An uphill battle

Thus, “Specificity of Training.”
I hope more studies are done using similar equipment. I did a electromyographic study of the shoulder muscles during crawl stroke on a Vasa trainer 30 years ago. These studies are illuminating.

It would be interesting to see how aerodynamic riders are by nationality.You would think the mountain goats from Columbia would be aero because they are smaller riders, yet their style is often less refined. (yes I know people like Egan have done a lot of work on their position).
Body types and genetics would play a part too. Cav would never get tall and lean.Working on position can help compensate but there must still be national characteristics that play their part. I spent the morning on google scholar, dead boring until you find something you are looking for. I have a new found respect for you guys

Just a thought, i’ve got a stages sb 20 that doesn’t allow an elevation simulation. but if i put a block of wood under the front, would that improve my training on hills since it would slightly change my body position. realize if this was true, i would not be training as well for flats.

and could you design a workout where you could dial in the grade. on the flats, it would be the same. as the grade increased, you would need to provide increasing power outputs. not at all sure how you could “score” your results but if you simply took your grade times miles ridden you could calculate elevation gain.

on an outside ride, elevation gain is a key metric for me. i also have average speed and total miles ridden. no power meter on my outdoor bike. so it would be nice to somehow “calculate” elevation gain for an indoor ride. haven’t thought through how you calculate rider weight impacting your required power output as grade increases.

You’ve kind of answered for yourself why this would be pointless. If the bike isn’t at the angle of the gradient you’re climbing and the resistance isn’t correct for the gradient you’re climbing (which isn’t compatible with the current principles of Sufferfest videos where the resistance is correct for the exercise you need, not the simulated gradient) then you’re just generating a number.
Granted, you could generate a number that would be relative to the equivalent power output in doing some climbing, but what really is the point in that? The gradient is going to be what it’s set to for Climb/Bike users, but now you’re potentially riding “18%” at unfeasibly low power outputs, so you’d barely have climbed anything at all.

The alternatives involve a huge amount of faff and maybe even a new metric for the 4DP (climbing potential) just to provide a nonsense number for people to have in their Strava accounts.

I take virtual speed/distance with a huge pinch of salt and would be happy if Strava separated those from legitimate miles. Personally (and that is important), I see absolutely no value at all in virtual elevation gain, especially when not gained at both the correct resistance and the correct bike physical angle elevation.


Jon - thanks for taking the time to provide detail to my response. I agree with your comments, especially " I see absolutely no value at all in virtual elevation gain, especially when not gained at both the correct resistance and the correct bike physical angle elevation." The systm workouts don’t currently take either or these variables into account. And I think they would also need to take into consideration rider weight.

some indoor bikes have the ability to change the bike physical angle and some apps utilize this feature. I know nordic track has an app that will elevate the bike, how well they adjust the required effort based on the virtual gradient is a guess.

but this article makes me think there is some value in elevating the bike so that you use slightly different muscles. so for me, I’ll just stick a block of wood under the front of my, use one of the climbing workouts in system, and it should be slightly harder to hit my targets. no idea how much harder. but if the article is valid, when i did get an outside hill ride, i should be better prepared.

also realize that this is not a magic bullet, and by far my biggest benefit will be to spend time suffering with systm on a regular basis



I have a Climb unit with my Kickr and really appreciate the gradient change in the bike as helping me focus on certain muscle groups.

Climbing replication can be done quite well too, I have a bunch of my favourite climbs stored in my Elemnt Bolt and can use that to control the trainer and do simulated GPS rides, so can ride either my local hills or some of my favourite climbs in the Alps on my Kickr/Climb with the bike at the correct angles and the trainer at the “correct” resistance for the incline.
I actually really like that and it’s a good representation of outdoor climbing (minus, as you say, weight).

I actually think there could be space in Wahoo SYSTM for a “Tours” section, similar to the On Location maybe, but where rather than a focused exercise session they just take in famous climbs and let you ride them at the simulated resistance (and elevation if you have a system that can do that), just to let ride the Stelvio, for example.

