hill climbing


Nov 3, 2009
hi, still a newbie to the game and have since last post dumped the turbo trainer and just concentrated on nailing things out on our local trails, however, there is this one hill that elevates to over 800 feet above sea level and i havent managed to get right to the top yet without having to pause near the top, there is no let up, it is for me pretty threshold stuff and i can't seem to find a great way to train for it, it's steep as hell so am in a pretty light gear and am spinning with quite a high cadence so as to use more of the endurance muscle fibers, thing is tho that if i do decide i want to get out of the saddle for a bit, in a light gear that seems impossible as there feels there is nothing to push against and it's not the best idea to change into a harder gear on a hill that steep, so? any suggestions?
how do i do it:)


Tube Smuggler
Sep 13, 2004
On any climb, you need to ride at a certain speed, like 2-4mph, in order to stay upright. Also technique makes a big difference in maintaining traction, like leaning forward to keep weight on the front wheel or "throwing" forward your bike over small obstacles.

There is nothing wrong with shifting gears to change your riding style. Want to climb out of the saddle? Shift to a harder gear? Want to spin more, shift to an easier one.

As for the 800 foot leg breaker, you should find something easier, so you can work on sustained climbs. I would also avoid the 10 minute breathers on the smaller climbs, so you can keep up the pace.


Dec 29, 2009
Ride a SS for a month or two, you won't ever bitch about hill climbs again. It'll suck even more at first but you will concentrate on your technique a lot more and just push harder in general. Plus your legs will get BEAST really quick. I just switched back to geared after riding SS for about a year and any hill is a cinch now when I can downshift into my granny gear (and not even that cuz i run 1x9 with a 36t up front and my hanger is bent so i can go into 2nd at the lowest).


Nov 3, 2009
thenx for all the advice, will try it all, the biggest problem on the hill was the fact that i could hardly get breath near the top, was coughing up a lung, i'm sure my legs had plenty more juice but it just felt like my head was going to explode and breathing was big problem, guess i might have to up my aerobic game, i'm not too bothered about anaerobic strength but then again i don't mind switching between slow twitch and fast twitch muscle fibers, just wish i could breath lol
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Jan 3, 2010
S. California
Breathing (= oxygen intake and availability) and muscle-based energy consumption are not mutually exclusive processes, and as a result, increasing efficiency of one has natural positive implications for the other.

A few things that you can do to increase oxygen consumption and utilization efficiency are to eat a highly glycogenic meal (complex carbohydrates-- avoid protein before exercise as it has a negative effect on carbohydrate-based nutrient digestion/absorption), consume lots of water, both before and during exercise (this may seem obvious, but water consumption is a huge component of oxygen utilization and nutrient absorption-- drink even when you are not necessarily thirst, use h2o preventatively rather than curatively), maintain regular breathing intervals (natural rhythms of the lungs' alveoli and chest expansion provide the greatest efficiency when in sync-- i.e. that feeling when you feel like you can expand your chest/lungs to the fullest), and do an aerobic warmup or use a ramping style of intensity in your ride (i.e. start slow to warm up before pushing it hard).

In addition, capillary sites and alveoli abundance are in a regular and controlled flux, and naturally increase in density with regular high-intensity use-- in other words, your breathing will naturally become easier as you regularly expose your lungs to straining conditions (within reason) and as your muscles become more efficient in their use of blood-borne oxygen (a natural consequence of regular exercise).

Finally, training at higher-altitudes (i.e. conditions of lesser oxygen density) has a positive effect on the quantity and quality of hemoglobin in your blood, allowing you to get more oxygen out of each breath and allowing your blood to hold an overall greater amount of readily available oxygen. So, when you get to that peak, be it 800ft above sea-level or higher, keep riding! See if there is a loop or a trail you can do at that altitude and work on riding up there. in the longrun, this will make that ride from the bottom a bit easier.


Sep 30, 2009
Upstate, SC
Here is a little something to help that I wrote up on another site about uphill climbing skills:


You probably judge you’re climbing prowess on how fast you ascend…..which of your riding friends you can keep up with or which ones you leave behind. That’s a fair way to rate yourself, but you won’t improve much if you only think about climbing faster. The quality you need to develop is not speed; it is power, which will translate to speed. Power means many things…..having the oomph to overcome obstacles when you are already expending energy to climb, sustaining a burst needed to scale a steep section, or maintaining your pace throughout a long ascent.


Standing on hills burns more energy because your body must support itself as well as propel the bike. Standing is great for juking over obstacles, using different muscles, stretching on long climbs, or hammering short sections, but most of your climbing should be done from the saddle. There is no rule dictating how much standing is too much, but in general, the heavier you are, the more you should be sitting on climbs.


As the ground tilts up, you should lean down toward the handlebar. This helps you maintain traction while still delivering peak power to the pedals. Many riders try to retain traction by scooting forward on the seat. It is better to lean your chest toward the stem. The steeper the rise, the lower the lean.


Stay loose to save energy, absorb jolts easier, and have more control in technical sections. The upper body is the key, but concentrate on your hands and jaw. If these are loose, your back, shoulders, and neck will be too. Even in technical terrain, your grip should be relaxed but firm. Don’t clench the bar…..no white knuckles. On a smooth climb, try drumming your fingers as a reminder. Also try to minimize your upper body’s side-to-side movement. Swaying or bobbing helps establish a rhythm, but it has to be natural. Do not force it or overdo it.


