9 Cycling Tips for Better Hill Climbing

If you ride a bike, sooner or later, you're going to encounter a hill. For some of us, this is an exciting time. For others, it's a moment we dread.

If climbing raises your anxiety, I have good news. You can improve your climbing ability. In fact, you can improve it so much you might even start to enjoy it. Just follow these nine tips and you'll look forward to your next ascent.

More: Cyclist's Guide to Climbing Hills

Practice Climbing Throughout the Year

The best way to become a better climber is to climb. If you race or participate in events on hilly terrain, get in the habit of doing a hill climb workout once a week. Hill climbing should be done at a moderate intensity so keep your heart rate between 85 percent and 95 percent of your lactate threshold. For a higher intensity workout, perform 5- to 10-minute hill climbs at or slightly above lactate threshold. Ride downhill to recover and then head up again for a total of three or four hard efforts.

Be as Light as You Can Be

Successful climbing is all about power-to-weight ratio, and weight easily trumps power. In other words, the lighter you are, the faster you will climb. As you get heavier, you must dramatically increase power to overcome the additional weight. If you want to climb better, you will need to approach your ideal performance weight, which is the confluence of your lowest possible weight at your highest level of athletic performance.

Simply stated, you want to be light but don't drop so much weight you start to lose power.

More: 7 Hill Cycling Tips for Flatlanders

Lighten Up Your Bike

Anything you can do to reduce the weight of your bike will help. To get the best results, try to reduce the weight of moving parts, notably the wheels, tires and pedals. However, reducing bodyweight is a far more effective approach than spending thousands of dollars to shave a few grams off a bicycle. Always remember the old adage: if your bike weighs less than 20 pounds and you still can't climb, it's not the bike!

Equip Your Bike With Large Sprockets and a Wide Range of Gears

Riding a hilly route requires a wide range of gears. Large sprockets (e.g., 26, 27 and 29) produce a small gear development (the distance a bike travels in one pedal revolution in a particular gear combination) and are much easier to spin. A wide range of gears allows for appropriate gear selection over diverse terrain.

More: A Breakdown of Bike Gears

About the Author

Tyrone A. Holmes, Ed.D, CPT, is a certified personal trainer through the American Council on Exercise and a Level 2 cycling coach through USA Cycling. He provides Cycle-Max Coaching for cyclists and multisport athletes who want to improve their performance on the bike and Healthy Life Coaching for individuals who want to lose weight and develop healthier lifestyles. His latest book is Developing Training Plans for Cyclists and Triathletes. Visit his website at www.holmesfitness.com and his Fitness Corner blog at www.doctorholmes.wordpress.com.

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