By Bill Roland –
Climb!, a recently written book by Bicycling Magazine’s fitness columnist Selene Yeager, is filled with facts, opinions, and suggested training plans that will undoubtedly help you become a better climber. She states in the introduction, “I have made it much of my life’s work to learn as much about climbing as possible. Climb! is the culmination of 20 years of studying, training, racing, coaching, interviewing, absorbing, seemingly endless rambling and ruminating, and ultimately accumulating all the climbing know-how I could.”
She shares not only her hard-earned expertise but also wisdom and advice from exercise physiologists, cycling coaches, nutrition experts, and widely known amateur and professional climbers to help riders from all capacities make a marked improvement in their ability and confidence to conquer the art of climbing hills on their bicycles.
Selene gets right to the point in the first chapter by stating that the more you climb, the greater the rewards—on and off the bike. She breaks down what’s happening to your body on a climb. Your average 15-minute climb is the equivalent of doing 1,200 leg presses to the top. Your heart has to work harder to supply oxygen and blood where it’s needed. This allows your muscle cells to have all the blood they need to get ample amounts of oxygen and nutrients to produce energy. All the oxygen being used by your energy-producing furnaces has to come from somewhere, and that somewhere is your respiratory system. Selene explains that climbing is as much mental training as it is physical. She devotes an entire chapter on brain-training techniques such as self-talk, visualization, and focus.
Selene offers a presentation of the physics involved in pedaling uphill – basically what must be done to counter gravity. She explains when and how to climb both seated and out of the saddle. Cadence is a toss-up between legs versus your lungs. Selene shows the difference between bigger gear, slower pedaling and lower gear, high speed spinning style. She also explains the four types of climbs and how to attack them.
Perhaps the most influential climbing information in the book is the various interval drills that will help riders of every classification. There are steady-style, threshold, and climbing intervals to name just a few.
She also presents a variety of stretching and weight-training drills that can be done in the riding season or during the winter months. In the high-intensity interval training (HIIT) category, the reader will learn about fast acting, punchy ups, full-recovery full throttle, hill and power surges, big gear acceleration and ramp intervals. The selection allows riders a variety of training methods to choose from – boredom will never be a factor.
In addition to gear ratio and rationales, the writer provides information and tips on how to set up your bicycle. Next, she tells us how to eat on and off the bike and why not to get hung up on weight.
A section entitled “Get Hill Strong” gives riders some drills that include “hill repeats” which will address all of our hill-climbing needs. And she doesn’t forget to include some valuable tips on how to descend the hills that we have conquered. Despite keeping the reader focused on the task of becoming a better climber, Selene inserted some humor at just the right time. After thousands of miles ascending on her bicycle and hundreds of hours putting her thoughts on paper, Selene realized that a chuckle here and there will keep the reader on the right trail.
The final chapter focuses on training plans and climbing challenges. Included are four, eight, and twelve-week plans that give riders suggested training rides for each day. Selene summed up the entire message in her book while she was describing different intervals. She wrote, “It’s a no-brainer. If you want to get better at climbing, you climb!”
Climb! was extremely well written and covered all the aspects of ‘how to climb.’ As a matter of fact, that could have very well been the title since it was definitely a ‘how to’ book. Whether the reader is a newcomer to cycling or someone who has been riding for 20 years, all riders will pick up a few pearls that will make ascending up hills a little bit more comfortable and a lot more enjoyable.
Climb! By Selene Yeager, Publisher: Hearst Magazines Inc., New York, New York, 2018. ISBN: 978-1-63565-209-3