Instead of mindless panting, develop a solid, rhythmic breathing pattern that you can synchronize with your pedal strokes. This helps you maintain a steady pace and keeps you from feeling out of control (and psyching yourself out) during extreme efforts. Steady breathes deliver oxygen better than even the fastest gasps, especially if you actively force air from your lungs instead of just passively exhaling. This flushes more carbon dioxide (the main cause of shortness of breath) out of your bloodstream.

One of the most common mistakes is climbing with slow pedal strokes in hard gears. Not only does this style waste energy and blast your heart rate over the top, but it also makes you more likely to blow out a knee. Your most efficient cadence is probably between 70 to 90 rpm. Whenever possible, climb in a gear that lets you maintain this rate. Pay attention to how you pedal. Apply even pressure all the way around your strokes, pulling back through the bottom and pushing across the top to make them as smooth & round as possible.


1) On uphill curves, take the outside line. It’s longer, but it’s almost always shallower and easier
2) Do not zig-zag. It might feel easier to cut back and forth while climbing, but computers and professional riders have proven that weaving takes more energy than riding straight
3) Bungee up! Pick a tree, big rock, or any other object way up the climb. Throw a “mental bungee cord” around that object, and then pull yourself up to it. When you get there, toss your bungee around another anchor farther up the hill. It is a great mind game to get you up an intolerable climb. This is one of my favorites and really helps me mentally.


The more upright you sit on a climb, the more you use your thighs. As you bend toward the handlebar, your buttocks muscles begin to deliver more power. It is easier to become so zoned out on long climbs that you forget to vary your riding position and completely wipe out one group of muscles instead of sharing the effort.


Not all bikes have these handlebar extensions, and not recommended for some bikes. If yours does, train yourself to use them more often. Many riders grip their bar ends only when they stand to climb and want to rock the bike from side to side. But you can benefit from them even when sit. Slide your hands onto the joint of the bar ends and handlebar, or just slightly higher up on the bar ends. This wider position opens your chest and helps you breathe easier, stretches your hands slightly to relieve cramps and aches, and subtly changes your riding position…..all of which makes you more comfortable when you climb. The better you feel, the stronger you ride.


As mentioned in the “Uphill Climbing Skills” above, simply by leaning forward (dropping your nose toward the stem) or sitting more upright, you can shift your weight fore or aft. The alternative is to actually move forward or backward by sliding on the saddle, which is less efficient and unwieldy. But as cool as subtle weight shift is, it will not work for really steep climbs. On ascents that are almost too steep to walk, your rear tire will spin out no matter how low and forward you learn. In order to climb these freaky angles, you must drive the rear wheel into the ground rather than merely maintain traction with weight. Here is the deal:

1) Get in your lowest gear and approach the ascent at a walking pace. Do not think that speed is the answer. Traction is. This is why full suspension bikes are often faster on climbs than hardtails, despite weighing more and sacrificing some pedal energy to suspension movement.
2) As you begin to angle upward, lean toward the stem as usual. But this time float your butt off the saddle. It should still touch, but not with any weight on it. Hover.
3) As the pitch increases, move your body forward until the nose of the saddle is the only part touching your butt. This extreme position guarantees that the front wheel will bite the ground instead of breaking loose and causing squirrelly steering. But it also means that the rear wheel has no weight pinning it to the turf. What do you do??
4) With every down stroke of the pedals, pull the handlebar back (not up) into your chest…..almost as if you are rowing the bike like a boat, with the handlebar as an oar. This drives the rear wheel into the ground just as you apply power.

Synchronizing the handlebar pull with the pedal down stroke is the hardest part of the maneuver. It may seem impossible for awhile, but once you get it down pat, you will feel the added power as you climb. Once everything clicks, you’ll stick to ascents like glue…..in fact, the limit to what you can climb will be fitness rather than technique. Riding like this takes upper-body strength and the ability to either generate lots of power aerobically or to withstand many bursts of anaerobic effort (every time you pull the bar).


You’re climbing great! Maybe you’re finally going to clean this climb. Then you wobble into a rock, and suddenly you’re dead in the middle of a steep pitch with one foot on the ground. Now what??

To get going again, you must first be in a low enough gear. If necessary, shift to a bigger cog (remember: In the back, a bigger/larger cog is an easier gear) by clicking the shifter, lifting the rear of the bike with one hand on the saddle, and twirling the crankset with on foot (be careful not to let the free pedal smack your calf). It might help to lessen the slope by angling the bike across the trail.

On most trails, the side cut into the mountain is highest. Put the uphill foot on the ground so you won’t fall down the slope if you loose balance. This position also means that you can sit on the saddle to get going, because the uphill leg has less distance to reach the ground. Place the downslope foot on the pedal, which should be rotated just past top dead center so you can apply a full power stroke to get going. Next, look where you want to go. Pick something to aim at…..maybe a rock or a trailside tree that’s some distance ahead. Do not drop your head and stare 2 feet in front of your tire. Trust your peripheral vision to pick out the little details closer in.

Bend your elbows, relax your upper body, look ahead as you release the brakes and initiate the power stroke, and give the handlebar a little push to help the bike move forward. Immediately place your uphill foot on the pedal. Do not look down, and do not worry about clicking in (if you have clipless pedals). Just get some foot on the pedal and start pumping, applying power equally on both sides. If you fumble around trying to engage the clip (clipless pedals), you then will loose momentum and stall. You need some speed and stability so you can ease off pedal pressure momentarily. When you are pressing down hard, you can’t slide your shoe into position.


Jan 5, 2010
Back of pedaling long enough for it to shift an go; spin a little though while it shifts.