It’s that time of year again. We watch in wonder at the riders in the Tour De France and think, “If only I could climb like a those guys…” Well, here are our top tips for improving your climbing. Unleash your inner mountain goat!
There are no real short cuts for improving climbing. Practise is vital if you want to improve riding uphill. Avoiding hills on your rides because you don’t like them, only makes matters worse. Learn to ride one hill really well, time yourself or use Strava to plot your progress and see what works and doesn’t work for you.
There are different approaches when it comes to gearing. Some riders suit riding at a higher cadence in a lower gear, others prefer a lower cadence in a bigger gear. The length and steepness of the climb as well as the power of the rider can influence gearing choices. Practise climbing in high and low gears to see what works for yourself, rather than trying to copy another rider.
Knowledge of a particular climb will help with pacing. Longer, steadier climbs may need a more measured approach. Short, sharp climbs might be powered over quickly. One key mistake many riders make is to get carried away and go too hard, too soon and they are then left to struggle over the climb in their easiest gear.
Lighter riders tend to climb better, they often have a greater power to weight ratio. As we all know, losing weight is a long-term process which can be tricky. One way to improve your climbing quickly is to remove un-needed accessories from your bike. Removing an under saddle bag of tools, mudguards, lights or tri bars can improve your power to weight ratio.
Climbing hills and mountains can burn a lot of energy. Make sure you have a steady prolonged release of energy by eating little and often throughout your ride. Getting to the foot of a large climb and feeling hungry is far from ideal. Get to know the route you are riding and make sure you eat half an hour before the major climb.
Staying relaxed while climbing is important. Keep comfortable by switching riding positions from time to time, this not only helps alleviate any aches and pains but also takes your mind off the climb a little. Think about your cadence and gear selection, keep assessing the road ahead and how you feel, can you change-up or down, try harder, ease off?
If climbing is your weakness avoid starting a long climb at the back of a group. The chances are that the group will climb faster than you and you will get dropped. By starting near the front of the climb you allow yourself some leeway to slip back slightly without getting completely dropped.
If you are climbing a new hill or mountain, look into its profile using Strava or similar. Get to know where the hard sections are and be prepared for them. If you live in a flat area, but are planning to ride up a huge climb, riding hard into a block headwind can provide a similar experience for training.
If you are about to tackle a larger climb than you are used to, maximise your chances by riding your best bike, wheels and clothing. While a lighter bike or wheelset can offer a real performance gain while riding upwards, your best / favourite kit will get you in the right frame of mind to ride at your best. Reduce the chances of overheating on long climbs in hot weather by riding with full zipp jersey matched with a summer base layer.
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