Hill climbing, endurance training, etc...

So last night I finally started on my long planned hill climb training :astonished:

Yeah, my legs are hammered today, but anyway…

I used to be a long distance biker, so I know what I’d like to do on a uni, but since we only have the one gear it is a bit more challenging.

I’m running 165’s on a 36er, but I have 175’s which I previously used and found to be very powerful, though I’m hesitant to use them since they are kinda long for spinning flats and downhills.

What are folks doing for their hill training?
How steep and sustained are folks riding on their 36ers?
How long can folks ride “out of the saddle” while climbing hills?
Is their a correlation in terms of wheel inches to bicycles in order to get a sense for how my current set up compares to a 700c/29" single speed bike?

My goal is to be able to ride out of the saddle like I did on a bike, but strangely it seems harder on a unicycle :roll_eyes:

I ride 150’s on my 36er and train at local park/forest which is full of gravel roads and some single track and is very hilly! I don’t know exactly how steep they are but steepest of them are not rideable (even on smaller wheels w/ long cranks). I haven’t been riding for very long, soon about 3 years of active cokering but I have been riding to work this summer almost daily with 36er and there’s one steepish and quite long hill that takes me about 30-45 secs of “out of the saddle”-riding to get up. Oh, and I couldn’t make it with a b*ke which I had to use one day when I broke my pedals :smiley: It used to be a pain with a uni but now I sure could handle longer ones, shame that there are none near to where I live :frowning:

Lately I have been trying to hold on to the handlebar with both hands when I climb hills out of the saddle. I can’t do it now, but I believe I will be able to climb steeper hills if I manage to learn this. Does anyone here use this technique?

Not sure if you are being sarcastic here or not, but riding out of saddle on a bike you can distribute more weight on your handlebars. Even if you have “handlebars” on your Uni, you can’t lean on them with the same amount of force you could on a bike.

I’ve tried to get used to it but didn’t find it more efficient. But I’d also like to hear opinions from people who know that technique! And then how much handles can make difference to that? If talking of the regular seat handle, custom made muni handles (like Nurse Ben’s), T7, KH T-bar etc…

I’ve got this hill climb route I regularly do on foot and by unicycle. It climbs 600’ over ~1.75 miles on medium to small gauge gravel. The climb consists of two stages, the first lasts about 3/4 of a mile which climbs straight up and is the steepest and most washed out, probably 1/3 of the total climb is here. The next half mile is gradually downhill to slightly uphill and the last half mile climbs the remaining elevation but is at an average grade easier than the first climb though there are short sections (50-60 feet) that get steeper and looser.

Anyhow I’ve been able to ride my 36er with 150mm cranks all the way up w/o stopping or any UPDs a few times. On the lower steeper part of the road I’m out of the saddle most of the way then take a break in the middle third and am mostly out of the saddle again on the last half mile with short breaks. I found it much easier to climb this route in either my 24er (137mm cranks) or my old 26er (150mm cranks) as the wheels were much lighter and quicker to respond. The key for me was to just take it half a crank at a time. When I tried to approach my climbing like I do on my bicycle I quickly would redline and fail. For me the slow and steady approach did wonders to help my climbing ability. So with this approach I can be out of the saddle a long time.

I do this quite frequently. Having a bit more leverage on the slightly longer “moment arm” seems to have really helped my climbing enormously, especially while riding in high gear on my GUni. I definitely believe the addition of a handlebar to my KH24 GUni (KH touring bar) really has made all the difference. I’ll admit it did take some getting used to at first but now I can’t imagine not riding or climbing hills without it. It helps me get out over the saddle a bit more like you would climbing on a bicycle and I feel like I can generate a lot more power simply because of the improved body position. Climbing with just the saddle handle limits your power and body position and for me it made climbing much more difficult.

I have a 40 mile route where I go from the North side of Madison (my house) down through the isthmus and back. In total, it is 3600’ of climbing, which I find absolutely ridiculous. Madison is not a flat place…

Anyway, the hills typically aren’t sustained for long, they’re just short, frequent and steep. I get up most of them running 102mm cranks on my Coker. I ordered 87mm cranks a few days ago because I’m now training for a double century, and as soon as I get out of the city, everything gets flatter on the bike path.

Hill climbing involves a lot of technique I think. I had trouble with hills with the 125s I had initially, then I got comfortable and developed good technique, and when I got 102s I didn’t experience any noticeable rise in stress while climbing. It was just like before.

A little scarcastic of course, but I still have this dream of regaining some level of my biking skills on a unicycle.

I have a handle bar, but it’s for muni, so I use it for balance and pulling UP; it’s not really set up for resting weight like a bicycle. I have used a KH T Bar in the past, so that’s an option, though I wonder if I could rest on the bar (like a bike) while climbing out of the seat…anyone able to do this effectivley?

I can ride out of teh saddle at very low speeds on the 36er, as slow or slower than I can on a bike, the problem is that I want to ride out of the saddle longer. I realize some of this is building tolerance, but I was hoping for some “insight” into what others have been able to achieve. On a bike I have ridden all of the big mountain passes in the USA with full panniers, so I know how to climb.

The hills I can ride in a seated position are not the issue, those I can do more of less as needed. The hard hills, the ones that would require out of the seat climbing on a bike, those are the ones I want to climb.

So what’s the longest block of “time” folks can ride out of the saddle while climbing?

I’ll say it’s between 1 and 2 minutes but only because haven’t been able to try for longer and it’s not very comfortable when riding on flat.

Pretty much all of my rides are hill climbing and endurance training! I’m getting better and better at standing off the saddle and pumping through steep stuff, but nowhere near the ability I’m hoping for. Cardio is also holding me back. I use a KH T-bar out pretty long, pull up on the end for climbing, with the brake closer in on the straight section.
Last night’s ride followed this route, with about 1,700 feet of climbing:

Standing is usually just for a couple minutes, but I’m often able to go back and forth between standing and sitting. The long handle is really helpful for standing out of the saddle on climbs.
I’m 6’4", riding a KH29 with 165’s. I haven’t been doing much on the 36 lately, but when I do it’s with 152’s and mostly paved for serious climbing (I’ve kept off road on the 36 to easier rolling xc trails so far).

Yes, yes, I ride hills all the time, I have no choice because I live in a very hilly area. What I’m talking about is riding up hills that are really steep, so steep that even a fit biker would ride them standing and a recreational rider would walk.

So back to the Tbar…I have ridden one and I remember using it to rest my hands and take some pressure off my bum, but I don’t know that I could use it like a biker would use their handlebars, i.e. resting a significant amount of my upper body while the lower body cranks.

My impression is that with enough weight on the bar, that it’ll force the uni forward, so then I have to compensate by pushing the frame back. This does not seem to be ideal for out of the seat cranking wich requires a more upright body position. I suppose I could run the Tbar “tall or upright”, almost like a riser bar on one of those “old person” recreational bikes.

Anyone have pics of climbing “out of the seat” with a 36er while using a TBar?

I’m just trying to decide if it’s worth the $$ to get another one; I sold the last one.

Ah. No, I feel that I get plenty of uphill punishment on my usual rides, although I’ll pick more or less steep trails at various times. I don’t seek out climbs just for the climb, but rather to earn the downhill and for an overall fun/balanced ride.

Re T-bar use: My T-bar is essentially horizontal. I rest some weight on it when on flatish sections, including moderate climbing. Up to a certain point, leaning the uni forward helps me spin forward, even on climbs. When it gets steeper than that point, I actually pull up on the end of the T-bar to help put weight on the pedals, while also enabling me to lean forward a little to keep forward momentum. For more technical sections, I can still use the seat handle or the straight section of the T-bar. However, I’m noticing that I like having my gripping hand out in front more and more, even for rougher territory (this may have to do with having long torso and arms(?)). For steep downhills, I have the brake handle on the straight section, so my hand is closer in to the saddle, and also has benefit of not needing a spooner (although a spooner can still be used).

