How To Get Better At Cycling Up Hills

All cyclists, whether pro or beginners will accept that there is always an excitement that comes with the feeling of cycling and being able to pass through routes that you never thought possible, but then just like most other recreational activities, cycling also has its own ups and downs…….literally, and one of that is cycling up hills. Hill cycling can be one of the most demoralizing elements of cycling, and it’s one thing most cyclists dread doing even if they bask in the result thereafter. 

Regardless of how good you are at cycling, riding uphill will always remain one of the biggest challenges in cycling. It’s the real struggle, as it saps your strength and speed. Unfortunately, there’s no shortcut to cycling uphill, but there are some tips you can follow to help you get better at riding uphill.

By following these tips, you can bank on one thing: you WILL get better at it! And what you used to hate, you will learn to tolerate, and soon start loving. So, here are a few tips to help you get better at cycling uphill.

1. Train

Ever heard of the saying ‘Keep doing it till you practically dream of doing it in your sleep?’ well, maybe not because I just formed it now. But it’s the truth about the statement. One of the fastest ways to get better at cycling uphill is to keep doing it.

Train continually, and keep climbing the hill no matter how slow or poorly you do it, then one day you will be climbing it and realize you are already a pro at cycling uphill! But this won’t happen by just reading how to get better at it online, but by actually dressing up, picking up a bike, cycling all the way to a hill, and beginning to cycle up the hill gradually.

2. Choose The Right Gear

To cycle up a hill you first need the right gear. Not all bicycles are built for mountain climbing, you first need to pick the right bicycle that will make your task easy for you. Knowing how many speeds your bike it is also key to helping you.

Ensure your bike has the appropriate gearing for the hill you are about to tackle. 

3. Fitness Level

Your fitness level is key in cycling uphill. You have to first build your stamina and your fitness to enable you to face the rigorous terrain the hills are going to throw at you.

Just having the passion to climb the hill is not enough, you also need to train your body for it so that you don’t end up injuring yourself badly while climbing the hill. 

4. Your Diet Is As Important As Any Other Thing

Just like women start watching what they eat once their wedding is around the corner, or someone trying to shed some weight also starts watching what they eat, you also need to incorporate the right diet if you are going to get better at cycling.

What you eat is the fuel that ensures the mechanics in your body keep working well, so a low-fiber breakfast will aid to replenish your glycogen stores without weighing you down on climbs. You should also beware of some high-fiber food as it can feel heavy on your stomach when you climb.

5. Don’t Push Yourself Too Hard

Take it slow, easy, and steady. It’s just the same way you cycle on flat lands, you take it slow and steady, so why do you need to maneuver all your effort once you start cycling uphill? This is a mistake many beginners make, and it is unnecessary as it will result in the fatigue of your muscles, and cardiovascular and respiratory systems.

Unless you’re training for an event, it’s best to sustain an even amount of effort throughout your ride. You can roughly measure your effort by how heavy you’re breathing. If you’re panting away, drop into a lower gear and take it easy, after all, it is said that slow and steady wins the race. 

6. Try Keeping Up Your Pedaling Cadence

For every cyclist, the optimal cadence is different, but it is recommended that for hill cycling, every beginner, tries to push at least 60 RPM in the hills. For reference. Use your breath to know how tough or how light you are going on yourself. If your low gear isn’t allowing for this kind of cadence, you’ll want to look into getting some smaller gear ratios. 

Unfortunately, most mountain bikes do not come with adequately low gears for touring in the hills. You may need to change your rear cassette, front chain rings and even your crankset to get a sub-20″ climbing gear. But it will be worth it as the hills will soon be your friend.

7. Find The Right Group

In hill cycling finding the right hill climbing buddies who will teach you the ropes and guide you so that you don’t feel the harshness of the hill is one of the best things you can do for yourself. 

If you latch on to a group that’s way too strong, you’re likely to dig too deep too early and get dropped. If you’re too conservative you’ll end up in a slower group. When you’re the strongest rider in a slower group, it is hard for the other riders to help share the work. Ideally, you’re right in the middle so you can benefit from the stronger riders and also contribute your fair share.

8. Build On Your Aerobic And Muscular Conditioning

The physiological demands involved in riding a bike uphill: aerobic and muscular conditioning is impossible to overlook. A highly conditioned aerobic and muscular system allows us to tolerate greater volumes and intensities of work. We can push heavier gears, move at faster speeds, and spend greater amounts of time on the bike. 

When a training stimulus that is greater than what the body is accustomed to is applied, we call this an overload. For example, if your average pace up climb X is 12mph, but today you push yourself to hit 13mph, you’ve accomplished a training overload. The effort may cause extra fatigue and necessitate a bit more rest than usual, but with adequate recovery, the body will adapt to the new training load.

After a few more overload and recovery bouts, 13mph will become the new norm. Once this occurs, we must adopt the principle of progression and up the ante. It will now take an effort of greater than 13mph to accomplish a training overload. 

9. Go Light

Don’t park loads on you while hill cycling. It’s understandable that it can be unavoidable sometimes because you have to park essentials like water and the rest which will help you when you start your journey, but keep it at the minimum. The lighter you and your bike are, the better you will be in your cycling.

10. Never Be Discouraged With Your Rate Of Improvement

While every cyclist has the impossible desire to get better the very first time they start cycling uphill, the good news is, they will all improve with proper training!

You may not be as good as the other cyclist who may have been training at the same time you started, but the truth is that you are not at the same place you were when you first started. So cut yourself some slack and marvel at your newfound speed and fitness.

In conclusion, I’d quote the wise words of Chris Carmichael, the Founder and Head Coach of CTS. He said “Success in cycling isn’t just about how strong you are. It’s about how wisely you use your strength”, and that is nothing but the truth.

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