Tips: Steep Hills

It’s no secret that conquering hills takes a lot of effort, even with the extreme gear ratios on modern bikes. We cannot take the hills out of our routes but, we can give you some tips to make the climbing a bit easier and increase your chances of making it to the top in one go:

  1. Look where you go: Sound familiar? If there was plenty of grip and no obstacles, climbing would be easy. Scout the easiest line with the smallest and least obstacles (ruts/roots/loose gravel) and most grip (packed earth/dry grass). Choose the straightest possible line that connects with the places where you have grip.
  2. Approach: A short hill can be conquered with speed. If the climb is too long and you run out of momentum, you will need to shift gears at the worst possible moment. Choose the right gear when you still have speed. Don’t spin like a mad man (or woman) but spin slightly faster until you’re at the speed where you feel resistance.
  3. Balance: When your bike is pointing up, your centre of gravity goes to the back of bike and the front wheel wants to lift (the opposite from braking – see our last newsletter). To compensate you need to shift your weight forward by sitting on the nose of your saddle and bend your arms to lean your upper body forward. If you lose traction raise your body quickly to put a bit of weight on the rear tire and if the front lifts lower your body. 
  4. Smooth: When your pedals are at the 3 and 9 o’clock position your pedal stroke delivers the most power while the least amount of power is at the 6 and 12 o’clock position. Professional cycling teams invest millions in the science of smooth pedalling, but there is a poor mans trick when you ride with cleats: Unclip one foot and try to pedal at 60 rpm with a constant power delivery/tension on the drive train without the freehub catching and releasing. Switch sides, practice and then combine both sides.
  5. Stick to it:  Making a climb is also a mind game. Focus on where you need to go and don’t give up. There will be a moment when you loose grip. Apply point 3 above and don’t give up until you have spun though 3 pedal strokes. If the grip is less than expected, choose an alternative line on a different surface. Always try to make it one more meter and most of the time you’ll find yourself going again and making it to the top.
  6. Finish like a pro: Congratulations, you made it to the top! It’s temping to celebrate your victory over the hill and stop pedalling, instead use that positive energy and put in a few pedal strokes to keep your momentum over the top on the way down (just check the difference with your mate who stopped pedalling at the top, if you don’t believe me).
  7. Bonus tip: When you look ahead and you see that the trail is getting steeper or there is a rough or slippery section that requires more effort, try ride a bit slower, catch a breath and save the energy to get the momentum needed to deal with that section.