My Top 6 Pro Tips on Cycling Hills
If you have a basic understanding of the gear system on a bike and how they work, you understand how to adjust when tackling a hill. Here are a few pro tips I like to give people who are struggling with the climb.
Fill Up at the Bottom
It’s easier to fuel up at the base of your next climb, so give your body the fuel it needs at the bottom. It’s easier to put down a power bar or fruit early when you can breathe.
Preparing earlier in a climb is 100% easier in the beginning. If you wait until you're into the hill, it’s too late. Fueling up will not help you now, because it takes time to digest and that’s not easy to do when breathing heavy.
Lighten the Thought Load
As you approach a hill, think “light” thoughts, don’t think heavy. You should be imagining things like birds, clouds, feathers or anything that eases your mental space.
It’s all too easy to think of how difficult each pedal can be. Especially once you get into the hill. In order to make it easier, think lighter. Put yourself into a mental space that will help you win!
Heck, think of helium balloons if you have to. :-)
Positive Mental Attitude (PMA)
Like everything else in life, stay positive. Do not start off with “this is going to suck”. Be more of the mindset, “OK, I’ve got this!”
Take a look at what’s ahead. Breathe. Break it down into sections in your mind and attack the small accomplishments one at a time. Stack them up and you’ll become King of the Mountain!
Keep It Steady, Your Cadence
You should always keep a steady cadence, somewhere in the neighborhood around 90rpm. It’s very easy to let a gear overwhelm you before you shift. Focus on your rhythm and make a shift earlier so that you can keep moving smoothly.
Not only will you pull too much from your glycogen reserves, but you’ll be putting too much stress on your mechanicals if you wait too long to shift. So, just before you feel the need to stand on the pedals, shift to a larger gear to compensate for the lower cadence.
Help Out Your Legs
When the grade of the hill gets steep, tuck in your elbows, dip your torso forward and firmly pull back on the bars with each downstroke. This will help you transfer power from your upper body through your core and into your legs.
Putting all the strain into your leg muscles is tough. Remember, your body is a muscular system. Let the muscles work together to get you through the challenging parts. It’s a lot easier this way.
Start Slow, Finish Fast
Approach the base of the hill/mountain at a slower pace. Don’t go full out early on, you will lose steam quickly. Then over the course of the hill, gradually increase your speed as you get closer to the top. Finally, go full out and attack at the summit. Even if you’re not racing, you can use this approach at a much less intense level.
If you start off fast, you will burn out fast. So don’t go this route. Start slow, end fast!
There is a lot more to conquering hills than these few tips. If you can get the described techniques under your belt first you are well on your way to not only enduring the thought of hills, but conquering them too.