There is nothing worst than trying to cycle up a steep climb with your body rocking back and forth with all the effort, but your bike is barely moving forward or even staying upright. How to cycle up steep hills is an art in itself and the aim to make your movements graceful and efficient, but handling steep ascents requires both skill and a good level of fitness.
Here are some tips on how to cycle up those steep hills.
How To Cycle Up
When an uphill ride becomes so steep that your cadence drops below 70 rpm, it is time to rise out of the saddle and stand. This will allow you to use your upper body to help your legs keep those pedals moving.
In order to get comfortable and efficient with this position, practice on gentle and long hills and move from a seated to a standing position. Your seated position should be with your hands on the bar tops near the stem. Pull lightly, keeping shoulders and hips square. This will help to keep your upper body relaxed thus giving you more energy and maximum lung capacity.
Before standing on your bike, switch your grip to the brake lever hoods. Rise and bring your hips forward, straightening and lengthening your lower back and opening out your chest. The saddle’s nose should just brush the back of your legs. Try not to pull with your arms on easy hills because it taxes your muscles with little return in speed.
Let your weight help as you smoothly pull your body over one pedal, then over the other. Pull up on the right hood as you push down with your right foot, alternating right arm/right foot, left arm/left foot. The bike will rock subtly beneath you, establishing a rhythmic powering of the pedals.
On steep ascents, come up off the saddle and hold your bike as vertical as possible, with minimal sway. It’s critical to keep your shoulders squared and facing forward. Don’t drop them or create a snaking motion that wastes energy. In order to maintain momentum when climbing steep hills, you need to be rock-solid off the saddle. Many riders don’t control their body and bike motion, making climbing a struggle.
As long as you are not blocking anybody off or taking on the traffic, riding up hills in a zig-zag motion does help to alleviate the effort used. Avoid the steepest apex and go wide around corners to maintain the best rhythm and a constant speed.
Rather than grinding away in a larger gear, shift into an easier gear in order to keep your cadence high. Aim for at least 80 rpm, or even 90 if you can muster it. For most cyclists, this higher spin rate will lengthen the time before their legs become flushed with momentum-killing lactic acid.
This will be influenced largely by the available gears on your bike. It used to be that if you wanted to ditch the heavier triple chainring setup, your only alternative was a 53-39 double chainring, which frankly doesn’t bode well for going up steep hills.
That 39-tooth little ring is too large for most amateur cyclists to spin up really steep hills. But nowadays many, if not most, bikes come stocked with 52-36 mid-compact setups or even 50-34 compact gearing. The smaller little ring allows you to spin that higher cadence. And while you do lose some top-end speed because of the smaller big ring, unless you’re a wannabe sprinter this shouldn’t be too bad.
Lower Your Weight
When going against gravity the more lightweight you and your bike are, the better. Try to aim for a good power-to-weight ratio. First, try to make your bike lighter. You could replace some of the components such as the wheels, handlebars, or drivetrain with lightweight parts. Any unnecessary parts should be discarded if possible. If your budget allows it, go for a carbon frame and carbon rims.
If you are a little overweight, losing a few extra pounds will also improve your health. But you should also build up strength in your muscles. Consult with a trainer or search online for a proper nutrition and exercise routine.
Pull Back Those Hands
If you feel like you are coming to a standstill on those steep hills, try pulling back with both hands in unison on each downstroke. This helps you to put more force into the pedals and keep your bike moving.
Give your body some fuel just before you start to climb and it will also be easier to slurp down some energy gel or have a snack before you get too out of breath.
Try to find a good cycling pace to sustain for the entire climb rather than speeding up and slowing down the whole time. Using a constant rhythm you can sustain for the entire climb will work a lot better for you.
Make Sure To Train
If you know what to expect at your next race, do your best to replicate that effort in your training.
Like anything, practice makes perfect, and this will get your mind a body prepared for the effort that you are going to need during the event.
Utilizing an indoor or upright bike for this purpose is also a great idea as you can do this any time of the day, even while you watch TV at night.
When you do start training outside, it is important to have a good mindset. Mental toughness is just as important as physical endurance. Don’t be tempted to give up halfway up a steep hill, especially when your legs are burning. Build up your willpower by pushing yourself past the limits you thought you had. Riding a bike uphill can only get easier if you do it often. Even when you are doing normal cycling, do not avoid hills. Keep challenging yourself.
It is a good idea to paste some inspiring messages or photos to your top tube as this will give you something to focus on besides how tired you are getting or the pain in your legs.
Learn To Relax
Even though it is hard to relax when your heart feels like it wants to burst out of your chest and your lungs are burning, but do your best. If your muscles are constantly flexed, you will quickly wear down. Focusing on your breathing will help to relax you. Breath evenly try to keep your arms and shoulders relaxed.
How to cycle up steep hills is a measured effort where you only want to use the strength and energy necessary to keep your momentum up.
Don’t fret if you can’t always keep it together, as climbing up truly steep gradients is tough no matter what you do.