Hill training for us flat landers

I rode my first RAGBRAI in 2014. I knew there would be some hills so I did my best to train for them. This can be quite a challenge in Florida. I was fortunate enough to be working in Daytona Beach at the time so my hill training consisted of riding the three high rise bridges over the Halifax River five days a week. Once my son and I got to Iowa we quickly learned the difference between Florida flat and Iowa flat. The first 2 days were absolute torture. The rest of the ride wasn’t bad. I have since retired and now live in the Orlando area. No hills of any sort to train on. I can still do my distances but I now know how the terrain will effect my riding. I would really like to be better prepared this time. Any ideas on how to “make” some hills in Florida?

10 Replies

KenH, February 24, 2016 at 10:17 am

In northern Illinois hills are a bit hard to come by, but they can be found. At least part of the time I try to make the most of them by attacking them when I come upon one and then relaxing a bit until the next one. Kinda of an ad hoc form of interval training. I know what you mean though. During a family visit to central Illinois last summer I went on a 25 mile ride to pick up a few miles of training on gravel roads to build skill and confidence for last year’s gravel loop. Mission accomplished on the primary goal. When I got back however, my Garmin informed me that I had climbed 100 feet in those 25 miles. So about 4 feet per mile, no way to train for Iowa!!!

One trick that people use with success is to intentionally go out on windy days, the windier the better, and ride into the wind as much as you can. Wind is a lot like hills so this should help a lot. If you have enough windy days.

One of my riding buddies had little time to train last year and he adopted a plan that did seem to work at least as well for him as my training did for me since he was beating me on the hills as often as I was beating him. His plan? Take the stairs, a lot. As much as possible. So if nothing else maybe you can find a tall building near you and do some stair climbing.


jeffreydennis, February 24, 2016 at 7:18 pm

find wind. ride into wind. I’d rather beat up a hill than head win any day.


gene.moore, April 27, 2016 at 10:32 am

Lake Wales, Brooksville or closer to you, Mount Dora are your best bets. That’s about the best we’ve got. Good Luck


Gypsy Rose, April 27, 2016 at 3:42 pm

When I roll out of my driveway, I don’t have to take a single pedal stroke over the 2.8 miles between me and the nearest paved road. Turning back up, however, I gain 1000 feet while returning home over those same 2.8 miles.

Some days I wish I had flat roads to ride, but the Vermont hills sure are beautiful, even when they’re kickin’ my arse.

~ Kevin


pmac, April 28, 2016 at 8:44 am

Tough to prepare for hills if you don’t have any In addition to the bridges and wind, you might find some multistory downtown parking garages that are empty on the weekends you can ride up.


Paula Trodahl, June 23, 2016 at 1:13 am

Hey Kevin (Gypsy Rose),

How does your altitude prepare you vs. the humidity factor? Does the altitude training have any advantage other than your 1000 ft. climbs to your driveway?


Jack in VA, July 8, 2016 at 3:24 am

I’ve been riding a fixed gear bike for about 10 years now, and the one thing that helps the most for climbing is to PULL UP on the pedals while climbing. You’re using a different group of muscles when pulling as opposed to pushing, and although those muscles may burn a little bit when you first start focusing on doing it, they strengthen up quite quickly.
Focus on a combination “Push / Pull” with opposite legs, aiming towards a completely smooth circular power stroke. You will be amazed how much easier the climbs become when you use this technique.

If you get a chance to do SPIN classes, that is a perfect opportunity to work on your pedal stroke and technique.

See you in 2 weeks!


powellpd, November 16, 2016 at 10:58 am

I live in The Villages, Florida. If you want to train on hills in Florida that are a real challenge, ride in Clermont, Florida. The Horrible Hundred is scheduled for this weekend and is as tough as you can get. There are hills from 14-18% grade. The toughest I have ridden is “The Wall” which has a short segment of 18%. All the hills have names, so you know you better be prepared!! They have shorter rides like 70 and 35 miles if you’re not up for 100 miles. I guarantee you will have a hill workout that gets your attention. I rode RAGBRAI this past July and it was extremely hilly. I did fine because I rode in Mt. Dora and Clermont. Don’t get me wrong, I was exhausted at the end of each day, but the route for 2017 will probably not be as bad as it was this year. Another was to build up endurance and your legs is to do intervals. Look up the procedure of how to do them on the internet. Hope this advice helps. Pam


Nico ZZZ, November 16, 2016 at 12:27 pm

Living in Miami, we have one “hill”: it is the Key Biscayne bridge. I don’t practice there though, as too many riders have been killed by drivers – too common. I train on the flat safe Everglades, riding on a 15 mile loop in a park free of cars, only the occasional tourist tram, and a dozen or so alligators that you swing around at 20mph.

I rode OK in my first: Ragbrai 2014, was out in 2015 with injury, and was back for this last hilly one. I rode better this time, even though I had less training miles in the saddle because I had trained in a gym. We focused on my core: lots of planking, push ups, weight lifting, elastic band work, squats and more squats. I rode so much easier this year because I was peddling from my gut/core. A complete difference from 2014. I have continued to train in my mancave with weights, heavy bag and speed bag, and riding on the weekends. I can’t wait to be even stronger this next year. July is my favorite month of the year!!!
Ride On!


John Fontaine, January 14, 2017 at 8:00 am

I am in north Louisiana. We have little, ok tiny, hills here. I just repeat on them. It is easy to do and lengthens my rides. I have had no problem on the hills on RAGBRAI, this year will be my 5th. The discipline I use to turn back and ride our “tough” hills here over and over preps me for Iowa.


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