A few months ago I was working on a killer hill in my neighborhood, it’s about 1/3 of a mile of steep. It’s definitely a granny gear standing grind on a b*ke for me, I rarely see anyone riding it. My goal was to do it on my 29er w/150s. I spent a good month hitting it, at first once a week (then I was too sore to ride for a few days), then twice a week, then 3 times a week. I went from only being able to go half way up to about 2/3rds of the way… Then hit a wall and finally gave up, but it is still on my mind to conquer.

I would start in my saddle trying to keep my cadence moderate, body relaxed as possible and flowing. About 100 yards into it I have to switch to standing. I would only get another 100 yards or so then would be huffing and puffing too much to keep going.

As for training, do I just keep working on “the hill” or do I find smaller hills and do them over and over several times? ‘Luckily’ in my neighborhood there is no shortage of hills.


Does it get steeper at “the wall”? Is this an out of the saddle crank or can you stay in the saddle? Have you tried starting on the hilll, essentially cheating the hill, but once you get to the top by shortening the bottom, it might feel “doable”. Have you tried 165 cranks? How about a handle?

Tire pressure/tire choice, go with a road tire at high pressure…

My hill is a mile long, starts with a bang straight up, but I can get that first grade, so then it flattens to a less steep hill which gives me a sorta breather, then I hit the long double super steep hill. The second grade is what got me last night, made it half way, then stepped off; my legs almost didn’t catch me :astonished:

I’m trying to find a KH Tbar, UDC USA is sold out, UDC Canada wants $95 for the bar plus $25 for shipping, so I’m checking with UDC UK…

Yeah, the wall is the steepest part, starting higher on the hill sounds like a good idea. Maybe start right before it gets super steep and see if I can make the 2nd half of the hill.

I’m so used to riding with the knobby, I really like the stability and feel of it. I put a more road type of tire on it and pumped it up a bunch and hated the way it felt, such a hard ride… Also it didn’t seem to make much difference in my climbing ability.

I’m using the handle you made :wink:

Hill climbing on a unicycle? Let’s consult the Masters:

For $95 you can get a Nimbus Shadow Handle to match that Impulse frame! I liked mine so much I bought another when I built my geared 36er. Compared to the Tbar on my KH29, the Shadow feels more like “a part of the unicycle” (because it is) rather than a flimsy afterthought bolted under your saddle. Sorry Kris, I know that’s harsh but it’s true. Especially in it’s fully extended position which is where you want your hands to get the kind of leverage the OP is looking for. My spooner brake lever is mounted way out on the end of the curved section of a Shadow handlebar so that my left hand never needs to leaves it. Did I mention the Shadow is adjustable? And, it’s wider (at the T)! Aren’t you a wider is better kind of guy? Get a Shadow! You won’t regret it.

As for training to climb, riding big hills on my 36er on the road “is” my way of training to ride smaller wheels uphill off-road.

As for holding on with both hands, I do that to square my shoulders for speed to get a running start (short cranks help with this as well) but end moving my right hand in a runners motion when things get tough.

Personally I have found that I am more efficient on a bike and unicycle when I remain seated. Although standing feels more efficient, I expend more energy for less distance traveled when standing. In my experience I can keep a faster average speed if I change gears instead of standing (on a bike, I can’t speak for gears on a uni.) For mUni it is definitely necessary to do some standing, however, when I’m riding on paved surfaces I try not to stand too much. I can get into a better rhythm going uphill on my uni if I remain seated, often the inertia helps me keep a better cadence and I can climb more quickly than if I were standing. Plus, standing kinda hurts my knees. Just my 2 cents…