Technique For Climbing Hills

General cycling advice ( NOT technical ! )
Witterings
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Technique For Climbing Hills

Postby Witterings » 5 Sep 2018, 9:23am

I'm about to start doing some hill training, has anyone got tips on technique / best way to approach and whether in the saddle or standing is best.

I've tried riding out of the saddle a few times recently on the flat and whist I used to do it all the time as a kid doesn't feel natural now ... maybe something to do with 2 new hips although they don't seem to affect anything else I do.

It's on a 29er if that makes any difference so don't have hoods I can use.

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yakdiver
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Re: Technique For Climbing Hills

Postby yakdiver » 5 Sep 2018, 9:28am

Sit and spin cadence (pedalling rate) over 80+ and save your knees
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pwa
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Re: Technique For Climbing Hills

Postby pwa » 5 Sep 2018, 9:29am

Stay sat down, find a gear you can sustain. Simple. Out of the saddle is good for short bursts over small rises or steep sections, but you need to look after your hips so I'd leave that out.

iandriver
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Re: Technique For Climbing Hills

Postby iandriver » 5 Sep 2018, 9:35am

Try to concisely relax, especially your shoulders and arms. It's surprising how many people, when exerting effort, have white knuckles on the bars and a back as stiff as a plank.

The other thing to try is concisely lowering your heels. I do this sporadically, seems to use slightly different muscles and eases the fatigue.
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Witterings
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Re: Technique For Climbing Hills

Postby Witterings » 5 Sep 2018, 9:40am

iandriver wrote: It's surprising how many people, when exerting effort, have white knuckles on the bars and a back as stiff as a plank.


Not that I've done hills recently but I absolutely know I've done this in the past so hopefully will stop me doing it again now :)

Forgot to mention I do have bar ends as well, if I was going to try out of the saddle at all (although advise so far says probably best not) but I guess I might be better off on those than the bar itself?

peetee
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Re: Technique For Climbing Hills

Postby peetee » 5 Sep 2018, 1:47pm

My advice is find a hill and if you can look it in the 'eye' and say "you ain't going to beat me" then ride it a few times to sort out the right gears and your position and your breathing then you can tackle anything. When it comes to breathing, try to get all the air out of your lungs. It's not uncommon when working hard to snatch for the next breath and leave a lot of stale air in there. It's counter intuitive to lengthen each breath in that sort of a situation but it really does make a difference when you master it.
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geocycle
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Re: Technique For Climbing Hills

Postby geocycle » 5 Sep 2018, 2:11pm

Confidence and the mental side is a big thing. Often on a hill I do the conscious relaxing thing then visualise the really big hill I got up on a previous trip. On really long hills I break them down into sections in my mind rather than imagining the whole thing. Then harness the achievement and store it for the next time.

Sitting down and spinning is probably easier for most if you have low enough gears and convince yourself it doesn't matter how long it takes. It doesn't work in really steep situations where you need to put weight on the front to stop the wheel lifting. When standing you often have to change up a couple of gears.

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Si
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Re: Technique For Climbing Hills

Postby Si » 5 Sep 2018, 3:27pm

It'll depend on the length and gradient of the hill, plus the build and physique of the rider, the type of muscle they have, and how they want to become a better climber (faster vs using less effort) amongst other things. Like saddles, the overall shape is generally the same but everyone is slightly different, and what works wonderfully for one may be purgatory for another.

But there is one underlying truth....if you want to be a better climber you need to go climb more hills!

thirdcrank
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Re: Technique For Climbing Hills

Postby thirdcrank » 5 Sep 2018, 4:41pm

I think standing on the pedals is very wasteful of energy so in non-competitive riding it's best kept as the final option when you can't drop another gear.

A lot then depends on the length of the hill but you need to work out what's best for you in terms of what you want to achieve eg over-reving in a really low gear over a long distance can be tiring.

The psychology has been mentioned an again, you have to work out what's best for you. Dividing any cycling task into manageable chunks has never worked for me but others recommend it: it's a personal thing. Above all you need the self-belief to be sure you can not only do it but take it in your stride. As soon as you permit the slightest self-doubt, that little devil will be telling you how much better it would be to turn round and freewheel.

Don't overlook things like minimising weight: every ounce has to be hauled up.

If it's really steep, you need your centre-of-gravity as far forward as possible and IME the fron part of drops just below the brake levers is best. (I appreciate you haven't got drops.)

And Si is right: the more you do the better you should be.

chris_suffolk
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Re: Technique For Climbing Hills

Postby chris_suffolk » 5 Sep 2018, 5:37pm

Having just returned from a trip to the Alps, the key for me was breathing. My legs rarely decided to say no, but with a racing heart rate and laboured breathing, I just had to stop on occasion. Key is to find a gear that you can sustain all the way up, and not to go fast at the start and thus go into the red. Easier said than done, but after over 10000m of climbing over just a few days I did get better. No amount of training really prepared me beforehand,

Witterings
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Re: Technique For Climbing Hills

Postby Witterings » 5 Sep 2018, 5:38pm

Si wrote:It'll depend on the length and gradient of the hill, plus the build and physique of the rider, the type of muscle they have, and how they want to become a better climber (faster vs using less effort) amongst other things.