My only resistance here is in not wanting an elevation number attached to virtual rides unless it’s a very good proxy for actual climbed elevation. The current approach to Sufferfest workouts doesn’t really support this as the resistances aren’t related to the gradient (directly and this is a good thing as Sufferfest is an exercise system, not a simulator). I also don’t much like “virtual” numbers at all because most people are only interested in them for Strava challenges (because the numbers that matter to us as people in training are average power, peak power, heart rate etc) and some systems (cough Zwift cough) can provide some amazingly broken numbers to the extent I don’t think they should be counted towards real world challenges.


This is what platforms such as Rouvy provide. If SYSTM is true to its claim that it wants to be a platform such that there is no need to use any other platform, it will have to provide these types of rides.

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Sir @Jon, I have read a number of your posts, replies etc. concerning elevation and simulated elevation and you are clearly a passionate proponent on the against counting virtual elevation side of things. I don’t entirely agree with you though, and perhaps this is just me being less concerned with “reality” and just really pleased to see anyone doing anything that keeps them active and engaged even if it involves fantastical thinking and imaginary numbers to a certain degree :slight_smile:

That said, I 100% believe there are some virtual sim challenges that I think “should” be counted and perhaps the solution (you may have even said this yourself so apologies in advance if you have) might be for Strava, and any other apps that record/count/report elevation, to separate virtual elevation (and distance and speed for that matter) from irl elevation etc.

Veloviewer, for example, provides a separation of virtual elevation from irl elevation in its infographic. Here is mine from 2020 with virtual rides included and one with them excluded. It’s just a little ticky box where it asks to include virtual rides or not.

I am personally not at all invested in whether SYSTM decides to report the elevation on its data files or not ( and I get why they don’t cuz its NOT a sim, at least not until they implement the Tours Channel :heart_eyes: :heart_eyes: :heart_eyes:) B UT imho, if it did, and THIS is what motivates people to ride more, “climb” more, get more active etc I would TOTALLY endorse it.


Thanks for the response.
This, above, is (as you supposed) something I’ve already said and is my biggest bugbear.
So long as it’s separated and clearly separated then I have less of an issue. It would also be nice if it were something you could turn on or off.

I understand people wanting an elevation statistic for their own records and I am fine with that, I’m just fairly adamant that you only add features in ways that they don’t break other functionality or where the benefit is greater than the loss where they do.

What I dislike about virtual elevation being counted in things like Strava (and virtual speed/distance to an extent too) is that where there are challenges this is simply unfair to those people who do their riding outside.
Indoor climbing, even with a Climb, isn’t climbing and when you add in something like Zwift which allows you to reduce the gradient effect while keeping the gradient climbed stat, apply boosts, have unrealistic levels of drafting etc then it just makes a nonsense of a combined statistic.

I’m not actually against having an estimated elevation climbed number, just I would want it implemented in a fashion it is clearly indicative only and doesn’t interact/interfere with anything else.

Additionally, I’ve listed the “problem” with this for Sufferfest specifically in that the “gradient” listed in some videos is for the position on the bike but not the resistance, which immediately breaks things in so far as generating an even remotely valid number and for the Sufferfest videos the session is more important than the number.

I would absolutely be on board with a Tours category though and happy for those to have numbers, but happier still if Strava decided that they didn’t count for climbing challenges :slight_smile:

Most of my being a “passionate [critic]” is that a lazy implementation breaks more than it adds, that is really all.


But, in Z’s defence, reducing the gradient effect doesn’t change your speed going up so if you set your trainer difficulty to 50% you will definitely have less resistance and require less power but you won’t go up the virtual climb any faster. It’s akin to throwing a mountain bike cassette on and spinning up the hill. As for boosts, on a big climb like Alpe du Zwift or Mt Ventoux the boosts are soooo short lived as to render them meaningless.

For example, I’ve “climbed” Alpe du Zwift a LOT. My best time is still a few minutes over an hour. That’s me setting a new sustained effort record the whole time. Changing the difficulty setting to less than 100% will not get me up any faster. True, you can “weight dope” but then you’re only fooling yourself. No different than completing a Knighthood quest without breaking a sweat. Sure, you’ll get the badge, you’ll get the decals, you might even fool most people, but you won’t really be a Knight and you won’t have anything to feel proud of.

