Even if you are blessed with huge quads and powerful lungs, you could still end up struggling on those uphills without having the right pacing in place. How to cycle uphill with grace and ease is all about having the right approach and some good technique tips.
First, let’s look at the basic facts. If you have a good strength-to-weight ratio you will find hills a lot easier. Strong legs and core, as well as less body fat, will make the sheer physical act of propelling yourself and the bike up an incline much easier.
No one wants to be told they need to lose weight but if you are a few kilograms – or more – overweight, shifting some of this will make cycling uphill easier on yourself.
It also helps if you are cardiovascularly fit. Training to improve your heart and lung capacity over months and years will assist in the more arduous task of riding uphill. While strong legs are important, so is the ability to keep going while spinning the pedals.
Also if you do a lot of cycling uphill, you might like to buy a lighter bike. The heavier bikes are a lot harder to propel up those hills, so it makes sense to have the lightest bike that you can to make the task of how to cycle uphill a lot simpler.
Here are some great tips on how to cycle uphill with less effort.
How To Cycle Uphill
Top Off at the Bottom
If you are coming to a particularly long climb and you haven’t eaten for a while try giving yourself a shot of fuel at the base of the climb uphill.
Your muscles will get a nice energy boost and your mind too. It is also easier to grab a bite of your banana or energy bar when you are riding on a flat than when you are in the midst of a climb.
Assume A Position Of Power
Taking full, deep breaths is important to quiet your mind and to deliver fresh oxygenated blood to your legs.
Do it by keeping your back straight and your chest open, to allow maximum airflow into your lungs.
Relax your arms so that your elbows are outside of your hips.
When it’s time to stand, click into the next larger gear, and stand on the top of the pedal stroke to minimize the loss of momentum.
Stand with your rear end over the saddle, keeping your weight centered over the bottom bracket and try to avoid leaning forward. If you do this you could unweight the rear and cause yourself to skid or you could toss your bike backward which will be dangerous for you and anybody near you.
Feel like you are running lightly uphill on your pedals and you can allow the bike to rock gently from side to side, but not too vigorously.
The best way to go uphill with greater efficiency is to spin the pedals at about 80-100rpm (revolutions per minute).
It should be the same as on the flat. So, for easier hill climbing, you simply drop down the gears to find an easier ratio so that you can keep turning the pedals quickly even on uphills.
Using a higher gear uphill is exhausting. For good cadence, you need fitness, strength, endurance, resolve, and generous gears.
Think Light And Quiet
Climbing specialist Andy Applegate recommends something called Qigong climbing.
Qigong climbing is a technique that blends positive thinking with a relaxed technique. As you approach the climb, think “light” thoughts – clouds, birds, angels, whatever lightens up your mental space. Then, start with your face and progressively relax your body down to your feet, being sure to release any unnecessary tension, particularly in your shoulders, which should be down and relaxed, and your hands, which should be loosely gripping the bars (not white-knuckling them).
“You want your upper body so quiet and relaxed that if someone were to film you from the waist up, they wouldn’t be able to tell if you were climbing or just riding along,” Applegate says.
Try applying the same quiet posture approach when you stand. Keep your shoulders squared and facing forward as if you were balancing beer glasses on them. Avoid dropping them from side-to-side, which will waste energy and send you weaving up the slope like a drunkard.
If the gradient gets so steep that you feel like you are sliding into a standstill, tuck your elbows into your sides, dip your torso towards the bars and gently but firmly pull back on the bars with every downstroke of your pedal. This lets you transfer power from your upper body through your core and into your legs to assist you in forward progress.
Finish Off Your Climb Faster Than You Started
Up your next big climb try this. Rather than attack the foot of the climb and peter out before you reach the summit, dial back your pace until it feels easier than you want it to.
Next ramp up your speed as you get closer to the top and attack as you go over the summit. You will most likely sail past all those collapsing from starting out too fast.
When all else fails, channel into your inner mojo. Many professional bikers tape pictures of loved ones or people who inspire them onto their top tubes for inspiration. Even inspiring messages will help here, and it will give you something other to focus on besides the pain in your legs and lungs.
The more you ride uphill the better you will become. Find a range of hills, from long and shallow to short and steep, and try them all. Repeated one-minute efforts are good for improving your strength and aerobic capacity. Then, when you then take on a classic climb you’ll be in better shape to do it.
Please comment below if you have any other suggestions on how to cycle uphill easily.