Whether you like to crush the ascents, or just push through them in order to zip along the downhill and flats, your overall ride will be more enjoyable if you work on your technique and train your muscles for the climbs.
These cycling workouts, from triathlon coach Kirsty Marritt, will help you tackle hilly terrain.
Marritt has been racing triathlon since 1994. She's completed 10 IRONMANs, The Leadville Trail 100, several 24-hour mountain biking events, and innumerable half IRONMANs and marathons.
She's studied endurance training theory for years and is currently coaching five Ironman competitors to achieve their training goals. Even if you're not training for an Ironman, you'll find these workouts can dramatically improve your hill climbing.
Long Hills1 of 5
For long hill workouts, Marritt likes sending her athletes to a hill that will take two hours to climb, with a nice 30-minute warm-up ride to the base.
Climb for 15 minutes in your saddle, then shift down two gears (harder) and pedal for five minutes while standing. Repeat this pattern, which should total close to six rotations in two hours.
Short Hills: Repeats2 of 5
Marritt believes hill training involves building up strength.
"Lots of hill workouts I have my athletes do are strength training specific—they're doing their leg strengthening on the bike," Marritt says.
When riding up hills in the big/hard gears, your heart rate doesn't get as high and the work is a lot more muscular. These kinds of cycling interval workouts can supplement weight training in the gym and target more specific and relevant muscle groups.
1. Find a steep hill that's only a few miles long with a relatively steady incline the whole way up.
2. Make your first ascent seated with your chain in the big front sprocket and a harder gear than you would normally want. (Your cadence should be slow, around 50-55 rpm.)
3. Concentrate on keeping your upper body relaxed and working your legs through a steady, strong motion, applying constant pedal pressure throughout the whole revolution. When you are done, cruise back down the hill.
4. On your next climb: Ride the whole hill standing up in an easier gear, keeping your rpms closer to 80.
Short Hills: Continued3 of 5
5. Next ascent: Go up while seated in an easy gear, with nice, smooth pedal strokes and a steady cadence the whole way.
6. The final climb: Shift into the big ring in front with a harder gear in the back. Do 10 pedal rotations seated, 10 standing, and continue this pattern all the way up the hill.
7. Ride back down, and do at least a 30-minute cool down at a high cadence in easy gears, spinning out some lactic acid buildup in the legs.
"What you do at the end of your workout helps you recover for your next workout," Maritt says.
Working With a Trainer4 of 5
A great way to simulate hill climbing without being on a hill is with a trainer, but you have to be careful.
"A lot of people use harder gearing to simulate a hill, but they don't change the positioning of the bike," Marritt says.
Marritt suggests propping the trainer up so that the front wheel is raised. "This changes where the body is relative to the bike," Marritt says.
Simply increasing the resistance "doesn't recruit the same muscle groups as climbing—it more closely resembles wind training," Marritt says.
If you prop up the front wheel, you'll engage the right muscles, which will help boost your ability to conquer those hills.