Get on Up: 5 Ways for Cyclists to Improve Their Climbing

Learn how to climb quicker and more efficiently.
If you watch the best climbers in the world, you begin to notice that they are small in stature, try to keep their bikes and components as light as possible and pay close attention to their gearing and position on the bike while climbing.

Here are some key points I have learned from some top cyclists over the years to help improve your climbing performance.

Reduce the Weight of Your Bike

Climbing is mainly a fight against your weight and the weight of your equipment, so anything you do to reduce the weight of your equipment will make hills easier.

More: 5 Ways to Become a Better Climber

For example, replacing your gel-padded saddle with a titanium-rail light saddle model saves about half a pound. Replacing both hubs' steel quick-release skewers with alloy or titanium versions spares about three ounces. Having your next pair of wheels built with alloy spoke nipples rather than brass will save several ounces, and you can also choose lighter rims, spokes, and tires if your weight and road conditions.

And, of course, remove any unnecessary equipment from your bike before a hilly ride.

Reduce the Weight of Yourself

The easiest way to increase aerobic power is to decrease body weight. To illustrate how lightness can improve climbing speed, Chester Kyle, Ph.D., created a computer model that he reported in my book High Tech Cycling.

More: 9 Cycling Tips for Better Hill Climbing

It consisted of a course with a steep one-mile climb (10 percent slope) followed by a mile-long descent. The model showed that a rider/bike weighing 180 pounds finished 22 seconds ahead of one 6 pounds heavier, which equates to a distance of about 300 feet. Even on a milder 4 percent slope, the advantage was 170 feet at the top of the climb.

Climb in Low Gears

This is especially important on long hills. By starting the ascent in a gear that lets you spin lightly, your muscles will be spared for the harder work ahead. Maintain a good cadence in the same gear, or shift to the next higher one and really make time.

More: Mind Over Mountain: Mental Tips for Climbing

Meanwhile, those who begin climbing in a relatively high gear will fatigue and start reaching for an easier gear, and seem to be going backward as you spin by. If necessary, change your 23-tooth cog to a 26 or 27 for rides with plenty of hills.

In addition, everyone who does not race should consider a triple chainring instead of a double chainring combination.

Shift Up When You Stand Up

Because you can't pedal as fast when standing, shift to the next higher gear (smaller rear cog) on the stroke before you rise from the saddle. Your speed won't decrease much as your cadence slows.

More: Improve Your Bike Climbing Skills

Conversely, shift to the next lower gear (larger cog) on the first stroke after sitting. Your faster cadence in the easier gear will maintain your speed.

Sit as Long as Possible

On all but short and steep hills you will climb faster and more efficiently if you stay in the saddle. Standing makes your legs, arms and back work extra to support your body, and this increases use of oxygen and energy.

However, a few strokes out of the saddle can help relieve muscle fatigue in the midst of a long hill, and on steep pitches you may need to stand to keep the crank turning. But when given the choice, stay seated.

More: 4 Tips for Cycling Uphill

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