Q & A Coach Forum: Training for Climbing in a Flat, Busy City


I’m looking for some training advice regarding hill climbing. I live in Tokyo which has few decent size hills and I’m looking to go into a couple of 160 kms and 4,000m climbs over the northern hemisphere summer (June & September). How can I best prepare for these whilst living in Tokyo? I’m a 54 years old, 85kg, 193cm office worker and have about 1 hour a day to train apart from weekends. Commuting by bike requires frequent stopping in Tokyo traffic. Occasionally I am able to escape out of Tokyo at weekends and do around 1,000m climbs. Any advise would be gratefully accepted. Kind regards, Simon in Tokyo

Head Coach Scott Saifer responds:

Hi Simon, How to train for hills when you don’t have access to hill is a common question. Fortunately not having access to hills really won’t stop you from becoming a great climber. There is no substitute for access to down hills when learning to stay on the road on mountainous descents, but the challenges of climbing can be adequately simulated on a trainer or on a flat road. There is no physiological difference between climbing and riding the flats, except for one subtle one: On the climbs it is much easier to make power all the way around the pedal circle because the pedals effectively push back on your feet. You can make yourself a better climber by:

  1. focusing on pushing forward over the top of the stroke and pulling back through the bottom of the stroke when riding flats.
  2. You are already a pretty good weight for non-competitive climbing. If you want to be the fastest guy up the hills you’ll want to lose 2-3 kg before the trip.
  3. Assuming you’ve been riding top fill your available time, adopt a schedule something like this: Monday rest day, Tuesday Warm up generously and then do two two minute intervals at LT with 5 minutes rest between, Wednesday Easy Spin for one hour. Thursday One hour at endurance heart rates (zone 2) but at 70 rpm cadence, Friday same as Wednesday, Saturday get out of town for a mostly zone 2 ride that includes lots of hills, Sunday go as long as you have time for, mostly zone 2 but mostly flat. (If this would be a sudden increase in volume or intensity, take several weeks to ramp up to this level.)

Good luck. Let us know how you progress.