No matter how fit or unfit you are, these uphill cycling technique tips will help you to get up those hills with a lot more ease. But by mastering a few strategic riding tactics and mental tricks, you can push past your crew or competition and set the pace uphill. So here are a few tips and tricks to your climbing success. Getting better at cycling uphill requires improvements in both strength-to-weight ratio and uphill cycling technique.
Uphill Cycling Technique Tips
Shift to a lower gear
Your first reaction should be to shift into a smaller gear, maintain your RPM’s and try and hold on to your speed. In order to keep your heart rate lower, you will want to stabilise your power with a gradual increase in your effort level. The natural way to hold the power steady is to stay in the saddle at first. Fight the temptation to keep shifting gears as the climb steepens, as this will reduce your speed.
Up, down, up, down
Staying in one position or at one level for a climb will wreck your chances of success. Breakaways in big races often feature one guy standing and racing for all he’s worth. To make it up a long climb, most of us will climb mostly in a seated position. So many people think that once you stand, it’s because a) you’re at the final push, or b) you just can’t pedal seated anymore. But even when the going is good, a good cyclist will change position and stand up for a few pedal strokes to give some muscle groups a break, release tension, and get some blood flow back in that butt. This is one of the most important uphill cycling technique tips. Don’t stand too soon or too long though, or your energy will be sapped.
Posture will do it
Don’t sit upright. Sit forward with bent elbows and a flat back to lower your centre of gravity. Contract and support those core muscles so that you can delay the onset of lactic acid in your primary muscles. Gently rock from side to side as you build forward momentum.
Keep your upper body relaxed
It’s instinctive to tighten up in your shoulders and arms when you climb a hill, especially when the climb seems to go on and on. Believe it or not, if you put less effort into tensing your arms, you will have more energy to use your legs. If your shoulders start to hunch, try relaxing your grip on the bar and dropping your shoulders to release tension in your upper back. That will help you take those deeper breaths that get you up a hill.
Don’t worry too much about your cycling weight
Everyone knows that the lighter you are, the faster you go up hills. But the truly strong climbers know that it’s not just about the scale and that sacrificing energy and power for the sake of dropping half a kilo simply isn’t worth it. It’s a difficult balance that all cyclists deal with, but climbers especially have to find that razor’s edge where they’re lean enough to climb fast but aren’t starving themselves to get there. Riding with the tank low isn’t going to get you up a hill faster, no matter how many kilos you’ve dropped. If you want to lose weight to get faster, do it slowly and carefully – don’t try to do it all at once right before that hill climb you’ve been planning.
Spin it out
Most ultra-fast climbers avoid grinding, especially early in a climb. When it’s possible, a good climber is spinning at around 80 rpm – whatever you normally do on the flats. It might feel weird to shift down so drastically, especially if you’re on a steep hill that starts pretty abruptly, but if you can keep your pedalling cadence constant, you’ll be a more efficient climber. Bottom line: If you can avoid your cadence dropping, avoid it. Only start that grind when you’re out of gears… and if you live in a really hilly area, no one will judge you if you swap in a compact road crankset. (You might even beat some of your fast buddies up the hill next time!)
While some extra muscle will help you make your way up the hill, the unusable bits of that massive breakfast you had are just weighing you down. That’s one of the reasons the line at the port-a-potty is so long pre-race, especially when it’s a hilly course. Riders all try to use the bathroom and get that extra weight out before it matters.
Get rid of extra weight that you are carrying
In addition to stopping at a bathroom at the base of the climb, consider emptying your water bottles (leaving a few sips so you don’t dehydrate) – assuming of course, that you can refill when you hit the top of the climb. Getting rid of that extra water weight might give you the edge you need to snag the uphill cycling technique crown.