muscular movement patterns. – Kinetic energy is the energy
you have due to your speed, so when you’re going
faster you have more of it. Much more actually, because kinetic energy is proportional to the
square of your speed. – So for example, when you’re on a flat, the kinetic energy contained
in you and your bike will be much higher than on a climb, when you’re more likely
to be going slower. – That kinetic energy is what helps you to overcome what’s slowing you down. So, drag and rolling
resistance on the flat. – [Chris] Whereas on the climb, you also have gravity working against you, as well as rolling resistance and drag. Also, you have less kinetic energy. – So if, for example, you were
to stop pedaling on the flat, you don’t slow down that much. Whereas, if you stop pedaling on a climb, you slow down really fast. – Emma come on, that
was seriously obvious. – Okay yeah I know, but bear with me, there’s more to it than that. (rock music) When you’re doing an effort, and trying to hold a certain power, whether it’s on the flat or uphill, then obviously you don’t
deliberately stop pedaling. But there is a dead spot
in your pedal stroke where effectively, you do stop pedaling. – Yeah, on the flat though, your bike and you roll
through that dead spot without any notable slowing down. So, you only have a very short moment in which to fire your muscles
to keep your speed topped up. – Whereas, on a climb, you
actually have to put out power around way more of the pedal stroke to keep the bike moving forward (panting) and stop yourself from stopping
or even going backwards. – So even while pedaling
at the same cadence, how you pedal on a climb
versus how you pedal on a flat is completely different. Your muscular movement patterns
are the main difference. – Yeah, and physiologically
what that means is that you need lots of
fast-twitch muscle fibers to fire your muscles fast enough to put out a high power on the flat. – Yeah, and for big, long, hard climbs, your slow-twitch muscle fibers will be more suited to getting
up those big mountains. – That would make sense, because I reckon I am about as slow-twitch
as it gets! (laughs) – Maybe that’s just because you never trained your
fast-twitch fibers, Emma. – Yep, that is also a
plausible explanation! I didn’t much like training
sprinting. (laughs) I guess it’s a good point,
that a lot of people train for what they’re already good at, rather than training at
what they’re weaker at. So, although I probably had a genetic predisposition
to be slow-twitch, I think I reinforced it over the years. – Yeah, and with all the training I did to focus on the flat races
that I wanted to excel in, I guess I just built up loads
of fast-twitch muscle fibers which made me pretty useless at slogging myself up a big climb. – Guess it’s just courses
for horses, isn’t it? Can I sit on your wheel on the
way back to the hotel please? – Only if you promise to
drag me up the next climb. – Okay, deal. I hope this video helps you
to feel better about yourself if you thought that you sucked at riding either on the flat or uphill. – And maybe it will even help
you improve the discipline that weren’t so great at. – If you’d like to see how
to train for steep climbs you can click down here for this video. – Make sure you give us a big thumbs up, subscribe to the channel, and
check out the shot down here.