Unfortunately my weight will be my greatest enemy, hills for me are a necessary evil in what would otherwise be considered a pleasurable ride ... I'm not bothered about the speed of getting up them but about making it as painless as possible but ideally quicker and easier than having to get off and push the bike to the top.

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Cugel
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Re: Technique For Climbing Hills

Postby Cugel » 5 Sep 2018, 7:07pm

Witterings wrote:I'm about to start doing some hill training, has anyone got tips on technique / best way to approach and whether in the saddle or standing is best.

I've tried riding out of the saddle a few times recently on the flat and whist I used to do it all the time as a kid doesn't feel natural now ... maybe something to do with 2 new hips although they don't seem to affect anything else I do.

It's on a 29er if that makes any difference so don't have hoods I can use.


As another notes, standing should be minimal, perhaps to heave over a little steeper section without having to change gear. You can make a case for an occasional rise out the saddle to alleviate a numb bum or lack of circulation in that area. But this is less likely when climbing as much more of your weight is counteracted by the hard pedal thrusting than when you're on the flat. Sometimes a change of body position is "as good as a rest" since it prevents stabilising and other muscles from seizing up or over-tiring.

Your best cadence for climbing seated is a personal thing. In practice the most efficient cadence can be anything from 70-90rpm. Faster can lessen the momentum uphill as the slope varies, since you can't get the thrust down if your cadence rises too high momentarily. On the other hand, you get a bit of a rest. Slower can quickly fatigue your joints and muscles; and push you over your aerobic threshold so you run out of puff. The stronger-muscled tend to be able to pedal a bit slower than the weaker-muscled without fatiguing. I am a muscly chap and go up best at about 75rpm. Smaller-legged lads seem to go best at anything up to 90prm.

If you can remember and develop the habit, pull up on the (clipped-in) pedal with your non-pushing-down foot as you go around the pedalling circle. You're unlikely to be able to impart any thrust with a pull up (unless you're Reg Harris) but the pull does take the weight of your leg off that pedal so that the main downward-thrusting leg doesn't have to lift the weight of the opposite leg as well as push the bike along. It smooths the power circle.

Find a best place on the saddle to get best thrust down whilst staying relaxed in the upper body. Personally I like to sit well back. Some tend to move forward but this often turns into a semi-stand and isn't so efficient, especially since it tends to require a tighter control-grip of the bars.

As another noted, try to not waste energy by tensing your upper body, grasping and heaving at the bars, bouncing up and down or writhing about. Not only do you waste blood-oxygen on tensing your non-pushing muscles, you also introduce a slight weave on the road. All those tiny weaves add up to more distance! A smooth & relaxed style, in a straight line with a less jerky pedalling style is definitely more efficient.

Keep you elbows out and your handlebar grip wide, to allow your chest to inflate easily and fully. Climbing burns oxygen, of which you must suck in as much as possible!

Try not to look to the top of a long climb - it can be psychologically devastating. Look only at the next 50 yards with only the teeniest and most infrequent glance to see how far to go.Anticipate the need for gear changes in that next 50 yards then make them at the right time - not too soon so you spin out and not too late so you have a grinding change slowing you down.

Try to keep up momentum on undulating climbs - but be careful not to exhaust yourself surmounting a wee peak, only to find you can't speed up again when the slope decreases again. There's a small envelope in which you can increase and decrease your efforts to keep a steady speed. Go outside of it either way and you'll either lose too much momentum (hard to get back on a steep hill) or blow up.

Practice. Do hills and test the above, perhaps by "breaking the rule" to see what happens.

Cugel

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Re: Technique For Climbing Hills

Postby PDQ Mobile » 5 Sep 2018, 7:54pm

I always enjoy looking at what grows (not plastic litter!) along the verges on a big climb.
The slow speed has led to a few interesting discoveries!

drossall
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Re: Technique For Climbing Hills

Postby drossall » 6 Sep 2018, 12:08am

geocycle wrote:Confidence and the mental side is a big thing. Often on a hill I do the conscious relaxing thing then visualise the really big hill I got up on a previous trip.

+1. I've always thought that the way to get up any hill was to find a bigger one and try that. Coming back to the first, you'll suddenly see it as not that bad. Of course, you'll probably have failed on the bigger hill along the way. Meaning that you now need an even bigger hill.

Which is how cyclists end up touring in the Alps, when they start out wanting to go a couple of miles to the shops.

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Mick F
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Re: Technique For Climbing Hills

Postby Mick F » 6 Sep 2018, 7:41am

Relax.
Breath deeply.
Get in a low enough gear for the hill so you're not straining.
Try not to stand on the pedals off your saddle.
Get as much practice as you can.

Hills are your friend.
Hills make cycling worthwhile.
Mick F. Cornwall