Break climbs down into manageable chunks instead of only thinking about the far-off summit.
Climbing is the most challenging aspect of cycling — and the one skill we’d all like to improve. At its core, going uphill faster comes down to power-to-weight ratio. If you want to climb faster, get stronger and lose weight. But there are other ways to improve you ascending ability. Here are 10 tips for getting to the summit first.
1. Pacing: Start a climb at a comfortable pace, not all out in the red. Then slowly increase your effort. Riding at an even pace is much easier than going too hard and then blowing up. This way you’ll have a little extra gas in the tank at the finish.
2. Equipment: Most new bikes (especially Endurance Road bikes) come with compact cranks. This makes it easier to spin up climbs rather than grind. For most cyclists pedaling at a higher cadence is more efficient and easier to maintain. If your bike has a traditional 53-39 crankset, consider replacing it with a 52-36 mid-compact or 50-34 compact set-up. A higher range cassette will also help. Go with an 11-28 or even an 11-32 if your drivetrain can handle the larger cogset. Ask your local bike shop mechanic to find out.
3. Stay Seated: You’re more efficient pedaling while seated. Reserve out-of-saddle efforts for really steep sections, to change position to ease tired muscles, or to attack your friends.
4. Cadence: Most cycling coaches agree that the ideal climbing cadence is between 80-90rpm. This higher spin rate lessens the force you need to push through the pedals, reducing fatigue of legs muscles.
5. Training: Just like most things in life, when it comes to climbing, you get out what you put in. There’s no replacement for hard work. Try adding some structured intervals to your riding routine, and watch your climbing prowess increase.
6. Relax: Focus on keeping your upper body (arms, shoulders, hands, even your face) loose and relaxed.
7. Break Down the Climb: Instead of obsessing about the top, which might be an hour away, break the climb down into manageable chunks. Really long climbs can be tough psychologically. Instead think about getting to the next bend, or over one particularly steep section.
8. Lose Weight: There is no arguing with physics. Power-to-weight ratio is the largest contributor to how fast you can ride a bike uphill. Whether it’s bike weight or body mass, the lighter you are the faster you’ll climb.
9. Ride Efficiently: Try to arrive at the bottom of a climb rested and ready, not already at your limit. If you’re riding in a group, work together so you can be as fresh as possible when the road tilts upwards.
10. Eat and Drink: Make sure you eat and drink enough before you get to the climb. It takes upwards of 20 minutes for fuel to be absorbed into your body, so do it before you reach the bottom of your local Mont Ventoux. Because if you bonk half way up, it will be lights out. Same goes for hydration. Drink consistently throughout your ride. Don’t wait until you’re feeling thirsty. It might be too late.
Check out this video from the folks at the Global Cycling Network to learn more: