Bored Of The Flat? 5 Hill Climbing Tips!
If you’re wrapped up in Tour de France fever and fancy taking your cycling skills to the hills, then there may be a few things that you need to learn before tackling those climbs. Hill climbing is very different to riding on the flat and it’s a lot more physically demanding than you’d think, especially if your usual cycling routine takes you through the busy but well paved streets of the city. Don’t let that put you off though! Cycling through the hills and mountain ranges is very rewarding: you’ve got scenic views, thrilling downhill rides and at the end of it, you’ll feel great!
Obviously Rome wasn’t built in a day and it’s unlikely that you’ll become a professional hill climbing cyclist overnight but if you follow these tips, you should give yourself a nice advantage and enjoy your first few attempts a hell of a lot more. Even if you’re not keen on hill climbing, read on – these tips may come in handy someday!
Number 1: Practice
It’s no secret that practice is the key to success but how do you practice for a hill climb? First things first, you’re going to have to put some kind of slope into your regular routine, which may be difficult depending on where you live geographically. Ideally, you’ll want a challenging slope that you can tackle with moderate intensity; these hill climbs shouldn’t take you more than ten minutes to complete, otherwise you’re just going to tire yourself out! Try shallower gradients and begin building up over time. All you have to do is ride to the top, ride back down and repeat three or four times in each session – ideally once a week!
Number 2: Weight
Think about your power-to-weight ratio: if you’re too heavy, you’ll be carrying less power. That doesn’t necessarily mean that you have to drastically lose weight but you may want to shed any excess weight if you want to climb faster. You want to be light but not at the expense of your power.
Losing weight is difficult enough but if you’re cycling regularly, you should see your excess fat peel away in no time at all. Fortunately, until then, you can adjust your bike to make that lighter instead.
Having said that, lighter bike parts aren’t cheap and you may find that losing body weight is far kinder to the wallet than upgrading your wheels, tyres, pedals and levers. If you want to take hill climbing seriously though, it’s time to save your money – it’ll pay off in the end!
Number 3: Gearing
No two hills are the same, so you’ll always need to shift your gears differently for the best results. For those hilly rides, you’ll want large sprockets and a lot of gears to choose from. The best sprockets, such as sizes 26, 27 and 29 can offer more bang for your proverbial buck: your bike will travel further in one pedal turn, if in the correct gear and they spin much more effectively, leaving your bike doing the majority of the work. The more gears that you can have available to you, the more likely you’ll succeed up and over any terrain.
Number 4: To Stand?
Surprisingly, whether to stand up on the pedals for that extra boost is hotly debated amongst many cycle enthusiasts and the correct answer is: do it if you feel like it but always remember that the majority of your climb should be done whilst firmly on your seat, it’s all a matter of your heart rate. If you’re sitting, your heart rate will be lower – simple as. Standing allows you to place more force upon your pedals so make sure you gear accordingly.
Number 5: The Mindset
Hill climbing, like any other sporting activity, is difficult and your state of mind plays an integral role in your success. If you’re going to finish that job, pay back that loan or physically climb that mountain, you have to believe that you can do it; if you have any doubts, you’re only going to make it harder for yourself.
The key to building confidence is to do physically go out and do the activity. Start with smaller climbs and use them to boost your confidence. It’s all about positivity; if you can complete all of your hill climbing attempts, then there should be no room for doubt. As your training continues, keep adding distance and intensity to your climbs but only in small increments.
Make it easy for yourself by only tackling hills that you know you can conquer; if you try something too extreme, you’ll only shatter your confidence! However, if you’ve already embarked on what seems like an impossible journey, then relax and make it easier for yourself by tackling it in smaller chunks. Don’t see the top as the goal…yet. Break up your climb into achievable distances over a longer period of time, that way your confidence will remain intact!
Basically, all you really want to do is prepare yourself appropriately, both physically and mentally. Train physically and train well without overdoing it. Develop a system that works for your body, riding with differing intensities for differing periods to find what suits you best. Remember that your gears are there to help you and don’t let anything get in your way! Who knows? With enough training you may be the star of the next Tour de France!