Climbing and the Power to Weight Ratio

I seem to always get comments about climbing and how my body type is ideal for battling the hills on my bike.  Being short and light is probably a big giveaway, and the reason for this is because of what’s known as the “Strength to Weight Ratio”….or what I like to call the Power to Weight Ratio.

There are a lot of aspects that go into being a good climber, but I wanted to touch on only the power to weight part of the mix.  Your power to weight ratio is a good determinant of how well you will perform on climbing a hill.  So improving the amount of power you push out, or having the same amount of power with a decrease in your body weight will both help you in the climb.  With that said, you don’t necessarily need to have massive tree trunks like the dude pictured to the right….cyclists can often improve their performance on hills by losing a little weight.

Here’s an example for you: A 150lb (68kg) rider climbs a 6% grade hill going 15 mph (24 kph), his power would be somewhere around 260 watts.  If that rider were to lose 10 lbs (4.5 kgs), going up that same hill with the same power would increase his speed to 16 mph (25.75 kph).

Losing 10 pounds might sound difficult to some of you, but increasing your strength enough to gain that extra 1 mph of output might be even harder…and take a longer time.

The power to weight ratio applies to more things than just cycling, but it’s definitely an important aspect to this sport we all love so much.  The thought of climbing might make some of your cringe, but by improving your ratio you’ll find those hills to be much less intimidating.

Improve your power to weight ratio and start flying up those hills.

  • Marjolein Schat

    It is important to note that there is a point where if you drop too much weight, the power starts to drop again. For me, to lose 10 pounds would require losing some muscle. I find I experience a bigger drop in power when I got even a few pounds under my “target” weight than if I go above that 5 pound target zone by the same number of pounds. My climbing/power sweet spot seems to be a 4 -5 pound zone.

    • Darryl is Loving the Bike

      Good point, Marjolein. It’s all about maximizing the power to weight ratio, so losing power with the weight will not help. Good to hear that you know your sweet spot.

  • Tom Zaccario

    I am going for a combination approach.. Just started being more serious about cycling and have gone from 225lb down to 196 (88kg) and falling. A combination of weight loss and some extra leg strengthening exercises have definitely helped some.. Have a long way to go before I consider myself GOOD in the hills!

    • Darryl is Loving the Bike

      Nice work on the weight loss….yeah, a combination is a good way to go. Keep on battling those hills.

  • shannon

    So true! My hubby has kept his ideal race weight, which is 25 lbs light for 2 years since we became involved in our nutritional system we work with. It’s made a huge difference in climbing and racing in general

    • Darryl is Loving the Bike

      Thanks Shannon….yeah, race weight is vital isn’t it?

  • Joel Phillips

    The more time I spent in the gym doing weight training combined with core work, the stronger I became on hills. Climbing is work and the better you want to be at it, the harder you have to work. Nice post Darryl…

    • Darryl is Loving the Bike

      Thanks Joel. Keep on rocking that body and improving every day.

  • broomwagon

    I’m 135kgs. On Strava BroomWagon. Work out my power from my ride up the Col d Leschaux please. I’d be keen to know. Thanks. @broomwagonblog