Buckle up. Here it comes… That nasty climb with sustained pitches over 10 percent that haunts your cycling dreams. On a good day you’ll be firmly planted in the pain cave for 30-40 minutes. On a bad day, you just might turn around.
Of course fitness and training are key. But what else can you do to improve your climbing skills?
For starters, start with the right gearing. Unless your name is Contador or Froome, a compact crank set-up is probably a good idea. When it comes to going up steeps hills, spinning (RPM around 85-90) is almost always better than grinding. Plus that way you’re more likely to have a bail-out gear just case the lights go out.
It’s also important to know what’s ahead. If you’re playing in new cycling territory learn a little about the terrain. Your effort will be much different for a 3-mile climb with a 5 percent average than a 6-mile bruiser that’s 8 percent. A little reconnaissance goes a long way for both mind and body.
Next make sure to fuel up before you get to the climb, at least 10 minutes out. The middle of your local Mont Ventoux is no place to choke down a bar or gel. At the same time, peel off any layers that could lead to overheating. Better to start a climb a little cool and then warm up, rather than having to pull over half way up because you feel like you’re pedaling in a sauna.
Finally, do a little easy spinning before hitting the climb so your body is warmed up and ready to go. For more tips, check out this video from the Global Cycling Network.
Once on the climb, it’s usually every man or woman for themselves. But sometimes you’ll be in a group. If that happens apply these tips to keep you — and everyone around you — safe.