Where Z is completely unrealistic to me is descending, where you don’t even have to be on the bike, you’re taking switchbacks at 70kmh+ and super tucking all the way. RGT has an algorithm that account for that and actually slows you down on corners.

I do agree with you (and have before too) that SYSTM as it is currently set up is NOT a sim so reporting elevation gained is technically meaningless. My only point though is that while I know that, I’d still support it being captured if it encourages more people to ride more, be more active or be more engaged along the way.


@Glen.Coutts Interesting idea - I forgot about Velo Viewer’s approach.

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Coach, I plan to ride the Early Bird Mount Washington Auto Road Bicycle Hill Climb ( in July. From the website: This 7.6 mile, one-way, all uphill climb features an average grade of 12% ( with extended sections of 18%) with the last 50 yards reaching an amazing 22%! I’m doing it because I enjoy attacking challenges with a reasonable probability of failure.


From a hardware perspective, I’d planned to buy a feather-light carbon bike until the owner of my LBS talked me out of it in favor of installing a mountain bike drivetrain on my trusty, 25-yr-old, aluminum road bike and cutting alcohol + desserts (figuring that shedding another five pounds would make up for the extra weight of the aluminum).

From a training perspective, climbing is my weakness (hence, the challenge). Last week, I rode up a quarter-mile 20% incline near me and found it very difficult. I travel 1/3 to 1/2 of every month, and I run & lift when I’m on the road because it beats hanging out in hotel bars (I’m working toward a sub-27:00 5k. Strava tells me my current best is 28:54.). I practice yoga at least three times per week; Abi’s 15-minute blocks really hooked me.

I’m prepping for Full Frontal on Monday. I look forward to getting new numbers.


I have nine months. Which plans should I string together, and in what order? Should I do Building Blocks → Tempo back to back to back to back? I looked at Custom Training Plans, but none of the plans in the drop-down spoke to my needs. If you read this and think, “Easy. Just do X, Y, and Z,” great. If you think, “Whoah, you really need a custom plan other than what’s on the website,” that’s fine: just shoot me a good email and we can get the ball rolling.

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Hopefully you get an actual answer, it would be very useful.
I’m just chiming in on this little bit because Threshold is a better target for climbing than Tempo (IMO).
In the most basic sense, if you want to be a good climber then back-to-back-ing Threshold blocks and interspersing HM/FFs to update numbers every so often would be a good basic start, though some variety would likely also help anyway.

The climb isn’t long enough that Tempo would really hold any significant value, I don’t think, but shoving in some MAP work would probably help you boost your ceiling and recovery ability too.

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That’s great advice, Jon. Thanks.

Hey Alex,

With 9 months until the event I would focus on improving sustained as well as MAP as those are the efforts you’re really going to need fine tuning and at their best for an event of that length and intensity. Also, getting out on the road at weekends and doing any of the efforts your have on your plan on climbs similar to what you’ll be racing up.

This is something we could talk about in more detail with a ‘Call with Coach’ or we could look at building you a fully customised training plan to take into account your work and travel.

Hope that helps,

Coach Andy

Thanks, Coach. By “sustained,” do you mean “threshold?”

I’ll schedule a call for sometime next week, after I have fresh numbers.

@AlexEllermann Two nearby test rides I would recommend in late spring/early summer - or even this fall if you want to see what you signed up for:

  • Mt. Ascutney’s auto road (in VT) is about the same grade but only half the mileage of Mt. Washington’s auto road.
  • Mt. Greylock’s auto road (the steep one coming from North Adams, MA) is longer than Mt. Washington but the grade averages only around 10%.

Good luck - you can definitely do it! Your bike shop is correct - you will want mountain bike gears.

Aw, man! That’s great! I’ve saved your message so I can hit those in the springtime. Thanks!

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Thank you for that link!

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“Only 10%” he says… have ridden, can confirm that ride sucks.