Whether you got into cycling the other day or you are a veteran, you share something in common with the best riders at the Tour de France. You may see them devouring the mountains with what may look like relative ease but believe you me, they feel the pain of the climb just the same as you. That’s right! Regardless of how many years of riding or how many championships you have won, pedaling uphill is just as uncomfortable, physically, and mentally challenging as it is for the amateur. However, what makes the climb look so simple for the pros is that they have mastered excellent technique, are super fit and have been doing it for years. This article provides you with the secrets of the professionals that will help you cycle uphill effectively without getting too tired or quitting.
Always be Practicing
If you want to become a better climber of hills you have to get out there and climb hills. Make it a habit to participate in events or races that have routes going through hilly terrain. If you do not enter into events, you can always ensure that your training sessions include hill climbing at least once every week. The best way to practice your hill climbs is to work at a moderate intensity so that your heart rate does not go above 95 percent or below 85 percent of your lactate threshold. If you decide to do higher intensity climbs, a workout lasting between 5-10 minutes with slightly elevated lactate rates should be fine. Aim for three or four intense climbs each time, making sure to ride downhill for some recovery before making the next attempt.
It is a very common thing that almost any cyclist I know has been guilty of it at one time or another. You come up really fast to the incline and then struggle to keep up the pace about halfway up the hill and end up really sweating to get over the summit. This is not how the best climbers do it. The champions of the Tour de France will typically ride to the bottom of the hill with their heart rates low and nice and ease into the climb without trying to pedal into the climb as hard as they can. While pacing may be hard to do in a group situation, resisting the urge to go hard into the climb and adopting your own pacing strategy can really pay off. The best way to pace yourself is to gradually increase your pace as you settle into the climb, saving all your energy to finish fast and strong as you crest the hill. This will conserve your energy and leave you feeling good and ready to take on the next climb.
Adjust your Gearing
Many amateurs and a few professional cyclists will buy their bike and never bother with adjusting the gearing. However, swapping the chainset or cassette can be huge in improving your ability to tackle hills. Double chainsets come in size 53/39 dual chainrings which is the highest resistance you can find on a bike.
A compact chainset comes in size 50/34 while the mid-compact comes in 52/36. The smallest chainset is a 48/32 and has the least resistance. The back wheel will provide lower levels of resistance the cassette is widely spaced and offers more gears. However, you need to remember that the wider intervals of the cogs make finding the perfect gear quite hard especially for the amateur. Nonetheless, by adjusting your gearing you can have more options so that you can quickly adjust to wider ratio cassette and smaller chainset, which makes climbing hills easier on the body.
Increase your Cadence
Rather than grinding into the climb while on very high gear, you will be better off switching to a lower gear to increase your cadence. Even though bigger gears are more comfortable, it has been shown that pedaling a lower gear tends to be more efficient as they cause less fatigue and lower levels of blood lactate. As such, you will be better off with higher cadence pedaling as you reduce the load and tension on your legs and postpone the onset of lactic acid and fatigue, which could make the climb harder. If you have always loved using the high gears, start training with lower gears for your climbs combined with higher cadence pedaling, and you will soon find that you can climb the hills easier.
Strategically Stand and Sit in the Saddle?
Whether to sit or stand is a personal preference when it comes to climbing hills. However, scientific studies have shown that sitting in the saddle is generally more aerobically efficiency and effective way of climbing hills with a gradient of a maximum of 10%, as long as you use the proper cadence and gearing. For gradients higher than 10% you can get better efficiency with out of the saddle pedaling if it is a short ascent that requires a quick burst of speed and power. Standing on the pedals can also be effective in climbing hills as it can increase speed when riding with a friend or attacking a hill. However, you need to know that getting out of the saddle makes you consume much more oxygen, which will make you tire faster. While some pros swear by sitting, others always stand on the pedals. Ultimately, it is up to you to determine what is most effective and comfortable for you.
Do Proper Planning
I am certain you have seen riders with notes taped to top tubes and stems. These notes are something akin to the rally driver’s navigator notes though they are a little bit different. The notes typically have information detailing important climbs on the route including important landmarks, the gradient, and length of the climb. By having these notes you can be better prepared to tackle hills especially if you checked out the route beforehand. Having all the information makes it easy to pace yourself, refuel at appropriate times, and save energy before the climb. In today’s world, you can always get the information from online forums about cycling (from guys that climbed before) and even from Google Maps.