How to Climb on Your Bike Like a Goat — American Fork Canyon/Sundance Loop Report

Type: Straight Uphill

Distance: 43.06 miles
Time: 2:56:34
Average Watts: 177 watts
Normative Power: 209 watts
Average Heart Rate: …
Total Work: 1,873 kJ
Average Speed: 14.6 mph

Before I get started, this data was for the whole ride. For reference purposes, one loop of the Ironman St. George bike course is only about 1,600 kJ over about 50 miles. If I posted the data just on the climb, your lungs may explode by just looking at it. Here it is:

Type: Straight Uphill
Distance: 12.67 miles
Time: 1:25:53
Average Watts: 220 watts
Normative Power: 228 watts
Average Heart Rate: …
Total Work: 1,135 kJ
Average Speed: 8.8 mph
Total Climbing: 3,005 feet

This is one of the most beautiful rides in the state. So few people get to see it because they don’t want to do the work. When you are driving uphill, you miss views like these…

And of course this one…

And even this one…

I didn’t take these, but those are the views you get when you are climbing American Fork Canyon. Just FYI, the descent takes you right by Sundance where Robert Redford runs around with his super-cool friends. Somehow I haven’t ever gotten an invite to roll with that crowd.

We started the ride at the Kohler’s in Cedar Hills for those of you who know where that is. For the uninitiated, it is almost all the way up to the start of the Canyon on Highway 92. There were four of us and we have ridden together a ton, so we are pretty evenly matched. We tried to stick together for the entire ascent, but got broken up from time to time. It was an amazing ride.

I would like to say you pace yourself up a hill like this. However, you really just redline about a mile into the ride and just keep it there. I didn’t eat the entire ascent because it is unlikely I would have absorbed anything because my heart rate was so high. It is unbelievable — I think the Ironman race taught me that even when your quads a screaming, you can really take more. Up this canyon you really have to just keep pushing more and more an more until you hit the top. As soon as you do crest this climb (which tops out at over 8,000 feet above sea level, you get treated to some killer descent. I hit 50.2 mph on the way down this one.

So here are my five simple tips on how to climb like a goat:

1. If you live in the plains, you can train for climbing using intervals. It is true — if you live in Florida you can train to climb any mountain. Incorporate 2 minute intervals into your workout schedule and you can get used to putting out the power that is required for climbing. You should extend the duration of the intervals as time goes by to prepare yourself for harder climbs.

2. If you live in the mountains, schedule a climb at least once a week. I am going to start scheduling this ride twice a month in my training calendar. I am going to put at least one pure climbing ride in my schedule each week. Climbing is physical preparation on some level for sure. But I think climbing is more mental that anything else. When you start to suffer, you need to be mentally prepared to just keep mashing the pedals.

3. Pedaling technique is not something you just talking about with your buddies. Practice your pedaling technique every chance you get. The better your circular pedaling technique, the less fatigued your legs will get fighting each other. You will be able to climb more efficiently.

4. Ride lots. If you want to get faster, you need to put in the miles. I am not talking about junk miles, but I am talking about putting your cheeks in your saddle and riding. In my experience, climbing is the first thing to go when you start to lose your form because of laziness or injury.

5. Lose the spare tire around your belly. If you really want to climb quickly and efficiently, it helps to lose that extra 10 pounds. I am 15 pounds heavier now than I was for Ironman St. George where I was only pushing 8% body fat, and I could feel every one of those pounds as I climbed. It is amazing how much people will spend to shave 100 grams off of their bike but won’t watch their diet to keep their weight down. WALK AWAY FROM THE TWINKIE!

I do have to give a quick props to my pals who rode with me. We had planned on doing an out and back on this climb and decided to do a loop instead, which added another 20 tough miles to the ride. I had planned it so I didn’t carry anything extra with me on the climb, which also meant extra food stayed behind in the car. I ran out of nutrition at the top of the climb, which was what I had planned. We passed the hat (or helmet in this case) and they all gave me a little something, which gave me the energy I needed to make the loop instead. This was a great ride with great friends. Here is the map if you are interested:

Now on to the CASVAR this weekend with my old college roommates. It should be fun… 

About the Author

I have been participating in running and triathlons for 10 years and love the feeling that training provides. You may not agree with me, but you know you just can't look away...