Train for real climbs & descents: difficulty & gradient setting suggestions?

Hey there,
I’m a newbie, just started. My goal with Zwift or anyway virtual training is to improve my climbing. I’m used to ride flats (btw I’ve plenty of flats nearby, so this is where I do most of my outdoor riding) and I feel to be doing OK there.

First time I’ve approached a climb however, I was surprised to see how poorly I did it. Short breath and slow cadence in a few minutes. And the fun thing is that once the climb was finished, I was OK and could easily ride back home through flats, so I was not exhausted… it was simply that the climb was too hard for me and I was probably not used to it. I’ve got better by doing some few more climbs, but I’m nowhere near I’d like to be, with other riders easily passing me right and left on any climb.

Anyway, since it’s hard for me to find climbs nearby, I want to have more frequent climb training through my virtual setup.

I’ve bought a Saris H3 and I started using Rouvy and Zwift so to decide on which to remain for my virtual trainings.

In Zwift I’ve understood that there’s this Gradient setting, where, to have an experience similar to reality, I should use 100%.

Since, as said, my performance is really poor on climbs, I want to get a relevant experience and I suppose I have to do it with 100%.

I understand that Watts are Watts (I saw some topics about this discussion), but my problem seems to be that it’s easier for me to maintain 1 Watt on a flat than 1 Watt on a climb, and so I assume that by setting difficulty at 100% I’ll get what I’m looking for.

Anyway, my question to you all is if my assumption is right, and if doing climbs with 100% difficulty setting is a good way to increase my capability to maintain power on a climb.

I will look also for some training plans about it, but right now I want to get a feel about how it is through normal riding so to quickly decide between Zwift and Rouvy.

Second question is if there’s any filter which would make easy to compare my results with people using the same difficulty/gradient settings, so to evaluate where I am vs. other users using the same training conditions, and if my ability to maintain power on climbs is really out of the average as I feel or not…

Thanks !

The trainer difficulty (TD) setting will get your 1,000,000 different answers as to what it should be set at. You are correct in that 100% TD will have the exact same feeling as IRL, however if your drive train is not geared towards climbing it might not be beneficial. If you are in the granny gear mashing at 100% TD then are you getting what you are looking for (up to each person)? Personally, as a clydesdale I have my TD set at 50% with the aim to improve my climbing skills and slowly move the TD slider up to match my IRL setup more and more. For me it’s about the fitness improvements I see within myself and spinning up a hill will keep me more motivated to stick with Zwift versus having to mash the pedals in the granny gear for 5, 7, 20 minutes or whatever the climb is.

As for your 2nd question - no there is no filter where you can see what people’s TD % is set at. The best option is probably Strava where you can look at the climb segments to see your average power versus others on the leaderboard, however it will not say what device they were using (some are inaccurate) or what TD % they were on.

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Thanks Daniel, for your reply.

The reason I want to get results similar to reality, to be honest, is that my problem with climbs was not only physical but also “mindset”: during my first few climbs with issues, I saw myself getting tired and I’ve started going into panic mode (“I will never get to the end of this climb !”) and got exhausted even faster.

In the next few real climbs I did, I tried to manage in a better way my “panic” and how to manage my “feelings” during a climb, and I’ve got better results. Now I can do the few climbs near where I live without panic (but with bad results and other riders passing me right and left).

So my goal to train on climbs is both about managing to keep consistent power as well as manage myself and my mental capability while becoming tired and not seeing the end of the climb.

I’m using the same cassette I have on my bike and I’m using my bike. Maybe a 10 speed cassette is not the best for climbs but who cares: I want to “feel” the same (phisically and mentally) I would feel in doing a climb.

This is why I was looking for the “more realistic” setting.

Then there’s the other part of it: as said about my nearby outdoor short climb, I’m finally doing it but with poor results vs the other riders I see. I want also to learn how to “race” a climb and manage myself not simply to do it, but to be “on par” with other average riders (I’m not looking to become the best, average is OK…).

This is why comparing my results with other riders with same settings would help in making me understand if I’m finally progressing to become an average climber vs. still being a poor one: again, it’s not about being the best, it’s simply to see if I’m suddenly “normal”.

The other app I’m evaluating doesn’t allow for gradient settings on races, so there it’s easy to compare myself vs the others.

I wasn’t able to do the same within Zwift, which has more users and features and so I like it, and this is why I have asked about how to do it.

Dont worry about the other riders, especially during training.

The reason is if you compare yourselves to other constantly, then effectively you are competing. Training is not a competition, making it one can have impacts on your training. Going hard is good, but you want your hard efforts truly hard, and your easy effort truly easy.

Too often people make their easy days harder, and are not recovered enough to make their hard days hard enough. I would suggest doing some research on polarized training.

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Well, the competition (or check how I’m doing against the others) is what makes training fun for me (at least if I see some progress)… this is the reason why I’m using Zwift vs indoor cycling without apps.

Anyway I understand what you say… since 4 days ago when I’ve got my H3 I had every day some virtual training (mainly on Rouvy tough) and now I’m eager to do some few more tests on Zwift but I’m not sure I should do it (legs are not yet recovered…). Will research about polarized training…

… and keep gradient setting at 100% :slight_smile: