It’s an unusual cyclist that proudly declares that they like riding up hills (they are out there, but are few and far between) but many people psych themselves out when it comes to hills. However, with the correct technique and some practice most people will be able to tackle quite steep hills relatively easily.
Have a read through our ten tips below to help you get up those hills a little bit easier:
- Momentum – Where possible try to carry as much momentum in to a hill as you can. If there is a downhill before the uphill then try to get as much speed as you safely can to carry you up some of the hill. If the approach to a hill is flat try to get up as much speed as you can and carry that on to the hill. If you possibly can thoroughly research your route before hand so you know where the hills are – there’s nothing worse than turning a corner to be faced with a big climb
- Get in to the right gear – A key factor in keeping your momentum up is selecting the right gear at the right time, you don’t want to go into the base of a climb in too high a gear because you will soon run out of cadence and either come to a grinding halt or have to get out of the saddle and push really hard. Conversely you don’t want to get in to too low a gear too soon as you’ll spin the pedals out quickly and lose pace.
- Technique – There are two basic ways to tackle a steep hill, you can get in to a low gear, sit in the saddle and spin your way to the top. The other option is to stick with a higher gear, get out of the saddle, and ‘honk’ your way up. In practice you’re likely to combine the two and stick with the seated, high cadence spin for the gentler sections and reserve the ‘honking’ for the steeper parts of a climb. Personally we would recommend keeping ‘honking’ to a minimum unless you’re in a race situation as it tends to be more stressful in the body and bike also the inevitable side to side rocking will waste energy and reduce traction.
- Use the road – if the gradient is really taking its toll and it’s safe to do so then zigzagging across the road will help to flatten out the incline somewhat but please be careful not to endanger yourself or other road users.
- Pace yourself – Going hell for leather at the foot of a long climb is a sure fire way to guarantee that you’ll be struggling nearer the top so try to pace your climb. Select a lowish gear at the base of the hill and build up the effort as you progress through the climb. Should you be lucky enough to have ant flatter sections along the climb then use them to grab a breather and recover for the next uphill section.
- Attack, Attack, Attack! – If the climb reasonably short and / or sharp then your best option may actually be to just attack it. Carry as much momentum into the base of the climb as you can and then use a bigger gear to power your way up and over the crest. Don’t get it wrong though or you’ll run out of steam before the top.
- Conserve energy – If you can, preserve your energy in the lead up to a climb. If it’s reasonably flat terrain then having an energy boosting snack or drink and spinning along a bit can put you in good stead for the approaching effort.
- Bike setup – If you know that you’re about to go on a ride with a few more climbs than you’d like then consider putting lower gearing on your bike, you can opt for a slightly larger cassette on the rear wheel, or smaller chainrings on the front.
- Save weight – A bit of a ‘marginal gain’ one here, but the lighter the bike (and the rider) the easier it will be to haul both of them up that climb. You may need to be harsh on yourself here as knocking excess pounds of the rider is going to be easier and cheaper than shaving a few grams of an already light bike.
- Practice – If you’re struggling with hills then there’s no better preparation than practising. Start by finding a local hill that you can just about get up whilst still being a tough test. Climb it, freewheel back down and repeat as often as you can. As this hill becomes easier progress to finding tougher and tougher hills until you are ready for that polka-dot jersey.