Hill Climbing

Hill Climbing

Does the thought of hill climbing sends you into a panic? your legs are burning at the very thought of the idea; you avoid them at all costs for fear of failure … Sound familiar? 

Hill climbing is one of the many key skills of being a cyclist, and like anything you can improve upon. In this blog we will give you some tips on how to climb hills, following this advice will improve your climbing and help you stay calm and in control as you race up those inclines.

Tip #1 – Practice Makes Perfect

It is probably not what you want to hear, but the best way to get better at hill climbs is to do more hill climbs. Of course, you should practice smart, practice good technique and habits and engrain them into yourself by doing it over and over so it becomes second nature. To be honest this is the best bit of advice I can give! As most things, technique is super important and it’s better to do smaller hills more often to really dial in on your technique.

Ride more hills, the more you do it the better you become.

Tip #2 – Relax

This tip comes in two parts. The first is to relax your upper body sit up on the handlebars during your climbs, hunching over your handlebars closes off your hips and makes it hard to breathe and harder to pedal. Gently push back in the saddle to recruit your glutes and hamstrings, stay seated, look up, relax, and BREATHE! Try to keep your upper body relaxed with as little amount of tension above your hips as possible. Keep your sit bones anchored on the saddle with quiet hips this is where you generate your power from, try to avoid rocking, swaying etc this will only reduce your potential power output.

The second part is about relaxing mentality, many people see the hill coming and begin to panic resulting in short shallow breaths even before they start the climb. Focus on your breathing and take slow, steady breaths that completely fill your lungs each time. Shallow fast breathing makes your body think you are struggling more than you are which will hinder your ability to climb, while deep slow breaths let your body know that you are in control and doing just fine.

Tip #3 – Steady Consistent Pace and Cadence

Focus on keeping a consistent cadence and pace where you feel comfortable. Using an easier gear and spinning uses your aerobic engine and is much more efficient than grinding out a big gear at a slow cadence but do what comes naturally to you and use your gears to maintain this natural cadence…. STOP SAVING GEARS!

Drop your gear as low as you need to, to keep your cadence steady; set a consistent pace and aim to climb the hill from bottom to top at one pace maintaining the same effort. Don’t be scared of dropping into your easiest gear if it means you stay at a consistent cadence, you have (usually) 22 gears on your bike, use them all! AGAIN STOP SAVING GEARS!

Tip #4 – Know the Hill

Forewarned is forearmed, as they say. Know what to expect and the hill you are climbing; where it gets steeper and where it levels off, how long is it, and how steep is it. Understand the hills you climb and plan your climb ahead of time so that you can climb it as efficiently as possible. If you know what’s coming you can prepare mentally and pace yourself up it.

Tip #5 – Improve Your Power to Weight Ratio

It goes without saying it is easier to climb a hill the lighter you are. This doesn’t mean you need to be a whippet to climb a hill however, as you need power to climb! If you have some extra body fat, you will find losing weight will make it easier to climb hills, so long as you haven’t weakened yourself, be sensible! 

Likewise, if you are already of a very small frame but still struggling with climbs, you might need to work on your power! Try doing some hill reps, interval training, strength exercises in the gym (squats are king!) to improve your power and make those ascents easier than they have ever been!

Bonus Tip – Enjoy Yourself

Most importantly of all!  At the end of the day, we cycle because we love it, we love the freedom it gives us and the amazing views you get to enjoy. Take the time during your climbs to look around, enjoy the beautiful views and the feeling of progress you are making. Every hill makes you stronger… if you think about it we should be thanking each and every hill we climb, I know sometimes you don’t feel like that.

Follow these tips and we are sure you’ll learn to love hill climbing.