9 Cycling Tips for Better Hill Climbing

Spin Small Gears at a Relatively High Cadence

As a coach, one of the most common mistakes I observe is mashing a relatively large gear while riding uphill. This will cause leg fatigue much more quickly than spinning a smaller gear at a higher cadence.

Stay Seated Most of the Time

Standing once in a while is fine, but most climbing should be done in a seated position, which reduces stress on the cardiovascular system (i.e., heart rate will be lower in a seated position). However, when you stand, you bring more force to the pedals so increase your gearing.

More: Video: Sitting Vs. Standing When Cycling Uphill

Stay Out of the Red Zone

Another big mistake you can make while climbing (especially long steady inclines) is to ride past your lactate threshold, which is the point at which lactic acid begins to accumulate in the bloodstream and forces you to reduce your effort. This will make the remainder of the climb very difficult. It is much better to take it easy the first half of the climb and then pick up the pace in the second half (known as a negative split).

Develop a Strategy for Each Climb

Different hills require different strategies. A long steady climb requires a different approach than a shorter, steeper hill. Decide how you want to handle a particular climb in advance. For example, if you are approaching a short steep hill followed by a descent, you can ride at a higher intensity than you could on a long incline because you have an immediate opportunity to recover.

Psychology Matters

There is no doubt that some cyclists are better climbers than others; however, the difference often lies in the mental aspects of climbing. Simply stated, you will be a much better climber if you believe you can be a good climber.

There are several steps you can take to boost your climbing confidence. The first and most important step is to get out and climb. Your confidence will increase as you have more and more positive climbing experiences. Second, don't bite off more than you can chew. Your confidence may erode if you attempt a major climb and fail. Increase your climbing distance in small increments. Finally, break long climbs into smaller portions. For example, think of a 10-mile ascent as four 2.5 mile ascents. Psychologically, this can make your climb easier to manage.

More: Mind Over Mountain: Mental Tips for Climbing

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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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