Hill Climbing Tips for Road Cycling
Hill climbing on a road bike is never easy, but it does get easier.
Hills can be intimidating when you start out road cycling, especially when riding in a group. Remember, being a better and stronger climber comes with practice. There are no exceptions. Time in the saddle is key, however, having a few hints to help along the way is always nice.
Here are 5 hill climbing tips that I learned over the years that helped me.
- Love the hill(s) – “Hills are our friends, they get us to the top” – a repeated phrase a fellow mountain biker used to quote to me when we would climb our notorious Fifth SR climb in Caledon, Ontario. After awhile I started to chant it and it helped. Every hill was good pain, and I knew after every crest of the hill I would be stronger. My mountain biking hill training sure did help when I started road riding.
- Stay seated on the long climbs – save energy by keeping your butt on the saddle during those long climbs. When it gets steep, sure.. stand up for power, but sit right back down if the hill continues.
- Breathe … Breathe through your nose! I always found it easier to regulate my breathing when I breathed in and out through my nose. Dr. Joe Pelino recently told me the many health and performance benefits to this while cycling. Here is another reference to the benefits of breathing through your nose.
“The lungs are a primary source of our energy level. They extract oxygen from the air we breathe primarily on the exhale. Because the nostrils are smaller than the mouth, air exhaled through the nose creates back pressure when one exhales. It slows the air escape so the lungs have more time to extract oxygen from them. When there is proper oxygen-carbon dioxide exchange, the blood will maintain a balanced pH. If carbon dioxide is lost too quickly, as in mouth breathing, oxygen absorption is decreased.” www.breathing.com
- Stay relaxed – Keeping your upper body relaxed will preserve necessary energy for pedal power. It also keeps the muscles surrounding your airways open for better breathing. Practice keeping your fingers loose on the handlebars. If you can keep a light touch there, the rest of your torso is most likely relaxed as well.
- Smooth pedal cadence – Know what gears work for you on the hills – everyone’s strength and endurance is different. If you have a chance to get some speed going into the hill, put it in a harder gear and give it what you can to build some momentum. Gradually shift into an easier gear as the hill becomes steeper and longer. Keep it smooth! When you find a gear that is comfortable, sit in that gear and keep your pedals turning in nice easy ‘circles’ which will engage a multitude of muscle groups. Using more muscle groups lets you tap into more power, build muscle and slow down fatigue.
These are just a few things I discovered while training in the hills of Caledon. How? Mostly I rode with more experienced riders and listened to whatever advice they could give, while watching their technique and style. Then I just tried various things to find out what worked for me. Many articles have been written on the subject of ‘Hill Climbing for Cyclists’ and I put together a short list below.
Remember to love every hill you come to, because once you get to the top you are stronger than when you started!
Any other tips? I hope you will share with our readers.